Imagine a PHRF system that is actually fair

Published on November 19th, 2018

There’s plenty of reasons to get frustrated with PHRF rating system. SAILING Magazine columnist Nick Hayes sees it as an albatross as it scares the masses away from competitive sailing. However, he’s not ready to give up on it as he shares in the October 2018 edition:


Listening to racers talk about handicapping is like listening to patients explaining the health care market. In health care, nobody knows who is paying what, to whom and for what. In handicapping, nobody seems to have any idea how a rating is derived, who decides it, or if and how it will evolve. Every rating system is complex and opaque, and therefore confusing. But PHRF—the most widely used handicapping system in the nation—takes the cake.

This was evident this spring, when hundreds of Midwestern applicants wondered if they might be able to race at all, lacking timely communication or accurate certificates from a committee in transition. It is pointless to point fingers.

PHRF is an albatross. You won’t find a single delighted PHRF racer. There are folks who can’t sell boats because buyers expect punitive action. Buyers want boats that have a chance, but can’t be sure they’ll get one. More to the point, how many clubs have more boats in slips than on the course on race day? PHRF scares the masses away from competitive sailing.

PHRF was supposed to be a magnet, not a repellent. As a non-proprietary and affordable system, it was intended to help more people play. That is why it has persisted for decades, despite flaws, as proprietary and costlier systems come and go.

PHRF owns up to many of those flaws, which include a bias to new gear, no factoring for local sea or wind conditions, possible politicization and no remedy for the so-called PHRF-killer.

Every flaw is correctable using common sense and proven tools. – Full report.

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