ILCA-NA Laser District 3
Training with David Wright

The Ontario Masters sailing team has had several opportunities to be coached by various high-end laser sailors over the years, most recently Canada's 2012 Olympic laser competitor, David Wright. They have been fantastic training sessions and we have learned a lot from David (and other coaches) not just about what we need to improve with our skills and technique in the boat, but also about what it takes to be on top of your game in a laser (other than being young again).

In previous coaching sessions it has been great to have David's no-nonsense advice and suggestions on how to improve boat speed, but it would come from him shouting at us from the coach boat, not alongside us in a competing laser. So frequently, I would have stray thoughts such as "let's see this guy in a laser, I bet he's not so fast" or "sure he could take me in heavy air, but I bet I could kick his a$$ in light wind". Rarely do I attend the same regattas he would attend, since I am normally attending major international events around the world, while he participates in many smaller regional regattas…..oh maybe I have that reversed.

Anyhow, it turns out that David and Canadian national teammate Lea Parkhill were recently training in Toronto for a few days and could use a few additional boats to train with. So invitations went out to several local laser sailors to join them at TS&CC. Its not often you get an invite to go train with the best laser sailors in North America, so from my perspective this was an offer I couldn't refuse. Furthermore, we would finally get a chance to sail alongside David in a small and focused group.

We started our training with the some windward-leeward mark roundings in light air, and an increasing number of tacks and gybes required for each leg (aka the "tacking death" drill). This exercise provides an opportunity to warm-up and work on your tacks and gybes and works well when slower sailors start first. So the master sailors started off first with the hot shots waiting for a bit before chasing us down. I completed a few laps in very light air watching closely as David and Lea gradually narrowed the gap between us. As the exercise progressed and the number of tacks and gybes required per leg increased, the distance between us started to narrow at an accelerating pace. By the time of the fifth lap they had fully reeled me in and blew past me, and finally I was able to observe up close their smooth boat handling (no shaking of the rig) and powerful roll tacks and roll gybes. I quickly came to the realization that my tacks and gybes needed a lot of work to play in their league.

This reminded me of the rising escalator analogy, where every boat is on a different step of a rising escalator as we move up the race course. Make no mistakes and you stay on the same step and remain on par with the fastest sailors. However, any slight slip-up or inefficient manoeuvre results in you dropping a step on the escalator and falling behind the fleet. My relatively inefficient tacks were quickly leading me backward on the escalator, as the tacks and gybes became more frequent in this training exercise.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to sail alongside North America's top laser sailors. David indicated he will be back in Toronto for more training between major events in the lead-up to the London Olympics at the end of July. Hopefully more of us can join him in some training. One last thing, be sure to consider supporting David's forthcoming fund raising efforts as he prepares for his main event in Weymouth, England.

Nigel HeathNigel Heath is an avid Laser and Radial sailor from the Water Rats Sailing Club in Toronto. Nigel is also a member of the Ontario Masters Racing Team.