Embracing Monohull Match Racing

Published on August 21st, 2017

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
When the America’s Cup made the shift to become a spectator event, the disruption downstream was significant. The world of match racing cratered. Now a multihull race, the road to the America’s Cup required detours and redevelopment.

The World Match Racing Tour had been fertile training ground for the America’s Cup. The Tour offered new teams the chance to display their skills while giving Cup campaigns the platform to stay sharp. The Tour used a variety of keelboats in which performance and strategic skills were largely transferable to the ‘show’.

But since the America’s Cup shifted to catamarans, the Tour found itself at a crossroads. While it was now the dominant monohull match race championship in sailing, it offered no advancement to the America’s Cup. The top sailors with higher aspirations were now looking for catamaran skills.

The Tour, in its quest to restore order, reached out to Swedish Company Aston Harald AB, which manufactures the M32, a 32-foot carbon fibre racing catamaran. Aston Harald AB bought the Tour as part of a grand marketing scheme to sell boats, creating a new schedule of events that would now be held in M32s.

While I am of mixed opinion in seeing this elite professional match racing circuit used to help sell boats, I am concerned how the Tour remains sanctioned by World Sailing to award the World Match Racing Championship title to its season champion. With nearly all match racing done in monohulls, now the World title has detached itself from its base. Hmm…

A reaction to this situation was the launch of the Match Race Super League (MRSL) which was formed in 2017 to unite organizers and promote high level monohull match racing internationally.

For all the yacht clubs that have invested in small keelboats for their membership, and the expanse of match race events that have grown in the past decade, a switch to catamarans is not in the cards, nor should it be. The current infrastructure lends itself well to its current uses, and the expense and complexity of multihulls would derail the agenda.

The MRSL seeks to re-establish an international series of monohull match racing events where the focus is on well-run affordable events that use supplied boats. The MRSL has eight events this season that span Europe, New Zealand, and USA.

The America’s Cup and World Match Racing Tour may have switched to multihulls, and while that impacts the top of the pyramid, the bulk remains stable in monohulls. There is an international circuit for women’s match racing, and young people have the College Match Race Nationals and Youth Match Racing World Championship.

Monohull match racing is more organized than ever, and with strong leadership from organizations like the MRSL, participation can continue to flourish. Heck, maybe even the World Championship title can get connected to its base again.

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