Let’s Consider the ORC
Published on August 5th, 2014
by Geoff Ewenson, SpinSheet
A tried and true sign of summer is in full swing, and we are all thankful for it: the local Wednesday night race series. We have fond memories of winning that one race, when things all came together at the last moment, and we were able to pass the local hero just before the last turning mark and save our time at the finish.
Most of us race under PHRF, and we accept the limits it has as a rule due to its simplicity. It is a single-number rule that acts as a catch all for local boats. We accept that there will be nights when one boat is in its sweet spot and others where it is simply out sailing around the course. It is the standard for all club races here in our lovely Bay. However, the trend has been declining numbers and combining fleets in order to maintain a decent group of boats on the line. It is rare to get more than 12 boats of similar size together in one place at one time.
In other parts of the world, there are areas where big boat sailing is growing and thriving. In northern Europe and beyond, where the local rule is called ORC, people in everything from 25-to 52-footers are enjoying huge numbers of boats getting together and having amazingly tight fun and competitive races. Since northern Europe is not exactly an area known for its conspicuous wealth, the idea that people are big boating in great numbers is even more curious.
The ORC rule is specifically meant to rate dissimilar boats fairly. It is a velocity prediction program or VPP-based rule that has been designed by yacht designers rather than exploited by them; it takes into account things such as wind strength and type of race course (reaching vs. windward/leeward).
It is similar in the initial look to the IMS rule, but it is different in that it lacks the loop holes and “GoSlow” credits that ended up being the hamstring of the IMS days.
Did I mention this rule was created by designers and not exploited by them?
One aspect of the rule that is very interesting is that it doesn’t seem to favor one style of boat over another. It is truly a rule that allows anyone to win in any boat on any given night.
Those who have seen VPP-based rules come and go will remember that each of them have been done in because the designers found out how to trick the rule into thinking the boat was slower than it really was – it was designers against rule makers! This rule is different because it has been created by designers.
The rule is not subjective. It is based on science, and it requires some form of measurement.
There are currently 8000 certificates in 42 countries around the world, which means there is very likely a sister ship to your boat with an ORC certificate. There is a mechanism to get your boat measured simply and painlessly.
I propose that a forward-thinking event commit to use ORC in conjunction with PHRF or any other big boat handicap rule and publish the results. The best way to show the sailors what is available is to make the ORC rule available and examine the results. To learn more, check out the ORC international website: orc.org
Editor’s note: Geoff actively competes on Marc Glimcher’s Ker 40 Catapult, which was part of Ireland’s three boat team that won the 2014 Commodores’ Cup, an international offshore regatta for national teams held July 19-26 at Cowes, Isle of Wight.