The ODP Racing Camp is the premier youth training event on the continent, period. With support from Quantum Racing coach’s Ed Baird (America’s Cup, TP52 Series, World Champion), Morgan Reeser (1992 Olympic silver medal 470 helm, 2012 Olympic silver medal 470 coach), Grant “Fuzz” Spanhake (6 America’s Cups / 6 Round the World Races) youth athletes have an opportunity to gain perspective and instruction from some of the most accomplished sailors in sport.
Here’s a quick review on all the lessons passed down at this week’s camp in Miami.
Starting In Light Air by Ed Baird. In light breezes, like we had on Saturday, air molecules back up on the windward edge of the fleet like a snowbank. This “snow fence” effect occurs consistently on both a small starting line and a leeward shoreline, but on a light and lumpy day in the ocean the effects can be catastrophic for those stuck in the middle.
We all should know that in light breeze the edges pay. Since the new breeze will flow around the fleet with less resistance. Conversely, to be stuck in the middle on a light day, you might as well be at the bottom of a well.
Scientifically, wind resistance caused by friction creates an increase in pressure as the air molecules begin to back up against one another. As more air is squeezed into a space the greater pressure builds, like a balloon. At different edges of the starting line, factors on convergence and divergence will appear. This is something you can take advantage of on a light day.
Here’s a look at the convergent and divergent wind zones on a light air day of sailing, in three starting line axis.
Winning Routines by Morgan Reeser. My favorite Leandro quote is “even losers have goals.” And it’s true, but do you know what champions have? “Winners have methods.” Morgan impressed upon the group the importance of preparation, adequate preparation and the effects on creating mental headspace and presence of mind.
Morgan’s approach to coaching and the sport is to simplify. His question before the next race is consistently, “Where’s the next best pressure?” And we know that simple question can often be a hard one to ask, especially if you are dealing with a breakdown, trying to eat, or arguing with your skipper prestart.
The solution is to create a winning routine for yourself. Prior to racing every day in Gdynia, Poland for the 2019 Youth Worlds Berta & Bella followed a specific routine. It went like this:
- Sail past the coachboat towards starting line
- Greetings to Phil and then confirmation of morning forecast (and strategy) or new information to test
- Begin speed test windward of signal boat, spend 2 minutes on starboard, then2 on port
- Set and downwind, two gybes and douse
- Luff near signal boat, look around, discuss and plan
- Final pass at coachboat – final gameplan decision
- 2 mins (or more) of rest prior to Orange Flag luffing at signal (7 minutes to start)
The benefits of creating your own structure allow you to put factors within your control and free up your mental bandwidth to focus on more complex tasks. You might note that they failed to do transits and line sights. The truth is that Berta and Bella have the best downspeed boathandling and accelerations in the world and spending 4 minutes jockeying for position on the line, was enough calibration for them to win 84% of the starts at that 13 race event.
And it will certainly help you to add acceleration practice to your pre-start routine.
Speed & Tactics with Grant “Fuzz” Spanhake. With his tech tools, Fuzz showed us tracker data from Friday’s racing. The most interesting takeaways were the calculations of distance sailed in relation to boat speed. There is a significant affinity toward speed in the 29er. But speed is a double-edged sword, and some skiffs end up reaching around the track if no properly seeking height. Lots of europeans point high with speed. This can be attained by proper leech set up and sail trim. What factors contribute to speed? (read more below).
Having all these tech tools certainly helps, but sailors can get better at sailing less distance around the track by focusing more on the shift and keeping the next mark at the top of their priority list. How can we do this? Invest in a compass.
Here’s the link to one I recommend. It’s affordable and extremely useful. This tool will help inspire you and your teammate to more informed conversations about heading, and whether or not you can play through or tack.
Hierarchy of Needs with Fred Strammer (Sailing Performance Training). Sunday’s debrief was (in Steven Waldie’s words) the best of the entire weekend. Tragically the majority of 29er teams were packing their boats up after the harrowing Bear Cut Bridge Walk, but that didn’t stop the small group of having an insightful conversation about keeping first things first.
Here’s a look at psychologist Abe Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The basic principle of this theory is that you can only move onto the next level once established in a previous level. For example, let’s look at level 3 (love and belonging) and levels 2 and 1. In truth, if you don’t have a place to live or food to eat, you aren’t going to have the time to seek friendships or go to the gym. You’re going to be stuck at level one.
In sailing, and especially skiff sailing you’ve got to sort everything out within your boat, before you are able to pick your head up and actually race. After day one of the clinic Fred asked, “who felt like they were racing today?” And only 4 of 23 boats raised their hands. It should be a goal for you to master your boat handling, tuning, trimming techniques and communication early on in your session, especially on race day, so you can expand your awareness outside of the boat.
After practice evaluate which level you were able to get to? Did you get bogged down with boathandling, or did you rise to the level of actionable communication?
On Your Mark with Helena Scutt (2016 49er FX Olympian) “Your spinnaker block will always be in the same place” and it’s true. And winning the transition is the name of the game in skiff racing. Teams who minimize transition time, set faster, trim properly will get around the race track faster. And speed is your weapon against the competition.
Helena suggests literally marking the keys spots on your boat as reference points to ensure replication of settings and trim, this means: the jib sheet, spinnaker halyard, and vang. Helena’s Pro-Tip was for crew’s to mark the “one more pull” spot on the spin halyard and race to that mark.
Building a Gameplan with Chelsea Carlson (Sea-Tactics)- “A dream without a plan is a nightmare.” Forecasting is everything. Forecasting is what takes your hard work and focuses it in the right direction. Forecasting is the feather of the arrow. In the ever changing environment of sailboat racing knowing what’s ahead is the key to executing success plays.
Chelsea went over a really simple worksheet of factors for planning out your day.
1) Know what the big picture trend is. Is there an incoming front? Outgoing? High pressure, low pressure?
2) Do your homework to predict the stability of the shifts? Tacking on shifts is like playing golf. (Wait, listen) In golf, each hole is designed for certain number of strokes. “Par 4” for example. In sailing, each beat requires a certain number of tacks (on each shift). Pro-Tip: Gameplan the number of tacks up the beat in the pre-start.
3) Look at the clouds. Are the stacking up high and building into huge chimneys or moving in little wisps from right to left?
If you want to jump ahead of 80% of the fleet, my suggestion is you read Wind Strategy as soon as possible. It will be more illuminating than anything I can write today. (I read Wind Strategy at least twice a year and always re-learn something relevant.)
Phil’s Top 5: Keep First Things First
1) Better Coachboat Prep: When we’re training on the ocean we need to be efficient and organized. No more hoagie subs, large coolers or bags to dig through. And the amount of gear on the coach boat should be packed in relation to the activity of the day. For example, 3 races per day (like ODP) you should have:
- 1 squirt water bottle on your boat and additionally 1 per race on coach boat (check this)
- 1 bar in your life jacket and 1 per race on coach boat
- Tow line on coach boat (spare spin sheets)
- Spare main/jib sheet
2) Energy and Engagement Levels: Monitor your teammates energy level and hold them accountable to eating and drinking to stay primed for racing all day. If your teammate is struggling then it’s time for you to motivate them. It’s not time to point fingers and blame. It’s time to step up and coach them through the challenge.
If you struggle to stay energized during a three hour training session, talk to a coach about your eating, sleeping, fitness habits and make a plan to improve your endurance. Remember this: Everything you do off the water, dictates how you’ll do on the water. So for the love of Pete Burling, eat again and go to sleep!
3) Main Halyard Inspection: When your main is down (even 1 inch) it compromises the vang, and thus, the sheeting and stability. If your main is down you will be slow.
- Spend time onshore rigging your halyard tight to the fourth hook
- Hook five should be accessible, but will pucker the luff tape at the sail’s head (heavy air)
- Halyard tension is an adjustment just like the vang or cunno, test your range on hooks 3, 4, 5 in different conditions in practice.
4) Find Fast Now: Speed is the replication of known fast settings and the application of tested fast techniques. Speed comes from experience. If you’re struggling with your speed, I recommend you focus on a few things in this order:
- Are we flat? If not, get flat.
- Is the main in? If not, depower with controls (vang first, then cunno, then board height) to bring main into 4 inch range.
- Is the helm loaded with pressure? If yes, get flat.
- Is the bow stuck in the water? If so, crack the jib and put the bow down 2 degrees to find fast forward.
- Now you’re fast, start to use speed to gain height.
5) Develop Your Feel: Feel is the conditioned awareness of optimized performance. In english that means you know how to put the boat where it wants to be. Fuzz says, “the boat is a living and breathing thing, so do want it wants”. Developing good feel takes time. Pay attention to the little details like fore/aft weight, sail trim, steering up then down through chop, or down then up and test different things in practice.
6) DeBrief Teamwork: We spend too much time looking at the sails when we need to look in the mirror. At the end of the day, are you proud of your behavior and communication to your teammate? Set teamwork standards for yourself, rank yourself on a scale of 1 to 5. Score five is excellent, best ever:
- Actionable Communication – Always looking forward, not behind
- Consistent Self Reporting – Don’t tell your teammate what to do, talk about what you’re doing.
- Selective Amnesia – forget your mistakes, forget your successes. Your next move is the one that matters.
- Take Ownership of Mistakes – Pull thumbs don’t point fingers
- Motivate Action – “Let’s get after it” attitude
7) Finish the Day: You can tell which teams are still “racing” on the last beat of the last race, boats with reasonable twist and return on the main have continued to play controls aggressively throughout the day, all the way to the end.
As a crew, if by the end of the day your shoulders are hunching over and you have to squat to get the spinnaker hoisted, talk to Fred about getting on a fitness program and outlast your competition. Having a higher standard for crewing posture and position puts everything in harmony.
The Future is Yours with Leandro Spina. “We keep raising the bar.” In his closing remarks, Leandro encouraged athletes and coaches to return home with the renewed commitment to build on the culture of excellence. “Champions have methods,” and with the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles in 9 years, the time is now for regional teams to refine their processes and routines.
This generation’s athlete will represent the USA in 2028. It is our mission to continue to improve upon the formulas for success. So what can you focus on? Looking back on the professional talent and shared wisdom of the coaches from the past weekend, among a myriad of skills, focus on technology, fitness, and mindset.
“Kaizen” is the Japanese principle of constant improvement. Leandro reminded us Sunday morning that yes, this was a racing camp but when it comes to racing we focus too much on results. In Morgan Reeser’s words, “[the results] show you that you are better than you actually are on your best day, and worse than you actually are on a bad day.” What matters is the Ratio of Improvement. We must strive to make positive change within ourselves each day. Easier said than, but with focused effort we can keep building, brick by brick.