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Bawgy 01-23-2004 04:46 AM

I was informed that my boat would not perform well in phrf races . I was wondering then , How fair is the phrf rating ? I am a novice sailor but nothing was mentioned about my sailing ability. I am on a fast learning curve and trying to gather information on all aspects of sailing . I also understand that phrf ratings vary from region to region .

so here are two questions for informed people to educate me with their answers . I highly respect the answers Jeff has given on this BB and would like to hear other opinions as well .

1.... Statement by qualified person ; With all due respect I dont feel your boat (boat x ) would perform well at phrf races. That being stated leads me to believe that the PHRF rating does not accuratly reflect the performance values of BOAT X. Why wouldnt BOAT X be able to compete under the Phrf ratings with BOAT Y.

2......What changes the phrf rating to make it different say from New York region to Florida ?

These questions are not meant to criticize the PHRF system , but to help me better understand it if and when I choose to participate in an event that uses this rating sysyem. Thanks , BAWGY

bob_walden 01-23-2004 05:39 AM

As I understand it, basic PHRF ratings are adusted by each local racing authority to fit the local conditions and characteristics of the fleet. PHRF includes to some extent crew capabilities as observed over time. For instance, the boat I sail on came in 3rd overall in its division of 12 or so boats in the SF bay OYRA racing last year. As a result, our PHRF was increased slightly, while the PHRF of the boat that finished first was decreased slightly. Boats that consistently out-perform other boats for no apparent reason other than crew skill pick up more PHRF points to balance things out.

Also, bear in mind that PHRF ratings are arbitrary measurements that can''t come close to predicting the performance of all boats. What seems to work in windward-leeward races doesn''t work in olympic or random-course races.

The person you were talking to might also be referring to other issues, like the state of your sails, rigging, balance and weight distribution, etc, which can certainly cause performance problems that would make your boat slower than its nominal PHRF rating.

That being said, if you want to race, race. Don''t worry about the competitiveness of your boat. Get it in the best condition you can afford and get out there. It takes a couple of racing seasons for you to establish your true position in the fleet.


shuttdh 01-23-2004 07:00 AM

It depends what your typical winds are. A boat that rated 230 won its division''s season series one year. If you have good sails, a good bottom, and good teamwork and sailing ability, you will do well. Stipulation: if you sail in the afternoon and the wind seems to always die out, then you may get the short end of the stick. Our club divides the fleet into 2 groups with the PHRF divided at 170. Check out yours. I personally like to be at the faster end of the group because we have conditions akin to the above statement a lot.

Burnsy 01-23-2004 11:33 AM

I agree, as one newbie boat owner to another, just get it out there and start racing... don''t worry about the boat''s competitiveness level.

PHRF is not for the ultra-competitive, its just an easy system to make it as fair and fun as possible for everyone to use their own boats to race.

My boat (a Dehler DB1) could easily be considered as a poorly suited PHRF racer, although it might not seem so at first look.

It''s a light IOR full-out racing design with enough control lines to make spaghetti, a bad bottom job, older sails, and a novice crew. Definitely considered a "fast" boat for its time. It has also been described as ''difficult to sail to its rating'' even with everything in good condition, because in order to get the best performance out of it (which is what a PHRF rating normally assumes - a good condition and well-sailed boat) all of those controls need to be adjusted quickly and properly. Additionally, it requires a large crew (6+ ideal) to handle all these controls and act as ballast, which means coordinating that many more people to act in concert. It is a difficult boat to sail well. The potential for things to go wrong (and slow down the boat) is quite high, and happened often with the newbie crew.

In contrast, consider more of a cruising-style boat with basically just a main and jib sheet to deal with, and that only requires a 3 man crew. It may be physically slower, but the rating takes that into account so its not a problem. There are very few controls to mess with or people to coordinate, so the odds of adjusting things wrong, having a bad tack, a miscommunication, and so on go way down. As long as it is sailed well this boat will probably sail very consistently to its rating, and probably do well on its adjusted time finishes day-in and day-out. This would probably be considered an excellent PHRF competitor.

Some things to consider. Just go race, and work on getting your boat (the bottom especially) in as good of a condition as you can.


maestro 01-23-2004 12:00 PM


one of the greatest ways to improve your sailing ability is go out there and race YOUR sailboat. For a moment forget about your PHRF rating. What your doing on the race course is learning about sail trim, tide/currents and what they do to your boat. How wind affects your sails, how crew weight affects heel angle, etc. By watching the other boats in your fleet and attempt to follow them (well at least the ones in front of you) See what they are doing correctly and learn from that.
I have been racing my 294PHRF boat for 2 seasons and the first season, I was hard pressed to even finish a race. Last year, I actually one one of the races (although It was still a challenge to finish some of the races). Another sailor in my club who races the SAME boat, has won our divison 3 yeasr in a row. He has the same PHRF # BUT His sails are brand new, mine are 15 yrs old (however I just bought new sails this winter...(watch out Dennis) He has sailed for almost as long as I have been on this earth. He knows the water, what the current does to our boats and where the wind is going to be before it gets to the boat. The point I''m trying to make is, don''t listen to anyone who ios telling you that your boat isn''t good enough to race. It''s not alweays the boat but the person/people sailing it that wins/loses races. Go out there and enjoy yourself. Sure there will be frustrating times (I''ve been there and will be there againg next summer), there will be times when you have been out on the racecourse and it''s 95 degrees and your crew has had enough. Take these times and learn from them. Eventually, you''ll be finishing your races, you''ll understand the fickleness of your boat and you''ll be a better sailor.


only 100 days till the boat goes back in

Sailormon6 01-24-2004 05:38 AM


Because there are so many variables to consider, the rating systems are only an approximation of the inherent ability of the boat. Any given boat might not actually perform up to its rating because the bottom or keel is foul, or because the skipper or crew are unskilled. Likewise, a given boat might perform better than its rating if it has been carefully prepped to race, or if the skipper and crew are more skilled or experienced. Because it is only an approximation, that means there are things that you can do to help it perform better than its rating. That''s where boat preparation comes into play.

In any competition, you should always realistically assess your strong and weak points. Your weak point now is that you are inexperienced. Therefore, you need to find some way to make yourself competitive, until you can accumulate enough skill and knowledge to win by your wits. The best way to gain that edge is by prepping your bottom and keel, because that will enable your boat to go a little faster and point a little higher and perform a little better in every respect. If, relative to your competition, you gain a slight edge in raw boat speed and boat performance, that edge will compensate for some of the mistakes you are bound to make as a novice. If you race actively for a few races, and analyze your major mistakes after each race, and concentrate on avoiding those big mistakes thereafter, your racing results will improve noticably by the end of the season. When you tack or change course, learn to do it smoothly, and to re-trim your sails efficiently, without allowing your boatspeed to decline excessively during a tack. Learn to steer a straight course, without oversteering. Concentrate intensely on sail trim, so that your sails are always perfectly trimmed to your course and to the wind direction and windspeed.

In most club racing, you can win by making fewer mistakes than your opponents. In more competetive racing, your opponents won''t be making very many mistakes, so, you have to use superior racing knowledge and skill to beat them. If they know a lot, you have to know more.

My first cruising boat was an old Catalina 22, which is not particularly noted for its racing ability. I sanded the bottom and swing keel and gave it a fresh coat of hard-finish bottom paint, and won the first race I ever entered. My "strategy" was to keep my boat going as fast as I could all the way around the course, and stay as close to the fastest boats as possible. Yacht racing can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be.

As the others say, just get out there and do it. Yacht racing is not a physical sport. It is cerebral. From your questions, it is obvious that you are thoughtful and eager to learn, and that''s really what it takes to be a good racer.

dpboatnut 01-24-2004 04:30 PM

While I think the replies above offer good advice, to me they don''t directly address the question of why some boat types might not do well phrf racing.

First, I think that due to the regionally different nature of phrf, that''s not a defensible generization about ANY boat.

Phrf attempts to rate a boat''s performance over an entire season in the area for which the rating applies. Naturally, there will be days where the conditions favor one type of boat significantly more than another, and even whole seasons where the race days occur on days that always favor a particular type of boat. Phrf is about average conditions, and adjusted slowly over time to observed performance of the boat types, not the crews.

If all of a region''s races occured in 6-8 knots wind and 1 foot swells with a 6 inch wind chop, it would be easy to devise ratings down to the half second for all types of boat. But if you keep two of those variable constant and start to vary say, just the windchop amount from flat up to two feet, I think you can see that different boats will be differently affected. Small light boats will get a larger hit than their rating reflects, while bigger, longer boats might not even notice the chop. On those days, the longer boats win if they race against small boats, crew work being similar. Conversely, the same boats on completely flat water are likely to have the opposite result. Similar result occur for variations in the other variables, too.

In a way, it''s a lot like the "horses for courses" analogy I read from Carroll Smith, racing engineer. Paraphrased: You can take the best race cars in the world and race them against each other, but until you know the course, you''ll never know the winner. If you match John Force''s dragster against Michael Schumacher''s Ferrari, you need to know whether the venue is the local dragstrip, Monza, or Indy. Your local phrf board has the job of issuing time on distance ratings to exactly these two cars, based on the track in their backyard. If your track is twisty, better give extra time to the dragster! Now add a Datsun 210 to the fleet, and it gets more interesting for the handicappers.


mikehoyt 02-04-2004 07:11 AM

It would be a lot easier to qualify that statement if we knew the type of boat and typical conditions at time of race.

My boat does well in light wind flat water races compared to heavier boats which do well in choppier and windier days. This is because PHRF is a rating over a broad range of wind conditions.

Maybe your boat is heavy and not well suited for evening races in a dying breeze. Oh well ... in that case practice in those situations and Kick ass in thise favourable to your boat.

The other things to consider are that your boat is probably outfitted for cruising. That would mean roller furling headsails that are cut high above the deck and do not have the performance of the rating adjustments their size brings to your boat. Similarly roller furling mains, etc... do not give much of a credit under PHRF, etc...

Your boat would probably do well if it was outfitted for racing ....

That being said many clubs have local handicapping for club races to take a lot of that into account...

Do what a friend does. Race locally on a friend''s racing boat and cruise on your own boat. A lot cheaper that way!


SandyNicholson 10-07-2004 12:23 PM

Welcome to yacht racing where no-one (almost) is happy with their rating. Every boat has its conditions and that is the primary reason why handicaps vary. Light air boats will rate higher in Long Island Sound than San Francisco. C''est la Vie. The other thing that PHRF considers is empiracal performance, you win a lot-your rating goes up-oddly you lose a lot they rarely go down. IMS-which is now dying, was a very accurate rating system with Ratings that changed based on wind strength and DIRECTION. There are ways to lower your rating, but unless your Dennis Conner (Dennis the Menace was a good article in yachting about PHRF optimization done by Conner). I agree with another respondent, sail fast in the right direction consistently, nail your boathandling and sail handling skills and you will win races.

jimlant 11-24-2004 04:13 AM

You did not mention what type boat you have but its true that there are some boats that do better then others on the ratings. Its also true you can take a really good skipper and crew on that poor rated boat and they can make her look really good. You can take an average boat and race her well and get in the middle of the pack, maybe even take a third place occansionally but if you want first it takes the right boat and crew.
I enjoy racing and you can learn so much about your boat and yourself in such a short amount of time. Its especially benificial to grab skippers from other boats that know what they are doing and get them to sail on your boat and you do the same on theirs. I consider myself a newbie to racing but if I had to offer advive to someone just getting into it I would reccomend a clean bottom, telltales on mainsail and jibs at the correct places, learn and know the rules of racing, and learn how to get a good start....Oh another one is steer on the low side and keep those telltales streaming strait back at all times.

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