Focus on Format to Encourage Participation

Published on August 1st, 2016

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Life isn’t getting any simpler, and our sport remains equally complicated. Boat types are diverse with a significant range in investment possible to compete. Amid handicap events, it is what makes our sport both inclusive and a complete nightmare.

It’s kind of like the world famous San Diego Zoo. With over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species, it is a pretty cool way to spend a day. But without the animals being separated, it would be utter chaos and carnage. In time, only the strongest would remain.

Handicap events work when everyone has a chance to survive. Once boats get grouped appropriately, the rating systems can accurately function. With sufficient trophies to compete for, competitors can take aim. Being inclusive encourages participation.

For distance races, the historic trophies frequently focus on elapsed time. It is racing at its simplest form. For these speedsters, rating advantage is often traded for outright speed. For them, it is not about corrected time standings but simply who can get to the finish line first? But like everything else, this has gotten complicated.

The Transpac Race, for example, now has three trophies to recognize flat out speed along the iconic 2225-mile course between Los Angeles and Honolulu. There is the…
– Fastest elapsed time by a monohull yacht, manual power only
– Fastest elapsed time by a monohull yacht, power assisted only
– Fastest elapsed time by a multihull yacht

By offering these options, Transpac has become inclusive.

Alternatively, the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac has opted for a different course. At one time the race had separate trophies for the fastest monohull and multihull finisher, but since 2015, all the racing divisions – monohull and multihull – compete for only one trophy, the Royono Trophy, one of the elite awards on the Great Lakes.

While this is a simple approach, will it make big and fast monohulls irrelevant? In the 2016 race, an ORMA60 beat the fastest monohull (Volvo 70) by over two hours. With the pace at which multihulls are evolving, if the only prize for elapsed time monohull racers becomes out of reach, how long will the allure of Mackinac Island be sufficient to warrant the expense of participation?

Sometimes the simple approach is too simple.

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