PHRF

The Anacortes Yacht Club is a member of PHRF-Northwest and in order to be scored boats must have a PHRF rating.   For those new to racing, here is a short explanation of PHRF taken from the US-Sailing website which briefly explains how it works:

What is PHRF?
PHRF is a locally administered handicapping system that uses the perceived speed potential of a yacht as the basis for the handicap. An initial handicap is assigned based on comparisons with similar yachts. The handicap may then be adjusted based on the performance of the class of the yacht.

In most fleets there is no credit for lack of sailing skill or boat preparation. The handicap is based on the yacht being sailed by a top notch crew with the best equipment. The PHRF system handicaps yachts, not sailors.

Since the handicap is administered locally, you must contact our local handicapper (Colin Emsley) to obtain a handicap and pay annual dues to PHRF-Northwest.

HOW DOES PHRF ASSIGN A HANDICAP?
Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) handicaps are based on the speed potential of the boat, determined as far as possible on observations of previous racing experiences. For new boats, handicappers typically compare the new boat to others that they are familiar with and references, if available, to designer's predictions, IMS or MORC handicaps. They look for boats of the same type, based on sail area to displacement ratios and then make adjustments based on the differences. In addition handicappers generally look to see if the boat has raced in another PHRF group. If using measurement rules such as MORC or IMS, care must be taken as measurement rules are type forming. If the boat wasn't designed to the rule, then the handicap likely will not be representative of the boat's potential. Since measurement rules evolve over the years, the age in the rule must also be considered.

The handicap can then be adjusted, based on race performance. This is the difficult part as the quality of the racing program has to be taken into consideration. Just because a boat finishes last all the time or, on the other hand, wins many races, does not necessarily mean that the handicap is wrong. In most areas, the overall philosophy is that, for new boats, any error in the handicap is on the side of being a bit harsh, since it is always easier to raise a handicap than to lower one.

WHY DOES MY CLASS OF BOAT HAVE A DIFFERENT HANDICAP IN OTHER STATES/AREAS?
PHRF handicaps are locally derived and may be different in other areas. There are several reasons why your boat would rate differently throughout the country. The difference may reflect real differences in relative boat speed (because of local sailing conditions) or merely reflect a difference in local sailing skills or in perception of the local handicappers. Variations to consider include sailing conditions like average wind speed and type of water sailed upon (i.e. ocean vs. lake) as well as the general make up of the local fleet. Since the handicaps of boats are adjusted to other boats within the same area, comparisons to other areas may not be relevant. Relative differences between boats typically provide a more accurate reflection than the absolute handicap assigned. In general, most areas tend to keep within the national handicap extremes but if a particular handicap does not seem correct for local conditions (such as a sport boat in mostly reaching conditions), remember that local PHRF organizations rate boats independently.

MY HANDICAP IS INCORRECT!
You may be correct! Since the handicaps are based (or should be based) on observed performance all handicappers are at the mercy of "experimental error". That is one reason handicaps are given in 3 sec/mile increments, we know we can't calculate any closer. There is a measure of uncertainty in all the handicaps. Typically if the local handicappers think there is a higher probability of a new handicap being more correct then the old one - a change is/should be made. If not enough evidence exists to make a change, the old handicap usually remains. If there is a question on a boat's handicap, handicappers generally favor the fleet and not an individual boat. The theory being: If you under handicap a boat, one boat suffers. If you over handicap a boat, the whole fleet suffers.

I THINK MY HANDICAP IS INCORRECT/UNFAIR. WHAT CAN I DO?
Each PHRF organization has a system for filing a handicap appeal. Contact our local handicapper to find out the procedure for filing an appeal.

ARE THERE CREW AND/OR WEIGHT LIMITS FOR PHRF RACING?
PHRF-Northwest does not impose crew or weight limits for PHRF racing.

DOES PHRF-NW ALLOW BOATH SYMMETRICAL & ASYMMETRICAL SPINNAKERS?
Yes.

DOES PHRF ALLOW REMOVAL OF INTERIOR FEATURES SUCH AS DOORS, TABLES, ETC.?
Most fleets prohibit removal of any normal interior feature without penalty. Therefore the removal of interior parts, including cushions, doors, and tables, etc. is considered to be an alteration and should be reported to your local fleet handicappers. There will likely be a handicap adjustment for such removals.

WHAT ARE SPORT BOATS AND HOW ARE THEY RATED?
What is a sport boat? A physical description might include lightweight, using oversized spinnakers and capable of planing downwind in strong breezes. Trying to quantify these impressions is obviously open to interpretation and various regions have different definitions; however most consider a boat to be in the "Sport boat" category if it meets the following four criteria:

1. A displacement/length ration less than 100
2. An upwind sail area/displacement ratio greater than 30
3. A downwind sail area displacement ratio greater than 75
4. A sprit length more than 50 percent of J

The sail areas are computed using the foretriangle and mainsail square areas which do not take into account jib overlap or mainsail roach. Most regions handicap sport boats assuming that they conform to their class rules. If a formal class no longer exists, such as for the Melges 30 and the Viper 830, then the original class rules would still apply. This includes girths of mainsails and spinnakers as well as jib sizes.

CAN SPORT BOATS BE RACED WITH "CONVENTIONAL" BOATS?
Racing is always better if all of the boats in the class are of the same general type and size. When you mix different boat types you can have certain types of boats winning by excessive margins depending on the race conditions. In medium air (8-15 kts true) and flat water conditions boat types can usually be mixed. You tend to run into problems if there is a good breeze where the sport boats can plane or in very light breeze where the light displacemnt boats and/or low wetted surface boats run away from the heavier "cruising" types.