comfort zone

comfort zone

Another great performance tip from Chris Rast.  Read more from the 3-time Olympic racer here

After the first two days of racing at the Olympic Games, Tim and I were sitting in 13th place – not exactly where we planned.  We had had some minor issues in the last couple of months of preparation, but in the last two training camps we had shown excellent boat speed and felt comfortable in our racing strategies. We had raced surprisingly well in all practice regattas on the Olympic waters and were considered serious medal contenders.

What went wrong? And more importantly how were we going to turn it around?

Well, apart from the normal Olympic jitters, on day one we also had encountered REALLY light airs, combined with strong current and way nasty chop. This threw us a bit of a curve ball, which resulted in some early mistakes and bad finishes, resulting in us taking bigger risks to undo the mishaps.  We were caught in a vicious cycle.  So how did we get out of it again? Well, as boring as it might sound, it was pretty simple.

Tim and I had established stubborn routines, which allowed us to focus on what really matters and not get too distracted. The Olympic Games Regatta must be the most intense competition that any sailor will ever race in. Believe me, I know, I sailed in three of them – and what keeps you on track are your routines.

It starts with how and when you get up, what you eat for breakfast, how you rig your boat, the girls you flirt with in the boat park, how you do your pre-start routines, debriefs between the races etc. all the way until climb back in to bed and turn the light off.  I like to make the analogy that your routines are your life line through the day (or even through out the whole event). The stronger your routines, the more sturdier and grippy that life line will be. Now in smaller, less important events, you rely less on that line, because there are less things that can get you off course. There’s less crazy stuff happening around you, there’s less pressure etc. So you allow yourself also to sway further away from it. At the Games however, things are pretty nuts. There are so many opportunities that distract you, so many people that want to hear from you, so many all-you-can-eat free buffets (and yes, there are parties too!), so you better make sure that life line is solid and within reach when things start going south.

On the third day of racing Tim, our coach Skip and myself met up outside the breakfast hall and discussed our approach of the day. We went through the weather forecast, what the tide was expected to do, what we would look out for. We discussed what kind of information we needed from Skip.  Basically we just went through our routines. Yes, it’s boring I know…

That day we raced three races and we won every race. We didn’t do anything crazy or different. We just stuck to our routines. Except that I almost jumped out of the boat after the finish of the last race!   The next day we had another stellar day with a 3rd, 8th and a 4th and this put us back in medal contention for the last day. (And the last day is a whole story on its own…)

So how you can you apply this to your sailing? Well the same way as we did. Figure out what works for you and your team. Routines give people confidence and puts them in the right spot from where they can perform at their best, over and over again. Remember, in sailing you’re looking for continuity, not just a bulls eye every few regattas.

If you’d like to read the gory details about our time at the Games, feel free to check out our old Blog that Tim wrote. You can find it here.