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Handicaps FAQs

What is the difference between IRC and PY handicaps?
What is the difference between Open PY and Club PY handicaps?
Why do some boats race with PY handicaps rather than IRC?
What is different about the present Club PY Handicap system?
So how are Club PY Handicaps set and adjusted?
Why isn't the present Club PY Handicap system based on IRC Handicaps or equivalents?
How do I get a PY handicap?
How are Open PY Handicaps decided?
Why do I need to measure my boat for a PY handicaps if it is not based on measurement?
How often do Club PY handicaps change?
Why is a certain boat rated as faster than mine on one handicap system but slower on the other?
With Club PY handicaps, what is to stop a boat sailing consistently badly until its handicap changes enough so that it wins?
I never win but why does my Club PY handicap never get more favourable?
Who do I complain to if my handicap is wrong?
Why has a certain boat suddenly started winning all the races?
What incentive is there to race well in the Club PY handicap system?
Why does it seem that boats who race consistently well under Club PY do not always do well in the results?

What is the difference between IRC and PY handicaps?

IRC handicaps are generated by RORC Rating Office using a secret formula based on measurements of the boat and sails.

Club PY handicaps are administered by the local clubs and adjustments of them are based on performance of the boat. See the next question for further information.

IRC handicaps cost the owner money every year. PY handicaps are free.

To do well under an IRC handicap takes dedication, regular good sailing, a good crew, regular practice and money to keep the boat sails and equipment in a good state and the boat’s bottom clean.

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What is the difference between Open PY and Club PY handicaps?

Club PY Handicaps are administered purely by this yacht club. They are adjusted purely by computer on the basis of results in previous races. In other words they are predominantly performance related. If a boat has not raced any races then the Handicap team must choose a provisional handicap as a start. But then the handicap may change regularly as more races are run.

Open PY Handicaps are predominantly administered by the Sussex Combined Clubs Handicap Committee. They attempt to match and reflect the PY Handicaps suggested by the RYA. For the boats on which there is no suggested RYA PY Handicap, the committee uses all available information to estimate a Handicap. Once decided the handicaps would only be changed if there is evidence to suggest they were wrong or if the configuration of the boat changes.

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Why do some boats race with PY handicaps rather than IRC?

There are a number of reasons why. But the short answer is because the skipper believes it suits them better. Possible reasons may include one or more of the following:

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What is different about the present PY Handicap system?

For the last few years, PY Handicaps have been adjusted using the results from PY fleets alone. This led to some anomalies amongst the boats that usually race IRC when they raced in PY only races. Further anomalies occurred when the IRC Handicap was used to determine the initial PY Handicap for a boat that had just joined the club. The following changes have been made:

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So how are Club PY Handicaps set and adjusted?

The answer is complex, but in the interests of fairness and transparency, a fuller description has been prepared and can be seen here.

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Why isn't the present Club PY Handicap system based on IRC Handicaps or equivalents?

Because that would not meet the needs of the boats that prefer to race under PY. See the anwer to the question: Why do some boats race with PY handicaps rather than IRC?.

Also if the two handicap systems were the same or similar, there would be little point in having two systems

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How do I get a PY handicap?

Complete a Sussex Combined Clubs Handicap Application Form and submit it to the yacht club office. Then both an Open PY and Club PY Handicap will be decided.

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How are Open PY Handicaps decided?

Wherever possible, they are decided by a committee of representatives from all three main Sussex Yacht Clubs. In deciding the handicap, the committee will use a number of sources which will usually include the following in decreasing order of importance:

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Why do I need to measure my boat for a PY handicaps if it is not based on measurement?

The measurements are used to decide a handicap when there is no RYA PY number. They are also used to check whether a boats configuration is standard or not.

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How often do Club PY handicaps change?

From February 2010, Club PY Handicaps will not change during a series, except when a provisional handicap has been given and it needs adjustment. So they may change at the end of every series.

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Why is a certain boat rated as faster than mine on one handicap system but slower on the other?

Because they are very different systems and comparisons are not really valid. One system is measurement-based and the other is performance-based. A boat may be measured to sail at one speed but go much slower because of an inexperienced crew, poor sails or a dirty bottom. In which case its Club PY Handicap will change.

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With Club PY handicaps, what is to stop a boat sailing consistently badly until its handicap changes enough so that it wins?

Because it does not quite work like that. It is true that a boat’s handicap will become more favourable if it consistently has bad results. That is the nature of performance-based handicaps and boats that race PY have to accept this.

But the handicap will only improve to the point where the boat migrates to the middle of the fleet. To win the boat will then have to improve further and sail better.

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I never win but why does my Club PY handicap never get more favourable?

Because according to the formula used if you do better than average for the fleet you are in, your handicap will not get more favourable. You have to do consistently worse than average to get the benefit.

Also, races with three or fewer boats in a fleet are not used for PY handicap calculations.

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Who do I complain to if my handicap is wrong?

No-one! It is considered bad form to “complain” about handicaps. All the people involved in handicaps are volunteers who are doing the best they can. It is impossible to please everyone and handicaps generate more debate than anything else in yacht clubs. There are two separate handicap systems in operation for you to choose from. If you don’t like one, use the other.

In any case, Club PY Handicaps are worked out by computer. And computers don’t listen to complaints.

If, however you believe your IRC handicap has been recorded incorrectly, please produce a copy of the certificate for the office. And if you think your Open PY handicap has been generated on the basis of incorrect information, then complete and submit a new Sussex Combined Clubs Handicap Application Form with the correct information.

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Why has a certain boat suddenly started winning all the races?

The most common reason is because the boat has had a dirty bottom cleaned – it makes a lot of difference. But it might also be because they have new sails or a better crew.

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What incentive is there to race well in the Club PY handicap system?

To win and to do so regularly. By being average you are likely to end up in the middle of the fleet. To win a whole series you have to do better than that.

But another reason for sailing well is for your own satisfaction and pride.

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Why does it seem that boats who race consistently well under Club PY do not always do well in the results?

It is undeniably a feature of a performance-based system such as this PY handicap system that it favours boats that are improving more than those that are consistent. But this also means that it is not always the same boats winning.

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