Home Forums General Handicapped By The Handicap??


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    John Purdie

    Just seen the new Great Lakes Handicap for the Scorpion at 1027
    As the RYA Handicap seems to follow suit, does this mean we can expect to drop again when they are published in the Spring?



    Kay Ecclestone

    Porthpean use PY (currently 1040) and each year it gets harder to compete with the Tasars & Lasers. Luckily most Weds & Sundays there are now enough of us to ignore the rest and sail against each other but I do find it frustrating. Particularly as most races, Porthpean courses tend to be just triangles rather than Olympics; I find it hard to sail to handicap with just one beat and no run (I know that I probably wouldn’t sail to handicap with a true Olympic course but you get my meaning). Unfortunately, I cannot get the sailing committee to see that PY is intended to be adapted for local circumstances. The argument being, of course, that if we change one handicap we would have to change others. My counter argument is that the only spinnaker boats are us and the Kestrel but I am not winning that one. I agree with Tom that we need sailors from all parts of the fleet to attend more handicap events but that isn’t the easiest of options from Cornwall.



    As a newbie, is the current handicap felt to be reasonable?
    It will be interesting to see how I fare when I manage to get my hands on a scorp. for the last few years I have been sailing a Miracle with the kids, and winning plenty of club races to jeers of banditry (which may be fair, as the Miracle handicap has been slipping in recent times) but I’d like to think we have been sailing with skill


    Tom Jeffcoate

    Generally I’d say the RYA one is pretty reasonable yes but it depends what your club uses.

    This discussion started as a result of the Great Lakes Handicap we are sailing off for the Sailjuice series which is less favourable for us as John has pointed out. I contacted them to ask how they came up with the numbers and if the fact we mostly had boats from the front of the fleet at these events was having an effect. Have a read and make your own minds up…

    Hi Tom, thanks for getting in touch. I am very impressed that there was any racing at Draycote on Saturday, and well done on your result at the event. I hope it was not too much of a war of attrition.

    A short answer first, there is a lot more I could cover. In setting this year’s handicaps we looked at the last 5 year’s results from the series. For the Scorpion this was over 100 results from over 20 boats. Fort all classes, we only use the fastest finishers in the calculation for the reason you highlight. We want to exclude all those who are late to the start, learning the boat, having a bad day or just not that good. So we discard about the bottom third of results from each race. This process gave a recommended handicap for the Scorpion of 1017 – the number needed then to make your average result equal to all the other classes average results. We then apply the sort of judgment you comment on [sailor performance], fleets with stronger representations may not be moved to the calculated number, hence the 1027 for the Scorpion.

    When you look at this number, dont forget to look at the changes we have made to all the main classes racing. We have reduced the number v the RYA/Class handicap or last year for about 40 classes, typically the higher performance boats that are able to do well on the large flat water venues in the series. We have increased the number v the RYA/Class of about 20 classes, typically the lower performance boats. Can we say we have it right? Never I am afraid since new classes arrive, older classes sag, courses are dictated by location constraints, wind speeds vary by race and by day. But overall we hope to make as fair a playing field as we can for all in getting a series result that reflects their ability, rather than the boat they sail. I dont think we are that far off this objective.

    It would be interesting to go further and apply a personal handicap to each competitor for them to benchmark themselves against but we have too many doing too few races in the series to make this work. I know clubs that do do this, such as Burghfield and it works well. At Queen Mary we did it for one helm who moved from near the top of the RS400 fleet into a D-One and over three seasons we got him back to near the top of our handicap racing – but it was a lot of work just for one person, one class.

    I hope this goes some way to answering your questions. Good luck in the rest of the series and we will of course be reviewing all handicaps again at the end of the series. If I have not answered any of your points or you have additional ideas on this topic please let me know.

    Andrew Craig
    Great Lakes Committee Chair

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for getting in touch. I appreciate handicap racing is a flawed beast at the best of times and one boat will always be advantaged over another on any given day. Part of the problem is also the relative lack of some classes at these events so some are not subjected to the same scrutiny as others which can serve to fuel some arguments (such as my Blaze / Kestrel comments). There were a few comments made in the dinghy park though and so I’d rather get an informed opinion than see the discussion spread to various forums without some knowledge available.

    I have a few further thoughts, not intended as a negative in any way but simply observations from a competitor who hasn’t looked in too much detail before. For instance, I can see the logic of discarding results from the bottom third, how much effect does this have on the numbers? I ask as at most events we have had a couple of top boats and 1 from the back half of the fleet. If all their [the back half of the fleet boat] results are discarded then this could be exaggerating the problem for us and dictate who we need to be persuading to come to these events to try and even it out.

    Would it make sense to go further and just look at the fastest boat from each class in each race? This reduces the sample size but at least you are looking at the person who got closest to achieving the boats true potential. Some fleets with 1 very good sailor might feel penalised but the counter argument could be that if they were that far behind them then their results shouldn’t be counted anyway.

    With the personal handicap system I was thinking this could be expanded beyond just these events as it is making a relative judgement on ability which is hopefully not affected by venue in the same way boat suitability is. Producing a national ranking for each fleet and then standardising it across fleets using nationals results would be an overly simplistic way of doing it but could then allow you to rank what order competitors at any given event could be expected to finish, or at least in what section of the fleet. On any given day the conditions would favour one class or another, but over time it would be possible to see if any particular classes were consistently gaining an advantage compared to the anticipated finishing order. Some fleets are stronger than others at the front and so a later refinement could be to look at sailors who do jump fleets or historic handicap fleet results (this may be reinforcing the status quo though).

    Kind regards,

    I have not done enough iterations to be sure but will give you my view from what I have seen:

    For the RYA PN calculations, they include all results, they generally have such large sample that there is the same long tail for all classes. Better to include all since then the maximum amount of data is used.

    By chance the new RYA PYS system takes a much tougher stance on discards, why we are not sure since the previous system hardly discarded any results by default. The trouble is on the SailJuice Series even over the last 5 years we are down to so few results in most classes and the numbers start to jump around, quite a few not in line with our observation / expectation. In theory I agree with you though.

    David Wilkins at Rutland has done quite a bit of work on by how much international, national, open meeting and top club winners beat their handicaps. If you are interested I can get that. Someone then has to decide for each helm which bucket they fit in. Again, something worth doing at club level I think, not really viable for this disparate series.

    [I] would be interested to know what comments are being made, informed or otherwise. I have been thinking about adding an FAQ page to the Great Lakes website. Most winters I also follow the Yachts and Yachting forum on the series, and what I find there is that for every comment made there is a counter view. If I disagree with something I just wait. Before long someone posts something I agree with.




    its interesting to see the rational for the great lakes handicapping, I cant imagine there is a perfect way of handling handicaps – there is always going to be someone it favours and someone it disadvantages. I am surprised the size of the difference for the scorpion between great lakes and RYA though.

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