Lake Sakakawea Sailboat Racing & Regattas

An Introduction to PHRF

So if you’re not sure what PHRF racing means, here’s the simple explanation.  Some boats are faster than others are, some are better equipped.  PHRF is a system intended to make sailboat racing among many different types of boats a competition of skill and tactics, rather than one of boat type and equipment.  It’s not perfect, but it’s what we have.

Here’s how it works with an example using two boats, one named FasterBoat and the other named SlowerBoat.

FasterBoat’s PHRF Handicap: 120

SlowerBoat’s PHRF Handicap: 180

Theoretically, if FasterBoat were to match race SlowerBoat in a 1 mile race, FasterBoat should finish the race 60 seconds in front of SlowerBoat (The difference between their handicaps, 180-120=60).  So, if FasterBoat finishes only 50 seconds in front of SlowerBoat, SlowerBoat actually wins the race by 10 seconds because of the PHRF Handicap adjustment.  And, if FasterBoat finishes the race 70 seconds in front of SlowerBoat, it wins the race by a 10 second margin.

Lots of Boats and Many Miles… How it works.

All it requires is a little extra math, and having someone time the overall time to compete the race for each boat.  If the race is 10 miles long, the handicap is applied over a multiplier of 10.  In the example above over a 10 mile race, FasterBoat would need to beat SlowerBoat by 600 seconds or 10 Minutes (60 second per mile handicap difference multiplied by course length of 10 miles)

When we’re dealing with multiple boats, we simply take the actual race time and subtract the PHRF Handicap adjusted for the course length.  When everyone’s finished, we have an adjusted time for each boat that determines the winner of the race.

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