New 19th Rule to Sail by in 2012 – Coming Soon! is in transition at the moment and as soon as I can get sorted out I’ll have rule #19 up and going. In the meantime hang tight!

We had light-air but great sailing at the Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD regatta last weekend. Our team for the upcoming season the Farr40 Nightshift was super-moonlighting on the Farr30 Seabiscuit for a little practice and some good competition. Even though we spent most of the first couple sailing sessions cleaning wasps nests out of combings and getting the mast set up to within reason, we won the first race of Saturday and Sunday, taking 3rd overall in the field of 16. All went pretty well except for a brief brush up with Standard Deviation in race two. More to come on that later. Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD Division 4 Results

50 Rules to Sail by in 2012 – Week 18 – Communicate Clearly

One of the easiest ways to lose a sailboat race is to not communicate clearly. Whether its with other boats on the course, as we talked about in Week 11, or within your own boat, any words between sailors should be concise, effective and with the other sailor’s interest in mind. Because I’ve talked about communication with other boats so much I’m going to focus on internal communication within one boat for this week’s rule.

From 420s to 100 footers, the effectiveness of our communication with one and other can be critical to the outcome of our day on the racecourse. Effective communication on the boat can be summed up in three easy steps:

1. Plan out the action and discuss what words to use

This first step is the most important and takes lots of practice. When you’re racing with just one other person, communication can be limited to very few actual words, because you learn how to trust and then anticipate your teammate’s moves, capabilities, and pattern recognition. Through practice, we learn what to look for and what to listen for from our teammates. We also have the opportunity to ask questions and reassess our communication style if need be.

For instance, in the star boat, i knew it would take my crew 4 seconds to be fully prepared to gybe in more than 10 knots of breeze, and 2 seconds in less than 10 knots of breeze. I would have to adjust my communication style for when I wanted to gybe depending on the breeze. If I just yelled out “Gybing” and threw the helm over, then Ian might not be in the correct position to do his job correctly and we might have a bad gybe. Instead, I would say “Standby to Gybe,” thus ensuring that Ian was ready for my call. Then I could say: “Ok, Gybing,” and allow him his time to get properly set up. Ironically, without getting the initial attention of your teammate, the maneuver might actually take more time than if you just yell out “gybing.” The conversation up to that point would also be indicating that a gybe was coming up. We would probably be talking about our options, our course heading to the next mark, our lane choice, or the breeze on the race course. As we talked about it, then the entire team knows we’re getting ready to gybe.

In a boat with lots of role-players that tactical conversation doesn’t always get heard all around the boat. It doesn’t always need to, but it always helps to review the decision with the team before it happens. Even if the anticipatory call is: “Be ready for a maneuver here!” then the team can clean up their stations and listen carefully for the tactician or the skipper’s next call.

2. Be consistent

Lots of practice and discussion of our communication points will enable us to be consistent from maneuver to maneuver. Anybody that races with me on small boats knows that I tend to chatter quietly about what I’m seeing, feeling and thinking. Continue reading

50 Rules to Sail by in 2012 – Week 17 – Be a good teammate

I have to admit, sharing responsibility is a tough thing for me to do sometimes. But when I step back I realize that I’ve been honored to sail with some great teams. Maybe it was the fact that I sailed Lasers and had to push myself for so much of my formative years in sailing. But even then I was always surrounded by great competitive teammates from the SDYC junior program as well as my teams at both Bishop’s and Georgetown. I experienced valuable lessons of how to be effective as both a player as well as a manager. Luckily, I had great role models from which I could learn how to behave in a team environment, how to lead a team, and how help get the best performances from my teammates. Coaches can only contribute so much to a successful team. That is imperative to the understanding how to succeed. Good coaching can only get you and your team to a certain point. Only when all the teammates buy into the necessary process to win can the team truly ensure a chance at success. Very talented teams and good teams containing elite individuals are often beat by less talented squads that simply do the hard work necessary to win and execute the process necessary to achieve their goal.

My alma mater’s central philosophy is summed up when the Georgetown Sailing team shouts as they break the huddle after every practice: “As One!” Skipper or crew, top recruit or walk-on, freshman or senior, average boater or all-star, every single sailor has a stake in the success and failure of the team. Each sailor holds the potential to improve the team by improving themselves. But, this philosophy only works successfully if each sailor buys into the strategy. The team’s leadership has to show the team that their effort contributes to the success of the entire team.

If you want to win this year, follow Rule #17: Be a good teammate.

Every player doesn’t always contribute in the same way: some sailors kill it in the gym, but struggle to use their fitness on the racecourse; some sailors are great in a tacking duel, but struggle to remember the right play once they’re ahead; some sailors are great at winning the committee boat at the star, but couldn’t win the pin if their life depended on it. Good teammates have the big-picture awareness to not only be critical of the flaws in their teammates’ sailing, but also reassure their teammates that the contributions they are making are critical to the team’s success.

Good teammates have to understand their fellow sailors can better help the group succeed and then pair them with sailors that can benefit from the other’s assets. Being a good teammate is also about recognizing when you can contribute to the team in ways that others cannot. But, it also means shutting up and letting others contribute when you cannot.

Larry Bird had three demands when he coached the Indiana Pacers: Be physically fit, Be respectful, and Be on time. Continue reading

50 Rules to Sail by in 2012 – Week 16 & Youth Sailing’s best at CISA Clinic 2012


For more than 25 years, CISA Clinic has been an opportunity for America’s top youth sailors to come and learn from the best coaches around. This year we had 110 sailors in 6 classes under the watchful eye of 18 elite sailors and coaches. We pushed the envelope yet again by having soon to be 2-time Olympian Graham Biehl, and 2-time College Sailor of the year Charlie Buckingham sailing throughout the clinic along side our sailors, showing them where they should set their sights as they springboard off the CISA Clinic into the 2012 racing season.


Each morning we had a 30-minute physical training circuit, followed by briefings on the day’s sailing. Alamitos Bay Yacht Club was, as always, a fantastic host, providing our sailors with the best sailing conditions anyone could ask for: 10-12 knots on Thursday, 15-25 knots on Friday, 12-18 knots on Saturday, and 6-12 knots on our regatta day Sunday. Our conditions ran the gamut from sunny with flat water to lightning, hail, and 5-7 foot swell on Friday afternoon. After sailing, the kids and coaches alike were entertained by some fantastic speakers. Former clinic director and St. Francis Yacht Club’s Robbie Dean talked about the new CISA Clinic to happen this summer in San Francisco focused on windsurfing. Friday night, we had a skype-link conversation with 2-time Volvo Ocean Race sailor and CISA alum and coach Andrew Lewis to talk about his recent experience offshore racing with Team Abu Dhabi. Saturday Etchells World Champion and Pt. Loma High School’s National Champion Coach Steve Hunt gave a great lecture covering the fundamentals of tactical sailboat racing.


While the breeze for our Championship Regatta on Sunday was a little light relative the rest of the week’s sailing, we were able to crown 6 worthy teams. Mostly I want to congratulate our sailors for putting in 4 days of hard work. At CISA, we promote a theme of personal responsibility for our sailors. They should attend the CISA Clinic for their personal improvement and not simply at the behest of their parents or coaches back home. As coaches, we try to provide the tools to allow the sailors to run their own training camps as they pursue elite championships in youth sailing and break into the Olympic level. I challenged our group to contribute as much as they took away from our clinic. As the week wore on, the sailors became each others best allies and training partners even as we approached our race day where they would compete with their sharpened skills on the course.


Our 16th Rule to Sail by in 2012 is definitely connected to our recent clinic. We’re at the tail end of a three part mini-series inspired by Buddy Melges: “Start first, Cover, and Increase your Lead.” But, if we started first, and did a good job at covering, how else can we increase our lead? You might ask… The fact of the matter is that this week’s rule is all about keeping the pressure on especially when you’re leading. Speaking generally, the CISA Clinic involves the top youth sailors in America. They are leading their peers already, so why would the need to spend 4 days pushing themselves beyond their sailing limits? These sailors want to win. To increase their lead on their competition, the CISA Clinic provides them with an acceleration ramp to the next level in their racing. More specifically, on the race course, covering is the best way to ensure your lead as we talked about in Week 15, but to increase your lead and better ensure victory you need to continue to look ahead an not be limited to only watching your opponent’s behind you. While reacting to their moves will help you position yourself to win, you still must be anticipating how to best race around the remaining distance of the course.

At the CISA Clinic when I was in high school, I heard Charlie McKee talk about training with his brother in the 49er class for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. They didn’t have a lot of teams to sail against at the time but would practice by always pushing themselves to pass boats on their course that didn’t exist. While racing against imaginary boats seems a bit on the crazy side of the spectrum, the attitude shows an important subtlety that separates Charlie’s focus from the norm. Instead of using their skills to lead the race and then only demand from themselves just a fraction more than their competition, they were constantly setting the bar farther and farther out of the competition’s reach. They never looked back.

Sometimes covering your competition can be a racer’s downfall. If you are too worried about what’s going on behind you, then you may miss additional gains to be made up the race course. The trailing boat does have that advantage: in looking at you leading they also can survey the course to benefit from your mistakes. If you are purely reactive to the competition, they could trick you into tacking in a bad set of waves, or into a fleet of incoming downwind boats, or simply into a lull on the course. Once your out in front and in an acceptable covering scheme, then you must reactivate your senses to do everything you can to extend your lead. Sailors uncomfortable with leading too often forget that they need to keep the pressure on that got them into the lead in order to keep it. My dad always used to say, “There’s no sense in looking back, they might be catching up!” While it was partially a joke, that attitude does keep the mind focused on the task at hand: winning this sailboat race. The same attitude should pervade the minds of our young CISA sailors.

I’m reading “When the Game was Ours” by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. In it, one of Larry Bird’s comments rang true:

I don’t know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough. I still wonder if somebody – somewhere – was practicing more than me.

How strange it must have been for him to compete against that player. For Bird and Magic, the competitive foil existed in the same era and in the same place. I remember having that same creepy feeling whenever I was training alone in my Laser after school at SDYC or on Mission Bay. I think there are probably hundreds of times where I said to myself: Ok, I’m done for today. But I’ll do one more lap just to make sure I’m doing more than that other guy out there. That’s what the kids at the CISA Clinic are there for, and I’m proud of them for putting in that effort, they should be proud of themselves… but only for a minute or two, because then they should get back after it!

The 2012 CISA Clinic has many people to thank for this years success:
The CISA Board and all the ABYC Membership and Volunteers, as well as our sponsors:
North Sails, Kaenon Polarized, Sperry Top-Sider, Point Loma Outfitting, and Patagonia

Thanks to Jacqueline Campbell Photography for these images and check next week at for more images from the clinic