Author Archives: Niko

2018 Season Wrap

Hi all,

A big Thank You to those who participated this season. It was a good summer and I think most of you got a lot out of the practices. We’ll aim to do something similar next summer. These practices can actually be more effective with more boats, so let’s try to spread the word to other regular racers.

Two things to think about during the next few months of sailing:

  1. What we discussed yesterday was to focus on leaving your tacks at the right angle, and with the right sail and hull trim. Basically, begin sailing fast again as soon after the tack as possible. This doesn’t mean rushing the tacks, but instead accelerating immediately after them, rather than staying slow for a while before getting back to proper techniques.
  2. You might find this Race Q’s app interesting. If you can get a few sailors to use it, then you can track how you did in a race, perhaps see how good or bad each tack or leeward mark rounding was, etc. You might find a couple items to work on.

That’s about it, but there’s plenty of racing still going on out there. Don’t miss it, as it’s what you’ve been practicing for!

Cheers, Niko

July 31, 2018 Practice Briefing

Alright, last practice of the season! Sad, but should be a good one. It’s looking like we’ll have a nice little easterly. I want to work on two drills that we’ve done before which can really be good in lighter wind. Also, a game I call Sumo Sailing. Let’s try to take off from and land on the L-dock.

We’ll begin with a quick follow the leader to gather everyone. Then, going up the river, we’ll do either tacking or gybing on the whistle. Upwind, 3 whistles starts the drill, and from there on means stop or start. 2 whistles – do a 360. 1 whistle is a tack. Feel free to skip a tack or do an extra in order to re-join the group.

Downwind, 3 whistles is stop/start, 2 is go from a reach to a run or a run to a reach, and 1 whistle is gybe. We really want to get good at the rolling aspects of the tacks, gybes, and going to a reach. Other learning goals are to make sure we come out of the tacks right at close hauled, to control our steering and our main through the gybe, and to adjust to wind-shifts on the reach or run.

Sumo sailing is a team drill, we do inside of a box course. The goal is to force the other team out using the ROW rules. I will blow a 3-minute start sequence and the game begins at go. The team entering on port can enter ten seconds early. I’ll describe this again on the dock.  See you on the L-dock at 6pm.

July 24, 2018 Practice POSTPONED

We will be holding this practice next week, Tuesday July 31 at the same time. This will be the last practice on-water practice of the year due to JP coaching commitments. I’m sorry for the late notice as my timing predictions proved to be off yesterday and I cannot make it back from Marblehead in time.

If you are out sailing today, I suggest these two drills you can do solo:

  1. use a buoy on the water (or bring your own). Set a three minute timer while you are near the buoy, sail away for a full minute, and then spend two minutes returning to the buoy. Can you get it right on? Try from different directions. Can you get creative in slowing down, while still pointing generally towards the buoy? Use luffing, S-curves, rudder stall, and pinching to help you. If there’s a second boat, you can each choose a side of the buoy so there is some interaction (but you can still both get off the mark on time!)
  2. using the same buoy, try the “hold your spot” drill where we use the same slowing techniques to hold our bow on the buoy for a long time. In reality, the first drill will often end up being the second drill.
  3. bonus option: if there are three or more boats, try rabbit starts. You can do this with the rabbit blowing a few short whistles to say “get ready” and then 30-60 seconds later, a long blast saying “I’m coming”. Try to have the rabbit round within 15-20 seconds of the “I’m coming” whistle.

And of course you can always practice roll tacks and gybes with a crew-mate. Throw in some 360’s and 720’s for good measure.

June 26, 2018 Practice Debrief

If you are looking for today’s briefing, please see the previous post below this one.

Our last on-land debrief got slightly contentious, and I’ve been meaning to write an addendum. While I do think that taking yourself out of your comfort zone to learn to roll tack and gybe is really important, I also know that it’s hard. It’s physically difficult, and there are mental hurdles. These are not small issues, but they often can be overcome if you will let yourself, at least with the mental parts.

However, there are two other items you can try to also improve your tacks and gybes. Try new hand and footwork to try to keep yourself balanced, and also allow yourself to CONTROL both the mainsheet and your steering through the entire tack. Finishing the tack RIGHT on close-hauled should be a learning goal for most new/intermediate racers (and advanced racers too) , as many come out of tacks low (or high) and you can never make up for that lost height or speed. Same thing with the gybes. Having control, meaning a solid footing, and good control of the helm and sheets will make gybes much less scary. If my footing/handwork ideas don’t work for you, try new things until you find ones that do. Don’t keep doing something that’s not working. You should feel COMFORTABLE tacking, gybing, and controlling the boat throughout and feeling like you have an attachment to the boat, and your feet and/or butt underneath you. I am here to help you with that, not to set impossible tasks, but I will also continue to push you to not do the same thing you’ve been doing if it’s not working.

Cheers, Niko

July 10, 2018 Practice Briefing

Hi all, very excited for nice (not steady) breeze today. Per usual, let’s try to be dressed and rigging on the front of the dock at 6pm for a quick briefing. Everyone’s work in the past in this regard has been super helpful for our good race practices so far.

We will start with a blind-fold sailing drill. Rig, and get out past the worst of the traffic, and then sail out to our course area near the Harvard Boathouse with the skipper blind-folded. This will require the crew to do lots of communication and explaining where to sail, how to trim, etc. Please be prepared to remove your blindfold if necessary, and perhaps have a safe-word for the crew (“help” is pretty good). We’ll have a short windward/leeward course set up, and you can do a lap of that, and then rotate skipper and crew.

Our second drill will be rabbit starts. These consist of a countdown start near a leeward mark or “pin” buoy. The designated “rabbit” boat will round that buoy to port at about 15 seconds remaining, and begin sailing on close-hauled on port tack. Other boats can start on starboard tack between the pin and the rabbit. Note that the rabbit has right of way even though they are on port tack, and you will need to duck them in order to start.  Please see this .gif for an animated example of a rabbit start:

Lastly, we’ll do some pursuit races. I will set up a triangle course (we NEVER get to do those!) with a windward mark, a wing/gybe mark, and a leeward mark. We’ll do a follow the leader by ascending or descending sail number into the windward mark, and the goal is after rounding that mark to pass as many boats as possible. The race will go from the windward “start” to the wing, to the leeward, and finish back at the windward mark. This drill can force more experienced sailors to pick their way through the pack of the fleet, and give less experienced ones some time sailing towards the front or middle of the pack.

We do have one newly red-rated sailor who is just becoming a regular who is looking to crew only, so if someone wants some extra time at the helm, you can pair up with her. See you all at 6!