It’s frustrating to not remember the average compass heading of the last wind shift, the required order of the marks or what the race committee’s current signal flag means. We tend to label these errors in a way that assumes that our brains are having temporary difficulties handling data processing and storage – “a senior moment”, “a slipped cog”.
Anxiety is a good thing to have when you’re racing a Laser sailboat. To perform at your best you need to have and use anxiety wisely to motivate yourself. To do that you need an idea of the range of anxiety where you achieve your optimal performance; the level of anxiety that energizes you just enough. To keep your anxiety within that zone you must practice recognizing and regulating its intensity and you need to frame it (conceptualize it, see it, think of it) as helpful.
Awareness, focus, attention are really just different ways to describe the act of being mindful of the data that is deluging us at any given moment. We choose what we will notice and let other things pass by without catching our attention. We simply cannot consciously notice everything, so we tend to detect those things we expect or that we have practiced looking for – we may not see the floating plastic bottle but we surely notice the race mark.
In a recent blog I suggested that Laser sailors outline important areas that we need to pay attention to, if we want to become better racers. On my list I included “Mental Performance”.
Sailing is a complex sport, and sailing a Laser adds additional physical challenges to the head game any boat demands. To be successful at a multifaceted activity requires a strategic plan for continual learning and progressive competency. Keep your plan simple and the successive steps small.
The first time you race a Laser in a large fleet, and when it comes to large fleets there are few larger than a Laser regatta, there are many new things to learn. But the first few starts most sailors end up just trying to survive – just trying to get a bit of clean air, not foul someone and keep high enough on the initial tacks to not have to tack away before they want to.
For those of us who live in New England it’s urgently time to start preparing for our spring sailing.
We often achieve something and when we do we feel that we understand or have learned a discrete thing. What we miss is the rest of the continuum of nuances yet to learn about that thing, the learning and expertise that hide behind our current accomplishment.
I knew I should have switched to my smaller radial sail. The breeze was right on the cusp of where I needed the radial to allow me to keep my Laser flat without a heroic struggle, but the competitive crowd was using full standards, of course. Lots of other guys, and they were all guys, who were heavier or younger were not about to sail the “old man’s” and women’s sail unless it became absolutely necessary.
The super insulation on the cottage not only holds out the 10 degree bite of the winter day but muffles the sounds of the battering wind until all I hear is swells of whooshing with low irregular reverberations of timpani.