Fair racing, organized administration, and like-minded fools

Published on October 22nd, 2013

Every winter, there is a cadre of UK dinghy sailors that brave the elements to compete in sailing events against their fellow sailors. But since the majority of one-design sailors choose to avoid sailing into the depths of the British winter, and thus end their season around autumn, this leaves a scattering of fools to find what scraps of racing they can.

To serve this sector, an organized series consisting of eight winter handicap events carries this crowd to the inland lakes amid 300 miles of the United Kingdom. Now in its fifth season, this Winter Dinghy Handicap Championship – the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series 2013/2014 – crowns the competitor with the lowest aggregate score from their four best events.

Participation in the winter circuit has grown massively year by year. Last season saw a 20% increase in entries, with 783 boats representing 91 different racing classes. And it has gotten more competitive each year, with a much wider spread of winners from many different classes. The Series also gathered a massive following last winter as well, with more than 42,000 visitors to the Series website.

Historically, there have always been some ‘bandit’ classes that have a very good handicap. “The RYA handicapping system wasn’t moving dynamically enough to reflect what people were experiencing on the water,” noted organizer Andy Rice. “So we have our own ‘Great Lakes’ handicapping group, who use the data to move the numbers much more quickly and radically. This resulted from a situation where just two or three classes would dominate the top 10 of an event up to a couple of years ago, but now we typically have 9 different classes in the top 10. In other words, much fairer racing!”

The following regattas constitute the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series 2013/2014:
Nov 23-24 – Draycote Dash, Draycote Water Sailing Club
Dec 14-15 – Datchet Flyer, Datchet Water Sailing Club
Dec 27 – Brass Monkey, Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club
Dec 29 – Grafham Grand Prix, Grafham Water Sailing Club
Jan 4 – Oxford Blue, Oxford Sailing Club
Jan 11 – Bloody Mary, Queen Mary Sailing Club
Jan 25 – Steve Nicholson Trophy, Northampton Sailing Club
Feb 1-2 – John Merricks Tiger Trophy, Rutland Sailing Club

The administration of the series is simplified by SailRacer.org, which does the number crunching to calculate the points scores for the Series and the online entry process for all eight events. Due to the popularity of the series, some events are limited to a maximum number of entries. That’s a nice problem to have.

Could your sailing region benefit from a similar circuit this winter?

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