In the hope that one day an ordinary mug like myself could win something other than a lucky dip, how about a real handicap calculation which doesn’t only adjust for age and gender, but also ability?
I originally thought about this years ago and may have even written about it in your old feedback columns. I thought it might be time to revisit and develop something.
Thinking back to the Dezzie idea from a while ago where times were compared to the event winner, there are a number of anomalies:
- Was the winner be particularly fast/slow? Was it an Olympic gold-medal standard or just a Commonwealth Games gold medal standard?
- Were the conditions that the winner swam in significantly different from the rest of the field? This could make your Dezzie look better or worse, and you don't have any idea if you have improved against the field based on your previous efforts.
- On longer swims, the winner is always significantly faster than those finishing further back in the pack, probably because they’re toiling for a much shorter period. This gives you a worse than expected Dezzie.
Where to start??? I’m not a golfer, but, in golf, payers of all abilities are rated and there are similar problems and a well-developed handicapping system. So, I did some golf reading:
- Different courses are assigned course ratings and slope ratings. The course rating is how difficult a course will be for the scratch golfers and the slope rating adjusts according to how difficult the course is for those further back in the pack.
- Scratch golfers are those who’d score “Par” when playing to their ability on a course, so they’re not necessarily the pros, just very good golfers. It seems there are teams of scratch golfers who visit different courses, play them and rate them.
- In Australia, there’s even a daily scratch rating to adjust for conditions, but that’s really getting complicated. Some interesting reading... click here and here
The next step would be to compare each swimmer’s “Event Handicap” (for the swim just completed) with their “Handicap average” taken from their last five swims. The swimmer with the highest “Event performance compared to Handicap average” (the greatest improver in the particular swim) would be the week’s handicap winner. The idea is that the handicap award would be restricted to those swimmers who completed at least five swims over the previous 12 months.
Summary of steps
- Calculate finishing time for the placegetter who finished 12.5% of the way through the field (our scratch swimmer)
- Calculate each swimmer’s time compared to the scratch swimmer. This is the “Event handicap” time for each swimmer.
- Calculate each swimmer’s “Event performance”. This is their event handicap compared to their average handicap from their last five swims.
- The swimmer with the best “Event performance” is the handicap winner.
With all the data (oceanswims.com) must have, this, or something even better, must be achievable. Anyway, I’m not a statistician, or a great mathematician, just a guy who, even after eight years and 70-odd swims, is still trying to figure how he’s going in this oceanswimming caper.
Anyway, it would be interesting for ideas/feedback from your resident stats guru oceanswimmers.