Race Grading ? How & Why

Wednesday, 15 November 2006 19:12 | Written by 
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One of our US readers asked about the grading system used in some of the races in South Africa - this article explains the system.

 

The largest surf ski race series in South Africa is the Discovery Men's Health series which takes place in Durban during winter and East London and Cape Town during summer.  Look at the results of the races on www.surfski.co.za and you notice two things - every paddler is graded, and each result is expressed as a percentage of the winner's time.

 

Why grade the paddlers, and what does the percentage mean?

 

Try starting two or three hundred surf skis at once, and you'll immediately see the benefit of being able split the field into smaller, more manageable batches.  And there are benefits for the paddlers too.

 

Grades

 

So, how to grade?  The accepted standards in South Africa, set by the Discovery Men's Health series are:

 

Singles

 

Elite:

95% or better

A-grade:

85% to 95%

B-grade:

75% to 85%

C-grade:

65% to 75%

D-grade:

55% to 65%

E-grade:

less than 55%

 

 

Doubles

 

A-grade:

95% or better

B-grade:

85% to 95%

C-grade:

75% to 85%

D-grade:

65% to 75%

E-grade:

less than 65%


And how to calculate the percentage?

 

Paddler's percentage = 1-(winner's time - paddler's time)/winner's time x 100

 

If the winner takes one hour, the cut-off times for the various grades are:

 

 

Singles

 

Elite:

01:03

A-grade:

01:09

B-grade:

01:15

C-grade:

01:21

D-grade:

01:27

E-grade:

01:33

 

 

Doubles

 

A-grade:

01:03

B-grade:

01:09

C-grade:

01:15

D-grade:

01:21

E-grade:

01:27

When to use the grading system?

 

The system is really only necessary when the number of entries in a race become large and unmanageable. 

 

How to use it?

 

The Discovery Men's Health series in each city starts every season with a grading race.  The mass start necessary (because no-one has been graded yet) is usually done (in Cape Town) by means of a wet start - with all the paddlers lined up on the water. 

 

After the grading race, the following rules apply:

 

  • If you're entering the series for the first time you start with the E-grade batch and the race is treated as the your grading race.
  • Once you've been graded, in order to be promoted, you must achieve two results at the higher grade.  The two results need not be consecutive.
  • If you fail to achieve your grade in two consecutive races, you're downgraded.

 

The percentages can be used as a points system for series results too.  Percentages can be used in the various categories too - veterans' percentages can be calculated from the winning veteran for example.

 

The series grades are sometimes used for seeding for other races - for example the groups for the Cape Point Challenge are worked out using the to-date series results.

 

Benefits for the Paddler

 

The benefits of the system for the paddler are:

 

  • You start with paddlers of similar ability. 
  • Your percentage (and grade) provides a measure of progress.
  • Prizes are usually awarded for results in each grade.
  • Motivation - to get to the next grade!

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