In sailboat racing, equipment matters. A tub will almost never beat a rocket. One way to compensate for this and restore competition is to use a handicapping system. Here at Saratoga, we use the Portsmouth Yardstick to handicap multi-class races. There are a couple of unsatisfying features of handicap racing, though. First, you have only a vague idea of how you're performing against other boats until after the race is over and the committee has calculated the handicap. Second, there's no such thing as a perfect handicap system. Under some conditions, a boat that normally performs like a tub may look like a speedster and vice versa. No handicap system can account for all conditions that affect boat speed.
Another, more satisfying, way of restoring competition is to sail in similar kinds of boats. Who crosses the finish line first in such a race is then more likely to be decided by the skill of the crew. This is called one-design racing.
For each one-design class of boat there is a national or international association that establishes rules for the type and size of equipment that may be installed on boats of that class. For many classes, the intent of these rules is to keep the cost of maintaining a competitive boat reasonable. Otherwise, you would see equipment arms races where winning is as much a matter of your budget as your skill.
Below are the recognized one-design fleets at Saratoga by fleet size. In accepting new members, the club sometimes shows preference to owners of these class of boats.