Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intro to Match Racing

Match Race is a specific type of sailboat racing. Unlike most sailing races, where a bunch of boats sail as a fleet, each race in a Match Race Event involves only two boats. The course is also much shorter and simpler then in the fleet races. The goal behind introducing this type of racing is to make sailing much more easier to follow for spectators. It is clearly being accomplished as manifested in the growing interest in sailing, best seen in the coverage that the infamous America's Cup event gets these days. Sailing rules used in match racing, as well as guidelines for organizing events are governed by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). Besides being the governing body for the sport of sailing, it also maintains a ranking of sailors both in fleet and match racing. I strongly recommend checking their web site for all matters on sailboat racing.

The boats used in match racing depends on the event. The only requirement is that the boats should be one-design, i.e. there should be no significant differences among the boats sailed by the two competitors. Usually, small racing keelboats/yachts such as J24, Melges or Beneteau 24 are preferred.

While, the specifics are different for each event, a typical Match Race includes 8-10 teams. These race each other in a similar format like in football tournaments. First, teams are divided in two groups and within each group everybody sails against each other. Then, top two seeds from each group advances to the semi-finals, where winner of one group sails against the second of the other group and vice versa. Finally, winners of semi-finals race against each other for the title.

Match Race events are graded by ISAF. The scale goes from 5 to 1, with Grade 1 events at the top of the scale. Participation at any event is by invitation only. This means that one has to contact the organizers and ask for an invitation in order to participate. Starting with Grade 3, getting an invitation mostly depends on your ranking. For example, only skippers from top 50 or 100 are invited to Grade 1 events. Besides the invitation system, there is also qualification. For example, you can qualify to enter a Grade 1 event by winning a Grade 3 event.


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