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PHRF rating information is available for nearly every design of boat, and there are guidelines for coming up with ratings for others. No need to reinvent the wheel, but what you can do is modify the base ratings for your local events to 'even up' the spread.

One thing we tried years back was to take a series of races, and back-calculate the results (which had been using standard PHRF numbers) to a common corrected time and adjusted ratings accordingly. That meant boats that were consistently at the back of the fleet were given a more favourable rating in an attempt to bring them into the fold.

Our club was a bit more competitive and this plan didn't stick, mainly because the slow boats were, of course, still slow and it seemed that we were rewarding poor prep and boat handling. However in a more casual club with a relatively similar fleet this could help to keep people interested and give everyone a chance to win, at least on the scoresheet.

Once you have a rating system in place, another good thing to try is a pursuit race. In this the boats' start time is based on their rating, ie fastest boats start last,slowest first. The idea is that all boats should then finish together in a big lump. It avoids the start line stresses,esp for newbies, and gives the slower boats a chance to 'mix it up' as the faster boats sail through the fleet from behind. It also gets rid of the long wait between first and last finishers.
 

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Standard start sequence is often the most intimidating part of racing - in a tight fleet many races are won/lost at that point. Close contact, aggressive maneuvers, the odd gentle collision can get the adrenaline flowing and really amp up the stress levels. People that are 'good' at that set themselves up in favourable positions from the start.. those that shy away are always in catch-up mode.

But all of this can really 'turn off' the casual cruiser/come racer. That's where the pursuit format really pays off. It's up to you to start as close to your allotted time, so you still get to practice the 'time on distance' estimation, but without the presence of other traffic.

If you're short of race committee volunteers, you can use a 'rabbit start' where one boat is designated the rabbit, and runs the start line at the appropriate time.. the rest of the fleet has to cross close behind the rabbit to start the race. This can give the rabbit a nice windward position so it's not that big a disadvantage.
 
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Adding a social/BBQ 'apres race' component often brings in more people. One of the clubs we used to race at (relatively serious Weds nights) was followed by a BBQ dinner, the club sold steak/chicken at reasonable cost and you cooked it yourself on the grill.. some bread and salad and everyone hung out and discussed the day's race over dinner and a beer (or two).
 
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