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Club/IRC Winter Series, Race 6 -
10th September 2011

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Race in a nutshell: 10th September, 2011
Position PHRF: 1st
Total entries: 12
Distance: 9 nm.
Max Speed: 14.9 knots
Ave speed: 6.7 knots
Weather Forecast: Cloudy. Wind SSW 14 knots. Temp 17C
Weather Actual: Cloudy. Wind SE 22 knots.
Course: 10 (P) – Paarden Island (P) - Milnerton (P) – Paarden island (P) - Woodbridge (P) - No. 10 (S)
Seas: Flat. Lots of rubbish around – Mainly plastic bags.
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 2 Jib (Quantum), R1 Asymmetric (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Phillip Rentschler (Main), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Craig Preston (Pit), Allesandro Napoli (Mast), Joshua Banks (Bow) : Total: 500 kg

Dealing with 180 degree wind shifts
The first race of spring invariably provides a few surprises. Ours started off with a very light North westerly which would turn 180 degrees into a blustery south easter – just to let us know with absolute certainty which part of the earth we live in. The four boat IRC fleet were just finishing a very light wind windward/leeward race as the club fleet arrived at the start area for our scheduled 14h00 start. The wind was light and puffy – averaging around 3 knots. The course was scheduled to take us up into the shipping channel to our first mark.

Race abandoned
We nailed a magnificent start. We were exactly where we wanted to be and we had no-one around us. The result – an instantaneous acceleration into the front of the fleet and one which we would most likely have been able to capitalize handsomely on. However, behind us the south easterly wind had moved quickly down towards the start area resulting in the race officer abandoning our race. Oh well…. Win some, lose some!

My friend (and foe) the SE wind
Ten minutes later with a strengthening south easterly over the bay, a new course was set and at 14h20 we were off for the re-start. During the 10 minute wait, we changed down to a No.2 jib, knowing only too well that a south easterly seldom decreases in strength – and a wise move that would prove to be. Again we nailed a beautiful start going fast with clean air to windward and to leeward. We had the Farr 40 “Majimoto” below us and going slightly faster than us, so we concentrated on not falling below their track and keeping ourselves in clean air. The J27 “Hillbilly” also had a good start but they were well to leeward of us. We soon drew ahead of them and rounded the weather mark in 2nd place behind the Farr 40, and about 40 boat lengths behind.

Good mojo on Majimoto
Our hoist was good and we quickly accelerated up to 13 knots, rapidly reducing the lead the Farr 40 had on us. Less than halfway down the leg, we overtook them to windward (good sports on board the Farr 40 as they cheered us on). The wind direction suited us, but the wind was very gusty and shifty, making life interesting for our trimmers. The Milnerton mark came up quickly, as we did all our prep work in time and did a perfect strike and a good mark rounding, as we settled down for the beat back to Paarden island. The “iffy” south easter continued with its constant changes in strength and direction, which for us on a sports boat, meant a lot of hard work keeping the boat flat and footing. The Farr 40 had steadily eroded our lead by about 70% but not enough to get past us. We rounded Paarden island still comfortably in first place, as we got the kite up for the next run down to Woodbridge. This was a much deeper angle for us, so we planned from the start of the leg to do it in two bites. The problem was trying to guage the gybe point whilst doing 14 knots downwind. The mark is tiny and almost impossible to spot from more than 100m away. The position shown on the GPS also proved to be wrong by several hundred meters. Luckily we have several sets of crew with keen eyesight – and that excludes the skipper!

Another fast reach
Out gybe was good and done at speed, with the jib rehoist and kite strike happening in double quick time. We whipped around the Woodbridge mark and homed in on the finish line, some 2 miles away. The last leg was a fetch and it was wet and fast with the boat speed peaking out at just over 10 knots, which we were very happy with considering we didn't have a spinnaker up. We opened up a big lead on the Farr 40 on the last two legs, but we were much more concerned about the smaller, heavy boats with very low ratings. It was nice getting another line honours win and a good morale booster for the crew. Once the results were posted at the clubhouse, Regent Express came out tops with a 5 minute winning margin over the 2nd placed boat – the J27 “Hillbilly”

IRC is not perfect
So why aren't we sailing in the IRC fleet any longer you might ask? We certainly miss the sharper competition, but there should also be some reward for sailing well and IRC wasn't doing that for us. Ask anyone who owns a sports boat. Well, it's a short story and simple in the telling. The IRC rule favours heavy, boats that go well to windward and don't reach well. That's putting it in very simplistic terms. When the Pacer 27 Class Association first applied for a one design IRC rating, it was given as 1.034

That's a tough rating for a 27 foot boat that doesn't go particularly well to windward. Then after the first year of racing the Pacer 27, we found a gremlin in one of the mainsail measurements. Someone had transposed a set of mainsail measurement numbers from 2.42m to 2.24m – Once we notified the IRC office of the error, they changed the boat's rating from 1.034 to 1.044. That made it virtually impossible for a Pacer 27 to win any IRC race held in the windward/leeward format. I tried to support the IRC system and encouraged the club to hold more races with reaching legs and they did oblige to a degree, but it was essentially ‘too little, too late”. We became tired of finishing tail end Charlies in most races. It was demoralizing, so we all agreed that it would be best to sail under the club rating which is much fairer.

During 2011 after renewing our IRC certificate, we found to our total dismay, that the IRC rating had been increased even further – to 1.054!!! That is a similar rating to a modern 40 footer. We asked the IRC office in London for an explanation. They replied with a very short explanation :

“We have changed our methodology” and no further explanation was offered.

So clearly, the IRC rules are struggling to cope with sports boats. By continually giving them “off the scale” ratings, they are (perhaps inadvertantly) intent on reducing the racing value of this type of boat. Maybe that is not their intention? There is no rating rule in the world that covers every type of boat ever designed. Somewhere along the line, every rule prejudices some boats. IRC is one of the best rating systems to date, but it does have it's limitations.

The revolution has begun
Sports boats are catching on enormously world wide. There are massive fleets of this genre of boat (The Melges 24 and 32 are good examples) with more than 100 boats on the start line at world championship level. The boats are fast, exciting and low maintenance and they don't require a lot of crew either. In short, whether you like it or not, this is the future. IRC need to embrace the sports boats, if they want any level of longevity in their rule system. Right now, they have effectively kicked us out, by making the playing field almost vertical. All the Pacer 27 owners in SA have agreed not to renew their IRC certificates until the problem resolves itself, if it ever will.

So on we go – as they say – enjoying ourselves. As long as we can race on a fair system, we are happy to participate. After many years of racing keelboats, there is one thing we all have to concede to: Dr Dave Smith's club rating system has proved to be one of the fairest rating systems we have ever known – and that done without physical measurement! I think that deserves a doff of the hat.

1st Regent Express – Trygve Roberts – 017 – Pacer 27S – Rating 1.080 – 1.01.00

2nd Hillbilly – Peter Hill - SA198 – J27 – 0.995 – 1.06.02

3rd Saiorsi – Tony Blackwell – SA0000 – Atlantic 36 - 0.995 – 1.06.38

4th Spirit of Victory – Mike Paddick – SA2314 – Astove 30 - 0.890 – 1.06.47

5th Ava – Ken Botwood – SA818 – Miura 30 – 0.910 – 1.07.15

6th Majimoto ll – Paul Mare – SA765 – Farr 40 – 1.130 – 1.07.20

7th Ichyd Da - Stephan Hundt - SA797 - Miura - 0.910 - 1.07.44

8th Cabaray - Ray Matthews - SA2018 - Stadt 34 - 0.940 - 1.08.53

9th Impact - Jacqui Brand - SA 223 - Impact 30 - 0.920 - 1.08.58

10th Ariel - Tony de Villiers - 013 - RCOD - 0.925 - 1.09.02

11th Tally-Ho - John Waller - 011 - L34 - 1.015 - 1.11.34

12th FTi Flyer - Keith Mattison - SA702 - Charger 33 - 0.985 - 1.14.32