The Sailboat Regatta Scale
I've seen rankings of high-level regattas but not a comprehensive scale that covers the gamut of sailboat racing. So, here's a first rough cut. This sailboat regatta scale also can be compared to the yacht club rating scale I once wrote.
The Sailboat Regatta Scale
1. The crews of a MacGregor X and a West Wight Potter both thought they would sail to windward about the same time... (This could be the beginning of a bad joke that would be unkind and unfair to Powersailors and Potter Yotters, but you may fill in with your own punch line.)
2. The Boat Owners of Lost Lake will "race" to the other side of their small lake and back. If anyone gets too far behind, he or she is allowed to turn on the boat's motor to catch up; that way everyone gets back to the cooler of beer about the same time. Some of the skippers have seen the cover of a sailing magazine and looked at the pictures. Some of them can name the points of sail. Many of them know how to change a propeller.
A bunch of kids are learning to sail a motley fleet of Sunfish. "Last one to the dock and back is a rotten egg!"
3. Low-level club racing, often with only a single race committee boat and no support boats, partially trained race committee; typical low-level "beer can" racing". Often only one fleet is started. Handicap fleets are more common; one design fleets are the exception. Trophies may or may not be given.
Protests are not often carried out because no one is very comfortable with running or participating in a protest hearing and procedural errors might make the results of the hearing invalid (or, alternatively, someone does know how to run a protest hearing, but it would cut too far into the post-race happy hour to be permitted to be held under normal circumstances).
Many of the skippers have a copy of the Racing Rules of Sailing and have a general familiarity with the Part 2 (When Boats Meet) rules, though their knowledge level drops off dramatically beyond Port-Starboard and Windward-Leeward. Some of the skippers have read sailing books and magazines or taken sailing classes.
4. Typical regattas hosted by a moderate- or medium-sized club, with a (mostly) trained race committee, a few club-owned signal, mark-set, and support boats, and some race participation by sailors from other clubs in the area. For a small club, this might be one of their biggest and most organized regattas of the year. Participation might range from a dozen to two dozen boats with perhaps a hundred competitors and volunteers involved. Multiple fleet starts are typical.
The race committee chair or at least one member of the r.c. typically has at least club-level race officer certification from US Sailing or the appropriate national sailing body. Most skippers and many crew are capable of enjoying an intelligent conversation about the racing rules, wind, weather, and tactics.
This is also typical of low-level local or regional regattas involving sailors from a few nearby clubs.
5. Regional-level or other significant and respected regattas hosted by medium- to large clubs with well-organized and equipped race committees. Such a regatta might have as many as a 100 boats participating in the races with four hundred crew along with additional on-shore spouses and friends to be entertained. Good crew are coveted by the better skippers; many crew graduate from organized youth sailing programs provided by the host club. Overall, participants are a mix, from rookies to the highly talented, with a few very competitive teams.
The race chair and several members of the committee have been trained at the regional and local level and the protest committee is formally appointed and trained. The regatta has sponsorship and a web site with on-line registration. Catering, hosting, and hospitality arrangements may be a mix of home-grown hospitality and hired services. Budgets may range from Euro 5 000 to 25 000. The regatta might be big enough to require a second course to be set up, with 10 to 20 race committee volunteers on the water and perhaps 20 to 50 volunteers and staff assisting on land. Local dignitaries such as the town mayor or a television news anchor will probably be roped into presenting awards.
Initial regional qualifying stages for youth, women's keelboat, and other specialized national championships may fall into this category.
6. Significant regional or national regattas that attract some international participation and large numbers of entries. Regatta budgets may range from 10 000 to 75 000 Euros and event management may be a mixture of professionals and well-trained, experienced volunteers, some of whom have participated in national- and international-level events. Volunteers may number a 100 or more and pre-event planning is performed by multiple committees. National- and regional-level commercial sponsors support the regatta. Top teams put this event on their calendar.
This level may also be typical of smaller, but significant events such as final qualifying stages for national youth, women's keelboat, and other specialized championships. Continental championships for cruising or less-popular classes with a moderate standard of competition may fall into this category.
Crew members are expected to be confident; anyone who isn't or who has a bad regatta may be "flicked" off the boat. Most crew are long-time sailors and many are former athletes. Skippers could have an intelligent discussion with Dick Rose or national authorities about the racing rules -- and some of them have.
7. Large, nationally or internationally sponsored regattas with significant budgets with some professional sailors and big-budget amateur programs, international participation. Crews are professional or semi-pro on the more competitive boats; and most crew are very experienced and athletic. Even the amateurs are talented sailors and many of them combine deep pockets with a lifelong passion for sailing.
The regatta has national or international level race management; regatta budgets may equal or exceed Euro 100 000 . Races are administered by national or international-level race officers and judges and are hosted by larger clubs with well-established and respected racing programs and race management staffs that are comfortable in working with national and international race officers, judges, and competitors. Special considerations at this level may include access control and badging, formal sponsor fulfillment plans, and formalized emergency and incident response plans.
Also, world championships for typical not-too-elite one-design classes and some small but historic or significant events such as national youth, women's keelboat, and other specialized championships or qualifiers for national Olympic teams.
Some skippers and crew might attempt to explain a Stuart Walker article about wind phenomena.
8. ISAF Grade 1 events, many one-design world championships, major tour events, some top-level continental championships, the top distance racing events (Fastnet, Hobart, Bermuda), elite trans-ocean or circumnavigation events, many world championship events, some elite invitation events, historic regattas. Professional sailors, sailmakers, and semi-pros dominate the top ranks here. True amateurs may be second-class citizens here, unless they have the lifelong passion, commitment, and experience to compete with the sailing rock stars. "Toto, this isn't casual club sailing any more."
9. World Championships for large one-design classes with significant representation of professional and Olympic-level sailors, Pan American Games, the very most elite one-design events, top Grade I events with Olympic ties. True Corinthians (amateurs) are a profound rarity here; professional-level preparation and planning are a given. There is little tolerance for error here. Results are far more important to many skippers than any sentimental considerations. Professionalism and a thick skin are mandatory.
The world's top race officers and judges are needed to control the world's top sailing egos.
The skippers and afterguard at this level have applied the latest scientific advances to supplementing, correcting, and customizing the Stuart Walker article on wind phenomena, but the information is Top Secret.
10. Olympic Sailing
10. America's Cup. Ratio of attorneys (lawyers) to sailors is approximately 3.14159 : 1 .