Match Racing Manual Part 7: Improve
This is the seventh 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 Get Better at Match Racing
By Dave Perry
One effective way to learn and improve in match racing is to go to a clinic. See the schedule of clinics on the North U website. If there is not a clinic near you, and there is interest in match racing in your area, you or someone from your area should contact North U about setting one up. Many regattas have a clinic as part of the regatta (often called “clinegattas”); these are great opportunities to get some instruction and coaching, as well as some actual racing.
Another very effective way to learn is to crew for an experienced match racer in training or a regatta. Contact the organizers of events and tell them you are interested in crewing. They can pass your name along, or give you the names and emails of the skippers in their event or area. Or if you know some active match racers, offer to crew for them.
Be sure to read and watch the excellent DVD’s and texts/playbooks that are available about match racing. They are all accessible on the North U website (see page 10). The Match Racing Playbook I wrote, published by North U, also contains pages of drills for one and two boats that will quickly improve your match racing.
All you need to try it yourself is two boats. Set a starting line and a windward mark, and go at it. Do the drills in the Playbook, do lots of practice starts, then do some races. If the spinnaker handling is not fuent yet, do the match race training without spinnakers, and then do some dedicated spinnaker training to get better at it.
Finally, go to regattas. You may not win a lot of races at irst, but you will learn quickly from your losses. Pick regattas suitable to your experience (Grade 4 and 5 for just getting started; Grade 3 when you feel comfortable with the game, then Grade 2 when you are ready to really challenge yourself). When not racing, observe the racing. Offer to ride with the umpires (they are often more than willing to let you ride and observe, and you will learn a ton from doing so).
I encourage you to keep a notebook, so you can build on your experiences and not repeat mistakes if possible. Make sections for boat handling, boat speed in the various boats you will sail, and tactics in the prestart, upwind and downwind legs, and in the penalty killing area. Also keep a section for questions, and look for opportunities to get them answered. Most good match racers enjoy sharing what they know and helping others learn quickly.