Coach's Corner:  Rules of the Road

I often wonder what it would be like to drive on roads with no stop signs, no lines, no speed limits, and maybe just no laws at all.  A bunch of cars racing around, bumping, hitting people and, of course, yelling at each other.  Then I think back to some of the sailboat races in which I’ve participated over the years and I think:  “Maybe I do know what it would be like to drive on roads with no rules.”
Sailboat racing is just like driving a car. Just as there will always be people who speed and run red lights on the road, there will always be boaters who hit marks, foul others and continue on as if nothing has happened.  Sailing is an aggressive sport.  Whether it’s beer can races on a Friday night or the final medal race at the Olympics, the drive to win can often turn the most gentle of human beings into something that resembles the Hulk.  Being able to tame the “Hulk” within you is crucial when it comes to encounters with other boats on the racecourse.  Dwelling on an infraction that has happened can often cause you to lose focus and, in turn, lose positions in a race, or maybe keep you from moving up positions.

So what can we do to help restore order on the racecourse?  A few things:

1) Read the rule book.  And I do mean read it.  Try putting it somewhere you can gain access to it easily for 10 to 15 minutes a day.  I suggest the bathroom.

2) Anticipate on the racecourse.  Try to look ahead three to four moves of where you are at any given point; this might help you spot the foul before it even happens.

3) Don’t shout or yell.  In fact, this may get you into more trouble, especially if the judges or race committee learn a few new words in the process.  They can toss you from the race, and maybe even the regatta.  The only two words that are ever needed to be said on the racecourse are “protest” and “water.”

Now, go grab your rulebooks and have a little alone time with them.  See what the ISAF definitions are of both of these words, and hit the racecourse for some nice clean racing.