This doesn’t sound like a growth formula

Published on March 23rd, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
The administrators of technical rating rules, such as IRC, ORC, and ORR, take on the mission of providing a platform to fairly handicap dissimilar boats for competition. It’s a cerebral pursuit, based on science, and they do it proudly.

But what nobody seems to do well, either these administers or other authorities, is to save us from ourselves.

While one design class management takes on the task of equipment limitation to maintain levelness and cost, handicap racing is more of a free for all.

The smart people continue to evolve equipment to improve performance, but it is a rare instance when the latest and greatest ‘FILL IN THE BLANK‘ is not costlier, and when we all buy it, doesn’t make us level again.

Actually, the second part of that is not wholly correct, as new gear tends to require new skill, so the casual competitors can spend more money and still lose distance from the teams with more expertise.

This all comes to mind with the Offshore Racing Association revealing how they will permit the use of outriggers in 2020. These are the spar struts that extend to leeward while reaching to improve headsail trim, with their use making headlines during the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race (above).

What was soon learned during that race was the performance difference on the ultra-identical Volvo Ocean 65, with outrigger usage as an area of massive opportunity. For the teams that figured it out early, they were launched.

While helping VO65s get around the world a bit faster is good for the economics of that race, the trickle down of outriggers into recreational sailing presents another example of adding cost and complexity. For a sport that needs participation, this doesn’t sound like a growth formula.

By trusting the rating rule administers to accurately assess new equipment to level the playing field reminds me of a Curmudgeon’s Observation: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” – Ronald Reagan

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