Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I am not afraid of Team Racing

Team Racing is an emerging part of the sport, despite my problems with it. I always get confused when reading about Team Race events, as the event reports talk about the team names and not the team members. Guess that's how you have to handle team sports, but in sports we like to identify with the personalities involved, which is hard when we don't know who is on the team.

Teams mingling in between races at the staging area.

We do cheer for "our" teams, and there are some Team Race teams that use their hometown and/or yacht club in their team name. There are also some teams who have achieved greatness, and so their names are becoming better known. My prediction is that the longer the members of teams can stay together, the more familiar we will become with the team, and the easier it will be to get connected with this part of the sport.

Of course, if you ever watched a Team Race event, that's also a pretty good way to get connected to it. When the US Team Race Championship came to San Diego in September, I made sure to spend an afternoon to observe. Team Racing is the most spectator friendly part of the sport, which is why I was really bummed out when host San Diego YC was unable to hold the races off their docks. The reality is that the adjacent bay was too small, but it was a lost opportunity to increase Team Racing awareness. Better luck next year.

The action during the USTRC was non-stop. Get this: One group is starting, another group is in the middle of their race, and a third group is finishing their race... all on the same course. Thus is the magic of the "digital N" course, and the ability of the RC to set the course length so that it works. Also, to the side of the course, a fourth group is exchanging boats to prepare for their start. Three boats on a team, six boats in a group, and four groups working thru the system. Also, each group has two umpire boats (with two umpires in each boat) to manage the fouls. Add in RC boats, shuttle boats moving teams on and off the course, spectators, etc. Like I said, the action was non-stop.

Having Vanguard Sailboats support the event by supplying all the Vanguard 15s is a key component. All the V15s were new, and are likely the most used class of boat for Team Racing. The behind-the-scenes action was intense too, as scoring these events seems to be an evolving process. Teams are ranked, than re-ranked during the event based on their scores, which than decides how the pairing are set. This event required calls to England to discuss the format, and how to handle ranking issues during the event. Don't try to watch the USTRC without a prgram... unless you like to watch a blur.

Got to have a program to know the players.

As long as boats are available, Team Racing will continue to grow. The yacht clubs that own club keelboats will have the most luck drawing people into it, as the dinghy Team Racing requires a high level of athleticism to endure the countless tacks and gybes (oldest sailor at the USTRC-06 was 38yr). Given the emphasis on tactics and less on grinding boatspeed, this part of the sport might be fitting better into the lifestyle of the twenty-somethings, who are now being raised in YC and College programs, and may never have had an affiliation with a particular class of boat.

Check your local listings for future appearances by Silver Panda and Cape Cod WHishbone, and the rest of the mark-trapping, pass-backing Team Race culture. - Craig Leweck

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