A question that arises from time to time is “Why can’t I sail on Tuesday nights with my JAM handicap, even if I don’t have a spinnaker?” This page will attempt to answer that question.
First it’s important to understand how PHRF handicaps are determined, and the relationship between Flying Sail (FS) handicaps (i.e. those for boats with spinnakers) and Non-Flying Sail (NFS) handicaps (i.e. for those that race without a spinnaker, or what we call in Ottawa “JAM”). Almost everybody* that applies for a PHRF handicap is issued an NFS handicap and those are the handicaps that are used for JAM racing. However, boats are only issued an FS handicap if they have a spinnaker which they present for measurement and for inclusion on their PHRF-LO certificate. The FS handicap is typically about 18 seconds/mile faster than the NFS handicap, but this difference varies widely.
PHRF is a handicapping system that determines boats’ speed potential based on statistical analysis of extensive race data, and those handicaps are continually being reviewed and revised based on more current race data. What’s key, however, is that the FS and NFS handicaps are determined and adjusted independently; FS boats are only compared with other FS boats, and likewise NFS boats are compared only with other NFS boats. There is no analysis of FS boats sailing against NFS boats, or visa versa. Quite simply, PHRF-Lake Ontario recommends that FS and NFS boats should not race together. In fact, if FS and NFS boats are mixed, it could invalidate our race data for analysis purposes. And NSC receives a discount of $5 per boat for submitting our race data for inclusion in PHRF-LO’s race analysis.
While NSC & BYC do allow combined racing of FS and NFS boats in certain circumstances where the numbers do not justify split racing (e.g. Long Distance and Women’s racing), we do offer both FS racing on Tuesday nights (“PHRF”), and NFS racing on Thursday evenings (“JAM”). Everybody seems to accept that boats cannot race on Thursday evenings with their spinnakers; hopefully this explanation will clarify why boats cannot race on Tuesday evening without a FS handicap. (Of course, boats do not have to use their spinnakers when they race on Tuesday, and when the wind is really howling, many don’t, but they are always scored with their FS handicap.)
And there are other reasons for not mixing FS and NFS boats. Boats sailing with spinnakers sail different angles downwind than those sailing JAM. A boat sailing without a spinnaker can sail as high as they want, meaning that they could luff an overtaking spinnaker equipped boat without concern about their own spinnaker collapsing. This clearly creates an unfair situation.
JAM boats are typically slower than their spinnaker-equipped competition. But if the fleet spreads out too much, it limits the Race Committee’s ability to change the course, as they can’t move a mark until the last boat has rounded it. Further, if the JAM boat(s) are well behind at the finish, the RC has to wait for them to finish, delaying everyone’s access to the results for the night.
* There are some exceptions, but they’re not relevant to this discussion.
The above was published 2009-05-25, reflecting what, at that time, had been club protocol for years. This protocol has been consistently applied ever since.
Page updated: 2017-02-12.
12 Feb: HM: Added this update log, and note at bottom about when this was first published.
Page maintained by H. Morrin.