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Following its debut as part of Cork Week in 2016 and a stand-alone event held in Marseille in 2017, the IRC European Championship this year will take place out of one of its spiritual homes. Coming to Cowes for the third edition and for the first time in the UK, a record-sized fleet will compete in the 2018 IRC European Championship. It will be one of the most prestigious regattas ever run for IRC, the rating rule created and managed jointly by the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Union Course au Large in France.

The event is open to yachts with IRC TCCs of 0.995-1.270. This equates to Sun Fast 3200, X34s, HOD35 at the smaller end up to FAST 40+s at the top. The fleet will be split into classes, but at the end of the week a single IRC European Champion will be crowned. Last year's winner was the St Tropez-based JPK 10.10 Expresso 2 skippered by Guy Claeys, but perhaps it could be third time lucky for the big boats?

Already FAST40+ yachts including James Neville's Ino XXX and Mike Bartholomew's Tokoloshe have signed up for the event. RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine and his heavily campaigned First 40, La Réponse will also be on the start line: "The IRC Europeans are completely different to the IRC Nationals because the Nationals have no offshore element, so the Europeans will be a much more intense competition than we normally get. It should make it more attractive to overseas entries especially from France, Belgium, Holland and as far away as the Baltic and will support IRC racing in those areas."
The race format for the IRC Europeans will be a challenging mix of inshores and offshores - similar to that used previously for Commodores' Cups. It will comprise up to 10 inshore races (including windward-leewards, round the cans, some reaching starts, etc), a race around the Isle of Wight (carrying a 1.5x points coefficient) and a 150 nautical mile/30-36 hour offshore race (set in the central Channel to suit the wind direction and strength and coming with a 2x coefficient).

Strong entries are already being fielded by the Netherlands, Denmark and the USA. A strong turn-out is also anticipated from French, given that boats from the south side of the Channel have dominated so many of the RORC's major offshores recently, not only winning the last three Rolex Fastnet Races outright but having the majority of finishers in the top 10 in each too.
Incorporating the Commodores' Cup

France also has a title to defend as the IRC European Championship will this year incorporate the Commodores' Cup, the RORC's biennial event for three boat teams with amateur crews.

To simplify putting teams together, for 2018 the Commodores' Cup has been fully opened up. Boats must comply with the overall IRC TCC limits for the IRC Europeans, but there are no longer any class restrictions for Commodores' Cup boats, nor a requirement for one to be a 'big boat'. Similarly, teams are no longer have to enter the event as nations via their Member National Authority. Instead teams can decide themselves whether they wish to represent a nation or a region or their yacht club or simply three likeminded friends with boats can get together, regardless of their nationalities.

Any boats entering the IRC Europeans can be part of Commodores' Cup teams, however as the Commodores' Cup is a competition for Corinthian crew, boats entering in this will be limited to having one World Sailing categories Group 3 'professional' aboard. The number of pros on board is unrestricted on boats only entering the IRC Europeans.

Andrew McIrvine's La Réponse will be entering the Commodores' Cup once again with a British team: "The Commodores' Cup style of competition has always been very challenging with continuous pressure through the week. To allow a much bigger fleet in the Europeans as well as the team entries in the Commodores' Cup will make the event much more competitive."

Chris Stone, Racing Manager of the RORC added: "With the IRC European Championship coming to Cowes for the first time, we are expecting it to be the most significant events ever held for IRC. That will be very exciting. Plus the format provides a great mix of courses with the inshores in the Solent, the race around the Isle of Wight and the longer offshore. With those mixed courses we will certainly see different boats up front.

Published in RORC
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The International Rating Certificate (IRC) has made a flying start to 2018 with increased numbers of rating applications in the first month of the year and nearly 1000 certificates issued in January. RORC says 'This is very positive for IRC as certificates are not automatically renewed. Owners must apply for a new certificate through their local IRC Rule Authority and advise any changes to the boat’s configuration before the certificate is issued by the RORC Rating Office or UNCL Centre de Calcul, joint owners and administrators of IRC'.

In Ireland, Irish Sailing says they have have had 50 IRC revalidation applications plus four trial cert applications so far this season. According to Chief Executive Harry Hermon,  this is trending 'exactly the same as last year'. 

2017 saw total Irish certs of 419 (includes all applications – revalidation, new, trial, amendment etc) so the view is that this will be the same in 2018, with a 'possible small increase'.  

March/April/May/June are the peak months for IRC applications in Ireland.

Changes to the IRC rating calculations are implemented every January to cater for technical innovations in yacht design, a practice implemented by the IRC Technical Committee to foster close racing and protect the main fleet while remaining progressive.

Over the last 12 months the Technical Committee has been studying the effects of foils and how they are rated. Boats such as Infiniti 46 Maverick using the Dynamic Stability System will see a change in her rating from which she will benefit for the upcoming RORC Caribbean 600. Other developments for Spinlock IRC 2018 include changes to the calculations affecting: the rating of spinnaker area, sports boats, and boats that set headsails from bowsprits and do not carry spinnakers.

The ‘dayboat’ classification has also been removed from the Rule, leaving assessment of boats’ Offshore Special Regulations compliance to event organisers.

Published in RORC
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The IRC Yearbook arrived in the post as I prepared to write this week’s Podcast. It is sent out together with your notice to renew your Handicap for the season ahead. Only, ‘oops’, the word ‘Handicap’ is no longer acceptable.

Peter Wykeham-Martin, Chairman of the IRC Congress, writes an editorial in the yearbook where he asks all IRC Certificate holders, or as it has been called for many years, a ‘Handicap’ to “please don’t use the word ‘handicap’ when talking about IRC.”

“Handicaps,” he says, “are what you bet on in horse racing and include a jockey’s form.”

“Rating,” Peter declares, “is what we use in IRC to assess a boat’s potential performance – the ability, or lack of ability of the helmsman and crew is not included.”

Is Chairman Wykeham-Martin writing with ‘tongue-in-cheek’ or is he having a ‘dig’ at ECHO ‘handicap’ system – Oops - there’s that word again?

He’ll have a bit of a job to eradicate the description ‘handicap’ from racing, but maybe the desire to do so is part of the changes which are announced in IRC in the very first page of the Yearbook. There are seven Rule Changes listed, plus ‘Definitions’ and other changes.

Amongst them the ‘default’ values for mainsail widths have been deleted, as this was considered inconsistent with the Rule on Headsails.

One of the more fundamental changes in the Rules is the deletion of the ‘Dayboat Definition and Rule 24.’ IRC and its predecessor CHS - remember that ‘handicap system’ –had defined a Dayboat as one which could not comply with Offshore Special Regulations and so Rule 24 stipulated a minimum self-righting angle and items that IRC-rated or ‘handicapped’ depending upon your regard for words and the Chairman’s view, should carry. In quite a few instances ‘Dayboat’ definition seemed to have a relevance to lifelines and, so could refer to boats from 1720s to J Class Yachts.

If you are an IRC holder, look it all up in the yearbook, but don’t mention the word ‘handicap’ if you want to ‘rate’ with the IRC afficionados!

Listen to the Podcast here.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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It is now confirmed that the International Paint Poole Regatta 2018 on the English south coast will be hosting a record number of championships. Five UK National Championships and two Southern Area Championships have been confirmed for the regatta so far. As the weeks go by, the 2018 regatta is shaping up to be the biggest and best since its re-launch in 2000 and the regatta committee are still working tirelessly to add exciting new features.

The classes holding their National Championship at Poole are the J24, HP30, MOCRA, VPRS and 2.4mR. The 2.4mR class will also be holding their Tidal Championship at Poole Regatta.

With no IRC National Championship in 2018 and the European Championship being held in Cowes limited to boats rating over 0.995, the IRC Southern Area Championship being run as part of the regatta takes on a far greater significance this year. With at least three IRC classes planned, crews are expected to use the event either as their premier championship in 2018 or as a warm-up for the Europeans taking place in June. The Shrimper class will also be holding their Southern Championship during the weekend.

The regatta committee confirmed to Afloat.ie that they will offer free berthing during the regatta for any entrants travelling from Ireland. 

Hopefully that is of interest to your racing community and provides that little extra incentive to head round to the channel and compete. The regatta is just a few days before Poole Boat Show and a couple of weeks before the IRC European Championships, so it could be a good warm up event for anyone participating there.

“With so much silverware available to win, multiple race courses designed to provide dynamic racing for each class and our renowned social events, we really feel that The International Paint Poole Regatta 2018 is going to exceed previous editions in terms of competitive activity on the water and overall event atmosphere. We still have a lot of work to do before May, but can’t wait to host these competitive championships.” Martin Pearson - Regatta Chairman.

To find out more about Poole Regatta click here.

Published in Racing
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At midday on Monday 8th January 2018 entry will open for all Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) races, including the Season's Points Championship comprised of 14 races, as well as the highlight of the UK Solent season - the IRC Europeans and Commodores' Cup.

Competitors entering the IRC Europeans (8-16th June) are invited to form a team of three boats with members of their own yacht club or with boats from their region. Alternatively, contact the RORC Race Team who will provide a list of boats entered, but not yet part of a team.

The biggest contest in the 2018 RORC programme is the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race on Sunday 12th August. At 1,805 nautical miles, it is three times longer than a Fastnet Race and attracts experienced offshore sailors looking for a serious challenge. Starting and finishing in Cowes, it is on a four-year cycle due to the toughness of the race. Circumnavigating all the islands of the UK, including the most northerly point Muckle Flugga, it negotiates headlands with tidal challenges all around the UK and faces the notorious British weather.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club's UK domestic season fires up with the Easter Challenge (30th March to 1st April) and offers crews the chance to work on pre-season training and fine-tuning. With the relaxation of RRS41, the highlight of the event is the availability of a selection of experienced coaches on the water to assist with getting back up to speed.

Published in RORC
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Ker 46 Lady Mariposa, skippered by Daniel Hardy, has won the 2017 RORC Cherbourg Race, after holding off a strong challenge from James Neville's HH42 Ino XXX writes Louay Habib. After IRC time correction, 29 seconds was the winning margin, after a high speed blast to Cherbourg across the English Channel. Edward Broadway's Ker 40 Hooligan VII was third, completing the podium for overall honours. The 75 mile race featured a tight reach west out of the Solent, followed by a moon-lit downwind sprint to Cherbourg across the English Channel.

“We were over at the start, as was Ino XXX, so the race didn't start well. We re-started correctly and then went for the island shore, which worked out well for tidal relief. As the last start of the race, we had to work our way through the whole fleet, and after a luffing match with Bob, we were in clear air after the Needles, and put our foot down. The wind speed was up to about 20 knots from the north west, we were surfing towards a rising moon, just classic offshore racing, swapping out grinders and giving it our all. During the night, the wind speed decreased, and with a westerly going tide, we had to be careful not to heat up too much in the quest for speed, and end up too high at the finish. We lost track of Ino XXX but we knew it would be close, so to just get the win, was very satisfying.”

In IRC Zero, Lady Mariposa was the winner, and now leads the class for the season. Ross Hobson's Open 50 Pegasus Of Northumberland, racing Two Handed, was second for the Cherbourg Race, and Stephen Durkin's Farr 52 Bob, sailed by Jonathan Tyrrell, was third. In IRC One, Ino XXX was the winner, and now leads the class for the season. Hooligan VII was second for the Cherbourg Race, and Tor McLaren's MAT 1180 Gallivanter, sailed by Andrew Horrocks, was third.

In IRC Two, the race winner was Nick & Suzi Jones' First 44.7 Lisa, sailed by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd. Lisa was just seven seconds ahead of Gilles Fournier's J/133 Pintia, after IRC time correction. Christopher Daniel's J/122e Juno was third. Suzi Jones has competed in all races on Lisa this season, juggling commitments, including bringing up three young children. “You need a really good babysitter, looking after three young boys is a tough job” commented Suzi. “I miss them dearly but it gives me a bit of a rest. On board Lisa, we have quite a young crew, so I can be mother to them too! Above all I love racing with the RORC because I am ultra competitive, and I love winning.”

In IRC Three, Ed Fishwick's Sun Fast 3600 Redshift Reloaded, racing was the winner by less than a minute after IRC time correction. Delamare & Mordret's JPK 1080, Dream Pearls was second, and Rob Craigie's Sun Fast 3600 Bellino, racing Two Handed, was third. In IRC Two Handed, Redshift Reloaded was the winner, Bellino second, and Ian Hoddle's Sun Fast 3600 Game On was third. Bellino has retained the lead in IRC Two Handed for the RORC Season's Points Championship.

In IRC Four, Jerome Desvaux's Sprint 108 Jurassic - Captain Corsaire, scored a memorable victory over fellow French competitor Noel Racine, racing JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew. Paul Kavanagh's S&S Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan, was third for the race, and moves up to second, behind Foggy Dew, for the RORC Season's Points Championship.

At the Prize Giving held at the Yacht Club de Cherbourg, RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd, spoke on behalf of the competitors, thanking the club for their generous hospitality. The President of the Yacht Club de Cherbourg, Jean Le Carpentier, and RORC Racing Manager, Nick Elliott, officiated at the awards ceremony. 

Published in RORC
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Waterford Harbour Sailing Club's A35, Fools Gold, skippered by Rob McConnell returned to Wales at the weekend for another regatta campaign. Having won the IRC Welsh Nationals in August in Pwllheli, the Dunmore East boat has gone on to win Abersoch Keelboat Week, IRC division one by half a point.

Fools Gold was up against a range of cruiser–racers in her ten boat fleet including J109s, J97s, Corbys and a Beneteau 234.7. Results are here.

16–year–old helmsman, Dunmore East 420 dinghy champion, Geoff Power got his first taste of cruiser–racing on the tiller of Fools Gold.

A two race retirement after a broken rig, was no barrier for McConnell's crew who, among others, squeezed out ISORA overall leader Mojito for the win.

The Wateford crew also won 'Best Visiting Boat' Trophy at Abersoch. The win completes a successful season for McConnell who also clinched Sovereigns Cup overall honours in July.

Published in ICRA
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What has been ideal night sailing conditions for this race in past seasons was certainly not ideal last Friday night, 18th August, for ISORA’s Night Race. Weather forecasts all agreed on what faced the fleet of 18–boats that came to the start line writes Peter Ryan, Chairman of ISORA.

Four other boats had earlier pulled out. All forecasts were promising westerly winds of 25–knots and gusting. This was to remain before moderating by early morning.

Due to the conditions the Sailing Committee decided not to use the traditional turning mark on the course, North Arklow, but instead use an inshore course, keeping the fleet away from the banks. The course was: Start at Dun Laoghaire – North Burford (S) – Killiney Outfall (P) – Breeches Buoy (P) – South Burford (S) – Finish between the pier heads in Dun Laoghaire – 36 miles.

The race started in the 25 knots of westerly wind, sending the fleet fast broad reaching towards North Burford. Some of the boats attempted to hoist spinnakers but no great advantage was gained due to handling difficulties as the westerly winds gusted up to 32 knots. Daragh Cafferkey’s “Another Adventure” was first to round followed by Chris Power-Smith’s “Aurelia”.

JEDI INSS ISORA 1773Just back from a top showing at the Rolex Fastnet Race, Kenny Rumball's Jedi from the Irish National Sailing School competed in ISORA's night race and won Class One Photo: Afloat.ie

The next leg was a loose fetch / tight reach down to Killiney Bay. The fleet had split at this stage. “Aurelia” had passed “Another Adventure” to round that mark first. Close behind the leaders was Kenneth Rumball’s “Jedi” of the INSS and Roger Smith’s “Wakey Wakey” and Vincent Farrell’s “Tsunami”.

ISORA night race route18–boats came to the start line for the ISORA night race along the Dublin and Wicklow coast

The next long leg south to Breeches was another broad reach but this time those boats who ventured to hoist spinnakers broke away from the fleet, despite the many broaches. Rounding Breeches Buoy, “Aurelia” still was maintaining its lead just ahead of “Another Adventure”.

The following leg was a fetch north to South Burford. “Aurelia” had by this time extended its lead from “Another Adventure” followed by “Jedi”, Colm Buckley’s “Indian”, “Tsunami” and Paul Egan’s “Platinum Blonde”.

The last leg to the finish was a beat. “Aurelia” continued to extend his lead and took Line Honours, IRC Overall and IRC Class 0. “Jedi” just pipped “Another Adventure” by 26 seconds to take 2nd IRC Overall and IRC Class 1. Derek Dillon’s “Big Deal” took IRC Class 2.

In ECHO, Jim Schofield’s “Thisbe” took Overall and Class 2. “Aurelia” took Class 0 while “Jedi” took Class 1. Full results can be found here

The next race takes place next Saturday, 26th August, a day race from Dun Laoghaire to Greystones. This is one feeder race to the Greystones Regatta to take place the following day. A fleet of 25 boats from a list of 33 entries are expected to make their way to the start line.

MOJITO ISORA J109 1829J109 Mojito holds a narrow lead in the overall Avery Crest Offshore Championship going into the Dun Laoghaire–Greystones race this weekend. Photo: Afloat.ie

The Overall Avery Crest Offshore Championship is hotting up with “Mojito” slightly ahead of the current Champion “Sgrech” and followed closely by “Jedi” and “Aurelia”. With a large fleet expected for the last offshore from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire on the 9th September, it is possible for any one of those boats to snatch the coveted “Wolf’s Head” trophy.

Published in ISORA
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With light winds forecast for the final day, the fleet left the event pontoons to the two racing areas in glorious sunshine, a relief to shed the wet weather gear! IRC 1 and 2 sailed two windward/leeward races off shore from a committee boat start, where the breeze held steady from the south–east at 4–7 kts enabling some steady racing. "Fools Gold" and "Dark Angel" each won a race in IRC 1 giving the overall first for the championship to "Fools Gold" adding another title to their successful campaign this season following a win at June's Sovereign's Cup in Kinsale.

In IRC 2 "Checkmate" and "Injenious" each won a race today with the IRC 2 overall championship won by "Legless Again" who sailed consistently all weekend. "Luvly Jubbly" won all three races in IRC 3 sports boat class and the overall win, in a class which we hope to build for next year, racing around the club marks off the club line.

IRC 4 Cruiser class was won today by "Paraiba" with overall championship in this class by Roger Fitzgerald in His Delher 29 Ella Trout III.

Prize-giving followed racing, and crews enjoyed a carvery dinner after Plas Heli and Championship Chairman Stephen Tudor thanked the Royal Dee team for their race management of IRC 1 and 2 and Robin Evans for IRC 3 and 4

Full results and photographs here 

Next year's provisional dates for the IRC Welsh Championships are: 17-19th August

Published in ICRA
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The second ever IRC European Championship took place in the south of France over four days last week for an international fleet of 53 boats.

While last year the inaugural event was incorporated into Cork Week, this year's IRC European Championship was a stand-alone affair, held off Marseille, the 2017 European Capital of Sport and the potential 2024 Olympic sailing venue, should Paris win its bid. It was run by the Union Nationale pour la Course au Large (UNCL), in conjunction with the three Marseille clubs, Centre Nautique et Touristique du Lacydon (CNTL), Societe Nautique de Marseille (SNM) and Union Nautique Marseillaise (UNM) - the first time they had organised a major international regatta together.

Somewhat disappointingly, given Ireland's strong IRC involvement through ICRA, there were no Irish entries and a single British entry in the RORC event.

At one point. it was hoped that inaugural champion Paul Gibbons Anchor Challenge from Cork Harbour might be in a position to defend her title but with three major IRC regattas within just a few weeks in Ireland this year it would only have been a full pro crew that could have contemplated the Marseille trip.

It would, of course, be in Royal Cork's interest to see Irish participation given the club has bid for the IRC Euros again in 2020, its tricentenary year.

The Marseille 2017 IRC European Championship title was open to boats with an IRC TCC of 0.900 -1.400. In practice entries ranged from 31 footers to TP52s, with IRC, the rating rule of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and UNCL, creating a level playing field for all. Racing was held on windward-leewards and longer courses around Marseille's off-lying Frioul islands in conditions ranging from light on the first two days, building over the weekend into the high teens.

IRC Zero for the fastest boats, featured four TP52s and the Italian Cookson 50, Endless Game, helmed by Spanish double Olympic medallist Luis Doreste Blanco. The longest boats were the Swan 601, Lorina 1895 and the Wally 60, Wallyño, which, despite the grand prix competition, led IRC Zero after day two.

However ultimately crowned 2017 IRC European Champion was one of the smallest boats: the JPK 10.10, Expresso 2 in IRC Four. Owner Guy Claeys regularly races shorthanded, but on this occasion Expresso 2 was sailed with a full crew including Olympic Soling sailor turned sailmaker, Sylvian Chtounder.

The 1994 vintage Alice, originally owned by Vendee Globe skipper Mike Golding, was the sole British entry in this year's IRC Europeans and impressively counted no points worse than a second.

Surprisingly in IRC Three, the top three boats were all Farr 36s, Alice and Frantz Philippe's second-placed Farr 36 Absolutely, recent winner of the inshore racing at Rolex Giraglia Cup, both IRC-optimised by Wicklow designer Mark Mills. They and Week End Millionaire all overcame race favourite, Gilles Pages' Sun Fast 3600 Tip, present leader of the UNCL's 2017 Mediterranean IRC Championship. 

Overall results by class (including discard)
IRC Zero
1. Team Vision Future - Jean-Jacques Chaubard (FRA) - 18
2. Phoenix - Hasso Plattner (USA) - 19
3. Arobas2 - Gerard Logel (FRA) - 22

IRC One
1. Tonnerre de Glen - Dominique Tian (FRA) - 7
2. Imagine - Jean-Claude Andre (FRA) - 16
3. Cippalippa Rossa - Paolo Guido Gamucci (ITA) - 17

IRC Two
1. Geranium Killer - Pascal Fravalo (FRA) - 8
2. Jivaro - Yves Grosjean (FRA) - 15
3. Adrenaline - Michel Gendron (FRA) - 15

IRC Three
1. Alice - Simon Henning (GB) - 8
2.Absolutely - Philippe Frantz (FRA) - 20
2.Week-end Millionnaire - Yves Ginoux (FRA) - 23

IRC Four
1. Expresso 2 - Guy Claeys (FRA) - 7
2. Fioupelan - Frederic Forestier (FRA) - 28
3. Old Fox - Paolo Colangelo (ITA) - 28

Published in RORC
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