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The ratings wars: IRC is by far the most popular rating system in Australia, but is org, with its promise of greater transparency, the answer to rating arguments?

Over the past three decades the rating system used to decide the Overall Winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart and other major offshore races in Australia has changed from IOR to IMS and then to the current IRC systems.

Although the locally-created AMSystem has been growing in popularity, notably in Victoria and Tasmania, IRC remains the premier system because of its international status.

The recent 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart was again decided, and with little or no argument against it, on the IRC rating system. However, prior to the race the CYCA agreed to score yachts measured to the relatively new ORCi rule, provided there were sufficient numbers to warrant it. No trophies were allocated to ORCi and results, while published on the race website, were not publicly announced.

The Offshore Racing Council (ORC) originally introduced ORCi as a replacement for IMS on the European scene where fleets in the Mediterrannean were still racing to a rating sytem no longer used in most other parts of the world. However, it has caught the eye of the owners of grand prix racing yachts who suggested that IRC was no more than a club rule.

Of the 77 yachts that raced to Hobart with an IRC rating, and were thus eligible for the Tattersall's Cup, 33 also competed with an ORCi rating. The overall winner, the new Farr-designed Beneteau First 40 Two True, also placed first in the ORCi results.

Second and third IRC placegetters, Wicked, also a Beneteau First 40, and Next, a Sydney 38, did not have ORCi ratings, thus another Sydney 38, Swish, moved up to second and Patrice Six, an X41, to third. From there on, however, it is hard to draw an accurate comparison between the two rating systems as only half of the first 25 boats overall under IRC ratings also had an ORCi rating.

However, three older designed yachts appeared to fare well under ORCi--the Netherlands entrant Pinta-M, an Sparkman & Stephens designed 41-footer built in 1972 placed fifth in the ORCi scoring after placing 25th overall on IRC, but 11 boats ahead of her on IRC were not rated ORCi. Ray White Spirit of Koomooloo, the Fastnet-winning former Ragamaffin and another S&S design built in 1968 placed 23rd overall on IRC but eighth on ORCi.

Syd Fischer, the 82-year-old doyen of Australian yacht racing, is a strong supporter of ORCi, describing it as "a great rule because it's fully measured, transparent and we don't have anyone's input other than the measurements." His latest Ragamuffin, a TP52, placed 21st under the official IRC results, third in Division 3, while in the ORCi results it placed ninth. She was the highest placed of the grand prix racers of 50-foot plus LOA, although very few of the biggers boats had an ORCi rating, which was rather a pity as it was an opportunity to get a real comparison of the rule.


The IRC rule is going from strength to strength among Australian offshore fleets with the number of boats rated, which now stands at more than 500 each year, increasing steadily. According to Yachting Australia, most owners appear very satisfied with IRC and the way it is administered by Yachting Australia, but it is well aware that some owners see ORCi as a better alternative and has certainly gone to great lengths to assist them, offering guidance on measuring and rating and facilitating access to boats already measured domestically and internationally.

In a recent statement, Yachting Austalia said: "ORCi is IMS rebadged, but the Velocity Prediction Program (VPP), which is the heart of the system, has been updated," pointing out that ORCi calculated ratings based on scientific calculations contained in the VPP.

While the ORC was changing the way to measure yachts under ORCi to reduce costs significantly, it was still a more complex rule than IRC and does require more measurements, although there were thousands of boats already measured that could be used for sister-ship data to copy as a starting point, making rating easier, YA points out.

AMS, a Yachting Victoria initiative now well established in that state, has also spread this summer to Tasmania where AMS divisions have been running in tandem with IRC in the major offshore races and in division pennant races on Hobart's Derwent River. IRC is still the premier rating category, but the growth of AMS is mainly due to it being a less expensive and more transparent alternative rating system, appealing to yacht owners who do not aspire to sailing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart or even a Melbourne to Hobart race.
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Title Annotation:Down The Rhumbline
Author:Campbell, Peter
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 1, 2010
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