Seahorse Magazine May 2016
by James Dadd

I read Rob Weiland’s piece in the last edition with interest and some confusion. I have known Rob ever since the late 1980s when building IOR One Tonners with him as the owner’s rep. We have not always agreed, so I am not surprised that we don’t agree this time either. However, I do see where he is coming from, and prior to being involved day in, day out in the running of a Rating Office I probably had similar views. 

The first point I note is that Rob is not alone in assuming that IRC caters better for the fast 40+ fleet and sports boats than for the majority of the cruiser racer fleet. However, I suspect if you ask the Ker 40 owner or Farr 280 owner that question they will say the opposite. We use DLR (displacement to length ratio) to give us a guide of how “racy” or “cruisy” a design is. For example, a Carkeek 40 IRC/HPR like the old “Spookie” has a DLR of 84, and a Swan 42 has a DLR of 153. The simple fact is that 91.4% of the competing IRC fleet of 2015 had a DLR of over 120, this break point being boats like the Young 11, Swan 60 and Marten 49 to name a few. The highly successful Courrier du Leon of Gery Trentesaux, a JPK 1080 with a DLR of 175 can hardly be called a full on race boat. Similarly, looking at the results of most IRC events in 2015, the vast majority have more production cruising boats, or old race boats in the top slots. I believe the misconception that Rob highlights here is simply due to the fact that we all like to look at photos of race boats and talk about race boats. But in reality, the vast majority of racing is in the cruiser racer fleet. And here is where we are seeing the IRC being retained. When exciting events like the RORC Caribbean 600 or Rolex Sydney to Hobart race are being discussed, it is the Comanche and Rambler 88 images that come to the forefront of your mind when considering the IRC fleet. But this is a tiny percentage of the IRC fleet, and does not represent the vast majority of production cruiser racer that have considerable success all over the World racing under IRC. Maybe as Rob suggests, we need to shout that more loudly, but we still see this sector as the heartland of IRC, and it continues to develop as such. Having said that, I do suspect that an IRC Worlds entry list would include more race boats and less production cruiser racers than the entry list in Copenhagen. But those crews going that extra mile for a World title should probably be the same guys wanting to go fast without cruising compromises.

Easter2016 PWyeth 1

Image: RORC / 

It is also interesting the numbers Rob puts on the income of rating authorities. He suggests that an average certificate costs some €100. This isn’t too far off as we are seeing a gradual increase in size of IRC boats, now at around 11.5m. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. The majority of the certificates are issued through local rule authorities, who take a significant percentage of the fee to allow them to function and perform the important tasks of the local administration, training and maintaining a pool of measurers and trying to validate the huge amounts of data collected. We then have to maintain the professional offices that are expected, ensuring that knowledgeable staff is always there to answer your questions. Add to this the fact that the RORC Rating Office is a non profit making organisation, and the IRC development and structure is a completely self supporting business which allows us to add back to the sport through Offshore Special Regulations input etc. I agree that as a sport we need to accept more equipment inspection at events. And Rob will know from the difficulties he has with a handful of Maxi 72s (also IRC boats), that ensuring all of the data is correct is not trivial. Multiply the Maxi 72 fleet by one thousand and you will see what a hard job it really is! And that is where a large amount of the office time goes. Owner declared data is the easiest and cheapest way to get a certificate but it needs checking as mistakes are extremely common.

 easter2016 pwyeth irc fleet

Image: RORC / 

Quality of data is fundamental to any rating system and we employ a team who check measurements against previous information and what is on the database. It takes time and experience but is fundamental to ensuring that the ratings of boats under IRC are as accurate as possible. So there is that extra step with human intervention in the process to ensure quality of input into the IRC software, which we don’t believe should be avoided. We are also constantly pushing hard with World Sailing and event organisers to increase the amount of equipment inspection that occurs at events. But the reality is that event organisers have a budget, and when there are minimum requirements on the number of International Judges it becomes difficult to even cover the costs of volunteer’s expenses. Add to that the requirement for an equipment inspector and many events see their costs escalating. Add to this the need for time to check boats, and we now need to get attendance at the event for an additional two days. Not a problem for the fully professionally crewed Maxi 72, where the crew are there training anyway. But for the vast majority this might mean that holiday limits are pushed too hard, ignoring the screams from family to spend more time at home. So whilst I would love to have an IRC representative at every event around the World, checking to ensure that the data is correct, the costs of this would push the certificate price up way beyond what is reasonable, or would push the entry fees up too far for many of us to compete. I also worry about the concept that sailing needs full time police. In professional golf or snooker, where the stakes can be far higher than our sport, the players are the first to raise their hand if they accidentally infringe a rule, irrespective of if anyone sees it. Our professionals need to have the same attitude that will filter down the sport. Let the professional soccer player roll around on the ground or the person who says everyone else is cheating, so I have to, play their games. We should be doing penalty turns whether anyone saw it or not because then we have won fair and square, not because we have provided the wrong information and got away with it.

So I disagree that sport without control is no more than exercise. I would say that sport that needs control is no longer a sport.