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IRC rating's 40th anniversary year sees the GBR IRC National Championship leave the Solent for the first time; in 2024, it will be held at 'International' Poole Regatta over the spring bank holiday, 25-27 May, with three days of racing in Poole Bay.

As regular Afloat readers know, Ireland will stage the IRC European Championships in September at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay.

In addition, the 2024 GB IRC Championship calendar is:

MAY

IRC Welsh National Championship

Pwllheli, Cardigan Bay Celtic Regatta

17–19 May 2024

IRC Double Handed National Championship

RORC, Cowes

18 May 2024 – De Guingand Bowl

25 May 2024 – Myth of Malham

IRC Scottish Championship

Tarbert, Loch Fyne; Clyde Cruising Club

24–27 May 2024

IRC National Championship

25–27 May 2024

JUNE

IRC Bristol Channel Championship

Portishead: 15–16 June 2024

Cardiff: 29–30 June 2024

JULY

IRC Two Handed European Championship

5 July – Cowes to St Malo

11 July – Drheam Cup, Cherbourg-en-Cotentin to La Trinité-sur-Mer

IRC South West Championship

Plymouth, Royal Western Yacht Club

12–14 July 2024

AUGUST

IRC East Coast Championship

West Mersea, Mersea Week 50th Anniversary Regatta

18–23 August 2024

SEPTEMBER

IRC Channel Islands Championship

Jersey Regatta

14-15 September 2024

NOVEMBER

IRC Inland Championship

Windermere Cruising Association

November 2024 – March 2025

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Following the international IRC Annual Congress last month, the 2024 IRC rule text is now published on the IRC website and includes changes that reflect what IRC says is its desire to listen to what sailors want and respond to changing trends not only in technical development but also racing practices.

A number of rule changes relate to the rating and setting of sails. From 2024 the total number of headsails carried will be rated, excluding up to two OSR safety sails, to reflect the speed and flexibility advantages gained from carrying multiple headsails (rule 21.7.1).

IRC Notice 2023-01 has recently been updated with further information to help answer owners’ and sail designers’ questions and this can be found on the IRC website.

At the same time, the minimum half-width ratio for IRC-defined flying headsails has been reduced from 62.5% to 60% to open up the design options for this useful sail.

The IRC Technical Committee has also taken the opportunity to simplify the rules surrounding single furling headsails, without removing the limitations on eligibility which are necessary to avoid abuse of this rule (21.8); and regarding the setting of headsails, in particular spinnaker or genoa staysails, IRC now clarifies where a headsail may be tacked (rule 21.3).

In response to requests from event organisers and measurers, for Endorsed IRC certificates any sails certified (measured) after 31 December 2023 will require a measurement sticker or stamp showing the measured data. Sail stamps serve as a visual confirmation that a sail has been properly measured and complies with the rating certificate, and aid equipment inspection at events when checking sails.

Since the introduction and enthusiastic reception of the secondary IRC certificate this year, the IRC rule now clarifies that a valid certificate must be declared before the rating deadline, and helps race organisers and owners understand that the secondary certificate must be declared to be used (rules 8.2 and 8.2.1).

IRC says it has “intentionally never attempted to define fixtures, interior equipment or onboard systems, to avoid such items being designed to meet a minimum definition”. However, an addition to the rule now requires onboard systems and equipment to be fully functional (rule 17.2).

There is also now explicit reminder that moving sails or equipment with the intention of improving performance, commonly known as ‘stacking’, is prohibited. But the rule also allows a race organiser to permit moving sails or equipment, for example for classes that permit this and are racing in an IRC class (rule 22.3.1).

The IRC Technical Committee says it is keen to increase transparency relating to rated inputs and is currently developing a method of publishing the IRC certificate page 2 for every boat with a current rating, to help owners and competitors to easily see the rated configuration.

The 2024 IRC rule applies from 1 January 2024, except in countries with June-May validity where the rule will apply from 1 June 2024.

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Ireland's coastal town of Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay is set to host the next IRC European Championship in September 2024, the 2023 international IRC Congress held in Paris heard recently.

Irishman Michael Boyd, who chaired the Congress and is also Chairman of the IRC Board, told delegates the biennial event will "draw sailors from across Europe and beyond, offering challenging competition and the opportunity to experience the beauty of Irish waters". 

As Afloat reported earlier, the Bay's Royal Irish Yacht Club confirmed three major keelboat events for September 2024

2024 will be the second Irish hosting of the IRC Euros, the inaugural championship was raced as part of  Cork Week in 2016.

The 2023 International IRC Congress was hosted by the Yacht Club de France, joint owners of the international IRC rating rule with the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

The meeting was well attended, with representatives of several countries present along with the IRC teams from the UK and France, while others around the world participated by video conference.

IRC is a rating rule made by sailors for sailors, illustrated by the fact that most IRC Congress members are racing sailors and talking to boat owners, with direct experience on the water that helps shape the proposals and decisions they make in the meeting room.

Reports from the different nations spanning various continents and sailing cultures offered a comprehensive global perspective on IRC racing. This panoramic view helps to identify underlying trends and facilitates valuable exchanges of insights among members from different countries.

Technical developments of the IRC rating rule

The IRC Congress announced a series of rule changes for the 2024 racing season. These changes have been carefully considered and approved by Congress and their aim is to ensure the fairness and competitiveness of IRC racing while addressing specific concerns and developments in the sailing community. The IRC Technical Committee and IRC Congress are committed to keeping the IRC rule system responsive to the evolving needs and practices of today’s sailing community while protecting the existing fleet.

The biggest change for 2024 is the introduction of rating the number of headsails carried. Carrying multiple headsails can give a distinct advantage due to flexibility in a boat’s sail wardrobe for varying conditions, and the ability to increase headsail area by multiple headsails set flying, particularly for larger boats and in a reaching configuration.

From 2024, the number of headsails carried aboard will be rated in IRC. Photo: Paul WyethFrom 2024, the number of headsails carried aboard will be rated in IRC. Photo: Paul Wyeth

For Endorsed IRC certificates any sails certified (measured) after 31st December 2023 will require a measurement sticker or stamp. Sail stamps serve as a visual confirmation that a sail has been properly measured and complies with the rating certificate, and aid equipment inspection at events when checking sails. The design of IRC flying headsails has been opened up with a reduction in the minimum half-width ratio from 62.5% to 60%.

The IRC Technical Committee is committed to further enhancing transparency within the world of competitive sailing and discussions at Congress included improving openness and providing valuable insights into boat ratings and their influencing factors while preventing the potential misuse of data. It is proposed to publish page 2 of the IRC certificate to provide sailors and the sailing community with a clear understanding of each boat's equipment and measurements, such as the number of sails that should be aboard.

IRC events 'thriving'

The conference heard that "events are central to the success of IRC and these events "continue to thrive", with many events seeing notably close results. As well as the major offshore races using IRC, continental championships continue to grow.

Dubai will play host to the 2023 IRC Middle East Championship this December, promising to bring together sailors from the region, offering them a platform to showcase their skills in unique Middle Eastern conditions.

Looking further ahead to the Admiral’s Cup in 2025, RORC has already received interest from over 20 countries, underscoring the event's and IRC’s international appeal.

The IRC Congress Minutes and papers are published here

The 2024 agreed rule changes and full rule text will be published on ircrating.org when finalised.

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A major rule change for 2024 seeks to ensure fair competition among IRC-rated boats with varying sail configurations and address sustainability issues and costs to owners.

The IRC international rating system issues certificates for a huge variety of boat designs, from grand prix racers to cruising boats, and its development always looks at how the rating calculation across this diverse fleet might be improved. 

At the annual International IRC Congress at the end of 2022, the IRC Technical Committee proposed rating the number of headsails from 2024; this was agreed in principle and during 2023, the Technical Committee has been working on the details and implementation of a new rule.

"IRC does not currently rate the number of headsails carried on board"

IRC does not currently rate the number of headsails carried on board, but considers the largest headsail area and longest headsail luff length. However, carrying multiple headsails can give distinct advantages with flexibility in sail wardrobe for varying conditions and the ability to increase headsail area by multiple headsails set flying, particularly in a reaching configuration. In recognition of these advantages, from 2024, the number of headsails carried aboard will be counted and rated, subject to IRC Congress approval.

In recognition of safety requirements, Offshore Special Regulation-compliant heavy weather jibs and storm jibs will not be included in the rated headsail count. Owners may still apply for an additional allowance for using a single furling headsail, and this rule will be simplified.

The IRC Technical Committee has now published the proposed rule changes for 2024 and Notice 2023-01, which gives more information and includes an indication of the rating effects for various numbers of headsails on various sizes and types of yachts.

The proposed change is downloadable below as a PDF.

Another IRC change for most boat owners for 2024 is all endorsed cert boats must have a measurement sticker on each sail, so owners may have to get sails measured during the winter to comply.  

More here

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You'll sometimes hear complaints that the impressive JPK range from France are marginally under-canvassed boats, but what's not to like about that when racing on Friday's slowly easing rough and tumble?

Paul O'Higgin's well-proven JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) took it all in her stride to keep a clean sheet in IRC 0 of the 2023 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta ahead of Pete Smyth's slightly lower-rated Sun Fast 3600 Searcher (NYC), with third going to Johnny Treanor's new J112eGP (NYC) in the first race of three sailed.

Pete Smyth's Sun Fast 3600 Searcher (NYC) lies second by a single point after three races sailed at the 2023 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Bob BatemanPete Smyth's Sun Fast 3600 Searcher (NYC) lies second by a single point after three races sailed at the 2023 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Bob Bateman

And those overall scores were maintained at the close of play on Friday after two more windward leeward courses, with O'Higgins one point clear of Smyth on six points. Treanor trails Smyth by five points on 12 points.

Johnny Treanor's new J112eGP Valentina lies third overall after three races sailed at the 2023 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Bob BatemanJohnny Treanor's new J112eGP Valentina lies third overall after three races sailed at the 2023 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Bob Bateman

The strong southerly winds are expected to continue for Saturday's races before moderating for Sunday's conclusion of the biennial event.

The Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, National Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club, and Royal St. George Yacht Club are organising the ninth Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

Published in DL Regatta: Cr 0

The Royal Ocean Racing Club IRC National Championships is all set this weekend for three days of multiple short-course racing in the Solent.

Four individual UK IRC Class champions and the Overall UK IRC Champion will be awarded at the Prize Giving held at the RORC Cowes Clubhouse on Sunday, 25th June.

The RORC IRC National Championships was first held in 1999, and in over two decades of competition, the overall win has been achieved by a huge variety of boats.

“To become the overall UK IRC Champion a team must first win its class, and predicting class winners is hard enough. Racing is always very competitive, especially after IRC time correction,” commented RORC Racing Manager Steve Cole. “Overall champions have been the latest hi-tech race boats, timeless classics, and just about everything in between. There is always great anticipation for the IRC Nationals because winners will earn the title of National Champions. More often than not the overall winner, which is decided by a published formula, is not decided until the final race, adding to the excitement. All competitors, their friends and families will be made very welcome at the RORC Cowes Clubhouse during the regatta – may the best teams win!”

Tony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator returns to RORC Racing as the scratch IRC boat for the Championships Photo: Paul WyethTony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator returns to RORC Racing as the scratch IRC boat for the Championships Photo: Paul Wyeth

IRC One
Four high performance boats of totally different designs will be racing in the big boat IRC Class. Tony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator won IRC One in 2019 and was runner-up in 2020. Gladiator returns to RORC Racing as the scratch IRC boat for the Championships. A debutant boat for the Championship and to inshore racing will be RORC Commodore James Neville with his newly launched Carkeek 45 Ino Noir. Ian Atkins’ GP42 Dark ‘N’ Stormy was runner-up last year and will provide formidable competition. A young Dutch team led by Gerd-Jan Poortman will be racing Ker 46 ROST Van Uden, which will be looking to improve on third in last year’s championship. ROST Van Uden, like Ino Noir, will also be sharpening their skills for the Rolex Fastnet Race next month.

James Howells’ Cowes-based Cape 31 Gelert Photo: Paul WyethJames Howells’ Cowes-based Cape 31 Gelert Photo: Paul Wyeth

IRC Two
Ten teams, including six Cape 31s will be racing under IRC in the biggest class of the Championship. Two on form downwind flyers are James Howells’ Cowes-based Gelert, winner of three races at the RORC Vice Admiral’s Cup, and American owner/driver Sandra Askew’s Flying Jenny. Rob Bottomley’s Mat 12 Sailplane 3, skippered by Nick Jones should be the fastest in the class upwind. Entries in IRC Two include Johnathan Blanshard’s Ker 36 Skermisher, Sture Wikman’s MC31 Vitres and Rupert Morgan’s X-40 Xinska.

 Adam Gosling, the successful class winner returns with his JPK 1080 Yes! Photo: Paul Wyeth Adam Gosling, the successful class winner returns with his JPK 1080 Yes! Photo: Paul Wyeth

IRC Three
Adam Gosling’s JPK 1080 Yes! is the scratch boat for the class. Statistically, Gosling is the most successful skipper in the history of the event, having won class five times in various boats, all called Yes! (2009, 2011, 2016, 2017, 2021). Yes! has the unusual distinction of a tie for the overall win in 2016 and last year came within 0.005 of a point of winning overall, so this year’s regatta can be deemed unfinished business for the Cowes-based team. Top competition within the class includes Howell & Newell’s A35 Arcus, 2020 overall IRC National Champion, and John Smart’s J/109 Jukebox, class runner-up last year.

Giovanni Belgrano’s one-off 1939 classic Whooper will be hoping to emulate their overall win in 2017 with his Laurent Giles Sloop Photo: Rick TomlinsonGiovanni Belgrano’s one-off 1939 classic Whooper will be hoping to emulate their overall win in 2017 with his Laurent Giles Sloop Photo: Rick Tomlinson

IRC Four
Giovanni Belgrano’s one-off 1939 classic Whooper will be hoping to emulate their overall win in 2017. Whooper is not the only classic at this year’s IRC National Championship, David Murrin’s 1955 sloop Cetaweyo is also from the design board of Laurent Giles. Simon Clifton’s A31 Aztec from the West Mersea YC will be in the mix, as will two Corby 29s; David Mallett’s Touchpaper and the RN Sailing Association’s Cutlass, skippered by Henry Wilson. Chris Baldwin’s Sun Fast 3200 Hair of the Dog is back racing after tenaciously completing the light airs Morgan Cup Race to Dartmouth last weekend. John Allen’s X-302 Antix is a multiple IRC regional champion and has the lowest IRC Rating of the regatta.

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The ISORA Champion, the J109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox), won Class One overall of the 23-boat IRC Welsh National Championships on Sunday (May 14).

After seven races sailed at Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy and Events Centre, the defending champions counted four race wins to be 11 points clear of Andrew Hall's J125 Jackknife, whose last race victory saw him overtake Wilhelmus Batist's Only Magic for the runner-up slot.

The event incorporated the Celtic Championships, IRC 1 and 2 inshore and cruiser racing.

As regular Afloat readers will recall, Mojito won Saturday's 90-mile cross-channel ISORA race from Dun Laoghaire to Pwllheli on May 6th and now adds the Welsh IRC title to her 2023 early successes.

In the eight-boat Class 2 fleet, Adam Kyffin's Eazitiger won by two points after eight races sailed from Ian McMillan's Checkmate on 11. Third was Chris Seal's Brainstorm.

Class three, sailing on NHS handicap four, sailed Suspicious Minds, skippered by Gavin Nicholas, won the six-boat fleet sailing on NHS handicap.

All results here

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The ISORA Champion, the J109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox), leads Class One into the final day of racing at the 23-boat IRC Welsh National Championships on Sunday (May 14).

After three races sailed at Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy and Events Centre, the Pwllheli crew are four points clear of Wilhelmus Batist's Only Magic on nine. Third in the nine-boat fleet is Mike Crompton's Xpletive on ten points.

As regular Afloat readers will recall, Mojito won Saturday's 90-mile cross-channel ISORA race from Dun Laoghaire to Pwllheli on May 6th. 

In the eight-boat Class 2 fleet, Adam Kyffin's Eazitiger leads after four sailed from Ian McMillan's Checkmate. Third is Gary Ward's Altima.

Class three, sailing on NHS handicap four, sailed Suspicious Minds, skippered by Gavin Nicholas, leads the six-boat fleet.

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Is the IRC Rating system no longer fit for purpose? That’s what some in the sailing community feel, and they’ve been sharing their thoughts on the Afloat Magazine Facebook page.

Commenting on our recent story noting the 91 IRC certs confirmed so far on the island of Ireland for the 2023 cruiser-racer season, Dublin Bay sailor Paul Bradley says the IRC Rating office “need to practice what they preach”.

Citing IRC’s claim to “promote the competitive longevity of race boats”, Bradley says: “So how does rating a 27-year-old 31ft one-off cruiser-racer higher than a much younger J109 which is 4ft longer, has a much bigger sail area and is clearly quicker on the water compute to that mantra?”

He adds: “Surely the whole idea of IRC is to rate boats of all design and shapes fairly so they can all compete equally, and it’s left to the level of crew work/tactics to decide who wins on the race course.”

Bradley crews on the Mills 33 Raptor and says the team “have had continuous discussions with the rating office over many years, have presented detailed submissions but have been stonewalled every time.

“We race with friends/likeminded people, have competed in all major Irish events in Ireland since 2006 and will continue to do so, but it’s very frustrating to always be on the back foot with an unfair rating before you even get to the race course.”

Bradley says that Raptor has a VPRS rating but claims there is no appetite from the DBSC or Class 1 boats to adopt the system.

He adds: “IRC have admitted their handicap algorithm doesn’t rate narrow beam boats well but have done nothing to overcome this.”

That prompted fellow sailor Andrew Sarratt to reply: “And they won’t — that’s why some clubs in the UK have moved away from IRC.”

What do you think? Is there a growing demand to move away from IRC ratings in Ireland to reflect the modern diversity of the cruiser-racer fleet? Or are complaints of its inefficacy overblown? Have your say on our Facebook page or email [email protected]

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 In the first two months of this year, over 1300 new IRC 2023 certificates have been issued to boats from 24 different countries, with Irish certificates issued so far numbering 78 in the Republic and 13 in Northern Ireland.

A further 600 boats in 11 countries continue to race in the southern hemisphere season under IRC 2022, which will revalidate at the beginning of June.

The start to the year has therefore been busy for the IRC Rating Offices in Lymington, UK and Paris, France. IRC certificates are not issued automatically to allow the owner to confirm their data annually, each one is processed on application and declaration of any changes is individually checked by the experienced technical team.

IRC is an inclusive rating rule for inshore and offshore racing on six continents. The currently rated fleet encompasses various boats of all ages, shapes, and sizes. While cruiser/racers make up most of the fleet, there are also dayboats, classic yachts, custom race boats and sportsboats enjoying regular racing. Among the currently rated boats, the lowest rated is the Devon Yawl “Eider Duck” (TCC 0.769) with the other end of the scale being the VPLP Supermaxi “Andoo Comanche” (TCC 2.047).

Jason Smithwick, Director of IRC, explains, “The IRC rating rule is used for nearly all the world’s most prestigious yacht races, including the Rolex Fastnet in 2023, which is the world’s biggest offshore race. Over 500 boats are expected to be racing in IRC, where the latest designs of racing boats, including the Supermaxis, will compete, but the data shows that IRC is not just for the hi-tech speed machines that are competing for line honours as well as corrected time. 70% of the current IRC certificates are for boats of 12 metres or less: the forty-foot passionate cruiser/racers are the beating heart of IRC, and we enjoy looking after these boats with the same meticulous service as the rest of the IRC fleet.”

IRC data shows 66% of the boats racing in IRC are over ten years old. A fundamental principle of the Rule is to protect the majority of the fleet while embracing technical development and supporting new designs. IRC aims to promote the competitive longevity of race boats, which also helps to protect the environment.

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Whether you're a boat enthusiast, historian, archaeologist, fisherman, or just taken by the natural beauty of Ireland's waterways, you will find something of interest in our Inland pages on Afloat.ie.

Inland Waterways

Ireland is lucky to have a wealth of river systems and canals crossing the country that, while once vital for transporting goods, are today equally as important for angling, recreational boating and of course tourism.

From the Barrow Navigation to the Erne System, the Grand Canal, the Lower Bann, the Royal Canal, the Shannon-Erne Waterway and the Shannon Navigation, these inland waterways are popular year in, year out for anyone with an interest in rambling; flora and fauna; fishing; sailing; motorboating; canoeing, kayaking and waterskiing; and cruising on narrowboats.

Although most will surely identify Ireland's inland waterways with boating holidays and a peaceful afternoon's angling, many varieties of watersport are increasingly favoured activities. Powerboat and Jetski courses abound, as do opportunities for waterskiing or wakeboarding. For those who don't require engine power, there's canoeing and kayaking, as Ireland's waterways have much to offer both recreational paddlers and those looking for more of a challenge. And when it comes to more sedate activities, there's nothing like going for a walk along a canal or river bank following some of the long-distance Waymarked Ways or Slí na Sláinte paths that criss-cross the country.

Ireland's network of rivers, lakes and canals is maintained by Waterways Ireland, which is one of the six North/South Implementation Bodies established under the British-Irish Agreement in 1999. The body has responsibility for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of inland navigable waterways on the island of Ireland, principally for recreational purposes. It also maintains Ireland's loughs, lakes and channels which are sought after for sailing; the network of canal locks and tow paths; as well as any buoys, bridges and harbours along the routes.

Along the Grand and Royal Canals and sections of the Barrow Navigation and the Shannon-Erne Waterway, Waterways Ireland is also responsible for angling activities, and charges Inland Fisheries Ireland with carrying out fisheries development, weed management and ensuring water quality.

Brian Goggin's Inland Blog

Giving his personal perspective on Ireland's Inland Waterways from present-day activities to their rich heritage, Brian Goggin tells it like it is with his Inland Blog.

From recognising achievements in management of the waterways to his worries on the costs of getting afloat on Ireland's canals, Goggin always has something important to say.

He also maintains the website Irish Waterways History that serves as a repository for a wealth of historical accounts of the past commercial and social uses alike of Ireland's rivers and canals, which were once the lifeblood of many a rural community.