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Mixed feelings for National Handicap for Cruisers

'National Handicap for Cruisers'    Emma Slater / RYA    Click Here to view large photo

At a week old the RYA’s new scheme for cruiser racing, the National Handicap for Cruisers or NHC, has been getting some mixed feelings from clubs around the country.

The majority of the comments received by the Technical Department show willingness and appreciation for a National scheme to be promoted, especially one which encompasses a progressive handicap element to it. However there has also been a little bit of confusion over the Base-list which lists all of the starting handicaps.

Bas Edmonds, Technical Manager, explains: 'The Base-List is a big step away from what the RYA has published in the past. If a club were to try and evaluate the list published under NHC and the previous Portsmouth Number list for Cruisers published in 2012, it would be meaningless as they are built on entirely different principals.'

The Portsmouth Yardstick Scheme was purely subjective looking at a range of opinions from clubs which looked at how one class of boat performed relative to another. It had some standard variations for certain percentage factors such as engine/propeller type, number of keels and whether a spinnaker was used. In a way the PY was more accurate for a given club but became inaccurate when looking nationally around the country.

The NHC Base-List is based on some of the principal measurements contributing to the speed of the boat; how long is it, how heavy is it and how much horsepower (sail area) does it have. With these three base measurements we have come up with a relatively simple formula which will look to give a handicap to a boat.

Bas goes on to explain: 'What it doesn’t do is look at the hundreds of other factors which may affect the performance of a boat around a race course. IRC takes over 100 measurements to determine a rating and yet it still doesn’t look at items like sail age, boat preparation and crew skill factor – all of which can make a boat go faster or slower.

'What we have quickly come to realise is that no two boats are the same which is why we have indicated that the Base-List is a starting point from which every boat will need to have its own handicap adjusted from. When we reviewed some of the accumulated data, of which there are over 32,000 different boats available to us, it became very apparent that the development of NHC should be done in the racing and in the results and not within the Base-List.'

Taking a standard production 40 footer as an example, the RYA Technical team had information on over 500 boats of the same hull design. However within that standard hull design there were variations of over 500mm on the hull length and a staggering 2100kg in the recorded weight despite being produced from the same mould and manufacturer. Each boat within that class of design will have the ability to perform very differently and this is something that simply can’t be taken into account in a handicapping scheme for one class of boat without resorting to expensive measurement of the boat and its equipment or standardisation of certain options.

'We felt that if we added a 3% allowance for a folding propeller, this could be counter-productive to the boats handicap as that boat could equally be carrying an additional 400kg of equipment on board which would negate any performance advantage achieved by the propeller. Instead we have concentrated on the second half of the scheme to iron out the variants by progressively adjusting the handicap of each boat each time it goes around the race course', Bas continued.

Concluding, Bas notes: 'It is a step away from what was previously issued but where we have taken away the published variations, we have added in the progressive handicapping element which changes the whole dynamics of the scheme and the way NHC will work.'

The RYA Technical Department will be continuing to offer talks to clubs looking to learn more about NHC and its workings as well as the Portsmouth Yardstick Scheme and PY Online throughout the remainder of the year. If your club is interested in hosting one of these talks then please contact the Technical Department at

by Emma Slater


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5:53 PM Tue 12 Mar 2013GMT

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