The Sailing Cycle: Manage Your Thought Process

Starve your distractions; feed your focus


How well do you manage your thought process on the race course? Do you focus on one element of racing at the expense of others? Do you dwell on negative self-talk? Does your mind wander?

SailZing asked Zack Clayton, of Dimension-Polyant, to share his “sailing cycle” approach. He has taught this approach to youth sailors and adults. Zack is an ILYA MC Champion and two-time MC nationals runner-up.  

Zack Clayton’s Sailing Cycle

The Sailing Cycle is something I put together when I was coaching youth sailing. I wanted to know what the top sailors I knew were thinking about while racing and whether this made a difference in their end results.

Top sailors have many different things running through their minds at any time, but most had the items below in their answers. I used this list for the youth sailors to keep them on track and not get “lost” on the racecourse. Using the cycle helps avoid doing one segment perfectly but still not achieving the desired results.

Below is the cycle I feel one should think about during the racing event:

  • Angle of Heel
  • Sail Trim
  • Favored Tack/Gybe
  • Breeze up the course
  • Position on course relative to marks
  • Position on course relative to the fleet
  • Boat to boat convergence

This cycle takes less than 15 seconds to run through. What happens to many people is either one portion of this cycle becomes dominant and the others fall away, or other thoughts leak into the skipper’s mind while racing that completely eliminate this cycle. These thoughts are clearly different for each and every skipper, but if you have a baseline to come back to, you never get too far away from the true needs of the sailboat race.

Related Content:

Tactical Intelligence: Manage Your Thought Process – slightly different approach from John Bertrand
The Dirty Dozen Mental Skills of Sailing – from Reaching Ahead, a mental performance blog
Get Your Head out of the Boat!

Sailors Helping Sailors

Will you share your knowledge with your related Comments below?

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