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Kit Guide

Club Sailing vs Open Meeting Sailing vs Squad Sailing

By Steve Cockerill 30th September 2020
Probably the most talked of subject at sailing clubs up and down the country amongst sailing committees is the pros and cons of sailing in any of the titled genres: Club Sailing vs Open Meeting Sailing vs Squad Sailing. This topic has also thrown up some interesting ideas that Rooster Sailing can use to help those perceived disadvantaged sailors and some tips for everyone. I hope you find this interesting. Let's start with perhaps the most contentious area - the Squad Sailor.
Pros:
- structured coaching that together with sailing against like minded sailors of similar ability can help accelerate learning. 
Cons: 
- parents spend vast amounts of money and energy to travel around the country to squad training events which detracts from their own participation in the sport at club or other levels; 
- sailors feel that they are burned out and are most likely to give up dinghy racing after going to University. Why? After reading the book ‘Bounce - The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice’ by Matthew Syed, I would perhaps like to offer some reasons. Matthew Syed talks about how a controlled group of students who have just sat a test were either told "you are talented" or "you worked hard". Each group were then offered the option of another test and that they had a choice of an easy or a hard test. The majority of the group that were told "you worked hard" amazingly opted for the hard test, and the majority of the group that were told "you are talented" opted for the easy test. Matthew argues that once you have the label of ‘talented’, you are then less likely to put yourself up for a test that breaks that theory. You might find a link between this and sailors who are in squads who feel that the pressure to perform to remain in the talented group can start to spoil the fun of competition. Add to this the difficulty of progressing from a purely youth class to racing against senior sailors, who have vastly more experience, does not help the sailors to stick with it. I tend to encourage some sailors to not move on from the 4.7 too soon. I remember convincing one lad that he should stick with the 4.7 for one last event so he can at least have one medal on his mantelpiece before taking on the next challenge, because loosing to more experienced sailors is specially hard to take when you have the label of talent. The main point of Matthew's book is that experience wins over talent. Hence sailors of some experience and perhaps I should not use the word ‘talent’ are leaving the sport when they have only just got started.
Champions Steve and Andy

From a personal note I was never a member of a squad until I started sailing the Laser in the run up to the 1996 GB Olympic Trials and to be honest I am not sure I was named as a member of that squad either, but I was always invited by John Derbyshire to attend the elite squads training sessions. I think this was John’s idea of mixing the new young talent with the seasoned campaigners - I was the seasoned campaigner. I did however, get to qualify for two pre-Olympic Regattas in Savannah in 1994 and 1995 and I am still having the best time of my life on the water at 50!

I spent my early 'youth' years sailing a seriously slow Graduate around the club and open meeting circuit. I was never even selected to helm in Tamworth Sailing Club's 24 hour race team. Later that same year (1984) I was in the team that won BUSA with Aston University, then I sailed with Andy Taylor to win the Graduate Nationals in a new boat provided by my sail maker employer and was second in my first Europe Nationals! Like I say - it was a seriously slow Graduate! So missing out on Squad sailing has probably given me a chip on my shoulder, but it has never stopped me learning the craft of dinghy sailing.

There might still be some more points we can bring to the argument for or against squad sailing - but lets bring them out as we analyse Open Meeting and Club Sailing. The Open Meeting Sailor (this of course includes National Championships and week Championships). Perhaps this is the area that I have spent most of my sailing career doing. As experienced open meeting sailors we have a huge responsibility to help those sailors who are less experienced. To put this into perspective, let’s look at the sport of Road Biking. Recently I have been road biking to gain and maintain my fitness levels. I entered a sportive last summer which was an excellent fun ride of 75km with another 200 riders. There was no way I was going to exchange views or my experiences with the semi pro's who had ridden 175km. I was however, more than happy that I could measure my progress and ability using a GPS tracking device and an application and website called strava. Some might say that I have become a slave to Strava - but feedback of my increased fitness and ability is important to give me the drive to keep training - and Strava can give me that every time I ride, comparing segments of my ride with everyone else who have a strava account (free by the way). In sailing we have some difficulty to measure our increased ability or speed around the tack - especially in similar conditions etc., despite the use of new Tacktracker software and GPS loggers. We just can’t compare our results as a racing fleet is not a controlled group. So why would you want to travel to open meetings only to get beaten? I guess it’s because you can race against the best, or in other words, you are selecting the hard test, that will show you where you need to improve. At the same time we should continue to feel that sailing is a sociable sport where racers are open to offering advice to others less experienced. After all, what other sport can you sit and have a bowl of chips (or should I say pasta) on the same table or start on the same start line as an Olympic medallist? I would like to presume that EVERY sailor or Open meeting volunteer can come up to me or any other sailor and ask them about their rig set up or tactical decisions made. That's the beauty of sailing - there is no space for Prima Donnas - its in everyone's interest that the less experienced get the best feedback possible to encourage them to join in more racing in the future. There is no point being the best sailor at an event of 1! Encouraging inexperienced sailors will allow them to go back to their clubs and offer their club sailor friends the benefit of their new found experience - perhaps at the same time passing on the knowledge. Club Sailing Perhaps I should have started with this genre, as it is where most of us start. I still remember the days passing time with the older more experienced sailors on the balcony at Tamworth Sailing Club, young and old, we were a community. We shared bonfire night, prize giving dances and all matter of first kiss moments that I really should not divulge. It was a magical time that I think back on now as the golden years of dinghy racing where you could learn the lessons of racing from all sorts of sailors with all sorts of abilities and experience. The soup of learning was take a bit more of the fast guys techniques and try not to do what the slow guys are doing. It was the fertiliser for my passion for the sport. My fear is that Squad sailors tend to miss out on this. Their social group is spread around the country and is made up of similar aged sailors who, once they split away from squad or big event regattas, find that they have little club allegiance to draw them back to the sport. From my experience as an ‘open meeting sailor’, I found my lack of time at the club can remove you from this social scene. At my relatively new sailing club’s prize giving, in the dinghy section sum up by the Sailing Secretary, there was mention that I had been away winning some regattas as usual, on the other hand the club hero had just won the ISO event in Garda to everyone's delight. No one knew that I had won the Radial Nationals, with a record turnout, also despite it being the new Olympic Ladies boat; I had also won my first official World Championship title - the Radial Masters Worlds in Cork with 9 firsts to count. No club scene and no one to celebrate it with. I did not feel too good about that, despite feeling chuffed to bits about my results. It was then that I realised that I had missed putting some time in at the local club and that telling my brother about my results was not quite going to help spread the word amongst its members. There are some club sailors that feel excluded from the Squad system, either because of geography or lack of a taxi driver. I know of one club in the very South West of the country where the squad system has past its members by. However, the club racing scene for their youth is thriving as the junior sailors have their older youth sailors to emulate. Club sailors can get as much benefit from some targeted training sessions amongst themselves and can often find a helping hand who is happy to shoot some video. Alternatively you might be lucky enough to have a waterproof HD camera to shoot yourself for your own analysis. If you want some of my analysis, then feel free to email me (steve@roostersailingdotcom). Send me your youtube video link for some Boat Whisperer style analysis. If I can help, you will find my analysis with your video on my Boat Whisperer Blog Page.
Boat Whisperer Review:
Reviewer: Michael Lewing (sutton in ashfield, Nottinghamshire)
Since watching the DVD’s I have noticed an instant improvement in my results, thanks to the way that Steve puts across the obvious but un-noticeable facts on how the boat behaves in the large and minute waves. The different camera views that Steve has shown on the DVD’s are just incredible and really make you feel like you are on board and makes it so much easier to understand, and take notes on how to increase performance, to survive in stronger winds and finally to understand the characteristics of how the boat wants to help each individual with the correct inputs from the sailors. cheers steve, Michael Lewing of ogston sailing club
Remember its not difficult to fire up your fellow club sailors to join in the odd training routine so you can emulate lots of boats, in high stress situations just as if you were in a Squad training session or Championship event. Remember, the more you help others, the more they are going to make you a better sailor to beat them. I hope this article generates some thought and perhaps also some comment - which I value. Please share it with your friends if you agree or disagree with my analysis.
On a lighter note, you will always find me keen to help and advise others at events - sometimes even when it is uninvited - for which I apologise in advance!

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