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24 March 2004, 04:44 pm
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Empirical Handicap Committee

For several years various empirical handicapping authorities have discussed an add-on to the assigned performance handicap that provides an adjustment for the various skills of skipper and crew.
The impetus for this discussion is the recognition that lower skills force the retirement from competition prematurely since there is little opportunity to do well or win.

The real need for this kind of modification of the assigned speed potential for a racing sailboat is not yet determined. Yet frequent requests this past year compared to only one during the life of the Empirical Handicap Subcommittee have prompted the discussion. The interest seems to be motivated by club social/political Issues, a sop for bad sailing and hull, rig, and sail plan maintenance, or adjustment of vintage boat handicaps with regard to contemporary courses and modern designs. Where is the truth? Assume it. Then the discussion proceeds to a consideration of development, application, and administrative requirements.

Development requirements force the establishing criteria and measurements to evaluate or rate skipper and crew skills. This appears a daunting task. Application requirements force consideration of add-on handicap factors to time-on-time handicaps and -time-on-distance performance handicaps. Embedded in the latter is a scaling problem. Other matters of importance here in clued the duration of the adjustment under the assumption that skipper crew performance improves overtime. Are the adjustments made per event or over a season of sailing? Administrative requirements include a management system that provides for the evaluation procedure and inputs to a data base that provides rapid updates and lookups of skipper/crew ratings for at least a single event. If the system produces factors "good for a season", what renewal procedures need to be in place? And all of this at what cost? Finally and system that is developed needs to be characterized by immediate communication with race organizers, committees or managers.

Discussion at the fall meeting did not find or forecast answers. It was noted that there are few attempts to deal with this utilizing a golf-handicapping procedure related to boat performance it each race. This may be a procedure for casual racing, but is not recommended for high completion.

The ISAF Empirical Handicap Subcommittee is curious about the general interest in commencing the effort to develop such a skipper/crew rating, its need, and application. Your thoughts are solicited.

All reponses should be directed through the Empirical handicap forum by logging onto ISAF sailor at and following the forum links on the left hand menu.
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