Open Class Handicapping System

As I mentioned in posts under some other threads, I think it would be a good idea to develop a handicapping system for the open class (well, for all classes really) to allow boats of different types including one of a kind boats to race together.

Here some thought I’ve had on the subject:

The Portsmouth type system looks promising. Once the boats are handicapped, this is an easy system to administer as it is a time on time system so you do not need to measure the length of the course to make the handicapping corrections.

The hard part with any system is figuring out the rating for each boat. Under the Portsmouth system, a new boat to be considered would need to enter a race that includes at least one class of boat that already has a rating (preferably more and preferably multiple entries of boats in those classes). Then the race comittee needs to record finish times for the boats.

Since there are no boats currently in the system a bunch of data is needed to get the handicapping system up and working. This requires some regattas with multiple boat types entered and a freamwork for the race comittee to use to generate the data necessary to build the database.

Open class regattas would be a great way to get this data. Inviting boats from established classes would be crucial as well as these boats should be included in the handicapping system as well.

Of course no one is going to come to a regatta where the competition is unfair, so it would be nice to have a temporary rating system in place to score the regatta for the first year or two until the database is populated and the real handicapping system is working.

So, the way i see it there are 4 things required to get the ball rolling:

  1. Open regattas

  2. A format for submitting data to a database of time on time finishes for various types of boats in qualifying regattas.

  3. A responsible person or comittee to generate and maintain the database

  4. A temporary rating system that could be used to score these events until the final system is working.

I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this idea. Is it a good idea or a bad idea?

More importantly, I would like to flesh out this idea. As they say, the devil is in the details, so what are the details that need to be ironed out to make such a system work?

  • Will

Will Gorgen

as to be only constructive, I believe that the most important part for all of these is to establish and hold more open events for people that feel this way. Advertise them as open, promote them as open. The first and most important step is to get involvement in the open class concept and then once involvement is at a reasonable level examine if a handicapping system is needed. Based on the open regattas we hold locally, everyone shows up with whatever they want to sail knowing that I might throw a one meter in the water even knowing that 2 wheelers will show up. Its still a blast to try to win, and atleast finish where I should compared to the other boats on the water. we arent racing for cash prizes. I would be pleased as punch to take 3rd finishing behind two wheelers!


I think that is a fair statement to make, tb.

There is not currently much of a format for open events. The open class itself does not run any class organized events. Some local clubs do run those type of events mainly for fun.

I have been toying with the idea of a 2 day event this summer at our club that would be open to all participants. The first day would be round the buoy racing at our pond. The second day would be a distance race (~3 miles) at a dammed river in town that is surrounded by a park with walking/biking trails along the shore. There are 3 clubs in our area: Detroit MYC, Ann Arbor MYC and Lansing MYC with about 6 classes of boats between us (ACs, Marbleheads, US1Ms, Fairwinds, Seawinds and Victorias). I think this could be a lot of fun, but I would also like to make it as fair as possible. I think it is fair to break down the boats into divisions based on speed. But I’d also like to see a way of handicapping those boats so that an overall winner can be determined.

In addition, if there is a chance to generate data for future use in a handicapping system, I would not want to miss that opportunity.

TB, do you think you would have felt that the racing was unfair if trophies were handed out and the two wheelers took 1st and 2nd and you were awarded 3rd? Seems like the trophies would simple be a way of acknowledging who brought the fastest boats, not who was the best sailor…

  • Will

Will Gorgen

Nope. … not really. Thats the point of an open regatta, the fastest boat wins! Show up to an event expecting that. Try to beat that boat that is supposed to be a couple seconds faster than you.
Im a strange breed. Im from upstate NY originally, home of the LEVEL regatta held in youngstown. Throws out rating system. The boats are broken up into just a few different levels, and they throw out all ratings. Start together, first boat across wins. A very refreshing change from ratings. One year, you may be the slowest boat in your level, the other year, you may be the fastest, it all depends on who shows up! But let me tell you, its always a party and by far the best regatta of the year!

I think people show up at open events with the mind set that it is an open, you must cross the line first to win. If you need to win inorder to have fun, either have a boat that will allow you to do so, or dont come to the event! Our last open event I watched 2 one meters try to stick with a marblehead for as long as possible, when that slipped away, they had fun and focused on racing for 2nd!

There’s no way your going to keep up with the AC’s, probably the Marbleheads as well, for a 3 mile walk up the pond if there is any breeze at all. Especially downwind if they are planing. The long distance race might get a little hard to swallow unless there is someway other then walking to keep up with the boats.

funny…i posted the same question some months back regarding my scratch-built twin foil (ala “the geek”) 36/600 boat, but got a “get what we have or you cant play” response from several AMYA members. AFAIK, dick lemke has been trying to set up a rating system for some time now, all to no avail (this is not due to a lack of effort on dicks part). if phrf can survive as long as it has, why cant a similar system be adopted for model yachts?

personally, i believe in the “run what you brung” theory. what is the issue that the older amya members have with open/handicap class racing? are they afraid of new blood? does the organization not want to attract more members? follow this logic for a second, if you will?.i have a boat, it is not exactly to spec with the class it is based upon, it does not get used as often as I would like (lets face it?racing is a lot more fun than sailing alone), and I am not going to go shell out $1000 bucks plus at this point in time for an established class. now, if there were a handicap race, new faces would show up at the local pond, and before long these new faces would become familiar with the existing members and their respective classes. don?t you think that in a short period of time, the reluctance at buying into existing fleets would wane? if I met four ?good people? at the local club, and they all raced odom?s, I sure as hell would be interested in an odom (because: (a) they turned out to be good people, and (b) I had the ability to interact with them and their boats, asking questions and gaining familiarity). furthermore, my kids (age 2 and 3) are absolutely in love with all of my boats (r/c and full size). but I cant hardly stick them in my i14 and go for a spin, nor can I get them anywhere close to where I am racing where they could feel like they are ?participating?. but I can with the r/c boat. having them walk around the pond with me while I race, sailing the boat out to the middle of the pond and turning over the sticks to them after racing?.sh*t, you just gained three new members.

I said this before, and I will say it again?why an organization would limit involvement (of any kind) is absolutely unfathomable to me. the more exposure the better. that is, after all, why phrf was developed in full size boats?..why not make it happen in model yacht racing?

just my two cents?.



Maybe it’s that way in CA, but I must say that the three clubs around me, in region 1, always welcome anyone with any sailboat. It’s on our club website homepage even!
It’s always disturbing to hear that any AMYA club is keeping skippers out if they don’t happen to sail what they do.

This thread actually raises a number of inter-related but distincts issues.

First, as to the issue of letting anyone race whatever they have, there are two valid sides to this issue. If a club has organized a formal race, it would seem to be perfectly legitimate to restrict that race to a specific class or type of boat. On the other hand to only allow one type of boat to always sail seems way too restrictive. In our club, we have informal “Over 50 inches” and “Under 50 inches” races and formal IOM, M and 36/600 races.

Second, as to the issue of developing handicap systems, the problem is that all the system will do is make it easier for each boat to qualify for a trophy, it does nothing to address the fact that sailing widely diverse types of boats together doesn’t work very well and isn’t much fun. For example, I can and have literally sailed circles around a Fairwind with a marblehead. Similarly, an IOM or a US1M will quickly lose contact with a stock Victoria or a CR914. And a 10R sailing against an r/c Laser is silly. Putting widely diverse types of boats on the water together on a regular basis in the end doesn’t lead to successful racing.

Third, time handicap systems virtually always lead to bad feelings and are very hard to administer and develop. Fact is there is a vast diversity of performance of different types of boats in a class and a vast diversity in performance of various types of boats in different wind conditions and finally there is the difference in tuning and sailing ability. To try to accurately put this together is very difficult. And please do not suggest that a waterline lenght system is a good basis for a system–a Soling 50 and a Marblehead are the same lenght and their performances are no way comparable. Heck, a stock Victoria is vastly different in peformance from a “turbo” Victoria. And you still haven’t even dealt with the problem that for a time handicap system the race committee will not only have to now take finishes but get accurate times for each boat.

Fourth, as to regional or national “Open Class” races; it is an easy idea to implement-- someone simply has to offer to hold the race and see who shows up. However, I have a funny feeling that not many people with “orphan” design or one-off boats are going to travel very far to compete against other dissimilar boats.

So what are some possible solutions? One thing we are doing here is “level” racing. We are now racing 36/600s with IOMs and are also inviting US1Ms to join in next season. The boats stay in contact with each other and in different wind speeds different classes show off their best performance. (Similar level fleets could probably be created between Victorias and CR914s and Soling 1Ms for example). And there is no issue of timing finsihes or developing ratings formulas. Another thing we do is to schedule open days where there are no formal races or trophies but people can show off their latest designs. And finally, we hold regular races for formal AMYA classes at least once a month.

greg- great looking club (and great looking “pond”) i would love to come check it out someday. and i agree with your sentiments

why are you so negative? obviously the topic of handicaps has merits and interest. and i know i am not the only one with an “orphan” design. but i guess because you have informal over/under 50 races, the issue is solved, and the rest is redundant. i think not.

first off, a handicap system based on wl length, sa, and displacement is accepted almost entirely throughout the world. is it perfect? no. will it please all? no. but name a handicap in any form (not just sailing), and you will hear the same things (you should hear some of my clients bitch about their golf indexes and how that awesome round they shot just screwed them up completely). but the nice thing is, handicaps are adjustable. and these handicaps would not exist for world titles or anything other than fun races…after all that is why we sail and race right? for fun?

secondly, the race committee has to record finish times…WOW, thats uncommon (not to mention that its work). [:-sick] i know for a fact you’ve been involved with race committee work, and thats exactly what it is…WORK. so now you, or a partner, hold a stopwatch and someone else writes it down as you call it out. if thats too difficult, then im sorry if this offends you, but you’re freakin lazy. everyone, at one point or another, has to put down the boat and pull his/her weight with committee work.

third, (and i hate to do this, but to paraphrase d. lord) “you obviously did not read my post”. it doesn’t matter whether you sail circles around me. i am not interested in being crowned the amya portsmouth champion. knowing where you finish, whether its for something or nothing, is a natural human trait. to recap my earlier scenario, in your version… you and your m-head buddies sail circles around me the first time we sail, and believe me, by the end of the race i’m going to be chatting you up on your boat (and probably ask you to let me take her for a spin). guess what…that night my wife would get an earful of how there were these guys with awesome boats, and they race together in one design/developemental classes. then the next time you kick my arse, i’m going to chat you up some more. or maybe im chatting up the guy with the soling…you get the point (i hope). by the third time getting waxed, i know the people around, i have a better understanding of the nuances and differences of classes, and my wife is sick and tired of hearing me talk about how cool the other boats and people are. guess what…im hooked. new amya member, new boat owner, new fleet member. hey, look at that…suddenly the amya is growing. please tell me, is an informal handicap race every month or two just too much of a commitment for the average member?

what are we talking about here? it is called “organizing 101”. giving back to the sport (which i know you do, roy) and ensuring its continued success in the future. but all it takes to destroy potential new members, is negativity. i have already explained that i experienced it firsthand at spreckles years ago, and i see the same attitude (at times, from certain people) here. “open arms” isn’t merely a journey song…its a way of thinking. no one should be left out.

i know your next response will be that i should look at the amya website and find another club to visit (perhaps bill’s, or the south bay club, or the laser boys in redwood city). you’ll say i should drop by and talk to them on a race day, see what classes they race, and that you are positive they will be accomodating with information on their classes. and what about the first time i ask to take their “sticks” and boat for a test…without knowing me, my background, or my sailing knowledge, what do you think the response will be? i doubt they would tell me to “sod off”, but i also doubt they would say, “oh sure, mr. guy i just met”. having a boat, the ability to build it, rig it, and sail it, and even race it against another, breaks us all down to the lowest common denominator. you know though, after being burned before and seeing someone such as yourself who has a wealth of knowledge and understanding for the sport, downplay every attempt at changing the norm…well i, like you, just dont want to exert the effort nor take the chance.

i do not mean this in any disrespect, but as you say of doug and his non-stop “gypsy elixir” banter (about technology and changing the world and how we all are just not bright enough to understand that it works…on paper) pushing away the novices and newbies in your sport, please stop to realize that maybe your line of thinking also has a negative impact on something you are obviously passionate about. there are plenty of potential members that lurk, and i was one that was foolish enough to post my thoughts on the subject, please stop for a moment and think about the silent ones.

kurt l.

The Handicap issue has been discussed by the multihull groups, as has various inter-class categories.

To summarily dismiss time-on-time handicapping is a dis-service to all members who don’t happen to sail the boat of “your” choice.

Handicapping works and it is used in big boats, and it is one thing that “CAN” be directly scaled down to our little one.

If big beach cat open regattas can wind up with boats placing in trophy contention from 14 feet to 27 feet overall length - Portsmouth Handicapping works. The indiviual sailors have sailed the boat to or better than it’s suggested performance. If races like Port Huron to Mackinaw or Chicago to Mackinaw can handle handicapping, time keeping and keeping track of the vast number of participants it is interesting to see that 34 boats might cause too much effort and work on the part of a Race Committee.

For the F-48 Class, one of my goals is to establish boat handicaps as they start hitting the water. After some time, database development may be able to demonstrate that a cat or tri configuration is superior. It will allow us to race 1.2 meter boats against 1 meter boats offering the owner a chance to be competitive.

We have shared ideas and suggestions with Will Gorgen in the past regarding ideas for successful handicapping, and will probably be working with him off-line to further develop a useable handicapp system. What it will be is hard to tell right now, but as usual, there are some who may feel a need to dismiss the idea before it has been tried, and several posts indicate the “hidden agenda” that is usually denied …“If you don’t sail our class of boat, you can’t race with us!”

Hopefully we will be able to (eventually) prove to doubters, that the system does work - even if it takes a bit of work to maintain.

I’m all for allowing people to sail different boats together and for developing systems to get more boats on the water racing. I also know that it is appropriate at certain times to have racing that restricts entries to one specific type of boat (Last I checked Laser’s don’t sail for the America’s Cup and Aussie 18’s are not eligible to compete in the International 14 Nationals).

The question is-- does a time on time handicapping system best do the job of getting diverse model boats racing together? My answer is no. Level races; over and under races; multiclass races (with seperate scoring and prizes)while everyone sails together, all I think are much better solutions to the problem. Gathering the data, developing the formulas, rating the boats and then getting the larger race committees together necessary for handicap racing, timing and scoring doesn’t seem like a good or even practical allocation of resources. (And having run a lot of races, I can tell you that it is a pretty hard job to just get all the finishers placed correctly–model boats finish pretty close together-- and that’s with a group of three people watching the line; how many more you would need to do time on time, I have no idea.)

In all events, this topic is now a few years old. If you believe handicap racing is the answer, do as Dick Lemke suggests, start gathering the data and hold the races.

One final thought, on the question of allowing visitors or newmbies to sail, here at Central Park we always try to have an extra boat or two available and are usually pretty willing to at least hand off a transmitter to anyone who seems intelligent and interested in sailing.

The offshore keelboat class I used to race in was called the level 66 class. That was because all the boats in the class had a PHRF rating of between 64 and 68. Thust the boats were grouped into a one design fleet that would race level. So it is not impossible within a handicapping system to setup level racing categories and let the boats of near equal speed have at it.

I like the idea of over/under regattas and I think that is a great way to have some fun when all the boats at the pond are vastly different. But I think a real handicapping system would allow you to go to the next level in certain events if you wanted to. Sure it would take some time to get a workable system put together, but I think the benefits would be there. I think there are workable ways to reduce the workload on the RD under sucha a system. but we should at least give it a try before we throw it out. If it proves too hard to get woreking or no one uses it, then so be it. At least we tried.

  • Will

Will Gorgen

Instead of doing many races and collecting data from different regattas why don’t you take boats from different companies. Or get people with boats and asemble them together. Get an indoor pool and a bunch of industrial fans. Get a guy or girl that is experienced in RC sailing and have them sail all the boats and time them say three laps and the average of the three. You are then controlling the windspeed and the skipper. That would take out a lot of variables is a fair handicapping system. It would be awsome to be able to sail rc boats as if they were phrf sections. Just a thought.


Our club Wellington Radio Yacht Club runs the simplest system which works for us racing three classes together, IOM, EC12, AC15.
The first race is a scratch race with finishing times after the first boat recorded. The first of the handicap races is then started in reverse order with the slowest boats going of first. The correct name for this system is MARK FOY. After each race the race officer can make adjustments to the start times to accommadate any changes in relative boat speed caused by changing conditions. This is a great system for newcomers as they get to lead the fleet for a large part of the race with all of the associated addrennalin rush which is a wonderful part of our sport. The perfect race is one where all of the fleet cross the finish line within a boat length of each other, which has happended enough times to make this style of racing popular in our club. Try it, its easy.

nerds of the wold untie

To provide a bit more information and indicate that the Portsmouth (time on time) can and does work, here is the base information from US Sailing, and their “Yardstick” for handicapping various classes of boats. You will note that not only are the multihulls covered, but centerboard, sailboards keel boats, and off shore boats are included. Also (upon review) one will notice that even Olympic and One-Design classes are included. Will this bring more boats into a class - it is doubtful, but it certainly could convince those who don’t have a “class eligible boat” to participate at the local level, and from there it is possible to increase memberships, recruit new owners to local classes, and provide exposure to other classes that are new and/or emerging.

The North American Portsmouth Yardstick is a widely used method of rating boats of different classes sailing the same courses. It is a time on time handicapping system and is derived from actual records of classes of boats with thoroughly documented ratings. Portsmouth Numbers are defined as the length of time boats would take to sail a common but unspecified distance. For example, the distance a boat rated at 80 could cover in 80 minutes should be able to be covered in the same race in 95 minutes by a boat rated at 95. In deriving the numbers, boats have in almost all documented cases sailed on courses including the three basic sailing angles: beating, reaching and running. The numbers provide a direct comparison of the performance of different classes. The formula for its use is:

<center><u>CT (Corrected Time) = ET (Elapsed Time) X 100 </u></center>

Assumptions made in generating Portsmouth Yardsticks (D-PN):

That each boat placing first in each class was sailed to its true potential by a perfect crew according to flawless strategy;
That all boats sailed the same course, experienced the same wind/water conditions and degree of interference of clear air;
That all one-design boats conform to class specifications and rules, and use sails specified by the class; and
That boats with multiple sail inventories (genoas, spinnakers, etc.) utilize the proper sails for the wind conditions and legs of the course.

Please use the following link to find more detailed information regarding the process:

Just a few of the various classes that US Sailing has identified and assigned Portsmouth Numbers. Looks like within the AMYA, a significant number LESS would result if a similar system were developed and adopted. Certainly whatever system is proposed, it would need to have a “buy-in” by all clubs in all regions - or the current PHRF debacle would result, where a different handicap is applied depending on regional location.

420 (Int.)
470 (Int.)
505 (Int.)
Albacore (15’)
Bandit 15
Buccaneer 18 (Southwind 18)
Butterfly BUT
C Scow C-
CL 16
Cornado 15
Day Sailer (O’Day 17)
Dolphin Sr.
E Scow
Finn (Int.)
Fireball (Int.)
FJ (Int.)
Flying Dutchman (Int.)
Flying Scot
Force 5
G.P. 14
Harpoon 5.2
Jet 14
JY 15
Laser (Int.)
Laser II (Int.w/trap & spi)
Lido 14
Lightning (Int.)
M Scow (M-16 Scow)
M-20 Scow
MC Scow
Mutineer 15’ (Southwind 15)
Rhodes Bantam
Snipe (Int.)
Sunfish (Int.)
Sweet Sixteen
Tornado C/B
*Thistle is the Primary Yarstick

Division II (SA=<6m2
Division IIB (SA=6-7m2

Dart 18
F-24 Tri Mk I All Sails
F-25C Tri Cbn All Sails
F-27 Tri All Sails
Hobie 14
Hobie 14 Turbo (1-Up)
Hobie 16
Hobie 17 (1-Up)
Hobie 18 & 18 Magnum
Hobie 20 Miracle
Hobie 21 no spi
Inter 20 w/spi I-20
Mystere 6.0, 2-Up
Nacra 5.0/500 (2-Up)
Nacra 5.2 (2-Up)
Nacra 5.5 8.5’ Sloop
Nacra 5.5 8.5’ Uni
Nacra 5.7/570 (2-Up)
Nacra 5.8 (2-Up)
Nacra 5.8 No. American
Nacra 6.0 Orig. N6.0
Nacra 6.0 No. American
Prindle 15
Prindle 16
Prindle 18
Prindle 18-2
Prindle 19
Sea Spray 15 (Sea Moth)
Tornado (1-Trap, no Spi)

Rhodes 19 (CB Ver.)
Soling (Int., Class Jib)
Star (Int.)
Victory 21 w/Genoa, no spi

Aquarius 23
Balboa 20
Balboa 26
Beneteau 235 (DK/WK)
C&C 24
Cal 20
Cal 21
Cal 25
Cal 27
Cal 29 & 2-29
Capri 22 (FK/SK/WK)
Capri 25 (Catalina)
Catalina 22 (SK/WK, No Spi)
Catalina 25 (FK/SK/WK)
Catalina 25 (FK/SK, TM)
Catalina 27 & 270 (FK/WK)
Catalina 27 (Tall Mast)
Catalina 30 (FK)
Challenger 24 (Col.)
Chrysler 22 (Sw. Keel)
Clipper 21
Columbia 26 Mk 2
Coronado 23
Coronado 25
Ericson 25
Ericson 27
Ericson 29
Express 27
Helms 24
Hobie 33
Holder 20
Hunter 22 (Swing Keel)
Hunter 23 (Wing Keel)
Hunter 25 (Deep Keel)
Hunter 25.5
Hunter 28.5
Hunter 31 (Shoal Draft)
Irwin 23
J/22 (Class Jib)
J/24 (Int.)
Kittiwake 23
Laser 28
MacGregor 25
MacGregor 26 (DB)
Merit 22 (Ret. Keel)
Merit 23 (Wing Keel)
Merit 25
Moore 24
Morgan 22
Morgan 24 & 25
Morgan 27
O’Day 23 (Keel Step)
O’Day 25 (CB Ver.)
O’Day 25
Olson 25
Olson 30
Paceship 23 (PY23, CB)
Precision 23
Ranger 22 (Mull 22)
Ranger 23
Ranger 26
S2 6.9
S2 7.9 Grand Slam
San Juan 21 (SK,Cl.Gen&Spi)
San Juan 23 (CB Ver.)
San Juan 24
San Juan 7.7
Santana 20 & 20W

Hopefully, this information (above) will stimulate additional ideas, and perhaps be the “spark” to generate an OPEN CLASS handicapping system which would allow boats of various sizes and levels of performance to compete an a (somewhat - not guaranteed) level playing field.

<u>EDIT/ADDED: </u>The Formula 48 Multihull Class Owners Association (as the first COA on record) is wiling to offer support and participation in the development of this system or any other that might be selected.