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DwayneSpeer 03-24-2011 12:25 PM

Our yacht club is a small one and we are located where there are few other sailboats but we like to race a bit anyway. The problem is the same skipper wins 95% of the time and it's a bid discouraging to the others, some of which have quit trying. As a result we are probably going to try a new, at least to us, way of handicapping this year and see how it turns out.

We have been using the PHRF system, slightly modified, for a lot of years and it just doesn't work for us because we have boats of all kinds and sizes trying to race together. We have no class? :rolleyes:

We are going to try to use what we call a Skipper's handicapping system in addition to the PHRF. We will develop the Skipper's handicap the same way that golfers and bowlers do. The Skipper will be assigned a handicap in seconds per mile that is intended to close the very large gap between the traditional winners and the rest of the field. The skipper's handicap will be added to the boat's handicap (per PHRF) and the overall handicap applied to the finish times.

My question to all of you is this. Have any of you done this before and if so, what are the pitfalls?


T34C 03-24-2011 12:46 PM

My YC uses PHRF as a basis for our regular "beer can" style races, and then adjusts based on finish times. We use a pursuit style start where the slower boats start first based on their handicap. Basically applying their handicap to their start time instead of working it out at the end. With this type of start all boats "should" finish at the same time. It makes the racing much more competitive across different types of boats and skill levels. It also makes it easy to see (and measure) who is always winning and to adjust their handicap from there, using PHRF as a baseline number. Some boats end up with radically different handicaps than PHRF but it makes the racing more interesting/challenging for them too, which makes everyone happy.

Tim R. 03-24-2011 01:12 PM

Something that may work well for you is to try Time on Time scoring rather than Time on Distance. Many feel this is a more eqitable way to score races that have a large descrepency in PHRF ratings.

Creating a skipper handicap really takes away from the whole point of sailboat racing. It was designed to try and equalize the boats and make it crew vs crew. I am not a golfer but I always thought handicaps were for bad golfers who wanted to beat good golfers. Kinda like what they teach in school these days. No losers, everyone is a winner if they made an effort.

Maybe this guy really is that good and deserves to win. I know in our club we have had a few of those. I was one for a season a few years back. But we all have supper together after the races and we share information so some of the sailors can learn from the better ones. Before I knew it, one of the newer guys was beating me consistently the following season.

Another solution is to divide into two classes; pro vs newbe.

What are the margins like? If he consistently wins by many minutes fine, but if he consistenly wins by seconds than that should be a challenge to the other crews.

I know that at our club, if we tried to equalize the skippers, we would lose more boats than if we had a consistent winner.

I know when I was not as good a racer, I always saw it as a challenge to beat the guy who always won. When I finally did, there was no looking back. It was a sweet moment and from that point forward he never beat us again. It was a wonderfull race. We had the same rating and virtually the same boat(Ericson 34 vs Ericson 35). It was a tacking dual up the channel finishing at the big floating resturant where we had people watching. The finish came down to a tacking dual and we beat them across the line by 3 seconds.

DwayneSpeer 03-25-2011 06:27 PM

We looked into the time-on-time method and it certainly has some benefits to allow boats of significant ratings race together but it just doesn't go far enough.

Dividing into pros vs newbies wouldn't work either since a big field is 6 or 8 boats at a time.

As far as golf handicaps, the system we would adopt would still require the good sailors to sail good to beat the not so good ones and the not so good ones would have at least some chance to win now and then. We feel it will bring some fun back into the day for all those that just have no chance now of winning and of course, we will adjust the handicaps for the not so good now and then as then get better to not allow them to win just due to their handicap rating.

Again, have any of you tried this and if so what are the pitfalls?

Faster 03-25-2011 09:16 PM

We had a similar situation at our club years ago, and for a season (or a series... I forget) what we did was back calculate a bunch of results to the same corrected time and assigned the resultant average rating to everyone.

It worked alright, but for some reason everything reverted soon after.....

paulk 03-25-2011 10:10 PM

Our club did a similar maneuver in a similar effort to boost interest and attendance. We scored everyone based on their standard PHRF handicap the first month of the season. Then, based on those results, we assigned a "Club" handicap to apply for races the following month(s). The head of the Race Committee worked out the numbers. As I recall, our rating was adjusted by about 45 seconds per mile, because we'd been beating everybody. Others might have had their rating moved in the other direction to compensate for a variety of issues. (Old sails, old crew, foul bottom, sagging forestay...) The adjustments meant that if we made any mistakes, like getting a mediocre start, not tacking on a header, or taking too long in a tack, we got beaten. If the others got a good start and sailed the favored side of the course, they prevailed. Making it possible for more people to win made the racing more appealing for more of our members, who came out to race instead of going home to cut the grass Wednesdays. It meant we had to stay on our toes if we wanted to win. After several seasons of this, an interesting thing happened. More and more people came out to race. They improved, because they raced more. The club handicaps became smaller, and, essentially unnecessary. Now we have enough boats to run both spinnaker and non-spinnaker fleets. We haven't used the Club ratings over the past few years, but they certainly seemed to work to get our act in gear.

tommays 03-26-2011 02:47 PM

I don't like the handicap beyond the PHRF rating because a lot of people are just lazy and it rewards them

I have another friend with a J24 who always finishes last and when i have had time i try and help him out BUT when its two much trouble to even clean the bottom what you gonna do ?

paulk 03-26-2011 09:59 PM

We prefer not tinkering with the ratings too, but we think having lots of lazy people come out to race is better than having one boat sail the course by itself. The handicapper needs to apply some judgement, so as to get more people racing, but still be fair to the people who sail well. If you've got a foul bottom, a rating assigned after the first month's results isn't going to help you in the second month unless you clean it off.

DwayneSpeer 04-14-2011 07:50 PM

Thanks everyone
Thanks to all of you for your input. Tomorrow is our first race day of the season and the initial thought is we will stick with PHRF for the Spring season and adjust for the Fall season and see how it works out.

One thing: I worked out some Skipper's handicaps based on some old data I had and two things jumped out at me. The Skippers in the very long race (25 miles) were grouped together quite well but in the very short race (2.1 miles) were way apart in seconds per mile. In retrospect, the short race was unusual for us and was most likely a very light air day so the small, light boats did real well and the rest of us were way behind.

If I remember this Fall, I'll update the thread.


Classic30 04-14-2011 08:25 PM

You're doing the right thing - it sounds like you need more data. :)

Personally, I don't think a Skipper's handicap will ever work, simply beacuse you can't track people swapping boats. Besides, depending upon the course set, how well a boat does often has very little to do with the skipper and more to do with the crew - fast kite hoists, quick tacks, no foul-ups, etc.

The system we use for Classic Yachts over here - where you can have everything from +50' Gaffers to 26' Folkboats racing together - is a straight time-based Performance Handicap, and there is well-proven software available that will do all the hard work for you:

Top Yacht Software

The web site isn't flash (personally, I think the people there are too busy doing real work), but the software geniunely IS used for both club local and major race events all over the world.

I hope this helps.

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