Team racing is an exciting and sociable sailing format in which a team of sailors work together to try and establish an overall winning combination for their team over their opposition. Team races are fast and furious and reward good starting, boat speed, boat handling, rules knowledge and team work skills.
One race typically lasts for about ten minutes but each team usually gets to do between 6 and 16 races during the weekend, with events often running several hundred races in total. As well as being an exciting form of sailing in its own right, team racing helps to sharpen up many useful fleet racing skills, especially close boat on boat tactics and is also a great transitional step between fleet racing and match racing.
Team racing can be done with 2, 3 or even 4 boats per team with 3-boat team racing being the most common type. The scoring system is the same as fleet racing with one point for first, two for second and so on, and team with the lowest total number of points wins. For example, if the British Team raced the Americans and finished with boats in 1st, 4th and 5th they would have a total of 10 points, whereas the Americans would have a total of 11 points (2nd, 3rd and 6th) so the British team would have won. In 3 boat team racing any score-line with 10 points or less wins.
In the UK there is a well established circuit, with events most weekends from October through to May. At University most of the competitive sailing is team racing, and beyond the Uni circuit there are the National Championships, large international events such as the Wilson Trophy and the ISAF Team Racing World Championship which includes an U21 competition. In the UK most events are sailed in Fireflies which are really well suited to the close boat on boat action. Internationally other boats such as 420s and Vanguards are used.
The format of racing consists of a number of round robins, where teams are split into groups and race each team in their group. These groups are reshuffled at the end of each round so that the best teams move to the top and teams of similar ability get to race each other. After a number of rounds, the teams progress to knock-out stages, usually consisting of quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals which are best of 3 or 5 races.
You will be given a schedule of racing telling you who you are sailing against, what race number and which boats you are in. For example Race 55, Britain (Yellow 19-21) vs America (Pink 22-24). After each race the teams must swap over so they sail to the change-over point where you should be ready to get into the right boats for your next race.
Umpires follow the races on the water in ribs and may award penalties to anyone who breaks the rules. If you do break a rule, you can take a penalty by doing a 360 degree turn as soon as possible after the incident. If you don’t do the spin, and your opposition appeals to the umpire by waving their protest flag, then the umpire will give you a 720 degree penalty turn – which is much more costly to you, and more importantly; to your team!
The course is usually a ‘starboard S’ with 2 beats, 2 reaches and a run. There are 4 marks to go around, including the unusual starboard-hand windward mark rounding which provides for plenty of action and loads of opportunities to turn the race around.