Slacker Practice

Slacker Practice

I may be the worst Moth sailor in the history of the class. But like you (no matter what you sail), I aspire to get better. When I read Bora’s admonition to seek "time in the boat" as the panacea path to Moth mastery, I fell into a deep existential crisis that had me thinking about easier dinghies, red sports cars and the realities of competing at the highest levels. Knowing that much of what we practice in sailing is constructed on a foundation of pure mythology, I did some research around the notion of improvement without practice.  I discovered the following four strategies for real, measurable improvement that do not include actually putting on the wet suit:

  1. Video and Mirror Neurons: movements that you can do that only roughly approximate mastery are improved, radically in some cases, by watching video of a master practitioner. Visual Neuroscience tells us that by watching video closely and repeatedly, we activate all of the same neural pathways used when we actually sail. One note of caution may be to be selective whom you watch (I’ll not be posting on YouTube as an act of altruism to the class).
  2. Visualization: Instead of daydreaming in the car, practice focused, vivid, first person visualization of specific scenarios when sailing. Research says that visualization, if linked with moderate practice, should let you sail as well as your mono zygote twin while sailing 25% less!
  3. Sleep: The world champion is jetting around sailing in the far corners of the Earth, messing up his sleep cycle and denying his brain optimal imprinting of Procedural Memory (the stuff you do well if you practice). Imagine how well he’d do if he slept properly.  So if you can’t sail, take a nap.
  4. Formative Causation: Ever wonder why you’re able to complete the N.Y. times crossword if you do it at night rather than in the morning? How come nobody could run a sub-four minute mile for decades and then one guy does it and wham, three more do the same within six months? How come flying gybes were so hard to do three years ago, but today eight year olds throw them routinely after only eleven minutes in the moth? Morphic resonance is the only plausible explanation and, the good part, this means anytime any sailor is practicing formative causation, he or she makes us ALL better.

With some refinements to the science, will practice in the boat become only one of many equal and essential aspects of mastering our craft?  Comment here.