Sunday, September 27, 2009

Giant leap in US match racing in the making?

A major shift appears to be taking place in US college sailing. College/University sailing in the US will likely be making a change next year, scrapping its sloops/keel boat championship and switching to match racing. The philosophy behind the change is that match racing ia big part of the future of sailing and it is the one aspect of the sport where US colleges do not produce experts straight out of school.

The ICSA (Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association of North America) produces just about all elite US sailors, including Ed Baird, Terry Hutchinson, and Anna Tunnicliffe,as well as the last several world team racing champions. If this change is made, one can expect the caliber of US produced match racers to grow rapidly.

In the ICSA board meeting that took place last January in Park City, Utah it was decided that a "Sloops Working Party" be created in order to investigate the future of college sloops, specifically looking at match racing. In the following meeting in San Francisco last May, Stanford University Coach John Vandemoer (husband of US Olympic Match Racing sailor Molly Vandemoer, who finished 3rd last week at Sail for Gold in the UK) presented his "Report of the Sloops Working Party". The minutes of the ICSA board meetings can be accessed here.

Where this gets bigger is that the ICSA would like to work with US Sailing, to automatically get the winner of the new college match racing championship a berth to the US Match Racing Championship, as well as other Grade 2 or 1 events in the US. The ICSA hopes its sailors could rapidly overtake the current fleet of US Match Racers, since they already team race so well. The weakness for college sailors will be keel boat teamwork and boat handling skill, but that has not been hard to learn for other ex-college sailors.

Without any question this should help grow the sport. The US is about to really start focusing on match racing, which generally played a secondary role in the past. The fleets will get more competitive and more teams will be trying to get into events.

Terry Hutchinson, here at the helm of Quantum Racing, was College Sailor of the Year in 1989 and 1990. Cartagena, 14 September 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing

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