Giving Every Boat an Opportunity to Compete
Published on April 28th, 2016
Galveston Bay Cruising Association in Texas has been using a handicap system on Galveston Bay for several years that has boosted participation and is well received. Bob Hunkins, Fleet Captain for the Galveston Bay Cruising Association, explains…
We use a club handicap system for some sailors at Galveston Bay Cruising Association. It’s a fleet that we run in addition to PHRF fleets whose ratings are issued by PHRF of Galveston Bay.
We use it as a way for newer racers and those with boats that have barbeque grills, biminis, and dacron sails and rolled on bottom paint to race against each other.
It’s been especially popular in our Summer Rum Race series. These are pursuit start races that run around fixed marks in Galveston Bay. We run one race per day and the series is seven races long spread out over the summer.
After each race in the series, we take the time each boat took to sail the course and adjust the handicap for the next race. The boats that finish first will see their handicaps decrease after the race, the boats that finish last will see their handicaps increase. The boats near the median will see less or no change.
The larger the spread between first and last, and the further a boat is from the median boat, the larger is that boat’s handicap change. We try to keep the change in the handicaps from being too large. The theory is that over time the ratings will either settle out, or the ratings will drop below their PHRF rating so far that it’s an indication the sailor has gotten good enough to move to a PHRF fleet.
It’s not a perfect system, but it seems to be popular enough in our community. Yes, some people complain, and it does take some training on the part of the scorer to make it work smoothly, but it does give those of us with older slower boats and less of a budget for sails an opportunity to get out and have some fun, and maybe win the occasional prize.