The Luther Drill

Sailing World - - Starting Line -

O There is one drill that is so clearly my fa­vorite, I use it more than any other. It’s known as the “Luther drill.” It’s been one of my most re­quested drills by dif­fer­ent classes and dif­fer­ent Olympic cam­paigns, and be­cause you can pack so much into a sin­gle drill, it seems to work well across classes. I first came up with this for 49ers be­cause I wanted to take the whole start­ing thing out of the pic­ture and fo­cus on what’s hap­pen­ing on spe­cific ar­eas of the course. It packs a lot of punch, em­pha­siz­ing man­ag­ing lanes, up­wind boat­speed, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, tac­ti­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing, sail­ing on the star­board lay­line, smooth bear­aways into solid lanes, set­ting and find­ing fast VMG im­me­di­ately, and gate selec­tion and round­ing tech­nique.

Here’s how it goes: Set a short fin­ish line and one weather mark, about one-quar­ter the length of nor­mal up­wind leg but skewed right. Start with an up­wind star­board rab­bit duck­ing the wind­ward end of fin­ish line. The duck­ing boats, on port tack, space them­selves as far apart as they want. Even­tu­ally the en­tire fleet is on port tack in wide, clean lanes. As the beat de­vel­ops, the fo­cus is on assessment of fleet de­vel­op­ment on the star­board lay­line. Once tacked into po­si­tion, the fleet then bears away and races down­wind to the fin­ish line. If do­ing two laps, use the fin­ish line as gate marks. With classes that sail broad an­gles down­wind, I set a short tight reach mark at the top so they have a square run back down to the gate.

Any time you’re in­cor­po­rat­ing a rab­bit start into a drill, avoid cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion where the best rab­bit ducker is go­ing to win the drill. En­cour­age them to spread out more than nor­mal. I don’t want to see a boat crush the rab­bit and pinch off the rest of the fleet, min­i­miz­ing the ben­e­fits of the drill.

A skewed-right weather mark forces the fleet to stay on port for a long time. If it’s a fast boat, they won’t want to tack more than once any­way. On a boat such as a Laser, it’s no big deal to hitch up, and it’s fine if they want to be tac­ti­cal about the top por­tion of the beat. Fig­ure out how much skew you want for the num­ber of boats you have; the more boats, the longer you’ll want the beat. In skiffs and cats, I forgo the top reach mark. Once they’re sail­ing down­wind, they’re go­ing to be on star­board jibe for a while, and this setup em­u­lates the best course we can for the crit­i­cal jibe point of the run, al­low­ing them to also work on that part of the game.

To avoid wasted time be­tween drills, I have the race win­ner im­me­di­ately reach on port af­ter the fi nish line, and jibe to get set up as the next rab­bit. Then I be­come a bit of a traf­fic cop for the rest of the fleet,


hav­ing them sail on star­board, tack and get into po­si­tion for the next rab­bit start. If you’re just do­ing a one-lap ver­sion of this in a skiff, the whole thing might take five to six min­utes. Even in a Laser, it might not take longer than that. I run this drill a few times be­fore I stop and talk to ev­ery­one. Gary Bodie used to say that all you’re do­ing on the first days of a drill is learn­ing how to be ef­fi­cient at the drill. By the sec­ond day, it’s be­com­ing use­ful. Let boats run through this a num­ber of times be­fore stop­ping them and coach­ing specifics. In the morn­ing brief­ing, clearly stat­ing the goals of the drill and how to sail it ef­fi­ciently will reap the ear­li­est bang for the buck.

A lot of the drills that we do end up be­ing traf­fic jams as we go around re­ally small cour­ses, which can dis­tract us from the specifics that we need to work on. I like to try to de­velop sce­nar­ios and drills that feel more like the mid­dle of a big-course race, that iso­late mo­ments, key to putting up con­sis­tent se­ries scores. This one does that. Q

Ev­ery prac­tice drill has its pur­pose, but this one from a vet­eran Olympic coach has a plethora of ben­e­fits. Course for Skiff s and Cats Rab­bit-1- Gate-1-fin­ish Course for Laser, Finn, etc. Rab­bit-1-2- Gate-1-fin­ish Mark 2 Op­tional Reach Fin­ish Line/gate Mark 1 Wind­ward Mark Long port tack to star­board lay­line

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