Handicap Racing: Is Progress on the Horizon?

Published on January 25th, 2016

While certain countries promote specific handicap rules, there is an open market in the USA, which means that options exist. Since boat designs tend to find their most favorable rule, can a consensus ever occur? Should the USA continue to develop their own rules, or seek international options that can promote world-wide competition? Are we promoting growth, or inhibiting it, with multiple rules? US Sailing board member Steve Benjamin comments on the current landscape…

You were involved in the development of the High Performance Rule (HPR). What is the status of that rule?

The New York Yacht Club developed that rule and there was a pretty big budget to get it right. The flag officers sought to develop a fair rating rule that was completely transparent and easily calculated on an excel spread sheet. And we still believe it to be a good rule but lately it hasn’t been further developed, promoted, or supported by the rule owner.

There are a lot of rule choices – some home-based and some international. Is this good?

From my view, the market can now decide. All these rules are available: HPR, ORR, IRC, ORC, PHRF. US Sailing is supporting all of them. If you want a certificate for any of these rules, you can get it from US Sailing. We are now in a situation where the market will dictate which rule will eventually flourish, and that is already starting to happen.

What I am starting to see is ORC coming in to the states. It is the largest and fastest growing rule worldwide, so they are seeing growth. In IRC, we are hopeful that the rule has stabilized in the US, as it had been in decline, but the rule owners are working very hard to support it. The ORR had picked up the Port Huron to Mackinac Race, so there might be the possibility of some growth for that rule. And PHRF continues to trudge along.

The development of the Universal Measurement System (UMS) was intended to provide a certificate holder the ability to use any of the rules. Where are we with the UMS?

It has taken time to get all the rules together, but we will see the first phase of UMS in the few months. Common nomenclature has been agreed to for sails, so worldwide now all the sail definitions are the same. The SAP support to US Sailing for the UMS is coming along, which provides financial and technical support, so we expect to see it in April.

With SAP’s help, they have completely updated the database at US Sailing, which provide online access for certificates. This will also provide a user interface for the public to access certificate information. Additionally, SAP is introducing a tracking app that will provide information on your boat’s location. There are a lot of cool features coming.

Do we still have hurdles to overcome?

Customer service is always of paramount importance to insure that people are getting their certificates as quickly and accurately as possible. US Sailing is going to add another staff member to help facilitate this.

Editor’s note: We are ready for the market to decide, and to do it fast. Comments welcome.

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