Different Kinds of Boat Races
Class Race - Where all the competitors are sailing the same class of boat. This generally makes things a lot simpler... the boat in front is winning; no mathematical jiggery pokery with handicaps is required. Unfortunately this sometimes doesn't work in smaller clubs where there may not be enough boats to make a class race worthwhile.
Handicap Race - where competitors can sail any class of boat, and all start at the same time. Boats race over a set number of laps, and a handicap system such as the Portsmouth Yardstick is used to produce a corrected time for each competitor. In this kind of race it is difficult to tell at a glance who is actually leading; a slower boat can be placed higher in the results than a faster boat, even though the faster boat crossed the finish line first. Handicap races are good where a moderate number of boats from many classes are racing, as it makes for a very exciting start.
Pursuit Race - where the race lasts for a set length of time, rather than a set distance; the boat in front after the time is up is the winner. The idea is that by the end of the race equally skilled competitors will be very close together. This involves slower boats setting off first, with faster boats waiting to start; giving the slower boats a head start, if you will.
For example, given a race of about 70 minutes Mirrors, a slow boat, would go first; Toppers a minute later; Miracles 11 minutes later, and so on and so forth. After the time limit is up, the position of the boats is recorded, often by a motor boat following the course in the opposite direction, starting from the leading boat. Pursuit races can be advantageous if there are a large number of boats in many different classes, as the boats do not all start at the same time from a congested start line.
Team Race - where the emphasis is on the team doing well, rather than the individuals. Team racing is a highly tactical affair, with heavy use of devious rules to block the progress of competitors' boats.
Match Race - a "one-on-one" duel between two boats of the same class. As you will only ever be sailing against one other boat, match races also involve devious tactics, as the leading boat tries to block the trailing boat, and the trailing boat tries to pass the leader.