Rating by performance handicap is a method of providing equitable time allowances for monohull yachts of different designs racing against each other. Numerous systems have been employed - some were methods of handicapping, some handicapped skippers, and some combined both systems. The increased interest in racing of racer/cruiser type yachts has produced the PHRF.
Measurement-based rating formulas with the attending rapid changes in yacht design have turned many skippers to the performance-based handicap system. Performance handicap emerges as the best assurance of continued opportunity to compete fairly against all designs, both new and old. As a result, the PHRF system, begun several decades ago in California, has spread to the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. In 1976, PHRF was sanctioned by CBYRA. USSA now has recognized PHRF as a subcommittee under its Offshore Racing Committee.
PHRF Ratings are boat performance handicaps. They are based on the speed potential of the boat, determined as far as possible on observations of previous racing experience. It is the intent of PHRF handicapping that any well equipped, well maintained, and well sailed boat has a good chance of winning. Handicaps are adjusted as needed on the basis of the boat's performance so that each well sailed boat has an equal opportunity to win. This is the fundamental concept.
PHRF ratings are not intended to reflect skipper and crew capability. Ratings are not adjusted to encourage a poor or careless skipper, and conversely, not rating adjustment is made to penalize proficiency. Intensity of competition and the influx of new and aggressive sailors require each skipper to maintain consistently high performance in order to place well.
The PHRF is an open rule. There are no hull restrictions other than the self-righting requirement. Headsails must fall under one of the following definitions. Any headsail that fits neither definitions is not a legal sail.
JIB - A jib is a sail in which its mid-girth, measured between the mid-points of the luff and leech, does not exceed 50% of the length of the foot, and in which any other intermediate girth does not exceed a value similarly proportional to its distance from the head of the sail.
SPINNAKER - A sail shall not be measured as a spinnaker unless the mid-girth is 75% or more of the foot length, and the sail is symmetrical about a line joining the head to the center of the foot.
ASYMMETRICAL SPINNAKER - Asymmetrical spinnakers which meet the current ORR definitions may be rated used in lieu of a standard spinnaker.
Headsails with mid-girths between 50% and 75% of the foot length shall not be allowed.
Battens - PHRF does not restrict battens in mainsails but sails must meet ORR girth requirements or "one design sails" requirements. Battens may be used in jibs smaller than 110% LP.
Well designed and constructed boats are expected not to be made obsolete by newer designs under PHRF. PHRF does not use formulas to determine handicaps. As faster designs appear, they are handicapped accordingly. Therefore, one of the major attractions of the PHRF system is that older boats can race competitively with the latest designs.
PHRF discourages "rule beating." If a skipper modifies his boat, PHRF will attempt to compensate for the new potential speed. The use of taller masts, longer spinnaker poles, extra ballast, gutted interiors, or other modifications intended to increase speed is compensated by the rating assigned. Boats must be raced in exactly the same configuration they were in when presented to the handicapper. Credits or debits assigned to modifications are at the sole discretion of the Chief Handicapper. Following are some "guidelines" as to what may or may not be penalized. These are only guidelines. When in doubt, read and follow the policy.
Yachts having One Design Ratings must race with the equipment prescribed by the Class Association.
Race Committees have the authority to conduct random or non-random inspections at any time and are encouraged to do so.
All PHRF-GB members are urged to voluntarily comply with the rules. If you witness a violation, you are urged to file a protest with the Race Committee on a real-time basis and notify PHRF afterwards.
A rating certificate is issued solely for the purpose of rating the speed potential of the boat described. It is not to be construed as in any way suggesting that PHRF-GB has made any determination with respect to the seaworthiness or safety of the boat rated. The seaworthiness and safety of each boat is the sole responsibility of the owner and/or skipper.
PHRF assumes that a boat is equipped to race. It does not attempt to rate a partially equipped boat, or a boat which differs from other in its class, in that it is unusually heavy, out of balance, or has unusual windage (as from a dinghy on davits). However, if the basic hull and rig differ from others in its class, it will, of course, be rated uniquely.
The base rating of all boats in the PHRF of Galveston Bay assumes an inboard or outboard motor on the boat. Such motor must be capable of propelling the boat at 0.85 times the square root of LWL in calm water. Boats not so equipped will incur a -6 second per mile adjustment from their base rating. One design classes are exempt if class rules do not require motors.
The PHRF rating assigned to a yacht is valid only so long as the following crew limits are not exceeded.
In addition to the above limits, yachts may carry additional crew members under thirteen years of age as of the day of the race.
No crew limitations apply to "non-spinnaker" classes.
PHRF ratings are expressed in seconds per mile to be deducted from elapsed times to produce corrected time. The higher rating indicated the slower boat. PHRF time allowances are not related to other systems.
PHRF ratings are made on the assumption that:
The spinnaker pole length or TPS is equal to "J."
The spinnaker maximum width is 1.82 "J."
The spinnaker maximum length is equal to 1.0 "I."
The genoa "LP" is at least 1.4 "J" but no greater than 1.55 "J."
The boat is in racing condition.
The boat has a folding or feathering propeller or a retractable outboard motor.
The top of the spinnaker is at upper end of "I" measurement.
The asymmetrical spinaker meadian width (ASMW), is equal to or less than 1.82 "J."
Adjustments are made to the base rating if these assumptions are violated.
PHRF-GB standard sails are those sails which do not incur an IOR/IMS penalty. The owner's signature on the rating application attests that the sails are PHRF-GB standard sails unless otherwise noted.
PHRF YACHT SELF RIGHTING TEST
The burden of proof of self-righting and the ultimate safety of a yacht's crew is the sole responsibility of the yacht's owner.
Only the PHRF committee can request that an owner perform a self-righting test. The responsibility of conducting the test, and any liability for damages resulting from the test is the owner's responsibility.
In cases where the PHRF Committee deems it necessary, the owner may be required to perform a self-righting test as follows:
All hatches, scuttles, and vents shall be closed.
The mast shall be weighted at the main halyard block with the working sails.
All yachts with keels/centerboards/daggerboards which are movable while sailing shall be tested with their "boards" in the up position.
Equipment may be removed from the yacht, with the measurers permission, to prevent equipment damage, but not to increase stability.
The yacht shall be hove down on her beam ends for 15 seconds.
From this point the yacht must be able to right herself. Should the yacht fill with water it shall not sink. PHRF will rate ballasted boats with positive floatation.
A self-righting test may be required by the PHRF Committee for any of the following reasons:
Measurer's concern for yacht's stability.
Protest concerning yacht's righting ability. Righting test protest must be accompanied by a fee of $100.00; this fee is refundable should the yacht fail the self-righting test.
An observed questionable incident concerning righting ability.
PHRF Galveston Bay shall in no way be held liable for any damage which may be incurred in performing a self-righting test. PHRF does not warrantee the safety of any boat for racing.
CHANGES TO DESIGN OR EQUIPMENT
If there are changes to the hull, rudder, keel, ballast, rig, sails, or other factors upon which the existing rating is based, they must be reported to the Chief Handicapper for evaluation. If possible deviations on the part of the owner become apparent, other contestants are urged to protest the yacht and notify the Executive Committee.
At the present time there are over 130 classes racing under the PHRF system. A base rating is established for each class, and boats within a class are assumed to be identical for rating purposes. New boats must declare any deviation from class. Deviations from standard configuration will be evaluated on an individual basis. Changes in rig or sail dimensions will not necessarily result in full recovery of penalties.
Because of the number of boats in PHRF and the variability with which boats are sailed, it is not feasible to accumulate statistics on an individual boat basis. To provide a broader statistical base, boats are handled as a class insofar as possible when it is brought to the handicapper's attention that a particular boat differs from its standard class in a way to change its speed potential, the committee may pull the boat from its class and handicap it individually. Where a class has several boats racing actively, the performance data accumulates rapidly, and it is possible to arrive at a fair handicap in a short time.
The tendency to handicap from the base as performance data accumulates leads frequently to a later adjustment the base rating to reflect the prevailing rating within the class. An adjustment in the base rating normally is followed by a corresponding adjustment in the rating of the individual boats to conform with the new base.
PHRF ratings are intended to be applied to closed course races. The system works well provided wind conditions affect all boats equally. It is not intended for races that are mostly off the wind or on the wind, or when changes in headsails are not permitted. Results from such races are ignored when setting PHRF handicaps.
The handicap rating of an individual boat is expressed in seconds per mile, usually in increments of 3 sec./mi. The smallest increment of performance used for rating is 3 sec./mi. Observations of numerous races show that it is impossible to spot a boats potential performance more accurately than this because of the multiple factors involved. Differences in skipper and crew skill represent a much larger factor than 3 sec./mi.
Because headsail size has so much to do with boat speed, PHRF uses this factor as a means of handicapping. Boats are rated for use with larger small headsails with 155% of LP being the dividing line. Once a boat is rated with a large headsail, this rating must be used, even though wind conditions may preclude use of the sail. A skipper is not allowed to have his boat re-rated frequently by choosing his headsail to fit expected race conditions.
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Additionally non-spinnaker yachts are given a Non-Spinnaker factor. This factor is meant to adjust for the differences in rigs and weight for non-spinnaker yachts. This factor is not meant to handicap spinnaker vs. non-spinnaker yachts.
Ratings are determined by a Handicap Committee, and in the case of new, custom, modified or otherwise unusual boats, with the approval of the Executive Committee. The Chief Handicapper is Chairman of the Handicap Committee. Each handicapper is responsible for handicapping boats assigned to him, subject review by the Chief Handicapper. With time the handicapper becomes familiar with the performance of all the more active boats, and is able to evaluate their characteristics. Through experience, the handicapper becomes familiar with the wind and current conditions in his area, and understands how much of an allowance to make for local conditions before evaluating boat speed in competition. Handicappers maintain a constant search for boats which require an adjustment of handicap in order to permit them to compete fairly with the balance of the fleet.
Handicappers are selected on the basis of an active interest in handicap racing, knowledge of boat design and performance, a judicial temperament, and demonstrated leadership in yacht racing. Most are participants in racing, but have put aside their views as contestants to evaluate yachts fairly and accurately. Clearly, the system rests on the integrity of the handicappers.
A new boat in an established class is given the rating for the class. Adjustments may be made for any deviation from the class. If adjustments are made, an indication is made in the Valid List that the boat is not a standard class boat.
For new classes and one-of-a-kind boats, the rating is determined by the Executive Committee on the basis of comparison with similar boats with established ratings. Comparison is made considering type of design and principal dimensions. The rating is assigned conservatively and is adjusted as performance data becomes available.
PHRF utilizes computing techniques to calculate race results and to collect statistics by boat class. Other handicapping systems (IOR/IMS etc.) and race results are also used to gain a maximum data base. Each class is handicapped against the performance of the fleet as a whole and the handicap raised or lowered as required for good racing. However, winning races (or losing races) does not automatically lead to an adjustment of the handicap.
Ratings for new boats may be assigned by the Chief Handicapper, provided the boat is a stock production boat, unmodified by the owner. Rating for custom boats or a boat type never before rated in the Galveston Bay area must be presented by the Chief Handicapper to the Executive Committee, at one of its regular or special meetings, for approval.
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Members will be sent a renewal notice in December. Ratings expire January 31st.
HOW RATINGS ARE USED
The rating to be used in a race is the rating in effect on the day the race is held. Each member receives a certificate giving the current rating of his boat, and the certificate is evidence of valid rating. Ratings may be adjusted by the Board of Handicappers during the season. It is the obligation of each member to enter races using the latest valid rating.
Only boats with current PHRF ratings may enter PHRF races. This is necessary even for class yachts because it is the prerogative of the PHRF handicapper to determine if the boat meets its class definition and to assign a rating. Yacht club race committees are requested to refuse entry to boats not listed on the most recent Valid List, unless the skipper can provide a more recent PHRF certificate.
Since the system rates boats, rather than skippers, the handicap applies even when the boat is raced by a different skipper, or with the owner ashore. Ratings, however, are issued only to members of the Association as specified in the By-Laws.
If a PHRF member buys a new boat, his membership will be transferred to that boat and a rating will be assigned to him for that boat. A non-member who purchases a rated boat must obtain his own PHRF membership before racing the boat.
Yacht charters are governed and policed by USSA and yacht club rules, not by PHRF.
The Vice-Chairman of PHRF of Galveston Bay is responsible for seeing that results of each PHRF race held by a yacht club are submitted to PHRF. Only by analyzing continually the latest race results can PHRF approach its objective of an accurate performance based on the handicap system.
The rating of every yacht in the PHRF fleet shall be subject to review and adjustment by the Executive Committee at the December meeting, which shall be a closed meeting. A list of the yachts whose ratings were adjusted at this meeting shall be published to the fleet, however, those ratings which were adjusted shall not become effective until after the first appeals meeting of the following year (usually February).
A PHRF fleet member has the right to appeal the rating of any PHRF yacht. Such appeal must be made in writing and according to the procedures stated in Article XI of the By-Laws of PHRF of Galveston Bay. At the hearing, any member of PHRF may present his or her views. An appellant should be prepared to demonstrate that:
The yacht has raced in a sufficient number of races to compile adequate supporting data.
The yacht is properly equipped for racing in the areas of gear, sail inventory, bottom condition, etc.
The assistance of other knowledgeable sailors has been sought to maximize yacht performance.
There will usually be three appeal meetings held each year at the regular Executive Committee meeting generally on the second Thursday of February, May, and September, unless otherwise announced. Letters of appeal must be received by the Secretary/Treasurer no later than two weeks prior to the appeals meeting. The fleet will be notified of all appeals to be heard