Let's have a look at these aspects that
might influence the level of this threshold:
1- Personal aspects:
Arrogance or low self esteem, discipline, confidence, age and experience in the sport
are just a few.
These are aspects that of course are the
fundament for every mental issue.
A low self esteem will lead to a conception of
the world rather as a burden than a challenge.
Being too arrogant can often lead to high
expectations and maybe low discipline and
therefore early disappointments.
So as a coach an individual approach is necessary
in order to take these personal
fundaments and use the good sides of them in
managing the stress level.
A so-called self-ironical arrogant type of
perspective seems to work pretty good. But to
get there is sometimes easier said than done.
2- Social economic aspects
These would be things like work, study,
social or financial security.
Very often, problems back home, ill friends
and family, or worries about work while one is
away or, spending time sailing instead of
working will lead to extra lowering of the threshold, especially when racing doesn't go
the way one wishes it to be.
Sometimes these are so-called "buckets
behind your boat, that drag along on the
course…" not very fast you know…
3- "Sport related economic" aspects
Institutes like federations, sponsors,
NOC's and others that possibly, or already,
support the campaign. Federations or sponsor
often depend their support on results.
Therefore the "What if" logic is
very likely to appear in a sailors head. Some
of them having a hard time shutting this out
The problem with this "what if"
logic is that, wind, waves, current etc. don't
give a damn whether your federation said you
have to be top 12 or not. So don't think for
one minute that this thing in your mind
worrying is helping you in anyway.
3- Physical aspects
These are obvious but therefore worth motioning
because they need constant attendance:
a-All round health against easy cacheable colds, fevers und infections.
b-Physical fitness. More and more experience
and research indicates that a high level of
aerobic endurance and high level of flexibility
of the body, relates with a higher mental
So not only on the sport technical aspects
while sailing plead for this high level of
general fittness also from a mental point of
view it has it's benefits!
The above would seem to indicate that this threshold
level is a more or less given thing
and can be risen and lowered over the career
of a sailor, however it also changes in a
shorter period of time like for instance
during a regatta. Everybody can relate to the
Figure 1 light stuff often makes you crazy….
Shortly before the pre-olympics a team fell
apart due to internal problems. The crew
quickly found a new helmsman and the new 470
team was sent to this race. Without any
expectations and very aware of their unique
opportunity and loads of work ahead they took
their short time of preparation and started
the first day of racing. Big was every bodies surprise when this team was ranked top 3 after
the first two days of racing!
As usual during a pre-olympic regatta the
press and politicians did their jobs with the usual
headless speculations of the
consequences the team would get, if they would
continue sailing like this. Interviews were
given and talks over diner were very
promising. Next day conditions were shifty and
difficult and after the first lap the team was
again top 5 at the top mark then one little
mistake lead to a bigger one. At the end of
the reach the wind shifted right, but the team
realized it too late to gybe immediately and
take the shift into the downwind. After the
first 150 meters on the wrong side, the fleet
behind them made a big split. After their gybe
they sailed straight into a bad air zone and
parked while on both sides boats passing. At
the bottom mark things got worse when the
whole fleet was stacked up and several
collisions and protests were shouted. Another
couple of boats were lost in an effort to go
around on the outside, which ended up at being
at the wrong side of the second beat. Finally
in a last try to make something up in the last
down wind, again the wrong side was cornered
and a third to last place was realized. The
protest went invalid due to a mistake at
informing the RC so at 23:00 hrs the day ended
with a big pfffffffft.
Over the next two days this team didn't got
any good racing in and lot of things went
At the night before the last race when we sat
down and started talked again about what had
happened at that specific race. The new
helmsman admitted that he was very exited
during this first lap and that a promise from
the chairman of the board was still coming up
in his head while racing the upwind. Which to
me made sense since I was surprised how little
he could remember about this leg when we first
evaluated it that same evening. We rounded up
that this was something to remember and take
on in a later stage of the campaign with
possibly a mental coach that could learn the
helmsman some techniques to deal with these
things differently instead of taking it on the
boat while racing. Next day the team was
swinging again. Two races with some small
mistakes ended up with a 5th and 6th and a 8
overall. The journalists went home the
politicians went to "their" winners
in other classes and we left the place with a
big first step in a very interesting campaign.
Is the glass half full, or can we already
smash it…. (or better yet, order a new one)?
Figure 2 a familiar sight after a hard days
Of course most sailors reading this, all heard
these stories or better yet lived trough them.
At some stage the really tough ones (or fools
that don't want to quit) reach a level where
they're out there in their 234.47562 th
championship race, for the 234.256462 time at
a specific top mark situation packed with
boats and look at it a little bored but still
arrogant enough to go in it and say:
"well this looks remotely familiar. Let's
see what happens if we do it this way…"
It's easy to say that young sailors sail
with more heart, and are therefore likely to
need days to recover from mental blow up. But
in a way it's true and we've all been there
and we've all managed to get a thicker skin
(or skull!) against little fuck ups we've made
long ago. Even though we still sometimes make
the same mistakes, somehow we've chanced our
perspective not to let it ruin the next
situation. We've learned obviously that some
mistakes are not important enough to lose the
race…. Or something like that? Even tough long ago when I first made that same mistake
the coach said don't worry about that he was
not wrong? Well it'll definitely mean that It
seems that perspective doesn't change by just
telling someone. And it also tells us that the
wrong way of looking at things doesn't really
change this thing (the mistake has still been
made) but the right way of thinking does help
you to keep on going and improve from there
instead of losing it completely or giving up.
So certain mistakes and recoveries are easier
than other to change a perspective on. But
does that help? Well yes. Because it give away
a principle and the change of perspective
principle goes on everything as long as you
can get detached from it. And that mostly
takes the time.
At first blowing up during a race takes at
least a day (or better, one interesting night
with that liquid filled glass thing on my
table together with that woman…..what's her
name?). After a while you manage to get a grip
again after two hours alone ashore running,
crying alone in your room. Than a bit later
you'll get to the stage where you're ok by the
time you get ashore.
And maybe, sometime, somewhere in the bright
future you'll get to…. after the mark
rounding which looked familiar but you lost
four boats and had to take a penalty (…. Nr
145.4576 of your career) you'll say:
"Well, that didn't make my mother proud!
Let's go deep and catch up!"
So getting detached is the trick?
Well it's a word that a lot of people know…..
We used it while describing -getting over
mistakes you've made-. You need to have a
perspective of yourself and your world, as a
sailor that allows himself to make these
mistakes, accepts them and keeps going while
thriving for the best there is.
Not an easy thing to combine these two:
accepting to make mistakes and thrive to
absolute perfection. But this is what it comes
at: learn that mistakes belong to the process
of achieving perfection and and also realize that not one race ever sailed, and
even though won was, the perfect race. It's just a matter
of making less and/or less grave ones.
How do you ever get over your first time?
(apart from the hangover!) Of course it's an
individual thing. And depending on that you
need to realize that nothing is permanent.
Medals have been won by the most crazy
people ever lived, but repeated winners must
have (maybe very individual!!) techniques to
deal with this. Either consciously learned, by
themselves, or by sphrinks, or others. So if
you realize it's a technique you can start
looking for it an learn it what's best for
So acceptance is the key here. Most sailors
will be their own problem: " I'm a grown
man, I don't need a faggat sphrink to tell me
what to do… I'm no nutcase… I can buy a
set of new sails for the money he asks…."
And off we go with 0,5% more speed, off to the
next fuck up which definitely will lead to
another shouting blow up somewhere during the
Rigo de Nijs