I’ll just leave this here. I learned a lot from sitting in a boat with Tommy Harrington, Chris Eller and Lee Mershon
I don’t know how I missed this before but Richard linked a really nice article above ^ on pro boat driving Q&A. One interesting tidbit to me is all of them generally look downcourse and none of them use a reference mark on the boat to the boat guides.
Also very consistent is the theme of how important driving outside the course is, and I totally agree with that, particularly the move-out when the skier is exerting a side force on the boat that can then lead to a correction to the right in the glide. I can 100% feel that when it happens, too, or when it goes the other way and I feel like I don’t have the boat in the glide or coming up from the glide feels like I can’t stand up out of that initial lean- that’s the boat drifting left in the move out. It’s a weird feeling.
We have an extremely tight setup on our lake with a full six-buoy course (not an overlap course) in less that 1800 feet of lake. Corrections going into and out of the initial turn into the course (of the boat) can affect the feel of the pass dramatically, and that’s all completely out of the course itself.
In the last few months I have totally checked out from many nonessential activities due to a pending divorce. Not knowing what the future holds for me as far as waterskiing I will say this. My path to skiing with way more elite level skiers than I deserved to was by trying to be the absolute best driver I knew how to be. I probably payed more attention and asked more questions of drivers than I did about skiing. Having spent way more time in the drivers seat than at the end of the rope, I developed what I could figure out how to keep the boat straight and in the middle. I did not go back and reread this article because I found it about the time that my marriage was coming to an end. I will say that I do a lot of stuff differently than a lot of elite drivers do. I would say I really learned how to drive once I started skiing at Trophy Lakes and drove Doug and Drew Ross prior to cruise control systems existing. I was very tense driving these guys through passes that very few were running. I got to sit in the boat and observe Tommy Harrington (first driver to pull complete -41 at 36 and the first driver to pull complete -41 at 34…the first -41 at 36 was hand throttled) drive a lot, but my biggest discovery was when I would ride with Finklea Tomlinson driving and he used a piece of tape (chewing gum or whatever he had) to mark where the right hand boat path buoys disappeared on the edge of the boat once he knew he was centered. I have used this ever since and probably couldn’t drive without using this now. I also drive 2 handed since the use of cruise control, most good drivers would say this a no no but I drove so much short-line slalom where I stressed about boat path that I needed to find something that worked for me.
The condensed list for my driving priorities is:
What happens outside of the course is just as important as what happens in the course, maybe more important. If I’m the skier and I don’t have confidence in what you do on the ends and pulling me out of the water and how you line up, I won’t have confidence in what you do in the course.
Know how the boat reacts (moves, slides, rolls, whatever) to where the skier is and what the skier does. Great skiers are easier to pull than “not so great” skiers because of consistency in what they do…until they reach their limits. Then expect anything and be ready to react but not overreact. Being in the middle (as much as possible) is critical to either; the best of the best or the person trying to learn or advance. If the boat is moving right to left than the line tension can change without the skier affecting the change, ie you might get loose line without causing the loose line. Some boats slide more, some boats roll more.
Know where the middle is, reassess it all the time and know how to get back to it when you are not there. I have people I trust evaluate where I am and then I look at my path every chance I get, especially at the end of the course. I have seen my driving on end course cameras and I have had a chance to drive with sure path. Sure path was interesting because most drivers including me have a tendency to be off on the driver’s side. This caused me to reevaluate how I look at my boat path and reorient how my “mark” lines up with the right hand side buoys.
One thing to keep in mind if you do decide to use the right hand side of the course for alignment. The entrance and exit gates are slightly wider than the boat guides if the course is in tolerance, adjust accordingly.
The mark on the boat - boat guide reference can be handy but quickly becomes a problem. You cannot have your vision sucked hard in on the front of the boat or dash and still out down course. And if you do have a mark and you sit slightly left or right the parallax creates a lot of error.
The new GPS (Sure path?) I think is the best thing out if you can justify it - it is amazing how many people have learned that for years they’ve been driving a few inches right thinking that their path was good. The new prostar also fwiw has these 3 lines on the glass for the driver to use as a reference but you do have to sit properly.