The Different Types of Sailing Explained

Sailing, an Olympic sport since 1900, has various competitive types that have been listed by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) along with its non-competitive form, cruising.

Fleet Racing

Fleet racing is the most common form of competitive sailing that involves racing boats going around a course.

Fleet racing can be either ‘one-design’ or ‘handicap’. One-design boat racing, as at the Olympic Sailing Competition means that boats racing against each other are all the same – the same design, the same sail area etc. Handicap racing means different types of racing boat can compete against each other. Each boat has a handicap or rating so that their finish times can be adjusted or their start time determined so that the slowest boats go first.

Fleet racing can be any length of time with several taking place in a day or as a round the world race such as the Volvo Ocean Race.

Fleet Racing boat

Match Racing

A match race consists of two identical racing boats competing against each other. This is a one-on-one duel of strategy and tactics and the objective is simple – to be the first to cross the finish line.

A match racing course is always a windward/leeward course and each race takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

Team Racing

Team racing typically consists of two sailing teams each of three racing boats competing against eachTeam racing boat other. It is a fast-paced racing style which depends on excellent boat handling skills and rapid tactical decision making.

The sailing teams will race to try and achieve a winning combination of places – the lowest score wins. The scoring system is 1 for first place, 2 for second and so on. If one boat in the team wins the race they are not guaranteed glory as their combined score must be ten or less to win. Example: 2, 3, 5 = 10 points vs. 1, 4, 6 = 11 points.

Offshore and Oceanic Sailing

Oceanic racing is defined as any offshore race over 800 miles. There are many types of Oceanic and Offshore racing events which are organized for one design classes as well as handicap or rating systems.

The differences between the types of oceanic and offshore racing, ranging from trans-oceanic boat racing to short-course day races sailed in protected waters, are reflected in the six categories of the ISAF Offshore Special Regulations which provide for the differences in the minimum standards of safety and accommodation.

Diasabled Sailing

The International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) is an affiliate member of ISAF and responsible for disabled sailing worldwide.

Almost any racing boat can be sailed by people with disabilities although it is clear that some are more suitable than others.

In 1996 sailing was included on the programme of the Paralympic Games as a demonstration event and it has been full medal sport since then. It is one of the only sports in the Paralympic Games in which athletes of any disability compete together.

Disabled sailing racing boatCruising 

Finally, cruising is arguably the most commonly enjoyed sailing discipline.

Cruising can be a coastal day sail or a longer distance international journey crossing oceans and national borders.

ISAF works with organizations such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to represent the interests of sailors worldwide.

The Piracy updates and links in the Safety section are essential reading for sailors considering cruising in certain waters.


Learn how to train like an Ocean Skipper Free Guide

Racing Boat vs. Cruise Ship: What are the Differences?

The differences between racing boats and cruise ships

We all know that racing boats and cruise boats are built for very different purposes, but do you understand all the differences between them?

Racing Boat  vs. Cruise Ship: Whar are the Differences?

This exclusive MaxSea guide explains the differences between racing and cruise boats, focusing on the most several important factors. Learn about what differentiates racing and cruise boats in relation to their  respective comfort level for passengers and the types of navigation that each boat is more suited to, as well as the construction of each boat.

Lastly, this guide examines the different levels of cost incurred for maintenance of both type of boat.

Whether you are considering purchasing one of these boats, or just interested in learning more about their differences, this guide offers useful and relevant advice.


Don’t forget to download these other useful guides:

5 Tips for Choosing the Best Nautical charts

MaxSea Sailing Tips & Advice: The Ultimate Guide to Boat Rentals

10-Point Checklist for Ocean Racers and Weekend Sailors

10-Point Safety Checklist before Sailing


MaxSea official supplier of the 2012 Normandy Channel Race

Racing Boats - Normandy Channel Race 2011The 3rd Normandy Channel Race, a Class40s French event who attracted 45.000 visitors in 2011, is expected to set sail on Sunday, September 2.

On this occasion, the racing yachts will be sailing from Caen to Fastnet and back, for a total of 1.000 miles.

The Class 40 was created by enthousiastic sailors who wanted to enjoy the open ocean without expensive and larger boats. It’s considered a perfect compromise between the Mini 6.50 class and bigger ones such as the 60-foot IMOCA class.

MaxSea is happy to be one of the official suppliers  and wishes favourable winds and good sailing to the fleet of 16 participants.

Sailing towards the Fastnet - Normandy Channel Race 2011

Follow the 2012 Normandy Channel Race at

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