Getting Back into Dinghy Racing
Sailing, like any sport, has a busy summer season for racing, with numerous events taking place all over the UK and beyond. For me, sailing an RS200 in the North West leads me to the RS200 Northern Tour alongside the Rooster Championship Tour which will include the National Championships taking place at East Lothian Yacht Club.
Chinese general and military strategist, Sun Tzu, once said: “Every battle is won before it is fought”. In other words, you need to manage resources and preparation effectively before you enter battle…or in dinghy terms, any racing event.
Whether it is a club, regional, national or international event, it is useful for us to consider the appropriate preparation and ensure that mentally, physically and emotionally we are as strong as possible.
Whilst I was at university and learnt team racing, I always found it useful to keep focused in the moments leading up to the race and then to maintain a present state of mind when racing. As a result of the covid-19 pandemic, racing events were fewer and far between over the last couple of years.
Nevertheless, I managed to participate in a first major RS200 event in late 2021. Sailing in at Royal Torbay Yacht Club for Summer Championships in August 2021 demonstrated to me how quickly coastal areas can change in relation to wind and weather conditions and the appropriate attire also changed, so a dry bag with extra kit is essential!
These are some of my favourite pieces of kit which I feel are very important in contributing to a positive day of dinghy racing. The supertherm range is great for cold Winter training and racing – Women's SuperTherm 4mm Wetsuit |Rooster Sailing & Watersports – ROOSTER UK
I tend to bring out the Thermaflex for the summer months - Women's ThermaFlex 1.5mm Wetsuit | Rooster Watersports UK – ROOSTER UK (roostersailing.com)
The Essentials range is great for majority of the year, if you wear layers underneath and on top - Essentials 2mm Full Wetsuit – ROOSTER UK (roostersailing.com)
Plus I would highly recommend the Aquafleece for wetter and often coastal days, particularly when competing in a racing series and you are sat in between races - Women's Aquafleece Spray Tops | Rooster Sailing & Watersports – ROOSTER UK
Since I had a major life event taking place in 2022, I decided not to commit to any major racing events but concentrated on my overall fitness and strength.
Wakeboarding regularly ensured that my strength and stamina was maintained and you can read more about my wakeboarding experiences via the link: https://www.roostersailing.com/blogs/ambassadors/wagers-with-wakeboarding-where-to-start-what-to-wear-and-what-to-expect
I also sailed regularly to train and worked on my sailing posture and adaptation to wind conditions, which I hope will be of great help in the upcoming racing season for 2023. I am regularly competing in club races at Leigh & Lowton Sailing Club and look forward to the challenges that will be faced in the other sailing events.
Whilst considering a return back to dinghy racing, I created the below acrostic which reads “Whatever The Weather, Be There”. I hope this provides some useful inspiration and tips ahead of the dinghy racing season, and motivates you to enter the next dinghy racing event. Always remember Benjamin Franklin’s words: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.
Whether the weather be fine, Or whether the weather be not, Whether the weather be cold, Or whether the weather be hot, We'll weather the weather Whatever the weather, Whether we like it or not! - be disciplined no matter what and make the start line…
Have goals - build up your schedule to reflect what performance you hope to achieve…
Aim high - it never hurts to be optimistic as one day you may win that race…
Train consistently - if that means only once or twice a week in the gym, stick to a regular pattern…
Exercise in a way that suits your body - if you prefer mornings, start early or if you are a night owl, finish the day in a positive way…
Vary your training - water drills, land sessions, strength and conditioning, yoga or Pilates: all help to strengthen the body in different ways
Eat a balanced diet - your body needs fuel to keep going and sailing is a strenuous sport
Read your rules - make sure you’re up to date with all the racing rules that apply to your class of boat
Tune your boat - make sure that every part of your boat is in tip top shape
Height and weight are important - know the measurements of helm (and /) or crew to ensure boat is tuned well
Expected weather conditions should be in your mind at all times - watch the weather forecast with great interest and ensure that you have the appropriate clothing to match (I would recommend using supertherm for the very cold weather, thermaflex for moderate weather and essentials for medium – warm weather and remember that coastal sailing involves wind and tide and therefore, will probably result in wetter conditions overall)
Work smarter, not harder - ensure that you know the race course
Examine your sails regularly - check for any damages and ensure you have emergency tape on you at all times is important
Arrange lines in advance - tangled spinnaker sheets are less than ideal!
Tune rig for expected conditions - you can adapt them as you go
Have an open mind - weather conditions, travel, boat breakages, a faster competition…all these factors can throw you off pre/during/post racing so try to keep open to changes as they inevitably come along…
Embrace the challenge - try racing at coastal and inland environments to observe the different wind and tidal conditions
Remember your own limits - always wear safety equipment, including a buoyancy aid and safety nice, and don’t go out on the water if you’re unsure about the conditions…
Be disciplined on implementing a watch system - ensure you have a high quality timer for the start
Eliminate your competitors by first identifying them - during the pre-race sailing and during the race, make sure you watch your speed in relation to others sailing around you
Take the time to evaluate yourself and your habits at the start of a new year - is there anything more that you could do to help yourself feel better prepared (ie. more light wind boat handling, roll tacks, boat bimbling)
Hydrate - make sure you have spare bottles of water / homemade energy drinks (ie. squash accompanied by the appropriate amount of sugar - speak to your coach if you’re unsure)
Energise - whatever helps you feel most ready for training ie. starting the day with a brisk walk, a jog or some yoga to get yourself into the best mindset
Re-hydrate - remember that you need to continue taking in fluids after your training / practice racing
Even when you have doubts about your performance, just give it a go!
“Proper preparation and planning prevents poor performance”
Enjoy your sailing!