Sailing Handicaps

The North Wales Cruising Club favoured type of race is the pursuit race.  The reason for this is twofold:

  • Firstly, it makes for a more user friendly start as you don’t have a situation where a lot of boats are vying for position on the start line trying to start at the same time.  This can be very stressful for the short handed cruising sailors that make up the bulk of the club and we don’t want our members to be stressed and put off from racing again.
  • Secondly, the pursuit races make for more exciting races as the faster boats don’t just sail off ahead of the fleet which in effect turns the race into a procession.  Instead, each boat has its own start time based on their handicap, the slower boats start first and then the faster boats have to overtake them by a fixed finish time.  This is much more inclusive for the slower boats and they feel that they are in a race.  If the handicaps are correct and each boat sails to its potential the boats all finish in the same position.

We have been running this system in the club for a number of years now and participation has been increasing year on year which proves how popular it is.  However as we have now become a major player in the racing scene we need to formalise the process of assigning handicaps to make it more transparent and fair to all.

Handicaps and Handicap Adjustment

The handicaps are based on the National Handicaps for Cruisers that have been devised by the RYA.  These handicaps all start off as provisional handicaps and are designed to be adjustable depending on the performance of boats throughout the season, much like a golfing handicap.  This is to give all boats a chance to win a race including the less experienced crews and boats that are set up for cruising instead of racing, with a lot of excess weight on them and small crews.  This means that the more experienced racers will be getting an additional handicap as the season goes on and finding it more difficult to win a race.  We have a plan to reward these sailors though so read on.

Boats taking part in their first race will start with the NHC base handicap.  If no NHC handicap exists we will use the oficial RYA calculator to calculate a handicap based on a yachts dimensions.

The handicaps will be calculated after each race based on the finishing positions as follows.

The winning boat will have their handicap increased by 0.020 and the last boat will have theirs reduced by the same amount 0.020.  The rest of the boats in the fleet will have their handicaps adjusted proportionally between 0 and plus or minus 0.02 depending on their positions.  For the mathematically minded we have put some examples at the end of this document.

Boats that do not compete in a race, are disqualified or did not finish do not have their handicaps adjusted for that race. 

This means that as the season goes on the finishes will become ever closer and more exciting. 

Best Racing Yacht of the Year Cup

In order to make it more interesting and fairer for the more experienced racers we are going to introduce a new cup to be awarded to the boat that achieves the largest improvement in handicap from their starting handicap, with an additional weighting for the number of races taken part in – the participation weighting. The participation weighting will be calculated by taking the (number of races taken part in) divided by (the number of races in the season minus 2) * 100, up to a maximum value of 100.  This means you can miss up to two races without being penalised.  The final score will be the additional handicap achieved multiplied by the participation weighting and the winning yacht will be the one with the highest score.

Boats that are disqualified or did not finish are considered as having raced.

So for example, if boat 1 starts the season at handicap 0.80 and ends at 0.90, having competed in 8 races out of a season of 12, and boat 2 starts the season at handicap 0.60 and ends at 0.75 having competed in 10 races out of 12 the calculations are:

Boat 1:

            Handicap improvement * participation weighting
            = (0.90 – 0.80) * (8 / (12 – 2)) * 100 = 8

Boat 2:

            Handicap improvement * participation weighting
            = (0.75 – 0.60) * (10 / (12 – 2)) * 100 = 15

So in this example boat 2 leads boat 1 for the Best Racing Yacht of the Year.

Publishing of Progress and Season End

As the season progresses we will share a spreadsheet that shows the participating boats base handicaps and their new handicaps with the variation achieved.  The boats with the largest variations after the participation weighting has been applied will be at the top of the list so it is easy to see who is in the lead.   

At the end of the season we will share our results with the RYA to help them to make their NHC base handicaps  more accurate for the following season.

At the start of next year’s season we will keep the handicaps that we have built up from the previous season but the calculation for the biggest difference in handicap from the base will be based on the new years NHC base handicap.  So if the RYA have given your boat a higher handicap the difference will be less.

Special Events

Every race in the season will be subject to the club NHC scheme apart from the River Festival which will have its own independent system.  This includes the club award for Bart’s Bash and the boatfolk Series.  As Bart’s Bash have their own scoring system and  handicaps the club result for Bart’s Bash and the actual Bart’s Bash results may not be the same.  The clubs cup will be awarded on the club handicap though as our handicaps will be more accurate as they are based on local data.

I hope this is clear but if you have any questions please feel free to talk to Steve Gorst (Sailing Captain) at the club.

Worked Example

Odd Number of Boats

Say 5 boats finish in this order. Using the middle (median) boat as the target:

#Original HandicapAdjustmentNew Handicap
10.600Handicap increase by 0.020.620
20.800Handicap increase by 0.010.810
30.550No change0.550
40.900Handicap decrease by 0.010.890
51.100Handicap decrease by 0.021.080

Total boats in race = 5
Middle boat position is therefore = 3
Winner is therefore 2 places ahead

So, as the maximum change is 0.02, a particular boat’s change will be:

            (Difference between place and the median place) * (handicap scaling factor)
            (median – position) * (0.02 / (median – 1))

For this example, handicap scaling factor: (0.1 / (3 – 1)) = 0.01 per position

#Original HandicapAdjustmentNew Handicap
10.600(3 – 1) * (0.02 / (3 – 1)) = 0.020.620
20.800(3 – 2) * (0.02 / (3 – 1)) = 0.010.810
30.550(3 – 3) * (0.02 / (3 – 1)) = 0.00.550
40.900(3 – 4) * (0.02/ (3 – 1)) = -0.010.890
51.100(3 – 5) * (0.02 / (3 – 1)) = -0.021.080

Even Number of Boats

This will also work when there is an even number of boats as in the following example with 6 boats.

For this example, handicap scaling factor: (0.02 / (3.5 – 1)) = 0.008 per position

#Original HandicapAdjustmentNew Handicap
10.600(3.5 – 1) * (0.02 / (3.5 – 1)) = 0.020.620
20.800(3.5 – 2) * (0.02 / (3.5 – 1)) = 0.0120.812
30.550(3.5 – 3) * (0.02 / (3.5 – 1)) = 0.0040.554
40.900(3.5 – 4) * (0.02 / (3.5 – 1)) = -0.0040.896
51.100(3.5 – 5) * (0.02 / (3.5 – 1)) = -0.0121.088
60.400(3.5 – 6) * (0.02 / (3.5 – 1)) = -0.020.380