As published in Scuttlebutt Europe

By the RORC Rating Office / Peta Stuart-Hunt

Part I  30 January 2013

Trucks and Ferraris - It's not a level playing field without some rules!

In the first part of a two-part article, the RORC Rating Office, a world-renowned centre of excellence for measurement, outlines how IRC is trying to find some equanimity when dealing with the equivalent of trucks and Ferraris competing on the same race course.

IRC is for all. This simple statement embodies a fundamental and clear message from the RORC Rating Office to racing sailors that IRC is for the standard cruiser/racer, for the sportsboats, for the latest modern race boats and the more traditional racing and cruising boats. Whilst it might look as though the grand prix racing yachts are all that anybody cares about because of their ability to attract the lion's share of the publicity, the reality is that the focus of IRC is on the mainstream.

However, there are almost as many different types, styles and ages of boats racing as there are owners. No rating rule (not even IRC!) is ever going to deal equitably with all of them, every day, on every race course and in all wind and sea conditions; not even 'multiple handicap' rules. Nobody in their right mind would try and race trucks against Ferraris and yet that is precisely what the sport often persists in doing.

In the past, the RORC Rating Office has tried to separate the types of boats by introducing rules appropriate to those boats. There was IRM during the early 2000s, but that never had enough boats to achieve critical mass. The RYA/RORC Sportsboat Rule was very successful, but with the growth in one-design sportsboats, withered through the late 2000s to the point where with just 40 boats rated, it could not be justified. This leaves IRC trying to reduce the inequities, make allowances for the slower speed of the trucks, and rein in those Ferraris.

IRC gives the cruisers, and the ever-increasing band of cruiser/racers, proper allowance for the furniture and fitout that they carry. It recognises the speed and nimbleness of the Ferraris. It sees and accounts for the mass production nature of the cruiser/racers, and the hi-tech aerospace materials in the grand prix yachts.

IRC must remain up to date and continue to embrace the new and the modern – to be permissive and progressive. But its gatekeepers, the UK-based RORC Rating Office and UNCL in France, should also reach out to those who are to some degree marginalised by the current structures of the sport. For example, those who do not wish to spend money on the latest sailmaking sensation, or fairing the keel to within an inch of its life every weekend during the winter. We're talking 'ordinary' club racers.

In the second part of its article about IRC running tomorrow (date tbc), the RORC Rating Office sends out a rallying cry to clubs to adopt dual scoring and also poses the question: Should there be a separate rating rule for the grand prix and sports boats?


Part II  31 January 2013

Trucks and Ferraris - Clarity and co-operation

So, IRC is for all. But how then can the quality of racing be improved? Achieving this is not just about the rating rule: Clubs and events and their race management are also key.

In an ideal world, clubs and regattas would split their entries into 'truck classes' and 'Ferrari classes', but few fleets are large enough to do that, so inevitably it rarely happens. However, race committees can help by, for example, adopting dual scoring and by varying the style of races - all windward/leewards will result in a truck benefit day, all reaches, a Ferrari day.

So why not ring the changes with courses, and just because it is blowing 20 knots don't automatically call it off.  Why not let the adrenaline seekers have their day and let the sporty types stretch their legs and show what they can do?

Mike Urwin, Technical Director, RORC Rating Office, has long admired the 'Irish solution' of dual scoring everything under IRC and ECHO, their national performance handicap system and says:

"We are now actively and vigorously promoting dual scoring as a means of encouraging the less committed to try racing. We are working with the RYA on re-vamped performance handicap systems to help with this. In addition in the UK this year we are offering 'Limited Validity IRC TCCs' at a reduced cost to those who want to try out IRC or just wish to compete in a single IRC race or regatta each year."

There's more on the Limited Validity (LV) TCC for occasional racers here

The Rating Office is making conscious efforts to de-mystify the sport by introducing small but important initiatives such as the simplified measurement guides and 'jargon buster' on the IRC website. There are a number of seminars taking place around the UK aimed at all cruiser/racer sailors – not just those already using IRC -  and at helping the clubs to put on the best racing possible for their members. More about these here:

Should there be a separate rating rule for the grand prix and sports boats? Past experience tells us that owners will gravitate to the major trophies, the Gold Roman Bowl for the Round the Island Race for example, inhibiting the growth of such as IRM. In the USA, there is the recently developed HPR – High Performance Rule. As yet, the RORC Rating Office has not been directly involved with this, but retains a watching brief and is in close contact with the rule developers.  In other parts of the world, grand prix boats are enjoying competitive racing in IRC.

However, in being open minded and in trying to move IRC and the sport forward, the grassroots and the bedrock of the sport must not be forgotten. The privately owned, amateur sailed, on a budget, production cruiser/racers are fundamental to the cause. This committed group, and the clubs to which they belong, must remain the focus and continue to receive a high proportion of the time and resources of those formulating future IRC policy.