Revitalizing interest: Innovate or die

Published on December 2nd, 2019

Two years ago, the Sailfish Club of Florida’s Yachting Committee took a calculated risk. In an effort to revitalize interest in the club’s racing crown jewel, the Wirth M. Munroe Ocean Race, they decided to break with six decades of tradition and offer a two-course format rather than a single track.

The revamped coastal favorite would give skippers the option of racing a 60-mile Classic course from Miami to Palm Beach or a 40-mile Sprint course from Fort Lauderdale to Palm Beach.

The gambit has paid off with 33 teams to start the 63rd edition on December 6. The last time race organizers saw that level of participation was in 2009, with the entry mix spanning a broad spectrum of boats, from offshore race machines to cruiser racers to cruisers – there are even four of the new Melges IC37 one-designs entered, the class’ first offshore test.

Tom Bowler, chair of both the Sailfish Club’s Yachting Committee and Wirth Munroe Race Committee, offers an update.

To what do you attribute the strong fleet?

We believe our decision two years ago to offer two courses – the 60-miles Classic from Miami and the 40-mile Sprint from Fort Lauderdale — has been key to generating participation. Feedback from skippers shows people like more choice. Our strong partnerships with Storm Trysail Club, SORC and Biscayne Bay Yacht Club have also been important in spreading the word, building the profile of the race, and raising the bar in terms of race management. And the Wirth Munroe’s role as one of the marquis events in the Islands in Stream Series has put us in very good company.

The fleet is looking diverse across a broad spectrum of boats. Tell us about the mix.

We think the diversity of the entries reflects our efforts to offer skippers course options, and that’s a plus. There really is something for everyone. We are delighted to see the big line-honors hopefuls choose to start their southern swing with the Classic course of the Wirth Munroe. At the same time, we are excited by the debut of the Melges IC37 one-design fleet, the growing ORC entries and the continued strong PHRF fleet. And of course, we are happy to see our local friends in the ECRCA join us again this year. It’s a great fleet across the board.

The biggest growth in participation appears to be in the ORC fleet. What is happening there?

The boom in ORC entries is remarkable. Two years ago we had virtually no one racing ORC and this year it amounts to a third of the fleet. I think the ORC rule has appealed to skippers because it takes into account performance factors across a broad spectrum and rewards boats’ overall performance. I expect to see this fleet continue to grow.

2019-2020 Islands in the Stream Series
November 14 – Nassau Cup Ocean Race
December 6 – Wirth M Munroe Palm Beach Race
January 23 – Ft. Lauderdale to Key West
March 11 – Eleuthera Race

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