Rolex Sydney Hobart - ORCi in its second year

Crew of Two True at Constitution Dock - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2009 - winners under IRC and ORCi
Rolex Sydney Hobart - After introducing a dual-scoring option last year, entries in this year’s RSHYR once again have two choices for scoring in measured handicap rules: IRC and ORC International (ORCi).

IRC has for years been the benchmark system used for the race, but some members of CYCA and others wanted to try ORCi for its ability to offer more predictable handicapping compared to the IRC’s 'black box' approach, its tendency to be less type-forming than IRC, and that stability measurements are used in the rating calculations for each boat.

So after a modest introduction in last year’s race, which saw Andrew Saies’s First 40 Two True prevail in both systems, there has been an increase this year in entries wishing to also be scored in ORCi: three divisions have been formed with a total of 32 entries among the 90 total in the fleet.

Like IRC, ORCi entries will be scored with a single-number time-on-time handicap called the Offshore GPH (General Purpose Handicap), which is calculated as an average of the time allowances of 8 and 12 knots true wind speed for a Circular Random course, which is a hypothetical course type in which the boat circumnavigates a circular island with the true wind velocity held constant.

So, if the two systems are using a single number general handicap, what is different about ORCi than IRC?

There are several differences, mainly in the approach and philosophy of each rule. While IRC promotes simplicity in measurement and scoring, it remains a secret rule intended to discourage designer manipulation and optimization. But human nature being what it is, this process happens anyway among IRC designs, so type forms have therefore emerged which optimize a boat’s performance to its rating. These include, for example, a strong tendency to favour heavier cruiser/racers in the 40-foot range, while lightweight high-performance boats are generally favoured over 50 feet.

The problems arise when one has a boat which is not in the type form, such as Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas’s AFR Midnight Rambler, a modified Farr 40. This boat is lighter than what IRC would like, so Psaltis has been an early supporter of trying out ORCi to get better equity among the variety of boat types in his fleet.

The reason for this difference comes back to the rule philosophy, where ORCi attempts to model boat performance using a sophisticated VPP approach, using a wide variety of measurements of the boat, the rig and the sails. Among these measurements is a stability test to measure righting moment, an important element to boat performance that IRC ignores.

In fact, measurement of stability is what enables boats with canting keels to usually get a better break in ORCi: note that the difference in rating between two Cookson 50’s - Chris Bull’s Jazz and Nicholas Bartels’s Terra Firma – is much less in ORCi than in IRC.

But often these differences can be overwhelmed by the more essential aspects of winning offshore races: preparation, sailing skill, navigation, strategy, etc…or in a long race like the Hobart, just being in the right place at the right time.

But the debates between IRC and ORCi may become moot in a year or two, as the offshore rating rule world has been rocked by the recent news that the world’s two major rating rule authorities – RORC with IRC and ORC with ORCi and ORC Club – are in merger talks, with the goal to have one single rating rule authority among their two constituencies. Primarily IRC has been strong among the Anglo-based cultures, whilst ORC has been strong in the non-Anglo cultures, with both sides claiming about 7-8000 certificates issued worldwide yearly.

Once merged at the business level, however, it will take some considerable effort to reconcile the differences in technical handling of the rules, so stay tuned for long debates as this process unfolds. But the prospect of having a single rating authority has enough strong support worldwide to keep the momentum pushing this way, especially in cultures where both systems are used without enough critical mass in either to support large fleets and good racing.

But let’s see what happens on the race to Hobart…its up now to the weather and the racers to help show us the way forward.

ORCi Division 1    
Sail No Boat NameOwnerDesignToT
SM5252CalmWilliams / Van Der Slot / AinleyFarr Tp521.2882
 5299JazzChris BullCookson 501.2762
 10081LahanaPeter Millard & John HonanBakewell - White 30m1.6343
 98888LimitAlan BriertyReichel-Pugh 621.4537
 10007Pretty Fly IIIColin WoodsCookson 501.2798
AUS70RagamuffinSyd FischerTp521.2709
M330ShamrockTony DonnellanReichel Pugh1.2261
SM24Terra FirmaNicholas BartelsCookson 501.2450
GBR6821RTitania Of CowesRichard DobbsSwan 681.2168
ORCi Division 2    
Sail No Boat NameOwnerDesignToT
 8338AFR Midnight RamblerEd Psaltis & Bob ThomasFarr/Welbourne 401.0954
R420Cadibarra 8Paul RobertsJones 421.1429
R33ChutzpahBruce TaylorCaprice 401.1670
 46ExileRobert ReynoldsDK461.1614
S 390Jazz PlayerAndrew LawrenceBakewell-White Z391.0806
 360Patrice SixTony KirbyX-41 Od1.0705
 8975Salona IIPhillip KingSalona 441.0653
 8300Secret Mens Business #1Curtis/Ross/TrembathMurray 421.1048
 370She's The CulpritTodd LearyJones 391.0950
 1545VictoireDarryl HodgkinsonBeneteau 451.0781
ORCi Division 3    
Sail No Boat NameOwnerDesignToT
 6321AllegroJohn TaylorCavalier 3950.9618
SM2004Another ChallengeChris LewinSydney 381.0477
 407BlunderbussTony KinsmanFirst 40.71.0098
 6834ChancellorTed TooherBeneteau F401.0310
 142CrossbowCutcliffe/Stenhouse/MurrayBeneteau First 36.70.9584
AUS169Nautical CircleThe CrewArchambault 401.0351
 11407Shepherd CentreHugh TorodeBeneteau 40.71.0090
 6338Shining SeaAndrew CorlettoSydney 381.0434
 6073SwishSteven ProudSydney 381.0430
YC400Two TrueAndrew SaiesFirst 401.0450
 5900WahooGraham MulliganFrers 400.9746
 7407Wave SweeperMorgan RogersBeneteau 40.70.9966
SM5558Young OnesIan MillerYoung 111.0118