One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1(Originally in yachting) a race in which times are adjusted according to an allowance made to reflect differences in size, weight, etc.
2A race in which participants attempt to finish the course, task, etc., in the shortest time (as opposed to competing directly with one another); (loosely) any race against time.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in The Sporting Magazine.
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