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Sailing Blog

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back ยป

April 21, 2010

For some, having a good regatta is like hitting a nice golf shot, just the moment you think you have it figured out, you shank your next shot in the woods. But like a consistent golf game, if you can put the good shot out of your head and start over on the next hole, and remember the process of your swing, chances are your next shot will be as good as the last instead of relying on the previous shot to get you through the hole. This past winter I learned a few valuable lessons with regards to managing expectations and remembering to always utilize the process of what it takes to have a good event.

On the Samba Pa Ti Melges 32 program in 2009/10, we found ourselves with an average finish at the Gold Cup in December, and we were hungry to prove we could do better at our next event. Key West came and went and with a 3 hard days of practice and a strict focus on the processes of the race, we went on to win the event and took home Boat of the Week honors. The team felt great about our performance and we were already looking forward to our next event in Miami. While I cannot pinpoint one thing, our Miami event did not finish as we had hoped with a disappointing 7th. Was it the shifty conditions, boatspeed, was the fleet tougher?

While there are some apparent reasons why we may not have done well, like average starts, less than average boatspeed, I feel there were a few harder to identify reasons as to why our results suffered. No doubt we had confidence, but we seemed to lack the hunger and take care of the details that we did in Key West, maybe thinking our result from the previous event would allow us to get the job done in Miami. Did we forget the process of being thorough about all of the details that led to such success in Key West?

A similar situation arose on the Audi Melges 20 circuit this winter with the owners of M + M Racing, Mary Anne and Bill Ward. Our expectations going into the first event were very simple; figure out the boat, and sail clean. By the end of the event we took a decent 5th and were happy with our result. The next event, the goal was to keep improving and that we did, taking a 4th and feeling good about our finish and the fact we were able to hang in a tough fleet. After a 2nd in the last event, and a 3rd place overall in the Winter Series, we had more than exceeded our goals and left Miami with a huge sense of accomplishment heading into the next event.

When we arrived for Charleston Race Week, our expectations were much different that they were for the first event in Miami; now that we had 3 successful regattas under our belt, we felt we could contend to win the event. While we were excited about our ability to contend, we seemed to overlook what had gotten us to feel this way; keeping it simple and sailing clean. There seemed to be a feeling that we just expected the result to happen without having to do take all the steps that we did in the 3 prior events. Our overall preparation seemed to be lacking and as a result we had a tough first 2 days, and salvaged a decent overall finish with a great last day once we returned to our simpler ways.

The lesson learned this past winter is that our finish in the previous event did not mean squat in the current event. In both programs, our successes did not mean we graduated to a different level that allowed us to not pay attention to the process of winning a sailboat race. Every event starts new, and while we used experiences from the previous event that helped us in specific situations, we still needed to keep it simple and take care of the basics and manage our expectations.

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