Get up to Sailing-speed with ASA's Sailing Challenge App

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June 14, 2018 by Monica Grant

With all of the sailing that’s coming up in this year’s Summer Sailstice we wondered if all of these sailors know they can be getting ready for the weekend with a stay-at-home sailing experience – quality couch sailing at its best! The American Sailing Association created a mobile app called Sailing Challenge that drills sailing fundamentals in a super fun way.

It’s a game first, but one that is comprised of teaching modules that inspire learning through repetition and fun. ASA founder Lenny Shabes tapped his old friend Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari (and actually invented the game of Pong), to implement his “gamification” [education through gaming] concept within the sailing framework.

“When you create a game of sailing and learning,” said Bushnell, who’s company Brainrush built the app. “It decreases the barrier to entry – to actually go out and do it. What the game will do is create a desire to go rent a boat or go out with your friends and get your hands on the tiller.”

ASA Sailing Challenge

Bushnell, a sailor himself, a Transpac vet, believes that this type of education is far more effective than traditional learning methods. His theory is based around an educational philosophy that he has been forging for years. His belief is certain components like spaced repetition, playing to mastery, and time pressure within the context of a light and fun experience makes people retain information at a much greater rate.

He likens the brain to a deep furrow saying, “a single pass with the plow doesn’t dig it deep enough.” And goes on to say that a sleep cycle between repetitive lessons of this nature cements the information much more effectively than simple memorization.

Behind the scenes the American Sailing Association worked hard with the Brainrush team to make sure certain aspects were as authentic as possible. Two-time America’s Cup winner Peter Isler was part of every aspect of the game’s creation and if you’ve ever sailed with Peter, you know he lets nothing slide. Isler and Shabes were relentless in making the boat respond as much like a real boat as was technologically possible.  They actually used the polars of the Beneteau First 22 so the wind speed and direction would push the boat at the exact velocity predicted in real life. When the boat heads up into the wind, the sail luffs or gets stuck in irons and there is a knot-meter showing exactly how the sail trim affects the boat’s speed.

“We worked very hard at creating that intoxicating feeling of finding the groove,” said Shabes. “When the boat locks in and accelerates, it really does feel gratifying and that’s what we wanted to happen.”

Shabes is excited about the game for what it could mean to how sailing is taught going forward. He says when it comes to concepts that need drilling and repetition like the points of sail and rules of the road, the game provides an incredible means to an end.

“I whole-heartedly believe that if students drill these concepts, via the game, in this fun way before going to their class, the entire curve will be completely shifted,” Shabes said. “I can’t wait to see how this effects how people learn to sail.”

So before the Sailstice weekend, during lunch, after dinner, before bed, whenever – do some phone sailin’!

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