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Try This Goal Setting Technique For Sailboat Racing

Wednesday, February 07, 2018 1:30 PM | Anonymous

by Meghan Williams

While most people were making their resolutions for the new year, sailboat racers put pen to paper and listed out their goals for the upcoming race season. What else are we supposed to do when it’s cold outside, right? It doesn’t matter if we are brand new at racing or if we’ve been racing for years, as athletes we are always looking to find that edge over our competition.

It’s great to set goals, but just like resolutions, if we do not give ourselves a specific plan then we set ourselves up for failure.

For example, you say your goal for this year is to win the Women’s Regatta. How are you going to do that? Do you think that is the best goal you can set for yourself or do you think you can dig deeper?

If you have experience, reflect on the sailing seasons passed. What worked? What didn’t? What would you like to try? If you are a beginner - evaluate yourself. Look for online sailing quizzes, read books, talk with other racers and give yourself a thorough assessment so you know where to begin when goal setting.  Perhaps this season you are not going to focus on personal development, but rather your crew or fleet has goals of its own.

When thinking about your goals for this season consider using the S.M.A.R.T system.

Specific – Think of this as your mission statement and include answers to the “W” questions – who, what, where, etc.

Measurable – Use metrics to track and analyze your progress.

Attainable – Set goals that are achievable based on your skills and circumstances.

Relevant – Make your goal consistent with your overall plan.

Timely – Set realistic target dates and milestones to ensure the success of attaining your goal.

Here is an example of a goal. (Remember, goals can be big or small. It’s all about what drives you. Racing is fun, not rigid!)

Goal – As races are won or lost by seconds, I would like to improve my tacking skills to reduce speed loss and drag.

Specific – Reduce speed loss and drag during tacks. 

Measurable – I can measure tack timing, boat speed loss or gain. I can look for things such as - are my Jib cars in the correct place, is my jib over/under trimmed, how are the tell tales moving when a tack begins, what is my boat position after a tack, etc.?

Attainable – I work during the day so I can’t get to the club every night to practice. I’ll commit to one or two days spread out in May where I will spend 4 hours on the water just tacking.

Relevant – Shaving seconds off my tacking time can give me an advantage and put me ahead of another boat.

Timely – I expect after 8 hours of just tacking practice in addition to Tuesday night races, I will attain my goal by mid-season.

As much as sail racing is a team sport, it is also very individualized. You are bringing your expertise to the boat so focus your goal setting on what YOU can improve, perfect or continue. Setting up a SMART plan forces you to commit to yourself. Most important, have fun! Best laid plans can often change so be adaptable. Remember, a bad day on the water is still a better day anywhere else!

So before going out and spending thousands of dollars on new sails, equipment, etc. to win the regatta, think about a better plan for your goal.

Some goals that sailboat racers love to set are based on:

Strategy, Tactics, Mental and Physical Fitness, Boat Handling, Team Building, etc.

In sailing we love analogies so here is one to leave with you:

Goal setting is like taking a survey of the race course before the start. Where is the wind? Where is the mark?Which end of the start line is favored, etc.? If you do not map out where you want to go and why, you’re likely going to miss the mark.

We have just a few more months before we fill our sails with wind. Leave a comment and share what goals, areas of improvement or continuation you or your crew will be working on this season.


NCWSA encourages women to become more actively involved in sailboat racing through regattas and clinics, and to create a spirit of good fellowship among members. 


Hosted by Edgewater Yacht Club, NCWSA provides scheduled races, educational meetings, and social events throughout the year.  Although NCWSA is dedicated to the development and training of women sailors, NCWSA encourages men to be active in coaching, training, race committee, and other supportive roles.

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