What Sailing Can Learn From Golf

Published on February 21st, 2017

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Where I live there are sailing schools, boat rental businesses, boat brokers, and yacht clubs. There are three prominent colleges without sailing teams. There is an active racing schedule in my harbor, yet I’m not aware of these entities working together to get people on race course. There certainly is no umbrella group connecting the dots.

It takes some initiative to find the pathway, but once someone passes through the gate, we need to ensure they have green lights all the way. While PHRF offers the simplest form to get dissimilar boats on the water, is it doing enough as a rule to encourage new people?

James Dadd, Director of the RORC Rating Office in the UK, believes we need to look beyond the boat to fully embrace the player:

I believe strongly a handicap rule, and not a rating rule, is needed to get more people out on the water so they can be bitten by the bug of yacht racing.

We have to make it as easy as possible for people to walk into a yacht club, ask how they go about trying racing and getting to the start line. A handicap rule that is progressive and recognizes skill to a degree gives them some compensation for lack of experience, and doesn’t send them home after the first day saying they won’t try that again as they were last, as a rating rule based on the best sailed boat winning should do on paper.

The handicap rule gives encouragement and brings them back. As their skill improves, they should see that reflected in their handicap and find that even more encouraging. We all want to see more people in our sport, so introducing them with a simple handicap should be on all clubs agendas.

Golf does it without complication and so should we. Only when the new racer is hooked should they start looking at rating rules rather than handicap.

The idea of handicapping sailors is not unique; there are examples of local fleets designing a system for their own use. But what does not exist is a nationally organized system for use. The U.S. Golf Association formed their system in 1911, so sailing is a bit behind the curve on this one.

Here are the core virtues the USGA promotes:
• Equality: Unlike most other sports, golfers can compete equitably even if they are of widely different ability levels.
• Monitoring: Track how your game progresses through a Handicap Index.
• Portability: You can take your Handicap Index to any rated course and post the score.
• Tangibility: A Handicap Index in a tangible, verifiable number that is suitable for a fun match or a serious competition.
• Comaraderie: It helps golfers interact with other players and get more out of this game of a lifetime.

For details regarding the USGA Handicap System…click here.

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