System Sailing 2.4 - Communicate

June 2, 2020

Effective communication is arguably one of the top things that teams do to gel and perform better on the racecourse. Lucky for you, putting in a little bit of work on your team’s communication goes a long way. So if you feel your team is lacking in this department, start with some of these ideas and slowly build a system that works for you. You will be amazed how quickly your sailing improves and how much more enjoyable your time on the water is. This section's playbook includes forms to help guide your pre- and post-race communication. Here are the different types of communication I will cover:

  • Morning dock talk 
  • Pre-race communication
  • Race communication
    • Speed
    • Information
    • Mechanical
  • Post-race debrief
  • Crew share document



I suggest setting boat call time about 15 minutes before you plan to leave the dock. You should also plan to leave the dock with enough time to arrive at the racecourse area one hour prior to the warning signal. 
The morning talk should include:

  • Goals 
  • Weather and wind
  • Tide and current
  • Sails
  • Rig tune
  • Pre-race plan

Shortly after this talk, prepare to leave the dock and head out to the racecourse. Often this time is used to relax and get mentally prepared for the race. Prior to reaching the race area, adjust the rig to match conditions and prepare necessary sails for hoist. Once you’ve made it to the racecourse, hoist the main and back down to clear the rudder and keel of debris. When you’re ready to sail upwind, hoist the jib and begin collecting your information for the day.


The information you collect in the pre-race stage will help you make good decisions related to speed and tactics during the race. Try to find a good competitor to sail upwind with and then sail upwind for 20 minutes, tacking roughly every five minutes, and then sail downwind for 20 minutes, gybing every five minutes. Leave about 10 minutes for starting line homework and 10 minutes to hydrate and prepare for the warning signal. 
Pre-race communication should include: 

  • Speed
    • Target speed
    • Rig tune
    • Trim
  • Wind
    • Shift type
    • Speed
    • Real time vs prediction
  • Boat Handling
    • Tacking and jibing 
    • Hoisting and dousing
  • Starting
    • Pinging
    • Current and tide
    • Skew
    • Lay line
    • Range


After the start, the team divides into three groups, each with its own communication topics. The goal of race communication is to focus each of the three groups on a specific topic and compile information to create a clear picture of the race.

  • Speed group communicates where you are relative to your targets during the race (slower/faster) as well as trim and other adjustments that need to be made in order to meet desired targets. 
  • Information group communicates performance, how you are doing relative to other boats, and racecourse conditions such as wind and waves.
  • Mechanical group communications come from the bow, pit, and trimmers, sharing any issues they may have or running through mechanics of a maneuver.


Shortly after the race, clean up the boat and enjoy each other’s company until docked. Take a few minutes to jot down your personal thoughts in your wet notes to share with the group later. Once at the dock, it’s time to discuss the race. This discussion should include:

  • Sail selection
  • Rig tune
  • Boat handling
  • Performance
  • Targets
  • Wet notes
  • Instruments
  • Work list


Lastly, the crew share document compiles all the information from each meeting you’ve held so far, including notable comments from wet notes and sail shape photos. I’ve found it’s best to have one crew member assemble all the information and send it out to the team for added comments. Google Doc is a good online application for creating and sharing the document. The crew share document should include:

  • Comments on sails and performance, including photos of sail shape and instruments
  • Comments on targets relative to conditions
  • Decision-making
  • Boat handling
  • Crew performance
  • Crew responsibilities
  • System improvements
  • Detailed work list with assigned crew
  • Fitness goals
  • Sailing schedule
  • Timing for next event (boat call)

If you need any recommendations for how to format debrief information or the crew share document, please reach out to Wally Cross.

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