Taking a Step Toward the Goal

Published on July 19th, 2018

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Handicap racing in the USA is screwed up. We see highly-invested teams competing in PHRF which disrupts a gateway rule intended to attract participation, not discourage it. Then we see multiple technical rules competing against each other for market share, dividing participation rather than building it.

As I wrote in March 2017 for Sailing World, we need a cleaner model. PHRF must be exclusive to racer-cruisers — the big kids have to get out of their sandbox. Then we must have a consensus technical rule for the big kids to flex their muscles and climb tall mountains, not the mole hills we now have.

Sadly, there is no leadership in the USA to accomplish this goal. US Sailing seeks to stay neutral, but in the absence of a national plan, the regions have fractured and the continent is not enjoying the large handicap rule events we witness elsewhere.

There are three technical rules – ORR, ORC, and IRC – looking for space. Each rule operates differently, which contributes to the chasm. While they each assemble dissimilar boats for competition, they cannot continue to coexist if building participation matters.

The temporary solution has been to combine them. At New York Yacht Club’s Race Week at Newport, which is taking place July 17 to 21 out of their Harbour Court facility in Newport. R.I., they are mirroring a format that is simultaneously occurring in Europe.

This week in the Netherlands, the 2018 Offshore Sailing World Championships is being held, with IRC and ORC, the two leading handicap systems for larger yachts, being used in tandem to decide the winners.

At Race Week they are scoring all IRC competitors in two ways. One set of results are based on each boat’s IRC rating while a second set has each race scored using both IRC and ORC, and a boat’s score for an individual race is the average of its finishes under the two systems.

“This system is what World Sailing has agreed upon for the Offshore World Championships,” says NYYC Commodore Phil Lotz. “The New York Yacht Club is bidding on the Worlds in 2020, and optimistic we’re going to get it. We want to do a trial run this year to give American sailors a chance to experience first-hand this scoring method.”

It is encouraging to see an initiative in the USA that is looking beyond itself. Perhaps this will be a step toward the goal…

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