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On Deck: Optimize your boat, not your rating

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Wise words from James Dadd, director of the RORC Rating Office, who recently took a detour from his Australia/New Zealand tour to stop over in Samui during the Samui Regatta and talk with sailors and event organizers about the IRC rating system prevalent in this area of the world.

“We are cautious in our approach, introducing new ideas over time,” noted Dadd. “Our aim is to encourage sailing, to ensure it is fun.”

IRC is an international rating rule to handicap all types and sizes of keelboats, allowing them to race together on the same race course and at the same time. Managed and jointly operated by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) in the UK and Union Nationale pour la Course au Large (UNCL) in France, a series of measurements of a boat – its sails and sail area, boat type, model, age, weight and much more – are collated and submitted to RORC who, using advanced technical formulae, will issue the boat with a Time Corrector (TCC) number based on all the data received. This is the boat’s ‘handicap’.

In a race scenario, a boat’s elapsed time (the time it has taken the boat to complete the race) is multiplied by the TCC number to give the boat’s corrected time for that race. The boat with the shortest corrected time is the winner.

The IRC rule is unpublished, meaning the method and formulae used to calculate the TCC are secret to the RORC. All boats are treated the same and subject to the same method of calculation and formulae – no matter what the size, model or age of the boat – but the rule details remain secret to prevent designers from taking advantage and designing IRC-targeted boats.

The objective is to try to remove the perceived barriers to going out on the water and racing, by making it easy for a boat to receive a rating based on easily obtainable information and IRC’s experience with similar boats around the world. Once a boat has a rating they can continue on that rating or start to optimize their boat to improve performance or as Dadd says, “Optimize your boat, not the rating.”

According to Dadd, there are 6,500 boats around the world using the IRC system and the aim is always to provide fair and fun racing.

Stressing the importance of listening to sailors and hearing their feedback on the rating system and how it works in practice around the world, ensures RORC continues to develop it in the best way possible for the entire fleet. The rule is progressive and ultimately represented by the IRC Owners’ Associations.

“We have lost the America’s Cup [to a multihull format] and Volvo Ocean Race to one-design. We don’t have these top events to innovate, the innovation of which then normally trickles down to all the fleet.”

The IRC rating system is inclusive, it’s for keelboats of all types. “The majority of the IRC fleet around the world are cruiser/racers or racer/cruisers. The Maxi’s, for example, only account for perhaps 100 boats out of the 6,500 IRC rated boats in the world right now.”

“Our aim is to protect the fleet to provide a fun racing environment for boats that like to race against each other.”

The premier fleet of racing boats in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand were at the recent Samui Regatta and more than 30 sailors enjoyed Dadd’s casual and frank discussion of the rule, its recent changes and areas that are currently being reviewed.

Hosted in Samui by the organizers of the Samui Regatta, Simon James, IRC Rule Authority for South East Asia, said, “It’s a rare opportunity for the sailors to meet the director of the ratings office. It’s actually a chance for both sailors and RORC themselves to discuss and listen to each other. This interaction is essential to ensure the IRC rule represents the majority of keelboat sailors around the world and delivers a fair, unbiased handicap system for racing in all locations and all conditions.”

For more information on IRC in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, contact Simon James at or visit

Duncan Worthington is a long time Phuket resident and through Infinity Communications (www. consults to leading consumer brands, hospitality and marine clients in Thailand. In his ‘spare time’ he runs the marine portal www.Marine #OnDeckPhuket

— Duncan Worthington


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