Preview: US Team Racing Championship

Sixteen teams representing three countries will compete this weekend for the US Team Racing Championship in Seatlle.

Sailing Vanguard 15s with a three boat, six sailors per team format, some of the best team racers in the world will vie for the prestigious George R. Hinman Trophy on the waters of Lake Union in Seattle, USA.

Racing will begin on on Friday 1 October and the championship will be decided on Sunday 3 October. The highest placed US team will represent the United States at the 2011 ISAF Team Racing World Championship next August in Ireland.

The US Team Racing Championship routinely attracts the top teams in the country. The top four teams from the 2009 event have returned, including defending champions Team Extreme, who will return all six sailors from last year's team. Zachary Brown, Emmet Smith, Ian Barrows (ISV), Marla Menninger, Stuart McNay and Michael Hession make up Team Extreme. The all Yale team is comprised of former 2008 Olympians, McNay (470) and Barrows (Laser). Team Extreme has already had a tremendous season. In May, Team Extreme captured the Wilson Trophy in Great Britain by defeating the West Kirby Hawks in the finals.

The West Kirby Hawks, a perennial power from Great Britain and winners of the 2009 Wilson Trophy with the same six sailors led by Ben Field, Dom Johnson, and Andy Corhah, will also be competing this week and are in search of their first US Team Racing Championship. Having narrowly lost to Team Extreme at this year's Wilson Cup, they are out to avenge their loss.

The New York Yacht Club's Silver Panda team had their US Team Racing Championship winning streak snapped by Team Extreme last year. NYYC Silver Panda lost to Team Extreme, 3-2, in the best-of-five final series. They won the Hinman Trophy from 2006-2008, and in 2002. The 2009 ISAF Team Racing World Champions will return four of the six competitors from last year, including Amanda Callahan, Colin Merrick, Peter Levesque, and Carrie Amarante. They will be joined this year by Clay Bischoff and Caroline Hall Levesque.

Tall Boyz and Team San Diego Yacht Club (SDYC), last year's third and fourth place teams respectively, will take another shot the championship in 2010. Tall Boyz are represented by skippers Clay Johnson, Scott Hogan, and Sean Doyle. Team SDYC is represented by skippers Mikee Anderson Mitterling, Adam Roberts and, Nick Martin.

Seattle Sideshow, the local qualifiers, hope to keep the Hinman Trophy in Seattle. They are led by skippers Anthony Boscolo, Dalton Bergan, and Andrew Loe. All six sailors on the team are from Seattle.

Team racing is a unique form of racing. In each match, two teams of three boats are pitted against each other on an "N" shaped course. It is the cumulative points of all three boats that determine the winning team, which may or may not include the winning boat. The resulting tactics in this format are complex. It requires instantaneous decisions and superb boat handling.

Up to 346 action-packed races will be conducted at the south end of Lake Union. Friday and Saturday's racing will feature a double round-robin schedule. Sunday's racing will consist of championship elimination rounds and the finals. Racing starts at 10:00 a.m. PST all three days.

The US Team Racing Championship is hosted by the Seattle Yacht Club and the Center for Wooden Boats. The team of volunteers are prepared to put on an impressive show. On-the-water spectators are welcome, though they will be asked to stay clear of the race course and not interfere with wind. Two big screen TVs will carry action live inside the Center for Wooden Boats, and a live web feed is planned as well. Racing starts at 10:00 (local time all three days.