Stop The PHRF complaining and sail a true course!
24 July 2010 | Daytona Beach
There are many things in my life that I love, few that I love as much as sailing. Yah, I know, family really does come first and I believe I walk the walk in that theater of my life, but sailing is the place I run to when I need time alone.
Do I sail alone? Sometimes. It's terrific when I do. Most of the time I sail with others, but when competing, my mind is focused on sail trim, boat speed, thinking steps beyond the moment at hand. By focusing on these tasks and with the absence of cell phones, traffic, and other demands on my attention, I find myself in my own world, a simple place where only a short lidt of things demand my immediate attention. Storms or calamity aboard only serve to give me greater focus. It's a world where my happiness can be directly related to my own performance. Even if the boat does not finish first or even if it does, with me it is always about how I feel about my performance. Did I do my personal best? In one-design racing this is a very important perspective to have and maintain.
Racing PHRF is growing less interesting to me. In our fleet there is constantly someone unhappy with their rating. Letters are written to the race committee to appeal ratings. The conversation at the yacht club bar moves from how this one or that one could improve their rating, if only a fair committee were in charge. Years go by, ratings get changed but, the finishers in our fleet remain the same or change little. What is it that we are missing?
The ratings found in the US SAILING book are numbers posted by clubs around the nation. They sail same boats in different conditions. The distribution of those boats throughout various regions experiencing various conditions (except maybe for those boats who are seldom found in the book/when the population of data is too small, ) somewhat acts to average the ratings fairly well, in most cases. So why so much worry about the rating?
Something else that works its way into the rating is sailing in an Olympic style course. An Olympic style course is a course that includes a windward/leeward leg. Our fleet is sailing to set marks with no regard for sailing to windward and leeward. The performance of the boat, whether a detriment or a compliment to the boat's performance is lost. Without a windward/leeward leg, our triangle course tends to be one close hauled leg, one beam-reach leg and one broad-reaching leg. We can basically call this waterline length racing or sail-area to displacement style racing. Gone are the added strategies for arguably the most challenging and potentially rewarding legs of our racing! I think what it comes down to is time. Skippers are not willing to await the start of racing for the placement of a windward pin. We have said for years that we have no chase boat for such duty. The truth is we have set marks (due to some going missing) on many, many occasions for that day's racing. When we set them, instead of configuring a windward pin position that would allow us to compete with a windward leg, we instead choose to place the marks exactly in the place of the missing marks - adding nothing for us.
If we want to complain about ratings then let's race a course where your rating truly should represent the expected performance of the boat and give all boats, fast and slow, high aspect ratio sail plans and low aspect, spinnaker boats and non-spinnaker boats a chance to race as the system was meant to be implemented. What's more is it just might make it more fun! We might even find that our ratings aren't so far off! We might even find ways too attract new boats to the fleet. You'll never know if ya don't try it.
One thing's for sure. We're not adding boats to our fleet doing what we are doing/ what's been done the same way for decades. Maybe if we sailed half our races on Saturdays instead of only on Sundays? Ultimately, what is best for the fleet should be considered. I say race the course as it should be raced, on an Olympic style course to include a windward/leeward leg! Add some races that could be raced on
Saturdays. See if Saturday racing brings out some new competitors that we currently are unaware of. Try whatever we must to attract new boats, but ultimately, complaining about PHRFs won't help grown the fleet. Sailing this around the buoys course with no windward/leeward leg may be doing nothing to neither attract nor detour new or current sailors, but we don't know unless we try. I can tell you that anything to make it more interesting is welcome.
My interest are pure. I want sailboat racing in Daytona to be something greater than what it currently is. I want it to survive and grow. I plan on racing for decades to come. I fear that the fleet will not exist in 10 years at our current rate. Is our fleet to dissolve into nothing? I sure hope not, but I am going other places and racing in other fleets, racing one-design when possible. I would just hate to see something that can be so enjoyable, an activity that enriches life, in an area like Daytona go away.