900th ORR certificate

The milestone rating certificate was generated with the ORR’s proprietary ‘build-a-boat’ tool, providing a VPP-based rating for the Morris M36 
Helene owned by Peter Ellis in Chicago, US.

“I enjoy the existential aspects of sailing,” says Peter Ellis, owner of Helene, which received the 900th ORR-Ez rating certificate in August this year. “Racing isn’t my cup of tea, but I like to sail efficiently.”

Despite his bias against racing, Ellis paid US$100 for a certificate and has entered the new Thursday night races at Chicago Yacht Club organized by Rick Reed, a J-35 owner. These races are different from the traditional Wednesday night races: they are time-trial events with no race committee. Each entrant takes their own start time at the entrance of Monroe Harbor, sails the pre-set course, finishes where they started, and reports their time and wind conditions.

Reed, who has half a dozen boats registered for Thursday nights so far, chose ORR-Ez instead of PHRF because the rating system provided a fairer test and explains it this way:

“ORR-Ez has ratings for five types of courses and four wind strengths. We have one course using navigational aids — 4.2 nautical miles out and back — so depending on the wind direction, that can either be a windward / leeward, or a reach / reach. ORR-Ez lets us pick that day’s type of course and the observed wind speed, then takes these conditions into account and provides fair ratings to score a myriad of different type boats.”

Jim Teeters, the technical director of the ORR rule, says that since ORR-Ez was first introduced in 2015 as an inexpensive step up from PHRF, it has steadily grown on a national basis for many of the reasons Reed outlines. Teeters adds that ORR-Ez is especially suited to weeknight racing in Chicago because so many boats already have ORR certificates to compete in the CYC Race to Mackinac every July. For those boats — since the Mackinac Race was cancelled — the ORR is providing ORR-Ez certificates this year at no charge.

ORR-Ez builds on the foundation established by the ORR rule, used for many years in major races from coast to coast. The ORR requires hull measurements, so Teeters has a database full of boat-model hull info to draw on for ORR-Ez. However, when in a small number of cases a boat like the M36 has never been professionally measured, Teeters uses what he calls a “build-a-boat” program developed for ORR-Ez, which creates a reasonable facsimile of a boat’s hull design based on publicly available data and drawings of the model and similar designs, and in some cases the actual design file provided by the designer. That was the case for the M36 Helene when Teeters signed a non-disclosure agreement and Sparkman & Stephens provided the complete design file. The ORR has created ratings this way for a huge range of designs, from the Viper 640 and International One-Design, to classic schooners and the Pride of Baltimore.
Ellis, Helene’s owner, doesn’t care for the intensity of the typical race start, and he’s excited about the time-trial format. He thinks it will also suit his crew better — usually it’s just him and his wife and occasional guests. He says it’s no problem to handle the sheets on the Morris from the helm, and he loves the close-windedness of the design and its ability to cut through the chop upwind. He says “it’s faster than most boats in tough upwind conditions. In fact, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing!”

Offshore Racing Rule: certificates to suit every race

The Offshore Racing Rule (ORR) offers rating certificates for three different rules and with custom variations on each. Technical Director Jim Teeters, along with ORR Rulebook Manager Dan Nowlan, explains the benefits of each for race organizers and boat owners.

A rating rule to fairly score boats of different shapes and sizes does not warrant a single technical solution. The approach used should vary to suit the specific needs of race organizers and boat owners in creating races of different styles and competitive levels for mixed fleets of sailboats.

That’s why the Offshore Racing Rule (ORR) has evolved to the point that it now offers three types of rating certificate to race organizing authorities—ORR and ORR-Ez for monohulls and ORR-Mh for multihulls. For several years now, it has also offered modified certificates to suit specific race styles and needs of organizers and owners. Here is a summary of ORR certificates offered as of 2020:

Offshore Racing Rule (ORR) Certificate Types

  • ORR Offshore: based on full measurement and carrying full equipment for offshore racing;
  • ORR Inshore: based on reduced equipment & inshore sails;
  • ORR One-Design: requires one-design compliance & is based on average of ratings for three measured sisterships;
  • ORR Doublehanded: assumes two-person crew weight.
  • ORR-Ez: based on owner-provided measurements;
  • ORR-Ez One-Design: based on one-design class measurements;
  • ORR-Ez Doublehanded: based on two-person crew weight;
  • ORR-Ez Triplehanded: based on three-person crew weight.
  • ORR-Mh: based on full measurement/full equipment for offshore racing

ORR: The VPP Rule that protects the fleet
Offshore Racing Rule certificates are based on our most scientific rule for scoring a sailboat race, utilizing a proprietary velocity prediction program that evaluates the speed potential of a boat in different wind strengths depending on the boat’s size, shape, sail power and weight including crew.

The ORR Offshore certificate is unique among offshore rating systems for its technical basis and non-public velocity prediction program (VPP), which minimizes the ability of designers to take advantage of the rule. The same is true for the ORR-Mh certificate, which is used to score multihull fleets in several long-distance offshore races.

Most competitive sailors want to prepare their hull, sails, and equipment carefully and go racing with a fair rating. They don't want to spend their time and money changing boats every couple years and constantly running trial certificates to beat the system. That's why the VPP at the heart of the Offshore Racing Rule remains protected code with limited trials and is updated annually by its owner, the Offshore Racing Association, based on constant observation, analysis, and research.

The ORR Inshore certificate was created some years ago for a unique competitive situation in California. A number of owners would sail long offshore races and then get re-rated with less equipment aboard and modified sail inventories better suited to racing inshore. Sometimes there wasn’t time to order a revised certificate, so we decided to allow owners to hold two certificates, one for each configuration.

The ORR One-Design certificate was developed for a different reason. Recognizing that bigger boats that commonly race level as one-designs are closely matched sisterships, we allowed owners of one-design-class-compliant boats to forgo measurement and accept a certificate that represented the average of the measurements of three other fully measured one-designs in the same class.

The ORR Doublehanded certificate was developed for sailors entering distance races such as the Newport Bermuda Race. Recognizing that these boats carry less crew weight, boats with these certificates are generally faster sailing in light wind or offwind, and slower upwind in a breeze or whenever stability is important.

ORR-Ez: Science-based ratings at a modest price

In some sailing areas, sailors and race organizers prefer somewhat less technical but nonetheless still objective ratings that can work in fleets of mixed designs on varied racecourses. The Offshore Racing Association developed the ORR-Ez certificate, which utilizes owner-supplied measurement data and is primarily based on a regularly updated velocity prediction program; however, in some instances ORR-Ez includes a correction made by the National Rating Review Committee based on analysis of results. The bottom line is that ORR-Ez is kept simple and low-cost enough for organizers and race committees to apply it to low-key Wednesday night races.

ORR-Ez One-Design: At its discretion, ORR-Ez may choose to offer One-Design certificates for designs that meet the rules of a current one-design class. It may also offer such certificates to a group of owners with boats that have a given hull who are willing to agree on the size of sails and other equipment required to compete.

ORR-Ez Doublehanded: In 2019, ORR-Ez began to offer a certificate with a two-person crew weight instead of handicapping the boat as if carrying by default the crew weight of a full crew.

ORR-Ez Triplehanded: In the summer of 2020, when state guidelines were issued allowing racers in the Massachusetts Bay Sailing Association to sail with crews totaling three people, a special certificate was created for MBSA boats based on crew weight of three persons.

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