The importance of preparation

Published on December 16th, 2013

In Tuscany, Italy, the team of American team of Marvin Beckmann (helm), Steve Hunt and Ezra Culver won the 2013 Etchells World Championship. Beckmann, who is a nominee for the 2013 U.S. Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award, explains how they prepared.

I put more effort into the 2013 Etchells Worlds than any other event I have sailed in recent years, and it felt very good to win. We had a great team, we prepared perfectly, and our boat and sails were superb.

In my experience preparation is the most important part of winning big events. When I look back at regattas where we didn’t perform well, it was usually due to lack of preparation. As Buddy Melges once said, ‘If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.’ He also said that sailboat racing is a game of chance only when you’re not prepared, and I agree.

The three members of our team all have busy careers, so finding time to prepare was tough. We picked key regattas and sailed together at least one day before each event, usually with a tuning partner (we also sailed with a tuning partner before the first race each day at the Worlds). We worked on the boat during and between regattas, refining systems to match the team’s specific needs and preferences. We checked fittings and serviced moving parts to make sure nothing was worn or needed replacement. We cleaned and polished the bottom. By minimizing preparation work at each regatta, our team could focus on the venue, the weather and so on.

We avoided doing or trying anything new at or just before the Worlds. We sailed the Italian Nationals at the same venue as the Worlds, and then took a few days off to refresh our minds before starting the championship. When I was by myself at home in Houston during the last two months before the Worlds, I spent time with the local Etchells fleet setting up short-course racing on Saturday afternoons. This gave me the chance to practice numerous starts and mini races, and we had after-race debriefs with our coach. This helped a lot with time and distance, maneuvering and accelerating the boat when we started sailing in Italy.

The Etchells is a highly competitive tactical boat that rewards boatspeed and good decisions. It is sensitive to sail trim and tuning, and maneuvers are costly. We started with the North Sails tuning guide and made just a few refinements as we became more confident in our speed.

Source: North Sails One Design

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