high performance sailing
A well known problem is that although it is quite easy to find coaches for beginners, when their level raises, and this usually happens soon, it becomes really difficult to the instructor to follow their progression, because most of them basically teach what they remember from their time as a really and things may have changed a lot since then.
Sailing is a constantly changing science. Especially in recent years, techniques and theories which shortly before would have been considered a sin replaced others that were taken as true until then.
In order to remain competitive, coaches should continuously update their knowledge. But most of them simply forget it... or do not know how to do it.
Due to my frequent contacts with the Spanish Olympic Team and my friendship with great designers like Julian Bethwaite and Mariusz Juszczak, I can learn new concepts and technical issues as soon as they appear.
Working with some coaches
Quite frequently clubs or even federations ask me to work with their coaches, I had people from Russia, Poland, Italy, Germany, Spain... No problem in sharing my knowledge :-)
What to do?
Of course, what a good coach needs is to know extremely well is the boat (rig and battens tensions, heel tune, trimming, tuning, etc.) and also a deep knowledge of the physical reasons of what we teach the sailors. How to adapt the manoeuvres to the sailors’ conditions and morphology. They must be able to measure masts and foils and help the sailors to choose the correct stuff for them. If necessary we work on this too.
But the coach must also be aware of the new concepts, materials and technics coming as result of the last investigations. Things like "design wind", the Fowler effect, apparent winds in the different sails and their different parts, speed polars, trimming, sails theory...
Match race techniquee; it is not just speed
As I said before, I always teach my sailors the main points: "what, when, how..." and specially "why". In the case of the coaches, the "why" is the most important subject, and in which I spend most time.
The best to prepare a coach is to coincide with a clinic. Water and classroom sessions, together with the sailors and also some particular ones the coaches. It is because most of the information I give in those cases is specifically for them and I prefer to keep the sailors’ minds free of diagrams, draws, vectors, equations, etc. that are actually useful for the coaches but could result confusing and even boring for the sailors.
Basically there are two different scenarios: training and regatta. Let’s start with the last one.
Always the first thing to do is a deep boat check with the sailors: hull finishing, sails, foils, fix and running rig, alignment, symmetry… to correct whatever is wrong. The boat must always be in perfect condition, but even better for the competition!
Back to the harbour after the races
Once in the regatta venue I go out with my rib to analize the sailing conditions. Back to shore, I check the boats and have a meeting with the sailors to comment the Sailing Instructions and to prepare the strategy.
On the way to the regatta field (and also before each race) I follow each of my sailors' boats with my rib to help them to set the best trimming for the new conditions. Of course, I always film the starts and the finishings.
In special cases I can count with some of my most experienced sailors to help me both with the big groups as an example of execution of maneuvers on board; the sailors can learn from watching them, who have a really high technique, sailing and performing the manoeuvers on their own boats.
In case of sailors training with me for first time, it is to do a previous sailing in order to analyze their skills, their physical conditions, how they do the manoeuvres and their movements on board to see if something can be improved or there are bad points to correct. Then, I prepare for them a tailored training plan considering their necessities, their wishes and the time we have.
Trainings in the water are never too long. If we have only one session, it’ll never be longer than 3 hours; if two sessions, never longer than 2 hours each. Ssailors’ capacity of learning finishes much earlier than people think. Starts, mark roundings, tacks, gybes, 360ºs, short regattas… At the end of the day we, sailors and I, analize the videos.
I always teach my sailors the key points of what they have to do on board: "what, how, when", but I specially want them to understand the most important one: the "why". The better they understand it, the better they will do the other points and the better results they will get.
What I always tell them: "Sailing is not like a religion; you don't have to believe, you just need to know and to understand."
What I intend to do is to help my sailors to be independent. They must be able to do always the correct things by themselves. The coach only gives them support and information; of course, sailors are the only protagonists of their races.