Tuesday, January 1, 2019


The below comment by Cherylle raises questions in what regards handicap and women in sail racing and because the subject is important I will take the opportunity to introduce, through my reply, the theme for discussion. You are invited to express your opinion and above all if you are not a sail racer but a sailor or someone that likes sailing and sail racing, meaning part of the public that watch and like sail races. 

Cherylle: All nonsense. 
The sexism inherent in the author’s non-acceptance of the capabilities of the crew on WO X is illustrative of why there are so few women actively participating in racing. 
The author needs to get a grip on the fundamental differences between an offshore self governing race and an inshore regatta with judges on course.  The author has a very limited grasp of handicapping. 
I was very surprised BJ thought he could have the Committee do his protesting for him or that he could believe it would get him where he wanted to be. 

Paulo: Normally I don’t publish rude or insulting comments and I find yours rude and borderline in what regards insulting but I will open an exception in your case just to show how inadequate and wrong your comments are. 

The ones that follow this blog, and there are many, know that I rejoice with women’s achievements on sailing particularly when they sail in equal terms against men. In what regards top sailing I don’t miss to report any of those occasions on this blog. 

Women in most sportive disciplines are disadvantaged towards men and that’s why they compete in different categories, separated by sex. Sailing, particularly ocean short crew or solo racing, is one of the few disciplines where women have actually showed they can beat men and occasionally they have done so. The last time was in 2018 on a professional race for top class IMOCA, where a woman duo beat all men’s duos. And also why on races where it is not mandatory a duo to be constituted by a man and a woman we see many times top women sailors making team with top sailor men. 

Because that is so I have said that it is ridiculous, that is a nonsense, the new Olympic category for Ocean duo racing to be raced by a couple, a man and a woman, an approach that assumes that women are less competitive than men on a discipline where it has been proved that it is not necessarily so. 
In what regards crewed ocean racing things are a bit different and I don’t know if women can be as competitive as men, at least on the actual format that allows for big teams and systems that make the handling of sails very dependent on physical strength. 

On Top Ocean crewed racing it has never happened and as it is known that when a women’s team raced a VOR they were advantaged by the rules that allowed for a bigger crew. The same happened on the last VOR where the teams that included women could be bigger making the choice to have women as members of a team, a choice not based on efficiency of a particular sailor (man or woman) but one based on profiting of an advantage related with the crew number allowed. 

That shows that there is an assumption that women in what regards Oceanic crewed racing are not as competitive as men and the fact is that I don’t know of any victory of a women’s team on a top offshore crewed sailing race. The best result was a victory on a Port Race on a VOR, but again, they were not racing in equal terms because their team was bigger. 

Regarding race regulation, on offshore races, the self-regulating race system is still used in top handicap races and show at what point they still are at an amateur stage, notwithstanding the importance of some of them. 

Major oceanic and offshore races, out of the handicap world are not auto-regulated anymore; you can have as example the Vendee Globe, IMOCA races, Route du Rhum and many others. Auto-regulation is a first stage in all sports before they have become big, important and professional. The fact that auto-regulation is used in sailing in some major offshore races shows how offshore sailing, as a sport, still is a very amateur affair. 

In fact it allowed the winner of the Sydney Hobart to violate the race rules, with knowledge of the organization, escaping any investigation or penalty, a fact that would be impossible in any professionally managed top race. The situation was dealt by a very incompetent and amateur race committee that filed a protest, that by the race rules, they should have known was invalid even if they had verified first the veracity of the information. 

The correct procedure was to communicate the situation to the protest committee that after having received information from any source that an irregularity had been committed should open an hearing and verified if the rules have been breached or not. 

Regarding my limited grasp of handicap racing it seems to me that it is quite the contrary. It is you who doesn’t understand that on an offshore long race, bigger boats and smaller boats don’t race under the same meteorological conditions being either one necessarily negatively affected by those different conditions, influencing in a decisive way the handicap results, in what regards measuring in equal terms all teams’ performance.
Just this would be enough to make any competition in handicap among boats with very different handicaps unfair, like on the Sydney Hobbart, but there is more: anybody who knows anything about boat design and handicap racing knows that some hulls are advantaged by light conditions, others by strong downwind sailing and others by strong upwind sailing and as IRC rating does not take any of this into account and does not change the handicap of each boat according to the meteorological conditions on a given race (and those are very different from race to race), therefore it cannot serve as a reliable indicator of comparative absolute crew efficiency, which is what it is supposed to do. 

Everybody who knows something about handicap racing knows all this and also knows that some hull shapes have a very bad global IRC rating, meaning that even if the boats are able to win the race in real time, they would never win it in handicap, no matter the crew efficiency and that is also a clear indicator that handicap racing is flawed in what regards a reliable measure of crew performance (and that is what it is supposed to do). 

A good example of a type of hull with a bad IRC rating is Comanche, that “won” the Sydney Hobart in 2017 and 2015, but being only 19th and 13th in compensated. No one doubts that Comanche (as any of the other top contenders) has a top professional crew with some of the best sailors on the planet and that is not credible that they would be 19th or 13th on the Sydney Hobart if the sailing performance of the crew was correctly measured by the IRC handicap, the one that serves to determine the “winner” of the Sydney Hobart and many other top races. 

Handicap racing is adequate to amateur racing and to club racing but not to major professional offshore races and that’s why in all those races the winner that is celebrated by the public and mentioned on the press is the real time winner, the one that arrives first. Unfortunately that happens only in what regards the overall winner when it could and should happen also in what regards several divisions based on boat length and also raced in real time. 

Any sort of racing based not on real time performance and where the winner is not necessarily the one that is the first to cut the line is voted to public failure, even if it was possible to measure accurately the crew absolute performance (and it is not). Public interest is absolutely necessary to the growth of any sport and more so on one like offshore racing where top racing machines cost many millions. 

Public interest is necessary to bring offshore racing out of the hands of billionaires, to have more competitive top sailboats and to have the best sailors sailing those sailboats, independently of how wealthy they are. This can only be possible through big sponsorship and for that it is needed publicity revenues, meaning that offshore sail racing has to have a large audience and a vast public. Only this way will it be self sustained, escape the association with billionaires and able to create many professionals making a good living out of their passion, as it happens on all major sports.

And I will take the opportunity to wish all an happy new year wind fair winds and lots of sailing.


  1. Hello!, Do you think ORC is a better handicap system?
    in regards of classes by length how can you compare older with modern boats?

    1. I did not saw the last part of your question. You cannot compare the performance of old boats with new boats, the same way you cannot compare the performance of old racing cars or motorcycles with the one of new ones.

      What you can do is to open a separated division for "classic" sailboats the same way it is made with cars. Normally in cars it is considered a classic one that is over 20/25 years old.

  2. Yes, I do think ORCI is a better handicap system since it gives a better response to some objections I have raised.

  3. Paulo, thank you for your response.How many nautical miles and years of sailing have you done? In what types of boats and where have you sailed...inshore or offshore or both?Racing or cruising or both? What involvement have you had at Club or other levels in race management? I can see some info from your bio but more detail may help me to understand where you are coming from.

    1. I don't think sail racing experience is needed to have a global view on the sail
      offshore top racing panorama. It is necessary to like sail racing and follow all sorts of top racing events for many years, a thing that I have done.

      I have done very few sail races but I have done as a skipper about 30 or 40 000 nautical miles. Sailing come late in my life mostly due to lack of money to have a sailboat but I do have made sport all my life, some at the highest level.

      I have sailed for more than 20 years and know I live on a sailboat almost half the year.

      Regarding having meaningful opinions about the subject the fact that one of the most prestigious sail racing sites, Scuttlebutt, finds some of my articles interesting enough to republish them indicative that yes, I know what I am talking about.

  4. You have to understand that this race is not about sail boat racing, but a much loved beginning of the year spectacle and fun race. Speaking as an an Australian cruising sailor, yes, I enjoy the highlights, but have no illusions that we are witnessing any great racing event.

  5. I have to disagree and I bet many of your countrymen would disagree too. Yes, it is for sure a great spectacle and fun race but there is also many professionals and great racing boats on that race doing top racing.

    What I an saying is that without spoiling the feast and the fun for amateurs this race could be all that and also a top professional race, attracting more professional teams and becoming part of a world championship.

    The IRC, or even better the ORCI, is perfectly suited for amateur and club racing, not for a top professional race. The two races could perfectly coexist on the same event as they coexist already on the Sydney Hobart or in some other races like the Fastnet or the Middle Sea Race and some others.

    Some steps are being made on this direction, not always on the right direction, on the Sydney Hobart you have the Corinthian class and on the "Route du Rhum" the Rhum class.

  6. Hi Paulo, I don't get your stand regarding Hull shape and IRC as IRC has very few hull measurements. It is clearly far simpler than with ORCi (hence less costly). So yes, the rating system is never fair (why ORCi VPP would be fair as the VPP parameters are genuinely unfair). IRC just gives more freedom to designer regarding hull form. Some boats would be better downwind, other upwind, light/heavy conditions. This is the designer game to find out the average right compromise. In ORCi, the message is that it would be fair even if you sail a bathtub with a mast against Comanche. This does not sound much sensible. Would such configuration please professionals. It is also true that handicap were never set for professional. Now, they are not banned...

    1. IRC has a lot to do with RM and stability and the way you get stability is through a combination of different hull shapes, that provide more or less form stability, combined with more or less stability from the keel/ballast, due to more draft or more ballast or keel design.

      So in the end what designers look for is the right combination between several factors to provide maximum performance with the lower possible handicap and one of those factors is the shape of the hull, in what regards drag versus hull stability, the ability to plane and several other factors.

      ORCI is more accurate simply because it gives for the same boat different handicaps in different situations and that allows it more flexibility and a more correct assessment of a boat potencial, being it a bathtub or Comanche. That is what handicap racing is about.

      In the end, as you know, the differences in what regards results are not considerable and it makes all sense to reunite the two handicap systems on a single one.