It’s time to replace PHRF once and for all!


New member
San Diego
It's way past time to move on from PHRF for those of us that are relatively serious about racing.  As much as we spend on boats, racing sails, gear, etc. we should not be relying on an outdated and relatively arbitrary rating system like PHRF.  It's time to move up to a Measurement-based VPP rating system.  I have been doing some research on the different rating systems and this is what I think:

ORC is the answer because:

- ratings are objective, based purely on measurements and VPP science, and there are no appeals for ratings (unlike PHRF and ORR-EZ).  ORR-EZ allows owner declared values just like PHRF.

- ratings are calculated for different courses and wind speeds, making results closer and more accurate (unlike PHRF)

- rules, certificates and data are completely open source for full transparency (unlike ORR, IRC or PHRF).  ORR claims they keep their system proprietary in order to discourage attempts to design boats “to the rule”.  The reality is the rich guys will hire the smart guys and will figure out how to “game the system”, meanwhile the rest of us will be left wondering why we traded one closed system for another.  With ORC, I don’t have to hire rating rules specialist to tell me how to make my boat go as fast as possible.  I can go to ORC Sailor Services and look at other similar boat configurations/ratings and/or run test certs to see what the optimum configuration is for my boat.  In my opinion, this levels the playing field for me because I don’t have unlimited resources like some of the other boats we race against.

- the ORC Sailor Services website has over 125K measurement records in its database which are readily available for review and comparison: free login at (not available from either ORR, IRC or PHRF)

- ORC Sailor Services allows you to run test certs (for around $18) so you can determine any difference in speed/rating for different SPL, sprits, sails, crew weight, etc. (not available from PHRF.  ORR and IRC offer this but at a higher cost).  Good luck trying to get your local PHRF committee to tell you what your ratings hit will be while you consider changing your Sprit length, for example.  

- ORC is recognized as an international rating system by World Sailing, issues >10,000 certificates yearly in 40 countries and is thus well-funded, completely open, and invests heavily each year in research to improve its VPP (not true for ORR, IRC or PHRF).  ORC is twice as big as IRC and 10-15 times bigger than ORR (size matters) and is run by FULL-TIME Professional staff!  In other words, ORC is here to stay and that can't be said definitively for the other systems.  My guess is "in the end there will only be one" and my money is on ORC.

- ORC Club certificates are issued by US Sailing and are inexpensive( $100).

-ORC International certificates (ORCi) are significantly cheaper than ORR and IRC.  I have a First 44.7 and an ORCi cert will cost me less than $1k.  A full ORR cert will cost over $3k.  That’s ridiculous.

There is now interest in trying the ORC system in San Diego.   The first step is getting at least 10 boats measured and certified, followed by an analysis of historical race result data to show the end-users how the system performs better than PHRF in local regattas and races.  The second step is working with OAs to create an ORC class or two.  Once skippers see how impartial, transparent, and user-friendly the system is, they will not look back.

ORC has agreed to provide 2 US Sailing certified measurers to conduct measurements in San Diego over a weekend sometime in late October or November (dates TBD).

For those interested, the cost to participate is as follows:

- ORC Club certificate with partial measurements (eg, sails, freeboard, deck and rig): $50 ($300+ value) plus $100 to US Sailing for the Club cert.

- ORCi Cert with the above measurements plus an inclination for stability for $15/ft (normally $20/ft) plus $8/ft to US Sailing for the cert.  Measurements are sufficient for a full ORR cert if doing TRanspac or another ORR event.

- all participants will receive a complementary ORC Speed Guide of polars and Target Speed output for W/L racing for their boat ($90 value)

Please let me know if you are interested in having your boat measured during this event.  Once we've got 10 boats we'll figure out which weekend to host this event.

Greg Price



Staff member
We just got an ORR ez cert for Anarchy V, and I'd be happy to get an ORC rating (yay old age allowance!). I mean, it's just time to move away from the typical PHRF bullshit.


European Bloke

Super Anarchist



San Diego
Regatta participation has been decreasing, so maybe the first step should be to contact all the boats owners who did Beer Cans and Hot Rums and ask how many would be interested in joining ORC.  There has to be a critical mass for this change to be worth it.

Otherwise it may be cutting thinner slices of an already shrinking pie.



New member
San Diego
Annapolis YC recently adopted ORC and their participation has increased 25% since.  ORC results are generally much tighter than PHRF so more boats have a chance to do well, hence increased participation.



- ratings are calculated for different courses and wind speeds, making results closer and more accurate (unlike PHRF)

And this is not subjective? 


Meat Wad

Super Anarchist
It is very easy to take a race that you sailed and use the ORR-ez ratings to see how the race would have scored otherwise.

I like using Sailwave. You can go to the ORRez website and look up the valid list and see how many boats (class or type) in your fleet have a similar boat already rated. Next you have to look at the wind range for the race.You can look back at past years and see if boats go ratings earlier. I paid the $100 for my boat to get a rating.

After you set up the Sailwave file, it is pretty simple to see what might change. Probably not much because those who make mistakes are always the losers.

View attachment Zap26 56267 ORR-EZ.pdf


Meat Wad

Super Anarchist
astro said:
Handicaps are bullshit.

You want to know is you are any good find or organise a one-design race.

In every handicap system there are still people trying to find 'the weapon' that will give them an advantage.  I have won and lost in big handicap fleets.  When I won I took it with a combination of;

  1. I was not first over the line and I'm feeling a bit sheepish at stealing this trophy
  2. Handicaps are arbitrary and it just happened that the course and breeze suited us that day, but thanks anyway

Compared to winning in one-design, handicap wins are nice, but I find little bragging rights about them.
OD is always the real test.

But PHRF and ORR is not arbitrary. Lots of history and thought and discussion go into issuing ratings like PHRF. Maybe you area has a good ole boys club. But the 4 years I spend on the Regional SO Cal board, there was lots of discussion and there were times when we would not grant a change until the owner had more race data.

Everyone complains but no one volunteers to help out. It really is a lot of work to make it right. Try it some time.



Hazard to Navigation
South of Spandau
Yea, yea, OD and all...But how OD is OD when someone shows up with a 100,000€ Dragon, new sails and new lines every season, a fulltime boatman with a workshop in a van and two massive Russian Ex- Olympians as crew? 

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Right Coast
I'll wade in here.

I agree totally that PHRF is bush league.  It has its place as an entry level system where people can test the racing scene to see if it's for them.  If it is and they want to level up, then it's time for a measurement/VPP system.

And yeah, One-Design is the real proof, yada, yada, yada.  But there's no way in hell I'm buying a J/24.  Looking around at the racing scene, I think there's a lot of people who agree with me.

I have a ORR-ez rating and race with it when I am able.  Weasel134 seems sold on ORC, and that's great.  ORR is great, too.  So is IRC, depending on your venue.  The result is that racing is closer, fairer, and when you show up with your HotStuff 34 or PerfCruiser 26 you've got a decent chance to get some silver.

I've sat in on some of the discussions in my area of Chesapeake Bay, and any mention of a rating system other than PHRF is met with hostility.  They trot out an amazingly predictable set of excuses:  too expensive, too complicated, you can't tell how you're doing against competitors, yada, yada, yada.  The loudest voices in the room are, get this, the folks that are the top of the PHRF fleet.  Yeah, the same guys saying it's too expensive are the same ones paying $3000 a year just for a place for the boat to sit, and an additional $3000 - $8000 on sails and pristine bottoms.  They can't pay an extra $60 on a better rating?  I say Bullshit!  Besides, if you want to really spend real money, start racing your boat offshore like me.

But I get it.  People have invested a huge amount of money and resources in the last 40 years taking advantage of system that only worked before 1977.  They will try to scupper any potential threat to their happy place.  Change will only happen with advocacy, and the Chesapeake Bay has ORC and ORR representatives that are doing a good job getting the word out and creating converts.

Long may it continue.



Super Anarchist
There will always be a place for handicap systems. A lot of us either don’t want to or can’t afford to (or both) sail any of the existing OD fleets in our area.

We’ve had our non-OD boat 26 years and counting. How many 30’ and up one design fleets that exist today can you still see putting together a starting line in another 26 years? In the Chesapeake: J/105, perhaps. Melges 32 is done. Farr 30 is done. J/111? Maybe, I hope so. Alberg 30 almost certainly will still be around.

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Alberg 30 almost certainly will still be around.
Off topic but how's the Alberg 30 fleet doing these days in the Chesapeake? I remember sailing with my grandfather in the early 90s and it was a blast, even in that brick of a boat. A bunch of retired naval officers cursing each other out at the bottom mark in any class will make for an interesting sailing experience, and that OD in the Chesapeake seemed to have it's fair share back then. 

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Super Anarchist
Off topic but how's the Alberg 30 fleet doing these days in the Chesapeake? I remember sailing with my grandfather in the early 90s and it was a blast, even in that brick of a boat. A bunch of retired naval officers cursing each other out at the bottom mark in any class will make for an interesting sailing experience, and that OD in the Chesapeake seemed to have it's fair share back then. 
They’re still alive and well from the looks of it. I see them all the time when I’m out racing or cruising. Prolific little things.


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