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Would you like this to happen at your club?
Increase your fleet size X 4
Integrate new members and beginners better.
Improve the racing and the social side of your club.
Give your members more for their membership.
Give the underdog a chance.
Get more people at your club
More people at the club = more fun!
Without – spending any money, running any more races or having to add any extra duties.
Read on to discover what happened at Eastbourne when we invented
The best sailor should win, and for the vast majority there is nearly always someone ‘better’ than you in every race. Okay so you practice and improve and get better!
For the average club sailor who may sail only once a week this can take quite some time and maybe they are just not going to improve much for whatever reason.
What you really don’t want is for them to lose enthusiasm and sail less. There are plenty of races for the super stars to shine, what about the back of the fleet sailor?
Those that don’t want coaching, a special diet and fitness regime.Those that want to eat pies, drink beer, just turn up and sail and with a bit of luck (and help) stand a chance of winning the race.
Personal handicaps are ok but what is needed is something more, something fun.
To try something new and kick start our Wednesday evening series I developed a Personal Handicap system with a few twists! Designed to give everyone their moment of glory.
We used Lasers to try and stimulate some more class racing and as there are plenty about cheap! Lasers have always been popular for our Wednesday series, probably as there is limited time available in the evenings and obviously the racing has to be quite short, Lasers and the like are quick to rig, race and get back to the club for the supper!
To save having to roster extra race teams and run extra races the Pratt series ran alongside the existing Wednesday racing (same start line and start time) with entrants in Lasers eligible for both series. I thought it would be fun but as we tweaked and adjusted it, it just took off.
Whereas we usually had 4 or 5 Lasers racing we now manage to break the 20 boat on the water a few times each season.
PRATT or (Personal Rating Against Time Taken) Racing works like this-
Each entrant is given a PRATT number.
This is done by the Prattmeister and Pratt committee who assign a personal handicap time allowance or penalty to everyone in the fleet depending on the following-
How long you have been sailing
What standard you can sail a Laser.
How old your boat is.
How successful a racer you have been.
Age and fitness
Plus any other criteria we decide to implement. (e.g bad hair)
Before the first race the sailors have the right of appeal against their rating but it is agreed that if you appeal you are taking it too seriously and all requests will be denied.
Okay have you got the idea now that it has to be fun?
Any anomalies quickly show up after a few races and the system adjusts itself continually. (See later) After the first season you have everyone’s final Pratt Rating and so are ready to carry them forward to the next year.
To award a Pratt rating is relatively easy
Harry hot shot has a new boat is blooming good and always wins = plus 5
Billy Bloggs has a rubbish old boat, smelly wet suit and is always last = minus 5
Somewhere in the middle is Joe Average who of course = 0 and so on.
A look at the leader board before sailing can either swell your ego as you look at your harsh rating or make you more determined as you may have some handicap minutes advantage over your nearest rival.
The racing takes place as normal, in fact our Pratt series runs in conjunction with the Wednesday evening series and so all the time keeping is carried out as normal.
The results sheet for the Wednesday series is used to obtain the finishing times for the Pratts. Harry Hot shot of course has 5 minutes added to his elapsed time,
Billy Bloggs has 5 minutes taken off his elapsed time and Joe keeps his time etc etc.
If you are racing as part of a handicap series as we do then different rigs can be used e.g. Laser radial, then the Pratt numbers are used on the handicap corrected times
You now have Pratt amended results and can adjust the finishing order.
Points will be awarded depending on your position in the amended results and the number of Lasers taking part in that race
1st place in a fleet of 10 Lasers = 10 points
2nd place in a fleet of 10 lasers = 9 points
3rd place in a fleet of 10 Lasers = 8 points etc etc etc
No points for retirement or non starters (harsh)
These points will accumulate on the Pratt scoreboard to give an eventual winner for the series.
Now it gets interesting and starts people talking about the next race!
Depending on your result in the amended results for each race you have your Pratt rating adjusted for the next race in the series.
1st, 2nd, or 3rd place means you incur an extra minute penalty next time.
Last, 2nd from last or 3rd from last gains you a minutes allowance next time.
So this is the strength of the idea, we encourage mediocrity and penalise success, how very British.
The results for each race are worked out on a flip chart at the bar in front of everyone, to make an event of the results themselves this can be nearly as much fun as the racing!
Cheering when the underdog wins then booing when his Pratt rating climbs for the next race.
Quite often the form book is turned upside down in extremes of weather and the local hot shot could end up first on the water but last on paper!
A thick marker pen and flip chart suffice for the calculations but we backed this up on a laptop as the weeks went by and discards came into play!
You will find that sailors who normally just shoot off home after the race will hang around to see how they fared in the Pratting.
Each sailors points from the race can be added to the Pratt leader board and adjustments made to their Pratt Rating in readiness for the next race
I made an easily adjustable leader board using a magnetic wipe board and magnetic strips. Each strip has the sailors name and a photo not only a good chance for comedy here but it puts a name to a face for newcomers and seasoned members.
Also their current Pratt rating and their current total score. To update after each race I used sticky labels rather than dry-wipe pens to avoid risk of someone tampering with the results!
There are a good number of discards in the series as not many people can make all the races and this makes the final result uncertain until the last race in the series.
If it sounds complicated, don’t worry most sailors just turn up and sail. The rest will happen like magic! Thanks to the person appointed as Prattmeister.
Now for the ‘chaos’ factor we make the series leader race wearing a bright pink lycra top. Unfortunately Rooster didn’t have an extra large in bright pink (funny that) so we had to make do with a medium and force it on the first unlucky leader. Being on the larger side we were grateful to Mark who stretched it for us although it still made breathing tricky for the fatter Pratt.
Of course if there is a change at the top of the leader board then it is followed by an official handing over of the top at the bar. Quite how you explain a wet pink lycra top to the other half when you get home is up to you!.
In time this top will become a much valued trophy, and be a just reward for your efforts on the race course, much like the Tour de France yellow jersey it will be a clear signal to the throngs of spectators that you are a highly tuned athlete and are sailing on the very edge of perfection. Until then you will just look a Pratt.
The final piece of the jigsaw is the one that really stirs the sailors up! Everyone has a Joker they can play only once during the series which doubles their Pratt points for that race!!!! To play your Joker you must mark a J alongside your name on the signing on sheet before you go afloat.
Do you wait for your ideal conditions or take a gamble on a race with a lot of entries???
Best Joker enhanced score last year was 30 points which shot Ricky to the top of the leader board for weeks! This in a Laser that cost just £70!
Worst Joker enhanced score was a lowly 4 points.
Spent Jokers are recorded with a J by the sailors name on the leader board.
With ‘jungle’ rules in force rig changing is allowed and Radial rigs were often used on windy days in an effort to work the system. Much mickey taking resulted and these became know as whoopsy rigs and a W was marked on the results to show all the shame.
One very bright multicoloured Radial was used by the Club Commodore and on those days he became known as ‘Susan’.
The club secretary became known as the light weather bandit, given a generous Pratt rating because of his woeful heavy weather technique the light wind evenings were very much to his liking.
Between races the club forum exploded with posts about the racing everyone keen to tell their story and predict the result of the next race.
Second hand Lasers became as rare as rocking horse poo as people joined in, the older and more smeggy the better and the more the respect when they ended up winning.
The pink top was shared around very successfully as 6 different sailors did their best to stretch it.
Interestingly the number of spectators increased considerably as word spread that we were having some good racing. The galley and bar did more business too, the whole evening helped enormously by the excellent home made meals on offer.
The series rounds off with a prize giving on the last night with prizes for the top10
Last year the stakes were raised and the prize table groaned with all sorts of stuff for the top 10 and the biggest trophy we could find for the winner.
The tension is building here as we prepare for this seasons Pratting at Eastbourne.
More prizes are planned, updates to the magnetic scoreboard are underway and even a few boat upgrades are rumoured.
Hopefully this year all competitors will be wearing a lycra top with their Pratt Rating
stuck on the back!
Good luck if you decide to give it a go
Gary Smith (Prattmeister)