4 on 4 Opti Team Racing Sucks

4 on 4 Opti Team Racing Sucks
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by Patrick Rynne on March 17, 2010
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Optimist team racing both here in the United States and the rest of the world should switch to 3 on 3 racing. The current 4 on 4 approach is bad for the kids, the event organizers, the umpires, and the spectators. Switch to 3 on 3, and everybody will be better off.

Comments15 comments

Supporter 4 years ago

I like Amanda's idea, you could replace a full 4v4 race with two 2v2 races that start shortly after one another. Could even combine the scores in some way? Offers an interesting dynamic as teams would then have to figure out which two of their team to sail against each of the other team's pairs.

Patrick Rynne 4 years ago

Great point Amanda! There is a LOT of validity to do 2 on 2. I think it is far and away the best way to introduce kids to team racing. They learn the fundamentals without getting the deer on headlights look when trying to remember combinations.

I am not sure it is best suited for international championships, only because I think the kids at that level can easily handle 3 on 3. But how sweet would it have been to have had the silver fleet at say a regatta like USODA Team Race Midwinters doing 2 on 2. Sooooooo much better.
I am going to think more about the 2 on 2 idea...and ask the kids tonight in class what they think.

interested party 4 years ago

Amanda- Verrry interesting idea !

Could provide better training for basic principles of TR.
The problems caused by larger number of teams trying to complete standard round robins could be resolved by Swiss League format. Scorer would have to be very sharp.
Each sailor/team would sail half as often as 4v4 format. Could be an issue.
Teams could have third member as alternate.
Let's keep the conversation going.

AC LOVIN 4 years ago

Amanda Callahan is my hero. And a genius.

Amanda Callahan 4 years ago

First, I agree with Pat. Having coached team racing on the Opti level up through college sailing, I can wholeheartedly say that 4 v. 4 for young team racers is NOT the best experience they could be having. The majority of the Opti sailors I've seen have no idea what is going on, and for the teams that have team race coaches, they're usually faster and end up winning anyways. I've even had sailors come up to me after the race and ask, "Who won?"

So I'm throwing another idea out there. Opti team racing should be 2 v 2! You keep the numbers the same, but now, as a sailor, you actually learn the basics of team racing in a very easy to understand way. Last place loses. So the question becomes, how do I get my teammate out of last? Passback, Mark Trap, Balance. The fundamental elements of team racing. The game is so much easier to see when you only have to worry about 1 teammate and two opponents. In my experience, sailors pick up team racing much quicker when they start with 2 v 2 rather than 3 v 3, and certainly faster than 4 v 4.

Again, with this model the number of sailors remains the same as the current model, but you can operate with fewer resources. I think it is a win-win for everyone.

ex opti-er 4 years ago

couldn't agree more with patrick

Patrick Rynne 4 years ago

I agree that there are more unstable combinations in 4 on 4, and it certainly allows for continuous action around the course. The problem in my opinion is that the 4 on 4 format isn't the BEST way.

Let me illustrate. Last year while preparing one of our U.S teams for the Marco Rizzotti (the venice italy team race regatta, one of the top events for this age group), I spent a lot of time thinking about how to prepare and coach the team. In training we spent much time learning the individual skills, learning the rules, and especially learning how to carry ourselves as a team following a loss etc. We put a big emphasis on mental toughness.
In fact I spent almost no time at all talking about combinations or plays. It's just so complicated that I felt the team would perform better having a more simplified approach as opposed to the more complete, but more confusing one.
So in Italy, we followed this theme. We focused a lot on fleet racing and boat speed and again tried to simplify how we approached the game. No magic number, no combinations, just fast sailing and executing passbacks immediately when they needed to be done.
The kids put in a great performance and won the event.
The point is that IF we had been doing 3 on 3, I could teach the kids about how to hold the 1-2, how to cover in a 2-3-4, how to hold a 1-4-5 or transition it to the 2-3-4 etc... I could create a complete and simple gameplan that each sailor could take with them in their sailing career.
With 4 on 4, it is just too complicated to give a young sailor a complete strategic picture of the game. In order to coach for success, you need to coach less team racing. This is sort opposite of what we should be doing.
As for the umpiring. We all know the quality of the calls depends on the ratio of umpires to sailors. In reality it should be one umpire boat with two umpires aboard for every pair of racers. For 4 on 4, it's 4 umpire boats. Even if you could provide that many umpires, you are also now dealing with 8 boats that are all pivoting on a dime and going in and out of right of way/keep clear etc etc. Super difficult umpiring. I've umpired at college events, high school national champs, and USTRA stuff, and nothing has been even close to as difficult as our sunday scrimmages down at LYC!
So why are we hanging onto 4 on 4? Who is it really benefiting? The kids, no way. They aren't even getting to learn the real game. Participation? Our teams are all using 5 sailors with one sitting out. One more kid and we would have 2 teams and everybody would sail. For the event organizers? 3 on 3 requires less chase boats, less charter boats and less umpires.
I cannot find one reason why 4 on 4 is better, but many reasons why 3 on 3 is.
~patrick

Interested Party 4 years ago

I respectfully disagree with those that believe 4v4 team racing should be replaced with 3v3 for Opti team racing.

The larger number of unstable combinations provides more opportunities for plays and resulting lead changes. The RRS only pertain to pairs of boats so how they are applied does not change with the total number of boats on the course. Umpiring is a challenging task particularly with boats as maneuverable Optis and in my experience there is little difference between 3v3 and 4v4.
The fact that more sailors participate in 4v4 is an added benefit but IMHO not the prime reason to maintain this format.

Optigon 4 years ago

I agree Patrick that the change needs to come from IODA and yes, USODA should be a leader. On the other hand if we're interested in evidence based outcome data I'd argue that US sailors are not being done a disservice with the present format. Look at the results from the most recent 3 "big" college TR events in Charleston, Navy and St. Mary's. At a minimum, 8 of the 9 skippers from the winning teams all did Opti team racing at international events and most were on championship opti team race teams here in the US or their home country. If 4v4 is so complex then moving from that to the less complex as the sailors age can only be a good thing..they can devote those newly freed brain cells to other adolescent/young adult thoughts and behaviors.

Combo Chaos 4 years ago

I agree 100% with Patrick. Years ago high school team racing in US was 4v4 - I sailed in it and it was total chaos most of the time. People said that going to 3v3 would reduce participation. In fact the opposite happened. Let's see, what do I do if I am 4 in a 1,3,5,8v2,4,6,7??...oh yes it's obvious isn't it! Try asking any US opti team member that has team raced internationally and see if you get an answer quickly enough to be useful in real time on a race course.

Patrick Rynne 4 years ago

Correction, not just USODA should switch to 3 on 3, ALL Opti team racing worldwide should be. I expect USODA can lead the way.

I think all team racing is great. 4 on 4 is better than nothing, but to me there is no good reason to do 4 on 4 instead of 3 on 3.
Is it too complext for me? Damn straight it is, and if its too complex for me, its probably too complex for most 10 year olds.

optigon 4 years ago

Were USODA move to 3 on 3 US Opti sailors would be either excluded or unprepared for international opti team race competition where it's all 4 on 4. While Patrick is correct about team racing beyond Opti's, it's still excellent learning experience and most sailors seem to love it. Maybe it's just too complex for Patrick ;-)

exoptimom 4 years ago

Gotta love Patrick to get to the point!

Another Coward 4 years ago

Could not agree more....they say it increases participation but at what price!!!

4 years ago

so true