The Team Sport  –  More often than not when youngsters start getting involved in sailing, I hear them say things like, “I like sailing, but it’s not like soccer, football and baseball, which are team sports.”  While this statement may appear to be true on the surface, in actual fact, it’s not. Yes, you may be sailing that boat by yourself, competing against other sailors, who may, in fact, be on your team; however, there are many team-oriented aspects to sailing. Consider Big Boat racing, which has as many as 15-20 sailors on one boat. And what about Team Racing, which consists of groups of boats teaming up and going against the same number of boats, with the lowest points wining the race?


Starting off with single-handed boats, for example, let’s look at the very popular Laser. Teams from all over the world travel together, train together, and share the same common interest: making their boat go faster than the others. How do they accomplish that? Well they push each other to be better, many times under the direction of a coach, who holds the team together and keeps them moving along the right track. New sailors to the team often have to push themselves to stay with the pack during training. This, in turn, compels the better sailors to push themselves even harder to stay ahead, and this is where large gains in training are achieved.

Often, sailors on the team will not recognize how much they have truly gained until competition. This is because they don’t know how much the other teams have trained, and can’t accurately gauge their own performance because they have been training with the same sailors day in and day out. Teams that have pushed themselves harder than the others often put up the best results, not only at the top of the results list, but all the way down.

Then there’s Team Racing, where groups of sailors will come together and race other teams. This form of racing is very popular in the US collegiate circuit, as well as the Optimist class. Team racing is usually done in smaller dinghies ranging from eight to 18 feet in length. A lot of manoeuvring is involved, so keeping the boats smaller in size makes it easier for everyone, especially the insurance companies. Team racing uses its own set of rules. Why? Because often a sailor may choose to execute a certain move based on the fact that his team is currently winning or losing the race. This move, which would not be allowed in fleet racing, is allowed in team racing. It makes for very exciting races in which a team may be winning right up until then end of the race, only to lose at the finish thanks to a well-executed manoeuvre by a teammate. In team racing, two teams race simultaneously, so it’s either first or last.


At very high levels of international competition you will find the Maxi yachts, Farr designs, and the Volvo 70s, which will start this year in the Volvo Ocean Race 08/09. This is the key round-the-world race, and teams comprised of many of the best sailors are assembled to compete in it. More often than not, you’ll see teams that may not have the biggest budgets nevertheless pull together as a team and put up some world-class results.

So you see, like any major sport, sailing does have an element of team play. Whether you are a 10-year-old sailing an Optimist on your local sailing team, or an adult helming a Maxi yacht at the Worlds, your effort to win at sailing is inextricably linked to the teammate next to you.