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Mental state has a lot to do with performance. Races have unexpected twists that lead to situations you weren’t expecting, and maintaining a positive mind state can be tough when days on the water are long. Getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and staying organized are all key components to a fun, successful regatta. When tensions are high and competition is tough, remember the big picture – for every race start there is a finish, and getting stuck on the details can affect the entire team.

We caught up with North Sails Expert Mike Marshall, 2016 J22 World Champion and nominee for 2016 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, and asked him how he does it.

We asked Mike:
How do you maintain intensity while keeping the mood light?

1. Move on when something goes wrong.

No matter how good the sailors are, things sometimes go wrong during a race. When they do, it’s important to manage the situation so that you can move on smoothly. What’s gone wrong is over and is in the past. Yelling about it or harping on it will only do more harm. These behaviors are distractions that will interfere with mounting a comeback. That’s why one key to maintaining intensity on the racecourse is to keep your focus forward, not backward.

2. Take a break between races.

You can’t maintain the intensity needed during a race for an entire day of sailing. It’s therefore important to take a break from high intensity after a race ends. If there’s nothing pressing that needs to be fixed, it’s good practice to stop and refresh. Eat some food; drink some water; recharge. This will put you in much better shape to gear up your intensity as the next race begins.

3. Focus on the positive.

Even when some things have gone wrong on your boat, there are also things that have gone right. Focusing on the positive things, while still acknowledging the negatives, can boost a team’s morale and help maintain focus. People in general tend to give up and not perform at their peak when their outlook is largely negative. This is why it’s important to keep a positive outlook overall.

4. Don’t worry about things that are out of your control.

Whether it’s traffic getting to the venue or an issue with the crane in the boat park, your team can’t stay positive if they fret about problems they have no control over. Lamenting the lost time that you could be practicing or prepping the boat only leads to frustration. And frustration is counterproductive when it comes to achieving the focus and intensity needed for top performance.

5. Limit stress through preparation and sticking to a routine.

Stress is the number one culprit causing you to get frustrated, become negative, and make bad decisions. Through good preparation, you can eliminate a great many of the things that cause stress. Have a well-thought-out routine and stick to it. This routine will help you avoid having to make decisions on the fly. The more you refine your routine and prepare your boat and team in advance, the more ready you’ll be for anything that comes your way. This, in turn, will help eliminate distractions that can reduce your focus and intensity on the racecourse.

Images © Paul Todd/ OUSTIDEIMAGES.COM and Chris Howell