Changes to PHRF BC – But what does it all mean?


This January PHRF BC held a seemingly innocuous referendum on changes to their spinnaker protocols.  Having received a strong ‘yes’ vote, they are apparently now moving forward with implementing the changes.  So what was it all about?

The changes themselves came in two major forms.  First is measurement.  Previously PHRF BC was measuring about 5 widths on Asymmetrical spinnakers, but only one width on Symmetricals.  Because there is always an element of assumption in the shapes of the sails, this system was producing “measured” sail areas that were larger for symmetricals, and smaller for asymmetricals, for a given amount of nylon.  The differences were in the 3-5% range.

This was not a desirable situation, so the new formula uses the exact same measurement protocol no matter the shape of your spinnaker.  As such the system is much more fair across different types of boats and sail plans.  But this led to another interesting situation; namely, PHRF BC was now half way to having the same system for spinnakers as their neighbours at PHRF NW.  So, for a small effort, this gap could be closed up in one fell swoop.  And it was!

The second changes then, were in the adjustments.  The definition of a “standard” sail has shrunk slightly, and at the same time the range of sail areas you can have with no penalty has grown – this is known as the code band.  Boats that were designed originally with oversized spinnakers (spinnakers taller than the forestay and/or wider than 1.8 times the foretriangle) will now be rated on that configuration, instead of trying to force them into a box based on what we all considered “standard” back in the days of short shorts on men, white zinc lips, and Line 7 plastic foulies.

All this means, once PHRF BC takes a run through their database, that the adjustment codes for spinnaker sizes will match up for every boat from roughly Portland OR up to, well, wherever the ice bergs start up north.  We’re not sure how much racing happens north of Port Hardy, but we hope there is some!

Now we wouldn’t want to speculate out of hand, but through last fall and this winter there has been a groundswell of support from sailors across BC and Washington to have our two PHRF organizations get together and line up the ratings.  Both for the good of the events, who have to deal with two sets of certificates, and for the sailors who have to pay for them.  A Facebook group has started up, and various website forums have hosted discussions. ..  Is it just maybe possible that PHRF BC made these changes in response to the requests of it’s constituents?  And is this all part of a greater plan to move the groups on to the same page?  It seems there is hope.

Where is it all going – it reminds us of the the Underpants Gnomes from South Park back in the day.  We now know the first phase – get the measurements to match up.  We know the last phase – Profit (OK, in this case, Participation!).  We are looking forward to phase 2.





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