What does PHRF stand for? It's the initials of the Performance Handicap Rating Factor system. The system was designed to provide a method where different sailboats could race together and balance out their physical differences. It's not a perfect system, but the alternative systems cost too much money and they are dominated mostly by rich people. Racing can teach us a lot about our boats and how to use them. The other boats give us a reference to measure how good we are or in some cases how bad we are. Racing will helps us analyze the wind and terrain and makes us good sailors.
A PHRF rating factor is a handicap in seconds. A Com-Pac 23 has a rating of 251. That means you subtract 251 seconds per mile from his or her elapsed race time. The race committee measures the racecourse. Our New River racecourse is 5 nautical miles long. You measure from point to point in straight lines. The Com-Pac 23 will have a total handicap of 755 seconds. You substrate the handicap from the start time to the finish time and the best time wins. Big boats normally have small handicap and little boats have large handicaps. A committee of volunteers in each State or region sets the initial ratings and adjusts the numbers over time.
What can a sailor learn from racing? It's like everything else, experience counts and time at the tiller makes for a good sailor. Our computer program is a little like time at the tiller without being at the tiller. Our computer program is going to give you real boat speed. A bad tack will show slow boat speed and good tack will show good or consistent boat speed. Look at the overall boat speed for the whole race. Then pick out the bad spots and then determine why they were bad. Most of time it will be the sailor, but some of time it's going to be the terrain. Most marks are close to points of land and they are close to the terrain where the wind will be changing. The overall distance sailed is another important item. Racing is not just boat speed. Plan the best course that sails the shortest distance. Plan the shortest distance and then the course that has the best wind with the least interference from the terrain. Shortest distance sailed normally wins. We also measure time and the best time wins. If you have the best time, that means you sailed fast, did your planning well and took advantage of all the dynamic possibilities present at race time. That's the same talent needed to sail home after your engine quits.
They call the person that does the planning on big races a tactician. In most cases, when racing PHRF, it's the tiller person. As a computer program tactician, you analyze what went right and what went wrong with the computer information provided. Every time I sail a computer race, I see little things that I didn't see before. Our plan is to format many of our old races into this new program format (speed, time, distance). The New River will have their own best race and we will do similar programs for the Neuse River races. I hope to make all the races consistent so you can pick out the boat and sailor differences. Did I mention that both racecourses exhibit moderate wind and ocean tides? Good luck.
OPERATION: Click the start button and watch a boat sail from the top of the screen while the knot meter indicates boat speed. When the boat crosses the start mark, the time and distance recorders will start. In the New River, when the boat sails south of latitude 34.4212, the race starts and when it sails back north over the same line, you finish the race. You should record the start time on a piece of paper for future use. The graphics will indicate the boat's sailing direction and course. The distance recorded is the boat's sailing distance over the course. A boat can't have a sailing distance less than the course distance. The course isn't exactly 5 miles long and race committees only guess at the actual racecourse distance. Our course is almost 5 miles long. Can a boat sailing the racecourse on a light wind day ever win? The answer is no. Can two boats sailing at the same time have one boat win and one boat lose? The answer is yes. The overall standings are not going to be too important to most people. More important will be groups of boats sailing in low wind races or groups of boats sailing in big wind races. Look at boat speed to determine wind speed and the graphics to determine wind direction. If you can tell what a skipper did wrong, maybe you can avoid doing the same thing on the water. When the computer race finishes, the graphic and the knot will continue, but the time and distance figures will stop. Compute the total seconds raced by adding the total hours; minutes and seconds raced less the boat's handicap. That's the official time for the race.
The big question is how can this computer program help you? Pick some races with boats that are similar in size to your boat. Analyze wind direction, strength and terrain in those races. Keep in mind that some of the computer boats may have been sailed poorly. You are going to compare how you currently sail to how the boats on the computer were sailed. Make a racecourse on your local waters that's the same size as the computer course and sail that course several times keeping track of your times. Then compare your times with the times of the computer boats. You need to identify the good races and see if you can do better. Doing this drill will make you a better sailor.
Click HERE to select a race!