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Yacht Racing - The Match Race

( Originally Published 1911 )

THE Match Race is the type of race now in use for the America's Cup, where there is only one boat on a side, sailing a series of three out of five races for a win.

This kind of racing brings out all the skill in handling, and errors are easily seen when made, as there is no other boat to help along, as in the Team Race, and there is only one boat to defeat and look out for. As the saying goes, get between your competitor and the mark, and stay there if you can, and if you can do this you will win.

I will tell about a certain race that actually took place between two 21-foot raceabouts, best three out of five for a large stake. We will call the boats "A" and "B." "A" was faster in light weather, "B" in moderate weather, and it was a close match in a heavy breeze.

The first race was sailed in a moderate wind, "B's" weather, and the incident that I wish to recall happened in that race. The course was to windward first, then a reach and a run with spinnakers home. "A" was first at the windward mark, "B" being one minute and thirty seconds astern. On the second leg "B" cut "A's" lead down to twenty seconds and "B" could outrun "A" dead before the wind. When "A" rounded it was obvious that her wind would be spoiled by "B," so she luffed well out to weather, and when "B" rounded she followed suit. After ten minutes sailing it was only a matter of a few minutes more before "B" would pass "A." "A," however, kept her course well high of the home mark, and when "B" passed her to windward "A" quickly luffed up past "B's" stern. This forced "B" to luff and kept her from bearing away toward the home mark. "A" would luff across "B" then try and go through her lee, all the time keeping "B" from heading off toward the finish line, for if she had "A" would have covered her and passed her. "A" kept up these tactics until they were both past the finish line, but a mile to one side of it. Then the right time had come. "A" attempted to run past "B" to leeward, quickly jibed her mainsail and pushed her spinnaker to starboard and headed for the line. "B" seeing this followed suit, but, of course, was directly under "A's" lee and so could do nothing. "A" passed her and pulled out a couple of lengths lead ; "B " pulled up on the wind and crossed "A's" wake, attempting to luff out on "A's" weather quarter. "A" would not allow this and held again well to windward of the finish line, and the wind being about abeam, "B" could not pass "A" close to her on account of "A's" back-wind, and to pass "A" would necessitate sailing well to windward on a large arc of a circle. "A" could then hold her own as she sailed on the small arc of a circle from where she had jibed to the finish line, forcing "B" to sail a larger arc in order to pass her, and consequently to sail a much longer distance.

"A" crossed the line five seconds ahead of "B" simply because she had out-maneuvered "B," getting to the point she wanted when dead before the wind. This made "B" sail the longest distance home, and "B's" slight extra speed could not make up for this.

I consider this incident of extraordinary interest, because it is a good example of what can be done in a Match Race in the way of judgment and handling. (See diagram 18.)

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