Portsmouth Yardstick gets Web savvy

by RYA 
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In an effort to upgrade the quality and quantity of information gathered from sailing clubs which forms the basis of the Portsmouth Yardstick Scheme, the RYA is taking the system onto the internet. Using existing race calculation programs such as ‘Sailwave’ or equivalent, the new system will provide an on-line results service, at the same time giving the RYA an accurate analysis of the race data.

There are exciting developments currently being worked on with 30 clubs around the country, which will vastly improve the data collection of results within the RYA’s Portsmouth Yardstick Scheme. The aim is to improve the quality and quantity of the statistics from the data supplied by clubs, by using an on-line system.

Since its introduction in 1952, the Portsmouth Yardstick Scheme has relied upon clubs’ annual Returns of race results for combination class fleets, both cruisers and dinghies. In recent years these have proven to be too few in number and often of reduced quality.

There have also been inaccuracies in the boat data supplied meaning some of the Secondary and Primary Yardsticks have created local issues. Some classes have not been allocated a Number, as in some instances there has been no data provided.

This has proven particularly frustrating for new classes, often requiring two to three years to catch up with enough data for publication. Disappointingly, in 2007, less than one third of affiliated clubs made their annual Returns.

Using existing race calculation programs such as ‘Sailwave’ or equivalent, the new system will provide an on-line results service, at the same time giving the RYA an accurate analysis of the race data.

Each club will be able to access the system on line while inputting actual times for their results calculation. Results can be printed off for the notice board and the program will even provide recommendations for local handicap adjustment based upon the results input and previous data collection on a ‘race by race’ basis for the club.

At the same time, the results, together with a race report and images, can be posted for publication on the RYA and individual club’s website. A regular check can be kept on individual club’s results throughout the year and if a Number is needed for a new class, this may, in extreme cases, be estimated from sufficient published results. All of this, plus seam free, automated Returns to the RYA.

Input is straightforward while the results are being processed, and requires one upload to the RYA website. The data is based on actual times, all data is recorded and the natural increase in statistics will provide a greater degree of accuracy. One major point is that the entire scheme still relies upon the clubs Returning consistency of boat type from the published list.

Annual Returns of results from each club will become an automatic process, although they will still require manual validation from the club’s Returning officer to keep within the published guidelines.

This system should be fully developed for all clubs by January 2009, allowing for an improved handicapping system from the increased results collection scheme. For 2008, the on line Returns are being run for 30 clubs for cruisers and dinghies and across different types of inland and coastal racing.

One club has been selected for never having filed a Return, and another for large fleet regular handicap dinghy racing. Only by using a sample of different types of sailing, areas and clubs can the new reporting system be fully expanded to ensure better mixed fleet racing for everyone.

Bas Edmonds, the RYA’s Technical Co-ordinator for racing, said, “The Portsmouth Yardstick Scheme is in many ways the most successful handicapping scheme in the world; however, the RYA is always looking for ways to update and improve it.

“The key to improving the scheme is more data and one way of ensuring that this happens, is to simplify and improve the existing Returns system which we are confident this will do.”

The latest Portsmouth Numbers for 2008 have just been published and are now available on the RYA website, click on Knowledge Base/Technical.