Mach race

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By Dave Perry
April 2008

(copyright by Dave Perry; not for distribution without Dave’s permission)

NOTE: this is a “work in progress”; it is not a complete manual

Match racing is an exciting game in which just two boats race against each other at a time. The racing highlights precise boat handling, timing and positioning, as well as the traditionaltactics and strategies of fleet racing. My experience is that the more I match race, the better I get in fleet racing, as my boat handling and reaction times improve, and as my knowledge of how to handle situations with just one other boat arise (as they often do within a fleet race). However, match racing involves some tactics and strategies that are not commonly used in fleet racing, particularlyat the start. This paper, then, is intended to describe some of the tactics and strategies that are particular to match racing.

The rules for match racing are located in Appendix C of The Racing Rules of Sailing.


The higher the quality and amount of information you have about the starting line, the more precise (read deadly) your tactics will be at the start. The chartbelow dissects the line into various zones, defined by the starboard and port tack laylines to either end. Tactics will vary in different zones.

Information you will need:

• angle of line
• time of line
• laylines to each end (which will build in current effect)
- at full speed and at down speed (esp. the starboard layline to the left end)
• line sights
- through both endssighting along the line
- through both ends, sighting along the laylines to each end
• wind information (direction and velocity patterns)
• time it takes to do one “circle”

Page 2…Match Racing Tactics & Strategies by Dave Perry


1) which side of beat is favored (wind, current, etc.)

2) which side of opponent do you want to start on…

general rule: start toRIGHT of opponent unless:
- you can start on opponent’s lee-bow with enough speed or bow-out to be able to force them to tack,
and then tack to windward and HANG on port tack

- you can start on opponent’s lee-bow and eventually cause them to tack because you want to defend the
left side because you are confident you will be able to eventually CROSS them when onport tack

- the left end is heavily favored (15 degrees or more), meaning you will be able to CROSS them at some
point soon after the start


1) be to RIGHT of opponent until about 2:00 to start; then be to LEFT
2) when near opponent, get off STARBOARD TACK as QUICKLY as possible; never extend on starboard
3) when on starboard tack, passopponent as close to CLOSE-HAULED or DEAD DOWNWIND as possible
4) “circle” in OVALS, extending on port tack each time to build speed
- come out of circle on BEST SPEED-BUILD ANGLE (will vary with boats, breeze and situation)
5) have constant communication about:
- location in starting area (what zone, how close to laylines, etc.)
- time to ends
- time to start
- time toburn (difference between time to start and time to end)


The boats enter the starting area from outside their assigned end at their preparatory signal. The critical thing here is to be sure you are within 5 seconds of your end and at full speed at the prep signal. I recommend the short-loop approach (diagram below). The number and length of the loops can be varied depending on the timeyou have, the type of boats, the breeze strength and whether other pairs are in the starting box.

INITIAL MEETINGS (see diagrams next page)

• Dial Up
• Dial Down
• Downwind Cross
• Upwind Cross

Page 3…Match Racing Tactics & Strategies by Dave Perry

Page 4…Match Racing Tactics & Strategies by Dave Perry

The Dial-Up

The “Dial-Up” occurs when P and S are converging, and S...
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