An insider’s look at team races in the United States

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by Clinton Hayes

With World Sailing’s recent proposal for a 2v2 event at the Olympics, team races seem to have a moment. From Optis to Grandmaster racing, there is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in this growing discipline. Below we highlight some of the many great team racing events across different age groups and boat types.

Opti Events (less than 15 years old)

Many young sailors team trips start in the Opti class. Here, the discipline is usually not the main event as much as a fun addition to large fleet regattas. Most of them are sailed in the 4v4 format and allow substitutes so that more children can get involved. Major international events such as World’s Championships usually have a team racing component with top national regattas such as National Team Racing Championships and In the middle of winter.

Youth events (high school to college)

For many runners, team races become a priority during the high school and college years. This is where you make the transition to the classic 3v3 racing format in duplicate dinghies. The main events for this age group include:

  • CJ Buckley Regatta – THE EVENT OF THE YEAR! An open club 420 event brings together the best U19s in the country and serves as the national class team racing championship. A Swiss championship format more often matches teams of similar skills to each other, making the competition exciting and fair for everyone.
  • National high school championship – Just won this year by the Antilles school of the USVI.
  • National University Championship – One of the toughest events to win in the United States. College Team Racing is extremely competitive. Recently the live coverage of this event has been very high quality and fun to watch! This year has not been so good due to the continued upturn in COVID, but check out the great coverage of years spent on the ICSA and Laser performance YouTube channels.

Open team race

Open team racing events are enjoyed by runners around the world and are (roughly) divided into two main categories:

  1. Dinghy team race
  2. Team Racing keelboat

Dinghy team race

Dinghy team races are typically held in lightweight doubles boats such as 420s, FJs, Fireflies, and V15s in the classic 3v3 format. It’s fast, athletic and rewards a solid knowledge and execution of team racing tactics on the course. This is the type of team race practiced at World championships and U.S. Team racing championship. Another plus is that entry to most races is extremely free, so you don’t have to be a member of the yacht club to have fun. Highlights of the event are below, but Click here for the full program.

  • Events in the United States
  • Midwinters – Sailed Florida in the New Years and most recently at Eckerd College. There is no better way to ring in the New Year!
  • Charles River Open Team Race – An ultra-classic event that once broke the world record with 54 teams. Hosted by MIT in the Swiss League format and many varieties of boats, even catboats in the final one year!
  • Oyster Team Race – A relatively new event at Roger Williams University. Used by many teams as a tuning for the Hinman. Enjoy oysters after sailing!
  • U.S. Team racing championship – Known as the Hinman Trophy, it has always been one of the most, if not the most competitive team racing events in the world. The Hinman serves as a qualifier for the World Championship with many champions winning both events. Discover some big coverage of 2018 in Cleveland.
  • Wilson Trophy – The event that every team runner must attend at least once in his life. The Wilson draws over 30 teams each year to the small town of West Kirby, UK, for three days of fast, action-packed racing in firefly dinghies. He sailed on an old WWII seaplane airstrip with no tide so the water stays perfectly flat and the wind is just right. Perhaps most famous, the Wilson is known for its out-of-the-water activities topped off with the formal Saturday night dinner and live band. More than one team missed the first 8am Sunday morning warning and sailed in their jacket and tie from the day before!
  • World’s Championships – Last sailed in 2015 on Lake Rutland in UK, USA has dominated 6 out of 10 times where they have been contested since 1995.

Team Racing keelboat

By far the fastest growing sector in team racing. Yacht clubs around the world have purchased identical fleets of 20-30 foot keelboats for 3-5 people. This surge accelerated the membership of young people in traditionally ‘old school’ yacht clubs and allowed more racers of a wider age and skill range to get involved in team racing. There are a lot of events on the calendar. So I’ll highlight a few of my favorites here.

  • Baldwin Cup – Hosted by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club in California. It is the favorite event of most runners. Sailed the 1920s port in the not-so-traditional 4v4 format, it’s a little different but in a good way. Most clubs show up with their best talents for three days of close racing with so many volunteers that you don’t even have to rig the boats! Off-water highlights include 25-cent drinks, lawn games, and NHYC’s famous Mai Tais.
  • Morgan Cup – The Morgan is the best event on the keelboat team racing circuit with limited invitations to winners of other top events and a few per CV. Most clubs spend a lot of time training and generally get the best out of their club. The Morgan is hosted by the New York Yacht Club and has raced 3v3 with kites in sonar.
  • Lee Trophy – Like the Morgan, the Lee Trophy is sailed in sonar with 3v3 kites. The Seawanhaka Yacht Club rolls out the red carpet for this annual mid-October event with tight races on the water and fun water activities on land.
  • Soil cut – A unique event organized by Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans in their fleet of Flying Scots. Beyond the big races, Southern offers competitors endless amounts of grilled oysters with all the live music and nightlife that downtown New Orleans has to offer!
  • Cumberland Cup – The Cumberland is a unique biannual event hosted by the Royal Thames Yacht Club just outside London. The event dates back to 1912 and is now held in a 2v2 format with kites.

Keelboat team racing events are popping up everywhere. Check out the full schedule on the US Sailing Team Race Calendar here.

Master and Grandmaster Team Racing

The Master (45+) and Grandmaster (60+) team races are taking off as young team riders have started to age in this category. Highlights of the event include the Masters Hinman, NYYC Grandmasters, and the Newport Harbor Palmer Trophy among others.

Women’s team races

Women’s team races became more popular with varsity sailing adding a national women’s team racing championship starting in 2022. Two new events were launched this year, the NYYC Women 2v2 and the Thayer Trophy hosted by Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead. The two events will take place in Sonars with Spinnakers. American Yacht Club has also been hosting an event since 2012. Be sure to check out Amanda Callahan’s article on the growth of the women’s team racing circuit in this June issue of The One Design Line!

About the Author: Clinton Hayes is the Chairman of the One Design Committee for US Sailing.

Please visit One Design Central for more resources and information on one-design sailing.

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