Encouraging Participation in Handicap Racing

Published on February 16th, 2017

The greatest area of growth potential in the sport is handicap racing. Unlike one design classes, which are limited to only the boats made of each type, handicap racing can include all keelboat types. Better yet, since boats became made of fiberglass, they seemingly last forever.

So if there is an interest to get boats on the race course, the mission then is to have events that encourage participation. People need to feel like the racing is fair, and the level of competition meets their level of investment. And of course, it should be fun too.

One of the battles that handicap events face is how to fairly group boats for competition. While certain events may attract the hardcore teams that have made a high investment, all events need to address how to create fleet splits to group boats that can fairly race together.

This issue has gotten increasingly difficult with lighter sportboats mixing with cruisier displacement boats. In a recent Scuttlebutt survey, 74% of the respondents indicated that you must separate these two boat divisions to provide fair racing.

Here were a few comments:
“Sport boats are simply far too different from displacement boats to be in the same fleet. They need their own rating band.”

“I would think that the sport boat sailors would generally be a keener racing crew and would rather race more of the same competition.”

“Sportboats vs. displacement boats simply do not equate to a fair test of sailing – period!”

Among those opposed to this plan was the concern that either there wouldn’t be enough sportboats to form a fleet, or if there were enough, there wouldn’t be enough to create the fleet splits to have groups of boats that can fairly race together.

Bottom line:
• We all have certain boats that we like to race against. As participants, we need to take a role and encourage these competitors to go racing. It’s called taking responsibility.
• Events need to create fair racing to encourage participation. Mixing poorly matched boats together likely won’t be doing that. Events also need to leverage the marketing tools to maximize participation.
• There are a lot of people and boats that have tapped out. An effort needs to occur to re-engage those on the sideline and make sure there are events that meet their needs.
• And most importantly, events need to be fun. Whether that occurs on the water or on land (or both), give people a reason to embrace this as their recreation.

To read all the survey comments…click here.

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