Learn the Basics

The essential features of a team race are as follows:-

  • Each team comprises helms (and crews for crewed boats) in 2, 3 or 4 boats.

  • Only two teams contest the race.

  • All the boats in a race must be the same class and reasonably well matched for performance.

  • The winning team in a race is determined by the total points score of all the boats in the team.

It's called Team Racing because one helm sailing fast will not win the race The score of the team is what matters, so it may be more important to slow a member of the other team down, allowing members of your team to gain places, thereby improving your teams overall score. It is this interaction and maneuvering that makes Team Racing such fun and makes boat handling so important.

An event comprises a number of races (possibly a very large number of races!) where the teams with the greatest number of wins (or least losses) progress onto the next stage of the competition. Races are ideally quite short just 10 to 15 minutes is adequate. With lots of short races, team racing fits the current trend in sailboat racing.

Events can either be "bring your own boat" (BYOB) or "boats provided" (BP). Because you want balanced sets of boats the sharing of boats is usual, meaning that teams do not have to trail craft about the country. Since there is a practical limit on the number of team races that can occupy a course at any one time, even events with hundreds of helms can be run with only 24 boats. Small events can be successful with just 4 or 6 boats and up to half a dozen teams.

These days the preferred boat for UK Team Racing is the Firefly. This is because it can carry a wide range of crew weights without producing huge variations in performance. It is also highly maneuverable.

Most events these days have on the water Umpires to ensure rule compliance and fair play. Team Racing is a non-contact sport these days and Umpires will penalise reckless boat handling and boats causing damage.

If you want to read more about the tactics the classic, but out of print, books are Team Racing for Sailboats by Steve Tylecote (available on Amazon) available as a PDF if you Click Here or the older Dinghy Team Racing by Eric Twiname (may be available secondhand on Amazon or e-bay) Fernhurst Books' Team Racing Companion is still available from Fernhurst.

What's changed from my College Sailing Days ?

Team racing has developed rapidly over the last few years into a sport that is now recognised by the international body for sailing - the ISAF. Those of you that remember the old Dunhill Trophy and University team racing of years ago may recall a bash and crash approach to mark rounding and a mystical method of totting up penalties with bits of red and green ribbon. Rules observance is now the name of the game. On the water penalties with 360 and 720 turns for the guilty make for rapid exoneration of a misdeed and there are on-the-water judges to ensure compliance at events where calls get tight.

Greg Ansell

Further historical information can be found at :-