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19 September 2005, 03:33 pm
What Is Team Racing?
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Grey Goose ISAF Team Racing World Championship 2005
Newport, Rhode Island, USA

Less than a week remains before the 2005 Grey Goose ISAF Team Racing World Championship gets underway in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. With the first races at the New York Yacht Club a week today ISAF looks at the discipline of Team Racing.
In many ways a combination of fleet and match racing, team racing effectively compromises a fleet race, but with the boats competing for one of two teams and the teams match racing each other.

Unsurprisingly, the principle idea behind team racing is that individual success is subservient to the performance of the team as a whole. Rather than counting boat scores, the aggregate score of the team is counted, and this is what wins or loses the matches. For the World Championship, the teams consist of three boats, each boat with a two-person crew. The teams are easier identified as all team boats carry identical sail colours, making for a colourful display on the water. At least one team member most be a women. In total then there are six boats on the water. All boats are supplied Vanguard 15s so that they do not favour stronger or heavier sailors, ensuring victory is solely down to sailing skill with a particular focus on strategy and on-the-water tactics.


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A colourful clash at the 2003 Worlds in
Auckland, New Zealand
© Event Media
The winner of the race scores one point, 2nd place scores two points, 3rd place three etc. The winning team is the one with the lowest points total. A score of ten points or less guarantees victory, whilst eleven points or more is a certain loss. For example:
  • a team placing 1st, 2nd, 4th would secure a win with 1+2+4=7 points against 3rd, 5th, 6th (3+5+6=14)…
  • or 1st, 3rd, 6th (1+3+6=10) would beat 2nd, 4th, 5th (2+4+5=11)…
  • however 1st, 4th, 6th (1+4+6=11) would loose to 2nd, 3rd 5th (2+3+5=10).

Clearly a boat finishing in first does not always secure victory, what is important is the ten point aggregate threshold - this is where the tactical element of the race comes into play.


A boat from team A may be leading, but if his fellow team A boats are lying 4th and 6th, then either the leader can hope they improve their position or go back and assist them. This assistance effectively comprises of two main weapons - covering and effective use of the right-of-way rules.

A boat trying to cover an opponent will position themselves between the opponent and the wind, therefore blanketing their opponents sails and slowing them down.

The second weapon in a boat's armory is to position themselves in such a way as to force their opponent to change course or incur a penalty under the right-of-way rules.

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Tight racing like the action
here from the 2003 Worlds is
a common sight
© Event Media

Of course both these moves are likely to slow down both boats, however it is the team factor that is important. If for example team A had boats Green in 1st, Blue 4th, and Red 6th it is in a losing position. However if Green covers team B's last boat, slowing it down, it allows Red to pass them both. Now team A holds 1st, 4th, 5th and a winning position.

Keeping It Fair

With six boats on the water all attempting these types of manoeuvres, team racing becomes a very intricate and skilled game of chess on the water. Especially at the pre-start when the manoeuvring begins. As in match racing, the action is officiated on the water by umpires in small inflatables. If protested a competitor can accept their penalty with a 360° turn or can wait for an umpire's decision and hope for a green flag, which equals no penalty, or if found guilty complete a 720° turn.

The best team racing competitors combine boat speed with a thorough knowledge of the rules and their application and the ability to quickly analyze situations on the water and react to them. With so much going on at once, crew must have great awareness of what is going on around them and be able to react to it instantly. This not only requires great boat handling skills and crew coordination but an ability to predict and second guess opponent's moves. The very best teams combine these qualities as a unit, with familiarity between the crews breeding a 'sixth sense', which marks out the very greatest of competitors.

For a complete list of all the news from the Grey Goose ISAF Team Racing World Championship CLICK HERE.
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