RYA Portsmouth Yardstick Seminar 2000

The object of this seminar was to tell the clubs and classes about how PY numbers are arrived at. The scheme in general is described on the RYA site . Its worth a read if you're interested. But for those who aren't interested here's a quick summary. Basically the thing goes round in a cycle:-

Flow of Information for Portsmouth Numbers

Each year the RYA get returns from the clubs with suggested numbers worked out from their handicap race results. They do a deal of manipulation of the data to produce averages, and dish these out as next year's numbers. The clubs use these, amended if they wish, to run the next season's racing, and from the results...

The RYA send out about 800 return forms each year. The form asks the club to fill in (amongst other things)
No of boats racing in each class
No of races they've finished
Clubs suggested PY number for the class from their experience.

From those 800 forms they get around 200 back! They take these forms and enter them in a new computer system (which they're very pleased with!) which does a whole load of sorting out, but basically spits out at the end an average of all the recommendations. This is an average of the number of races, and not the number of classes, so the opinion of a club that runs 50 races with a given class in counts more than that of a club that only has two races with that class competing.
They then take an average of the last 3 years results, and this is the suggested number. This goes to a committee which so some final sanity checks before the number gets published. They've got a whole bunch of cross checks and techniques to ensure that there aren't too many anomalies and the numbers are as representative as possible of what seems to be going on out on the race track.

The range of values that clubs suggest for classes can be astonishingly wide - clubs placed the Firefly at anything between 1120 and 1200 in the three years up to 2000 for instance. No doubt this explains a lot of the complaints you get about handicaps - for each club having an extreme opinion in one direction another club has an extreme opinion in the other.

On the whole I think the current PY system is as good as can practically be achieved for a single number system without spending a fortune. And its not a charged service by the RYA, they absorb all the expenses in the general running of the Authority.

© Jim Champ, 2000, 2007

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