Match Racing Manual Part 1: Where to Begin

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

Where to begin

How to find clinics and regattas

One way is to open the document called US Sailing List of Match Racing Contacts and look for clubs and centers in your area. Then email the contacts, introduce yourself, and ask them what the match racing opportunities are at their clubs and centers. Another way is to go to the US Sailing and other calendars (find links on Useful Resources and look for events that are either in your area or that interest you; then contact the person listed for that event for more information and assistance. Clinics around North America are also listed at the North U site.

The Invitation Process

Match Race Grading Regulations

Match race regattas must limit the number of skippers at each event because venues are required to supply the boats for competitors. Most events are limited to 8, 10, or 12 skippers. Event organizers accept “requests for invitation” from sailors, and selectively issue invitations based on certain criteria set forth by ISAF per each level event 1-5, 1 being the highest.

Grade 5’s and 4’s – the base of the pyramid

As entry-level match race regattas, Grade 4’s and S’s are casual with a focus on development and learning. There is no grading-specifc competitor criterion; skipper ranking doesn’t matter as much. Grade S’s are the best place to familiarize yourself with match racing in a low- pressure environment. Grade 5’s can be single-day events, whereas Grade 4’s must be held over two days.

Grade 3

Grade 3’s are the most popular level regattas, and they usually feature a mix of new and experienced teams. The grading regulations for Grade 3’s are stricter than the Grade 4’s, but still allow for new match racers to compete. ISAF requires these events to have at least 8 teams, 30% of which must either be a different nationality than that of the host nation OR have travelled more than 500 km from their ordinary place of residence to the event venue. (This restriction is waived for national championships.) For experienced racers, Grade 3’s are a great place to start match racing.

Grade 2

Grade 2’s often serve as qualifers for Grade 1 events. They are generally much more competitive than Grade 3’s and the invitation process is highly selective. Some Grade 2’s have prize money. ISAF requires that the field of competitors at this level be composed of international and highly ranked teams. More specifically, the 12 top-ranked skippers in the field of competitors must bring a certain number of “skipper points” (see box) which correspond to the skipper’s ISAF ranking 4 months prior to the event. Open Grade 2’s require 50 points; Women’s Grade 2’s require 35 points. See the table below for the breakdown of skipper points per ranking position.

ISAF Ranking Skipper Points
1-10 20
11-20 15
21-30 11
31-40 8
41-50 6
51-60 5
61-70 4
71-80 3
81-90 2
91-100 1

Grade 1

This is the highest level of ISAF grading below the World Match Racing Tour. The same skipper point policy applies from the Grade 2, except that Grade 1’s must have 120 skipper points for Open events and 80 for Women’s events. Grade 1’s often have prize money and are the most selective invitation process.