The Psychology of Sailing

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Colin Newman
Posts: 240
Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2003 9:46 pm
Location: United Kingdom

The Psychology of Sailing

Post by Colin Newman » Wed Mar 02, 2011 11:59 am

Folks who have known me for a while will know that the last job I did as a psychologist before I retired was get involved for just on twenty years in the running of my professional body, as Executive Secretary of the British Psychological Society. Recently, a former colleague of mine who is Editor of 'The Psychologist', the house journal of the BPS which goes each month to all 45,000 or so members, asked me to review a new book called 'The Psychology of Sailing' written by a Chartered Sports Psychologist called Ian Brown and published by Adlard Coles Nautical in 2010.

I have never met Ian but he has worked with the RYA and several Olympic development squads as well as being a Laser sailor himself. At some point he has had contact with Moth sailors as in his chapter on 'Teamwork' he makes the point that cooperation between sailors in single handed boats is still relevant. I quote the two relevant sentences from his book: 'In the world of foiling Moths huge advances have been made in a fairly short period of time, not just from a technology point of view but also in the pure mechanics of sailing the boats. These advances have been made because many of the top sailors have been prepared to work together and cooperate with each other in an effort to move the game forwards.' The same is true in the IC world, if not more so.

I was impressed with Ian's book and gave it a favourable review which was published in the February 2011 issue of 'The Psychologist'. I copy what I had to say to a readership of psychologists that mainly knows little about dinghy and keelboat racing. The final sentence of my review sums up my message to other sailors.

'The Psychology of Sailing Author: Ian Brown

A Very Practical Book

Written by a chartered sports psychologist who himself participates in sailing boat racing, which aims to teach dinghy and keelboat sailors the mental skills to help them improve their performance and win. It achieves its aims admirably in an unobtrusive way, keeping psychological jargon to a minimum so that, reassuringly, much of what he writes reads like enlightened common sense. The reader of this book is helped to develop the skills that constitute a winning mindset in addition to the more self-evident requirements such as physical fitness, rig adjustment and boat handling skills, knowledge and application of the racing rules.

Racing in sailing boats is arguably one of the most complex sports to master. No two races are ever the same, the sea state, tides and wind are constantly changing and success in the sport requires the competitor to analyse a multitude of ever changing data from the meteorological and geographical to what others in the race are doing and to respond appropriately in a wide variety of ways. Championships consist of several races held over a number of days so maintaining focus, staying in the here and now during a race, a professional approach and confidence are crucial, just some of the skills this highly practical book aims to teach. The author's knowledge of the the demands unique to sailing as a sport are clear from his use of apposite illustrations in the exercises with which each chapter ends.

I now have a book to recommend to my friends in sailing who ask 'can psychology help me improve my racing results?'

The book is priced at £14.99 but having reviewed it, I keep the free copy if anyone I see wants to borrow it.

On this occasion I had better sign off as I am known professionally:

Colin V Newman, BSc, PhD, C Psychol, FBPsS and Honorary Life Member !!

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