While most Club members were filling in their subs forms for the new season, and maybe prepping their boats and all the rest of it I spent a couple of days of my holiday working on my ginormous personal handicap spreadsheet and trying to prepare for the new season's personal handicap racing.
Peter Curtis will, I hope comment more on this, but the RYA have made some significant changes in how PY numbers are calculated and they are encouraging clubs to report in much more detail using various on line facilities. Those who get very excited online about various alleged handicap bandits (a complete myth for whatever my opinion is worth) have been expecting huge changes to the numbers, but in truth not that many have changed much. The scheme was pretty good anyway to be quite honest. The RYA have announced the new handicaps for this season: there's a new item on their website here and the numbers themselves are here.
Of classes we sail in any numbers the Topper, Laser and Laser Radial are handicapped two points slower, which in the case of the Lasers is still 8 points faster than the handicaps we used last year and the Enterprise gains 1 point. National 12, Scorpion and Solo are given a number two points faster, and the Graduate 5 points faster. In the case of the 12 and the Grad that brings them a little closer to last year's club handicaps. Its quite pointless feeling buoyed up by the odd change here or there though: 10 points, or about 1%, is about the smallest change that has any chance of making a difference to your series positions... To give you an idea of how little difference these changes make, in all our bigger fleets the spread of finish times between first and last is the equivalent of around 250 points of yardstick, and this seems to be pretty typical of all racing worldwide. If you find that depressing consider that at the last Olympics the Laser fleet averaged 12% between first and last. Those seconds really tick away!
For this season at IBRSC the RS200 has gone down to 1050, the Laser stays at 1088, the Solo has followed the official RYA handicap down to 1153 and the Topper, again following the RYA figure, has gone up to 1297. There are other minor changes, mostly following the RYA list. As we use the Topper as base boat for the pursuit series this has made some classes start on a different minute to the one before, so check the clubhouse list...
Some observations from last years results... It looks as if swapping out your old boat and tired out old sail for a new boat and sail is worth as much as one personal handicap band in performance, which astonishes me: never would have believed it was that much. I suspect a lot of it is the sail though. I'd be very grateful if any of you considering new sails for this summer could buy them ready for the start of the spring series, or at least the Wednesday handicap so that I have a good starting point for observing the effects... If you are considering such things I suggest you get together: I believe that Laser will do bulk deals for a reasonable number of sails ordered together and I wouldn't be at all suprised if other manufacturers or sailmakers will do the same. Probably not for delivery in April though!
A less serious thought is that I feel that anyone swapping boats between races in the Wednesday or Anniversary handicap series should feel themselves obliged to buy me a drink, maybe even several drinks. Not only is it a pain on the night it also makes the spring job of calculating new numbers and so on considerably more difficult.
Still another observation: you might remember that I commented last year that Ian Hamilton would have rather more difficulty winning the personal handicap series with whatever handicap we give them this year, such was their improvement over the season? Well, going through the numbers I find they would still have won the Anniversary series personal handicap in band 3, let alone the band 5 they were in.
The great puzzle with handicaps at Island Barn is the Laser figure... The number we use now is well substantiated for the main body of the fleet - not only is it delivered by the RYA system, but I've done my own analysis using different methods and it still comes up as right, and on the occasions where we have sailors swap between classes their results generally tend to match. But I can't help feeling that the top Laser sailors don't win enough races. But if I calculate a handicap which has the top end of the Laser fleet - demonstrably at least as good as the other numerous classes, winning an equal share of races then it is clearly (trust me on this) a quite ludicrous figure which means that the Laser fleet as a whole is ridiculously advantaged over the other classes. I'm at a loss to explain this.
I can bore for Australia on the subject of handicapping I fear, but I'd better stop now. I shouldn't be the only person to write things here, volunteers to write weekend reports and the like are very welcome. The system is easy enough to use too, don't worry about that.