The Art of Getting Good Starts

Published on August 30th, 2018

Walter Johnson, a California boat broker and accomplished racer, provides the steps on how to improve our starting technique.


For me getting good starts is all about having a feel for the uniqueness of each situation, and this doesn’t come easy, it comes from hundreds of failed starts that we’re oh so close, till one day you feel it and rattle of a bunch of outstanding starts!

Just as in life there is no easy button, there is nothing true about five-minute abs, even though I like to believe it to be so. The same with starting, it is about repetition and practice.

When learning something new, the worst thing you can do is to expect instant results. I often coach my teams to go out and master one thing and seek to do that one thing well and script your performance around those things you do well. If you master a simple list you will be ahead of most teams who are the masters of chaos.

I tell people you have to grow before you go, you have to master the process and have the process master you, and if you keep practicing soon success will follow, as practice gives you the tools and lessons to succeed. Each outing teaches you about time, distance, speed and tempo of each start.

Some of us head out and learn the hard way, that when you expect results to occur and they don’t magically appear your mind assumes nothing is happening, you get depressed and want to quit when in reality a lot is actually happening, you just don’t see it.

Our society expects everything to come easily. Often in Sailing, you can buy talent, experience, and coaching and find instant success. But without those crutches, the same results will float to the top. True learning comes from facing the gut-wrenching challenge of coming up short. We are all wired to experience the pain of learning; it’s through this pain which makes success feel so good!

For all of us, growth is painful, as to our inner mind, it looks like nothing is happening. But in reality each outing, each race, each opportunity to compete, growth is going on. We are collecting lessons learned.

Even when it looks like you have blown another start, your timing was off and you’ve been rolled one more time, you have really learned some valuable lessons which will prevent this from happening the next time you find yourself in a similar situation. You will magically know what to do as you have so craftily gone through what not to do.

In life and in sailing, you can’t confuse growth with results! As we head out each day we all need to adopt a process orientated mindset of planting the seeds of knowledge that each outing has to offer. It’s always good to sit and share with your crew a recap of lessons learned from each outing and discussing how you could have attacked each situation with a winners mindset, so to achieve the objective of sitting on the podium when the days sailing is done!

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