Striving for a fair PHRF playing field
Published on January 14th, 2015
The 28th annual pilgrimage to the far southeast corner of the United States will commence racing at Quantum Key West 2015 on January 19, but the work started long ago to level the handicap field in the PHRF classes.
To account for the differences in performance characteristics among the boats entered, the event race committee has implemented a Time-on-Time rating system. This format was introduced last year with entries receiving three different ratings based on the wind speed. This year, each boat’s rating will alter based on whether the course has an odd or even number of legs.
“Once again, our Key West Race Week PHRF Consortium draws from experienced handicappers from around the country. In striving for a fair playing field we have tried a number of different scoring options over the past several years,” explained Peter Craig, president of Premiere Racing and longtime regatta manager.
“However, analysis shows that there is a performance difference between four and five leg courses, not only in PHRF racing but in other classes as well. This is not surprising since some boats are great upwind performers and do better with an additional weather leg while others excel downwind and tend to place better with an even number of legs.
PHRF Consortium chairman Bruce Bingman has been involved with handicapping boats at Key West for more than 20 years and believes the two-number Time-on-Time system represents the fairest to date. After reviewing data from a year ago, the consortium selected what it considers the best “average number” for each entry.
“Then the Offshore Office of US Sailing determined a differential for four and five leg courses and the consortium adjusted the single average number to reflect this differential, resulting in two numbers for almost all the boats entered,” Bingman said.
Ken Johnson began his 2015 sailing year by skating around Lake Kegonsa in sub-zero temperatures. Johnson’s Nite iceboat can do 60 miles per hour in the right conditions so it was fun, but boy was it cold!
Johnson was more than happy to escape the arctic chill of Wisconsin for the sunny skies and warm temperatures of Key West, where he will compete in the 28th annual race week for the first time since 2009.
Johnson completed the long drive to the southernmost tip of the United States on Monday night and by the next morning was aboard his C&C 121 Grateful Red, which was berthed at Historic Seaport.
“Last week I was sailing on ice. Right now, I’m worried about the ice melting in my rum drink,” Johnson said as he leisurely began preparing his boat for Quantum Key West 2015.
Johnson, a world traveler who calls Stoughton, Wisconsin home base, skippered an entry at Key West from 2006 and 2009 and states matter-of-factly that “we always came in last.” That never mattered to the Grateful Red team, which routinely won the party and “always had a heck of a good time,” Johnson said.
Grateful Red has been living on the Mediterranean and Caribbean, along with many locations in between, for the past five years. Johnson recently returned the boat to the slip he owns at Conch Harbor Marina.
“It’s wonderful to be back in Key West and we’re really looking forward to going racing,” he said. “Our goal this year is to beat at least one boat.”
Grateful Red did a lot of racing during its travels and Johnson feels confident his crew, comprised entirely of dinghy sailors, has improved its boat-handling. The C&C 121 could do well in PHRF 2, which also features a J/105, Cape Fear 38, VAr 37 and J/80.
“Most of the crew has sailed on my boat before, but none of them have raced in Key West with me,” said Johnson, who campaigns a Flying Scot on the lakes back home and was recently selected to manage the venture capital fund for the state of Wisconsin. “We’ll go out practicing together for the first time on Sunday and hopefully we’ll get better as the week goes along.”
One of the better boats in PHRF 1 figures to be Tangent, a Cape Fear 38 owned by Gerry Taylor of Annapolis. Tangent has captured class honors at Key West many times before, most recently in 2013.
PHRF 1 figures to deliver unique competition as the fleet of eight boats covers a wide range. Joining the fray this year are a pair of hot new designs – the Farr 280 and C&C 30. Those light displacement boats fit fairly well with a Farr 30 while on the opposite end of the spectrum are a pair of J/122 sloops that have been traditionally found in this class.
Teamwork, a J/122 skippered by Robin Team of Lexington, North Carolina, placed second in PHRF 2 a year ago. Team has been coming to Key West since 1994 and will be racing the J/122 for the eighth straight year. He earned PHRF Boat of the Week honors in 2003 aboard his previous Teamwork, a J/120.
“It will be interesting to see how we match up with the sport boats. I think when all is said and done it’s going to be very close racing,” Team said. “The sport boats are going to perform a lot better downwind, especially in planing conditions. However, we’ll have a big advantage going upwind, particularly if there are waves.”
Sailing World Magazine recently named the Farr 280 its Overall Boat of the Year, calling it an “innovative, grand prix, go-fast one-design.” The high-tech, 28-foot racer was created by Annapolis-based Farr Yacht Design and built by Premiere Composite Technologies in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
With four boats entered, Quantum Key West 2015 will host the largest gathering of Farr 280s to date. Ian Gordon, who oversees the class for Farr Yacht Sales, said the owners are keen to test themselves in a one-design format. Three of the boats just arrived from Dubai and were put together in Key West earlier this week.
“All the boats are incredibly even so I expect to see very close racing,” said Gordon, who will be aboard Tate Rusack’s Diesel. “Key West is a renowned regatta so this is a great opportunity to showcase the boat. Key West is known for big breeze and flat water, which is ideal for this design.”
Regatta dates are January 19-23