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During my some of my trips lots of things happened while training and coaching. Something, which still nags me, is the following story….


A while ago while working with a dinghy team, we made a plan on what to achieve during a training period. During that period which also consists out of a regatta we found out that there was way too little time to do everything right.
We had just one type of weather for one whole week and we really needed to know how this sail combination would work in light air…………..
It was absolutely brilliant to know that in these conditions we were super fast, but we still had four other combinations to test and only three days to go… Plus, next month the peak performance event was going to be in totally different conditions…….. Stable weather charts gave me the creeps as time continued.

Then this little race started and after two days, God what am I surprised, were doing very good with the tested stuff… race day 3 comes and yes.. Finally, light air!!…….

 After the first race; “Let’s put on the other main,” I said with the sail bag in my hands
“ No”; the sailor says; “ Let’s show them were in business now………..”

And there it was; “a coaching dilemma”………. I had to think about this one, so I let the coach boat drift away. 
“Am I going to push trough the agreed testing plan or do I say nothing and let him go for the mental show off, which is absolutely also an important factor in yacht racing?”

I decided to ask him again with a little more pressure, just to get a feel on how strong this emotional driven decision was…

It was clear, the guy wanted to win. He needed the bullet. He needed it bad. Maybe not towards the rest of the fleet, as he said, but for himself. He needed to know that he could still win, so I looked him in the eye and said: OK Let’s go for it”, and started giving some feedback on his last race, and prepared them for the next race that they won too and put them in second place overall….

During that race and until this very minute I still wonder if I did the right thing. My intuition says that testing this other mainsail was the smarter thing to do. Even if it would mean jeopardizing this winning streak, would it mentally be a lot stronger to test the bloody sail than to keep on winning with the first one and knowing that we were wasting a potentially good sail and wasting valuable testing time. But my sympathy also told me that this sailor wasn’t at this level of self-awareness and detachment with his sailing results. And this as a coach you cannot force upon sailors if you’re not racing with them on the boat.

We talked about it after the series and he decided to test the sail later that week and although I wasn’t there when he did the sail wasn’t right, he said, and I believe him…but will he sail a better peak performance because of this? 

Even if they had won the peak performance regatta, it is still not proven whether my intuition was right or not. That’s the always the problem with these “coaching dilemmas”. There is never an opportunity to do it the other way and prove that ….

If only they wouldn’t keep me awake for so long………….

Good winds

Rigo de Nijs

Do you think you have an interesting subject for the next article?, mail Rigo 


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