Match racing has its own set of rules, which are different from the regular ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing. The Match Racing Rules are designed to create very close, aggressive competition. Collisions are certainly not rare. Match Racing has on-the-water umpiring, with officials deciding “instant justice” on the water. Match racing is tremendously exciting to participate in, and unlike some other sailing events, match racing is thrilling to watch. Before the start, the two boats vie for control of the start line, circling each other in a one on one match and trying to outwit each other in an elaborate game of cat and mouse.
Off the start line, and racing is by nip and tuck around a windward-leeward course, with a downwind finish. Races typically last 15-20 minutes. Racing a round robin series of qualification and final rounds, the overall winner isn’t usually decided until the the teams cross the finish line of the last race. The match racing course resembles an oval shape with the Start/Finish line close to shore. The course consists of a starting line, between two marks, laid at right angles to the wind’s direction. The boats begin from the starting line and sail upwind to the first mark, which is rounded to the starboard (right side). They then take off downwind with spinnakers set, gybing as the duel continues to the downwind rounding mark that is located near the starting line. The boats round the marks 2-3 times before the winner crosses the Finish line.