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Successful Match Racing Strategy

Published on November 14th, 2016

Nevin Snow, two-time winner of the College Sailing Match Racing Championship, shares the strategy that led to his team’s victory at the 2016 U.S. Match Racing Championship:

Our mantra for the week was to always be thinking about the next shift or puff, in order to keep the decision making simple. This forward thinking mentality kept us consistent in the round robin, going 9-0. Transitioning into the knockout rounds, we figured that there would be more ‘combative’ match racing involved as sailors would look to control races and their own destiny in the regatta.

We knew we had a boatspeed / fleet racing edge, so the goal was to keep the encounters to a minimum and just race. It turned out to be the right plan to take the win. Though we lost one race in the semi-finals to Colin Merrick, our mentality of keeping our fleet racing mind turned on resulted in a lot of (almost) comfortable races where we could make our own decisions.

A couple of things that we learned:
• You cannot afford to lose off the starting line. This was our biggest mantra. There were great sailors at this event who would sometimes get overzealous in the pre-start and find themselves losing even before the start. It’s always worth having an even start if it means that you are full speed at go.

• ‘Sail for control, not for the penalty’. I think even the best match racers have to remind themselves of this. We would sometimes find ourselves with an opportunity to go right at our opponent on starboard and raise our Y flag with confidence that we were in the right. However, every time that we did that we ended up in a stickier situation than we would have if we just maintained control of our opponent. This often involves ‘lee-bowing’, giving the opponent time to avoid and being patient in the pre-start.


Source: US Sailing Match Racing Committee, SDYC

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