Preparing for the Optimist RWB Fleet at Orange Bowl

In particular, for sailors who have been out of the boat for some time

By Peter Strong

optis-leavingThe 300 or so Opti sailors at Orange Bowl are made up of a whole range of sailors, from the world championship level to the sailors for whom this will be their first big travel event. No matter their level, however, many of these sailors have not been training consistently nor gone to a big regatta in the last couple months. You might be doing a clinic pre-Orange Bowl or just a short training on December 26th before the regatta starts and you want to focus on the two or three things that are going to help you have a productive regatta. At a 3 or 4 day clinic, coaches are going to cover a lot of ground, and a half or full day before a regatta is tough to shake all the cobwebs. What should you focus on?

Boat handling and decision making during the start sequence seem to be the major killers for rusty or inexperienced Opti sailors at Orange Bowl. If you have not been around a big fleet for some time, it often has you feeling a bit timid or overwhelmed. There are strategic things that you can work on with your coach at the event to help you get off the line, but there are a few boat handling techniques you can work on in practice to get you warmed up.

Acceleration drills. You will probably do a lot of rabbit starts in your practices, but ask your coaches if you could do some line-ups instead, to work on getting your boat moving in a tight group. All the boats line up bow even and work out some type of timed acceleration with your coach or training partners. On the first couple you want to give plenty of space between boats, but as you are having success getting up to speed, reduce the space between boats, making it harder to accelerate.

Time and distance, line sights, etc.: If you haven’t been in the boat for a while, your brain probably needs some retraining with how things work around the starting line. Make sure you have a good feel for how long it takes to get up to speed and how long it takes to get to the line from different spots. Put yourself in the middle of a long line and see if you can get yourself on it in a simulated start.

If the opportunity arises, try to get your team together with other groups so you can get in at least a couple of starts with a few more boats on the line.This will make life a lot easier going into the first race of the regatta.

Obviously there is a lot more to an event like this, but if you haven’t been practicing for a while or if this is one of your first big events, improving your starts, especially your boat handling and control, will go a long way to having a better event.

Sail fast and have fun.

Peter Strong, founder of SailStrong Youth SailingPeter Strong has coached Optis since 2006 and worked with the USODA and the US National Team. He founded SailStrong, a youth racing program represented by 25 sailors at Orange Bowl this year. Find out more at sailstrong.net.


[Opti photo courtesy of Coral Reef Yacht Club]