And while it would be easy to replace the time you normally spent on-the-water with football games, snow tires and your family (you know, trivial things...), I'd humbly submit that you should carve out an hour per weekend to work on the mental side of our sport. Sailing is as much (if not more) a mental sport than it is physical -- which is a scary thought when you see some of the characters that show up to a regatta party.
Heck, an hour is easy to find in the grand scheme of things; who needs to watch a bunch of retired, brain-damaged football players talk for two hours on a pre-game show anyways? That time though, put towards a brushing up on tactics or the rules, will definitely translate into numerous seconds or even minutes on the race course. And as many of us all too painfully know, seconds can be the difference between giving or getting the congratulations at the end of a regatta.
I say all of this knowing all too well one truth about books about tactics and rules -- they are unbelievably, undeniably and unimaginably boring. Seriously, there isn't an insomniac in the Northern Hemisphere that Stuart Walker's "Advanced Racing Tactics" can't render comatose. But seeing as Dr. Walker has forgotten more about sailing than almost any of us can hope to ever know, the learning (however mind-numbing it may be) is a necessary evil to success in our sport.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking a closer look at some of the books, CD's and DVD's available that can help give you a mental edge on the water. It only seemed logical that the starting point should be to take a look at understanding the rules of racing, seeing as the 2005-2008 rules are set to expire at the end of this month.
Obviously, having a new rule book is going to be a must. For those of you who are members of US Sailing (and hopefully you are), you'll be getting a copy of the 2009-2012 Racing Rules of Sailing in the mail. For those of you who aren't members, we'll have them available shortly here at the shop.
By the way, for those of you that always have your rule book with you on the water, I highly suggest getting some one-gallon Ziploc Freezer Bags to throw it in. The bag is plenty big for the book, while allowing room for a cell phone and wallet as well. For something that is supposed to last three years in a marine environment, the book is pretty flimsy, so you'll have to take care of it.
Now that you have the rule book, it's time to try and actually understand all of the bogus, practically Shakespearean language. The Racing Rules of Sailing are something of a tribute to lawyers and the fine work that they do, making anything totally unreadable and confusing. Enter rules guru Dave Perry, who finds a way to make sense out of the sometimes nonsensical.
Perry's "Understand the Rules of Racing" is a staple for many sailors. And why you ask? Well, take a look at the video below where I probably violate a slew of laws by actually opening up the book and showing parts of it, but it's for marketing and sort of educational purposes, so hopefully the team of attorney's that the publisher has on retainer decides this isn't worth their time:
Additionally, UK Sailmakers has a rules CD that is currently in the process of being updated for the 2009-2012 rules. This CD is packed with animated rules quizzes that are a great way to learn the rules involved in certain situations or to test the knowledge that you've picked up. If you want a taste of what the quizzes look like, click here to go to the UK Sails website: Rules Quiz #1.
So these are what I consider to be the best aids to understanding the rules of racing. We'll tackle a new topic next week; maybe tactics or weather... depends on how much homework I feel like doing.