Last Saturday I took part in our weekly regatta at the sailing club. The first race on a Saturday is an average lap time one, where all boats start at the same time, and then sail for an hour. There’s a yardstick system to work out which boat sailed the fastest, taking into account the inherent speed differential of the different boats. I was sailing in a Laser, which is a medium fast boat given the other ones that were participating in this race.
I had a decent start, especially since I’m still fairly new to Laser sailing and my boatspeed is not as good as it could be yet. And my sail is fairly ancient. But it was nice and breezy, and as the field split into two groups, I managed to stay at the top of the slower group (while the much faster dinghies plus our best club Laser sailor were disappearing in the distance).
However, once I got away from the second group I ended up in ‘no man’s land’, in a zone between the two fields. Not really fast enough to catch up with the faster boats, but also far enough away from the rest of the field that I lost contact. And the inevitable happened: I lost focus, didn’t really have anything to gauge my speed, and ended up being caught by the other boats, unable to keep my position.
In addition to that, I rounded one of the marks the wrong way, so technically sailed the wrong course, and had to retire. As I noticed that during the race, I guess that might also have broken my concentration.
I’m not quite sure what to do in this situation. I clearly do better if I have something to compare myself to. Maybe I should have looked at my watch occasionally to see how long it’d take me to do one lap? Of course this doesn’t work perfectly, as the conditions are different all the time with wind shifts and gusts, but it’d give me an idea whether I was faster or slower than previously. Maybe it’s just lack of awareness of the boats around me – when sailing you need to look at many different things, and it is easy to concentrate too much on the sail settings, but then lose sight of the overall picture.
In general it’s always dangerous to try and measure/quantify performance too much, as it’s easy to confuse the metric with the intended performance. But obviously some of that is necessary just for orientation purposes. If you get lost, you lose!