What Cost Me Time


After every race or regatta, I perform a little exercise I call "What Cost Me Time".

With this exercise, I look at every significant mistake I made and I estimate how much time, distance or places that mistake cost me.

I do this to focus my training on what is really impacting my score and to motivate me that if I just changed just one or two of these items, I could quickly would improve my results.

Note: this is not about regret or implying that I made more or less mistakes than other boats. Rather, it is personal to my journey and improvement.


Here are the final regatta results:


As you can see, many boats were very close in points. If you excluded Greg Kelly in first place who easily won, there was just one point between 3rd, 4th and 5th. And there were just 3 points covering the four places from 3rd to 6th. Also, the places 8, 9 and 10 were separated by only two points.

So the question is:

Could I save just three places over the entire regatta and move up two places?

So here is my "what cost me time and places" list for the Vic Champs regatta.


On the first day, I was quickly rolled in 3 starts which caused me to have to tack out, taking sterns, copping bad air and go the wrong way. This meant my first three races were largely trying to play catch up and work through the fleet.

Cost: three races times ~15 seconds per race and probably 2-3 boats in finishing place in each race.

The cause was not being exactly aware of the time in the last 15 seconds (not looking at my watch enough), not looking at other boats swooping above and below and not looking at the line. I was late setting up as well. Basically, I was "winging it" and not following a disciplined approach.

My second regatta day had one goal: improve my starts. Things were much improved and I won the favored end in all three starts.

Total cost: ~6 places

Overstanding the top mark

In two races, I significantly overstood the starboard lay line.

I joined the starboard layline too early and was tacked upon, causing me to have to double tack to clear my air and further overstand.

Cost: 2-3 boats and 5 seconds in two races.

The solution would have been take my last starboard hitch 15+ boat lengths below the starboard lay line then come in on port and then do a much shorter stint on the starboard lay line.

Total cost: ~4 places

Rolled on a reach

On day two, after rounding the first and second marks in first place, I rounded the wing mark and went too low and was quickly rolled by Greg Kelly and the five boats behind him. I went from first to sixth in 45 seconds.

I was futzing around after the gybe, did not trim the main properly for the reach and did not have my head out of the boat. The solution is to better setup before the gybe and plan my course before the mark.

Total: 5 places

Not tacking on a persistent shift

I rounded the bottom mark after a reach in 2nd, overlapped outside Greg Kelly. I went low to keep clear air. The wind started to go left and the boats rounding after me were significantly lifted inside. Rather than tack, I continued toward some pressure ahead while all the boats inside kept lifting higher and higher.

Cost: I went from 2nd to close to last by the end of the beat to recover to a forgettable 12th.

The solution is to take your medicine early. Always tack early if on the outside of a persistent shift. It will only get uglier if you wait.

Total: 10 places


So what cost me time/places?

  • Starting: 6 places
  • Overstanding: 4 places
  • Rolled on a reach: 5 places
  • Not tacking on a persistent shift: 10 places.

Total: 25 places over 6 races.

These are pretty simple basic mistakes and not hard to correct.

Now, I'm not saying that if I corrected these mistakes then I would have been on the podium — far from it. It is much easier to blow places than it is to pass those at the top of the fleet. Rather, I'm saying there are some easy opportunities to move up if I can focus my training to eliminate these errors.

This is the process I use after each race.

Guiding Principle — Never Give Up

It is much more important to try harder when you are placing badly than when you are sailing well, near the front of the fleet. For example: to gain two places and move from 3rd to 1st may be extraordinarily difficult, whereas to gain five places and move from 15th to 10th can often be much, much easier. Yet we often see mid-fleet sailors trying super hard when they are leading, but demotivated when mid-fleet. What is needed is the exact opposite: try hardest when behind.

When you've blown a start and are close to last — that is the time to try all the harder because those are the easiest places you will ever be able to make up.


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