State of Match Racing in North America

Published on January 28th, 2016

by Dave Perry, Chairman, US Sailing Match Racing Committee
Formal match racing is simply two boats racing each other. But there is plenty of “match racing” within a fleet or team race. Anytime two boats want the same piece of water, or it comes down to just two boats competing for the same trophy, it is a “match race;” and typically the sailor with some formal match racing experience wins.

The most famous match race series is the America’s Cup. The next America’s Cup match racing begins in May of 2017 in Bermuda in 15 meter foiling multihulls, with Oracle Team USA as the Defender. The World Match Racing Tour is a professional series, with cash prizes totaling over a million dollars. In 2016, the Tour will run most of its events in a 32-foot catamaran to become once again a pathway to the America’s Cup. US One Sailing Team, led by Taylor Canfield, is one of the favorites to win.

The Women’s International Match Racing Series is the women’s professional match racing series, also for significant cash prizes. The 2015 Series was won by the Epic Racing Team led by Stephanie Roble from East Troy, Wisconsin. The most prestigious non-professional international match racing championship is World Sailing’s Nations Cup, with the women’s grand final in 2015 won by Nicole Breault and her team from San Francisco.

In 2015 there were over 60 match racing events in North America with over 500 men and 100 women participating, ranging from the Grade 1 Congressional Cup at the Long Beach Yacht Club (a stop on the World Match Racing Tour) to entry-level Grade 5 events around the country. US Sailing launched a new Qualifying Series for its two adult match racing championships (the Open and the Women’s), running eight regattas that included 50 unique teams competing.

Skippers interested in competing in the 2016 Qualifying Series can apply now (OpenWomen). Twenty teams and 5 countries competed in The Grand Slam, the U.S. series of four Grade 2 events on consecutive weekends in August. The California Dreamin’ Series, a three Grade 3 event series in California was filled, with the winner going to the Grade 2 Ficker Cup, and the winner of that event going on to the Congressional Cup. And the Richardson Cup capped off the match racing activity on the Great Lakes.

The youth movement is our future. In 2015, US Sailing held its first Youth National Match Racing Championship (for the Rose Cup), and the U.S. finished a respectable fourth place in the World Youth Match Racing Championship. In 2016, the Balboa Yacht Club will run the 50th annual Governor’s Cup, an international youth match racing championship. The Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association held its sixth National Match Racing Championship (for the Shields Trophy) which involved over 40 sailors and seven district qualifiers.

Thanks to a generous match racing enthusiast, North U was able to run 14 match racing clinics, half of them for youth sailors with over 160 kids ages 16-22 participating.

The US Sailing Match Racing Committee has launched a free monthly e-newsletter called The Dial Up, which includes the master calendar for regattas and clinics in North America, insights from the experts on how to compete in and umpire match races better, and reports from recent events. To read the back issues, or to sign-up to receive it, click here.

To find information on how to get involved in participating, umpiring or running match races, and how to do it better, go to the US Sailing Match Racing webpage. I hope you will try some match racing in 2016.

Editor’s note: When this report was originally posted, we incorrectly added ‘foiling’ when describing the M32 catamaran that will be used in the World Match Racing Tour. The M32 is plenty speedy, but it is not foiling. Our apologies to Dave for the mistake.

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