Random Racing: Even the cool kids are doing it

Published on February 18th, 2014

At the Sailing Leadership Forum 2014 in San Diego on February 6-8, a frequent topic was in how the sport had become overly reliant on Windward-Leeward race courses. It was generally agreed that this course provided the best test for championship events, but that some course diversity would be welcome in casual events.

So it came as some surprise that when the RC44 Championship Tour was in the British Virgin Islands last week, they changed their normal RC44 race format of typical windward-leeward courses to include a 28nm distance race.

If you’re not familiar with the RC44 Championship Tour, this one design class travels the world, with boats owned by seriously wealthy people, and crewed by some of the elite professionals in the sport. Each event costs big cash to ship boats and pay salaries. This crowed is definitely not sipping cold ones while racing.

So what did guys like Iain Percy (GBR), Andy Horton (USA), Vasco Vascotto (ITA), Russell Coutts (NZL), Ed Baird (USA), and Cameron Appleton (NZL) think about trading in their closed course skills for the randomness of island weaving?

Vasco Vascotto: “This is one of the best places you can do a coastal race; there are islands and channels that can change the racing very quickly.”

Ed Baird: “We had really worked hard to understand this course and were confident with the decision for an early gybe on the run and it worked out nicely.”

Rather than competing on a W/L course that is true to the wind without obstruction, the race route through Virgin Gorda’s North Sound led to some different situations…

– A split in the fleet saw one group gybe over to hug the shore line, while others opted to stay out to sea.
– One team was forced to make an early spinnaker peel, after ripping their kite on a passing schooners mast.
– A right shift favouring the inshore group, extending their lead over the rest of the fleet.
– Upon arriving to North Bay Bluff, the fleet dropped their kites for a two sail reach down to Monkey Point.
– A close fetch back to Mosquito Rock saw one team go low and fast, but it didn’t pay.

Closer to home, the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD in San Diego (Mar. 14-16) will be introducing an alternative to their W/L format – a one day, random leg, PHRF-scored race that weaves through the obstacles of San Diego Bay.

Scuttlebutt is such a fan of this idea that the first five people to ask will have their entry fee paid for them. Click here to sail for free.

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