Handicap racing is always a compromise. Our aim is to allow the top sailors in any class an equal chance of winning when conditions suit that class. We are therefore aiming to handicap to the potential of the boat. An extreme example is the foiling moth, we will handicap for foiling conditions only.

The RYA Portsmouth Yardstick Scheme provides a method and now an online tool to collect and analyse race data. Starting with RYA and class suggested handicaps, the analysis will recommend handicap changes. Poor performers are excluded before class handicaps are computed in order to prevent undue influence by those who were late to the start, having a bad day or simply new to the sport or the boat.

Data from the Winter Championship handicap events held at Draycote, Grafham, Northampton, Queen Mary, Rutland, Yorkshire Dales, Datchet and Oxford has been collected and analysed via the RYA PYS website - well over 5000 race results in total. This has been the primary data source used for making changes.

For some classes that have not attended the Winter Championships in quantity but take part in club racing at the series venues, club race data is the source of changes.

Development class historical rate of change is taken into account when adjusting their handicaps to bring them up to current performance.

New class design specs are compared to existing classes and handicaps are then set to be challenging but possible for them to get into the prizes. We want to encourage them to enter but for all to see a win is well deserved based on skill not handicap. 

A continuing process

At the end of each Winter Series the handicapping committee meets to review the results of the individual events and the new race data will be added to the analysis. This data together with club racing data from the series venues and the new year’s RYA handicap changes will be taken into account when setting handicaps for the following season. The best way to influence the future handicaps is to turn up and sail in the Winter Series events and get your data included in this process. 

Want to Know More?
In January 2021, Andy Rice of SailJuice interviewed Andrew Craig, the Great Lakes Handicap Committee chair and you can watch the replay.  Each year we review the SailJuice Winter Series Results Statistics and the Great Lakes v RYA Handicap Trends.  This shows the detailed analysis that goes into producing the Great Lakes Handicaps and how the Great Lakes changes tend to lead the RYA changes and then align.