June 17, 2009
US SAILING Communications Manager
Kate Branagh of the Superyacht Cup sat down with US SAILING’s Offshore Associate Director and offshore ratings expert, Jim Teeters, to discuss his Bucket Rating System. The Horus Superyacht Cup, held on June 24-27 in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, has adopted the Bucket Rating System for their race. This system was developed Teeters and used at the popular St Barth's and Newport Bucket regattas for the past few years, the data is continually being built upon and tuned to allow for the many factors influencing accurate ratings. The system was a great success at the Superyacht Cup Antigua, creating the closest finishes in 14 years of Superyacht Cup racing.
The Bucket Rating System has so far proved to be the most successful system for superyachts, it is simple and aims to be as transparent as possible. Teeters also developed US SAILING’s widely popular Velocity Prediction Program (VPP) and Race Optimization Packages. Here Jim Teeters answers some questions to help display the myths and explain how the Bucket Rating System works.
BRANAGH: The Bucket Rating System has been used at the St Barth's bucket for some years now, how different is the current formula to the original?
TEETERS: 2009 will be the 7th year that the Bucket Rating System has been used for St Barth’s. Before 2003 the start times were based on educated guesses and observation of racing. In 2003 we first introduced the use of a velocity prediction program (VPP) to help with the ratings. The VPP uses fundamental science to analyze the basic performance characteristics of the boats and predicts boat speeds. The success we had with the VPP over the course of the next 2 or 3 events proved just how valuable it was. So, over the course of 7 years we have evolved from educated guesswork to a science tempered with observation.
BRANAGH: How many superyachts have you rated with the Bucket Rating?
TEETERS: We now have over 100 yachts in our system.
BRANAGH: The Bucket Rating System can account for different wind speeds and different types and lengths of courses, what other variables are there?
TEETERS: We can very easily change the ratings for differences in sail inventory, and other boat configuration changes. This occurs in a rational, scientific process without guesswork. We have had occasions where a boat may have torn all their spinnakers, or can no longer use their largest headsail. The rule is nimble and flexible in dealing with this.
BRANAGH: The St Barth's Bucket, Newport Bucket, The Superyacht Cup Antigua and Palma regattas are all adopting the same rating system now, how does this help you build the data and continually improve the accuracy?
TEETERS: The more races we run, the more yachts we handicap, the stronger our system becomes. To keep the system simple and “user friendly” we keep the inputs to the rule to a minimum. Most of the yachts were designed for luxury cruising. Inherent to that are compromises to racing performance. The more chances we have to observe specific boats, and types of boats, the more we understand those compromises. The VPP is really the “connective tissue” that correlates all that we observe and permits us to develop a model of boat performance over a variety of conditions. In essence, we calibrate the VPP formulas with what we see on the race-course. This synergy of science and observation creates a very powerful handicapping tool.”
BRANAGH: How much do you rely on the accuracy of the information you are provided with by the captain or owner and what other information do you gather and how does this contribute to the effectiveness of the rating over a 3 day event?
TEETERS: We supplement the declarations provided by boats with on-line information and design data from designers and the luxury boat magazines. In truth, boat captains don’t always know the exact design details that we find useful for speed prediction. As stated earlier, we want to limit the burden on boats and captains of getting a rating and getting on the starting line. The extra information is very useful in creating accurate VPP models and providing close racing. We can also intuit some of the design data by watching races. If a well-designed boat that does very well in medium winds struggles upwind in 20 knots, then we might conclude she is a bit shy of stability. We can then adjust that directly without corrupting the light air predictions.
BRANAGH: If you have two boats of similar design but one sailed competitively with racing crew and sails and the other set-up for cruising, how would your rating system take this into account?
TEETERS: The philosophy of the bucket rule is to share the wealth yet not reward bad sailing. No two boats are exactly alike so there is some leverage there. The qualities of the sails and inventories are different. The deck layouts or rigs might be set up differently in ways that effect sail handling. All of that is fair justification to apply rating differences. At the same time we are not going to give sweetheart ratings to boats that are poorly sailed.”
BRANAGH: Over a three day regatta how much do you rely on the boats performing to their best ability for each race, would there be any advantages to sandbagging on day 1?
TEETERS: Sandbagging does not pay under the Bucket Rule. Although poor finish results might imply that the boat has design compromises discussed earlier, we do not simply take elapsed times and derive the next day’s start times. The adjustments we make to ratings are implemented gradually. A boat would need to have consistently bad results before she received rating help. By then the regatta would be long over. The strength of the Bucket Rule is that the more you race, the better we know you, the greater the variety of course types and wind strengths you race in, the better we know you. Once we know you, we can give you a start time that will likely result in you approaching the finish line in a tight pack of boats all fighting to cross first.
About US SAILING:
The United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org.