IRC in Canada

by Louay Habib

IRC racing in Canada has going from strength to strength, last year’s IRC North American Championships, hosted by the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, attracted 57 entries, mainly from Ontario but also from the United States. Most of the events are open to visitors from overseas and Lake Ontario is located right next to the city of Toronto. With a multicultural population of about 2.7 million people there is all manner of restaurants, hotels and activities to cater for just about any taste or budget.

Kevin Brown was the co-chair of last year’s IRC North American Championships and has been racing in Ontario for many years. The International IRC Owners Association helps organize a wide variety of events and IRC racing in Canada is very much on the increase, as Kevin explains:

Why do you think that the IRC fleet in Canada is growing?

The Toronto IRC fleet was the first active IRC fleet in North America with the first races held in the spring of 1994. One of the reasons for the success of the IRC rule on Lake Ontario, and the continued growth of the fleet, is that we have very few purpose-built custom boats. The IRC rating system offers a better means of rating our broad cross-section of boats than any other rule that has been used to date on Lake Ontario. The IRC fleet has grown tremendously in recent years, IRC has gained the confidence of all that have been exposed to it with the realization that it is a rule that does a very good job of fairly rating a very wide cross-section of boats and contains no local/regional bias.

What sort of racing is held in North America and how can visitors get involved?

All our events are open events and we encourage participation from beyond our region, especially for the major championship events. There are boats available for charter and always boats looking for experienced crew to join their teams.

IRC is being used primarily for weekend course racing events but in the last few years has now gained a strengthening foothold in the regional distance race events as well. All around Lake Ontario clubs and organizations realize that a two tiered system is best for the health of the racing scene as it can feature PHRF for the entry level programs including white sail and shorthanded sailors and have IRC divisions for the more serious programs in all sized boats.

We have a series of club hosted open regattas that IRC uses as the IRC Lake Ontario Championship Series and between these events there is a 300-mile distance race called the Lake Ontario 300.

In autumn, we have an IRC Fall Series and there are other major standalone regattas throughout the season. We have been the host of the IRC Canadian Championship event for a number of years now and we rotate that event between a number of host clubs in the region. Last year we hosted the IRC North American Championship in Toronto and this year we will be hosting both the IRC Canadian Championship and IRC Great Lakes Championship on Lake Ontario.


2011 North American IRC Championships/John Crawley

What about smaller keelboat racing, is that popular?

We are working to broaden the appeal of IRC by adding an IRC 4 division this year to many of our events. By having four regular divisions it will mean many boat down to the 24-29' size range will have a competitive place to play at weekend events. Our IRC organization will be subsidising the measurement process this year by subsidising the scale rental and putting on free weighing sessions for larger groups. This will keep the costs down and encourage many more boats to be measured for IRC.

What do you see as the main challenges to increased growth of IRC racing in North America?

I think the cost of measurement and to a lesser extent the need for owners to spend the time to get their boats measured is our greatest hurdle. IRC is seen as a stable and very fair rule by all our members but our challenge is to increase the numbers of boats measured to allow us to make the rating spread in divisions as small as possible and keep everyone competitive within their own group.

Because our regional fleet unites boats from both the Canadian and US sides of Lake Ontario, we have measurers who are certified to measure both Canadian boats through the Canadian Yachting Association and US based boats through US-IRC. There is a growing contingent of IRC boats based in Rochester, New York and spread all along the US shore of Lake Ontario including a growing group in Youngstown, New York. Even though we originally voted to accept self-measurement for regional IRC, our dedicated group of regional measurers have been able to work efficiently with local marinas to weigh and measure boats, we now have the entire fleet with either fully endorsed certificates including weighing or fully measured with class weight applied. We currently have about 100 active IRC boats on Lake Ontario with over 80 of those in Canadian ports, with the hub of the activity on the lake centred in the largest metropolitan area within the region – Toronto, Canada,

For more information visit Lake Ontario Racing Council IRC section:



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Header images by:

John Crawley (CAN IRC)  
Jinno (c/o JPN IRC)
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