Yacht racing

Yacht racing

Yacht racing is the sport of competitive sailing. There is a broad variety of kinds of races and sailboats used for racing. Much racing is done around buoys or similar marks in protected waters, while some longer offshore races cross open water. All kinds of boats are used for racing, including small dinghies, catamarans, boats designed primarily for cruising, and purpose-built raceboats. The Racing Rules of Sailing govern the conduct of yacht racing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, model boat racing, dinghy racing and virtually any other form of racing around a course with more than one vessel while powered by the wind.

Types of races

Harbour or buoy racing

Harbour or buoy races are conducted in protected waters, and are quite short, usually taking anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. All sorts of sailing craft are used for these races, including keelboats of all sizes, as well as dinghies, trailer sailers, catamarans, skiffs, sailboards, and other small craft. A competition, or regatta, usually consists of multiple individual races, where the boat that performs best in each race is the overall winner. The most famous such event is the America's Cup, but harbour races are common anywhere there is a community of sailors. A notable example is found in Bermuda, where the Bermuda rig, now almost universally-used on small sailing vessels, can still be seen in its purest form in the Bermuda Fitted Dinghy, used for a series of races contested each year by the colony's yacht clubs. Bermuda also played a role in the development of the International One Design.

This kind of race is most commonly run over one or more laps of a triangular course marked by a number of buoys. The course starts from an imaginary line drawn from a 'committee boat' to the designated 'starting' buoy or 'pin'. A number of warning signals are given telling the crews exactly how long until the race starts. The aim of each crew is to cross the start line at full speed exactly as the race starts. A course generally involves tacking upwind to a 'windward' marker or buoy. Then bearing away onto a downwind leg to a second jibe marker. Next another jibe on a second downwind leg to the last mark which is called the 'downwind mark' (or 'leeward mark'). At this mark the boats turn into wind once again to tack to the finish line.

Inshore racing

Inshore racing is yacht racing not in protected waters but along and generally within sight of land or from land to nearby islands, as distinct from offshore racing across open water and oceans. The duration of races maybe daylight only, overnight or passage races of several days. Depending on location, stability and safety equipment requirements will be more extensive than for harbour racing, but less so than for offshore racing. Different levels of requirement for navigation, sleeping cooking and water storage also apply. These races are suitable for many club racers including Junior Offshore Group (JOG) yachts, and certain trailer sailers meeting race requirements.

Offshore racing

Offshore yacht races are held over long distances and in open water; such races usually last for at least a number of hours. The longest offshore races involve a circumnavigation of the world.

Some of the most famous offshore races are the "Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race", the "Transpacific Yacht Race", the "Fastnet race", the "Bermuda Race", the "2005 Rolex Transatlantic Challenge", "Hamilton Island Race Week", the "West Marine Pacific Cup" and the "Bayview Yacht Club North Channel Race". Several fully-crewed round-the-world races are held, including the "Volvo Ocean Race" (formerly called the "Whitbread Round the World Race"), the "Global Challenge" and the "Clipper Round the World Race".

South African yacht clubs organise the South Atlantic Race (the former Cape to Rio race), the Governor's Cup from Cape Town to St. Helena Island, and a race between Durban and Mauritius.
Single-handed ocean yacht racing began with the race across the Atlantic Ocean by William Albert Andrews and Josiah W. Lawlor in 1891; however, the first regular single-handed ocean race was the "Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race", first held in 1960. The first round-the-world yacht race was the "Sunday Times Golden Globe Race" of 1968-1969, which was also a single-handed race; this inspired the present-day "VELUX 5 Oceans Race" (formerly the "BOC Challenge" / "Around Alone") and the "Vendée Globe". Single-handed racing has seen a great boom in popularity in recent years.

There is some controversy about the legality of sailing single-handed over long distances, as the navigation rules require "that every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout..."; single-handed sailors can only keep a sporadic lookout, due to the need to sleep, tend to navigation, etc. [ [http://sailingmagazine.net/fullby1001.html "Keeping a lookout is easier said than done"] , by Bill Schanen. Sailing Magazine. Retrieved February 13, 2006.]

Other races

Certain races do not fit in the above categories. One such is the Three peaks yacht race in the UK which is a team competition involving sailing, cycling and running.

Yacht Clubs

Many town yacht clubs hold their own racing teams for both juniors and adults. Often several yacht clubs will get together to hold events that can include more than 100 entered boats per race making up the regatta. Junior sailing usually consists of optimist, 420 and laser boats that are broken down further depending on skill and age levels. Age levels are usually from either 8-18 or 8-20/21 years old.

Classes and ratings

Many design factors have a large impact on the speed at which a boat can complete a course, including the size of a boat's sails, its length, and the weight and shape of its hull. Because of these differences, it can be difficult to compare the skills of the sailors in a race if they are sailing very different boats. For most forms of yacht racing, one of two solutions to this problem are used; either all boats are required to be identical (a "one-design class"), or a handicapping system is used. Other approaches include use of "open" classes or "construction classes".

In one-design racing all boats must conform to the same standard, the "class rules", thus emphasizing the skill of the skipper and crew rather than having the results depend on equipment superiority. Examples of popular classes include Islander 36, Flying Scot, Etchells, Snipe, Star, Soling, Thistle, Lightning, Crescent Sailboat, Laser, and J/24. Each class has a detailed set of specifications that must be met for the boat to be considered a member of that class. Some classes (e.g.the Laser) have very tight specifications ensuring that there is virtually no difference between the boats (except for age) - these classes are sometimes called "strict one-design". Other classes allow more variation, such as allowing both wood & fiberglass hulls (e.g. the Albacore) or other changes that do not give a theoretical advantage. At important regattas the boats are measured prior to the event to ensure that they do conform.

An open class is based on a "box rule", which specifies a maximum overall size for boats in the class, as well as features such as stability. Competitors in these classes are then free to enter their own boat designs, as long as they do not exceed the box rule. No handicap is then applied. Since it is essentially based on the use of custom boats, such events are generally limited to high-budget racers. Popular examples of open classes are the Open 50 and 60 classes used in single-handed offshore events. However the Moth class is an exception, with boats being no longer than 11 feet.

A construction class is based around a formula or set of restrictions which the boat's measurements must fit to be accepted to the class. Resulting boats are all unique, yet (ideally) relatively close in size, cost and performance. America's Cup is the most famous competition involving construction class boats. Perhaps the most popular and enduring construction formula is The Metre Rule, around which several still popular classes were designed.

When all the yachts in a race are not members of the same class, then a handicap is used to adjust the times of boats. The handicap attempts to specify a "normal" speed for each boat, usually based either on measurements taken of the boat, or on the past record of that kind of boat. Each boat is timed over the specified course. After it has finished, the handicap is used to adjust each boat's finishing time. The results are based on this sum. Popular handicapping systems in 2006 include PHRF, portsmouth yardstick, IRC (Sailing), and ORR. Earlier popular rating systems include IOR and IMS.

Classes of sailing dinghies, skiffs, yachts and multihulls


See also

* Dinghy racing
* Racing Rules of Sailing

External links

* [http://www.thegovernorscup.co.za The Governor's Cup, Cape Town to St. Helena Island, 1690 nautical miles (nm)]
* [http://www.heinekencapetobahia.co.za Heineken Cape to Bahia Race (South Atlantic Race)]
* [http://rolexsydneyhobart.com Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, 630 nm]
* [http://www.rorc.org/ Royal Ocean Racing Club]

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