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Fleet Policies

2017 PHRF Fleet Policies

Introduction. Rating by performance handicap is a method of providing equitable time allowances for sailboats of different designs racing against each other. Numerous systems have been employed; some were methods of handicapping boats, some handicapped skippers, and some combined both systems. The increased interest in the racing of cruiser/racer type sailboats has produced the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet. Measurement-based rating formulas with the attending rapid changes in sailboats 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 in California, has spread to the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. In 1976, PHRF was sanctioned by CBYRA. In 1981, USYRU (now US Sailing) recognized PHRF as a full committee under its Offshore Racing Council. PHRF of the Chesapeake is the largest sanctioned class in the CBYRA Handicap Division. A member of the Division Class with the largest membership chairs the Handicap Division and represents all handicap racing as a voting member at monthly CBYRA Board meetings. The President of PHRF of the Chesapeake shall appoint a member to represent the class and be the communications conduit between the two organizations.

Performance Handicaps. PHRF ratings are boat performance handicaps based on the speed potential of the boat, and determined as far as possible on observations of previous racing experiences. 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, no 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.

Boat Design. The PHRF is an open rule. There are no limitations on ingenuity other than those listed herein. A sailboat must be a monohull, self righting design, which meets the special regulations for safety requirements for category shown on current rating certificate. Canting keels and center boards moved by the use of stored energy are allowed if the boat retains self righting ability with the keel or centerboard in any allowed position. This changes RRS 51 and RRS 52 to allow use of stored energy to move a swing or canting keel (dead weight) or centerboard for stability on a boat that has been designed for use of this appendage. Sails and running rigging are allowed to be adjusted using stored energy; however, use of stored energy for this purpose may affect the rating. This changes RRS 52. Sailboats are assumed to comply with the standard hull and sail specification restrictions as approved by PHRF of the Chesapeake and CBYRA. Sailboats which do comply carry a separate designation and are rated accordingly. One design class restrictions do not apply to PHRF, unless the boat is provided a “ODR” (one design rating). 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, because any formula once established can be beaten by a clever designer. 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 for by the rating assigned.


Multihull Ratings. Multihulls may be issued handicaps for use only in short-handed classes. For fully crewed boats, the performance differences between mono and multihulls means that equitable handicaps cannot be established. However, to foster the growth of short-handed racing on the Chesapeake, when participation prevents the separation of the short-handed fleet into mono and multihull classes, these handicaps may be used in a combined fleet.


Equipment. PHRF assumes that the boat is equipped to race. It does not attempt to rate a partially equipped boat, or a boat which differs from others 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 may be rated uniquely. All sailboats receiving a PHRF certificate shall meet the Special Regulations for Safety Requirements of PHRF of the Chesapeake category CB or NS and have an owner signed compliance certificate on board while racing. One Design Ratings (ODR) will only be provided to CBYRA recognized One Design Classes. In the event that the applicable class rules for a CBYRA recognized one-design class conflict with these regulations, the class rules shall take precedence. If the class rules defer to local safety regulations as prescribed in the Sailing Instructions, the CB (or NS as applicable) regulations shall be used and take precedence.

Boats including CBYRA recognized One-design classes that otherwise meet the special regulations for safety requirements but whose manufactured as-built design does not meet the PHRF Category CB requirements for lifelines may be allowed to sail in Category NS, as appropriate, races provided: 1) all competitors wear personal flotation from the warning signal of their start until the boat has finished racing, and 2) all competitors wear safety harnesses and are clipped in from sunset until sunrise. The organizing authority or Race Committee may specifically exempt competitors from (1) and/or (2) above if required.


Basic Ratings. PHRF ratings are expressed in seconds per mile to be deducted from elapsed times to produce corrected times. The higher rating indicates the slower boat. PHRF time allowances are not related to other systems. PHRF base ratings are made on the assumption that: (1) Spinnaker, or whisker, pole maximum length is equal to “J”, (2) Spinnaker maximum girth is 180% of “J”, (3) Spinnaker maximum luff is .95 times the square root of (I2 + J2), (4) Genoa maximum LP is 155% of “J”, (5) The boat is in racing condition, and (6) The boat has an inboard motor, or a retractable outboard motor. Adjustments may be made to the rating if these assumptions are invalid.


Changes to Design or Equipment. A skipper may experiment with different ways of improving the performance of his boat without the necessity of inconvenience of re-measuring. However, if there are changes to the hull, rig, sails, or other factors upon which the existing rating is based, they must be reported to the handicapper for evaluation. If possible deviations on the part of another sailboat become apparent; other contestants are urged to appeal to the area handicapper.


Classes. A base rating is established for each production class, and boats within a class are assumed to be identical for rating purposes. Ratings for boats in the same class will differ only with headsail size or other specific factors known to affect performance. PHRF normally will assign a class rating to any boat acceptable to its own class association. However, one design class rules, which limit headsail size, sail materials, or spinnakers do not apply to PHRF, unless the boat is rated as a one design class. Deviations from class regulations must be substantive to warrant a non-class rating. New boats must declare any deviations from class specifications. It should be understood that, although PHRF rates like boats as a class, there is no requirement that a boat meet class rules because PHRF rates all boats individually. PHRF may, when requested by established one design classes, assign a rating to the one design configuration of that class. Each individual boat which desires to be issued a one design rating (ODR), must specifically request an ODR and agree to race only in that configuration in PHRF handicapped races. Because of the number of boats in PHRF and the variability with which boats are sailed, it is not generally sensible to operate on statistics related to individual boats alone. 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 handicappers may pull the boat from its class and handicap it individually. Where a class has several boats racing actively, the performance data accumulate rapidly. It is possible to arrive at a fair handicap in a short time. Individual class boats normally are not rated more than 6 seconds from the base handicap. Affirmative evidence of actual boat performance in competition is required to secure a greater deviation from base. The tendency to handicap away from the base rating as performance data accumulates frequently leads to a later adjustment in the base rating to reflect the prevailing performance within the class. An adjustment in the base rating normally is followed be a corresponding adjustment in the rating of the individual boats to conform to the new base.


Courses. PHRF ratings are intended to be applied to daytime closed course races and some offshore and overnight races where there is a balance of windward and leeward legs. The system works well, provided wind conditions affect all boats equally. It is not intended for off-wind races, or when changes of headsails are not permitted. Results from such races are ignored when setting PHRF handicaps.


Handicap Ratings. The handicap rating of an individual boat is expressed in seconds per mile, usually in increments of 6 sec/mi. The smallest increment of performance used for rating is 3 sec/mi. Observations of numerous races show that it is impossible to gauge a boat’s 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 characteristic as a rating factor. Boats are rated for use with large or small headsails, with 155% of LP being the dividing line. Once a boat is rated with a large headsail (over 155%) this rating must be used, even though wind conditions may preclude use of the sail. If a boat’s design is such that it cannot fly a headsail, or spinnaker, it will be rated in relation to the performance of other boats in a non-spinnaker configuration. A skipper may not change his rating by choosing a different headsail more often than once during the CBYRA high point racing season (as determined by the Green Book schedule for the year). In addition to this change, a skipper is allowed to change the sailboats rating once for the “Frostbite” season (outside of the CBYRA high point racing season) to a different headsail configuration.


Handicapping Highlights. A new boat in an established class is given the rating for that class, except that adjustments may be made for deviations from the class standards. If such adjustments are made, the approved abbreviation for the adjustment appears on the Valid List, and the Valid Certificate, indicating the boat is not a standard sailboat. For new classes and one-of-a-kind sailboats, the rating is determined on the basis of comparison with similar boats with established ratings. Comparison is made considering the type of design and principal dimensions. The rating may be adjusted as performance data becomes available. For new classes and one-of-a-kind sailboats, a determination is made if the rig and hull comply with the approved guidelines as set forth by PHRF. As of January 1, 1982, the guidelines are the same as those approved by US Sailing. To accommodate new designs and rigs, PHRF of the Chesapeake handicappers may rate boats which fall outside the established guidelines, assuming the boats still meet the Boat Design Limitations and the Special Regulations for Safety Requirements. If a boat falls in this category, a rating may be assigned by the Board of Handicappers as it deems acceptable. The rating may be based on the established guidelines for all sailboats or an adaptation thereof, to suit the purpose of rating that sailboat. These boats are known as Unconventional Craft and are attached with the suffix UC on the Valid List and Valid Certificate. Ratings for new classes, one-of-a-kind boats, Unconventional Craft, and one design ratings may only be assigned at a Board of Handicappers meeting. Only existing class ratings may be temporarily assigned by the Area Handicapper, and are always subject to approval at the next Board of Handicappers meeting.


Valid List. The Valid List is the official list of current handicaps of all boats rated by the Board of Handicappers. It is kept current throughout the year, and posted weekly on the PHRF of the Chesapeake web site. For members specifically requesting to participate in the subscription program, the valid list will be distributed monthly during the sailing season. The executive secretary maintains the official list of current handicaps.


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 Valid Certificate giving the current rating for the boat, and the Valid Certificate is evidence of a valid rating. Ratings expire on March 31 of the year following that in which the valid certificate was issued and annual or bi-annual renewal is mandatory. Ratings may be adjusted by the Board of Handicappers during the season. It is the obligation of each member when entering a race to enter using the latest valid rating. Only boats with current PHRF ratings may enter PHRF races. This is necessary even for class sailboats. Sailboat club race committees are requested to refuse entry to boats not listed on the most recent Valid List, unless the skipper can produce a more recent PHRF Valid Certificate or proof of a provisional rating by PHRF of the Chesapeake. For club races, such as Wednesday nights in rivers or creeks, boats must meet Category NS of the special regulations for safety requirements, unless instructions have more stringent requirements. Sailboat charters are governed and policed by CBYRA and sailboat clubs, and not by PHRF.


Eligibility. To be able to compete in PHRF events sanctioned by the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association, an owner or charterer must have a current valid rating certificate, issued by PHRF of the Chesapeake, for their sailboat, meeting the safety standards set forth in the Notice of Race, or Sailing Instructions.”


Application for Ratings. Owners of sailboats or charterers requiring a rating should apply to either the Chief Handicapper or their local Area Handicapper.


Special Event Ratings. Special Event Rating Certificates may be issued to sailboats competing in races either originating (starting) or finishing in the Chesapeake Bay, as requested by the host club as a requirement for entry into the race. Certificates from other areas of the country will not be valid for events being conducted under PHRF of the Chesapeake handicapping guidelines and policies. Special Event Rating Certificates will require the same fee as a regular PHRF valid certificate and will be valid for only the single event.


Board of Handicappers. Ratings are determined by a Board of Handicappers. Most Board members represent geographical areas or clubs. The Chief Handicapper acts as chairman. Each Area Handicapper is responsible for handicapping boats in the assigned region. With time, the handicapper becomes familiar with the performance of the active boats and is able to evaluate their characteristics. Through experience, the handicapper becomes familiar with the wind and current conditions in the assigned 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 sailboat racing. Most are active participants in racing, but have put aside their interests as contestants to evaluate sailboats fairly and accurately. Clearly, the system rests on the integrity of the handicappers.


Organization. The Board of Delegates manages the affairs of the Association. The handicappers meet with the delegates as advisers and advocates. Only delegates vote on administrative matters; only handicappers vote on handicaps.


Appeals. Formal appeals of ratings are made to the Board of Handicappers and are considered in their meetings. Skippers may appeal their sailboat’s or another sailboat’s ratings. Appellants set forth their views in writing, and document their case with supporting information. Appeals must be submitted on the Appeal Form found on the PHRF of the Chesapeake web site, and also available from handicappers, and the executive secretary. Auxiliaries. A sailboat, which carries a valid rating claiming an inboard, or outboard auxiliary, must carry that auxiliary during every race. For a sailboat rated with an engine, the sailboat shall have enough engine and propeller power to move the sailboat at a speed in knots equal to the square root of her waterline length (LWL) measurement. A sailboat which has a valid rating issued on the basis of no engine or auxiliary may choose to carry an auxiliary; however, no rating change shall be made. A sailboat may petition the Board of Handicappers for a re-rating, considering the presence of an auxiliary, but no more than once in any calendar year.

Spinnaker or Non-spinnaker. For boats providing the required spinnaker information on the application or renewal forms, a non-spinnaker (NS) rating will be provided, in addition to the normal spinnaker based rating, at no additional fee. For those boats whose design provides for carrying a spinnaker, and do not provide the required spinnaker information on the application or renewal form, only a NS rating will be provided on the PHRF valid certificate. The spinnaker and/or NS ratings will be separately listed as VRTG and NSRTG, respectively, on PHRF valid certificate and on the valid list. Those sailboats possessing only a NS rating will be eligible to race only in NS class events in PHRF of the Chesapeake Bay. Sailboats with both spinnaker and NS rating may race in either spinnaker class using the VRTG, or the NS class using the NSRTG for NS events. The provision of either or both spinnaker and/or NS rating(s) assumes the sailboat is in compliance with the spinnaker and/or non-spinnaker limitations of the Standard Sail and Equipment Specifications.

Asymmetrical and Symmetrical Spinnakers. PHRF of the Chesapeake allows boats to be rated to race with a conventional symmetrical spinnaker, an asymmetrical spinnaker, or both types of spinnakers. Either type of spinnaker may be flown from a movable spinnaker pole attached to the mast, or an asymmetrical spinnaker may be tacked to a retractable, movable, or fixed bowsprit. Boats may race with both types of spinnakers. Boats choosing to race with both types of spinnakers, must specifically request to be rated as such by the owner at the time of application or renewal. Once a valid certificate is issued, an owner may apply to switch between asymmetrical, symmetrical, or both types of spinnaker, only one time per year and receive a revised valid certificate.


Race Results. Race results are acknowledged to provide data, which can be a useful tool in handicapping. These results are used by PHRF to flag a potential misaligned rating of a particular sailboat class. This does not mean that because a particular sailboat does well, the rating will be changed. However, if the race results indicate a trend in that sailboat class, the Board of Handicappers will review the rating of that class.


Corrected Time. The final, corrected, finishing position of each competitor is determined by their corrected time. The shortest corrected time is first, the next shortest corrected time is second, and so on. The Corrected Time (CT) of each competitor is calculated using the assigned handicap, the actual distance of the race in Nautical Miles (NM) and the measured Elapsed Time (ET) of the competitor. Generally, the time is reported in seconds since our handicaps are in seconds per mile, although it is possible to use decimal hours through a conversion process. The elapsed time is measured in or converted into seconds. Then the handicap and actual race distance are multiplied together to get a time correction in seconds. This time correction is then subtracted from the elapsed time of the competitor to get the corrected time. The formula is: TOD (Time on Distance): CT (in seconds) = ET (in seconds) - {Distance (in NM) x Handicap (in seconds/NM)} TOT (Time on Time): CT (in seconds) = TCF x Elapsed Time (in seconds), where TCF = 650 / (550 + PHRF rating). Technical Committee. A Technical Committee is appointed by the President and the Chief Handicappers. This committee consists of knowledgeable persons from the Board of Handicappers or other areas of related interest. They review the race results on a yearly basis for recommendation to the Board of Handicappers. The Technical Committee reviews other areas as directed by the President or the Chief Handicappers. Within 60 days of the last sanctioned race (or around the first of the new year), the Technical Committee is provided with an analysis of the race results it believes valid and which can be reasonably provided. The Technical Committee meets within 45 days (about the middle of February) and makes recommendations to the Board of Handicappers for its review. Recommendations for review are discussed and reviewed by the Board of Handicappers and all appropriate action is taken before the FIRST sanctioned event of the coming season.


Conclusion. We hope you will enjoy racing in this open and competitive sport. The system is being refined constantly. You, as members, have the opportunity to play an important part in shaping the future for this kind of racing, not only by sailing competitively, but also by taking an active role in the management of PHRF.

© 2017 PHRF of the Chesapeake, Inc