sailboat racing




  Lake Champlain PHRF Information
Based on the U.S. PHRF National Terms of Reference

Performance Handicaps

1. are not measurement ratings. Each handicap reflects an estimate of a sailboat's speed potential determined as far as possible on knowledge of previous racing experience supported by a consensus of the effect of differential hull and rig parameters.

2. are arrived at through an empirical process based upon observation and analysis of race results. It is the intent of the performance handicapping process to produce a relative measure of speed such that any well maintained and well-sailed boat has a good chance of winning a race. Therefore, performance handicaps are adjusted on the basis of the boat types performance so that each well-sailed boat has an equal opportunity to win. This is the fundamental concept of performance handicapping for offshore racing/cruising sailboats.

3. are not intended to reflect skipper and crew capability. Handicaps are not adjusted to encourage a poor or careless skipper, and conversely no handicap adjustment is made to penalize proficiency. The intensity of competition and the influx of new and aggressive sailors require each skipper to maintain consistently high performance in order to place well.

4. are assigned locally or regionally by a Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF). Each local or regional PHRF organization issues and validates handicap certificates according to the rule and associated regulations described in this document. Some PHRF organizations may also sponsor and manage races, but this is nota requirement for a certificate issuing body.

The PHRF Rule and Boat Designs

The PHRF is an open rule. There are few national hull or sail restrictions other than those consistent with standards of safety for offshore monohulls. This means that monohulls must be self-righting. There are no other fundamental limitations on ingenuity other than those contained in the US SAILING (formerly USYRU) rules. Class restrictions may be applied locally but are not a matter for national policy.

Well-designed and constructed boats are expected not to be made obsolete by newer designs under PHRF. PHRF does not use measurement to determine by formula base 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 benefits of the PHRF system is to provide handicaps such that older boats can race competitively with the latest designs.

PHRF discourages "rule beating." If a skipper modified his boat, PHRF will attempt to compensate for the new speed potential. The use of taller masts, longer spinnaker poles, extra ballast, gutted interiors or other modifications intended to increase speed are compensated for by the ratingassigned.


PHRF assumes that a 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 base hull and rig differ from others in its class, it will, of course be rated uniquely.

Base Performance Handicaps

PHRF ratings are expressed in seconds per nautical mile to be deducted from elapsed time to produce corrected times. The higher rating indicates the slower boat. PHRF time allowances are not related to other systems.

PHRF base handicaps are made on the assumption that:

1. the spinnaker pole length is no longer than "J",*
2. the spinnaker maximum girth is 180% of "J" or less,*
3. the spinnaker maximum length is equal to 95% of the length of the jibstay i.e., .95 ,
4. the genoa LP is between 153% of "J" or less,*
5. the boat is in racing condition,
6. the boat has a folding or feathering propeller, a two bladed solid propeller in an aperture or a retractable outboard motor (on board at all times), and
7. the hull and appendages are unmodified,
8. the boat complies with Coast Guard safety regulations.
*except if rated under a one-design rule

Changes To Design OR Equipment

A skipper may experiment with different ways of improving the performance of his boat. 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. Any discrepencies between the information on the rating application and the boat, as raced, are grounds for protest and disqualification for the entire season. If possible deviations on the part of the owner become apparent, other contestants are urged to appeal to the area handicapper.

Handicap Factors

The handicap of an individual boat is expressed in seconds per nautical mile. The smallest increment of performance normally used for rating is 3 sec/mi. Observations of numerous races show that it is impossible to spot a boat's potential speed or 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 factor as a means of handicapping. Once a boat is rated with a large headsail, this rating must be used, even though the wind conditions may preclude use of the sail. A skipper is not allowed to have his boat rerated frequently by choosing his headsail to fit expected conditions.

Handicapping Procedure

A new boat in an established class is given the rating for the class. Adjustments are made for any deviation from the class. If adjustments are made, an indication is made in the handicap record that the boat is not a standard class boat.

For new classes and one-of-a-kind boats, the rating is determined on the basis of comparison with similar boats with established ratings. Comparison is made considering type of design and principal dimensions. The rating is assigned conservatively, and is adjusted as performance data becomes available.

PHRF utilizes analytical methods to calculate race results and to collect statistics by boat class. Other handicapping systems (IOR, IMS, etc.) race results also are used to gain a maximum data base. Each class is handicapped against the performance of the fleet as a whole and the handicap raised or lowered as required for good racing. However, winning races does not automatically lead to an adjustment of the handicap.


Formal appeals of rating are to be made to the local Board of Handicappers and are considered in their meetings. A skipper may appeal his own or others' ratings. The appellant sets forth his views in writing and documents his case with supporting information. The written appeal must include a $20 appeal fee. The written appeal and fee are then submitted to the PHRF chairman, who will schedule a hearing that will include the PHRF committee, the appellant and any other interested parties. Within two weeks of the hearing, the appellant will receive, in writing, the PHRF committee's decision. When the appellant is not satisfied with the resolution of the appeal, a national appeal may be invoked when both the local fleet and appellant agree to abide by the national appeal procedure.





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