Umpiring at the World Match Racing Tour

Umpiring at the World Match Racing Tour

Photo courtesy of Ian Roman

Report from Oakcliff’s Race Program Director Bill Simon:

The adventure started with an invitation from Craig Mitchell followed by finding that I was to be umpiring with Richard Slater, Chief Umpire, Miguel Allen and David Tallis who all have America’s Cup and lots of other top end experience. Richard Slater is one of the main architects of the Test Rules for match racing that we are using at all of the match racing in the country. In the down time I have had an opportunity to hear why the test rules were developed and what it was they were trying to be accomplish. Joining me on this adventure were Greg Kiely and Kathy Lindgren who are or were on the US Match Racing Championship Committee. It has been a week of education and improvement in my umpiring. 

There are so many differences to the mono hull game I am used to. It starts with a totally different course configuration with a reaching entry, 4 minute starting sequence with a 2 minute prestart from prep and entry to a high speed reaching blast off to the reach mark and a dive to the leeward gate, which is there before you know it. There are few dial ups (sorry Dial Up newsletter) instead there is a fish tale back to the start where each boat tries to get the other boat into irons or tacking away before they pull the trigger and scream towards the first mark. This can frequently determine the outcome of the race. Each race is in the vicinity of 8  -10 minutes and can be anywhere from 5 to 8 legs. They can start and finish on either port or starboard and the finish was set up just feet off of Fort Adams park which is lined with spectators, camera men and commentators. 

There are windward and leeward gates and the boats can touch any of the inflatable marks and frequently they bash right into them. Sometimes they even drag them along which is not fast. The course has boundaries, which are very tight that require the teams to tack and jibe to keep the boats together and put a premium on boat handling. Johnnie Berntsson was leading in one race and couldn’t release his traveler to jibe at the last gate mark and lost the race and was eliminated from the series in about one second. There are penalties for going outside the boundaries so as an umpire I had to change my focus from watching for mark hits to watching the boundaries. Eric Monnin was leading in his last race until he went over the boundary and got a penalty. 

There are several different types of penalties and they all have different ways of completing them. Some are losing two boat lengths while others involve getting two boat lengths behind the other boat. 

There were some of the best multihull and match racers in the world there. Their control of these ultra light and fast carbon fiber speed machines was just amazing. Just as any type of match racing, boat handling and speed are the required entry base of the pyramid. We saw lots of passes through boat speed and handling and just getting a puff at the right time. 

It was such a treat for me to be here with these sailors, many that I know from coming to Oakcliff Sailing over the years, umpires and race officials. Certainly winning team Taylor Canfield, Hayden Goodrich and his team come to Oakcliff frequently. Other sailors included Will Tiller who sailed with Phil Robertson, Brad Farrouk who once sailed with Will Tiller now sails with Ian Williams. 40% of the skippers have been to Oakcliff and probably a higher percentage of all the sailors have been here. Following on my America’s Cup course marshall experience it has been a great opportunity for an event organizer to see these world-class events up close and what it takes to put them on.  

An excellent adventure for a match race organizer and umpire.