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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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The eighth IRC European Championship will be held from Monday, 29th May to Saturday, 3rd June 2023, in Cannes.

As a major event of the international IRC season, the Cannes IRC European Championship 2023 aims to bring together more than 60 boats around a programme based on tactical and coastal courses, as well as a long coastal race.

The event will be organised by the Yacht Club de Cannes with the support of the Pôle Course of the Yacht Club de France and the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

The Notice of Race is online here on the MANAGE2SAIL website and entries are open:

IRC European Championship 2023 Classes

  • IRC 0 : TCC equal or over 1.300
  • IRC 1 : TCC below 1.300 and equal or over 1.150
  • IRC 2 : TCC below 1.150 and equal or over 1.065
  • IRC 3 : TCC below 1.065 and equal or over 1.010
  • IRC 4 : TCC below 1.010 and equal or over 0.940

IRC ENDORSED certificates are required to participate in the event.

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The IRC rating Race Management Guidelines offer advice to event organisers for racing under RORC's IRC Rules for cruiser racing.

They include guidance and suggestions that a race organiser may wish to consider and give suitable wording that may be used in a Notice of Race while allowing the freedom for these to be tailored to specific circumstances or the local fleet.

Subjects covered by the guidelines include crew limitations and ways to encourage youth and female crews, different ways to split your fleet into appropriate classes, protest limits, certificate validity and rating changes.

The guidelines have recently been updated with the addition of the new secondary certificate and the subsequent importance of setting a suitable rating deadline, and suggestions for events that wish to allow autopilots.

More here

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The inaugural Royal Ocean Racing Club IRC Middle East Championship, organised by the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, will be held from 17-18 December 2022

IRC Rating is strong in the Middle East with the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (DOSC) supporting the rating system and attracting competitors from across the region, including the popular annual Dubai to Muscat Race. Through this continued development and recognising their support DOSC have been awarded the inaugural IRC Middle East Championship.

The Dubai Offshore Sailing Club Photo: Pia Torelli photographyThe Dubai Offshore Sailing Club Photo: Pia Torelli photography

Over 40 boats are expected for the AGMC IRC Middle East Championship organised by the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club from 17-18 December 2022. Four IRC Classes are expected with three IRC Racing Classes and an IRC Cruiser Class.

Five races are scheduled over two days with three inshore races on December 17th followed by an inshore race and a double point scoring Coastal Race on December 18th.

“In recognition of the continued growth in IRC keelboat racing both in Dubai and throughout the Middle East, The Royal Ocean Racing Club and the IRC Board have great pleasure in granting the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club rights to hold the IRC Middle East Championships in 2022,” commented Dr Jason Smithwick, Director of Rating. “This event will be a significant addition to IRC events around the world and we believe this is a good opportunity to mutually promote Dubai as the regional centre for the sport of modern keelboat sailing. We wish the club, and all competitors, the best for the event.”

“We are very excited to be hosting the first IRC Middle East Championships and look forward to this growing in the years to come,” commented DOSC Rear Commodore Ed Shiffner. “We would like to recognise AGMC BMW for supporting the event, as well as the dedicated team at DOSC who are committed to hosting an enjoyable and successful Championship.”

DOSC was established in 1974 through the generosity of His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum, who granted land along the coastline for the purpose of sailing. The impressive DOSC facility is in Central Dubai with a 150-berth marina on the Arabian Gulf. The renowned DOSC Clubhouse Restaurant is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. An impressive turnout is expected from members of the host club. However, the AGMC IRC Middle East Championship is an open event, all teams are invited to contact DOSC for details.

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For the first time, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s GBR IRC National Championship in 2024 will not take place from the club’s base in Cowes but will form part of the  Poole Regatta. The 26th edition of the IRC Nationals, one of the major annual regattas for the international rating system operated by the RORC, will take place on Poole Bay over 25-27th May 2024.

Held biennially, Poole Regatta as usual, will be organised by the Combined Yacht Clubs of Poole and Poole Yacht Racing Association. This year’s event included the IRC Southern Area Championship.

One of the oldest sailing events in the world, the Poole and Bournemouth Regatta, as it was originally known, was first held in 1849. At this time, yachting was a popular pastime of royalty and the aristocracy, with clubs being set up and regattas held around the UK’s entire coastline. 

Sam Laidlaw's Quarter Tonner racing Poole Bay Sam Laidlaw's Quarter Tonner racing Poole Bay

Originally the Poole and Bournemouth Regatta was raced for The Canford Cup, a George IV silver vase made in 1822. The trophy was first awarded in 1849 to Gleam, of P Roberts, Esq of the Southern Yacht Club in Southampton. It subsequently disappeared for decades, until it was recovered in 2015. Recently it has been won by Sam Laidlaw's Quarter Tonner Aguila in 2016, Richard Powell's Marvel in 2018 and this year by Ed Wilton’s Who’s Next.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s GBR IRC National Championship in 2024 will form part of the International Paint Poole Regatta.  L to R: Andrew Pearce, President International Paint Poole Regatta, Jeremy Wilton, RORC CEOThe Royal Ocean Racing Club’s GBR IRC National Championship in 2024 will form part of the International Paint Poole Regatta. L to R: Andrew Pearce, President International Paint Poole Regatta, Jeremy Wilton, RORC CEO Photo: Chris Jones

The UK IRC National Championship was first held in 1999 with the advent of the RORC/UNCL’s new IR2000 rule. Developed from the Channel Handicap System (CHS), the maths behind the IRC rule is undisclosed to avoid the arms race that inevitably occurs when competitive, well-resourced teams attempt to optimise their yachts to published rules. Between CHS and IRC, the rule has been refined over the course of almost 40 years and between them the RORC/UNCL rating offices hold a huge database spanning small keelboats to the world’s largest superyachts, from cruisers to grand prix racers. Significantly all certificates issued in the UK, both Standard and Endorsed, are verified by the professional staff at the RORC Rating Office.

As adding complexity to rating systems typically leads to little or no change in results, the IRC has been deliberately kept simple with ratings calculated from declared boat data for standard certificates (i.e. no need for measurement) while for an IRC Endorsed certificate a yacht’s data must be verified by measurement but without the requirement for complex stability and hull measurements. A yacht’s IRC rating is expressed as a single number (TCC) for time-on-time rating and can be used at events internationally. In practice this makes it relatively simple for teams to calculate their position on the course and their result within seconds of finishing.

Andrew Pearce, Poole Regatta President commented: “We are delighted that the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) have announced that they are inviting the Poole Regatta to host the IRC Nationals as part of their regatta in 2024. Moving it out of the Solent to Poole is something we have been talking about for some time as the two regattas fit very comfortably together. With three days and eight races the two regattas are a perfect fit, and Poole being a very short trip out of the Solent should encourage all potential boats that are interested in racing in the event.” 

Cape 31s racing at Poole Regatta Photo: David Harding Cape 31s racing at Poole Regatta Photo: David Harding 

Jeremy Wilton, RORC CEO was present at the announcement on the first day of the Southampton International Boat Show and commented: “It is a real pleasure for RORC to be part of the Poole Regatta. It may not seem like a big decision to move the IRC Nationals away from its traditional home of Cowes, but it is a big decision within the Club and within IRC to actually move the event. It’s never been done before and as it has the title ‘Nationals’ we felt it was really important to take it to a different part of the UK.

Jason Smithwick, Director of Rating at RORC Rating Office commented: “We are excited to have the event as part of the Poole Regatta. For some time we have had the idea of moving the IRC Nationals to other locations to vary the venue and allow other boats to participate in their local waters and now is the perfect time. We hope Poole will attract the regular Solent racers and in particular the boats from the South West and beyond. Poole is a perfect first edition of this initiative with great race organisation and sailing waters. RORC will of course, be part of the core team in helping the Poole Regatta deliver a world class Nationals event that IRC sailors deserve.”

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On the last of four days of magnificent racing off the Dutch port of Breskens, two final races were held and the winner of the 2022 IRC European Championship decided by the closest of margins.

Coming off the water it looked very much like this 7th European Championship for the RORC and UNCL’s popular rating rule would go to the fleet’s smallest boat. Alain Rousseau and his largely French crew on the Dehler 29 Picsou enjoyed a resounding regatta, first winning the double points-scoring, non-discardable medium coastal race on Thursday and then, over the last three days following this by scoring five bullets in eight races. This included wins in both of today’s windward-leewards held in a 10-16 knot north-easterly. 

Team Moana celebrate their win Photo: Ronald den DekkerTeam Moana celebrate their win Photo: Ronald den Dekker

However, the results of Francois Goubau and his team on board the Bénéteau First 47.7 Moana were almost as good, but significantly they were achieved in a larger class of 18 boats (IRC 0 and 1 combined) compared to IRC 3’s nine. Using IRC’s formula that takes into account each boat’s result, plus numbers of scoring races sailed and class size, it was instead Moana that was crowned the 2022 IRC European Champion, just 0.003 of a point ahead of Picsou after calculations were completed.w

“It is surprising for sure, but I am very pleased,” said an elated François Goubau, who had assumed, like many, that Picsou’s excellent scoreline had won her the prestigious title. “I think this is the biggest championship I have won in sailing in 30 years.” 

Moana is a 2000 vintage cruiser-racer from Farr Yacht Design that Goubau has been racing since 2005 with a large contingent of immediate family, including his wife Michèle Gelhausen and sons Laurent, Mathieu and Alexis. While Moana may be a relatively old family cruiser, racing her has been, and remains, no casual thing. Goubau is a past Commodore of the Royal Belgium Sailing Club in Zeebrugge and since 2005 the dark blue hull of Moana has been seen out on the Solent for more days than many local race boats.

For this, her first ever IRC European Championship, Moana arrived fresh from a class win at Cowes Week. But most impressive is their Rolex Fastnet Race track record: In 2021, they took part in their 11th consecutive edition, having podiumed in three. Despite only being 38 years old, for their helmsman son Mathieu it was his 12th participation in the biennial race.

Of the IRC European Championship, Francois Goubau commented: “It has been perfect. It was ‘sailing weather’ with the sun and the wind - and the organisation was perfect.” As to why they won, this was clearly in part due to the crew’s super-familiarity with Moana, but also as Goubau explained, because “we prepared the boat very well last winter. We don’t have new sails but we took a lot of time to prepare the underwater shape. After COVID we had forgotten nothing!”

Alain Rousseau's Dehler 29 Picsou - six bullets in nine races Photo: Ronald den DekkerAlain Rousseau's Dehler 29 Picsou - six bullets in nine races Photo: Ronald den Dekker

For Picsou, the crew might have taken the news badly, particularly after ending up in the protest room upon coming ashore. However they were exonerated and then accepted defeat in a most gracious, sportsman-like way. “We know the guys from Moana well, they are good friends of ours,” said owner Alain Rousseau. 

In fact Picsou’s helmsman Philippe Bourgeois was once the owner of the A-35 Dunkerque - Les Dunes de Flandre, part of the Flanders North Sea team with Moana and Elke (also competing here in IRC One) that finished second in the 2016 Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup. “It is better that they won rather than anyone else. If we had had one boat more in our class we could have beaten Moana, but that is how it is.” C’est la vie.

The Picsou crew pick up their well-deserved prize for IRC Three Photo: Ronald den DekkerThe Picsou crew pick up their well-deserved prize for IRC Three Photo: Ronald den Dekker

Ultimately in IRC One Moana finished three points ahead of the Ker 46 Van Uden, in turn 11 in front of the MAT12 Sailplane, campaigned by Jean-Eudes Renier, winner of today’s first race. In IRC Three Picsou finished 10 points ahead of Michel Dorsman's X-362 Sport Extra Djinn, tied on points with the third-placed HOD35 Zarafa of Iwan Vermeirsch.

J/109 Joule wins IRC Two by just 0.5 points Photo: Ronald den DekkerJ/109 Joule wins IRC Two by just 0.5 points Photo: Ronald den Dekker

The biggest upheaval today, and where the points were closest after nine races, was in IRC Two. Here Arjen van Leeuwen's J/109 Joule managed to cling on to the lead to win by just 0.5 points from Paul Jonckherre's A-35 Njord which today scored a 1-2, mirroring Swiss owner Jörg Sigg and his J/99 Lällekönig's 2-1. Radboud Crul and his Dehler 36 Rosetta were third.

Arjen van Leeuwen and his crew on Joule celebrate their IRC Two victory Photo: Ronald den DekkerArjen van Leeuwen and his crew on Joule celebrate their IRC Two victory Photo: Ronald den Dekker

Commodore of the RORC James Neville was competing in IRC One aboard his HH42 Ino XXX. Of this seventh IRC European Championship, which took place as part of Damen Breskens Sailing Week, he commented: “It has been extremely competitive. If you look how tight the results have been they have been jumping around with just seconds between the first few places every time. So you only win if you sail a really clean race. It has been great to have all the different types of boats on the start line.

“We sailed nine races and we’ve done a terrific amount of sailing. The weather has been glorious, the sea conditions have been fantastic and the socials have been fun. It was a great end-of-summer regatta and we have all been well looked after by Marnix Lippens and the Damen Breskens Sailing Week team.”

Further information is available on the event website 

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The IRC European Championship has a bit of a tradition of smaller boats winning. In Cork in 2016, the first ever IRC European Champion was Paul Gibbons and his diminutive Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge while the following year in Marseille, it was Guy Claeys’ JPK 10.10 Expresso 2, winner of IRC Four.

In IRC 3 Dehler 29 Picsou races to victory alongside Archambault 31 Tasman and Grand Soleil 37 BC Mavi Image: Ineke PeltzerIn IRC 3 Dehler 29 Picsou races to victory alongside Archambault 31 Tasman and Grand Soleil 37 BC Mavi Photo: Ineke Peltzer

Could this year’s seventh IRC European Championship title go to Alain Rousseau and his mostly French crew on Picsou, the smallest boat among the 39 boats competing here at Damen Breskens Sailing Weekend? The Belgian-flagged Dehler 29 had a resounding day today, the only boat to post three bullets. This has caused them to go into the final day leading by the biggest margin across the three classes. Yet as an indication of the closeness of the racing at this major IRC championship the Belgium boat is just five points clear of yesterday's stand-out team, Michel Dorsman's X-362 Sport Extra Djinn, in turn just one ahead of Iwan Vermeirsch's HOD35 Zarafa (another former Solent boat that has migrated to the Netherlands) with Kees Keetel's A-31 CSI Rakker also in the running.

Like yesterday, PRO Menno Vercouteren today laid on three races – two windward-leewards and a round the cans course. As a result one discard has come into effect. The wind was again from the north, but started at around 9-10 knots and finished having veered into the northeast, heading for the high teens. 

Arjen van Leeuwen's J/109 Joule tops the IRC 2 leader board on Day 3 Image: Ineke PeltzerArjen van Leeuwen's J/109 Joule tops the IRC 2 leader board on Day 3 Photo: Ineke Peltzer

In IRC Two today another boat came close to a perfect scoreline. Here in the middle group it is safe to say J/109s are dominating. But surprisingly today’s star player was neither Arjen van Leeuwen's Joule, which remains on top of the leaderboard in the class, nor John Smart's slightly lower rated Jukebox, now third overall, but the Royal Navy Sailing Team on their sistership Jolly Jack Tar. The British crew, led by Mark Flanagan, Rear Commodore (Offshore) of the Royal Naval Sailing Association (RNSA), today scored a 1-1-3, launching them into second, just three points off the lead, and making the IRC Two podium an all-J/109 affair (including two British teams) going into the final day. 

“It went well today. We are slowly coming together as a team, which is good,” commented Flanagan. “We are learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we are getting better as the event goes on instead of worse!” Jolly Jack Tar changes crew from event to event and as Flanagan puts it they have a pool of about 500 people from which to choose , obviously dependent upon their availability. “Here we have probably one of our best teams, which is really good.” As a services boat, Jolly Jack Tar has a busy life – this year alone in addition to competing in the RORC offshore series, she has been across to Cork Week and up to West Highland Week.

They chose to come to the IRC European Championship in Breskens for the experience. “This sounded really good. It’s a European Championship - it takes us to a higher level so we can develop our sailors. Plus we hadn’t been to Holland before!” Of their success today Flanagan added: “The starts are really important at this event. If you can do that you can get a clear track upwind and you are going to win. We have managed to get clear air.”

Perfect conditions for IRC One in Breskens Photo: Ineke PeltzerPerfect conditions for IRC One in Breskens Photo: Ineke Peltzer

In IRC One, there has been upset with the scratch boat, Van Uden-ROST last night having her disqualification overturned by the International Jury. This had stemmed from a start line incident in Thursday’s non-discardable, double points scoring medium coastal race. This has launched them back to second overall, just one point behind the immaculate Moana, the Beneteau First 47.7 campaigned by the Goubou family that leads IRC One overall.

Van Uden, which is sailed by a youth crew from the Rotterdam Offshore Sailing Team today posted a 2-10-1. “Today we came off the water and thought we sailed every race really well,” said skipper, round the world sailor Gerd-Jan Poortman. They are able to discard today's second race that was caused on the second lap when they experienced a 30° wind shift.

According to Poortman, starting proved a challenge today with the unusual situation of 1.5-2 knots of current lifting the fleet up to the race committee boat. “We decided to play it safe. We are lucky we are the fastest boat and could start to leeward and not get into the mingle too much. There is a lot of tide and a whole bunch of sand banks and the wind bending around the land. But it was good day – sunscreen, shorts, T-shirts, etc.”

Tomorrow, after two more races and a second discard is applied, the winners will be decided from each class and the top boat of the three will be crowned IRC European Champion.

Further information is available on the event website here

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