sail-world.com
 
 
News Home Cruising Photo Gallery Video Gallery
Sail-World.com : How Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race winners are anointed
How Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race winners are anointed

'Last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner Loki performs well in IRC and has many podium places to show for it.'    © Rolex/Daniel Forster    Click Here to view large photo

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is all about who gets there first for many casual spectators and also many in the media. There are few sights in sport more awesome than a 100 foot super maxi blasting through the waves at better than 25 knots. It takes incredible skill, teamwork, resolve and cash to win line honours in a race as long, tactically complex and downright cantankerous as the Hobart.

And anyway, isn’t that what races are - a race to be first across the line?

Yet in this race, it is very rare for a boat to both win line honours and come first (win overall). Wild Oats XI was the last to do it when she famously took line honours, won the race and broke the record in 2005.

If the winner was the first across the line, then the fleet this year would be maybe four, five boats, not the 78 that will line up on Boxing Day. Those other 74 odd boats aren’t there to make up the numbers - they are there to win the Tattersall’s Cup - the true holy grail of Australian ocean racing.

The winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart isn’t the first to get there, it’s the boat that takes the least time, or should we say, the least 'handicapped' time, such as players have in golf.

Build a big carbon fibre thoroughbred with a canting keel and of course it will get to Hobart before a modest, conventional little boat, but the Rolex Sydney Hobart isn’t just a race between yachts, it’s a contest between crews. So this is a handicap race.

For a time between 1999 and early 2003, Hobart yachts competed under both the IMS and IRC handicapping systems, with the top IMS boat winning the Tattersall’s Cup. But in the 2004 race, the CYCA determined that the yacht that won on IRC would henceforth win the race outright.

Under the IRC rule, an owner takes a whole lot of fairly straightforward measurements of his or her yacht; the length, weight, overhangs and sail sizes, whether the boat has a fixed or canting keel, water ballast, carbon fibre or aluminium mast.

That information is sent to the Rating Office of the Royal Ocean Racing Club in the UK, which then issues a rating for the boat, which is basically a multiplier of the boats elapsed time during a race.

Each hour the boat takes to finish is multiplied by its rating time handicap factor to produce its corrected time. The higher the rating, the bigger the multiplier, the bigger the difference between handicap time and elapsed time.

Think of it this way. Each boat is effectively compared to a theoretical yacht with a 1 rating, so its rating is how many minutes it should be ahead of or behind that theoretical yacht after an hour’s sailing if both crews are sailing their boats as well as they can.

The winner is the crew which takes the least time to reach Hobart once its handicap is applied.

IRC took over from IMS, largely because the latter sought to become the perfect formula for wildly different yacht shapes and sizes. It took very technical, scientific approach. All of a yacht’s measurements were compiled to create a 3D model that could predict the boat’s speed in a range of anticipated wind and wave conditions using a Velocity Prediction Program.

It was a great improvement over the IOR handicap system which had dominated yacht racing for years and years. Whereas IMS based its speed forecasts on a view of the whole hull and rig, IOR measured a whole lot of different points on the boat, so designers began putting lots of little bumps and curves here and there, not because they made the boat safer or faster, sometimes quite the contrary, but because they reduced the rating.

Mainsails got smaller, while big, hard to manage headsails got even bigger. The best designers 'gamed' the rule. So in the 70’s, the top IOR boats were heavy displacement, fine bowed, very powerful to windward, but very prone to broaching downwind. They certainly had their heart stopping moments, but you would never call them exhilarating.

Then, later, as the rule evolved, designers like Bruce Farr swept the field with wedge shaped, fuller stern boats that many criticised as not particularly seaworthy.

IMS boats were cleaner, faster, more fun and less expensive. But over time, this quest for the perfect rule became ever more complex and technical, and designers found they could game the rule with slab sided, high freeboard, low stability yachts.

Geoff Ross was initially a great supporter of IMS, campaigning some of the best IMS racers in Australia under the name Yendys, but he now says that IMS proved a complete failure.

'It failed owners,' Ross says, 'Because it did not protect them from new boats.' An expensive, state of the art IMS boat could become superseded and uncompetitive within months as the next, latest IMS design rolled out of the yard.

By contrast, IRC is much simpler, and it tends to favour medium displacement boats and simple rigs. It also protects owners from new boats, Ross says. 'It preserves the competitiveness of existing boats and rewards new boats. Look at Loki,' he says, 'she is four years old now but she is still winning races.'

The same can be said for Love & War, the 39 year-old wooden boat that won the Rolex Sydney Hobart for the third time in 2006, and others like her.

Love & War, the 39 year-old wooden boat that won the Rolex Sydney Hobart for the third time in 2006. -  © Rolex-Daniel Forster   Click Here to view large photo

Moreover, a secrecy clause means that designers cannot game the IRC rule so easily. Only the RORC Rating Office knows the formula, which they are constantly amending in response to results and owner feedback. The RORC burghers guide designers and owners from the back room, issuing new guidelines every year, but there is no definitive, public formula that will allow a designer to guarantee the owner an absolute rating.

IRC acolytes consider this secrecy the strength of the system. There is as yet no clear idea of what an optimal IRC yacht might look like, and in recent years we have seen the rule produce some really exciting boats that are immense fun to sail, but safe and very forgiving. Whereas once even elite ocean racers plodded down to Hobart at nine knots, today 25 knot plus reaches are the order of the day on the top boats.

Some though, like Ed Psaltis, a former Hobart winner, do worry about what he calls the secret fudge factor 'that allows the powers that be to act like gods,' favouring a particular style of boat.

The IRC rule was originally introduced to give mum and dad cruiser racers a way to compete against the IMS Grand Prix boats. Psaltis, who’s super-fast and exciting skiff-like Ker 40 AFR Midnight Rambler is very much a Grand Prix racer, believes while the rule has spawned exciting bigger boats, like the TP52’s and last year’s race winner, Loki, a Reichel/Pugh 63; in the 38 to 45 foot range the rule favours what he calls 'a certain type of French built cruiser racer'.

Bruce Taylor, who’s latest Chutzpah is one of the most exciting boats in the fleet, worries that since the 38 to 45 foot range is the entry level for ocean racing, the next generation won’t leave their thrilling, edgy skiffs for what he sees as the stodgy boats voted most likely to win by the English rating office.

83, AFR Midnight Rambler, Sail No: 8338, Owner: Ed Psaltis, Design: Ker 40, LOA (m): 12.2, State: NSW -  © Rolex-Daniel Forster   Click Here to view large photo
Psaltis says that Bruce Farr is already designing a Beneteau 40 that beats the rule, the same way designers beat the IOR rule. 'Good designers can always beat any rule,' he surmises.

Critics and advocates of the prevailing system all agree, though, that there has to be a balance in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, and in ocean racing generally, between the club friendly cruiser racers and the flat out Grand Prix types.

The CYCA points to the wide range of yachts, from super maxis to 30 year old former IOR veterans like Love & War, Beneteau 40’s, to last year’s thoroughbred Loki, which have graced the podium in recent years as clear evidence that the IRC handicapping system is working well.

Both cruiser racer and elite Grand Prix crews are in with a winning chance in a race that somehow continues to inspire amateurs and professionals alike. A Loki can win, but so can a Maluka.

Globally a trans Atlantic war is developing between the English and the French, who love IRC, and the Americans, who are pushing for a sort of son of IMS, the ORCi, which is transparent and takes the best of IMS, but is not as technically complex.

Psaltis like ORCi because of its transparency, but Ross says what matters is not whether the rule is transparent or secret, but what results it has produced. 'It has produced quicker, better balanced boats and astonishingly good racing.'

That debate will no doubt provide hours of fun in club bars around Australia over the next few years, and this year a number of yachts will be competing in both IRC and ORCi categories. Who knows how the yachts will be rated in 2020?

However, for the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart, IRC rules.

Rolex Sydney Hobart website


by Jim Gale

  

Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall

http://www.sail-world.com/index.cfm?nid=104759

11:47 PM Sun 16 Dec 2012GMT


Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.







News - USA and the World















Express 27 National Championship overall + Video by Erik Simonson, Pressure-Drop.US,














America's Cup: Louis Vuitton Cup's Yves Carcelle dies at 66 *Feature by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz,












Audi Melges 20 World Championship - ‘Samba Pa Ti’ crowned champion by International Audi Melges 20 Class Association,










Audi Melges 20 World Championship - Final race to decide champion by International Audi Melges 20 Class Association,










Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show - 13 things to See and do by Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show,




Volvo Ocean Race: Update from Team Vestas Wind in images by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz,


ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne - Australian Sailing Team signs up
2014 18' Skiff International Regatta - Day 3
America's Cup: Oracle Team USA sailors place on world regatta circuits
Audi Melges 20 World Championship - Classic Garda conditions on day 2
PWA Alacati World Cup - Intense competition on day 3
America's Cup: 'The Doc' appointed as Commercial Commissioner
Wake Park Triple Crown - Registration open for final stop
Audi Melges 20 World Championship - Day 2 images by Stefano Gattini
Volvo Ocean Race - Two more join Dongfeng Race Team
OHPRI Teen Summer Camps make a splash
East to West: A profile of Volvo Ocean Race crew Team Dongfeng
Extreme Sailing Series - First-ever Turkish team to race in Istanbul
Audi Melges 20 World Championship - Race 4 images by Max Ranchi
New Around Britain and Ireland Monohull 40ft and less world record
Detroit Cup - Fifth place finish a difficult result for Neptune Racing
Audi Melges 20 World Championship - Alessandro Rombelli's 'STIG' leads
Volvo Ocean Race: Call of Duty comes first for Team Alvimedica
Audi Melges 20 World Championship - Day 1 images by Stefano Gattini
Helping boaters understand weather basics
PWA Alacati World Cup - Exciting finish on day 2
Match 40s find the surface again + Video   
Audi Melges 20 World Championship - Day 1 images by Max Ranchi   
Clagett Regatta names first Executive Director   
Transatlantic Race - Fleet expanded for 2015 edition   
IFDS World Championship overall   
Anna Tunnicliffe: Alinghi finishes second - Extreme Sailing Series   
2014 18' Skiff International Regatta - Day 2   
2014 Audi Melges 20 World Championship - It's go time in Garda   
2nd Annual Keith Dinsmoor Regatta September 13-14   
Aldo Alessio Regatta - Three days of tight racing   
PWA Alacati World Cup - First blood to Van Der Steen and Offringa   
Oakcliff Sailing hosts the Nacra 17, 49er and 49erFX Nationals + Video   
International 18ft Skiff Regatta underway on San Francisco Bay   
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2014 - Quality fleet for Maxi Classic   
Sailing Champions League - which is Europe's best sailing club?   
Weta fun at the Wine & Roses Regatta   
Extreme Sailing Series: The Wave, Muscat claims victory on Cardiff Bay   
International 14 World Championships 2015: Not just for boys   
Rio de Janeiro achieves 50% treatment of sewage outflow *Feature   
2014 AWT Quatro Desert Showdown - Event memorable videos   


For this week's complete news stories select    Last 7 Days
   Search All News
For last month's complete news stories select    Last 30 Days
   Archive News







Sail-World.com  


















Switch Default Region to:

Social Media

Asia

Australia

Canada

Europe

New Zealand

United Kingdom


http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/Twitter_logo_small.png http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/FaceBook-icon.png  http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/RSS-Icon.png

United States

Cruising Northern

Cruising Southern

MarineBusiness World

PowerBoat World

FishingBoating World

 

Contact

Commercial

News

Search

Contact Us

Advertisers Information

Submit news/events

Search Stories/Text

Feedback

Advertisers Directory

Newsletter Archive

Photo Gallery

 

Banner Advertising Details

Newsletter Subscribe

Video Gallery

Policies

 

 

 

Privacy Policy

 

 


Cookie Policy

 

 



This site and its contents are © Copyright TetraMedia and/or the original author, photographer etc. All Rights Reserved.  Photographs are copyright by law.  If you wish to use or buy a photograph contact the photographer directly.
XLXL NEW US
LocalAds   DE  ES  FR  IT