Classic Yacht Racing; Highlights from the 2020 CYOA Season
Photo by Alison Langley at: https://www.langleyphoto.com

A review of the 2020 season with a focus on how well CRF ratings matched up with real world race results

By Jim Taylor, CYOA Technical Committee

Introduction

Each year, the CYOA Technical Committee does an in depth review of the Classic races held in the season just completed.  Issues such as participation trends, race management and class assignments are all of interest to the group, but an especially close look is always taken at whether or not CRF ratings adequately reflect actual on the water performance.  A yacht handicapping system can be considered to be reasonable and fair if similarly well equipped, well prepared, and well sailed boats of various sizes and types share time on the podium over a full season of events in a variety of conditions.  If, on the other hand, there are apparent biases that seem to consistently advantage particular boat sizes and/or characteristics, the rating rule may need improvement.  With this in mind, an objective and useful way to identify possible rule shortcomings is to carefully analyze as many races scored with it as possible.  For such a review to be meaningful, however, there needs to be familiarity with the participants, the course content, and the wind and sea conditions, as well as with the ratings used, the elapsed times, the course length, and the corrected times.  The following review applies this approach to the 2020 Classic events for which this sort of context is in hand.  

Eggemoggin Reach Race, 8/1/20; (Discussion assumes ‘Doing Too Well Previously’ rating penalties removed)

The 2020 ERR was a highlight of the Classic racing season as usual, with 66 boats entered instead of a more typical 100+, reflecting constraints imposed by Covid 19.  This year, the first +/-2 miles of the race were complicated by a NNW to SSE wind transition zone, but the rest of the day was a reasonably straightforward smooth water windward/leeward course in 8-10 kt SSE that shifted slowly to SSW.

The small boats (Vintage A, Classic A and SoT A) all started downwind in a puffy, shifty 8-12 WNW.  They got into the new SSE breeze first, they brought more breeze down with them as they approached the downwind finish, and they sailed the last part of the race as what had been an adverse ebb current was slowing and changing.  Not surprisingly, boats in these classes went 1,2,3 overall in fleet.  

Vintage B and SoT B started much later, they saw very little of the WNW at the start, they sailed in similar wind and current conditions thereafter, and they finished with very similar corrected times.  Without penalties, Black Watch (1938 68ft S&S yawl) and Blackfish (49 ft SoT) finished in a virtual dead heat atop this group, with Marilee (59ft 1926 HMCo NY40), Falcon (1936 47ft S&S NY 32), Rascal , and Dreadnought (both 49ft SoT’s) all clustered close together not far behind in these two classes.

The Ohlson 37 sloop Kristen sailed a great race to finish first overall in the ERR fleet by a wide margin.  Leaf (Luders 24) came 2nd, followed by the 28ft double ended LFH ketch Rozinante, Black Watch and Blackfish, all in another virtual ‘w/o ERR penalty’ tie.  That put two Vintage, two Classic and one SoT boat in the top five, with ketch, yawl and sloop rigs all represented, with LOA’s ranging from 28 to 68 ft, and with displacements from 6,500 to 75,500 lbs.  This suggests that CRF 2020 did appear to rate a wide range of boat ages, types and sizes reasonably fairly.

Two additional observations from the 2020 ERR:

First, small boats rated w/o chutes finished 1st and 3rd in fleet either side of Leaf who was rated w/spinnaaker, suggesting that CRF 2020’s spinnaker vs no spinnaker rating deltas seem to do an acceptable job of reflecting the their performance potential differences in sailing with or without spinnakers.

Second, the performance of the Botin 55 Outlier relative to her 2019 CRF rating was a concern during the 2019 season, and this was addressed in developing CRF 2020.  Outlier did not get off the starting line well in the 2020 ERR, she struggled in the extremely light air early, and did not get by Blackfish boat for boat until well after Halibut Rock, after nearly 60% of the race had already been sailed.  Her poor finish was not simply due to her  rating having been ‘sped up’ under CRF 2020.

Opera House Cup, 8/16/20;

The 2020 OHC had 26 entries, but just 16 started in the breezy and rough conditions, and 14 finished.  A pursuit race format was used this year, and on one hand it worked well to the extent that four boats (a 55ft SoT, a Nantucket Alerion, a 55ft S&S yawl, and a 12m) all finished within a minute to take 2nd through 5th places.  On the other hand, the course content (starboard fetch, broad reach and beam reach, no tacks, one gybe) once again gave a huge advantage to the small, slower rated boats, and the well sailed Scheherazade (Alerion A-24) won by nearly two minutes in what should have been ‘big boat’ conditions.  The big breeze (20-25kts) and big seas certainly should have favored big boats with high stability like Nefertiti, Santana, and Outlier, who reportedly hit 16 kts on the beam reach to the finish. Instead, ‘slow rating’ Alerion one designs took 3 of the top 6 places, and might have taken  5 of the top 6 had two more of them not given up promising positions by sailing towards a wrong mark.  

Rescoring the race with an adjusted course length that is 25% shorter (or a Time Allowance multiplier 25% lower) to account for all the ‘off rhumbline’ distance not sailed VMG upwind or downwind gives more reasonable results given the weather conditions, with the big boats topping the leaderboard as one would expect, and with little Scheherazade still an impressive 5th overall.

Herreshoff Museum Regatta, 8/28-8/30/20;

Friday, Newport-Bristol feeder race: 

The course content included a short beat off the starting line, followed by a long broad reach/run to Bristol.  The wind conditions were light and variable, resulting in average speeds that were quite low despite rhumbline sailing with a favorable incoming tide.  There is not much to be learned wrt to rating from this race, given the course content and wind conditions.

Sunday, Bristol-Newport:

This race was a reach in a solid 12-14 SSW breeze that was too close to carry chutes, so that boats that chose to rate ‘no spin’  had a huge advantage and finished 1-6.  Rescoring the race with ‘no spin’ ratings for all the boats (and with the rated course length adjusted for course content and current) gives much more reasonable and helpful results.  Not surprisingly, good reaching boats top the fleet in this rescore, with Outlier (Botin SoT 55), Fortune (Burgess staysail schooner) and Blackwing (28 ft LFH Stuart Knockabout) going 1,2,3 in quite tight pack.  Behind the Fisher’s Island 31 Procyon in 4th, an impressively mixed bag of Neith (1907 HMCo 55), Nefertiti, Weatherly, and Mah Jong (S&S 52 yawl) all corrected to another virtual tie.   

IYRS Classic Regatta, 9/6/20;

The 2020 IYRS event had 13 classic entries for the single Sunday only race, with one DNS and one RET.  The wind was light at the start, but built to 12-14 SSW for much of the race.  The course consisted of a starboard tack favored beat down the East Passage to Brenton Reef, a reach to a mark south of Sakonnet, and return.  This resulted in content that was approximately 60% reaching, which again favored the smaller, slower rated boats, and the 28ft Blackwing won handily in the official scoring.  The solid breeze suited big boats with high stability (there are always horses for courses with a single number rating system), and rescoring for a shorter rated course length give results that better match expectations given the conditions.  The rescore puts the two 12m’s essentially tied atop the leaderboard with Neith in 3rd, and the L. Frances Herreshoff reaching machines  Blackwing (28 ft sloop) and Ticonderoga (72ft ketch) correcting very close together in 4th and 5th.  Having such a mixed bag of different boat sizes, types and age finishing with corrected times this close together suggests that the ratings generated by CRF 2020 reflected real world performance quite well.

Summary

The 2020 Classic season was cut short by Covid 19 constraints, so there was not nearly as many races to usefully review as there have been in previous years.  The limited data that is available suggests that CRF 2020 did a quite good job of allowing a wide variety of boat sizes and types to get on the podium when the course content approximated the 1/3 upwind, 1/3 reaching and 1/3 downwind that it is intended to address, or when races that varied widely from that target were rescored by adjusting course length or the TA multiplier.  No serious size, age, boat type or rig type biases stand out in the data gathered from the 2020 season, which suggests that no substantive changes need be made to the formulae and factors used in producing CRF 2020 ratings in implementing CRF 2021.  


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