How Team Racing Works

What is Team Racing?

Team racing, like most traditional team sports, involves strategy, advanced skill, and teamwork. However, unlike other fleet racing, team racing pits a team of four against another team of four boats.  This added dimension forces players to have tremendous boat-handling ability and quick reactions. Being a good sailor is essential to becoming a team racer. A keen understanding of the rules, along with good speed and tactics are necessary to be competitive in this sport. Those sailors who have not yet reached this level strive to it. Team racing is the best place to test and improve your skills as a sailor.

The object of the game is to get your team’s boats across the finish line in better positions than the opposing team. The rules of racing remain constant. They are also the most important part of any team race. This importance is based on the fact that a good team will use the rules to its advantage to overcome the other team. By using the rules, a team may force control over another allowing its teammates to pass the opponents, leading to a winning combination.

The outcome of each race is simply decided: The team that finishes with the least number of points, wins. However, this can get fairly complicated as teams approach the finish line and the math begins. The “magic” number is 18. The team that has 18 points or less wins the race! Simple math gets complicated quickly as the boats approach the finish and positions rapidly change with each wind shift.


On-the-water umpires:

In addition to the visiting sailors from across the country, the Baldwin Cup Team Race also takes a talented group of umpires.  We try to recruit the best umpires from around the country to avoid prejudice.  Their dispassionate involvement helps showcase the racers passion.

On-the-water umpiring adds an element of excitement to team racing, bringing out academy award winning performances by the competitors who believe they have been fouled.  An umpire makes instantaneous decisions during a team race.   There is no time for the umpires to consult a rulebook or to go into long or intensive discussions of the applicable rules. Therefore, they must be very well-versed and knowledgeable of the racing rules and of the tactics and strategies of team racing so that they can anticipate the next moves of the competitors and be in the right position to clearly see incidents.

For the purist in the room, umpiring does not entirely take away the idea that sailboat racing is still self policing.  The umpire team is really just a way to speed up the game and eliminate the need to go in the room after a long day of racing.  For the most part umpires cannot initiate a call without a request (in the form of a hail and a yellow flag) from a competitor.  However to cover all basis, there are a few instances when an umpire can initiate the call himself, which are outlined in RRS Appendix D – Team Racing Rules.

Very simply, when competitors disagree about whether a rule has been broken, a boat can exonerate herself or wait for an umpire call.  A boat must be very confident in her understanding of the rules before choosing to wait for the umpire decision, because an umpire’s call may double the penalty for a foul.   There are two basic calls an umpire can make; he can either signal with a green or a red flag.  A green flag can mean he didn’t see the incident or that no rule was broken.  A red flag means there was a violation and the infracting boat must do a two-turns penalty.

It has been argued that an umpire may affect the outcome of the race, which is really not that different from other refereed sports.  And we all love hollering about the strike zone, off sides, cross checking and traveling.


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