Friday, 7 December 2012

The Boat Whisperer : A Video Critique

Steve Cockerill (of Rooster Sailing fame) keeps an interesting blog on the Rooster website here.  A couple of weeks back, he posted an article comparing and contrasting club, open and squad sailing, and at the end of the article invited readers to send in video samples of their sailing to be subject to a critique.  Now Steve has a rather impressive sailing CV, including multiple RS300 national titles, and this year he won the Laser Master Radial Worlds and Laser Radial national championship.  Its not often that you get the chance to get input from a coach with this record, and I thought the opportunity too good to miss.

I saw this article after the Hare and Hounds 7 race, and after a bit of deliberation decided to submit a couple of videos to Steve for to take a view.  He was kind enough to respond, and has now published his critique on the Rooster website.

In short, Steve has identified several points that I could never hope to pick up myself :

- Shortcomings in sheeting.  Basically I use my tiller hand as a clamp for the sheet and use my forward hand for all sheeting in and out.  To put it more simply I'm not sheeting hand-over-hand, and this is making responses to wind changes too slow, effecting boat trim.
- A mix of good and droopy hiking style, with advice to shorten straps. 
- Not enough consistent windward heel with too much flat/leeward heel for too long.  I thought I was OK in this respect, but the evidence is that there is much room for improvement.
- Faults in tacking technique, including an overhand grip on the tiller on entry.  Options to tack facing backwards (although I've actually tried this and find in disorientating, but maybe with practice?)
- Questions around positioning of bodyweight fore/aft as the boat picks up speed.  The 300 doesn't have a 'hump' between displacement and planing, my experience is that it moves seamlessly between the two.  So there isn't a 'I must move back because I'm planing' transition that I see in some boats.  Understanding when to start trimming fore/aft is something I've not really thought about, apart from the obvious times when the nose is starting to bury in chop.
- Steve assumes that I have stomach muscles and things called hip flexors and quads.  Which I haven't but probably need.

From a wider perspective, the feedback has me thinking about how we go about continually improving.  I've practiced a lot over the past two seasons (more than I've raced, improvement in skills is more important than position in handicap races to me), but got to a sort of plateau where it is getting increasingly difficult to pick out the areas that need focus.  Most other sports have coaching as an integral aspect of the sport, yet sailing at the club level is far more focused on racing.  Steve's analysis has given a new set of training objective for the next 3-6 months, and as a result I now feel energised for the season ahead.  It starts with some partner training with Dave Acres at TISC tomorrow afternoon if anyone fancies it. 

Interestingly Steve points out that the 300 may have potential to be highlighted as a handicap bandit - not news to me Steve, I get more than my fair share of that particular feedback ;-) !

Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to give such constructive feedback, very much appreciated and has given a lift to my sailing.

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