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James Ripley Blog: Self Coaching

This month I have been doing some coaching again – working with Toppers at Paignton Sailing Club. Whilst coaching is pretty common for junior and youth sailors, and of course in the professional sphere, not many amateur adult sailors competing in club races or open events receive much coaching. I am sure there are many reasons for this but I would assume that cost and time are chief among them. There are plenty of books written by far more knowledgeable persons than myself that look at how best to coach yourself but in this post, I plan to briefly look at how you would go about improving your sailing, and what equipment would be useful. Before I write myself out of a job though, may I point out that getting professional coaching need not be expensive. If you can get a group together at your local club of half a dozen or so boats, a weekend training at the start of the season can improve your sailing no-end. If you are interested in private coaching, please let me know.

  • Make a plan – at the start of the season, make a list of the series’ and events that you would like to compete in and your main aims for each. Make sure to have a mixture of ‘target’ events and ‘training’ events. For example, if your main aim for the season is to finish in the top 10 at your classes’ National Championships, find a club regatta or series beforehand in which you don’t mind where you finish but can use for practice. Before these training events, target something in particular you want to work on, and practice that skill – don’t worry if it costs you places overall as this is just a training regatta. For example, if you are not so good at pin-end starts, challenge yourself to start there every race, regardless of the bias.

  • Get a waterproof video camera – good coaches will always take a lot of video of boats to show sailors and analyse later. A professional team like Land Rover BAR have cameras all over their race boat, on RIBs and drones. Whilst a setup like this is very costly, a single, cheap waterproof video camera is now fairly affordable and can provide invaluable information when working alone. The best position for a camera is as far aft as possible, looking forwards so that you can see the horizon and all sailors on board. I’ve found that on some boats, the tiller or underside of the boom are good mounting points but there are now a variety of mounts available which allow the camera to be positioned aft of the transom – this is ideal.

  • Get a TracAce™ GPS – even better when there are a few other boats of the same class that you are racing that have them. A GPS tracer like TracAce™ can be used the review tactical and strategical decisions as well as looking at sailing angle and manoeuvre times and speeds. If you have access to meteorological data as well, a GPS tracker can help you improve on your polar diagrams.

I am available to coach individuals or groups at their local sailing club or at my base in Paignton. I can also organise evening talks on a wide variety of subjects. However, if you are working by yourself, feel free to message me questions or send me some video and I will be happy to help you out free of charge. The best way to do this is via my Facebook page (

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