The New Caledonia Groupama Race, like all regattas (coastal, offshore or just around two buoys), is all about speed. Every crew’s aim is to cross the finish line first. For this, the 5th edition of the race, there are nineteen boats entered, both small and large, mono-hulls and multi-hulls. Ordinarily, the bigger ones will arrive first. Even so, smaller craft also have a chance. Everyone can hope for a step on the podium, in their division or on handicap.
A handicap race: for different boats!
The Sydney-Hobart, the Fastnet, the New Caledonia Groupama Race are major events that accept boats that are different from one another. They all satisfy the same safety requirements. However, the yachts are not the same size, nor are the sails. But everyone sails the same course!
These handicap races could be compared to a rally like the Paris-Dakar, where trucks, motorbikes and cars take part. In addition to a place in each of the classes, they can be placed overall. That is how yacht rating came about.
Rating, handicap, ORC, IRC,… these barbaric words merely give a name to a formula that takes into account all the characteristics of a boat (hull shape, sail area, mast height, displacement…) and gives a theoretic speed. Every boat then has its own rating – positive or negative – related to a standard boat.
At the finishing line, the winner is the crew that has sailed the fastest using all available means at their disposal. That is the handicap winner!
And what about divisions in all of that?
The fleet is divided by category, into what are called divisions. A division is made up of yachts that will all have more or less the same speed (and, incidentally, be subject to the same weather).
It’s a little bit like a class race: competitors (and the general public) are thus able to judge their performance with that of very similar craft. One can see straight away if the crew are well placed or not! So we have the “large boat division”, the “multi-hull division”, the 10 to 12 metre division”,…