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Handicap starts result in close finishes

posted Oct 31, 2016, 1:02 PM by Rick Early

Last Saturday two short course races were run using a handicap start format.  This format was a trialled to allow smaller slower boats to spend some time in front and put the bigger faster boats in a position where they had to chase the rest of the fleet.  It was also designed to get most of the fleet finishing around the same time.

The wind forecast on the day was promising with 10 – 15 knots from the NE for the first race and 15 – 20 (NE) knots for the second.  The forecast held true for the second race but not the first.

Race 1 started with “Matana” and “Laser 3” getting away first in 5 – 10 knots from the SW.  12 mins. later  “Tranquility” got away while “Friendship” and “Sojourn 3” waited another 5 mins. (starting on 17mins).  Unfortunately the 5 – 10 knots didn’t last long with the wind dying out to almost nothing shortly after the last two boats started. 

The small amount of breeze there was seem to favour “Sojourn 3” and “Friendship” allowing them to slowly work there way to the front by the half way mark.  In the second half of the race the wind started to fill in from the NE and “Sojourn 3” and “Friendship’s” lead began to increase. “Tranquility” moved up into 3rd with “Laser 3” and “Matana” still well in touch.

Across the line “Friendship” just pipped “Sojourn 3” with “Tranquility” 3rd. “Laser 3” was next followed by “Matana”.   All boats were relatively close together.  After the first race Paul Gooey, the handicapper, analysed the results and recalculated start times for race 2.

In the second race “Matana” got away first followed by “Laser 3”(1min. later).  Subsequent start times were “Tranquility” (12min.) “Sojourn 3” (21min.) and “Friendship” (22min.).  These start times meant the bigger boats had their work cut out to catch the smaller ones.

The wind was 10 -15 knots by now and seemed to be to “Laser 3’s” liking with her getting out to a good lead.  By the half way the breeze had increased to 15 – 20 knots favouring the bigger boats doing the chasing.  The race was now on.

The handicapper must have been spot–on with his calculations as all the boats were very close together in the approach to the the last mark.  “Tranquility” got around first with “Laser 3” just behind.  “Sojourn 3” was poised to be third but didn’t quite make the mark – having to tack at the last minute.  This allowed “Friendship” to slip through and made things difficult for a rapidly approaching “Matana”. “Sojourn 3” got around in 4th with “Matana” close behind.  The positions remained in this order across the finish line.

Post race discussions indicated that all skippers and crew thought the handicap start format with 2 short course races was a great success and well worth trying again in the future.