Scott and Doug have battled things out between each other on the race course over the years and I’d say Scott has the edge these days but Doug can give him a run for his money. The problem is that they give me conflicting advice and I’ve been asking, listening and watching and finally figured some things out.
Scott sails the course and Doug sails the competition. Scott says his biggest asset is his vision. Doug’s biggest liability is his vision. Currently, Doug is legally blind and his vision has been steadily slipping in recent years. His eyes work independently of each other so he has double vision (sometimes quadruple if both eyes are working) and he’s never had depth perception or 3-D vision his entire life. I often have to ask him which eye I’m talking to because it changes depending on the time of day and whether he’s tired. Yeah, I know ... amazing!
Scott’s vision is great so I can see how he sails the course. His senses have all been geared toward going the right way and reading the wind and he talks as though it’s quite simple. There is only one right tack to be on at any given time and it’s the one that takes you closest to the mark. Often Scott finishes a good distance from his nearest competition. I’ve tried his way and it works but when Gary is coming up fast behind me and I start trying to cover, things go wrong real quick.
Doug uses his competition as seeing eye dogs. Sadly, if he were on the course by himself, it might take him all day to find the windward mark. He has been trying to teach me his style of sailing. Stay with your competition, protect the inside, don’t bang corners, look at the angles between you and your competition and tack if they’re sailing higher. When he’s on his game, his boat handling is near perfect and he patiently waits for people to make mistakes. Often Doug finishes just barely ahead of his competition. I find that stressful but it does seem to work. When my competition is close, I make my tacking decisions based on our angles. On Saturday, Sandy was in the lead and I was on Doug’s hip. He hollered back for me to look at the angles. Sure enough, we were on the same tack as Sandy but lifted and Sandy was headed and sailing down to us losing ground. I think Doug caught him but I made some errors and didn’t gain as much.
Doug tells me that when his vision was better he used to sail Scott’s style but couldn’t do better than 5th in the Worlds. The year he decided to sail the competition instead of the course, he won the Worlds and then remained in the top 3 for the next 5 Worlds. He calls it percentage sailing.
I’ve been experimenting with a hybrid of Scott and Doug’s styles and I must say I’ve been getting better and better. I’m still collecting information on the various things that both cue in on to enhance and support their style. Doug seems to be using senses most of us ignore. He can’t see squat but still makes better decisions than most. One of the first things he insisted on teaching me was sailing the boat at night deprived of sight so that I could learn to feel the boat. Sure enough, it talks and I’m learning to listen. We are very lucky to sail at a lake that has no motor traffic allowed at night so that we can safely sail at night. Next year, I think we need to have night races. Nothing official, just start together and go to the end of the lake and back. Who’s in?
As an aside, Doug has decided that the Butterfly is more responsive than the Laser and is a better teaching boat to learn to feel the helm. Let’s not forget that Scott, history making six time US Men’s National Champion, started on a Butterfly and can now successfully jump from boat to boat. I’m claiming he owes his success to the Butterfly. Yep, the Butterfly rocks!!