How to get the winning mind

Howie Hamlin explains how important mental attitude is to his sailing
Howie Hamlin turned 50 last week, just a month after he won the 18-foot skiff World Championships for the second consecutive year. He also won the 505 World Championships in 1999. This week, Hamlin tells The Daily Sail about the importance of achieving the right mental approach in the high-octane world of skiff racing. It’s all about getting in ‘the zone’. The thing about racing skiffs is, especially in strong winds, they can fry your nerves. It’s easy to get too nervous when you’re starting out in the 18, although once you get too used to sailing them it can also be possible to get too relaxed. It’s really important to find the proper level of concentration. It’s hard to say what’s right for everyone, because each of us has a different arousal state. But I know it’s really critical for me to be in my zone. If I’m too relaxed or too wound up it’s not good either way. I start thinking about the state I want to be in from early in the morning and pay attention to where I’m at mentally. We have a team meeting before the race, where we’ll talk about the weather, talk about the conditions, and how we want to set up the boat. That generally helps get me into the right state. The other thing is, as I’ve got older my sailing has got better. I think mental maturity is the key, and in the past I was not able to control my mental state so effectively. In the past it could go either way, I’d either get too stressed, or just go flat, and neither is good. Actually I had one of those moments in the penultimate race of the recent 18 Worlds. We were doing well, and I wanted to bear off