Friday, March 6, 2009

Handicapped System

If you are french, they call it the System Handicap Nationale and if you are Swedish it is called Leading Yard Stick or LYS for short. In South Africa we call it The Unfair System. Sailors all over the world think their handicap system are unfair. I like to call it the Handicapped System.

According to my knowledge, which is sometimes limited, a handicap rating can be calculated by either two principles.

1. Observing actual performance and then creating a handicap

2. Measurements taken and formulas used to predict performance

This is according to an article by Jim Teeter : Yacht Racing Handicap System. These are two very different views. The first takes actual race results and base their handicap system on that. The second takes in account all the physical attributes of a boat (weight, length, sail area, etc)
These systems are then used to give boats the same equal opportunity of winning.

I have one big problem with both these systems, one major factor in boa speed is not taken in to account. The major factor being you, the sailor. Take Tillerman , he sails a Laser and competes with people half his age. They are younger, more agile and more fit than him, but they have the same rating. On his blog he complains of not winning races, even though he sailed his hardest and best race. Is this fair?

Another example is when I started sailing, the yacht had a 0.95 rating and we were all beginner sailors. We always ended up in the end of the pack, dead last. Now, two years later the yacht is still on a 0.95 rating, but an experienced crew is sailing her. We take home the medals almost every week. Could that one factor make such a difference, I think so.

A skipper I once sailed under recommend that we don't give the system the boot, but adopt a golf handicap system. Still keeping the current rating, but bring the skipper and crew into the equation as well.

Basic golf handicap is calculated as follows, add your 10 best scores of 20 and then you can determine where you are on the handicap system. With each new game, you enter your result and your handicap get recalculated again. With this system you can still stay competitive even if you just started out.

By doing this beginners and seasoned sailors can race against each other competitively. Each regatta you can test your own ability and that of your boat.


Tillerman said...

Great subject. Where so I start?

1. I don't really complain that younger fitter sailors usually beat me. I expect it. It's racing against them that motivates me to stay fitter than I would otherwise be. And sometimes I beat them!

2. In Laser Masters sailing in North America there is a sort of age handicap system. Younger age groups have more points added to their score than the older guys. Strange thing though... the best sailors still win no matter what age they are.

3. Sure the sailor and crew are a huge factor. But isn't that the point? Most handicapping systems try and level the playing field so the boat isn't a factor and a race is fair between the sailors. In a running race the fitter faster runners win the race; in a sailing race the fitter smarter sailors win the race. What's unfair about that?

4. Having said all that, I have experienced a personal handicap system, a bit like the one you propose at the end your post. My first sailing club used a scheme like this just for their Easter weekend regatta. Every sailor essentially had a personal Portsmouth Yardstick. And there was a formula for adjusting it based on your actual results. A bit confusing but fun. Gave beginners a good chance of placing well in the regatta. The junior program at my second club did a similar thing for the junior sailors. That way even the little kids could win a trophy.

Smilicus said...

Thank you for the feed back Tillerman.

I think the system is fair for the people more experienced. I just remember when I started out that I was demotivated, because no matter how hard we as crew sailed, we always ended up in the last 3 positions.

I know a lot of people you started sailing but felt it wasn't for them because they came nowhere in the fleet.

Maybe we should implement a beginners handicap.

Tim said...

I'm very interested in this whole problem at the moment as I have just become the 'Handicap Fleet Rep' at our club and we have to find a way of accomodating the range of craft.
Its not just types of craft or the varying fitness and ability of the but crews but also the age of craft. There are some boats that even if they were sailed by champions, would never reach thier theoretical maximum speed. Now the personal handicap would solve this but I also think that Tillerman has a point. So I'm trying to figure out a system that goes someway between the two, if it is possible.

Smilicus said...

Tillerman has got a few valid points Tim. Seems we have the same problem with the older boats and older sailors.

To date I have not found a system that would work as we would like it to. Best is to be creative and combine a few.

Are you looking for a handicap for Snettisham Beach Sailing club? I think the Portsmouth Yardstick system will be best suited to your needs. Follow the link: US Sailing

Let me know on which handicap you decide.

Good luck with the decision making.