Building a repertoire of experiences

Published on June 1st, 2021

For sailors with a goal of the Paris 2024 Olympics, this year has found them in the shadows of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics. With national programs focused on this summer’s competition, campaigners such as Lucy Wilmot and Erika Reineke are doing what they can on their own to prepare. Here’s the latest update from this 49erFX team:

In early May, we moved our training base from the east coast to Marina del Rey, California to start our summer tour out west. With 15 days on the water this month, we completed 55 hours of training and over 20 hours of strength & conditioning sessions.

Building a solid training schedule two months in advance, we were able to get right into the swing of things upon arriving. Having a consistent training partner to spar against for the first time, our focus was to execute boat handling maneuvers in relation to another boat. This entailed working on time-and-distance calls for tacks/gybes and selecting a driving mode to put the boat in to gain a tactical edge on our opponent.

A few examples of this include cracking off the jib to put the bow down as we race to put in the final tack on layline; squeezing high to hold a lane or pinch off the other boat; or soaking low downwind to set up for a jump on the boat ahead. As a result, teaming up with the Janov brothers has put us on the fast track to collecting speed testing data and experiencing boat on boat tactical plays.

Two drills we found extremely valuable this month include the upwind “bounce-off drill” and the downwind “jump drill.”

The bounce-off drill mimics starboard/port crossings, ducks, and lee-bows. To begin the drill, one boat ducks a rabbit and continues on her course. When the coach blows the whistle, both boats tack back at each other and are free to engage however they choose. If you are ahead by a fair-lead, the goal is to execute a lee-bow or position windward and ahead if you can cross. If you can’t cross, take a duck. If you are the boat behind getting out maneuvered, you can practice dialing at the other boat to draw a close lee-bow, holding a tight lane off the leeward boat, or anticipate that you may need to go right into a tack.

Similar tactical situations are also practiced during the downwind “jump drill.” Jumping is when you gybe on a boat clear ahead and to windward. In doing so, you give them bad air and they fall behind. This drill is intended to recreate the moment in a race where you are approaching 80% to layline. If you are the tailing boat, the goal is to jump the boat ahead as they go for the gybe. If you are the leading boat, you must decide if you can avoid the jump by moding high or low, choose to sail in bad air briefly, or gybe away. If both teams execute this well, the lead boat will get jumped, but by the time the final layline approaches, the leeward and behind boat can jump the new lead boat coming into the gate mark.

The beauty of having a training partner is that we can recreate tactical situations over and over. Building a repertoire of experiences in our mind and seeing again and again where gains and losses are made is extremely valuable for any athlete competing at the top level. In the future, when boat-on-boat situations occur in a high pressure race, we will not have to think or guess what to do. From this training, we will have foresight and react based on experiences like these.

For more from this team:

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Program
Men’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 7
Women’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 6
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy – Finn
Men’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Women’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17

Original dates: July 24 to August 9, 2020
Revised dates: July 23 to August 8, 2021


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