PHRF ratings are determined on a regional basis. For our NYYC regattas held in Newport where PHRF racing is offered, we use the PHRF of Narragansett Bay (PHRF-NB) ratings. The US SAILING National PHRF Committee is advisory in nature and offers many valuable resources on their web page.
What is PHRF?
PHRF is a locally administered handicapping system that uses the perceived speed potential of a yacht as the basis for the handicap. An initial handicap is assigned based on comparisons with similar yachts. The handicap may then be adjusted based on the performance of the class of the yacht.
In most fleets there is no credit for lack of sailing skill or boat preparation. The handicap is based on the yacht being sailed by a top notch crew with the best equipment. The PHRF system handicaps yachts, not sailors.
Since the handicap is administered locally, you must contact the fleet that assigns the handicaps for your area to obtain a handicap. Click here for the snail mail contacts, and phone numbers, for the PHRF fleets that belong to US SAILING. Click on the Links button above to go to the web sites for a number of the PHRF fleets that belong to US SAILING.
How do I apply for a PHRF handicap? Since PHRF handicaps are administered at the local level, you should contact the fleet in which you intend to sail. Your local sailing organization should be able to tell you which fleet you should apply to. You can find addresses of the fleets and contact information by clicking here. Fees are determined by the individual fleets and may vary.
How Does PHRF Assign A Handicap?
Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) handicaps are based on the speed potential of the boat, determined as far as possible on observations of previous racing experiences. For new boats, handicappers typically compare the new boat to others that they are familiar with and references, if available, to designer's predictions, IMS or MORC handicaps. They look for boats of the same type, based on sail area to displacement ratios and then make adjustments based on the differences. In addition handicappers generally look to see if the boat has raced in another PHRF group. If using measurement rules such as MORC or IMS, care must be taken as measurement rules are type forming. If the boat wasn't designed to the rule, then the handicap likely will not be representative of the boat's potential. Since measurement rules evolve over the years, the age in the rule must also be considered.
The handicap can then be adjusted, based on race performance. This is the difficult part as the quality of the racing program has to be taken into consideration. Just because a boat finishes last all the time or, on the other hand, wins many races, does not necessarily mean that the handicap is wrong. In most areas, the overall philosophy is that, for new boats, any error in the handicap is on the side of being a bit harsh, since it is always easier to raise a handicap than to lower one.
Why Does My Class Of Boat Have A Different Handicap In Other States/Areas?
PHRF handicaps are locally derived and may be different in other areas. There are several reasons why your boat would rate differently throughout the country. The difference may reflect real differences in relative boat speed (because of local sailing conditions) or merely reflect a difference in local sailing skills or in perception of the local handicappers. Variations to consider include sailing conditions like average wind speed and type of water sailed upon (i.e. ocean vs. lake) as well as the general make up of the local fleet. Since the handicaps of boats are adjusted to other boats within the same area, comparisons to other areas may not be relevant. Relative differences between boats typically provide a more accurate reflection than the absolute handicap assigned. In general, most areas tend to keep within the national handicap extremes but if a particular handicap does not seem correct for local conditions (such as a sport boat in mostly reaching conditions), remember that local PHRF organizations rate boats independently.