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Progressing in Sailing: 5 Original Exercises

Understanding and knowing how to use your sensations is essential to develop automatisms and allow better anticipation. A simple example: I have the feeling that the boat is going to heel, I quickly get out of the abseil, the trapeze or I slightly ease the sail.

Beware, some of the sensation exercises (1, 3, 4) that are presented to you today, they are complicated to perform, which is why I strongly advise you never to do them alone.

1 - Navigating blindfolded

The first exercise of this edition is not the simplest. It consists of navigating... blindfolded!

But it's not really blind because by depriving you of your sight, it's your senses that will direct you. What better way to learn than to put yourself in difficult situations?

In this exercise, the goal is not to make a very complicated course with gates, triangles and crooked edges. It is enough to make several close edges.

For this exercise, you must succeed in concentrating on the elements outside the boat:

  • The wind direction: this is the best way to determine the trajectory of your boat. It is therefore essential to identify the wind direction in relation to the water before the exercise. To determine the wind direction without the wind vane, simply put your head in such a way that both ears are in the wind. When they are, it means that the direction I am pointing is where the wind is coming from.

  • The intensity of the wind: it is possible to determine the approximate intensity of the wind from its sound.

  • The effect of the waves on the boat: this is also a good way to determine the direction of the boat. It is sufficient to determine the direction of the waves in relation to the water surface.

  • The resistance in the sheet: which can tell you that the sail is not tucked in enough or that it is starting to gybe, etc... Be careful with some dinghies when the boom hits the head, which is not forgiving.

  • The resistance at the helm: that can announce that we are bringing the boat down.

  • For those who are comfortable with this exercise, there are several ways to simplify the exercise so as not to put yourself in danger:

Choose a body of water that you know well

Listen to instructions given by your instructor/coach

For crews, start with the helmsman blindfolded, so that the crew member gives him the instructions.

For solo sailors, don't hesitate to remove the blindfold from time to time to get the bearings.

2 - Sailing on a cushion

This exercise is quite simple to set up and carry out. Indeed, it is enough to sail sitting on a cushion.

The cushion will absorb some of the shocks and thus reduce the effects of the heel and the waves on your body. The interest of this exercise is to force you to concentrate to feel the effect of the heel and the waves. This will, in the long run, create automatisms by sharpening your senses.

Even with the trapeze, the exercise remains effective. Indeed, with the cushion under your feet, the effects of the heel and the waves are also partly absorbed and you will thus have less sensations.

Although it may seem a little ridiculous from the outside, it can be interesting to fix the cushion on you, using a rope hung along your waist. And if you have to do trapeze, the best would be to attach the cushion directly to the boat.

3 - Steering without the bar

For the third exercise I suggest you try to steer and maneuver with the bar attached or if possible, removed.

The interest of this exercise is to understand the effects that our movements have on the boat. There is also the adjustment of the sail to manage. This exercise allows you to better manage your position in the boat and the sail setting.

Here are some tips to learn to steer with the helm locked:

  • To bring down, you must ease the sails and keep the boat flat.

  • To luff the boat, you have to trim the sails and gradually sit on the opposite side of the sail.

  • In a gybe, the boat should be eased in sharply and sit on the side of the sail. By putting weight on the side of the sail, the boat will tend to turn around the center of gravity of the weight. For the tack, it is simply the opposite.

  • For this exercise it is necessary to fix the bar straight and not in the corner. The rudder will then take on the role of a daggerboard and will not influence the direction.

4 - Navigating with earplugs

The fourth exercise in this series is quite simple to perform and is similar to the second one in which you had to blindfold yourself.

By removing your hearing, you will not be able to hear the wind in your ears, you will not hear the sail when it flaps, etc. This exercise allows us to work on our eyes mainly. To fill in one sense, our body reinforces the others. Here, by not being able to hear anymore, the search for information by the glance is reinforced and more precise.

Finally, this exercise allows to understand the interest of the look and the sensations other than the hearing.

For the realization, it is enough to draw a triangle course (windward buoy, cross buoy and downward). That way, you will be able to deal with all forms of conduct.

5 - Practice, practice, practice

The last exercise I propose is not really an exercise. What I want you to understand is that there is nothing better than practice to develop these sensations, to create automatisms, reflexes, habits that will allow you to better anticipate events.

Regular training is important, because reflexes are created only with regular practice. Training once a week is the minimum.

If you have any questions about these exercises, don't hesitate to tell us in the comment space just below this article! We will be happy to try to answer them.

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