Editors Note: This article was featured in the October issue of All At Sea Southeast Magazine as well as the Daily Scuttlebutt newsletter.
The other day I was daydreaming about sailing in some far off place and I got to asking myself “Why does sailing occupy so much of my thought space?”
I concluded that it has a lot to do with the fact that I can actually sail in my mind at any time. The time spent on the boat is just the execution of what I have already anticipated in my mind.
I spend an awful lot of time anticipating my sailing. While most sports require their players to anticipate, sailing requires the most anticipation of them all. Whether you are a racer or a cruiser, sailing well requires you to “play” in the future.
To sail well, sailors have to ask and answer questions like: “Will the wind shift left or right?” or “What will the current be like when we go through the canal tomorrow?” The better you get, the farther you can look ahead and the more prepared you are to capitalize on strategic advantages or avoid clear pitfalls.
On the racecourse, successful anticipators know not only what the wind will do next, but what they’ll do when they get to it. Long before you yell “starboard!,” the anticipating racer knows whether she’ll tack, duck or cross.
The smartest cruisers are no different. They head toward shifts, seek pressure and watch the current just like racers do, and those who can anticipate will take advantage of those environmental opportunities.
Anticipating also gives you a chance to check just how good you are. If what you thought would happen does not, you have a great learning opportunity. Simply asking yourself what you failed to include in your thought process and how can you better anticipate in the future will make you a better sailor.
Maybe the best part of all is that you now have a very good excuse for spending a little more time thinking about your sailing. Just think of it as “anticipation training.”