18dca2f8-1386-4522-9511-23130a480d02 Master the Art of Sailboat Racing 1,1 2

If you like sailboat racing, whatever your main goal may be, it lies on the path that leads to complete mastery. 

The basic structure captured in this template is tried and tested: it works for Olympic athletes and beginners alike. Take a few moments to have a look around it: check out how we have broken down all the major goals into subgoals and read the detailed Notes on each.

Set your own long-term and short-term goals, define specific action plans in each area and track your progress as you go. Review frequently: update your priorities and adapt plans as circumstances change.

Goal setting

Think about your long-term sailing goal, describe it in positive, inspirational terms. With the talent, time and money you bring to the game, you want to achieve as much as possible, whether you are aiming for an Olympic medal or the club championship. 

Enter your main goal in this central circle by editing the text at the top of this panel. The building blocks in successful sailing are always the same, and they appear here as the 6 innermost 'Level 1' subgoals. 

Three of these are about arriving at the starting line in the best possible shape:

  • Complete Logistics
  • Finance the Campaign
  • Optimize Gear

These goals are all about preparation. Decide what you need to do in each area and how you are going to do it. You can work all by yourself or enlist other team members, friends or family to help. If you have the budget, you can even hire people to help in the organization or in specific areas.

The other three also require help; the difference is that once the starting gun is fired you (and your crew) are on your own. These are the core goals for maximising your performance on the water:

  • Perfect Boathandling
  • Sail the Best Course
  • Be Fit

You might want to add or delete some lower level subgoals (or change their importance) to suit your particular class or personal goals. 

A short note about Time:

The importance of any goal can only be set in relation to a given timeframe. Bear that in mind when you define the relative importances. The timeframe might be a month, a year or a full 4 year campaign.

Some days you might focus on only one goal: that will bring some progress in that area, but it does not change its importance in the overall timeframe. Setting the importances and being able to see them at all times will give you peace of mind and prevent you being overwhelmed by the complexity of the challenge. 

Working towards your goals

We like to divide work up into four areas:


1. Collecting work

2. Planning work

3. Doing planned work

4. Doing work as it comes along

Goalscape helps you directly with 1, 2 and 3. Your timeframes should be related to the periods when you are doing planned work. We think two to four weeks are good timeframes to execute and evaluate. If you make them longer your plan might fall apart; if you make them shorter you might spend too much of that time in planning.

Having a work plan also helps you to deal with 4: you can see immediately whether you can fit in any new tasks - and if so, when. This protects you from the ‘tyranny of the urgent’ and its distortion of priorities.


You must be as specific as possible when you describe your goals: you need to know when you have achieved them! Decide how you are going to measure your progress in every area: for some goals (like Budget and Fitness) this is quite easy; for others (like boathandling skills and gear tests) you will have to be subjective and imaginative, especially in areas where you can only compare your performance to others. 


Think too about defining some milestones along the way – and how you are going to celebrate passing them. In a long campaign this really helps to keep you motivated, especially at top level where there may be long gaps between regatta victories.


Using this template

To use this template for your own sailing campaign:  

  1. Rename this central goal to reflect your Main Goal: make it inspirational! 
  2. Go through each subgoal and update them with your specific goals 
  3. Adjust the Importance of Subgoals by dragging their borders or sliders
  4. Define success criteria in each goal (quantitative our qualitative) and write them in the Notes
  5. Mark your current state using the Progress sliders in the outermost goals.


(Hint: use ‘Center On’ to zoom in on a specific goal like Boat handling).


Enter some progress in a few bottom-level subgoals and see how it reflects upwards into the parent goals. Play with the sliders and watch what happens. 


Of course this is only a sailing goalscape. Even if you are a full time professional sailor, there are other areas in your life where you have to spend some time. Many people find it very useful to build a ‘Life’ goalscape to capture everything they have to do in one central place. If you choose to do so, you can copy this entire model into your Life goalscape as one of your major subgoals (along with your goals for Work, Family, etc).

Additional detailed information

As further background there are some good articles about goal setting, controlling the controllables and decision-making on Sailjuice.com.

In this template, several other goals have links to relevant pages on Sailjuice.com. Most of this extra content is free; some is for subscribers only. 

Your Logistics are about organising who and what needs to be where and when.

You have to make some very fundamental decisions here. This is the most important subgoal when you are planning your campaign or your season.

Ask yourself: 

  • Does everyone in your team share your central goal?
  • How do you intend to divide up the work and manage your time?
  • Which competitions are the most important this year?
  • Into what periods/timeframes do you divide your season/campaign?
  • How can you plan your trips most efficiently?

Check out the subgoals to learn more.

Your team needs to fit the demands of your goal. In sailing you can win with a wide variety of bodies and brains – and variety is often an advantage. 

Best friends are often too much alike and may share the same strengths, so friendship might not be the best criterion for selection. On the other hand the team must bond well, particularly if you are undertaking a very ambitious goal. A strong team spirit will get you through the inevitable tough times, stressful situations and emotional hurdles. At top level too, the most successful teams always present a united front to the world, with no cracks or inconsistencies to be exploited by the competition. 

The most fundamental point is to make sure your team shares the same goal. Take some time early on to meet: share your individual goals, discuss them and find a common denominator. Then ask yourselves if your mix of bodies and brains is capable of achieving that shared goal. If not, ask yourself what you can do about it. 

This will greatly influence how you will set your priorities and may even point you towards a different goal (or a different team!).

The right mix of personalities is particularly important, since you will probably face some hectic, tense and stressful situations together. Follow this link for the SailJuice.com article on Team Dynamics (paid content).

When you have built a team you are happy with, stick to it. You can bring in external experts for specific work but try to retain and involve the core people who have committed to the whole campaign. 

Reinforce your morale, motivation and team spirit at key points during the year (especially in the run-up to major regattas) by taking some time to revisit your goals together. Analyze your performance and discuss your progress in every area. Always find time to celebrate your successes and devise action plans to avoid repeating failures.


Some key factors include:

  • Shared goals
  • Level of commitment
  • Time available
  • Team feeling
  • Skills (eg sailmaking, mechanic, cook)
  • Experience (especially any big wins)
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Fitness
  • Of course there may be other attributes that are important to your campaign. Think too about potential tie-breakers like 'useful contacts at many regatta venues', 'own RIB' or 'has a big car for towing'.

    If your class requires 3 or more crew, part of your crew selection should involve making sure that everybody can do all the training and all the regattas that you have identified as important. Having the same team all year will enable you to beat teams that keep changing personnel - even if they sometimes have better people on board. So if someone has to miss one or two training sessions (or any regattas) they will need a good reason to do so.

    When you have completed the selection process, show your commitment to the crew: complete-and-delete this goal.

    What additional know-how and expertise do you need and how much money do you want to allocate to external support? 

    Find out where you can get it at the best rate.

    Maybe you can coach yourself. The key is to have a sound process for gathering, understanding and using information in all the key performance areas. There are many good books that are worth reading and some good videos.

    Time is limited. It’s the most valuable resource we have. We can only leverage it by being more efficient, but we cannot have more than anyone else. Since time is also very intangible, we also tend to waste it in many ways without realising we are doing so. So most people (including some top athletes!) still have room for improvement in their time management. 

    Don't think that time management is just about discipline and sacrifice though: it’s a bit subtler than that. So don't beat yourself up; and educate other team members rather than nagging them.

    Check out this short video to learn what Philip Zimbardo (professor of Psychology at Stanford University) has to say about time. If you want to learn more, read Zimbardo's book "The Time Paradox".

    So how is this relevant for sailing?

    Firstly, you need to strike the right balance between the different time perspectives:

    • Thinking about the past, and how your experiences have shaped you. Be honest but focus on the positive: if you made mistakes think about what you learned from them. If you do the opposite and spend time thinking badly about yourself, you will undermine your self confidence and be unable to perform at your best.

    • Thinking about the future – especially delaying immediate gratification to operate more effectively in the present - is the key to success for every athlete.

    • Enjoying the present moment (having fun!) is essential for gathering the energy to work harder than everyone else. If you really love doing something you can extend your endurance without even noticing. 

    • For Buddhist monks and many top athletes, there is another present-focused frame of mind that is very important. This is the state of complete, relaxed concentration that we call Flow. When you experience Flow you are entirely in the ‘here and now’ – the present time perspective - and time itself seems to slow down or stand still. Flow is the key to peak performance.

    Time management is not only about maximising your opportunities in the present to improve your future. It is also about feeling good about what you have already achieved in your past and loving what you are doing in the present. Don’t compare yourself to others too much - your story is unique. Always try to find the right mix of the different time perspectives – one that suits you. 


    • If you think negatively about the past you will fail and feel miserable. 
    • If you seek only immediate gratification, you will achieve nothing worthwhile.
    • If you think only about the future, you will be too tired to perform. Worse, you will not know who you are.


    • Think positively about the past: it will make you feel happy and confident.
    • Enjoy the present. Even if you really love sailing, do something different from time to time for ‘pure fun’. It stops you becoming obsessive (and boring!) and recharges you.
    • Release that extra energy into working for the future and you will succeed.

    Those who find the right mix usually perform best - and they are always less stressed.


    The aim of periodising your year is to peak at the regattas you have identified as the most important. With the correct approach you can build up your skills, physical fitness and confidence so you can maximise your performance in every area at the right time.

    Since it is impossible to maintain a peak for the whole year, work with your coach and other advisors to draw up a detailed competition and training schedule. Set your goals accordingly and use them to ensure the correct focus as you prepare for each regatta.

    There should be periods where you focus on practising and applying your skills. So if you go to a regatta in that period you might deliberately tire yourself out much more than normal because you are focusing on building strength and fitness as well. Do not set yourself competitive goals at such regattas: instead concentrate on process goals and physical performance targets.

    There are times when you need to evaluate your skills against the fleet. In these performance periods, you aim to give the best performance possible – not by focusing on improvement, but by achieving flow in your performance.

    Most importantly you need frequent periods of rest, with proper relaxation and plenty of sleep. When you practise mental and physical skills, the memory formation that completes the learning process happens as you sleep.

    Less sleep => less memory => less flow.

    So train hard and sleep well!


    Reduce travel as much as possible. It can waste a lot of time.

    Make travelling less stressful by leaving yourself plenty of time so you never have to rush. Have a checklist for all your gear and be systematic about packing your boat and clothes so you never arrive at the regatta without your rudder, lifejacket, shoes.

    You can also overcome a lot of travel and accommodation hassles by having a mechanically sound, spacious and well-stocked camper van.

    Organise any flights, ferries and hotels as early as you can. It's a job you can do right at the start of the year - as soon as you have decided on your regatta programme. Then you can check it off (100% complete) and concentrate on your sailing. You might also get some favourable deals by booking early.

    Sorting everything out well in advance gives you the confidence of knowing you are well-prepared. It also eliminates the stress of driving around a foreign resort looking for a hotel at 4 am the night before the first race, having driven 15 hours from Calais because you set off late and were stopped for speeding, then blew a tyre on the trailer and missed the overnight ferry.


    When you have made a basic outline in the logistics and gear subgoals, you should have a rough idea of how much money you will need to achieve your goal.

    Once you have raised all the money you need (including provision for contingencies), you can complete-and-delete this goal. See how all your other goals grow, retaining their importance relative to each other.


    Goalscape will soon add a budgeting function; until then you can use a spreadsheet. If you upload it to Google docs your whole team can share it.

    Don't ask anyone for money if you do not know how much you will need as a:

  • best case
  • normal case
  • worst case
  • ]]>
    You need to have a proper plan for this. Where your money comes from depends on your situation. Without money you will always be frustrated, so being good at raising money is easily as important as being a good sailor. You should aim for a good mix of financing that does not require too much administration or time.

    Your best selling argument is your central goal. What is it you want to achieve? How will participating in it help anyone who funds you?:

    • Will it make them proud (especially your family, friends and sailing club)?
    • Will it support your sponsors’ messages and help to spread them? 
    • Will it help them to achieve their goals (national federation)?

    You may have to work really hard at this, so focus your efforts on activities you can do well before the regatta season starts. Keep your spirits up: the next call you make might land you the perfect sponsor.

    If you cannot ensure the finance early you may need to adjust your regatta programme. Spend the time you save working on your budget for next year!

    Suggested career choices for the ambitious competitive sailor:

    • Doctor
    • Lawyer
    • Consultant 
    • Monarch
    • Tech billionaire
    Sailing is a really cool mix of body, mind and technology. Your equipment can make a big difference and you must take good care of it for two reasons:

    1. To save money
    2. To race with your best gear for as long as possible and ensure it works perfectly when it matters most.

    Picking the best gear is a big challenge and you need to be very scientific about it. You have to know what you can measure on shore, and what you can only learn on the water by feeling the boat and by comparing your speed and performance to others – and what you can learn from photos and video.

    In the beginning you should just be a copycat. Use whatever the top guys are using. That way you leverage the knowledge they have gained from experience. 

    Stevie Morrison talks to SailJuice.com about the benefits of using 'standard kit' (paid content).

    If you have built your sailing skills so you have the potential to beat the best, then you need invest more money and time in your gear. At that point you might want to bring in specialist advisers who fully understand the aerodynamic and hydrodynamic principles (if you do so, it should be someone who has raced or coached successfully – and understands exactly what you are trying to achieve).

    You need to have a good grasp the basic principles yourself though - otherwise you can't be sure that you are always set up correctly, or know what to tweak to give you an edge.

  • What are all the factors that contribute to your speed, control and comfort? 
  • How does each element of the boat work, individually and as part of the whole? 
  • How do you measure the performance of all components (including crew) for systematic testing?
  • How much can you do ashore and how much on the water?
  • Which exercises and tests can you do on your own on the water; and which require a tuning partner, small squad and/or coach? 
  • What do you need from a coach and when do you need it?
  • ]]>

    Sails are of course really important, since they drive the boat. But unless your current sails are really holding you back (or you have a lot of spare capacity in your budget), stick with what you have. New sails can always help you to go faster, but if you still capsize every time you gybe (to take an extreme case) you are wasting your money. Work on your boathandling, fitness and decision-making: that way when you buy your new sails you will make a bigger jump forwards.

    See this SailJuice.com article for more about new sails.


    Foils deserve a lot of attention.

    First make sure they line up with each other and with the centreline of the boat!

    Their total area can be as much as 25% of the total wetted surface - and they are under much more pressure than the hull so they contribute more to the water friction component. They must be flawless. Pay special attention to the trailing edges and the tips.

    Find a great boatbuilder (or a specialist foil builder) to teach you how to maintain them perfectly.

    Whether you sail in a drysuit, wetsuit or shorts, your clothing has to be robust, fit well, and never snag. Shoes and gloves must have great grip. Pay attention to the weight and make sure your kit complies with World Sailing RRS and class rules governing wet weight. 

    Include buoyancy aids and trapeze harnesses in your selection process.

    Details, details, details... Your boat must be a mix of absolute accuracy and complete tidiness. If you want to play well, your instrument needs to be finely tuned - clean it up! No frayed rope or wires, no loose ends or broken/suspect fittings. 

    Always carry plenty of spares. At regattas, systematically check your entire boat and rig every day. Make sure everything runs smoothly, so you never need to work harder than you absolutely have to - it's tough enough to win in a boat that works perfectly!

    When competing or training, note carefully any boatwork that occurs to you and always do anything urgent (ie likely to fail catastrophically) as soon as you come ashore. Schedule any jobs that you cannot complete immediately and order any new kit you need.

    Boathandling is absolutely fundamental to racing at any level. Sailing your boat as smoothly as possible through wind and waves, moving quickly yet lightly around the boat, tacking and gybing, mark rounding, accelerating from a standstill and even stopping dead are just some of the skills you need to master. 

    Take a moment to look at all the subgoals in this area: some may not apply to your class. If that is the case you can simply delete them (notice how all the other subgoals expand to fill the space, yet maintain their importance relative to each other).

    The challenges (in order) are to

    1. Understand all the skills completely
    2. Execute them well
    3. Execute them perfectly every time without thinking about them even under stress

    In the end, boathandling skills are not separate blocks, they become part of a continuous flow. It’s about analyzing each discipline, learning it, practising it and eventually shedding it so you perform it perfectly without thinking about it at all. In the beginning it’s a drill; at Olympic level, it is a dance.

    Setting up your boat correctly is an essential subgoal of boathandling. Think of your boat as a bird that flies with one wing in the water and one wing in the air. You are pulling the strings to tweak the wings: that’s the essence of boathandling. 

    In your Gear subgoal you can give yourself the wings to fly. In the Boathandling subgoal you aim to fly as fast as possible to the next mark. 

    The structure of the subgoals roughly follows the sequence of a race. The relative importance of the different manoeuvres is different for different classes (and to a certain degree for different venues, windstrengths, course configurations, etc).

    For each discipline you need to define a set of exercises to practise them on your own and with your tuning partner or squad. 


    Define FAST goals for every boat handling skill. Making them ‘Measurable’ may prove tricky, since most skills simply cannot be measured objectively (although some can: for example you can time your spinnaker sets and drops). So you have to rely on self-analysis and the judgment of tuning partners, coaches and even other sailors. You can also use a GoPro (or similar) mounted on the boat.

    You need to find a consistent way of scoring yourself in each area – and express your goals as targets for that score. Some teams use a (subjective) comparison: if your target is to be the best in the world at tacking in light winds and you are just about in the top 30, you can say you are 70% of the way there; once you crack the top 5 your progress is 95%, etc.

    Even when you have achieved excellence in a skill, always be on the lookout for better ways of doing it. Whenever you can, watch what your competitors do in the boat, especially at mark roundings. Check out their boats on the beach: do they have different fittings for certain jobs, or a different layout? If in doubt you can always ask them.

    You can never complete-and-delete your boathandling goals: no matter how well you sail your boat you will always need to practise. Remember, everybody else is training – and some may be training harder than you.

    You can find more background on specific aspects of boat handling in the Boat handling section of SailJuice.com, including this interview with Viktor Kovalenko about the medal maker method

    Aim to achieve the perfect start every time: hit the line on the gun at the right place going the right way with max vmg.

    Starting well requires excellent boat handling in every manoeuvre – the more so because you have to perform them all at slow speeds. Find some good exercises for doing this, including holding station, double-tacks, sailing backwards and “pulling the trigger” (accelerating from a standstill). There are some good tips in Jon Emmett's Sailjuice.com article on slow speed boat handling (paid content).

    Practise your ‘bail-outs’ too: if (when starting under a 'P' flag Preparatory) you arrive early at the pin on a port-favoured line you may be able to ‘get out of jail’ by accelerating over the line, spinning a tight gybe around the pin then finding a gap in the slow-moving boats stacked up on starboard (you may be lucky!). At worst you take a lot of transoms and are committed to an early port hitch. That’s a lot better than being OCS or hooking the pin and capsizing or tacking into the pack and being holed or at least incurring a penalty (or all of the above).

    Devise your own pre-start ‘script’ to make sure you cover everything you need to know and do, before and after the first Warning Signal:

    1. Time (real time and time to start)
    2. Comply with any check-in process (SI)
    3. Weather forecast and observations (including significant topography if the wind is offshore)
    4. Time of High Water, current direction and strength during the race; any major differences across the course
    5. Wind direction and strength
    6. Correct rig and control settings for the start and first leg
    7. Course configuration, number of laps, bearing to mark 1
    8. Sight the first mark; communicate its location and any implications (eg early tack)
    9. Angle of course skew (deviation of Mark 1 heading from true wind direction)
    10. Spinnaker on the correct side for slick hoist on first downwind
    11. Preparatory flag: Blue Peter, ‘I’ flag, black flag, etc - discuss implications for how or where you start 
    12. Recall process and any notification of OCS (from NOR/SI)
    13. Start line position and angle
    14. Safe transits (and dynamic transits)
    15. De-weed (a slow tack may do it)
    16. Position of key opposition

    If you are serious you must cover all these in your race process – and you may be able to think of even more. Unless you are competing single-handed, divide responsibility among the crew .

    Coaches can help by gathering some of this information (especially tides) but you really need to be able to do everything for yourself.

    Crucially, you need to decide as early as possible where on the line you are going to start ('near the pin', 'at the boat', 'somewhere in the middle', etc) then make sure with at least 2 minutes to go that you are going to be able to achieve that position. 


    Practise “pulling the trigger” (accelerating from a dead stop to top speed) so you know exactly how long it takes in different conditions. Establish a process and stick to it.

    There are some good tips about learning and applying this skill in the Sailjuice.com article Starting on the 'B' of 'Bang.

    As soon as you start, hit "the groove" straight away and concentrate on sailing as fast as possible. Early speed is vital to 'step out' on the boats around you, even if you are planning an early tack - in fact especially if you are planning an early tack.

    Listen for additional sound signals or radio communications from the Committee Boat. When starting under a 'P' flag Preparatory signal always check for the X flag as soon as you can (whether or not you heard a second sound signal): if you see it, decide immediately if it's for you, and if so, how you can go back with the minimum loss.

    Someone has to be 'heads up' (while still sailing at top speed) to spot gusts, shifts and any other boats, especially cowboys on port or OCS randoms. 

    Settle down, sail fast and stick to your strategy (which side of the beat to go, or how big a header to tack on). Plan early how to deal with boats around you (especially those on the opposite tack!).

    Click here for the SailJuice.com article on holding your lane (paid content).


    Go for speed first, then build your height.

    Feel whether you are set up right: if not, what do you have to do? Decide fast and do it quickly then get on with sailing the boat.


    You are always underpowered so you have to make the best use of the power you have. At all costs keep the boat moving.

    Keep your weight forward. Concentrate and feel the boat. Be as still as possible and move smoothly when you have to.

    Someone has to keep an eye out for zephyrs of wind, new breeze, clouds, smoke from chimneys, other boats upwind, or possible gain features.

    The tide or current is a bigger factor in light winds so keep that in mind in your strategic and tactical decision making.


    You cannot always have your rig set up perfectly every second of the race. Sometimes you are overpowered, sometimes you are underpowered.

    Practise sailing on the wrong rig settings sometimes, just to get used to it. Find the best ways to deal with being overpowered and underpowered.


    You are always overpowered so you need to know your best set-up: vang, cunningham, outhaul, jib fairlead position, etc.

    When do you start raising the centreboard - and how much?

    Stay upright and keep racing.

    Always practise in stronger winds than you might race in: you'll learn fast and give your gear a good test

    Clear, calm communication is vital, especially when something goes wrong or you break something.


    Tacking is a fundamental skill. Mastering it will give you more strategic and tactical options.

    Sharp tacking is your primary weapon in a boat-on-boat battle.

    You may tack more in a light wind race than you do in a breeze, so you have to do it well. 

    Go out on a really light day for a special tacking session. Find a way that works and keep grooving it. This is also a good opportunity to try some rudderless sailing.

    For the SailJuice.com article on using less rudder for more speed click here (paid content).


    Keep the mast dead upright and cross the boat as fast as possible.

    If you can tack, bear away, hoist, gybe and drop in 27 knots, you will do all of those better in 22 knots.

    A special manoeuvre for a port tack arrival at the first mark. Requires a tack (usually under pressure) and an immediate bearaway and hoist. 

    You can practise this (and your tight reaches, hoists and drops) using a simple loop around 2 marks set so that you can sail close-hauled on port from one to the other. Keep repeating your port tack approach and tack set manoeuvre, tight reach on starboard and a gybe-drop (or drop, 2-sail reach and gybe). 

    Change it up sometimes by doing the tack bear-away, then 2-sail reach across the top and gybe-set for the bottom mark. Then do a straight drop on port, round as tight as possible and start again. 

    Start with the marks far enough apart that it takes at least a minute to do the upwind leg, then move them closer as your manoeuvres become slicker.

    A quick set will give you extra distance on the people behind and allow you to attack those in front - either by rolling them or by gaining ground and staying low to pin them on starboard. 


    Bear away on starboard and hoist. Target: 6 seconds to set.


    When you need to protect or attack to windward straight after the mark.

    A good way to attack people in front and prevent those behind from pinning you. Can work particularly well in lighter airs when, to maintain speed, the boats in front may stay too high during the hoist. 

    There must be compelling strategic or tactical reasons to do this on a straight windward-leeward course.

    It is generally slower than a straight bear-away anyway - and it takes you away from the mark under any boats stacked up on the starboard layline. Have a good look too for any boats approaching the mark on port - you do not want to gybe to windward of them!

    When you gybe set in a race you have to do it perfectly. So practise it a lot, especially in windy weather.

    See this article in SailJuice.com for more about how to decide when to gybe set.

    Used when you really want to go off on port, but need to put some space in underneath the upwind boats on starboard. You might also do this if the boats in front have gybe-set or the boats behind have gone high.

    Make sure your crew knows what you are intending to do so they can be set up for the gybe straight after hoisting.

    Being quick downwind can be a devastating advantage, so you need to practise a lot! Pay close attention to your positions in the boat and how you move around. Work on communication between kite trimmer and helm, especially when there are waves to catch.

    Usually used tactically when you want to pin the boat in front, or stop the boat behind from pinning you.

    Do NOT use this technique if you have arrived too high at the leeward mark (especially in light wind): you will just stop dead. Instead, luff up for more speed and do 2 more gybes. It's faster and you may be able to attack the boat ahead - especially if you can establish an inside overlap before it reaches the zone.

    On a straight windward-leeward course this means as low as possible, as fast as possible: going up in the lulls to maintain speed and using gusts to dive as low as possible – and always making the best use of any available waves.

    On a reach it means always sailing at the maximum speed (up in the lulls, down in the gusts), yet staying close to the rhumb line. Keep your air clear but try not to be drawn up too much by people threatening you from behind.

    Apart from tight reaches required after a windshift, you may also need this skill in extreme tactical situations (luffing matches) - or when you have overstood the leeward mark on the run because you gybed too late, you plum.

    Work on your techniques to depower the main and the spinnaker without losing the rig.

    This can be extremely tricky, especially in strong winds. Learn the best set-up for your vang, centreboard, etc and practise, practise, practise.

    If you are doing this on a windward-leeward course, it probably means you gybed too late and overstood the leeward gate. So that person having an apoplectic fit in a nearby RIB is probably your coach, who has told you a million times to stay out of the corners in strong or shifty winds, even if it means an extra gybe or two. 



    Wide gybing angles.

    You have to move fast and lightly around the boat. Pull the kite through early and fast, roll the boat and tack the battens, set the kite and main nicely for maximum acceleration. Bear away to VMG course as soon as you are up to speed and settle down in the boat.

    Keeping the boat flat and crossing the boat fast are the essential skills.

    Asymmetric spinnaker: pull through or blow-through? 

    Clear communication is key.


    If you ever have to wear round (tack instead of gybe), sail far enough before you tack to ensure that you have space to bear away afterwards.


    After the start and first beat, this is the single biggest opportunity to gain distance and places - especially at a leeward gate.


    Practise on both gybes.

    With good training and a fast crew you can leave a gybe drop surprisingly late.

    This can be a great move if you come in fast on the layline - you will have an overlap on any boats on the opposite gybe outside the zone and will therefore have room at the mark. If you think they haven't seen you, hail early: you want room, not a collision and/or an evening in the Room.


    Practise on both gybes, both starboard and port roundings.


    If you need to take a penalty you have to perform it as fast as possible.

    Know the penalties: for instance, in a medal race a voluntary penalty may be just a gybe on an upwind leg or a tack on a downwind one, whereas an umpire-signalled penalty could be the full 360º turn.

    If you hit the mooring line of the Committee Boat after the start should you:

    a) Sail on regardless?

    b) Perform a penalty turn?

    c) Sail 'round the end' and restart?


    Tack first (unless it is very windy).


    Start with a gybe-drop.

    Stay upright and keep racing. 

    Safety first, but take control and don't be timid. 

    Always practise in stronger winds than you might race in. It's tiring and can be very wet but you will greatly extend your skills. Then if you have to race in survival conditions you'll be used to it - and when everybody is swimming you may win by righting your boat fastest (see the Capsize drill goal). You will also 'pressure test' your gear: if something's going to break, you want it to break in a training session, not in a race.

    Clear, calm communication is vital.

    A capsize is not a disaster, it's an obstacle to be overcome. Practise your technique in strong winds to make it as difficult as possible during training. And If you are really fast at righting your boat you will have an advantage when everyone else is swimming too.

    Don't get angry, get upright and carry on racing. You can go over what happened (calmly) to prevent a recurrence; save any detailed discussion for the evening debrief though.

    Sailboat racing has often been compared with chess. But the rules of the game are much simpler. There are only four questions you have to ask yourself:

    1. Where do I start?

    2. Shall I continue on this course or shall I tack (or gybe)?

    3. Shall I go fast (99% of the time this is yes!) - or shall I slow down? (Sometimes that actually pays off) 

    4. Shall I sail high or low?

    Simple questions that fill a library of answers.

    To get a handle on it you need to understand the difference between Strategy and Tactics.

    • Strategic decisions are based on a long term or 'big picture' view: predicting what the wind, waves and tide will be doing and deciding where to put yourself on the course 

    • Tactical decisions are more immediate: they are about managing risk when you engage your opponents or react to what they are doing.

    Whether you answer the four questions above based on strategic considerations or tactical ones depends on probabilities. Generally, it is safer to go for the tactical option and play a conscious risk game. If you take the least risk, but go just as fast as the others, you will on average come out on top - with the least frustration.

    On the other hand if there is something that is predictable, whoever predicts it best will benefit most. So to do this successfully you must make decisions based on sound strategy. 

    If in doubt, go for tactics: 'sail the fleet' and reduce the risks. But if there are predictable patterns with clear indicators (like a sea breeze), you have to sail strategically.

    Here is one example:

    You see a gust in front of you in a oscillating breeze. You know that you are on the high side of the oscillation. The fleet has tacked away after the start. Your tactical choice would be to go with them to avoid risk. But your strategic decision is to continue into the gust. You are not making a tactical mistake because this situation calls for the strategic view.

    Let’s say you are on a lift, but the band of breeze is still above you (you would need to tack to reach it). 

    Your tacking angle says: continue 

    Your eye for the breeze says: tack. 

    In such a situation, it’s hard to predict what will pay off. The lift? Or the gust (taking into account the extra two tacks, and the time sailing on a header). Instead of bringing your neocortex to a boiling point, make it simple by checking what the other boats are doing. If you go with them you may not gain; but by the same token you will not lose. Stick with them and wait for a better opportunity to attack. 

    This pattern of judging probabilities and making decisions based on either strategic or tactical considerations encapsulates the art of finding the best course throughout a race. 


    Some factors that affect your decisions about where to go on the course are:

    1. Venue knowledge, weather forecast and your own observations (including significant topography if the wind is offshore).
    2. Wind direction and strength.
    3. Time of High Water, current direction and strength during the race; any major changes over time or differences across the course.
    4. Sea condition and any differences in wave pattern across the course.
    5. Water temperature differences across the course.
    6. Preparatory flag? A more conservative start under black flag may affect how and where you start, and your options for the first beat.
    7. Start line position and angle
    8. Safe transits (and dynamic transits)
    9. Position of key opposition (mainly towards the end of the regatta)
    Play the other players!

    There are some excellent articles and interviews with experts in the Tactics section of SailJuice.com, including: 

    To make the most of tactical battles you must know the rules (World Sailing Racing Rules of Sailing). Sailing has to be self-policing, so we should ALL know the rules! We recommend learning Part 2 of the RRS by heart. 

    Even if you know the rules really well, try to stay out of ‘the [Jury] Room’ – after all, a protest can go either way; and you cannot control the outcome. You can however make sure you maximise your chances by presenting your case properly and being calm and polite at all times.

    There is more on protest technique in this Sailjuice.com interview with Chris Simon.

    Sailing in most classes is more of a mind game than a physical battle. Certainly the closer you get to the top in any class, the more your mental attitude matters. 

    Physical fitness does matter though – it directly affects how you handle your boat and how fast you can make it go in order to make the most of your decisions. What’s more, your mind works better if it is plugged onto a fit and healthy body. 

    You might have a bad day mentally, but you are still so fast that you win anyway. Or you can be perfectly attuned to the race but fail to spot the weed on your centreboard that holds you back - fundamentally undermining your "mind over matter" credo.

    Beware the stereotypes. Sailing is a sport that requires a strong tolerance for frustration and a good sense of humor. So much can go wrong: it’s not always mental failure - the best mind can have the worst of luck. 

    Check out the mental fitness subgoal for some more insights.

    The biggest single cause of mental breakdowns at the Olympics and other top events is flawed goal setting.

    Many athletes confuse the reward that is given for reaching a goal (the medal), with the goal that has to be reached to get the reward (mastery).

    You need to achieve mastery before anyone cheers. That's why your goal should be mastering the art not hearing the cheering. 

    Many athletes focus too much on results. They can’t stop thinking about glory. The closer they get to it the more they think about it. That is no surprise if glory had been their goal right from the start. If you put: "Winning a Gold Medal" in the centre of your goalscape, you should not be surprised to find yourself thinking about gold too much when you are at the Olympics.

    Stop focusing on results: instead, focus on the real goal of becoming the best you can be. That will give you the inner rewards that come with mastery (like experiencing Flow). On top of that you are more likely to reap the external rewards that come with success.

    Make mastering the art your central heartfelt goal. The rewards will come and you can enjoy them once they have arrived; but do not waste a second thinking about external rewards or glory while you are playing the game. Instead, look for the intrinsic reward in the immediate present, the 'peak experience' you can have when you sail in complete flow: doing what you truly love; and doing it as well as you can do it. 

    That is the spirit that will allow you perform at your absolute best – and achieve the best results you can.

    Know yourself.

    Think about a championship or a single race when you performed exceptionally well. How were you feeling before the event? How did you feel while racing? If you can reproduce that ‘winning mind’ you are well on the way to building a strong competitive approach – one that suits your personality.

    By being as organised and well-prepared as possible you will be more relaxed, reducing stress for yourself and those around you. For every aspect of your campaign, devise and document an effective process and stick to it. In adversity you can reduce the negative emotional impact by going back to your rational process.

    If you are the sort of person who needs to be 'fired up' to perform well, you must harness the power of your emotions so you are less explosive. Learn to focus your energy on the task at hand instead of wasting it by shouting and hitting things (you are less likely to hurt your hand too).

    There are some good articles in the Psychology section of SailJuice.com. 


    Research and learn some exercises for the following:

  • Regatta preparation and build-up
  • Mental rehearsal
  • Relaxation and meditation
  • Set aside time to practise them.

    Key factors in building a strong team:

    • Shared goals, commitment and drive. 
    • Clear, complete communication.
    • Relationships with each other, coaches, competitors, race officials, etc.
    • Intersecting interests outside sailing - including social activities.

    There are many articles on this subject in the Teamwork section of SailJuice.com.

  • Assess everyone in the team: devise and agree individual goal-oriented programmes.
  • Set specific targets for weight, strength and general fitness.
  • Train together as much as possible to encourage and push each other.
  • Report progress monthly or even weekly in the build-up to major regattas (you can even make it into a little competition between you).
  • Don't forget about balance exercises - even if you are the strongest crew in the world you're no use if you fall over every time you cross the boat.


    Key considerations:

  • Diet (training and competition)
  • Lifestyle, including social activities
  • Avoiding infections and illness
  • Sleep
  • ]]>
  • Strength and weight targets
  • Gym and other workouts
  • Class-specific exercises
  • Avoiding injury
  • Stretching
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Tai chi
  • Juggling?
  • Train as a team whenever possible - support each other and drive each other on. When the training hurts, just think how much easier it will be when you are racing!

    There are lots of articles about fitness and training on SailJuice.com, including this interview with Anna Tunnicliffe talking about The Pyramid of Pain.