Match Racing Manual Part 2: How to Start Your Campaign

This is the second of an eight-part series compiled by the US Match Racing Committee (with help from Chicago Match Race Center, one of our sponsors.) You can start from the beginning with Part 1. If you want all of it at once, you can download the entire series as a PDF.

How to Start Your Campaign: Solidify a Team

By Alice Manard Leonard

The first step in solidifying your match race team is to define the team you are trying to build. This process involves asking yourself a few key questions: How many people do we need to have on our team? What type of commitment are we looking for from the team members?

How to Start Your CampaignThe size of the team will be primarily driven by the types of boats and events you plan to sail. Most match races require a team of 3 to 6 sailors, depending on the size of boats and whether it is an Open or Women’s event. If you are an all- female team planning to compete in several Open events in Swedish Match 40s, you’ll need a fairly large team. If you plan to compete mainly in events using J/22s or Sonars, your team will be on the smaller side.

It’s also important to understand what type of commitment you expect from each team member and what they are able to commit to. You don’t necessarily need 100% commitment from all team members for every event. But good teamwork and communication go a long way in match racing, so it pays to have a consistent crew list. As you build your team, make sure you communicate with your teammates about the planned schedule and their ability to commit to those events.

The next step in solidifying your team is to identify the specific skills and abilities you are looking for in your team members. It’s important for a match racing team to have individuals who are strong in a few key areas, particularly sail trim and tactical knowledge. The pace and intensity of match racing make the crew a critical factor in tactical decision making and boat speed. While some team members may already bring these skills to the team, a teammate who is willing to invest in learning these key skills can be just as valuable in the long run.

In addition to specific skills and abilities, you need to consider the size and strength requirements of each role on the boat and the overall team weight. Some roles (trimmers, for example) require a good deal of strength and athleticism in order to effectively execute the fast-paced boat handling needed for match racing. Your bow person will also need to be strong and agile, but is likely to be one of the smaller team members in order to maintain the proper weight distribution across the boat. And, generally speaking, in keelboats it’s beneficial to sail as close to the weight limit as possible. For most Open events the weight limit is 87.5kg (193 lbs) multiplied by the team size; for Women’s events the weight limit is 68kg (150 lbs) multiplied by the team size. So consider your overall team size when identifying potential team members.

The final criterion to consider in putting together your match racing team is personality. You and your teammates will spend a significant amount of time traveling and racing together. To keep things fun and productive, it’s important that you and your teammates not only enjoy each other’s company, but also display mutual respect for one another. Your teammates don’t have to be your best friends, but they do need to be people you are comfortable with and enjoy competing with.