PHRF Rating and Competitive Racing

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Postby Guest » Thu Jun 21, 2001 6:32 pm

I race my J-80 in a PHRF class that includes Santana 35's, C&C 35's, Tarten 10's and other "long boats' We rate 117 one-design and give all boats time. While we can stay even on reaches with wind speeds over 10, we lose going dead down or on beats in most wind conditions. I know that I don't sail this boat to its total ability, but I can't stay with them...particularily in sloppy seas or light air. My question: How much of this is my problem as a skipper, tacktician, etc. and how much is this a result of the boat design. I know one-design is the ideal, but in its absence, what can I realistically expect? Any thoughts or words of encouragement would be appreciated.

Postby Guest » Fri Jun 22, 2001 9:36 am


To begin with I'm not going to pretend to you that I sail the boat to it's total ability either as witnessed by the fact that the best finishes I could post at the World's were mid-fleet, but I am in the same situation where most of my racing has been PHRF against bigger boats. Like you I often end up giving everybody time, rating locally at 119. Here's what I've gleaned from that experience.

Regardless of conditions, clear air is a must! I know that sounds basic but in a fleet with big boats who have big sail areas, getting pinned in their bad air is slow death. I have even resorted to the strategy of being a few seconds late at the starting line if necessary in order to get clear to windward of the big boats. Once there, you should be able to outpoint most all of them and stay there.

Regardless of conditions, overpowered is slow! The tuning guides are right on when they talk about twisting the sailplan for speed. The J/80 goes best with more twist in the main than I am used to from the J/22's, J/30's and J/27's I crewed in the past and took some getting used to. Initially I was constantly oversheeting and putting the boat on it's ear so I added telltales on the main at the 50% points on the draftstripes which may strike some as hokey but helps me trim better.

In less than 8 knots true wind you're dead in OD configuration. The boat is starved for horsepower upwind with the class jib and there's not enough pressure downwind to plane and make up lost ground (which is what the rating assumes you can do). In these conditions you will need a Genoa (I use a 135%) to be competitive. The genoa will give you enough to actually be faster upwind than a lot of the heavier boats in the really light going, especially in flat water.

The crossover is at 8-10 knots true windspeed. Above this point the boat goes best in OD configuration - points better, overpowers less. In flat water upwind resist the temptation to pinch up higher and in the choppy stuff sail a little "fat" to power through and keep the boat going. The heavier boats will have enough momentum to punch through the waves, you don't have the weight. In chop it's a constant up/down: bear off a little to hit the waves, point up in the trough - anything to avoid slapping one and stopping the boat.

Downwind in moderate air (8-16 knots true) the hardest temptation to resist is heading directly down to the mark, which all the other boats will do. CONSTANTLY talk to your spinn trimmer about the pressure in the sheet, I mean constantly. Again it will be a constant up/down course and as a rough rule of thumb the gybing angle will be 90 degrees to reproduce the same point of sail on the other gybe.

I don't know if any of this is helpful but I hope so. At it's current rating, which is a little severe in my opinion but not overly so, the J/80 is NOT a PHRF "rating beater" so if you make a big mistake or sail a bad leg, the rating will not bail you out. On the other hand I think the boat can be sailed to it's rating in mixed yacht club fleets and at local regattas - we've done it.
Admittedly I have yet to try it at someplace like Key West but at this year's International Rolex Regatta in St Thomas Antonio Mari sailed his J/80 to a PHRF class win - so it can be done.



Postby Guest » Fri Jun 22, 2001 9:41 am

I race phrf with a pick up novice crew (and the skipper isn't so hot either). I take a relatively casual approach to racing as I have enough stress in real life. In light wind I usually beat "slower" boats in real time if I am having a good day. With a great crew on board(and a ringer at the helm), we have beaten boats rated in the 90's in real time.
I think light wind with left over chop is the worst. In heavy wind and a good heavy crew, the boat should be able to make up any upwind deficiency going downwind like a rocket.

Postby Guest » Fri Jun 22, 2001 9:59 am

Dear Bruce,
I can relate to you frustrations as I sail in a mixed fleet too with similar sized boat. I take it that the other boats are more heavy displacement boats and react completely differently.
Light winds: I find the boat super competitive in Light conditions on all angles of wind. (up and down) We use technics used in dinghy sailing like shortening the waterline upwind, all crew on the leeward side and forward of the site stays, except the helmsman. Helsman forward as much as the tiller extention allows. Induce heel by having crew on the "wrong " site. This will give you sails shape any any puff you get is working as forward motion and not used up to fill the hanging sails first. In light air we sail with :FLAT: sails. In light wind there is not enough air to go around a full round sail and the flow of air breaks from the foil. Poor light air performance seem to indicate a need to polish you skills.
Tactics: In light air ALL YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE THE POCKETS OF AIR ARE. Do not race to the mark,do not worry about lift and knocks, just STAY WITH THE AIR. Always make sure you do not loose the air pressure. If you stuck with no air or you see you soon run out of wind, look ahead and think which side the next pocket of air will be. The guy who get the air first wins. Full Stop No if;s no but"s . I have seen old sailor move away from the mark sailing in the "wrong" direction only to see 30Min later they suddenly are SO LUCKLY to be on the spot where the get the may be 100 yards closer to the wind, if they hit the wind first you gone, no matter who much further they have to sail...

I am suprise you say you are loosing dead downwind. The boat is not build to go dead downwind, you have to go reaching. You go further but faster. The name of the game is to build you own apparent wind which will allow you to sail guite deep. Lots of communication between Spin trimmer and Helsman necessary. If you have a wind instrument that can help finding the right angle downwind, otherwise the sheet pressure is you indicator.
Sloop seas can be a bit of a problem as you start to pitch and the boat speed get destroyed. You simple to not have the momentum to push you through the slop. Try keeping the weight out of the bow and the back. Nothing get stored there...
Keep you crew shoulder to shoulder nobody passed the traveller and nobody infront of the cabin.

Tell me how you go in heavy air. The way to beat the other is by capitalizing on the strength of the J/80. Fast, agile, picks up speed quickly...So outsail them around the marks. You can turn so quick and tight they can not believe it. Use it to you advantage. Go around the mark and just shoot up high, get you jib trimmer to but the sheet on before the wind hits, No winch and hike, once you overtake 2 or 3 boats, fine tune you sail with winch and defend you new position. NEVER NEVER GO BELOW THEM ALWAYS SHOOT UP ABOVE stay clear of the dirty air..Practice a few time in a non racing situation. Once you get the hang of it it easy. Go aound nice and easy and the just shoot up like a Ferrari, They simple can not follow you, they need a long time to build up they speed, while the still grinding they genova, you crew is hicking, do not worry about sail trim at this stage, wait till you overtake them and have about 70-80% boatspeed and now you fine tune, In front of them...

The same thing works in heavy air, however be aware that there is much less margin for error and the crew work has to be good to go on top of them, because if somethings goes wrong, the other boat can not easily move away and there are strong forces involved.

In closing You can not really change the boat, just build on its strenght which are many and use it wisely to outsmart you others. Sail high, overtake high, go around the mark high, sure it may look cooky as long as you stay within the rules and have fun...



Postby Guest » Fri Jun 22, 2001 6:19 pm

My first year with the J/80 and I don't want to learn the same lesson over again. I had a J/105 before this that I raced PHRF only. Found I could do well in very light & light winds, or above 20 kts, but hard to do well at 10-15 kts unless the course was predominately reaching. I'm assuming I'll have similar results in PHRF with the J/80 except with the much larger OD spinnaker (relative to the boat) I hope I'll be competitive closer to 15 kts. I noticed that one comment encouraged sailing high upwind. I understand passing high when possible or for tactical reasons but not sailing high all the time. After trying to sail the J/105 as high as possible upwind for most of the first season with it, I finally figured out I got better results upwind by focusing on fast first and height second in all wind conditions. After I learned the target speeds for wind conditions, I would fall off whenever speed fell below target, build speed and pinch up again -- something like a-sailers go downwind. If my upwind strategy is wrong for the J/80, I'd like to know now instead of reinventing the wheel again. Having great fun with it so far.

Postby Guest » Fri Jun 22, 2001 8:41 pm

Great Discussion guys, keep going now we really improve our game.
2 comments I would like to reinforce. When sailing upwind of course bear off to get target speed and with the increased apparent wind and the lift of you foils you can point high. 100% right the minute you trop below you target speed bear away only 2 or 3 o and build speed and SLOWLY increase you pointing, the minute you get in sloop, wash, bear away build speed and start pointing again.
Downwind: 10O% SPOT ON communicate with you spin trimmer ALL THE TIME. The spin trimmer really is in charge on the downwind leg. pressure building,
pressure loosing and the helmsman and to a lesser extend the the main trimmer adjust to the tune of the spin trimmer. SPIN TRIMMER IS CALLING THE me will make you boat fast. Forget to sail in a straight line. Zig sag down the course keeping the pressure up which will make you boat fast..I mean real fast. Forget where they go...Just go for will be at the bottom mark first even if you travel a lot more miles.
Following the heavy displacement cruiser dead down wind is a DEADLY MISTAKE. Let them to what they want and you go for SPEED....PRESSURE GAINING ...LOOSING.
I may take you a while to get the hang of it. I guarentee you once you got the feel for it you will beat them downwind not by a few boat lenghts no by 100 or 200 yards, somethimes you wonder where they are....that gives you the motivation when things do not work out so well. Practice. Practice and sail it different...
Regarding my mark rounding, just keep in mind that the new rules 18.2 only alloy you to shot high and demand room if the other boat can give room. Here I would go for pointing first, get clear air, onnce you have clear air, bear away to build target speed, and now fine tune for fast and high pointing again, go high be in controll of the big beast and sail YOU FAST WAY. The J/80 way.
I get a great kick out of beating larger boats...



Postby Guest » Fri Jun 22, 2001 9:38 pm

Dear Bruce,
John's comments are great. He is right on the mark. I believe the greatest gains are made downwind and the technics are so fastly different I would like to share a article written by Steve Thompson regarding :grin:ownwind Sailing:The full serices in on the net :
By New Zealand Sports Boat Association.

In this article Steve Thompson looks at the art of sailing and sailhandling of sportsboats downwind.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of sailing sport boats is downwind sailing. The modern concept of using large asymmetric spinakers has in my opinion really opened the sport to creating a whole lot more fun.

One of the most important concepts to grasp when sailing an asymentrical spinnaker with a non or limited rotating bow prod is the the POSITION OF THE BOAT RELATIVE TO THE TRUE WIND DIRECTION DICATATES THE AMOUNT OF WEIGHT IN THE SPINNAKER SHEET (remember!!!Gaining loosing). Regardless of the amount of wind, by pointing the bow further downwind you can reduce the load on the spinnaker sheet to vitually zero, the converse applies when you head the boat further into the wind the sheet load will increase until the boat is overpowered. This principle is used to determine the best angle to sail to obtain maximun Velocity made good. (VMG) to the leeward mark. When talking about load on the sheet in reality we MEASURING the apparent wind angle (cheap and super effective)
It is VERY IMPORTANT to have good communication between the helmsman, mainsheet trimmer and spinnaker trimmer. It is a good idea to have these three SITTING SIDE BY SIDE TO THAT EACH CAN FEEL others movement when trimming or helming. It is the spinnaker trimmer's responsibility to relay the helsmperson how much load there is in the sheet so that the helmsman knows whether to steer up or down.
When sailin in flat water as the sheet loads up from the wind puff (only use rachets in heavy air) the trimmer relays the extra load to the helmsperson, the boat is turned downwind for as long as the extra load lasts, as th the load decreases the boat is turned back to the original position relative to the wind before the maneuver began. This way the boat sails in scallops downwind to keep as deep as possible. When sailing in waves and surfing conditions this manuever is more pronounced as the boat can be turned up to 20 o downwind over waves, the thing to practice is the timing of getting back on course to maintain the wind speed apparent.

Another main principle of sailing with asymmetric spinnaker downwind is that it is important to keep the boat in the most wind velocity as possible. This principal applies as well with non-asymentrical but the GAINS ARE GREATER realatively with an asymmetric spinnaker.

Another fundamental principal when sailing downwind is to never sail to the mark by just pointing a boat at it. Remember the pricipals of sailing the boat to it fastest VMG all the time, it is better to sail fast and gybe whne necessary.

Gibing asymmetic spinnaker is easy and fun. The main principle is doing gibes is to always be ready. I always ensure the trimmer has the leeward sheet over their knee ready to gibe at a moments notice. Gibes can be done very quickly and are often done when going the fastest at the end of the wave or puff s the apparent wind is the least. The helmsman helps the boat though the give and points the boat up to 20 degree higher to the the boat exellerating while the trimmer trims on hard almost straightening the foot of the sail out before easing very fast as the wind fills the sail. It is a good idea to hold up HIGHER (here we go again) until the boat speed is the same as on the old gibe. MOST OF THE TROUBLE IN A GIBE COMES FROM THE WHEATHER SHEET BEING CONSTRAINED AND STOPS THE SPINNAKER BEING SHEETED IN ON THE NEW TACK.
Have one of the crew being resposible for feeding the sheet around and throgh the blocks, so it does not catch.

By the Way T-boats are NZ versions of Melges. Very very fast, for young guys. Let use some of their tricks on our more civilized J/80 and enjoy ourselves.

OK Bruce, that will give you enough to get fired up....and go fast

Kind regards.

Bob von Felten
Down Under Cafe Latte

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 25, 2001 8:40 am

I have followed the advice of others and now sail hotter angles on the down wind leg, jibing often. While I'm very much still learning, I've discovered that we can shoot out to the left and then jibe to a starboard tack and cross many of the heavier boats sailing dead down wind. These boats are forced to bear away which of course kills them. But in the process, we often get gassed by the boats we cross, especially if the wind is very light (6 knots or less). So the question is: Is it better just to stay in good air on the down wind leg (avoiding the other boats and their big sail plans)?

I also have a question about how big the wind shadow is of other boats. In our fleet, the crowd does the same thing every race - 25 yards across the start on a starboard tack, then a port tack all the way to the lay line, then a starboard tack to the mark. That leaves a big open area in the middle of the course, even on the favored side, which according to the experts is where one wants to be. I've been in there, but I've notice that boats farther back (even 10 boat lengths back) are able to make a lot of time on me, beat me easily to the lay line, and match me to the leeward mark. What gives? Our legs are usually 3/4 mile. Am I getting gassed by the larger boats rounding, even though they are 1/4 mile up the course?

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 25, 2001 8:50 am

If you are racing longer boats, with similar PHRF ratings, and you are only using a 100% class jib, I think you will find that they are inherently FASTER, period. That is my problem as well, and I am working on making the boat more competitive upwind in lighter air. Keep this discussion going.

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 25, 2001 9:54 am

Dear Mike,
clean air is the way to go, the sooner you are in clean air the better. Take advanage of the lightness of the boat, you take of a lot quicker.
In a mixed fleet, do not worry about the favoured end, textbook stuff or OD, clear is the mantra, I do not even worry to hit the line fast.
1st. Priority, clear air
2nd Priority, clear air
3rd Priority, clear air.

Once you got clear, you can do whatever the textbook says. Just start on top of the whole bloddy pile, you so quick and you take off so fast they can not follow you.
You may get in some animated discussions with some other skipper...much better the getting gased for ever....Once the know you want the Pole position they will submit anyway...They have no choice, just make sure you are on the laylane and you do not barge...Make sure you understand you rights, get on the layline first and do not let others barge in there....
It is usally at the commitee boat where the opening party is, go in there and show off with you agile fast boat.... and Yes once you have clear air....follow the text book..



Postby Guest » Mon Jun 25, 2001 2:37 pm


I do almost all of my racing against a mixed fleet with a PHRF rating of 117 with a genoa, (there's only three J/80's in Puerto Rico including mine) and the only thing I can tell you is hang in there, It will get better. Here is what has worked for me so far: get a genoa, I race mainly with a 147% North Sails "Bigfoot" genoa. It's like a normal 150% but with a hollow leech (i.e. the leech curve goes forward of the top spreader). The sail gives the performance you need in light air but since it doesn't have a lot of sail area up top, the sail depowers well, the top of the leech opens up while the bottom of the sail gives you enough punching power to go through rough seas. Of course you're going to need extra crew weight to keep the boat on its feet when it blows. I usually race with 1000 to 1150 pounds of crew weight and the performance gains upwind with a genoa more than offset any losses of the added weight off the wind. I usually carry the genoa well into the 14-18 kt. Range that's when the bladed out main (max. outhaul, cunningham and backstay) usually becomes totally useless and flogs constantly. If I can sail with at least some main trim although most of the main is backwinded I do not change down to the class jib, because of the extra punching power of the genoa.

Most of the competition down here are J/29's, J/30's, Tartan 10's, J/27's, Olson 30's etc. I NEVER try to outpoint anybody no matter what the conditions are, I sail mostly on the "footing" side of the groove, if the boat is going fast it will point what the designer intended it to point. Yes sometimes you can pick your spots and point higher than normal but you have to be sailing very fast to burn extra speed and do so in a very flat spot of water. In any chop I do not bother to feather up. It got some getting used to since my brother owned a J/29 for 10 years and I steered the boat most of the time and the 29 sails completely different upwind than an 80. On a J/80 just go for speed don't overtrim the main and when in doubt just foot the boat no matter what headsail configuration you have.

If you decide to sail with a genoa you need to setup your rig like if you were going to sail in heavy air using a class jib since you will need a tighter forestay. Typically in medium air 8-12 kt. range we have to sail a perfect race if the course is a windward leeward to get a decent chance of winning. If the course is a triangle with couple of good reaches you can get away with some mistakes going upwind or downwind but as John Bert mentioned before, the J/80 does not sail easily to its PHRF rating on medium wind conditions. The most important thing is to practice, practice and then practice some more, get a feel for what the J/80 can and cannot do. Another thing, set your Windex tabs 50 degrees apart, when sailing off the wind the Windex should never point inside the tabs except when the boat is planing, once the boat comes off the wave head up build speed and catch your next one.

I'm no J/80 sailing authority but this stuff is what works for me so far and believe me, we ( and the other 2 J/80's) have tried out a lot of stuff, the important thing is not to get caught up in the handicap (ratings) game. We sail most of our local races PHRF but for the CORT series (Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle) the handicap rule is CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) that measures boats using a "secret" handicap formula in which the J/80's get penalized heavily. When we finally decided not to worry about our rating and just started sailing the best we could is when things started to turn around for the better. Of course testing stuff and getting to know your boat helps a lot too. Forget about handicaps just practice and sail hard, you will end up a much better sailor, than if somebody gives you a nice 'handicap'. Good Luck!!


Antonio Marí
Ex Mero Motu (PUR-70)

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 25, 2001 7:48 pm

Dear Antonio,
Thank you for the very good advise. To sail the J/80 in a mixed fleet is a challenge. I took me a while to get good at it. Most advise you get from other sailor are well intended but the J/80 is designed differently and needs to be sailed differently to show it's beauty.
The more J/80 sailor who sail in mixed fleets talk to each other the better we all get at the game.

Good effort.


Postby Guest » Mon Jun 25, 2001 7:54 pm

To Mike: What an opportunity you have! A 3/4 mile leg is pretty short, but I can't imagine a fleet that ALL goes immediately to port after the start, goes to the layline and tacks for the mark. I would think your fleet overstands the mark about 50% of the time, what an opportunity! As in all races, if you all do the same thing, it's really just a drag race. Someone who pays attention to and takes advantage of wind shifts could do well upwind with your fleet and would obviously have clear air while you're lifted and everyone else merrily sails their header. Read Gladstone or any sailing strategy book. My two cents. Wish I could get the fleet I sail with do the parade routine upwind...

Postby Guest » Tue Jun 26, 2001 7:06 pm

Dear Bruce,
I just found the second article of the New Zealand Sportsboats Association by Steve Thompson "Upwind Sailing"
Like with any advise you need to sort out what is useful for you. I always believed in focusing on the basics first, and then go on to more refined technics will give you the best results. For example to learn how to roll tack and building speed before you point may be more beneficial that trying to catch and every small windshift and loose too much with a poor tack and a long time to get up to boat speed. Focus on one thing at the time and hours on the water will get you there. As far as sails selection concerns, just choose one set which will be useful for 80% of you time. Get to know that set of sails really well and build you and you crews skill. A quick informal briefing before the start like today we focus on ...uwwind speed and how long it takes us to reach target speed after a tack, together with a quick informal debrief will work wonders. Of course having a beer will help to create the right relaxed feel. Works well for me.

Fast Upwind by Steve Thomspson Prited in Jan Edition of Australian Sailing Magazine

Sailing Upwind
The basic rule when sailing upind is "GOD IS BOAT SPEED". Nothing works in a boat unless you have the optimum boat speed for the upwind conditions you are sailing in.
Without boat speed you cannot get height as there is insufficient water flowing over the foils (keel & rudder) for them to work efficently. The boat becomes generally hard to sail and steer.
What is the optimum boat speed to sail? We we analyse the polars for the Thomspson 7 we find that generally the optimum boat speed increases up to around 8-10knots and as the wind increases, the boat speed remains the same but the boat tends to sail higher. However over 20knots of wind there is trend to sail lower again to maintain boat speed, mainly due to increase in wave size and increase drag.

It is important to sail the boat at all times to the optimum boat speed. After tacking, keep the sails poweredd up until the boat speed is at the target for the conditions then wind the sails on for upwind sailing. You may have to sail up to 10o lowwer to gain the boat speed require but it is worth it. HEIGHT COMES WITH SPEED
(Bob's comment: This a hard thing to due as everybody else is point higher, resist the tempation to point to early, I have two marks on the sheets for my trimmers, one for below target speed and one for target speed, I think they call it changing gears!)

Sail Trim

Sail trim on a small boat is very important. In light air the sails should have lots of twist with traveler above the centreline and the boom somewhere near the centre of the boat.
The vang should be eased. In flat water the sails can be very flat, as it does not take a lot of power to get the boat through the water. If the seas are choppy, a fuller sail is required to provide the grunt needed to get through the waves.
In the light air it is a good idea to have the forestay slack to that the draft of the jib is pushed further aft to further power up the sail. As the breeze increases the mainsheet needs to be pulled on hard to help keep the forestay straight and also to allow the mast to work. The harder the wind blows the more mainsheet is required. Just simply drop the traveler if the target speed is hard to maintain and remember to ease out the jib barber hauler at the same time so that the slot between the mainsail is not closed up. Keep an eye on the mainsail and jib in the initial set up so that both sails luffs simultaneously. If the jiib breaks earlier than the mainsail, the the main traveler or the sheet is too tight. For each sail there are three very easy gauges to look at to monitor the sail shape, the foot round, the mainsail twist and the maximum draft at about a 1/3 of the sail from the top. Lean to measure these sail shapes and keep asking yourself if they are optimum for the conditions you are sailing in.

Boat Trim

Sportsboats in general like to be sailed flat. This is particularly so upwind. You may experience an awkward light feel to the boat's helm and it does take some time to get used too. But generally it means the when sailed to is UPWIND TARGET SPEED and flat is sailing higher than when heeled for the same speed.It is a hard groove to get into but practice and the continual adjustment of sail trim will benefit the overall upwind performance.
Be gentle on the helm. A boat should be set up so that there is not a lot of trimming to be done.

Well guys, what do you think will work on our J/80, which is really a street version of a racing car...

Would appreciate any comments

Kind regards


Postby Guest » Tue Jun 26, 2001 10:33 pm


I too am in a mixed fleet. My big problem is M-24's. I can't seem to point as high as they do. We think the mast needs to be raked more. I set the mast step as far forward as it would go. Am wondering if I need to rake it more to get it to point higher.

Any ideas about spinnakers. We are also thinking that we need a chute thatis cut more for reaching.

With 3 Sundays of racing under our belts, we are still learning, but having great fun in the process.

Bob Stephenson
USA 370


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