Can you Cant at Cowes or not?

CHIEFTAIN, Ger O’Rourke, across the finish line, corrected time winner - 2007 Rolex Fastnet

In what is looking more and more like the Event That Never Was, Stuart Quarrie, Chief Executive of Cowes Week, has issued another press release outlining the organisers view of canting keelers taking part in this years Cowes Week, if any had wanted too!

Quarrie had earlier deflated the claims of Chieften owner, Ger O'Rourke, that the canters were being unfairly treated, by pointing out - 'that if there were half a dozen or so owners of boats with canting keels who wanted to come and race at Skandia Cowes Week 2008 then I am sure the sailing committee would look favourably on having a class for them.'

This was not enough for O'Rourke who weighed in with a follow-up release arguing that Cowes was breaching the IRC constitution objectives and that their attempts to stop progress would harm IRC globally. Strangely, Chieftain has not taken part in Skandia Cowes Week in recent years when she would have been eligible to race with her canting keel, despite claiming that this was the way to grow the canting keel class in the North.

Stuart Quarrie and that canting keel issue again - Tuesday, 04 March 2008

There has been much speculation over the last few days regarding Skandia Cowes Week and canting keelers following an open email from Ger O’Rourke. I therefore feel it is important to address some of the partly thought-out ideas and comments that have been made, in order to try and lay this matter to rest.

Cowes Week has always welcomed innovation and new types of boat and will continue to do so in the future.

Any class or type of boat is welcome to come to us and ask for inclusion. Given enough interest, these requests are accommodated wherever possible. As one example this year, we will have IMOCA Open 60s racing for the Artemis Trophy on the Tuesday.

We have looked carefully at the anticipated entries for this year’s Skandia Cowes Week and are confident that there would only be one or two large boats with canting keels wishing to enter, if indeed there are any at all. If we are wrong and there are a number of owners of large canting keel boats wishing to come and race then we would ask them to contact us as soon as possible so that we may be able to consider them as a class (admin@skandiacowesweek.co.uk).

At the smaller end, we have the local boat Full Pelt and possibly one Schock 40. Owners of fixed keel boats racing against these have not expressed the same concerns as we have seen from owners of bigger boats.

The owners and crews of some of our classes believe that boats designed with canting keels are as far apart from their boats as multihulls and in general do not wish to race against them – not because the canting keeled boats will always win but because the quality of racing is compromised.

Our sailing committee is fully aware that, in the ideal world, we would split our handicap fleets on a mixture of rating and boat style. However, we currently have 10 IRC fleets of between 30–60 boats, racing within close rating bands each day. To fully embrace the concept of splitting the fleet on type of boat as well as on rating, we would need to either go to at least 15-20 IRC classes or dramatically extend the rating bands within classes. We are not able to do the former and do not believe that the latter would give better racing to the majority. Internally, we have been looking for some time at the possibility of giving prizes for more than one division within each rating class, perhaps splitting the fleet on DLR (displacement to length ratio) or some mixture of DLR and sail area.

Mike Urwin, RORC Rating Office technical director, sits on the Skandia Cowes Week sailing committee and has been kind enough to make the following statement available:

“The RORC Rating Office recognises that canting keel boats are different from other boats. They have performance profiles which are such that when they find their conditions, their actual performance versus predicted performance can make good racing difficult to achieve. The same is true to a lesser extent of boats at other extremes of the design envelope. The effect of this is to potentially compromise the quality of racing for all.

“It is far from uncommon for race organisers to restrict entries to a regatta, or a class within a regatta, based on physical parameters. A maximum or minimum length, TCC within a defined range, IRC Hull Factor, displacement/length ratio, etc. Examples include the ‘High Performance Class’ at Cork Week a few years ago, and ‘performance cruising’ classes at events such as Phuket King’s Cup, etc.

“At the heart of this is that race organisers continually strive to serve the best interests of their fleets. Inclusion of popular one design classes and sportsboat classes for instance. Closer definition of boat types is just another example of this, and is a matter entirely for an event organiser based on anticipated entries and the overall constraints of the regatta.”

To conclude, I would like to add to the last paragraph from Mike’s statement. We, as organisers of Skandia Cowes Week, believe passionately in the regatta. We solicit and listen to feedback from our competitors. We can never satisfy everyone but continually strive to ensure that the majority have the regatta that they want.

Stuart Quarrie
http://www.sail-world.com/42348