DS37 Match Racer is used for the Stena Match Cup Sweden © Brian Carlin
London, UK (27th June 2014): There is the two boat format and its unique set of rules, but what also differentiates match racing from any other genre of sailing is that crews must be able to jump from one type of boat to another between events while remaining competitive in the process. On the Alpari World Match Racing Tour this year for example, the teams sailed Match Race Germany aboard Bavaria 40 Match Race edition cruising yachts, and will move to the DS37 purpose-built match racing yachts next week for Stena Match Cup Sweden.
Bavaria 40s is used for the Match Race Germany © Photo by Brian Carlin / AWMRT
For Sopot they will compete in the Diamont 3000, a ‘conventional’ race yacht, typical of the 1990s, with in-line spreaders, running backstays and a conventional symmetric spinnaker. The next two events are in smaller, more modern, more nimble sportsboats, - the TOM 28, with symmetrical spinnaker, in Chicago and MaxFun25, with asymmetrical spinnaker at Dutch Match Cup. There is then a leap back in time, at the Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda, where a yacht designed in 1936 is used - the International One Design. The season concludes with the Foundation 36 racers used at the Monsoon Cup.
Diamont 3000 is used for the Sopot Match Race © Photo by ShutterSail.com / AWMRT
Just in this small group are boats with asymmetric and symmetric spinnakers (the latter using spinnaker poles, the former not), there are lightweight and heavyweight boats, boats with wheel steering and tiller steering, boats with running backstays and a fixed backstay and an age range from the contemporary back to an 80 year old classic. Obviously some teams prefer some types of boats over others, but success on the Tour requires crews to master them all, and to do so as quickly as possible, for teams there is two hours of official practice the day before racing begins though some teams try to fit in an extra day of training before that.
International One Design is used for the Argo Group Gold Cup © Photo by OnEdition / AWMRT
“One of the big challenges in the match racing circuit is getting used to the different types of boat that you sail around the world,” admits GAC Pindar skipper Ian Williams. He adds that some crews inevitably are more familiar with some of the boats than others, particularly if they are ‘local’ to them. “In the DS37s, we have maybe 15 weeks of experience now, but that is nothing like the experience of Bjorn [Hansen] or Johnnie [Berntsson], but it is an advantage over some of the newer guys, like David Gilmour.” Now one of the old hands on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, Williams remembers that when he first started out he seemed to do better at new events sailed in boats unfamiliar to the old hands, simply because no one held a ‘time in the boat’ advantage.
Tom 28 is used for the Chicago Match Cup © Photo by Brian Carlin / AWMRT
Aside from the different physical constraints, such as the type of helm and the spinnaker configuration, requiring the crew to adapt their roles on board, all of the boats also behave differently, particularly when it comes to acceleration and their turning ability – both vital features of match racing competition. Some lighter boats can be thrown around aggressively, whereas some other designs will simply come to a standstill if you treat them disrespectfully.
Foundation 36 is used for the Monsoon Cup © Photo by Brian Carlin / AWMRT
“There are a few moves, particularly in the low speed stuff, like in the dial-up that ends up specific to the boat, that you can manipulate,” continues Williams. “All boats accelerate slightly differently, so tacking styles are different between them. Some you have to press on with a firm trimmed genoa and some you have to ease the sails a bit more and come down a bit more to get it going. Learning about those idiosyncrasies across the difference conditions is important.”
For the most part, skippers on the circuit like the challenge of sailing the different boats and that sailing them well is a vital skill for the successful match racer. As Bjorn Hansen observes: “You cannot win the World Championship by just being extremely good at sailing the DS37 or the IOD. You have to quickly adapt to new boats and sail all types of boats well. But that’s actually also a fun thing…”
Mathieu Richard agrees that ‘adapting’ is the relevant word: “That’s one of the things I really like in match racing - having to adapt to all the different boats. I like the fact that we change boats and some teams feel better on the small boats and others feel better on big boats. My team, I think, we are quite good on every boat, which is one of our good points.”
Keith Swinton also enjoys the variety. “It is one of the things that makes match racing fun, to sail different boats at different venues. It adds to the skill level of all the sailors. It keeps the playing field a bit more open as well. Some of the boats are better suited to the older guys and some of the younger guys might be better in the other boats, so it keeps a good balance.”
Sailing the Alpari World Match Racing Tour in just one type of boat? That would make it just like any other circuit.