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Bump's World - November 2017
November 21, 2017

200,000 SAILORS

From the beginning of time, people have ventured out into the water. They designed and built all kinds of boats. They very quickly realized that rowing or paddling was a lot of work. They held up what ever they could find, and the boats went with the wind. They developed sails, masts, rudders, keels and much more. Immediately they worked to go faster than anyone else they knew and racing began.

In many cases they could not agree on the same kind of boat, so they developed handicap racing. They realized that length and sail area were the 2 key components’ to speed. This is the bases for every measurement rule.

Many, many measurements rules have come down the road. Each one claims to solve the delinquencies of the previous rule. The most famous rule from the early 1970’s to late 1980s was the IOR rule. This rule measured waterline, sail area, stability, and hull form. It was done with a list of measurement points on the hull, including keel and rudder. The boat had to be weighted, so hauling the boat was done. An official IOR measurer would come to your boat and spend the day and about $1,000.00 of your dollars to measurer your boat.

Owners made changes that they thought would not slow the boat down but improve their rating. There was no limit to how many times you could remeasure your boat. By 1982 there were about 3000 IOR certificates in North America. The formula for the IOR rule changed almost every year, but the best rated boats had short waterlines for their overall length, very high aspect sail plans, meaning tall rigs, heavy displacement and very tippy. This also resulted in ugly boats that sailed badly.

By the late 1980s the IMS rule was promoted. This rule was the first computer driven rule, so instead of measurement points the wand of the measurer was able to get and exact hull, keel, and rudder shape. Sail area was till a big part but again this was more accurately measured. Weight and tippyness were not as beneficial.

After IMS came IRC, ORR, ORC and even some modifications of these rules. All these rules had a similar problem. The big problem is the designers and owners have way more money and resources than the people making the rule. So the latest rule comes out and the Farr design team goes to work. They analyze the rule and go to Mr Smith who has lots of dough and has never really won any sailboat race in his life, and they say let us build you a boat and you will be a super star sailor. They do and he does.

Meanwhile back at IYRU (International Yacht Racing Union) they says this is an outrage, Mr Smith is winning all the races, lets change the rule so he cannot win. And they do.

This cycle goes on and on. In the 1980s IOR was expensive put compared to today that is peanuts. 3000 IOR certificates in 1982 and less than 600 measurement certificates of all types today. There is a success story. What’s with the 200,000 sailors??? In the mid 1970’s a group in Southern California decided there much be a better way. A lot like the medieval barber!!

They introduced a rating system based on observed performance. You look like you are a little faster than me so in our 10 mile race you have to give me a minute or 6 second per mile. OK let’s race. That’s it. Today they are over 60 fleets in North America and many more that we do not know about.

PHRF is inexpensive and easy to administer. You also know where you stand during and right after the race because the number you get is in seconds per mile. I owe you 6 seconds per mile or a minute in 10 miles. If I finish less than that minute behind you I win. Simple. If you feel the rating committee has been unfair to you, you have the right to a hearing. With a measurement rule you live with that number or change your boat $$

Today there are over 200,000 sailors participating in PHRF racing in North America. Like the medieval barber said "maybe there is a better way?”

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Bump Wilcox