Connecting the dots for handicap racing

Published on January 9th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
I wrote in my March 2017 column for Sailing World about how American handicap racing in the U.S. was bogged down in rating systems and acronyms. We did not need three measurement-type rules – IRC, ORA, and ORC – as they were all put on earth to do the same thing, and now they are doing it in competition.

Due to the neutrality of US Sailing, and the largeness of the country, each rule got traction in distant regions as a better solution to bring together dissimilar boats for competition, but clarity reveals that no solution is ever perfect, and now the duplicity was a detriment.

At the time I wrote this column, James Dadd, then the director of the RORC Rating Office for IRC summed it up: “No one needs lots of rating rules. Racing should be about getting out there, enjoying yourself and chatting at the bar about what you got right or wrong, and not about the rule.”

Instead of a handicap rule bringing competition together, multiple rules had divided participation, but with the genie out of the bottle, the best hope for progress in the US was to see regions along the active eastern coastline agree to use the same rule. Better yet, if they use a rule popular in Europe, the Atlantic Ocean gets smaller.

And maybe that’s happening.

The SORC’s 2019-2020 Islands in the Stream Series in Florida and the Bahamas, which is the place to be from November to March, is using ORC. For boats moving north in April, Charleston Race Week has been using ORC, and in 2020, the prominent Annapolis Yacht Club will be giving ORC more prominent recognition.

At the recommendation of the AYC Sailing Committee and with the support of Commodore Jonathan Bartlett, the club has unveiled several new initiatives that recognize the increased interest and success of the Offshore Racing Congress rule.

Here’s an announcement distributed by AYC:
ORC will now be offered as part of Annapolis Yacht Club’s popular Wednesday Night Racing series beginning with the 2020 season with ORC and PHRF divisions, with demand determing the number of classes for each.

“AYC has been using ORC for other events over the last few years with positive feedback from owners,” said Bobby Frey, longtime Event Chairman and Principal Race officer for the weeknight series.

“Considering the growing satisfaction with ORC, we feel it is important to provide that opportunity as part of Wednesday Night Racing. I hope this move will further increase our handicap class participation.”

ORC has also been adopted for the Annapolis Labor Day Regatta, which will be celebrating its seventh season in 2020. ORC will replace PHRF as the handicap rating rule for the ALDR, although organizers do anticipate including a PHRF Non-Spinnaker class.

Ben Capuco, AYC’s member liaison for the ORC Class and the owner of Zuul, an Aerodyne 38, fully supports the move to ORC.

“I am really happy that AYC is embracing the rule. It’s going to generate racing that is more fair, and as the fleet of competitors gets used to the rule, participation is going to increase. As light, high performance boats with asymmetric spinnakers have become more popular, the ability for other rules to fairly rate those boats against more traditional designs is almost impossible”

Annapolis Yacht Club will have an overall ORC season champion recognized and presented with the newly rededicated America Trophy for this special purpose and it will henceforth be awarded to the top scoring boat competing in ORC at the Club’s four annually run signature regattas: Spring Race to Oxford, Annual Regatta, Race to Solomons, and Fall Series.

The America Trophy was donated to the club by renowned yachtsman Al Van Metre, who campaigned a series of grand prix racing boats including Running Tide.

“This is one of our finest trophies currently not in use,” Commodore Bartlett said. “We felt creating a season-long ORC champion would return the America Trophy to its proper significance.”

ORC uses the International Measurement System as a platform for measurements of the hull, mast, and sails along with the ORC Velocity Prediction Program (VPP) to rate boats of different characteristics that affect their rated speed.

Annapolis Yacht Club has several other perpetual awards that were previously presented for IOR or IMS competition which will be repurposed now that a similar science-based rating rule has been adopted.

AYC will present the Sherman Hoyt Trophy to the ORC Division winner of the Spring Race to Oxford. That trophy had been awarded as part of the Skipper Race and was retired in 1980 after that event ceased to exist.

Charles “Sherman” Hoyt served as chief advisor to Harold Vanderbilt for multiple America’s Cup campaigns. He was a member of the Tred Avon Yacht Club, which is the Co-Organizing Authority for the Spring Race to Oxford along with Annapolis Yacht Club.

AYC is also reestablishing the Pavana Trophy, another traditional award from the Skipper Race. It was donated by Corrin Strong, first president of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association and the U.S ambassador to Norway.

The Pavana Trophy will now be presented to the ORC Division winner of the Fall Race to Solomons.

Finally, the Fred W. Carlson Trophy is also being rededicated having been retired in 1989 after being previously awarded for the IOR Class. Since WNR will now feature an ORC Division in 2020, it is fitting for the Fred W. Carlson Trophy to be brought back into circulation.

“With these moves we are further solidifying ORC as the handicap rule of choice for Annapolis Yacht Club,” said John White, chairman of the Sailing Committee.

Annapolis Yacht Club will host an ORC Seminar on Saturday, February 1 (10 a.m.-noon) at the Sailing Center. Dobbs Davis, Communications Director for ORC and the US Sailing-certified measurer for this region, will conduct the seminar.

Davis will focus on the measurement and certification process and guide attendees through the process of applying for an ORC certificate. He will also provide a brief overview of the upcoming ORC/IRC World Championship regatta being held off Newport in late September since several Annapolis-area sailors plan to compete.

The ORC Seminar will be open to AYC members and non-members and is free of charge. Call the AYC front desk to register: 410-263-9279.

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