WHAT IS MATCH RACING?
A match race is a duel between two identically-matched boats and at the end of the race there is a winner -and a loser.
Match racing has its own set of rules, which are slightly different from the regular racing rules that create very close, aggressive competition in which collisions are certainly not rare.
Match racing also has on-the-water umpiring, with official doling out “instant justice” on the water.
Match racing is tremendously exciting to participate in. And, unlike some other sailing competitions, match racing can be thrilling to watch. Before the start, the boats vie for control, circling each other and trying to wipe each other off on spectator boats in an elaborate game of cat and mouse followed by nip and tuck racing around two lap a windward-leeward course before finishing downwind. Races last 15-20 minutes and the winner isn’t usually decided until the very end of the race.
The course consists of a starting line, between two marks, laid at right angles to the wind’s direction.
The boats begin from the starting line and sail upwind to the first mark to be rounded to the starboard (right side). The spinnakers are set, and the duel continues downwind to the second mark that is laid in close proximity to the starting line 100-meters further up the course.
The boats round the marks 2-3 times before the winner crosses the Finish line.
When the wind comes across the boats on opposite sides, the boat with the wind on the left (port) side must give way to the boat with the wind on the right (starboard) side.
When the wind comes across the boats on the same side and they are not overlapped, the boat behind (clear astern) must keep clear of the boat (clear) ahead.
When the wind comes across the boats on the same side and they are overlapped, the boat on the windward (upwind) side must keep clear of the other leeward (downwind) boat.
Umpires follow each race and make instant penalty decisions. A green and white flag means no penalty but a yellow or blue flag means the boat in the match with the corresponding flag flying on the back of their boat must take a penalty before finishing. A penalty turn when sailing towards the wind means turning the stern of the boat through the wind and when sailing away from the wind a penalty is taken when the boat turns the bow through the wind.
The rules used by the World Match Racing Tour can be found on the Official Notice Board www.wmrt.com/onb
Visit Appendix C of the ISAF’s Racing Rules of Sailing to view the rules for match-racing.
4-minutes before the start the boats enter the starting area and begin an intricate, furious pre-start duel, with the two boats engaging in a furious one-on-one battle to gain the controlling position on the race course. At the starting signal the boats will cross the start line and begin the first windward leg to the windward mark.
On the course the boats commence an upwind battle; the lead boat will try to position themselves between the other boat and the windward mark and spill turbulent air from their sails onto them to slow the boat behind. A furious tacking duel may to ensue with the latter trying to force a crew error to rob their aggressor of the advantage.
The end of the first windward leg provides an opportunity for the trailing boat to seize the edge by trying to create an inside overlap at the mark, forcing the leader to give room which usually means relinquishing their lead.
On the downwind run the trailing boat has a chance to attack from behind, positioning itself so it’s spinnaker casts a wind shadow over the leader. To escape, the boat ahead may gybe away, creating heart-pounding onboard action – and spectacular sailing – as each crew manoeuvres furiously to attack and defend.
At the leeward mark the same overlap rules apply and the action intensifies as crews drop their spinnakers and prepare the boat for the next windward leg while the skippers jostle for the best position around the mark.
The race will last two or sometimes three laps before the boats head for the finish line (same as the start line) where the battle ends. Often the race will go all the way to the line with neither boat giving up until the winners coloured flag (blue or yellow) is flown from the signal boat.
Protest flag flown by competitor.
A competitor requests a ruling from the on-water umpires believing a rule has been broken.
Flown by umpire.
An umpire signalling that there isn’t any penalty “NO PENALTY” to action.
Flown by umpire.
An umpire signalling the Red Flag together with blue or yellow flag: indicates that boat must perform penalty turn immediately.
Flown by umpire.
Penalty signal from umpires or premature start (from race committee) on blue-flagged boat (flag on backstay).