by Craig Leweck
Originally published in the Snipe Bulletin, April, 1991
Craig Leweck needs no introduction for our regular readers. For those who are new to the Snipe Class, Craig was the U. S. National Champion and North American Champion in 1988 and 1989. He is currently campaigning a Tornado for a spot on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team.
For a number of years I had been competing in National Championships, only to come up short in the final standing. However, in the last two years I have won four National Championships (Lido-14 and Snipe) and two North American titles. In looking back on the past few years I can cite a number of areas that I personally worked on which I feel had a great impact on my performance.
First off, you must realize that this is the most important event of the year. Whether your goal is winning the Fleet Championships, the Districts, or maybe you just want to grab some silver at a local regatta, the steps to success are the same. It may be a big event, such as the Nationals. Regardless of your goal, you must make it your number one priority. For me, the goal was the U.S. Nationals, a big event with photographers, trophies, and a place in Snipe history. In a sense, one is ranked in ability by their performance here. The significance is that you must take it seriously. You need to prepare not only your boat and equipment, but also yourself. Everything on your boat (this includes you and your crew) must be working smoothly for you to have your best showing.
Now that I have your attention, let's get started. With the season now in full swing, and the big events just days or weeks away, we should go through our check lists to see where we stand. All major changes to your boat should already have been completed. This includes replacing standing rigging, mast, boom, rudder, centerboard, or sails. It all should have been tested at least once to check to see if your objective for the change was met. We still have time to replace cleats, install new lines (unless they need a breaking-in period to soften) and shock cord, tighten nuts and bolts, etc. Be sure that all number scales, felt pen marks, and any other sail trim aids that you have are clear and visible. These boat preparation steps leading up to the event will raise your confidence in your boat, rolling over to aid your confidence in your ability to compete.
Confidence is critical. Confidence cannot be bought, it must be earned. It requires enough time in the boat to be confident in both your boat handling and speed. It also requires enough competitions prior to the event to test your tactical skills under pressure. I carefully plan my regatta schedule so it leads into the Nationals, ensuring that I have enough time in the boat. We can all be book smart, but can we execute on the water? The key is to be so sure of speed and boat handling that you not only are allowed to look at the other boats, but also to anticipate their next move and then react accordingly. In addition, we must also be able to anticipate and react to changes in the wind. It is when you are able to function at this level that you will be able to turn in top scores.
For the items above to come together you must be terribly focused on the event. You cannot let anything interfere with your ability to accomplish the above stated tasks. You must think about the event constantly and do whatever you can for it to go smoothly once it starts. Once the event starts, it is critical that there are no obstacles. Your preparation up to this point should allow you to relax and for your ability to dictate your final score. If you can stay relaxed throughout the event you will be able to deal with setbacks on the course (bad start, bad shift, dirty air...) and help you salvage the race. Look forward, don't pout, and gain strength and confidence from a comeback performance. These are often turning point moments that will make the difference in the end. It is the guy that can't return from setbacks on the course who will suffer.
It all adds up... your commitment, effort, and degree of preparation will directly relate to your final score. You mainly need to beat a guy by 1/4 point to win, and often times that is all it is. In your preparation or the BIG EVENT be sure that you cover all these bases. Why? Because winning is not only a great reward for your preparation, but also a lot of fun. Trust me...I know. Good Luck!!!