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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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Saturday 11 June, Cowes: A further three windward-leewards were held on the central-eastern Solent on day two of the RORC’s IRC National Championship in yet more exceptional conditions - 15-20 knot WSW winds and brilliant sunshine.

At this regatta - one of the top international titles under the RORC/UNCL-owned rating system - the fleet is split into three classes according to their speed (or TCC rating). After day two significant leaders have emerged in all three, but by the end of tomorrow to be determined will be the 23rd IRC National Champion (since the first in 1999). A published formula determines the outright winner and at present, with the discard applied, Adam Gosling’s JPK 10.80 Yes! leads Niklas Zennström's Rán and John Cooper’s Cape 31 Fanatic, separated by just a fraction of a point. 

Today Rán scored a further three bullets in Grand Prix Zero/IRC One. With a perfect scoreline, it is hard to see what more the team, which includes world-class pros such as Tim Powell, Steve Hayles and Justin Slattery, can do to claim the title. In today’s second race, they were called OCS, returned to restart…and still won. However, the IRC One fleet is smaller than the other two, requiring its leader to work harder to claim the title.

Seven points astern of Rán is Ian Atkins’ GP42 Dark N Stormy and two further points back is the Ker 40+ Elvis of Swede Filip Engelbert. According to Dutch legend and tactician Bouwe Bekking, Elvis is suffering from some rust, having not sailed for some time: “In three races we were in the lead, but we had some mechanical issues (spinnaker drop line breakage) and with our manoeuvres – a wine glass in the spinnaker (in the second race).”

Bekking has raced under many different rating systems and appreciates IRC: “I think it is very good when you have similar boats. Generally, it works out nicely – here Rán is a little faster but it works out pretty well and we are all so close so you know who is first while you are on the water.”

Nicholas Griffith's IC37 Icy Photo: Rick TomlinsonNicholas Griffith's IC37 Icy Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Fargo - Robert Bicket's IC37 Photo: Rick TomlinsonFargo - Robert Bicket's IC37 Photo: Rick Tomlinson

A race within a race is taking place between the two IC37s, Nick Griffith’s Icy and Robert Bicket’s Fargo. Icy got the upper hand today. “It was a great day sailing - perfect conditions - arguably some of the best racing I have done in the Solent in a very long time,” commented Griffith, MD of yacht sales and brokerage conglomerate Ancasta Group. “We had great racing between the two IC37s - both boats had a number of 49er sailors in their crew who, not surprisingly, were very competitive. It was great fun to watch.”

In IRC Two, John Cooper’s Cape 31 Fanatic comfortably leads, but today’s best performance was the 2-1-5 of Lance Adams’ Katabatic ending the day six points off the lead and with Tony Dickin’s Jubilee, winner of today’s first race, one point behind. This trio now holds an eight point cushion from Michael Blair’s King 40 Cobra, which was second in today’s final race.

Like Rán, Katabatic was called OCS in race two today but nonetheless claimed the bullet. Adams felt their results today came down to…“getting in the groove on the upwinds in the chop, so we were in contention. We have been working on different ideas and they worked today.” Generally racing for Katabatic at this IRC Nationals has been superb. “The Cape fleet is something else. And what an amazing two days we’ve had: Wind, sun, clear skies - you couldn’t ask for more.”

Ex-Commodore/Admiral of the RORC Andrew McIrvine’s La Réponse on which former RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen is calling tactics, scored a bullet in today’s last race, leaving the grey hulled Ker 39 sixth overall.

“We had a good start, in the middle - in fact it was quite difficult to get across the line on starboard,” recounted McIrvine. “We carried on while our main enemy - Sailplane and Cobra - went right. We had a couple of nice shifts which got us into the lead. Then we were going really fast and deep downwind, fast enough to stay ahead of the planing Capes. Considering we’ve had very little practice, we had some very good crew work with nice gybes. I am pleased we sailed yesterday before it got even windier today, because it was quite a handful.” 

Lance Adams' Cape 31 Katabatic Photo: Rick TomlinsonLance Adams' Cape 31 Katabatic Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Andrew McIrvine's Ker 39 La Réponse Photo: Rick TomlinsonAndrew McIrvine's Ker 39 La Réponse Photo: Rick Tomlinson

In IRC Three Adam Gosling’s race favourite Yes! holds a four point lead over James Chalmers’ J/112e Happy Daize, both having displaced the day one leader, John Smart’s J/109 Jukebox. Happy Daize posted 3-3-3 today. “We had a good day - the boat is going well and it is nice to be in touch with Yes! We had some great tacking and gybe duels with them,” said Chalmers. Having campaigned the J/35 Bengal Magic for years, Chalmers has noticed how competitive the IRC Nationals’ smallest fleet has become: “Everything has got closer: We are closer to Yes! and staying ahead of the slower boats is so difficult. It is great racing - you make a mistake and you pay for it.”

In a new development for the IRC Nationals, extra youth and female crew are permitted to race on board. As a result Chalmers’ 12-year-old son is on board for the first time.

Also on a steep learning curve are the inner city students from the Greig City Academy on Cote. Their tweaky Quarter Tonner is proving a handful and today they suffered a prolonged broach. “It is a great learning experience,” commented jib and spinnaker trimmer Christopher Frederick, who is in his 12th year at the school in Haringey, well known for its pioneering sailing program initiated by Jon Holt. Frederick is in year 12 but tries to sail every moment he can, both at the weekends and Laser dinghy sailing during the week in London. 

J/112e Happy Daize sailed by James Chalmers Photo: Rick Tomlinson J/112e Happy Daize sailed by James Chalmers Photo: Rick Tomlinson 

Quarter Tonner Cote sailed by the young sailors from London's Greig City Academy based in Haringey Photo: Rick TomlinsonQuarter Tonner Cote sailed by the young sailors from London's Greig City Academy based in Haringey Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Final day of the IRC National Championship is tomorrow (Sunday), forecast to take place in marginally lighter conditions.

Full results can be found here

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Among the lineup on the Solent this weekend for the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s IRC National Championship is the Cape 31 Antix, skippered by Royal Cork's Anthony O’Leary, who won the IRC Nationals in 2014.

And it looks like the fleet is due for some lively racing. The wind is forecast to be gusting into the mid-20s.

As usual for this leading championship for the RORC/UNCL-owned yacht rating system, the fleet is a diverse one. The longest and highest rated is the Ker 46 Van Uden (IRC TCC: 1.284), her Dutch crew led by round the world sailor Gerd-Jan Poortman, while lowest rated in IRC Three is Kevin Downer's heavily modified Fun 23 Ziggy (IRC TCC of 0.871). 

The 24th UK IRC National Championship will take place in the Solent from 10-12th June 2022 Photo: Paul WyethThe 24th UK IRC National Championship will take place in the Solent from 10-12th June 2022 Photo: Paul Wyeth

Kevin Downer's Fun 23 Ziggy is competing in IRC Three Photo: Paul WyethKevin Downer's Fun 23 Ziggy is competing in IRC Three Photo: Paul Wyeth

Gerd-Jan Poortman will lead the Dutch team on the Ker 46 Van Uden Photo: Paul WyethGerd-Jan Poortman will lead the Dutch team on the Ker 46 Van Uden Photo: Paul Wyeth

The top end of the fleet is an international one, with Van Uden joined by Solent regulars, the de Graaf family, aboard their Ker 43 Baraka GP, while from Sweden are Filip Engelbert’s Ker 40+ Elvis and Niklas Zennström’s Carkeek 40 Ràn VII. All are in IRC One which is effectively the new Grand Prix Zero class for this event, catering for grand prix racing yachts of 37-50ft, or specifically in this case, the two Dutch Kers to the two IC37s, Robert Bicket's Fargo and Nick Griffith's Icy.

While Ràn VII is considered favourite in the Grand Prix Zero class, nipping at her heels this weekend will be Dark N Stormy, the GP42 better known from the FAST40+ as Jubilee, now campaigned by well-known industry figure Ian Atkins. The aim of Grand Prix Zero is to reignite racing under IRC at this size range both in the UK and abroad. Atkins explains that he and Class Manager Nick Bonner “looked around and counted 13 highly competitive, well sailed boats between 40-50ft and said ‘let’s create a framework for them to operate within’.” The formula is working: It has encouraged Elvis back out on to the water, while at the Vice Admiral’s Cup, the racing could not have been more competitive. “We won one race by one second and lost another by two seconds - it is really is great racing,” Atkins recalls.

Nick Griffith's IC37 Icy racing in IRC One Photo: Rick TomlinsonNick Griffith's IC37 Icy racing in IRC One Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Niklas Zennström’s Carkeek 40 Ràn VII Photo: Paul Wyeth Niklas Zennström’s Carkeek 40 Ràn VII Photo: Paul Wyeth 

Filip Engelbert’s Ker 40+ Elvis Photo: Paul WyethFilip Engelbert’s Ker 40+ Elvis Photo: Paul Wyeth

IRC Two class sees a mix of Performance 40s and nine Cape 31s. The former fleet is being led by ex-RORC Admiral and Commodore Andrew McIrvine’s Ker 39 La Réponse and includes long term campaigners the Blair family on their King 40 Cobra; Jean-Eudes Renier and Rob Bottomley on the MAT 12 Sailplane; plus from Belgium, Jan Gabriel’s Mills 37 Ragazza IV and the pair of First 40s, Ronan Banim's Galahad of Cowes and Richard Powell’s Rogan Josh. 

Aside from being the one design ‘of the moment’, the South African-born Cape 31 began its life on UK shores competing in the IRC fleet. One of its objectives is success both as a one design and under corrected time within a broader fleet. One of the hot Cape 31s competing is Michael Bartholemew’s Tokoloshe 4, the present runaway leader of the UK circuit after three events and class winner at May’s Vice Admiral’s Cup. Among the Cape 31 line-up is also Antix, sailed by well known Irishman Anthony O’Leary, who won the IRC Nationals in 2014 with his Ker 39 (now La Réponse). New faces in the fleet this weekend will include Charlie Whelan on Jubilee and Richard Davies on Gallivanter III. 

IRC Two - Jan Gabriel’s Mills 37 Ragazza IV Photo: Paul WyethIRC Two - Jan Gabriel’s Mills 37 Ragazza IV Photo: Paul Wyeth

Adam Gosling's JPK 10.80 Yes! Adam Gosling's JPK 10.80 Yes! Photo: Paul Wyeth

Due to the egalitarian nature of IRC, winners are as likely to be among the big boats as the small, and among the latter in IRC Three are two past IRC National Championship winners. Adam Gosling jointly won in 2016 aboard his then new JPK 10.80 Yes! Surprisingly, having owned a JPK 11.80 in the interim, he returns in the same boat having re-acquired her during lock-down. “It is better than an old girlfriend because this is as good as I remember it!” quips Gosling. In fact, of the many boats he has owned, this was also one of his most successful having also won the Round the Island Race’s Gold Roman Bowl in 2017. The Yes! crew has remained the same for the last three seasons says Gosling. This could be the year when they rectify their semi-win from six years ago. “It will come down to whoever sails best and if it is light the smaller boats may benefit and, if there’s breeze, the big boats can get away a bit.”

John Howell and Paul Newell’s A-35 Arcus Photo: Paul WyethJohn Howell and Paul Newell’s A-35 Arcus Photo: Paul Wyeth

While the 1.061 IRC TCC for Yes! makes her speediest yacht in IRC Three, she will face a challenge from another more recent outright IRC Nationals winner. John Howell and Paul Newell’s A-35 Arcus claimed the title, mid-lockdown in 2020. On that occasion, Arcus was new to the team made up of several father-son duos, whose origins are on Great More Sailing Club in Buckingham.

“We have moved forward - we have learned a lot about the boat,” says Newell of how they have progressed. “We have tried to optimise her a little bit more, which hopefully will pay dividends. We have also tried to do a bit of training rather than just racing.” To this end, they have upped their game with input from renowned coach Mark Rushall. “His input was just invaluable. If we can capture some of that and can convert it on the water…” muses Newell. Aside from becoming IRC National Champions, Hamble-based Arcus has come close to winning Black Group at Cowes Week. “We like to surprise people because we are a bunch of puddle sailors from the middle of the country.”

Racing will get underway with a first warning signal on Friday at 1125 and at 1025 on Saturday and Sunday.

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One of the pinnacle events of the IRC rating system in the UK will take place over 10-12 June from Cowes and Ireland's past victories are recalled as Anthony O'Leary's former winner, the Ker 40 Antix, is racing in the hands of former Commodore and Admiral of the RORC Andrew McIrvine as his latest La Réponse.

This year’s edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s IRC National Championship will be its 24th and as usual will feature a mixed line-up of yachts from across the size and age spectrum, allowing the IRC rating system to create a level playing field between them.

World-class PRO, double Olympic Finn sailor and Etchells World Champion Stuart Childerley (and recently appointed J Class Secretary) will send the IRC fleets off on courses around the Solent with up to four races scheduled each day.

The fleet is divided into tightly-banded classes according to their IRC rating to provide the closest possible racing for competitors between yachts of similar performance. The unique format of the IRC National Championship enables any yacht from across the fleet - big or small, old or new - whose crew sails the best, to be crowned IRC National Champion.

"the nation to have prised the IRC Nationals trophy from British hands the most often has been Ireland"

In addition to the regulars of the Solent IRC fleet, the RORC’s IRC National Championship represents the ultimate event to which competitors in the well-supported IRC regional events around the UK aspire. It is a great event to measure up to other competitors around the country and for developing crews to sharpen their skills in a friendly and competitive environment. The three-day event also regularly attracts competitors from the opposite side of the English Channel: Géry Trentesaux’s IMX40 Courrier Nord claimed the top prize in 2002, the first foreign yacht to do so, while the syndicate-owned A-35 Dunkerque - Les Dunes de Flandres was joint winner in 2016.

But the nation to have prised the IRC Nationals trophy from British hands the most often has been Ireland: David Dywer’s Mills 39 Marinerscove. It is only one of two teams ever to have won consecutive UK IRC National Championship titles when his team prevailed in both 2009 and 2010 (the first was Justin Slawson’s X-362 The Big Cheese over 2000-01).

In fact, Irish IRC yachts have won the UK IRC National title on four other occasions too: Royal Irish's Colm Barrington’s Ker 39 Flying Glove in 2005; Tim Costello’s all-conquering Mills 40 Tiamat in 2006 and Conor and Denise Phelan’s Ker 37 Jump Juice from Royal Cork two years later. The last Irish winner was RCYC's Anthony O'Leary’s Antix in 2014, whose grey Ker 40 returns this year in the hands of former Commodore and Admiral of the RORC Andrew McIrvine as his latest La Réponse (following his successful First 40 of the same name now on Dublin Bay).

“The IRC National Championship remains the most important inshore event for IRC-rated boats in the UK,” observes McIrvine, who has been a regular competitor at the event since it was first held. “The Solent of course is internationally-recognised as one of the most complex and interesting places to race - so the combination remains very attractive.”

“The IRC National Championship remains the most important inshore event for IRC-rated boats in the UK,” says Andrew McIrvine, whose Ker 40 La Réponse (Anthony O'Leary's former winner, the Ker 40 Antix) will be taking part Photo: Paul Wyeth“The IRC National Championship remains the most important inshore event for IRC-rated boats in the UK,” says Andrew McIrvine, whose Ker 40 La Réponse (Anthony O'Leary's former winner, the Ker 40 Antix) will be taking part Photo: Paul Wyeth

Derek Shakespeare's J/121 Bulldog previously won the IRC National Champion title twice Photo: Rick TomlinsonDerek Shakespeare's J/121 Bulldog previously won the IRC National Champion title twice Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Lena Having's Corby 33 Mrs FrecklesLena Having's Corby 33 Mrs Freckles Photo: Paul Wyeth

Adam Gosling's JPK 10.80 Yes! won IRC Three in the 2021 IRC Nationals and will be back to retain their title Adam Gosling's JPK 10.80 Yes! won IRC Three in the 2021 IRC Nationals and will be back to retain their title Photo: Paul Wyeth

As usual, the RORC is attempting to be inclusive, by encouraging female and youth participation in its championship. If an IRC Nationals crew includes at least two women or under 25-year-olds (or one of each), then two extra crew can be added to the maximum number of the crew stated on their yacht’s IRC Certificate (with no weight restriction).

While the majority of IRC National Champions have been the latest and best race boats, this is not always the case. In 2017 it was the turn of the 1939 classic Whooper of leading racing yacht engineer Giovanni Belgrano to claim the title.

Since then J/Boats have enjoyed considerable success. When the IRC Europeans temporarily replaced the IRC Nationals on the Solent in 2018, it was the J/112e of France’s Didier le Moal that came out on top.

Most recently the IRC National Champion title has been won twice by the J/122 campaigned by Stuart Sawyer’s Falmouth-based team, Black Dog - first in 2019 and then again in 2021. While Sawyer isn’t returning this year, his boat is, now renamed Bulldog and campaigned by the RORC’s Treasurer, Derek Shakespeare.

“The IRC Nationals is a very prestigious event and something a lot of very good teams strive to win,” maintains Shakespeare, who recently achieved his first success with his new-to-him yacht when she won IRC One in the RORC’s De Guingand Bowl. 

Despite the provenance of Bulldog, Shakespeare is under no illusion of his prospects in two weeks: “I wouldn’t be as arrogant to assume that we are going to go and win the IRC Nationals with a newish team - we are not expecting to reach those heady heights straight out of the box. We have a nice mix of ages and experience on the boat. We are campaigning both inshore and offshore this year whereas I believe Stuart was more of an inshore specialist. For us the IRC Nationals will be an important measurement of our progress.”

Published in RORC
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24th November 2021

IRC 2022 Rule Text Published

Following the international IRC annual Congress meeting in October, the 2022 IRC rule text is now published online.

The new rule text includes the following changes agreed by Congress: Stored power (autopilots) for steering is prohibited unless permitted by the relevant notice of race (rule 15.2); IRC measurement condition for boat weight now explicitly includes permanently installed renewable energy features such as solar panels etc. (rule 17.1), and a spar used as a whisker pole to set a headsail or flying headsail only requires declaration if used to leeward (rule 21.3.6). The 2022 IRC rule applies from 1st January 2022, except in countries with June-May validity where the rule will apply from 1st June 2022.

A proposed rule change from Australia to allow a boat to hold two concurrent valid certificates for different configurations was agreed in principle. A pilot scheme will be developed to be tested in Australia and other southern hemisphere countries during 2022, with a view to worldwide rollout if it proves successful.

2022 IRC Rule text and more information about the rule changes here

 

Published in RORC
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The Shannon Estuary's RWYCI October Series concluded this weekend on the 30th of October. The series had scheduled races over the first four Sundays and the final Saturday in October.

Racing was cancelled due to bad weather on the first weekend, the series got underway on week two in sunshine and light north-westerly winds of 6-10 knots, under the excellent race management of Aoife Lyons and David Vinnell.

The on-the-water team got in three races in each class with windward-leeward courses for the spinnaker fleet and triangular courses for the white sails fleet.

In the spinnaker fleet, it was Tadhg O'Loingsigh and crew on their J24, Janx Spirit topping the spinnaker fleet in both ECHO and IRC. In white sails the very impressive traditional sailing craft, Sally O'Keeffe, built by Steve Morris and operated by Seol Sionna, won race one, and race three was won by Pat O'Shea's Malo 36, Amergin, however, Elaine O'Mahoney & Simon McGibney's newly acquired First 265 lead the class after week one with a 2nd – 1st – 2nd.

Diarmuid O'Donovan's J/24 Yachtzee crew were the IRC winners of the Royal Western Yacht Club October Series winnersSeries organiser Simon McGibney (left) with Diarmuid O'Donovan's J/24 Yachtzee crew, the IRC winners of the Royal Western Yacht Club October Series 

On the third Sunday of racing, OOD's Aoife Lyons and David Vinnell, ran two races in beautiful sunshine with a southerly 10-12 knots. In the spinnaker fleet Janx Spirit continued their great form with a further two wins in IRC while Rob Allen's Corby 25 lead the spinnaker fleet in ECHO. In white sails, Adrian O'Connell on his modified Seawolf 26 claimed two wins to put pressure on the leaders.

With another weekend cancelled due to weather, the final weekend of racing took place on the last Saturday of the month, in this enjoyable series. There was plenty of wind from the south-west and luckily the rain held off during the mid-afternoons racing. White sails completed their full schedule of races with another two races, both won by Fintan Keating's Halberg Rassy, Passade, who enjoyed the heavier winds. The spinnaker fleet added three more races to their series with two wins for the Corby 25, Smile and a race win for Ray McGibney's J24, Lady J in ECHO and two wins for Diarmuid O'Donovan's J/24 Yachtzee, with Smile taking the final race win in IRC.

At the overall prize-giving event on Saturday evening event organiser, Simon McGibney thanked all the volunteers especially the OOD's David and Aoife for superb racecourses and efficient running of races each week. 

Overall results:

  • Spinnaker IRC: 1st Yachtzee, 2nd Janx Spirit, 3rd Smile
  • Spinnaker ECHO: 1st Smile, 2nd Yachtzee, 3rd Janx Spirit
  • White Sails: 1st Lucita, 2nd Sally O'Keeffe, 3rd Amergin

Full results here

Published in Shannon Estuary

There appears to be no de-escalation of the long-festering row between IRC and the ORC that spilt out into the public domain this week.

The World's two leading rating administrators are locked into a war of words over the staging of the 2022 World Championships.

The latest is an admission from ORC that in its opinion the combined ORC/IRC event in 2018 in The Hague that featured averaging scores in ORC and IRC, was a 'failed solution'.

A World Sailing Offshore Committee has been silent since the matter aired this week. The governing body is scheduled to meet today and there's likely just one item at the top of the agenda but even then, it's not clear if any oil can be poured on these troubled waters via this virtual meeting. 

Bruno Finzi of the ORCBruno Finzi of the ORC

Meanwhile, Bruno Finzi of the ORC has responded to Michael Boyd's Tuesday 'shocked and disappointed' IRC salvo with a 2023 olive branch? Full statement below: 

Statement below from Bruno Finzi and the ORC Management Committee in response to yesterday's IRC press release:

We are sorry the IRC Board has expressed shock and disappointment about our decision with YCCS to issue the Notice of Race for next year's ORC Worlds and chosen to misrepresent our dialogue in their press release.

An email was sent on 4 October explaining to them our frustration over their insistence to replicate what we knew was a failed solution of averaging scores in ORC and IRC, as done in 2018 in The Hague. The feedback from the sailors at this event was very negative, and even the minutes of the 2021 IRC Congress admits this as well.

We feel we need to listen to the sailors on what is acceptable to them and not use an ineffectual scoring solution based purely on politics. Our proposal of using ORC scoring for inshore races and IRC scoring for offshore races seems the appropriate solution and we still believe would be acceptable to the constituency.

We, therefore, fail to see why the decision by YCCS and ORC to issue the ORC Worlds 2022 Notice of Race on 21 October could be a surprise: this is only 8 months prior to the start of this event. We also informed them of this on 4 October, their IRC Board meeting was on 6 October, and the IRC Congress was held on 16 October, and yet we still heard nothing from them before our announcement.

Regardless, we are available to re-engage in these discussions for a combined ORC/IRC event in 2023.

Published in RORC
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Page 1 of 14

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.

Competitions

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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