ELLSWORTH — The start of the classic yacht racing season in Maine is just a few weeks away. When it gets underway, sailors will be racing under an entirely new rating rule.
This year, the Camden Classics Cup regatta opens the season with two days of racing over the weekend of July 27-29. Two races are scheduled on Penobscot Bay, on Friday and Saturday, with a fleet divided into three classes: “vintage” yachts, gaff-riggers and schooners.
The following week, an even more diverse classic yacht fleet will gather Down East for three consecutive days of racing. The Castine Classic Yacht Race to Camden is scheduled for Thursday, July 31, and on Aug. 1, the classic yacht fleet will race from Camden to Brooklin for the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta, limited to wooden boats.
Even in most of the separate classes, there was a huge disparity of design and construction. In the gaff and schooner class, the 138-foot replica of the schooner America raced against, among other boats, the 26-foot Tiger and the 28-foot Hope.
How do such disparate boats race against one another with a chance to actually win in its class? The answer lies in a complex Classic Rating Formula based on the hull and sail measurements of each vessel that calculates a time allowance correction for every boat.
During a race, the lowest-rated boat would have no time deducted from its actual elapsed time over the race course. Other boats would reduce their elapsed time by the amount of respective time allowances. The winner would be the boat with the best “corrected time.”
This year, the Classic Yacht Rating Formula will be used to handicap all classic regatta fleets throughout New England and adoption of a revised formula will force all owners to apply for a new rating for their boats.
According to the Classic Yacht Owners Association, the goal of the new “Mark II” version of the formula is “to provide a more objective and transparent rating system.”
The new rule uses all the measurements supplied by owners in the past plus additional measurements of a boat’s beam, draft and sail area when flying a spinnaker.
The CYOC technical committee that studied rules and came up with the revised formula has strong connections to Maine. Among its members are Belfast yacht designer Robert Stephens and Brooklin Boat Yard owner Steve White.