Nice Touch, Key West
Key West Race Week—presented by Nautica—is close at hand and people are already trailering south through snow or rain or both sequentially and wondering why they didn't quit their jobs a week ago and just leave early. Entries are now at 295, including 84 in PHRF, and the Premiere Racing team has added a nice touch to the program (so far we've seen it only online) by running Displacement/Length ratios alongside the rating numbers.
A rating tells you what a boat has to work against. Displacement/Length ratios tell you at least part of the story of what it has to work with.
The numbers also tell you a bit of what the race committee, in deciding class breaks, has to work with. Premiere Racing president Peter Craig has a clear philosophy of how to assign boats to rating bands. He says, "It's important to have like boats with similar sailing characteristics racing together. That's more important to the majority of owners than a tight rating band, which can be deceiving if you have, say, a Swan 40 and sport boat racing together. The D/L ratio is an important factor in that regard as is SA/D. Another philosophy of ours in the challenging world of PHRF handicapping and class splits is being as open as possible with the boat owners—keeping them informed on why we do what we do... same on the racecourse."
On the event web site at premiere-racing.com Craig has posted this explanation of PHRF class splits:
"Since writing my Class Splits Letter earlier this week, we have made a change of substance with PHRF 3 (Class 2C). The handicap for the JS9000 A Lil' Tipsy is in fact a 75 not 45 and we moved the Cheetah 30 Bottle Rocket from Class 4A to 2C. While we recognize that the handicaps for these two boats expands the rating band beyond what is desirable, there is no other logical class for these two sportboats. Their DL ratio and SA/DL ratio are right in line with the light displacement sportboats in 2C, as is their LOA. The performance characteristics of these two boats are not in line with the 13 boats competing in class 4A.
"One of our primary goals, based on feedback from participating PHRF owners over the years, is to provide 'like racing,' That is, to ensure that boats which perform in a similar fashion in a variety of different conditions are racing together. There are a number of factors we take into consideration in our efforts to ensure like racing—even if that means expanding rating bands beyond what one might normally desire. A boat's Sail Area/ Displacement Ratio (both the upwind & downwind numbers) and Displacement/Length Ratio are two key factors that come into play. We have posted the D/L Ratios so you can see that important number right alongside the assigned handicap."
Publishing the fundamental ratios along with the ratings is a great idea and could even contribute to insight (!) on the part of people who sail as to why things happen as they do. Cool beginning, dudes.
Key West Race Week runs next Monday through Friday with 13 one design classes and 8 PH divisions.
On a different note, we have friends and contributors who live in or sail out of the Florida Keys, and we hear over and over about their economic difficulties since the four 2004 hurricanes that did not devastate the Keys. Our friends are not running charter boats now; they're twiddling their thumbs.
Harold Wheeler, director of the Keys tourism council, says, "The fact is that the Keys is unscathed and open for business. Unfortunately, our lodging industry and other tourist-related businesses continue to get phone calls from potential visitors asking if the Keys have been devastated. They haven't. They're fine."