There has always been debate amongst boat owners over rating systems. Australia has enjoyed a period of relative stability in recent years, with IRC being used almost exclusively on a national basis. With the introduction of the ORCi, offered by the Offshore Racing Council (ORC) as the replacement for IMS, a number of owners are again expressing their preference for a measured, transparent rating rule. This year entries under both IRC and ORCi will be accepted for the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
The IRC Rating System has now been operating very successfully in Australia for over 9 years. The number of boats rated, which now stands at well in excess of 500 each year, has increased steadily. Most owners appear very satisfied with the IRC rule and the way it is administered by Yachting Australia.
However, Yachting Australia is aware that there is dissatisfaction amongst some boat owners about the IRC Rating System. As a result there has been a push by some boat owners for the introduction of an alternate rule. Boat owners behind this current push believe ORCi may be an appropriate alternative to IRC.
Yachting Australia have been running the ORCi rule for some time, it being a way in which a yacht's stability can be established. When the Offshore Yacht Owners Association (OYOA) expressed interest in ORCi for scoring races, Yachting Australia went to great efforts to assist, providing boat owners with information about the newly developed ORCi, offering guidance on how to get measured and rated, and facilitating access to details of boats already measured domestically and internationally. To ensure the rule is supported in the same way that we support IRC, we have trained our staff and measurers, and hosted a visit by the ORC Chief Measurer Nicola Sironi. We consider it our role to provide the appropriate services and let boat owners decide which rule they wish to be rated under.
As a result of discussions between the ORC and the OYOA, selected Australian boat owners have been offered ORCi rating certificates free of charge from ORC. The ratings will be valid to 31 January 2010, allowing boats to compete in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Boat owners can take advantage of this offer by contacting Nicola Sironi at the ORC directly.
ORCi is IMS rebadged, but the Velocity Prediction Program (VPP), which is the heart of the system, has been updated. The complex scoring methods are still in place if an event wishes to use them, but the ORC have also added single figure ratings for inshore and offshore racing. ORCi calculates ratings based on scientific calculations contained in the VPP.
The ORC is changing the way measurements can be taken. Carbon masts will not have to be removed, and hull data will be able to be sourced from designer information. Whilst this will reduce costs significantly, it is still a more complex rule than IRC and does require more measurements. Another issue to consider is that there are also thousands of boats already measured that can be used for sister-ship data to copy as a starting point, making rating easier.
ORCi is a transparent rule, and that brings a greater element of certainty as to what a rating might be, and a designer can work closely with an owner and builder to produce a yacht that performs well to the ORCi rule. Exactly what a boat optimised to ORCi will look like and how it will handle is not possible to predict at this stage. As we have seen previously with IMS and IOR before it, transparency can bring its own issues. However the ORC believes that the old type-forming elements of IMS have been addressed in the changes to the ORCi VPP.
IRC has different strengths. It treats club boats well, it is very simple to measure for, it is the most widely used rule in Australia, and is accepted internationally. Whilst it protects club and production fleets, and we do see a great many different types of winners, it does not provide the transparency that some appear to seek.
There was a long discussion at the ISAF Annual Meetings recently regarding the recognition of the IRC Rating Rule and the opportunity that this would provide to stage an IRC World Championship. The matter is to be resolved at the meeting to be hosted by ISAF early in 2010, involving representatives of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), the promoters and owners of IRC and the ORC. With over 8,000 boats rated worldwide, it would seem reasonable for IRC boat owners to have the rights to a World Championship in the same way that the ORC can run World Championships under ORCi
Both rating systems have their benefits, and it may be that both can operate in parallel, just as IRC and AMS do on Port Philip. Boat owners have a choice. Again it is not for the Rating Authority to determine what their choice should be.
For more information about IRC or ORCi in Australia contact Glen Stanaway by phoning 02 8424 7408 or emailing
– Craig Heydon