Keelboat owners who intend to race in the upcoming season are reminded to renew their PHRF certificates as it expired at the end of May – and to take note of a few minor changes to the revalidation process this year.
PHRF - or Performance Handicap Racing Fleet - is a national performance handicapping system for keelboats designed to facilitate open and fair competition between boats. It is the most effective approach for interclub and mixed-fleet racing and is especially suitable for keelboats and trailer yachts.
The 2023/24 season PHRFs take effect from June 1, 2023 and are valid until May 31, 2024.
The PHRF system is overseen by a cruising, inshore and offshore racing committee (CIORC) sub-committee that comprises a number of experienced sailors and boat owners who all contribute as each rating is reviewed and finalised.
Convenor Mark Mulcare said reduced racing in the past few years has made the committee's work more challenging.
“Covid-19 and, more recently, storms and debris have seen the number of races and fleet sizes reduced. One of the unfortunate byproducts is a significant reduction in the usual amount of data available to the PHRF database and committee,” Mulcare said.
“To counter this, the committee recently made the decision to extend the assessment period from two to three years. They have also decided to start collecting slightly more information, including photos where available.”
According to Mulcare ways to further refine the PHRF system and processes are currently being reviewed.
"There's a balance between keeping things relatively simple, while always trying to improve our approach," he said.
"We also need to keep pace with the race fleet - for example, changes to sail development and other boat modifications such as water ballast are constant and we need to make sure we are assessing each fairly.”
Committee member Simon Manning acknowledged the potential for a conflict of interest by having yacht owners who are actively participating in events as committee members but said any such conflicts are openly discussed and accounted for.
"Committee members do not get involved in assessing their own boats," Manning said.
"It [having active sailors as committee members] gives much more relevance to feedback on current developments, how particular races turned out and ensures we have some reality to overlay across the boat data and race history that we're assessing."
The committee often answers queries from boat owners and sees such dialogue as an important way to demystify and explain their process, Mulcare said.
"We may not always agree 100 per cent with boat owners but at least we'll know more about the boat and the rating process - and anything that increases our understanding of the fleet is valuable."
To view or download a PHRF certificate click here.
Download the PHRF rules here.
For any other enquiries, email email@example.com
How handicapping works
According to Simon Manning, supporting the committee is a sophisticated database of race results, measurements and a calculation tool.
All races are included where appropriate, categorised into the type (e.g. inshore, passage etc) and some are assigned a higher weighting – for example, the size and mix of the fleet is taken into account.
A recommended rating is produced for inshore racing, passage racing and short-handed racing. A base rating for the design is established, as well as a performance rating for the actual yacht.
"The committee also utilises other overseas ratings, Manning said.
"These are useful for assessing international designs that are also in the fleet in New Zealand and also to keep the local fleet in step with overseas handicaps.
"The committee will occasionally liaise with other experienced sailors around the country for assistance when working with unfamiliar boats and crews – for example this approach was used most recently with the 2023 Round North Island race fleet that involved several previously unrated boats, as well as overseas entrants.