by Zoe Hawkins
The Bakewell-White 52, Wired ahead of V5 at the start of the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic
The relaunch of the IRC program in New Zealand will see IRC embraced by keelboat owners who want tight racing to a measurement rule at the top end of the sport.
Changes are announced following the formation of an IRC Owner’s Association by a core group of boat owners determined to see the rating system become successful in New Zealand.
'Yachting New Zealand did a great job of promoting IRC when it first launched, and around 150 boats got an initial certificate,' says Association chairman John Kensington. 'However most of us are racing on IRC at the same time as competing on line, PHRF and club handicap. We have a foot in each camp, doing some things well and some things badly, whereas a rule requires total focus on it'
John says a number of boat owners have now committed to the IRC rule. 'It’s only going to appeal to a small group of people who want very tight, very close racing, with some controls over how their boats are measured in,' he says, citing the example of possibly of a 40 footer beating a Stewart 34 footer over the finish line by four or five minutes, but losing to them by a matter of seconds as demonstrating how close and competitive IRC racing can be, forcing owners to optimise sail their boats to their very best potential.
Playbuoy at the start of the 2008 HSBC Premier Coastal Classic
The renewed focus harks back to IOR days in the 1980s, when a small fleet – often no more than six or seven boats – would race competitively to make the grade to compete at international regattas like the Kenwood Cup, the One Ton Cup and others that New Zealand had a great history of winning.
'Returning to those days of international success is about quality not quantity,' says John. 'We believe we will have a core fleet of 10-12 boats in Auckland and a similar fleet in Wellington who really want to race in this style. In a country where we don’t have a large one design keelboat fleet, the next best thing is to get all of the boats optimised back to the rule, and race under incredibly tight handicapping. True IRC racing will reward preparation, good crew-work, good sails, and smart sailing. It’s what’s best for yachting.'
2009 IRC National Championships
The IRC Owner’s Association is proposing moving to a national championships event that takes in three regattas around the country, providing equal opportunity for boats from different cities, with the bexst two results to count. BOI race week , BMW regatta, and Line 7 regatta have confirmed they will run an IRC division at each regatta, so it is now really up to owners to get their entries in. For more information contact John Kensington, IRC Owner’s Association, tel. 021 769 596.
New Zealand International Yachting Trust subsidies for measurement certificates are still available.