GET HEAD OUT OF BOAT get head out of boat GET HEAD OUT OF BOAT get head out

I just read a quote by David Lutz in a recent issue of Sailing World.

The quote was, “sailing isn’t about what you have, it’s about what you’re going to get.”

I need to get a bunch of bumper stickers printed up with that quote and I need to slather them all over
the boat.
Cockpit. Decks. Companionway. Everywhere.

David Lutz was talking about being able to recognize what’s going to happen with the breeze before
it happens.

I’m okay at some things, but not the thing that David Lutz, and all of the good sailors in the world,
know is the key to winning races.

It must be some sort of attention deficit disorder, but I can not keep my head out of the boat for long.

Sure, I look around and see where the puffs are and try to analyze where the pressure is going to be
best, but after 15, 20 seconds of that I’m back in the boat, looking at the shape of the main and the
amount of headstay sag and the trav car's position. Minutes pass. Shifts are missed. Small gains in
boatspeed are eaten up by huge mistakes in tactics.

I need someone on board to regularly, say every 30 seconds or so, kick my ass and remind me, “your
doing tactics, look around, bozo!”

Some examples from last season:

A Wednesday night fun PHRF race, up in the front of the pack, working to weather in a weak, dying
gradient breeze. I looked astern and saw a very narrow dark band way over by the Eastern Shore,
maybe 5 or 6 miles away. It was really a very light night and it looked as if the race might be
abandoned. I mentioned the dark band far off in the distance to the crew and they all laughed and
said what I saw was "land" way the hell over to the east.

So, we continued working to weather in an agonizingly weak breeze chock full of holes. We were all fussing about the outhaul and halyard tension and the like, meanwhile our chief competitor was screwing around with some equipment a couple hundred yard away on our beam…no one really bothered to watch what they were up to. Finally, I had the brains to look around again and sure enough, that dark band I had noticed 15 minutes earlier was now a decent 12 kn breeze filling in solidly from behind us and catching us unprepared.

Worse, the boat off on our beam had identified the impending phenomena properly,
rigged their pole, sheet and guy and in a flash popped their chute just in time to catch the leading
edge of the new wind. While we were scurrying around and scratching our butts trying to get a chute
rigged, they footed out and put 10 boat lengths between us in no time.

No excuse...none.............................other than plain old bad habits.

Even worse, fall of last year. A point-to-point race, a bigger upper bay event with a lot of talent out
there, including our class and our boat. We had good preparation and a well-prepared boat. The boat
had been demonstrating episodes of superior boatspeed for two straight seasons. We also had a
seasoned crew and a skipper who’d hit around, but never quite scored, a bulls-eye in this particular
event. We figured the time was right and that this was one we could, and should, win.

After a very short upwind leg to start the race, the second leg was a long downwind run taking us a
good deal of the way toward the finish. Pre-race planning had us going left and hugging the
shoreline to avoid a foul setting max ebb. At starting time, the pressure looked even across the
course, so there was no reason not to go left.

Once we rounded the weather mark and popped a chute, we needed to verify that the call was decent:
that going left was going to pay off.

And, sure enough, before long we were able to see that we were burying the fleet off to the right. So,
we settled in to watching boat speed and tweaking the chute to get every little tenth of a knot.

Unfortunately, all the while we were getting hypnotized, mesmerized by our amazing downwind
skills, it seemed that no one on board, including the so-called "tactician," bothered to notice that the
breeze was building, and it was building off to the right, in the absolute center of the

The left had gradually become the Slow Lane and the right had become the Passing Lane. Ten
minutes of inattention and the race was pretty much done, for us.

So, what's the lesson?

Some people are better at some things than others. This is just a rule of nature. You just have to
accept that fact and live with it.

Basically, for me, just recognizing that I can't stay on task should disqualify me as tactician, but in a
last ditch attempt, I may have a bunch of waterproof bumper stickers printed. Stickers that say stuff
like, "Get Head Out Boat" or "Looked Around Lately?"

Nah...I'd probably just forget to read them.