Doyle Sails expert Andrew Brown sat down and has given away some of his top tips for dinghy regatta preparation. “Brownie” is New Zealand Olympian: 885, attending the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens in the 470.
“Brownie” is a One Design expert with many years hands on experience sailing and coaching top athletes from Optimist to Olympic campaigns. Check out his great advice below.
I am going break regatta prep down to 2 topics that all inter-relate for maximum performance at the regatta.
- Venue/weather prep
- Boat/Equipment Prep
Venue and Weather Prep:
So you know the dates of your regatta and regatta venue and location. This will help you research the expected weather at the regatta.
This will help with decisions for your equipment and personal prep.
Predictwind has historical weather data from all venues from around the world of 10 years of data averaged over the month for that venue. This will tell you in percentage what direction the breeze is likely to be (onshore = wavier steadier wind, and offshore flatter water but more gusty). It also gives you average wind strengths for those months.
This is important as it then helps you with gear selection. Are you going to a windy venue, light venue or an all round venue?
Weather and venue prep also helps you physically. Is it a hot venue, cold venue? What clothing will you need? What mental prep do you need if it’s a windy venue you need to determined and ready to “put it all in” if it is light you need to mentally be ready to be more patient, calm and to go with the flow.
Being I am writing from a sailmaking point of view I am now going to concentrate on the equipment side of preparation.
Start preparing your equipment early – you need to pick your major regatta early that you will focus on then get onto gear prep early. The worst way to get ready to race is to be scrambling around getting equipment fixed or new sails tested or measured in the day before the regatta.
I like to go into the regatta with no distractions and with spares in the trailer. So if the mainsheet is a little marginal for an example it is only a coupe of minutes job to fix it (not a normal sailors 5 minute job – actually taking 3 hours)!
A clean and polish of the boat is fine but replacing the mast and re tuning isn’t the best way to go the day before the regatta!
Get experts in to help and shortcut you prep time. Talk to your local trusted sailmaker as an example on the regatta you are targeting, the gear you have and how they can help you tune your current gear you have. We are here to help and get you ready.
A few tips…
- Make sure your centerboard and rudder are in pristine condition – it is easy to know when to upgrade you rig and sails as you are looking up at them all the time; but foils are usually bits of equipment that are forgotten as they are out of sight in their covers or under the water – make sure they are blemish free and wet n dry sanded!
- Make sure you have a rig and sail set up that is suited to your size, strength and expected conditions at your big regatta.
- If you are going to a windy venue you may want to go for a slightly flatter sail or if you are heading to a lighter or more wavy venue then you will need a more powerful set up. This is from sail depth, rig stiffness, sail set up and mast tuning.
- Trust me there is nothing more a sailmaker wants more than to get out of the loft and help out in getting you ready for your regatta. This builds a good customer relationship and gets us out doing the things we love to do.
- Order equipment early – One thing that Covid has taught us is that getting materials isn’t as easy as it once was. So if you want to get some new material order it early. Materials seem to now take longer to get so get onto ordering your new equipment early so you have time to learn and understand how to use your equipment well come regatta time.
- It is better to know how to use your rig and sails well than have a brand new sail for a regatta. Our recommendation is to train with the set up you will use at your regatta as early as you can make a decision so you know how to use the gear in all conditions.
- There is amazing accuracy now in sail making with computer plotters, experienced sail makers and the technology in sail materials now make the sail material characteristics very much identical. So ordering the design type of sail (say an optimist Orange sail – then the next Opti Orange will be the same – just less worn out)!
- However always check your new sails before the regatta and get a few days (4-10 days) using sail is good, before the regatta starts – just make sure it isn’t howling the first couple of times you use your new sails.
- If you are prepared early, you have done the training and you are physically ready for your regatta; you will go in confident – and a confident (not cocky) sailor will normally race better as they know they have done the work.
- After the regatta – throw your sailmaker an email on what you learnt where you were fast and what could be improved next time – again by doing this your sailmaker will be better informed to help you at an even greater level next time.
Enjoy the journey and have a great regatta!
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