The classical form of a sailing regatta is the Fleet Race. Here, at least three boats are sailing against each other, with the aim of crossing the finish line first. In fleet races, sailors firstly try to escape the opponents by sailing as fast as possible. But only through the use of tactical maneuvers, it is possible to control the direct pursuer and gain a bigger lead. A prerequisite for this is the constant observation of the opponents as well as the perfect and fast reaction on maneuvers of the other sailors. Fleet races can last up to several months, such as the open sea regatta "Volvo Ocean Race", which runs around the world.
Another important form of a sailing regatta is the Match Race. While more than several hundred boats are able to participate in fleet races, only two sailors compete against each other on a track of just a few nautical miles in match races. For that, speed is not the top strategy, but the tactical duel of the two opponents is the main focus of the race. The tactical maneuvers are quite different from those of the Fleet Race: since there are only two boats on the track, it is already possible to gain control of the opponent at the start by holding the boat windwards and on the starboard side. The oldest and best known match race is the America`s Cup.
Previously, almost all sailing regattas has been carried out on a triangular course, the olympic triangle. In addition to the start and finish line, there are three buoys which must be circumnavigated. The distances between the buoys depend on the class of the boats, the wind direction and the duration of the competition. Today, this course is mostly used for races with boat classes that do not have a spinnaker.
In addition, there is the up-and-down course which has prevailed at the America`s Cup, with catamarans and mostly also with boat classes that have spinnaker and gennaker. After the start, the participants sail to the track mark that is lying against the wind and turn it counter-clockwise. Then the boats sail with the wind in the back to the gate that is lying above the starting line, and round the gate from the right or the left. This course is sailed several times, usually three times, before the finish line can be targeted.
When two or more classes of boats are sailing against each other, the trapezoidal track is often used, in which two different courses can be sailed (Innerloop and Outerloop).