Campaign 101 Part 1: Getting Started

This is the first part of a six-part series written by Dave Dellenbaugh. It is the backbone of what we do here at Clever Pig. If you just can’t wait for all six parts, you may download the entire series as a PDF.

What’s a Campaign?

Sailing campaigns come in all shapes and sizes. The most well-known campaigns involve challenging and high-profile goals such as winning the America’s Cup or an Olympic gold medal. These types of campaigns often last for several years, or even longer! And they usually require a full-time commitment to sailing, planning and fund-raising!

However, a sailing campaign can also be much shorter and simpler. It might involve only one sailor and one regatta, campaign typesand last for just a few days or weeks. For example, you might decide to train for three weeks in order to win your Laser District Championship. Or you could plan to race at several local regattas to prepare for the Optimist Nationals.

The dictionary defines a campaign as “a systematic course of activities for some specific purpose.” This means any time you make a sailing plan with a goal in mind, you are basically organizing a campaign. In fact, many sailors organize sailing campaigns without even knowing it.

The purpose of putting together a “campaign” is to help you achieve a particular goal. Your chances of success are much better if you make an organized plan about how to get from where you are now to where you want to go. That’s what cleverpig.org is all about.

Why Campaign?

This guide is all about how to organize a great sailing campaign, whether you are trying to win a national championship or an Olympic gold medal. But before we talk about the how of campaigning, an important question is why? Why would anyone want to get involved in something that requires such hard work, costs so much money and is incredibly challenging? The reason is all the intangible benefits and the skills you learn. You have to view a campaign as a long-term learning process rather than just something you do for a momentary result. If you can maintain that perspective, you may find that, in the long run, the rewards are worth the effort.

Top 10 Reasons to organize a sailing campaign:

10. Better than getting a real job (though it might be more work!).
9. Be your own boss.
8. Being on the water every day will give you a great tan.
7. You might even go to the Olympics!
6. Learn useful life skills such as planning, strategizing and pursuing goals.
5. It’s a lot of fun to go sailing and racing almost every day.
4. Meet lots of new people and make good friends.
3. Learn business skills like asking for money, marketing yourself and budgeting.
2. Get to travel and see the world.
1. Come away with memories that last a lifetime.

A great recollection from a former Olympic campaigner

“Twenty years ago my Olympic bid finished, yet it seems like yesterday. Memories of trips across America, South America, Europe and Asia are vivid and pleasing. And many of the great people we met I still call friends. “ 

Brad-HLRFew memories are of individual regattas (except the ones we won of course). Most are of moments like a Danish border guard telling us, “You are not taking that piece of junk into my country,” referring to the rusted-out American station wagon we had just shipped to Europe; or a teammate being dragged around Hyeres, France, in celebration of his 21st birthday; or the day the US team first arrived at the sailing venue in Korea for the 1987 Pre-Olympics. We had been told it was a light-air venue but when they opened the bus door, we all got blown back inside. Oops! There are hundreds more stories!

While making our bid back in the 80s, it was all very noble – we were doing it for our country. Indeed we were, but little did we know that those four years would shape our lives and our identities for a long, long time. With all that said, it was also the hardest four years of my life – both physically and emotionally. But to anyone with Olympic or world-level aspirations, I say go for it. The experience will forever define who you are.”

Once you decide that a sailing campaign is something you want to do, give it everything you’ve got! That’s what this website is all about.

Making a Plan

“The good sailors all know how to race very well, but the champions have won the regatta before the racing begins.” 

– Paul Elvstrom, considered the greatest sailor in the sport and winner of four consecutive Olympic Gold Medals

“If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Half measures will avail you nothing!”

– Joe Duplin, considered one of the best college coaches; coached at Tufts in the 70’s and produced many collegiate All Americans and national champions 

Making-a-PlanThe purpose of putting together a “campaign” is to help you achieve a particular goal.

Your chances of success are much better if you make an organized Plan about how to get from where you are now to where you want to go.

It’s fair to say that “planning” is not everyone’s favorite pastime. It is also just as fair to say that many very talented sailors, particularly sailors in their teens, have never come close to realizing their potential because they never took the time to plan their sailing involvement and growth; or they didn’t work very hard at all the non-sailing aspects of improving themselves as sailors.

Paul Elvstrom and Joe Duplin had it right (see quotes above).

Clever Pig is designed to help you make the best, most realistic, plan you can make.

Sections include topics from picking a class, to choosing a coach, to setting a budget and raising money, to finding dates for events, to learning about venues around the country… and much more.

Your Plan begins with a blank sheet of paper, a pen and a calendar. You can make the Plan by yourself, or with your teammate(s). You can also get help from parents, coaches, experienced sailors you know, and so on.

On the blank page you should create at least the following major sections:

  1. Your Goals. What would you like to accomplish in one year? five years? ten years?
  2. The Steps. What are the “steps” to accomplishing your one year, five year, ten year goals?
  3. Execution. What do you have to do right now to take the “steps” toward your goals? (read through this guide completely for lots of ideas and information!)

Obviously the big action items will include:

  • Create a budget
  • Create a resume
  • Choosing the class of boat you will race
  • Choosing a teammate (can be another singlehanded sailor you are “teaming” up with)
  • Deciding which events to go to
  • Making plans for training for those events
  • Organizing for some advanced coaching
  • Doing all the logistical stuff for all of the above (plans for travel, housing, food, training sites, etc., etc.)

Get a Year-at-a-Glance schedule and write in all your commitments and desired events (school, family and job obligations, training sessions, etc.)