The aim of this new scheme is to keep sailors interested in improving and progressing. In current PY racing the best sailor, judged on speed, tactics and strategy wins the race and beginner sailors may not see improvement. Personal Handicap Schemes give each sailor their own handicap. This allows all sailors to see improvement for every race they do.
The system works by taking past results, the more races the better, and using a calculator to give a percentage that each sailor is faster or slower than their boats PY. This percentage is applied to a set of PY results, after PY handicaps have been applied, with the aim that if every sailor sailed on their average, all sailors would have the same corrected time. Personal handicaps are progressive and so handicaps will change each series.
The RYA are currently rolling out a system that converts this percentage so that a sailor is given a Personal Index. This number is within an infinite range where 0 is the average sailor in a fleet. Sailors with negative numbers are quicker sailors and therefore have time added on. Sailors with a positive number have time taken away.
This gives a new sailor who has never raced before a physical representation of the progression which they are making. They may start off with a Personal Index of 50, after the first series of races the Personal Index is re-calculated, and they are now a 42.
One word: participation. Personal handicap racing should be used to encourage all level of sailors to stay out on the water and keep racing. Most sailing clubs see club members dropping out of racing within a couple of years of starting racing. By showing progression sailors can see that they are improving and may even win as they are most likely to improve each series as they learn more. This will keep sailors motivated and keep club attendance high.
A personal handicap should be something to be proud of. Top level sailors should be competing to improve on their own sailing along with having the pride that they are, statistically the fasted sailors in their fleet. Competition often pushes improvement and personal handicapping can increase the overall skill level of sailors in your sailing club.