Jim Saltonstall’s 10 Aspects of Sailing

Modern technology is pretty amazing. My teenaged-self would not have believed that we'd all be walking around with touchscreen computers in our pockets, or that my car would be able to tell me which route would be best to take based on current traffic.

It really is kind of incredible.

And one of the best (and worst) things about the modern world is that there is access to so much information. Before, if you wanted to know what an expert thought about a particular subject you'd have to either

  • be lucky enough to live near them;
  • make a big life decision and go and study under them;
  • hope they wrote a book. And then read it; or
  • write them a letter and hope they replied.

Now, though, we can just look them up on the internet and see what interviews and lectures they've done, we can order their books to be delivered instantly onto our Kindles (or maybe get the audio version), and we can look up any articles they've written.

So when one of the most successful sailing coaches ever has a seminar available on YouTube you can imagine just how widely viewed it must be.

And you'd be right.

It isn't widely viewed at all.

151 views at the time of writing in fact. (And probably 5% of those views were me making notes for this post.)

Of course, the reason for the lack of views is obvious as soon as you see the screenshot image.

Those curtains! My eyes!

If Oscar Wilde thought his wallpaper was bad then I dread to think what he'd have made of the drapery at Staunton Harold Sailing Club.

I do, however, encourage you to brave the interior decoration and have a watch. The talk covers what Jim considers to be the "10 aspects of the most challenging sport in the world". Unfortunately, in keeping with the little flaws in modern technology (and those of us that use it) we only get as far as number 9, but it would be a very ungrateful to complain - I'm just delighted that they recorded it and put it on YouTube.

The talk is delivered with Jim's usual humour and directness and describes very succinctly his philosophy on coaching sailing.

The ten aspects, in order of importance are:

  1. Self Preparation
  2. Boat Preparation
  3. Boat Handling
  4. Boat Tuning
  5. Race Strategy
  6. Starting
  7. Tactics
  8. Racing Rules
  9. Compass Work
  10. Meteorology

There are lots of useful hints, tips and comments throughout the lecture, some of which I've captured in the video notes below, but if you really want some proper detail he covers all these topics much more thoroughly in his Race Training book.

And if you still need some extra encouragement to watch the video then you could always play the drinking game I've invented. Simply select your favourite beverage and follow the table below:

Whenever You Hear: You have to Drink:
“With all due respect” 1 finger
“9 laces up the rectum” 3 fingers
“Mark my words” 1 finger
“Ferrets” 2 fingers
“Do you get the idea?” 1 finger
“Getting out of the ferret trap” 2 fingers
“Among the chocolates at the windward mark” 2 fingers
“Down the tube and round the S-bend” 2 fingers

I haven't played the game myself yet, and I suspect that if you use alcoholic beverages then these may add up to lethal doses, so I perhaps in hindsight you should not under any circumstances actually play the drinking game.

You'll learn a lot more if you don't, and you'll definitely have a clearer memory of what is said if you lay off the booze.

Lecture Notes on Jim's 10 Aspects of Sailing

Each of these topics gets a full chapter in Jim's book, Race Training with Jim Saltonstall, so there is far greater detail available there. He also includes chapters on Race management and Race Training Programmes, which help you to add a little structure to any practice you might do.

You can read my review here.

That said, though, the talk provides loads of good stuff, and plenty to get you started on a basic structure for your improvements for the next sailing year.

Self Preparation (1min 15sec)

Make sure you are sailing the "right" boat -

  • Can you be competitive across the wind range, from 3 knots to 30 knots?
  • Do you have the correct bodyweight and strength?

Sailing Psychology

  • Use it, but only as much as is necessary.


  • Keep It Simple, Sailor


  • Confidence is essential to doing well
  • Need to work on being confident that you can do well
  • The way to having this confidence is to complete a training program that is at the right level and covers all 10 aspects of sailing
  • Manage expectations - never expect anything. Don't be over-confident as mistakes start creeping in. The best sailors tend to aim for the top 10.

Boat Preparation (11mins 30sec)

Make sure the boat is ready to race

  • Don't fall into the trap of having a boat that may not measure - always have the boat within the class rules
  • But Do have the boat as good as or better than anyone else (again, within the class rules)
  • Go through some "What if?" scenarios relating to your level of racing

Boat Handling (14mins 15 sec)

  • Practice, practice, practice
  • You must plan and make time for the necessary practice
  • This relates to all sailors - the work must start at club level

Boat Tuning (16mins)

  • You have to be able to go fast in a straight line
  • More important for some classes than for others - be realistic about how much it matters
  • Understand your controls and what they do

Race Strategy (19mins 45secs)

  • Understand the geography, tide, surface current, etc.

Starting (21mins 25 secs)

  • Need to be in the right place at the right time
  • The side of the beat that you want to sail up determines the 3rd of the line that you want to start in
  • It is possible, with the correct information, to know which 3rd of the line you will start in before you leave the shore(!)
  • Front row, clear wind

Tactics (23mins 45secs)

  • Three types of tactics - Boat to boat, boat to group and boat to fleet
  • KISS - 1)Start; 2) Consolidate; 3)Stay between the opposition and the next mark

Racing Rules (25mins 25secs)

  • Although there are 91 rules in sailing, there are 5 fundamental ones that we must know
  • There are also 20 definitions that we must know
  • Then learn rules 10 to 24
  • You must also know Rule 60 - how to handle a protest
  • This must happen at club level - do it when it doesn't matter so you have the skills if you need them when it does matter

Compass Work (29mins 45secs)

  • You should learn to use a compass (even if you don't normally need it) so that when you need it you have the skills

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