The Boat Whisperer on Sailing Downwind

I'm a big fan of the Boat Whisperer DVDs, and I'd recommend them to anyone. I did a fair bit of sailing as a kid, and was trained by some very good coaches (and I apologise unreservedly to these coaches for being a terrible pupil), but these DVDs taught me a lot that had never been shown to me before, or explained concepts that I had come across before but hadn't fully understood.

And it's not just me. When a very good sailor I know saw them he decided to buy his own copies because there were some ideas that he had never come across before - and he'd won National and World Championships.

Because of these DVDs, I always keep an eye out for any new stuff that Steve does, and I was pleased to see this talk appear on YouTube. It gives a little taste of what the DVDs offer - but it is only a taste. I hope Steve Cockerill won't mind me saying it, but I found the help he gives on the DVD more useful than this talk, and the DVDs cover a much broader range of topics than this talk too.

That said, this talk is still brilliant. If you are having trouble with death rolls then there is some really good help here. I'd have a particularly close look at the section from here onwards (till around 29 mins 25 secs) because it shows very clearly the effect the rudder has in saving a death roll. And he says something that is similar to a little mantra I used when I was trying to get control of death roll situations -

Keep bearing away because the worst you can do is gybe

It helps eradicate that last minute twitch that costs Laurence so dearly in the video. An unwanted gybe is a lot less costly than an unwanted capsize.

The other really useful part of this particular talk is the little section on how to sit in the boat on the downwind legs. When I'm feeling fit and strong I sit correctly, but when I'm unfit, or very tired after some hard racing, I revert to the wrong way of sitting. It is a crucial reminder of just how important core strength is for sailors - we often rely on our big muscles (like our quads, glutes and back muscles) to compensate for a weak core, which hurts not just our performance, as Steve shows here, but also potentially our bodies with injuries.

There's also some really good stuff about using transitions to sail downwind in waves, something that can be particularly challenging for club sailors unused to wave sailing. He shows how you can practice the techniques in flat water so that you are ready to use them in wavy conditions.

It is all genuinely useful stuff. And if any of it isn't 100% clear then I recommend you beg, borrow or steal a copy of his Boat Whisperer DVDs - they are even more insightful than this lecture.

The Boat Whisperer DVDs

You can get hold of the DVDs through the Rooster Sailing website - they should be easy enough to find in their DVD section. There are three in total, but I found the first two (The Upwind and the Downwind ones) especially useful.

Lecture Notes

The importance of having a central tiller (40 seconds)

Steve Cockerill's First Law (3mins 30secs)

If you pull the rudder towards you the boom will go towards the water

Steve Cockerill's Second Law

If you push the rudder away from you the boom will go away from the water

"Fundamentally you sail the boat with the thing that's flapping around in the wind" - i.e. steer using the sail (and bodyweight) and not the rudder.

Reaching - Bum Out or Shoulders Out? (8mins 10secs)

When you should use the rudder to help you (19mins 55secs)

  • Using the rudder to save a death-roll (or not save it when done incorrectly!) (24mins 40secs)

Using bodyweight and sheeting together to sail fast downwind (29mins 25secs)

  • The reason you want to de-stabilise the boat when sailing in waves (in a single-hander) (31mins)
  • How to train yourself to de-stabilise the boat to change direction (37mins 10secs)
  • Why you shouldn't use more kicker to try to stop death-rolling (39mins)
  • Using "happy sails" and "sad sails" to make big direction changes rapidly (40mins 10secs)
  • Putting it all together to get the most out of waves (43mins 55secs)

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