Harken Derm

Adapting Handicap System to Diverse Dinghies

Published on October 13th, 2015

Each winter, there is a scattering of UK dinghy sailors that are not ready to hang up their hiking boots. For them, an organized series of winter handicap events takes this small boat crowd to the inland lakes amid 300 miles of the United Kingdom.

The basis for the Winter Dinghy Handicap Championship (aka GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series 2015-16), now in its seventh season, has been the development of its Great Lakes handicap numbers system.

The Great Lakes handicap numbers continue to evolve, and while the one-number system has produced balanced racing in moderate conditions, the hiking out boats with generous sail area perform best in a drifter, and the underpowered boats and/or trapeze boats tend to do best in the breeze. The debate for a multi-number system is now alive.

The next big step in fair handicapping is to run wind-based variants of the standard handicap number currently being used. A surprising number of the winter events take place in a drifter or a gale, so it is agreed that it is now time to implement a number that better reflects how different types of boats perform at both extremes of the wind spectrum.

While this year’s GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series will remain using a one-number system, a virtual championship using these alternative numbers will occur whenever an event takes place in particularly light or strong conditions. The pursuit of fair handicapping continues….

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