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EXAMINING A NEW RATING PARADIGM: High Performance Rule
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Jan 23, 2012, 6:46 AM

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By Dobbs Davis, Seahorse

High performance sailing is at a crossroads: Some of the most popular one-designs raced in the last decade are getting a little long in the tooth and have a chance for being upstaged by some exciting new designs just entering the scene. These range from MC38's, to Farr 400's, to GP42's and up to TP52's, all of which are racing at Quantum Key West 2012 this week.

These high-speed, offshore-capable designs have always been problematic for the US rating rules, as their greater performance including planing offwind cannot be easily predicted alongside the bulk of the fleet sailing in more traditional displacement boats. Ideally the planing boats can be grouped together to enjoy good racing, but this is not always possible, and there are still critical rating differences that can arise based on the vagaries of whatever system is used.

For example, the PHRF approach of using empirical data and declared dimensions to support the rating is one approach, but it can take years of data to finally hone in on a reasonable number after applying plenty of other un-measured filters (weather conditions, crew quality, etc).

The ORR and IRC approach of using detailed measurements plugged into a secret rating rule might work for some, but no one likes secrecy too much, where ORR protects its fleet with 'go-slow' features, and IRC favors heavier displacement production boats in the 40-foot range. ORC racing systems are public and show promise for these boat types, but is not currently used in the US.

In 2010, a group formed to examine how a new rating paradigm could be devised to work for modern planing boats, with the following features: fully-measured, completely public, simple to apply, expressed on a spreadsheet, and intentionally typeforming towards high-speed offshore designs. The group called this concept HPR, for High Performance Rule.

But who are the owners and crews interested in this? And does the world really need yet another rating rule?

Listening to people this week at Quantum Key West 2012 who are racing these newest generation boats (Farr 400's, MC38's, GP42's, even some TP52's), the answer seems to be 'Yes'. Anticipating this, Premiere Racing has offered an HPR class to try out the nascent version of the rule, which for the moment has been assembled from ORR and beta version HPR VPP's from Jim Teeters, combined with some PHRF factors from Bruce Bingham.

After the racing on Thursday in Key West, I will be moderating a Seahorse-sponsored panel discussion from 5:00-6:00 PM EST to explain how the HP Rule works, what if any conclusions can be made from the racing to date, and what's next in the future of HPR. The panelists include: Steve Benjamin, North Sails; Marty Kullman, Quantum Sails; Dee Smith, Farr 400 Class; Wolfgang Schaefer,/ Farr 40 Class and ORC; and Rob Weiland, TP52 Class.


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Jan 23, 2012, 6:47 AM

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From Jim Teeters
A brief clarification to Dobbs Davis' otherwise fine article in Scuttlebutt 3509 about offshore handicapping: the characterization that ORR has "go-slow" features is misleading.

The rule is calibrated with extensive tank testing of boat models and wind tunnel evaluations of sails. The speed predictions do predict that a heavier boat has more drag and will be slower. Is that a "go-slow" feature? The same can be said for boats with more wetted area, less draft, less stability, less sail area, etc. Shorter boats are slower too!

To provide competitive fairness on the race course, the ORR VPP correctly predicts performance differences due to these varying features. This is what all measurement handicap rules try to do. OK, it must be admitted the VPP does give credit to the distorted (read go-slow) hull shapes designed to IOR.

HPR is a very promising concept that measures and handicaps only the most fundamental features that drive performance. Like a box rule, HPR ignores many design details freeing the designer to develop what is simply a fast boat. Unlike a box rule, rating assessments are given for differences in displacement, length, draft, sail area, etc. HOWEVER, a design can diverge only so much from the HPR typeform before those assessments become penalties. The result: all boats are required to have "go-fast" features.


From Frederic Berg:
Regarding Mr. Davis' examination of a new rating paradigm (in Scuttlebutt 3509), I would suggest the premise that performance cannot be easily predicted (alongside the bulk of the fleet sailing in more traditional displacement boats) is false. We are blessed with very accurate velocity prediction programs from today's designers. The problem we all face is the willingness of fleets to use sophisticated handicapping systems based on varying wind and sea conditions.

The use of sophisticated handicapping systems has lead in the past to delays in producing standings at the end of the race day, lack of standings between races during the day and the supposed secrecy of the rule which only designers in the know seem to be capable of decoding.

There are two solutions; either we use a sophisticated handicapping system that most sailors will never understand or continue to use less than optimal handicapping and live with some boats winning in their optimal conditions or.

The first solution is the right one for grand prix racing. This group has the funds and technology to create and maintain a viable system based on real time positioning which could provide real time on board standings. The second is for the 99% who enjoy racing with their friends and occasionally aspire to race in a national event.

In the real world the PHRF racer rarely races alongside the MC38's, Farr 400's, GP42's or TP52's, so why would we entertain yet another rating system that will end up being exploited for what it cannot or does not do in the name of transparency and simplicity?


From Andrew Riem:
In the lead story 'Examining A New Rating Paradigm' in Scuttlebutt 3509, I found the comment "IRC favors heavier displacement production boats in the 40-foot range" particularly amusing given I placed second in the IRC Canadians a couple years back in a 1985 J/27 (27' psuedo ULDB). Granted I lost out to Red Jacket...the breakthrough Bruckmann/C&C Custom that was the first balsa cored fiberglass hull (light), won 11 of its 13 race series in 1967 and was SORC Champion 1968.


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Jan 23, 2012, 6:47 AM

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Esteemed IRC designer Mark Mills had described to me about the 40-foot sweet spot that had been identified in the IRC rule, which was in part why the Summit 40 production boat was built to that length. Interestingly, the IRC overall results in Key West this week, where the boats span from 41 to 72 feet, have been dominated by Division 3 with boats from 41 to 46 feet.

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


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Jan 23, 2012, 6:49 AM

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From Dobbs Davis:
The issue of acceptance of sophisticated VPP-rating systems is separate and apart from any complications arising from scoring: ratings can be expressed in simple forms yet still have a sophisticated VPP behind it.

For example, in the ORC Club and ORC International systems, handicaps can be expressed as single-number time-on-time or time-on-distance numbers for inshore or offshore courses (as used in Australia); as triple-number time-on-time ratings for low, medium, and high wind strengths (as used in Holland); or as a complex matrix of values built to windward-leeward, offshore, or other customized course models (as used in the Mediterranean and the Baltic).

Each culture thus chooses what they want to use, and race organizers will try to group boat types together of the same style, but all the variations still have the power of the ORC VPP behind them for accuracy.

Most other rating systems do not offer this range in flexibility.


From Laurence Mead:
The best racing is one-design. Period. However the IRC rule has been delivering some great racing for many years across boats 25 to 55 feet long with the TP52's being the only anomaly with their ability to plane in a breeze. In 40 footers, that lighter displacement type hasn't been competitive but the IRC powers-that-be have already announced they are going to tweak the rule slowly to make lighter weight 40 footers more competitive over the coming years, so I would encourage people to get out in whatever they can and race.

The Hong Kong guys are about to attend their 4th Commodores Cup in the UK (5,999 mile from home) and it's great racing. The rule works very well and seconds make the difference. Ever get the feeling there is too much talk and not enough sailing? July 17th to 27th, IRC handicap racing under Nationality rules. Fabulous! (I am sure we would all love to see a USA team there!!!!)


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