Two drills to get sharp

Published on January 9th, 2019

Hall of Famer Dave Ullman shares two practice and boathandling drills that will sharpen your skills on the short course.

The Shrinking Course
I set up a course that gradually shrinks, which sharpens tacking and jibing skills, as well as windward and leeward mark rounding skills. It’s used for just one boat at a time. Set up a starting line and a weather mark, usually about a quarter mile apart, depending on the class.

The rules are, a minimum of three tacks, minimum of three jibes. The key is not to get ragged. You have to do jibes and tacks like you’re actually racing, not just forcing them. Once they’re not smooth anymore, then we wouldn’t consider them successful tacks or jibes. They also have to get up to full speed at the end of each tack — no double tacks. If they can do six tacks and six jibes, great, but they all have to be smooth.

Then I slowly move the weather mark toward the starting line, making a game out of it until at some point, they can’t complete three tacks or three jibes. In the 470, we could often get down to 100 yards. Jibes are more difficult to get in, especially when it’s windy. You’re going so fast that if the set isn’t perfect and the takedown isn’t perfect, you’ve used up most of your distance. Do this for an hour or two, one lap at a time, rounding the leeward mark as if it was a mark in the course. The next day I’d say, “OK, we did this yesterday. Can you do this in less distance than you did yesterday?”

Holding position on the starting line
This drill teaches how to hold position on the starting line. For 2 minutes the boat has to stay within two boatlengths of a mark, directly below it. It must stay within that quadrant, always to leeward. It emphasizes using tacks, boathandling, rolling, backing the jib—all the things you need to do to stay in position. They would be told whether this was the pin end or the boat end, or somewhere else on the line, and at the end of 2 minutes, they start as if the mark were that part of the line. – Full story

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