Back to Handicapping
​{Ed Note: The AMYA does not recommend or support any particular handicapping system.  However for those interested, here is a description of one such system used elsewhere around the world.}

Here is an example of a handicapping systems from our colleagues in Australia. Sailors in the Sydney area have used a very interesting and simple system that allows the new sailor to experience the excitement of finishing well up in the fleet, and also gives the better sailors good practice sailing in tight fleet situations; skill they will need at championship events. Any type of boat can enter, but most commonly boats of the same or similar classes are used.

All the race committee needs in addition to the usual requirements is a starting tape that continues the count after the bell, at 10 second intervals. An initial race is run with all boats starting at once. For the next race, the 3rd place boat starts 10 seconds after the bell, the second 20 seconds, and the first place boat starts 30 seconds after the bell. These three boats keep this handicap; they will never again start at the bell until the group decides to 'start over', perhaps once a year, (or maybe never). The 10, 20 and 30 second times mentioned could be adjusted to suit conditions at your sailing site.

Now another race is run, using the same process. Let's say that somehow the fellow with the 30 second handicap wins again. Another 30 seconds is added to his handicap, so he starts 1 minute after the bell. Skippers keep their handicaps (until the system is reset by group decision) and thus a sailor's handicap at the end of an event becomes his handicap at the start of the next event. So a skipper might say that his current handicap is for example, 1 minute 30 seconds. After a while, it stabilizes because his chance of placing in a race becomes less and less.

You can see that very quickly, it is not possible for the best skippers or fastest boats to 'win'. But that is not the goal for them. Those good skippers and/or faster boats get needed training sailing up through the fleet, which they otherwise may be lacking. On the other hand, newcomers have a good chance of winning a 'real' race, and this is very thrilling, an encouragement to continue with the sport.

This is system is intended for fun racing only and although scores can be kept, they must be taken with a grain of salt. It's the process that counts.

Thanks to Alan Rook for the description of the system used in the Sydney area.

Larry Robinson
November 27, 2000