Behind the results of the 2022 Pacific Cup

Published on July 25th, 2022

With results firm and winners celebrated for the 21st edition of the Pacific Cup, Principal Race Officer Michael Moradzadeh explains how the pecking order was determined for the 57 starters of the 2070 nm race from San Francisco, California to Kaneohe, Hawaii.

With a large and diverse fleet of boats, coming up with a way to identify the “winner” is a significant challenge.

First, we must abandon any hope of being perfect or even, in retrospect, the “best” way to go. What we seek is a method that is objectively unbiased, reasonably transparent, and likely to produce a result that rewards skillful choices and execution in the race.

Pacific Cup uses a “time-on-time” scoring system based on Offshore Racing Rule ratings for faster boats and PHRF ratings for slower boats. Let’s break that down.

“Time-on-time” has gained popularity over the last decade or so as it tends to be a bit more resilient in case of very light winds. Simply put, we take a boat’s elapsed time and multiply it by a time correction factor (their rating). The boat with the smallest number wins.

In the case of our Ocean Navigator division, those ratings ran from 0.744 for an Islander 36 to 0.805 for a speedier Cal 40. If each boat took ten days to run the course, the Islander would be scored with a 7.44 day corrected time and the Cal with an 8.05 day corrected time. Victory to the Islander 36 in that case.

The math and “how are we doing against the competition” in this type of scoring is not easily done in one’s head, and most boats maintain a spreadsheet or some target numbers to judge their progress against their competition.

Some think of their relative handicaps in terms of minutes or hours per day. In the example above, the Cal 40 owed the Islander 36 about 1.4 hours per day of racing, and would have to stay that far ahead at the finish to win (which, we point out, they did do)

So, where do these ratings come from? There are several ratings systems out there, and Pac Cup actually relies on two of them.

For the larger, faster, boats, we use the fairly complex Offshore Rating Rule system administered through US Sailing. This rule requires a number of measurements and the like to come up with a computer model predicting a boat’s performance under various conditions. Pac Cup gives the ORR team a matrix of our guesstimated wind conditions to develop, for each boat, a number that represents her predicted performance.

For the slower boats, we rely on the more economical and simpler Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) downwind performance number. This is based on manufacturer and owner-supplied information, a weighing, and, importantly, performance of the boat and sisterships over time.

Each division uses only one or the other of these rating systems. Longtime Pac Cup participant and yacht designer Jim Antrim helped us devise a conversion factor that we use for purposes of awarding the Pacific Cup trophy overall.

Of course, the biggest factor is the weather. The 2022 race was plagued by very light winds for the first few days of the race, effectively eliminating the Monday and Tuesday starters from any serious contention for the Pac Cup overall trophy (Note, there are staggered starts on July 4, 5, 7, 8). Nonetheless, they put in some very good performances for the circumstances they faced.

Congratulations to all our participants. You all rate #1 with us!

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