Match Racing Made Simple

Unlike normal fleet racing, match racing is between only 2 boats and the goal is not finish with the best time, but to simply beat the other boat. While most of the normal sailing rules apply, there are a few differences.

The Alexandra Cup will be raced under the Sailing Instructions and the Match Racing Rules contained in Appendix C of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-2012.

Races 1, 2, 3 will be worth 1 point; Races 4, 5, 6 will be worth 2 points; and Races 7, 8, 9 will be worth 3 points.

Starting Sequence

The most obvious difference between fleet and match racing is the Start. This part of the race usually provides the most intense part of the competition.

  • The first Attention signal is made at 10 minutes prior to start and Code Flag F is hoisted.
  • The boats will generally be on their assigned side of the starting area, Blue flagged vessel on the port side and Yellow flagged vessel on starboard side.
  • At 6 minutes, Code Flag F is removed.
  • At 5 minutes, the Warning signal, numeral pennant associated with the flight number, will be displayed. (note: for the Alexandra Cup series this will always be numeral pennant 1)
  • At 4 minutes, the Preparatory signal is given and Code Flag P is hoisted. At the Preparatory Signal, each boat must be outside of the starting area defined by a line perpendicular to the starting line through the starting mark on each boat’s assigned end. After the Preparatory signal, the boats may enter the starting area from the course side of the starting line.
  • This is the period where each boats works hard to find a pre-start advantage using the Rules of Sailing to their advantage.
  • At 2 minutes prior to start, a sound signal is made and boats must have entered the starting area. If one or both have not entered the starting area, then a Yellow or Blue flag, as appropriate, is displayed indicating that the boat has incurred a penalty.
  • At the Starting signal, warning and Preparatory flags are removed. If one or both vessels have crossed the starting line to the course side prior to the starting signal, then a Yellow or Blue flag, as appropriate, will be displayed until all vessels have started properly.

(note: for the Alexandra Cup series this has been changed so that the Preparatory flag is removed at 1 minute prior to the Starting signal, and a sound signal is made)


Another big difference is the way rules infractions are handled. Rules umpires accompany the race and are ready to make quick rulings on rule infractions during the course of the race. Almost all infractions are settled on the water, with only the most serious offences going to a formal protest after the race.

Umpires following Lady Van and Pirate

Either boat can flag an incident or infraction of the Rules by the other boat. They do this by displaying Code Flag Y. The on-the-water umpires will be following the match and will determine if an infraction has taken place. If they so determine, the umpires will display a Yellow or Blue flag, as appropriate to indicate that one of the boats have incurred a penalty. If the umpires make a ruling, a boat cannot lodge a protest on that incident. If the umpires determine that no infraction has taken place, they will display a Green & White flag.

For more serious infractions, the umpires can also signal with a Red Flag to indicate a penalty must be taken as soon as possible, or a Black flag to indicated one boat is disqualified.


If a boat is penalized, she can take the penalty anytime after the start and before the finish. On a beat the penalty is a gybe, on a run the penalty is a tack; all penalties must be completed before crossing the finish line to finish.

The boat cannot perform any part of a penalty within 2 lengths of a rounding mark and the head of your spinnaker must be below the gooseneck when tacking in a penalty.

If a boat is carrying a penalty and gets another, she must perform the 2nd penalty immediately.

Other Rules

A couple of other rules unique to match racing:

Rule 16.2 is deleted, meaning a starboard tack vessel can alter course, provided she gives the other boat room to keep clear, and force a port tack boat to continue to keep clear

A Boat cannot go out of her way to interfere with a boat on another leg and cannot protest for action or in-action of the umpires.

Marks are rounded, leaving them to starboard, unlike fleet racing which would normally leave them to port.