Jennifer and Deborah – Team Tiger Tale – Tuning Up Before Racing!

As 2016 looms large, I’m looking forward to the New Year and to new opportunities. And since, in the winter months, New England conditions dictate that I revert to becoming an “armchair sailor,” one of my great delights is reflecting on the sailing season just past, and looking ahead to next year and the things I’d like to accomplish.

This is where my sailing notebook comes in handy. I know that I’ve written previously about the merits of using a notebook, but I think it’s worth mentioning again just how useful it can be. For example, this past year I experimented quite a lot with relatively subtle things, and was pleasantly surprised in reading my notebook to look back and realize just how much I had learned. Really important stuff, too. I find that if I don’t write these things down, I will most surely forget them, and so reading back through my notebook gives me the opportunity to reflect upon what worked and what didn’t, and thus, to identify where there is unfinished work. It’s also a really great way to remember those juicy little “nuggets” you may have forgotten – you know, the “go-fast” secrets you discovered last summer, or the simple but really useful advice your fleet-mates shared that you thought for sure you’d remember. After you’ve gotten another season of racing under your belt, looking back at what you learned over the past year can help you solidify and appreciate new skills, and to see how they fit into your bigger picture and your new plan going forward.

So how should you be thinking about your goal setting for 2016? Here’s a simple strategy for getting started, one that has always worked for me. There are 5 goal-setting steps I use for all my “projects” – whether it’s a personal development goal, becoming a better writer, becoming a more competitive sailor, striving to be a better parent, or just about anything one might imagine. In case you’d like to explore further, I shared a more detailed account of this in a post I wrote earlier this year called How to be Your Own Coach. 

Here are the 5 steps I use in developing my goal setting plan (don’t skip any!):

  1. Figure out what’s holding you back.
    • If you don’t know what the problem is, you can’t fix it.
  2. Identify your goals.
    • Decide exactly what you’d like to accomplish.
  3. Don’t look too far ahead.
    • Focus on the most pressing problems first.
  4. Reevaluate.
    • Analyze how things are going and reevaluate if necessary.
  5. Repeat.
    • It’s a never-ending process!

Yes, personal goal setting in sailing is important, but don’t forget, too, that your fleet can and should have goals of its own. Our racing fleet has grown quite a lot these past few years and includes some extremely gifted sailors among its ranks. With more boats, and more seasoned racers, the competition on the race course has become much more challenging – and therefore more fun. I personally learn so much every time we race – and most especially if I’m not in first place!  Trying to catch a boat makes you analyze absolutely everything. Why do some people foot so much, while others seem to point at all costs? Which works better? When? Why? Which set-up for the topping lift is easiest to maneuver? Why do my tacks slow me down so much? Would bending on the sails a little differently make them perform better? How do the other skippers do this?

Team Beverly brings home the trophy! (photo by Anne Converse)

Our fleet at work – bringing the H Class team trophy back to Beverly! (photo by Annie Converse)

Luckily, our particular fleet culture encourages the more skillful sailors to help the others. Our collective goal as a fleet has been to build the fleet, and to help every member of it become the best sailor and racer they can be. For example, the “elder statesman” of our fleet has written an excellent tuning guide, and has helped many of us learn how to rig and tune our little gaff-rigged boats. The entire fleet spends time together after racing to talk about who was successful on the race course, and why, and to discuss the racing rules in action (and any misunderstandings), which helps everyone improve, and keeps people thinking. I’m proud to say that we’ve worked hard and have come a long way together over the past several seasons; after all, what could be better than having more boats on the course, empowered and knowledgeable racers, and a true sense of camaraderie and belonging among the fleet members? Looking ahead, I’m absolutely sure that our 2016 sailing season will be a great one for each and every one of us.

And in the meantime, what about that long New England winter ahead? I’m happy to report that Jen and I – “Team Tiger Tale” – will get a very welcome respite from our by-the-fire armchair sailing: we’ll be racing a Bullseye this April in the Bullseye Nationals in Key Largo – a new boat to figure out, a new venue, and lots of things to discover, which will make it all the more fun.

And yes – you can bet we’ll bring our notebook!

Deborah Bennett Elfers
I was practically born on a boat, though on a working lobster boat rather than a sailboat. In my early days, I sailed quite a lot on a Sunfish, but not very elegantly, as in our little neighborhood “fleet,” the boat was primarily used as a weapon in a wildly popular game of “kill the other guy!” Who could have imagined way back then, that one day I’d become so passionate about all things sailing?
Deborah Bennett Elfers
Deborah Bennett Elfers

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