System Sailing 1.3 - Season Plan & Goals

May 1, 2020

Everything about sailing can be viewed with numbers. All the numbers we discuss in System Sailing are filed in the left side of the brain. Once this data is applied and we use the right side of the brain, the learning process is completed. The goal with System Sailing is to improve your system with every race.

However, before you can put the sailing-with-numbers approach to work on the water, you need to make sure you have a solid foundation. The first three parts will help you take an organized and systematic approach to your boat, team, plans, and goals. With a solid foundation, your performance and experience on the water will be an accurate reflection of your skills and growth. It’s truly the key to success and enjoyment on the water.

Use the playbook, the video, and the below deep dive to create a plan for your foundation that works for your program and goals. And never hesitate to reach out to me with any questions. Also, don't miss out on our interviews with different programs about how they handle their teams and crews.


Now that we’ve discussed the what and the who, it’s time to discuss the motivation behind the madness. It’s the reason you may even be learning about System Sailing and taking the time to read this article right now – goals. Whether you’ve got your sights set on a special cruising trip at the end of the summer or are building up to a North American Championship Regatta, goals are essential. 

Season Goals

Begin your planning and goal setting by thinking of your end goal. Ask yourself, what do I want to accomplish with my crew this season? Maybe you just got a new boat and you’d like everyone to feel comfortable and sail smoothly together by the end of the season. Maybe you want to get your kids involved this summer. Maybe you want to finish in the top half of the fleet at the final regatta of the summer. These types of over-arching goals are called outcome goals and it will take a lot of work to achieve them, but it will be worth it in the end. 

Process and Performance Goals

Once you’ve chosen your ultimate goal, move backwards from there and decide what your smaller process and performance goals will be. These could be related to boat maintenance, crew selection, practice goals, and individual regatta goals to name a few. The key here is that setting these smaller goals should help you build up to accomplishing your ultimate goal. 

For racers looking to take it to the next level, it may be a good idea to outline a practice schedule and work on goals for each practice session. Keep your practice goals specific and focused to maximize the entire crew’s time on the water. Meet with the team at the end of each practice to debrief what you all learned and what you want to continue working on.  

Planning Your Equipment for Success

As mentioned in Section 1.1, make sure your boat is in the best condition possible. We do not want equipment to stand in the way of you and your goals. Even if you can’t make it perfect this year, do what you can, and set a goal to make continued improvements over the next few years. Running rigging and instruments should be in good condition as well.

Consider what sails you may need in order to accomplish your ultimate goal. A big piece of this is building sail plan crossover charts. Say you’d like to sail the Chicago to Mackinac Race, so you do some research and see that some years it can be a light air race. Building from your research, you will want to look at your full inventory of sails and make sure you have the best possible combination onboard to sail fast in the given conditions. If you truly think it will be a light air year, maybe that means leaving a heavy genoa at home and taking a code zero instead. If it is a heavy air year, maybe leave the light air spinnakers at home. Looking at your sail plan can also help you start to think about polars and what sail is best for the current conditions to help you reach your maximum speed. 

Making sail crossover charts can be a game changer for both racing and cruising. If you’re cruising somewhere that you know is traditionally downwind, maybe you should consider a cruising asymmetrical spinnaker! It can make the trip quicker and a lot more fun. If you know you’ll pass through some bad weather on the trip, make sure you have your storm sails ready. Crossover charts show you how to work with what you have in your arsenal, and can also illuminate potential gaps in the form of additional sails you may want to add when you have time and money to do so. Ultimately, make sure your equipment is focused on your end goal.

For help creating sail crossover charts contact Wally Cross or your local sail consultant.

Setting SMART Goals

No matter what your goals are or how many you’ve decided to set, make sure they are SMART. SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

  • Specific - Make your goals as detailed as possible, outlining exactly what you want to accomplish.
  • Measurable - How will you know when you’ve accomplished your goals? This is the metric.
  • Attainable - Try to set goals that are under your control to achieve. It is good to set the bar high, but not so high that it is impossible.
  • Relevant - Does this goal you’re setting align with some of your other goals? Maybe you and your crew have a common goal?
  • Time bound – Set a deadline so you can get to work!

Don’t forget to assess your progress along the way and make necessary adjustments. Goal setting is a dynamic process. The playbook for this section provides you with plenty of space and guidance in documenting your goals so you can hit the water determined and focused.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about something mentioned above, contact Wally Cross.

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The Discussion

Harry Collins
Harry Collins

Hi, The playbook download link on this page gives "1.1 The Boat" instead not "1.3 Season plans & Goals" Wondering if it could be fixed or I could get a link to the 1.3 playbook?