Pursuit start times are not a fixed number and they can change from week to week even if you haven’t sailed for a few weeks. The first concept to understand is that your pursuit start time is not your “handicap”. The system uses your Performance Handicap number AND the estimated time for the race in calculating start times for the entire fleet.
There are three reasons that your pursuit start time may change:
- The estimated time for the race.
For a shorter Wednesday night pursuit race, the start times will be more compressed than for a longer Saturday afternoon race. The Sailing Office look at the forecast to determine if it looks like it will be a fast or a slow race, has a discussion with the RO on what length course is likely to be set, and based on the expected race time and your PH number the system calculates start times for the fleet. For example, at the beginning of the sailing season, the twilight pursuit races only have about 60 minutes of daylight, so race courses are set short (e.g. Start, 1, 5, Finish), and as we get into November the courses are set longer therefore the start times will be more spread out. So the slower boat race times may not move, the mid fleet boats move out perhaps by one minute, while the back markers may move 2 or 3 minutes further out. This estimated race time is why pursuit start times may have changed even if you didn’t sail the previous week.
- Your performance in the previous race.
The system uses the results from the previous race to do a back calculation to determine a PH number for your boat that would have resulted in all boats having the same corrected time and then makes an adjustment to your PH number for next week. The system then uses this new PH number, along with the estimated length of the race to calculate your start time for next week’s race. A win in a race may get you a one or two minute penalty, while this week’s tail enders may get a better start time the following week depending on how far behind the middle of the pack they finished.
- The performance of the scratch boat
If the slowest boat starting off zero needs an adjustment to their start time, this will generally affect every boat in the fleet. e.g. if they win the race, they should be penalised perhaps one minute, but they still end up starting off zero and the net result is that everyone else in the fleet will move up one minute. Conversely if they continually finish at the back of the fleet, they can’t be given a negative time, so everyone else’s time may be moved back one minute.
And the other question to ask sometimes is “why didn’t my pursuit start time change?” if you finished well behind the rest of the fleet. The answer is probably in the way that all PH numbers are calculated for both pursuit and fleet starts. Each boat sails a race with a pre-determined PH number. At the end of the race, the system calculates how far off the boats actual finish time they were from their expected finish time based on their previous PH number. If it is significantly outside the expected time the system assumes that something out of the ordinary has happened and does not change the PH number for the following week. This also prevents people from sandbagging in a race to try and artificially improve their PH number for the following week.
The only problem with this is if you are allocated an unrealistic PH number at the start of the series and the boat is never able to finish within the expected finish time no matter how well the boat is sailed. So what you should look for is if you are constantly achieving results at the rear of the fleet in the PH Division and your PH number isn’t changing (not your pursuit start time), you should contact the sailing office for a review.
However, please don’t contact the office each time that you pursuit start time changes without considering the other factors that go into determining pursuit start times.
It is also worth noting that it is important to make sure that you have entered the series well in advance of race day, otherwise the sailing office will have to make a quick decision on your start time, and it will never be very favourable to your boat!
RBYC Sailing Office