Sailing - Sailboat Racing

Sailboat Racing

Sailboat racing generally fits into one of two categories:

Where all the boats are substantially similar, and the first boat to finish wins. (e.g. 470, 49er, Contender, Farr 40, Laser, Lido 14, RS Feva, Soling, Star, Thistle, etc.)
Where boats of different types sail against each other and are scored based on their handicaps which are calculated either before the start or after the finish. ( e.g. Fastnet Race, Commodore's Cup, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, Bermuda Race, etc.) The two most common handicap systems are the IRC and the Portsmouth Yardstick, while the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) is very common in the U.S.A.

Class racing can be further subdivided. Each class has its own set of class rules, and some classes are more restrictive than others.

In a strict one-design class the boats are essentially identical. Examples include the 29er, J/24, Laser, and RS Feva.

At the other end of the extreme are the development classes based on a box-rule. The box-rule might specify only a few parameters such as maximum length, minimum weight, and maximum sail area, thus allowing creative engineering to develop the fastest boat within the constraints. Examples include the Moth (dinghy), the A Class Catamaran, and the boats used in the America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race, and Barcelona World Race.

Many classes lie somewhere in between strict one-design and box rule. These classes allows some variation, but the boats are still substantially similar. For instance, both wood and fiberglass hulls are allowed in the Albacore, Wayfarer, and Fireball classes, but the hull shape, weight, and sail area are tightly constrained.

Sailboat racing ranges from single person dinghy racing to large boats with 10 or 20 crew and from small boats costing a few thousand dollars to multi-million dollar America's Cup or Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race campaigns. The costs of participating in the high end large boat competitions make this type of sailing one of the most expensive sports in the world. However, there are inexpensive ways to get involved in sailboat racing, such as at community sailing clubs, classes offered by local recreation organizations and in some inexpensive dinghy and small catamaran classes. Additionally high schools and colleges may offer sailboat racing programs through the Interscholastic Sailing Association (in the USA) and the Intercollegiate Sailing Association (in the USA and some parts of Canada). Under these conditions, sailboat racing can be comparable to or less expensive than sports such as golf and skiing. Sailboat racing is one of the few sports in which people of all ages and genders can regularly compete with and against each other.

Most sailboat and yacht racing is done in coastal or inland waters. However, in terms of endurance and risk to life, ocean races such as the Volvo Ocean Race, the solo VELUX 5 Oceans Race, and the non-stop solo Vendée Globe, rate as some of the most extreme and dangerous sporting events. Not only do participants compete for days with little rest, but an unexpected storm, a single equipment failure, or collision with an ice floe could result in the sailboat being disabled or sunk hundreds or thousands of miles from search and rescue.

The sport of Sailboat racing is governed by the International Sailing Federation, and the rules under which competitors race are the Racing Rules of Sailing, which can be found on the ISAF web site.

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