Average lap racing

Time Handicap Races - how they work.

Average Lap Time Handicap Races

IMG_0354.jpgThe principle of the Average Lap Time (ALT) race is that it provides a mass start for all the classes of boat that we sail, and a nominal race length of around one hour for each competitor. It allows slow boats such as toppers and optimists sailed by the juniors to compete fairly with faster ones.

It also means all competitors have the same wind conditions unlike a pursuit race where the wind may vary throughout the race benefitting one particular section of the fleet.

The result of the race is determined by dividing a boat’s elapsed time (finishing time) by the number of whole laps she has completed.

This time is then adjusted using the boat’s Portsmouth Yardstick number (amended as may be decided by the Sailing Committee), which will be referred to as the 'Club Yardstick'.  This will provide the final positions in the race – with the lowest corrected time being the winner.

Races consist of sailing around a set course several times for approximately 60 minutes.  There is no set number of laps.  It is expected that faster classes may complete more laps than some slower boats.


  • There will be a defined start line, which will also constitute the finish line.  This start line will be defined by the flag on the committee boat and a danbuoy flying a yellow flag at the other end of the line.  All boats should pass through this line (the gate) at the end of each lap.
  • The start/finish line will be positioned on the beat between the last mark of the course, as displayed on the committee boat or race box and the first mark of the course.  A mark of the course shall not constitute one end of the start/finish line.  
  • In lighter winds the race officer should lay a course with shorter laps so that a reasonable number of laps can be completed.
  • All boats will start together.  The standard RRS starting procedure will apply – i.e. signals made at 5, 4, 1 and 0 minutes.
  • The elapsed time for each boat will be recorded as she finishes, and corrected later taking into account the number of laps completed and using the Club Yardstick number for that class of boat.  Race results will be based on the corrected average lap times of the boats taking part.
  • Boats will finish when they next cross the finish line after the race officer has sounded the shortened course signal and flies the shortened course flag.
  • The race officer may sound the shortened course signal and start finishing boats at a time prior to 60 minutes to ensure that all competitors will finish as close as possible to the 60 minute target race time.  Some boats may race for more than 60 minutes.

Some boats will sail more laps than others but, as this type of race is based upon average lap time, corrected times will take account of this.

How to run an average lap race. Detailed instructions for race officers.