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Seven drills to improve your skills

by Zeke Purves-Smith on 4 Jun 2012
Seven drills to improve your skills: Requiring a minimum of two boats the 'Gun Stack' is an effective method of practicing large fleet starts without actually having the large fleet. The boats stack up in close quarters luffing on starboard or port tack.

When the coach determines the boats are relatively even, the coach counts down from ten (1). During the countdown the boats jockey for position. If any boat jumps forward to the point where the skipper is past the mast of adjacent boats a general recall is declared and the boats line up again. When the countdown is finished the boats sheet in and go - sailing for about 50 boat lengths (2). The boats are not allowed to tack and the sailors learn quickly the difference between a good clean start and getting burned (3). This drill teaches the sailors to be aware of their position relative to the boats around them and be less concerned with the line itself. They begin to recognize the requirements of a good start that will create a lane and allow them to sail a successful first beat. The Drill also places great emphasis on the ability to accelerate and control straight-line speed - pointing and driving.

Byte: Gun stack drill

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Ducking Drill

The Ducking Drill requires a minimum of two boats. Beginning with a rabbit start the boats sail off on either Port or Starboard tack. Not allowed to tack, the coach drives behind and coaches the leeward boat. After a given period of time the coach blows the whistle, the sailor tacks, ducks the fleet and tacks on the windward boast hip. The coach then moves to the new leeward boat and continues. This allows for one-on-one coaching between coach and athlete, good practice on tacks and ducks, while keeping the entire pack together. By working through the group the coach can help the sailors to perfect boat handling in waves, tuning for upwind speed and other aspects.

Byte: Drill 2

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Last Beat Drill

This drill requires at least three boats and is more fun with upwards of five. Before leaving shore each boat takes a number and when on water lines up adjacent to a leeward mark in that order. When the coach blows the whistle the boats round and race for a finish line set by the coach. The coach records the finishes, and the boats return to the leeward mark. The boat previously rounding first goes to the end of the line and the drill repeats until all boats have started first and last. Boats past count as +1 point, boats lost count - 1 point. At the end of the day the boat with the most points is the Last Beat Champion!

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The Cone Drill

This drill is excellent practice for the top quarter and works best for large numbers. The boats start on a start line or with a rabbit. The coach boat places itself directly to windward of the fleet and proceeds slowly upwind. Two laylines are created off the transom of the motorboat. The coach calls any boat on those laylines to tack. The boats, through playing shifts and positioning themselves in the pack, work their way into the motorboat and tack more frequently as they get closer. When a boat reaches the motor boat the coach sends it back to round the last place boat and start over again.

Byte: Cone Drill

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The Slalom Drill

The Slalom is an excellent drill when the breeze is strong. Using five marks placed in staggered windward sequence the sailors sail upwind round the windward and then gybe down through the course. This is effective because it is a closed drill and keeps the pack together even if the boats are dumping a lot. It practices all points of sail excluding a dead run.

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Adjustments Drill

The Adjustments Drill can be done with any number of boats - even just one! The Sailor begins sailing upwind with all the sail adjustments totally loose. After having done this for a while and gained awareness for the feel of the boat, the sailor begins by pulling on one of the tuning mechanisms - i.e. outhaul. Takes note of the effect and then releases it. The sailor moves to the next mechanism and repeats the process. Once this has been done with all individually, the sailor is allowed to work with combinations. In the Byte, Outhaul, Downhaul, Boomvang and Traveler should all be used in this drill. In my experience, 9 of 10 sailors doing the drill together will ultimately come out with the same sail set-up when allowed to work in combinations and generally, the set-up they find is the right one!

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Three Pin Collector Drill

The Three Pin Collector Drill is an excellent way to warm up before a practice session. It is a closed drill and as such it keeps the training group together. Three pins are set in windward sequence. The boats round the bottom mark, make a full circle around the middle mark, continue and round the top mark, then turn down making a full circle around the middle mark - continuing the circuit. As an added feature, it can be done such that the lead boat must make a full circle around the leeward mark every time. Also a rule can be added that the coach blows whistles and unless a boat is rounding a mark or on a layline, the boat must tack or gybe depending on which leg the boat is on - up or down.

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Drill Book

:: Gun Stack Drill

:: Ducking Drill

:: Last Beat Drill

:: Cone Drill

:: Slalom Drill

:: Adjustments Drill

:: Three Pin Collector Drill


Protector - 660 x 82RS Sailing 660x82Southern Spars - 100

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