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Youth Corner: How to Practice Before the Big Race

It’s important to squeeze in a couple of well-planned practice hours before a big regatta starts. Especially if it’s your first major event. Quantum’s Doug Stewart shares pre-regatta practice tips that can give you a racing advantage.

I am always amazed how few boats are out sailing before large events. It takes a lot of time and preparation competing at a regatta, but time on the water before the race is absolutely key to being ready to race.

If you want to win, practice is essential, so make the most of every practice minute on the water. It doesn’t matter how close to race day it is, you can usually find some free time to practice. All you need are a couple of hours to fine-tune everything. Sit down the night before and come up with a plan for your practice run. 

Here are some basics to cover while you’re practicing. I also recommend that you take advantage of any practice racing that is offered.

Include at Least One Upwind Leg

Get a feel for the boat. Sail in the circle you will be racing in. Make sure your sail settings are marked and readable. Talk to your coach or parents about what you’re feeling, as well as your crew if you sail with another, and what settings you might want to change before race time. Tack as necessary to stay in the circle. Record wind angles.

Include a Downwind Run

Set your downwind settings and get comfortable transitioning into the downwind mode. Practice body or crew placement on the boat for the conditions. Gybe as necessary to stay in the circle.

Go Upwind Again

This time, pick a mark to weather and sail in race mode. Tack on every header (or every few minutes) to get yourself into race mode. And don’t forget to record wind angles.

Go Downwind Again

Your set around the mark should be a race set. Gybe more times then you tacked on the previous upwind leg. You might want to relax on the downwind legs, but don’t. Stay in race mode. Again, work on body and crew placement and technique as you work your way down the course.

Buddy Up

Find a partner boat and run through these practice basics together. It’s always better to have a second boat to tune against, and the crew will appreciate the practice as much as you do.

Debrief and record

After you get done with your practice, talk with your coach or parents (and teammate if you have one!) to make your strategy and write down any notes that will be helpful when it’s go time. Keep a set of wet notes in your lifejacket or somewhere if it helps to have a place to look at the notes while you’re on the water.

You will be amazed at what the extra practice will do for you. Racing is always fun, but winning is better! Squeeze in a couple of practice hours, show up prepared, and give yourself the advantage.

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