On a general basis we all know what a handicap is, but in sailing what is it and how is it used?

In a non-handicap (scratch) race, boats are allocated points based on their position crossing the finish line. In this type of race the time they took (elapsed time) to complete the race is irrelevant as it does not affect their finishing position.

In a handicap race the final finish position of a boat in the race is determined by its corrected time. Corrected time? Corrected time is a combination of the boats elapsed time modified by their handicap. The boat with the lowest corrected time is first and boats are allocated positions based on ascending corrected times.

For racing at Mordialloc Sailing Club we generally use two different handicap systems, Yardstick and Club Handicap.


The aim of the yardstick is to provide a basis for yachts of different class to compete fairly when sailed well. The yardstick is not intended to compensate for differences in skills or competence of individual sailors (that is the Club Handicap). The yardstick is calculated and maintained by Yachting Victoria on a statistical basis and within broad limits remains valid for a variety of wind strengths and courses sailed.


Elapsed Time (ET) is the time taken (in minutes and decimal minutes, or in seconds) for a boat to sail a proper course.
Corrected Time (CT) is the elapsed time divided by the boat’s class yardstick (YS) and multiplied by 100

Club Handicap

The club handicap is very similar to a golf handicap in that it allows people of different skills and abilities to compete together. To this end it is the person who sails better than normal who will place first, however just like a golf handicap it will change over time based on results.

Similar to the Yardstick, the Club Handicap, or Allocated Handicap (AHC),  modifies the elapsed time of a boat to calculate the corrected time and thus determine the winner of the race and subsequent positions.


Allocated Handicap (AHC) – Boats sail a race with an Allocated Handicap (AHC). This is the HC allocated to that boat for the particular race.

Back Calculated Handicap (BCH) – After each race a Back Calculated Handicap (BCH) is generated/calculated for each boat. This is the HC a boat needed to be placed equal on HC corrected finish time with every other boat in that race. This is a direct measure of this boat when compared to others in the fleet.

Calculated Handicap (CHC) is the value calculated after this race for the handicap to use for the next race.

Clamped BCH - If a boat sails above/below the “norm” +/- 3%, then it is probably an unusual circumstance (non typical for that boat) and most HCers do not believe that such a BCH should be allowed to overly bias the ongoing HC calculations. Consequently “clamps” are applied. This is a user defined percentage below and above the AHC for that race.


Each boat is allocated a handicap (AHC) when they enter a series. In race one the AHC is used to determine their corrected time and thus their finishing position in the race. Their performance in this race is used to calculate the BCH which is used with the AHC to work out the CHC. The CHC becomes the AHC for the next race.

If the boat greatly over or under performs their handicap then the BCH is clamped (CBCH). Clamped means we limit the difference between the AHC and BCH to avoid large swings in a boats handicap. In this case it is the BCHC and the AHC that are used to produce the CHC.

E.g. A boat has a AHC of 1.00 and sails well above their handicap and has a BCH of 1.04.  If we have a clamp of +/- 3% then the CBCH would clamps would be 0.97 to 1.03. In this case we would use the CBCH of 1.03 to calculate the CHC.

How do we calculate the CHC?

There are many methods for for doing this but we use the weighted average method. This averages the AHC and the BCH or CBCH but weights the AHC 3 to 1 against the BCH or CBCH.

E.g. CHC= 0.75 x AHC + 0.25 x BCH  or  CHC=0.75 x AHC + 0.25 x CBCH

Sound complicated? Well thankfully our results system works all of this out for us automatically and throughout the year we will publish the current handicaps and how these relate to elapsed times on the water to make it more tangible for when you are actually sailing.