Leadership change at RORC
Published on January 10th, 2021
After 12 years at the helm of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), Eddie Warden Owen has decided to step down as Chief Executive Officer in 2021. The identification of a replacement has already begun, and the intention is for Warden Owen to leave his role in October, at the earliest, to allow the club time to recruit and to ensure a smooth transition.
The RORC, which is the principal organizer of offshore yacht races in the United Kingdom, has undergone significant development under his leadership and continues to be recognized as one of the world’s most influential yacht clubs, especially in the discipline of offshore sailing.
“The time is right not only for the club, but for me personally,” noted Warden Owen. “The period since joining the RORC in 2008 has seen great changes in both its structure and racing activities. There is always more to be done and this is the moment for a fresh pair of hands on the wheel. I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life once the transition is complete. I might even get to do more sailing!”
“Eddie’s shoes will be hard to fill,” said Commodore James Neville. “During his tenure as CEO the club has expanded its membership, as well as its physical footprint and racing program. Most importantly, as we approach our centenary in 2025, the RORC is in a strong position to look forward and to continue its role within the sport.”
Born in Wales, Warden Owen was introduced to sailing in the 1960s by his father, a shipwright and founding member of the Holyhead Sailing Club. Such was his passion and skill, that in the early 1970s he swapped a career in teaching PE for sailmaking and a stab at the Olympics.
Thwarted in this latter ambition by the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, he turned to racing bigger boats where his ability and achievements were quickly spotted and led to a series of Admiral’s Cup campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s and, significantly, an introduction to match-racing, the world of the America’s Cup and fully professional sailing.
After being part of six Cup campaigns, one in Fremantle, two in San Diego, two in Auckland and one in Valencia, between 1987 and 2007, Warden Owen was looking for a change in direction just as the RORC was looking for someone new to run the club. His profile, his knowledge of the sport, natural rapport with owners, crew and professionals, as well as an ability to open doors, made him the perfect fit.
Since joining the club, he has overseen the merger with the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Cowes giving the RORC a base on the south coast; the launch of RORC Caribbean 600 and RORC Transatlantic Race; the refurbishment of the London clubhouse in St James’ and put the club’s finances on a firm footing.
Warden Owen has also been responsible for the growth in entries and overall appeal of the club’s signature event, the Rolex Fastnet Race. Lifting the limits on entries to allow more Corinthian crews, while at the same time embracing the participation of professional classes, such as IMOCA 60s, Class 40s and grand prix multihulls, has enabled the race to flourish.
The club’s desire to expand the fleet further led to the decision to move the finish of the 2021 and 2023 Rolex Fastnet Races to Cherbourg, which has the facilities and wherewithal to accommodate and host a fleet of over 350 yachts. As one of the architects of this move, he will continue to work with the event’s partners in the lead up and during the 2021 race to ensure its success.