Saturday 8 March 2014

Match Racing with a Leeward Gate

Perhaps for some of you not completely new, but for a lot of sailors and umpires it still is: a new course configuration in Match Racing. Specifically, the use of a Gate instead of a single leeward mark. I myself first encountered this set-up last year, in a German National MR championship in Berlin. And this year we use it locally at the Team Heiner Spring Match Racing 2014 series in Lelystad. I like it!

When is the Alpari  WMRT going to use a Leeward Gate?
I've uploaded a couple of papers written by Dave Perry, - 4-time US Match Racing Champion, 2-time Congressional Cup winner & Chairman, US Match Racing Committee - about the subject. I agree
with his rationale and assessment one hundred percent. You can find the links at the end of the post.
He writes about:
  1. The race course in match racing should provide the most opportunities for the trailing boat to pass the leading boat while still maintaining a fair test of skill.
  2. A well set gate opens up the game tactically for the trailing boat, and gives them some options that can increase their chances of passing the leader
  3. The race course configuration should be whatever provides for the best game for the competitors and spectators / media
The leading boat has the advantage of being able to choose which gate mark to round; the trailing boat has the advantage of being able to choose to round the same mark as the leader, or not. This makes the game much more interesting for both boats, and makes rounding behind the leader much less disadvantageous.

When the trailer rounds the same mark as the leader (which they are forced to do with a single leeward mark), they have two not-great choices: stay on the same tack and sail in the disturbed air and water of the leader; or tack (often when downspeed after the rounding). The problem is usually that the leader will tack with the trailer, ending up in a very strong position to start the second beat.

With a second mark to choose from, the trailer will normally round the other mark than the leader did, starting the beat in clear air and water, and out of phase with the leader. This opens up far more tactical options for attacking and trying to pass, or stay close to, the leader.

In the German Championship last year the outcome of the Matches was never clear until at least the second upwind mark. Because of the gate the trailing boat - if not too far behind already - had a fighting chance to get back in the game. Some sailors grumbled - they had to sail that much harder to stay in front, some sailors loved it - they could get past the leading boat. The match got more exciting and not boring in the second half, as you see with a lot of matches.

Of course everybody has to figure out what the best attack and defence manoeuvres are, with a gate. But once you do, the game gets more interesting.

As an umpire I had no trouble using the rules around the gate. We had to find the best position for our rib, but that was sorted out quickly - just trail the boats going trough.

I'm uploading a video a friend made in the TH Spring Match Race. This was shot during in the semi-finals on board of an umpire boat.

The trailing boat takes the left hand gate mark and immediately gets clear air and out of sinc with the leading boat. Instead of having to follow....

Perhaps you'd like to try this in your local Match Races? In the second paper there's some advice on how to re-write your NoR and SI's to do this.

Let me know how it goes!
Next step: Windward gates?


Papers by Dave Perry:
Tactics at Leeward Gates in Match Racing.pdf
Use of Gates in Match Racing.pdf


  1. We've used leeward gates at our club hosted regattas for several years now in the US. Since most of the fleets are handicapped and consist of catamarans in one fleet, dingies in another and keel boats in the third, after twice around, most of the fleets are intermingled with the others. The gate system allows the different sized boats to have a fair shot at roundings: a sunfish can avoid being blanketed by a Catalina 22, thus being dropped back several spots in a timed handicap by someone outside of their race. We like gates.

  2. Dear Jos,

    i couldn't agree more with your article.
    The leeward gate makes the game more interesting and give more options to both boats. Usually, the boat ahead chooses the mark that leads to the favoured side of the race course and the gate gives an option to the trailing boat to do something different and still have a chance to win a race....

    the only problem with this article is that I can't open the attached ....they are asking for a password....


    1. Thanks Stevie. I've changed the links. You should be able to open the documents now.

  3. Thanks. This article is very interesting.
    I think over and over Japanese Match racing is 100 years behind advanced nations.
    Sen/ Japan

    1. Don't worry Sen, I hadn't heard about gates for Match Racing until last year. In the US they were doing it already a year or more before that.
      Please feel free to distribute the papers among your fellow Umpires and Japanese sailors and give it a try in a next event. I think you'll be positively impressed.

  4. Was there not a gate in the Monsoon Cup?
    In the old Americas Cup they used gates to great effect.
    Mike B


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