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Irish Plan Half Ton Classics Cup Attack in Cowes

28th April 2022
Howth Half Tonner Harmony has had several modifications over the winter in anticipation of August's Half Ton Classics Cup in Cowes
Half Tonner Harmony has had several modifications over the winter in anticipation of August's Half Ton Classics Cup in Cowes Credit: Afloat

Current Irish boats planning to contest August's Half Ton Classics Cup in Cowes include King One, Checkmate XV (before it heads to her new home in Cardiff), Miss Whiplash, MATA and Harmony that has had several modifications over the winter.

Ghost Raider (ex-Checkmate XVIII now owned by Nobby Reilly) is heading for Calves Week in West Cork instead, but hopefully will make the next event.

Checkmate XVIII is now Ghost Raider and heading for Calves this AugustCheckmate XVIII is now Ghost Raider and heading for Calves this August Photo: Afloat

While the UK based Swuzzlebubble is virtually unbeatable being the biggest and most modified boat in the class, the Irish should feature well, having been very competitive within the class for the last few events.

The Cup will start on the Solent, organised by RORC Cowes and the Half Ton Class Europe (HTCE).

Howth Half Tonner MataHowth Half Tonner Mata

The half tonners will have been waiting nearly 3 years for that moment. The HTCE and RORC Cowes will do all that is within their possibilities to make it a great event, like it was in 2011 when the half tonner fleet last visited the Solent, when 38 half tonners took part in a great event, with the local Berret 1978 Chimp finally taking the much-coveted Half Ton Classics Trophy.

The Notice of Race has been published and is downloadable below

Way back in the Seventies and the Eighties the IOR racing rule produced exciting racing in various classes, with the Half Ton Class as very probably one of the most emblematic ones. With many hundreds of prototypes built in that era, and the thousands of series boats like f.i. the Arpege, Armagnac, Super Arlequin, Rush, Hustler SJ30 & 32 and the First Evolution, it is unlikely that one will ever be able to count the exact number of half tonners built.

In the IOR era the boats sailed in Real Time. All the big names in yacht design like f.i. Sparkman & Stephens, Laurie Davidson, Bruce Farr, Nils Jeppesen, Paul Whiting, Jean Berret, Rob Humphreys, Ed Dubois, Joubert/Nivelt, Daniel Andrieu, Jean-Marie Finot, Philippe Briand, Philippe Harlé, Ron Holland, Doug Peterson, Peter Norlin, Julian Everitt, Stephen Jones, Bruce King, Gilles Gahinet, Scott Kauffman, Tony Castro, Andrea Ceccarelli, Georg Nissen, Jac. De Ridder, Hugh Welbourne, Fontana-Maletto-Navone, Judel-Vrolijk or Gary Mull (just to name a few…) have had their go at this IOR rating rule. Many of them had their moment of glory and made their name producing one or more winning Half Ton designs. In those times the Half Ton Cups were "the place to be" for both crews and designers in quest of international fame.


Published in Half Tonners Team

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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.


The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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