Auto-Adjusting Handicaps: What’s Best for My Club?

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This is an often asked question so we have tried to summarise our usual responses, but first an important aside.

Important Note:

It is not possible to evaluate the effectiveness of a handicap system unless you first state the aims of the system. Without an aim it is difficult to quantify if any criticism is valid or not and/or whether to seek out a better system.

Suggested Aims

  1. The handicap corrected times of all competitors should be very close together for each race.
  2. At the end of a Series the Aggregate Scores for those competitors who are not loaded down with DNFs etc. will be as close together as possible.  Preferably to the extent that the first 3 or so places will be decided in the last race.
  3. For that Series the handicaps may change but should not just wiggle up and down a little after each race where such wiggles do not reflect a trend.
  4. Any competitor whose performance is trending away from their allocated value shall have his handicap altered appropriately. [Note this states “trends” not who has “one good race”.] So adjustments are on trend, not by virtue of the value of a single Back Calculated Handicap (BCH).
  5. To provide a mathematical system that does not require human intervention/judgement and hence can avoid the cries of ‘bias’ or ‘un fair’.

Comment on Aims.

While first aim seems the obvious aim, in fact it is has not proved very useful for determining the “best” form of handicapping. From experimentation with a variety of handicapping systems it has been observed that the time spread of handicap corrected times approach an asymptote that cannot be further improved. Presumably this is because of the uncontrollable race-to race variability caused by weather, courses etc.

But this measure has been useful for eliminating poor handicap systems even if it has been of little value in determining the “best”.

In providing a Measured Performance handicap system, the key word is “trend” (of measured performance). Any system that just provides a knee jerk reaction to a single race is not really considering the “average” performance of a competitor and is little better than rolling dice.

Please see the document ‘Handicapping: Two Less Desirable Handicapping Methods’.

Auto Adjusting Handicaps: What’s Best for My Club?

There is no perfect solution for any club. The best is always a compromise.

The systems considered below each develop a handicap in response to the measured performance of each boat when compared to all other boats within the group. They have no absolute value and do not interrelate with values used in any other Group or at any other club[1].

It is this measured, relative performance that determines the new handicap, and not whether a boat won, came second or came last. Place/penalty based handicap systems do not take into account whether a boat won by 1 second, 1 minute or 1 hour and provide the same handicap “penalty” irrespective. Such systems are good for “rotating” the prizes but are not a measure of performance.

TopYacht supports two forms of auto adjusting handicapping systems used for keel boats clubs and off the beach clubs.

  • Weighted Exponential Average.
  • Weighted Running Average.

Click HERE to download the document (~4 pages)