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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Get your practice in!

Knowing when to make the call to tack away, start at the RC boat, or gibe away seems obvious to us when we're thinking/talking it through, but putting it into action on the course can feel overwhelming sometimes and second guessing could make a first into second or worse. Although it may seem silly to think of playing a "video game" as practice makes perfect, some great sailors do just that. (Not just the ones of my generation either.) 

Because most yachtsman wouldn't be caught dead "playing a sailing video game", most sailing programs are marketed as "simulators". Its true, they are simulators. Don't scoff yet! They make a difference! The simulator I want to point out right now is called Virtual Skipper and ITS FREE! Not one of us has the opportunity to race against a fleet of sailboats every day. However, using a simulator, you can be put into situations on race courses sailing against fleets of any size you choose and practicing things such as: large fleet starts, tight mark rounding, when to break away, choosing lanes, almost anything tactical. Just read a couple articles that spoke of new-to-you tactics? Want to try them out? Click open a sailing simulator and put what you learned into visible action. Test your own theories without the anxiety of being in the middle of a fleet race. If the tactics work in the simulator, do them MULTIPLE times. 20 minutes a Day or something. Then its embedded in your mind on race day that "I should duck this guy and get the clean lane that will open up two lengths down".

When I was racing Sunfish as a teenager, I was just having fun. I bought a copy of Posey Yacht Design's Tactical Simulator and practiced my butt of at racing tactically (it also taught sailing rules...if you were breaking any). After a couple weeks of messing around on the simulator maybe 30-40 minutes a week, my race results changed DRASTICALLY. I wasn't just the kid out there having fun in the back of the pack. I started beating my father...then started being at the front of the pack with the big dogs.

I understand if someone doesn't want to play a video game... you don't have to. Try a "sailing simulator" instead. Their are free ones available and ones to purchase, but I feel they can be an advantage to getting in practice, when you can't get in practice.

Simulators I've tried:

Virtual Skipper - nice graphics, good physics, many options, FREE VERSION!
Posey Yacht Design - out-of-date graphics, racing rules programmed in so they throw 'em at you when your in danger of breaking one (or more), pretty good physics of wind, water, and boat heel...down side is that they seem insanely priced for poor graphic content. The poor graphic content is made up for by the programming of the rules, boat handling, and physics of wind on boat, water on boat, etc, I admit.
NED by NauticEd - fairly simple, free, more for sail trim, but a nifty little app.

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