What You Need to Know About Yacht Racing

What You Need to Know About Yacht Racing

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Yacht Racing 300x200 What You Need to Know About Yacht Racing

This refers to a certain type of sport mainly performed by water vessels that are of reasonable weight and size. Yacht is a name derived from the Middle Low German term – jaght, Norwegian – jagt or Dutch term – jacht meaning a light and swift war vessel, pleasure or commerce. However, what makes this word look more of a sporting term is the fact that it is derived from jaghen meaning to chase, hunt or pursue. In this case, the expression yacht racing therefore is associated with racing of huge, usually expensive vessels operated by certified sailors unlike in sailboat racing which allows participation of other types of smaller vessels such as light craft and dinghies.

Early History of Yacht Racing

Historically, yacht racing is believed to have begun in the 17th century in England and demarcated in 1885 during the time when Royal Yacht Squadron was established. A first ever competition, was held in 1661 when John Evelyn witnessed Anne and Katherine, two huge English-made royal vessels battle it out in a race that saw the two race it out from Greenwich to Gravesend and then back to Greenwich. Between these vessels, one was the property of the King of England, Charles II, who at times steered it. In this race, he lost.

Come 1782, a certain class of vessel well revered for being able sail closely to the wind, the Cumberland Fleet, was launched to test the Thames River waters with the sports fans watching from a bridge. Just like is the current norm, sailing close to the wind with great efficiency and speed greatly stirred up the sailing society.

In 1851, Yacht Racing Became Complete Racing

1851 witnessed the first American Cup that gave the public an opportunity to watch a race that featured the Royal Yacht Squadron and the New York Yacht Club. Unlike the current Yacht racing rules and regulation governing the sport, the most interesting thing is that the Aurora came second but for the mere fact that the time allowance time had been removed for this very competition, she could have won by a big margin. In the subsequent years, more races were organized at an interval of 3 to 4 years following an issue raised by once group of participants challenging the then reigning champion who by 1983 still held firmly on to the first position – NYYC.

Ratings And The Yacht Racing Rules

As this sporting event became more common and the yacht manufacturing industry diversified its design, it now became necessary for introduction of measurement systems as well as time allowances to cater for the differences in the designs of these boats. Naturally, longer yachts are faster as compared to the shorter ones; hence, to be fair, 1820 witnessed the introduction of a rather primitive formula of allocating extra time. This did not go well with the longer yacht as they were generally handicapped. As a result, individuals who owned the bigger vessels developed an issue with the system of awarding the allowance time as their preference was in the winner being crowned, after crossing the finish line just like in other races such as horse racing. This argument led to the development of the two ratings as well as one specific design.

Rating System of Yacht Racing

Generally, the rating system was based on certain analytic formula of particular designs of the yacht’s dimensions like the sail area, length, shape of the hull and displacement. Between 1920 and 1970, a formula by the Cruising Club of America was developed and this led to most of the cruising/racing boats being designed at that time.

Coming right after its predecessors, 1970 saw the formation of the International Offshore Rule – IOR, a mathematically complex rule of some kind. This adversely affected the degree of seaworthiness as in speed, leading to the adoption of the PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet). Typical of the proven performance distinctiveness such as the sailing speed (theoretical) was aimed at preventing differently designed yachts mostly owned by families and friends at certain clubs from participating in the racing sport. This also led to most of the sailboats owned and steered by families to have PHRF local chapter ratings filed.

ORC, IRC, PHRF and ORR are the most common systems of handicap ratings. In one-design racing, classes of the same type of boat design – massively produced – is to allow professionalism to decide who wins rather than victory being influenced by weather or the type boat. Examples of one-design boats include the star, New York 30 of Nathanael Herreshoff and Etchells. Generally, the current contests of yacht racing are organized basing on the yacht racing rules whose first establishment was in 1928. The RRS, though a bit complex, are intended to ensure safety and fairness in the race. To ensure that the rules remain intact, the International Sailing Federation has given itself a mandate to revise and update the rules after every four years.

The Yacht Racing Types

Today’s major races are categorized as ocean, around the world, offshore and inshore racing that are bound by one set of rules but a wide scope of handicap ratings.

Yacht Racing Tournament


The race covers an estimated distance of 600 miles that begins at Cowes on Isle of Wight, all round the Fastnet rock located on southern coast on Ireland and finally winding up at Plymouth. It was first established in 1924 with only 7 boats taking part.

Tour De France A LA Voile

This race covers 1000 miles and was initially established in 1978 with 28 boats participating. It is held along the three coasts in France namely Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean and the English Channel.


This event takes place from Sydney in Australia and winds up at Hobart in Tasmania after racing for over 600 miles after its first establishment in 1945.

Newport to Bermuda

First held in 1923, this race begins from Newport in RI and finally to Bermuda, an island located 600 miles off the Georgian coast.

The ocean classics Route Du Rhum

First held in 1978 and at present, it is conducted every November of the fourth year. Although is typically a single handed race, crew boats are allowed to participate. It begins in the north coast of France and finally to the French island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and covers approximately 3700 miles.

Mike L. is author and editor at Sowest. Mike has produced and marketed innovative content for many blogs. Stay in touch with Mike on Sowest .

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