Olympic Class sailing is the ultimate endeavor of getting all the pieces “right”. As of late the US 49er squad’s performance has been suffering. The squad consisting of four full time campaigning teams has put in countless hours of training and hard work over the spring and summer months. However, each team's performances at major events have been a saga of peaks and valleys. The tricky thing about Olympic sailing is you can’t simply out work another team or squad. Everyone is training full time and putting just as many hours of training in as the US squad. The question arises: Can we train smarter? Can we be more efficient and learn quicker?
By USST Athlete, Judge Ryan
To address this question, we sat down in Japan - Judge, Hans, Chris, Trevor, and coach Mark Asquith - for a “meeting of the minds,” so to speak. Modeled after the corporate world brain dump or collaboration discussion, we sat down for an evening and discussed what the squad as whole could improve upon - everything was on the table, and outside of the box thinking was encouraged.
Each member threw out topics and as these topics were broadened, the specificity of detail began to grow. We started with short term goals and long term goals. Some topics discussed seemed too costly, too time consuming, or otherwise difficult to implement, but all thoughts, regardless of hurdles or constraints were chucked onto a piece of paper and a white board to address later on. Ultimately it was agreed upon that there was plenty of low hanging fruit the squad could tackle starting the next day.
Two main take aways were that we need more structured debriefs after race days, and a methodology to consolidate learning. This concept of consolidated learning was an overarching theme of the meeting. How as a squad do we allow all members to learn quicker and eventually learn concepts we have focused on into concrete skills? Consolidated learning might take the form of a database of techniques, tuning, boat handling, etc. so that these concepts can be reviewed over and over again, and concrete conclusions can be drawn about best practices and techniques. To realize this vision, we decided that more dedication needs to be put into some tech advancements. An easy example, is that each squad boat needs to have a GPS watch, every day that we’re on the water, so that speed and tracks throughout the day can be logged. This will allow us to structure our debriefs around our tracks at the end of the day.
Many concepts and ideas were discussed, but the acknowledgment that small and easy adjustments can be implemented immediately will hopefully produce a big leap relatively quickly. In Olympic sailing you can’t always train harder, so you have to devise plans to train smarter. Having a squad and bouncing ideas back and forth is an easy place to start.