By Guy Fleming
At the entry level, of course, the clinics help teach the entry level skills to get you out on the race course. At the intermediate level, they let you practice the skills in a group environment. At the top level, the clinics allow you to polish those skills before you head out to national and international competition. An NBA player doesn't stop practicing free throws just because they have been signed to a team.
The primary reason is to get better. This is a great way to get a head start on the season. While there may be conflicts with your schedule, I am hopeful that you (or your sailor) will be able to join us for at least a portion of the clinic. There are drills we do in the El Toro and Laser clinics that we can not do in smaller classes because we do not have the density of talent. Also, since it is a clinic rather than a regatta, it is easy to progress because you can try new things without the risk of doing poorly in the event. As a result, boat handling rapidly improves, as do tactics—More on this later.
The second major reason to do the clinics is that they are the only fundraisers for HYSA. The HYSA dues covers the very necessary insurance for the HYSA board and volunteers at just shy of $800 per year. The other half of HYSA dues covers the HYSA shirts at around $900 per year. That still leaves HYSA to cover a few necessary expenses including up to 27 take home trophies (3 per class) each at between $25 and $35 dollars per trophy for a minimum total of $675 per year. Additionally, there are the 14 HYSA perpetuals trophies at a minimum of $10 per trophy for a total of $140. Your participation in the clinics not only gets you better but funds HYSA’s primary expenses.
But, back to improvement and skill building—The El Toro clinic particularly develops the fundamental game of sailing. As the root of skills, it is often the first boat where a sailor can see a profound difference in how moving the body, in conjunction with the sail and the rudder, turns the boat. It is also surprisingly powerful for its size. The important skill of ease, hike, trim is magnified in this boat.
Boathandling aside, the El Toro also has the distinct advantage of being the most useful tool to teach tactics. In a faster boat, like a Laser, or 420, a top level sailor can often recover from a bad start or a poor windshift choice. In the El Toro, there are no huge boatspeed differences. Consequently, most of the gains made are from proper tactical choices. For example, it is not enough to get a good start, a sailor must also pick the correct side of the course. At the windward mark, they should know weather the wind angle allows them to bare off on starboard or if there is a right hand puff, whether to sail by the lee into it or jibe at the top mark. At the bottom mark, it is important to sail the proper shift upwind. A lot of ground can be made in a crowded mark rounding by slowing down, if you are in an outside lane, to round inside or behind the leaders. This clinic is the easiest way to reinforce this set of skills.
The Laser is primarily a boat that is overpowered. At some point, all sailors will sail overpowered (El Toros and Open Skiffs). At the top end, even double handed skippers (420's and 29ers) need hiking stamina to differentiate them from the rest of the pack. The wind speed will eventually reach a point where the skipper can't rely on just the simple weight of the person on the wire, but has to ease hike and trim repeatedly to keep the boat flat.