Illegible Nonsensical Scribbles

Do you make notes after sailboat races about what you have learned? Do you ever go back and study those notes?

I have to confess that I am very disorganized about keeping notes about my sailing. I do have a pile of notebooks in which, over the years, I have occasionally scribbled jottings about training sessions, races, sailing clinics, sailing vacations etc. etc. But I have not been very consistent in recording everything I have learned and I rarely go back and read my notes. Not to mention that all the notes are almost illegible on account of my terrible handwriting, and most of the reports seem to be about trivia which are of no practical use to me now.

For example, it’s not a lot of help in becoming a better sailor right now to read that one day somewhere some time, “Richard won all 3 races mainly by being faster downwind – said he was 65kg – I was 2,3,2.” And it’s even less useful to be reminded that in 2010, somewhere in the Caribbean, for dinner I had “barramundi with ginger/orange sauce followed by bread and butter pudding.”

Seriously, what was I thinking? I have no idea who Richard was – and even if I did I don’t plan to get my weight down to 65kg … but I do still like bread and butter pudding.

However, buried among pages and pages of useless undecipherable drivel, there are a few gems of knowledge. Stuff that I had been told by a coach or learned from my own experience, and have since totally forgotten. So I am thinking I might start writing a series of blog posts about these tips, to share them with others and, no less important, to help me to remember them. Tillerman’s Top Tips perhaps?

And I do resolve to be more consistent, more organized, more focused – and more legible – in making notes about my sailing in future. I plan to start by trying a method to analyze races that Michael O’Brien has written about on his AeroNautic blog. Check out What Cost Me Time.

What about you? Do you do post-mortems about each day’s racing? Do you keep notes about what you have learned? Do you have any advice on how to make the notes actually useful?



  • I suffer same issue – lots of notes, but little of it is actionable. Would be great to find out what is “best practice”. Some ideas:

    Boat things – keep a running list of repairs and improvements
    Boatspeed ideas – how to improve sail trim, rig tuning, etc.
    Tactical notes – boat-vs-boat moves that worked (or didn’t)
    Wind and weather – your strategy, what the wind did, etc.
    Other – everything else; e.g. boat handling

    Ideally, for every race, you would have your race position at every mark with the reason for gain/loss. And some way to summarise it to spot pattern. E.g. in the last 2 years, I have gotten rolled on the first reach 30% of the time, losing 3 places (in >F4). Action: have new process around top mark (e.g. sail high if boats behind) to avoid getting rolled in breeze on 1st reach ….

    • Thanks Dan. I am glad I am not the only one who takes notes but is not doing much to review and action them.

      I like your suggestions of categories of what to include in the notes. Without a checklist (mental or otherwise) like that it is easy to forget to record some important things.

      “Wind and weather” is a good one that I too often forget. After sailing at some venues for many years I ought to be a walking encyclopedia of local knowledge on what works and doesn’t work in various conditions by now – but without the discipline to take notes after each day’s racing and to study them for patterns I am in no better shape than someone new to that venue.

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