You’re the tactician! Now what?

Published on June 21st, 2020

by Chris Snow, The Favored End

“Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.” – Aesop’s fables.

If you have raced on sailboats for some time, one job you might aspire to is fill the role of tactician. Every boat with a crew of more than one must have a tactician or one person who is in charge of making decisions on where the boat gets placed on the race course and how.

I can tell you with 100% certainty that decision making by committee while racing does not work. There are way too many other jobs on the boat that must be done well all the time to make decision making by consensus effective.

So, for all you aspiring tacticians, here’s hoping your wish comes true and let’s take a look at some skills and techniques you can use to succeed in that position.

Before we get into how to be an effective tactician let’s first look at what the role is and isn’t so we have a clear picture of the tasks the tactician takes on while racing.

All successful sailing teams are made of a group of individuals, who by performing the tasks assigned to them as individuals, become greater than the sum of their parts. The tactician on a racing boat is merely one of the roles. Here are some similar roles from other sports and business for you to consider:

• Conductor of an orchestra
• Play calling quarterback in football
• Point guard in basketball
• Operations manager in business
• Sales manager in business
• Dugout manager in baseball

The tactician is not the CEO or the skipper of the boat. I think it is very important to think and act like the tactician is simply another important role on the team, no more, no less. With this attitude grounding your actions you are sure to build a supportive team around you.

Assuming you are new to this role, let’s take a look at things a good tactician will do at various points of a regatta and race. Full report.

Editor’s note: Chris launched The Favored End earlier this year as a business to help sailors improve and grow in the sport. For details, contact him at

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