Prepare to feel bad about yourself. If you have a fragile ego, or are prone to bouts of depression then I strongly suggest that you DO NOT read on.
I finally got my hands on a book that I've wanted to see since I heard it was coming out early this year. Helming to Win by Nick Craig landed on my mat last week, and I immediately got stuck in to reading it.
I was excited because Nick Craig is a name I've come across time and again reading about dinghy sailing. He's probably not very well known outside of the UK because he's not a professional sailor on the Olympic circuit. But his record is unbelievable.
Which brings us to the depressing part.
- Nick has a full time job, just like most of us.
- He has a family, just like most of us.
- He also has 28 National Championships, 8 European Championships and 9 World Championships,
just like most of us.
That is a ridiculous number of championships.
But it gets worse.
He's also won the Endeavour Trophy a record 6 times. The Endeavour Trophy is the UK's Champion of Champions event, so to win it you have to beat a fleet of current National Champions.
If you are like me then you will now take a couple of days to lie on the sofa, listlessly flicking through TV channels and barely summoning the energy to eat, whilst you consider what Nick's achievements say about your own sailing efforts.
Feeling better? Good.
So now we've all gone through the various stages of shock, anger, denial, pain, guilt and reflection and have moved on to acceptance, let's see what Nick "Fancy Pants" Craig has to tell us about sailing faster (ach, turns out I'm still in the anger stage).
Well, it turns out he has rather a lot of good stuff packed into his book. It is broken down into five parts, and each section is full of useful information on how normal (i.e. non-professional sailors) can make the most of their time to get quicker.
One of the best things about the book is that every so often Nick gives little anecdotes about how he has used these strategies (or failed to use them to his cost), and these bits help to bring the book to life.
He also talks not just about what to practice, but of the importance of practice itself. Because many of us have limited time on the water, we tend to spend that time racing exclusively. Racing is a great way to build experience, particularly tactical and strategic experience, but it is not so good at honing boat handling skills. That said, he even gives tips as to how you can organise your racing to improve in these areas.
Another aspect of the book I found very useful was the way in which he talks about foils. They are (obviously) mentioned throughout the book, but his descriptions of what they do - and what you want them to do - are excellent. It actually helps you to understand what you should be looking to "feel" - and developing "feel" is one of the trickiest things to learn (and to coach). Very valuable stuff indeed.
The book is beautifully illustrated and presented, make it easy to read. Some of the photo sequences really help with key points - the gybing in strong winds sequence is particularly good.
Because Nick has won championships in single handers, single handers with asymmetric spinnakers, double handers, double handers with symmetric spinnakers and double handers with asymmetric spinnakers (Bah!) there is plenty for pretty much any sailor to learn from. He even compares the differences in approach and talks about the reasons for these differences, which really helps deepen the understanding.
There's more I could say on the Helming to Win, but I'll let four time Olympic Gold Medallist (Bah! again) Ben Ainslie have the final word:
Anyone reading this book willl greatly accelerate their learning curve and be taking an important step to achieving their own...objectives