James Match Cup
The James Match Race Trophy was donated to The Carolina Yacht Club in 1972, by Dr. Joseph M. (Joe) James. Some time prior, Dr James became aware of a match racing series called the Canada Cup. The Canada Cup was an annual match racing series between the US and Canada and was set up where if a team won three consecutive series that team would keep the cup. Eventually a US team won the Cup and it was rededicated as a match racing series named the Prince of Wales Bowl. Originally racing was restricted to Clubs in the Northeast US, but eventually the Prince of Wales Bowl became the US Sailing National Championship Series for Match Racing.
When Dr. James heard about all this he thought a local Match Racing Series would be a great way for sailors to learn the rules and would produce close competition that would be exciting for spectators to enjoy.
According to Dr James the first years were interesting because there were no rules in existence yet for match racing, and he had no experience in setting up a match racing series. The first match of the first year the boats began racing as soon as they left the beach. Realizing that would not work very well the second and subsequent match competitors were required to be on a buoy at each end of the starting line at their preparatory signal. Formal rules for match racing were not introduced until the early 1980’s.
The James Match Race Series is thought to be the second longest running small boat match race series in the US behind the Prince of Wales Bowl. The series was sailed in Sunfish from 1972 until 2007. The event started with a 16 boat single elimination bracket, where if you lost a heat you were eliminated and only the winner was undefeated. Sometime around the early 1990’s a 16 boat double elimination bracket was introduced. This allowed more sailing for the competitors, and created some exciting rematches where a competitor after losing a heat could win the losers bracket and end up winning the series.
In the late 1980’s The Americas Cup began the trend of using on the water umpiring for Match Racing. In 2003 The James Match Race series began using on the water umpiring, and reduced the number of competitors to 8. Since 2008 the event has been sailed in 420’s with a 2 person crew.
The James Match Races have always been an invitational event, however anyone wanting to sail may apply for an invitation.
Dr Joe James bought his first Sunfish Sailboat in 1960. He was active in the Wrightsville Beach Offshore Racing association for many years. He served as commodore of the Carolina Yacht Club from1986 to 1987, and commodore of the South Atlantic Yacht Racing Association in 1993. He was on the US Sailing board of directors for six years. He was appointed to the Prince of Wales Committee and was an Umpire from 1991 to 2005. In 2003 Dr James was honored as US Sailing Judge Emeritus, and in 2006 US Sailing Umpire Emeritus.
Club members and sailors are encouraged to share memories and photos from early James Match Race events.