Downwind Day: Freedom of the Fool
Downwind sailing is a bit underrated and easy to gloss over: its easy, relatively comfortable, and can be a one-tack straight shot. Time to relax? No.
There’s a lot more there than many sailors either notice, think about, or go after. Only the best (and most successful) teams approach downwind boat handling and tactics with maximum attention, energy and passion. When practicing, also, don’t worry about what others are thinking. Do what will make you improve.
Too many times, especially in practice, it’s easy to
- hide a windshift and not respond with a move
- restrain boat handling maneuvers rather than attack them
- be timid rather than aggressive
- allow a defensive, timid mentality (like thinking to yourself after you round the mark “That was a GREAT upwind beat; Now if I can only just hold on…..” ) to paralyze your ability to treat the leg like it should be: as a new opportunity to find the quickest path.
Let’s be honest, at face value downwind sailing is easy. Point the bow at the mark and let the sails out. Coach (or others) won’t notice poor stuff because they’re harder to detect downwind, and of course shaky boat handling is impossible to detect if you simply don’t make any moves at all. This happens ALL THE TIME in the last 1/5 of the downwind leg; teams sail by the lee rather than doing two gybes. Now, there are times when slowing down is necessary, but in fleet racing only for positioning.
Today, do not be shy. The wind shifts when you’re going downwind too. Be willing to do an extra move (its faster when you get them down right), sail in narrow lanes (clear air lanes downwind are by nature much narrower, and in some cases attack-able by teams behind you) toward the next puff. Remember also laylines are also a LOT narrower in any wind at all.
Kelly Marren described what her experience was like climbing the ranks as a world-class snowboarder:
“When I first started snowboarding, it didn’t bother me to look foolish trying to learn a new trick. As I became more prominent, I realized I was reluctant to try new tricks because I was afraid of being embarrassed.”
To get better, you have to be be willing to look foolish: there is freedom in being willing to play the fool…. you will benefit from it enormously.
Today we will work on downwind
- Boat Handling (wing-on & off, reach-reach gybe, mark roundings, maybe even a 360 or two.)
FTL, then round either a mark or my coach boat to head downwind. Leeward gate choice…. roundings, have at it.
|1||Mariner Fagan||Ryan Wahba|
|2||Maddie Hawkins||Jordan Bruce|
|3||Sam Bruce||Addi Harris|
|4||Owen Hennessey||Andrea Riefkohl||Coach Boat 2|
|5||Thomas Sitzmann||Raam Fox||Regan King|
|6||Zander King||Rees Tindall||Audrey Klepper|
|7||Teddy Cromwell||Alex Brenia||Lila Gibson|
|8||Patrick Dolan||Hayden Lamb||Riley Condon|
|9||Kyle Reinecke||Lilly Baker|
|10||Jack O’Donnell||Anna Howell|
|11||Robby Meek||Chase O’Malley|
|12||Chase W Hilliard||Cole Petrinko||OUT|