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Race in a nutshell: 22nd May, 2010
Position IRC: 3rd (DFL)
Total Entries: 3
Distance: 6.5nm.
Max Speed: 10.8 knots
Ave speed: 6.1 knots
Weather Forecast: Cloudy. Wind West becoming NW 5 to 18 knots. Temp 20C
Weather Actual: Wind was W 5 to 8 knots - patchy.
Course: Windward/Leeward 2 loops with a downwind finish. PORT Roundings.
Seas: Flat with long period swell of 3.0m
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No.1 Genoa (Quantum), A2 Masthead Asymmetric Spinnaker. (North)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Phillip Rentschler (Main), Simon Penso(Pit), Joshua Banks (Mast) Connor Leech (Bow), Total: 500 kg

This race hardly warrants a written report. Three boats in the IRC fleet! What's happening?
Let's think this problem through carefully. Three years ago the fledgling IRC fleet met with lots of resistance from many club members. Most were reluctant to spend money on an IRC rating when they could get a local rating for free, but eventually the club realised it needed to promote the IRC system. Slowly, but surely the fleet size increased to around 15 competitive boats. Bjorn Geiger single handedly and with a great deal of enthusiasm tackled the IRC project. Of course one person only has so much enthusiasm and energy to give. In time the club took the project over, but in the beginning of 2010 the entry levels started to decrease and have continued to decrease rapidly to the very alarming state we saw yesterday. IRC races are run on one day per month in a series of 3 to 4 back to back races, of which the majority have been of the windward/leeward format.

The writing was already on the wall when almost half the IRC fleet failed to enter Cape Town Sailing Week which was the host event for the National IRC Championships. Eventually only 8 boats took to the water for that event. It was also the beginning of some soul searching and brain crunching as to exactly what the underlying issues were.

I took the trouble of sending the organisers an email listing a number of points which I felt were responsible for the poor turnout. Amongst those included poor choice of dates, the duration of the event was too long; an unpopular racing area; poor facilities and crime.

Then a month ago, the first of the winter IRC series was held in Table Bay. We had become increasingly disenchanted with the format of racing (windward/leeward) which saw the same boats in the same positions race after race and no serious consideration was given to adopt a more fair choice of courses which would allow boats of different design to also have a chance to win a race or two. That prompted me to send a list of suggestions in to the organisers with the following suggestions:

1. Don't run races on Sundays
2. Dont start races at 11h00. Rather start them at 0900 or at 14h00. That way we dont spend the entire day on the water and family time is still intact.
3. Run a mix of races which should include windward/leeward, triangles and medium distance bay races (in equal proportion.)

That email did receive some attention and resulted in the club running a poll directed at all IRC boat owners. The result of the poll was that the majority wanted to race IRC races once per month on Saturday afternoons and would prefer a mix of different courses. To RCYC's credit they immediately took action and moved the next IRC race day to Saturday 8th May. They still insisted on starting at 13h00 (something of a compromise but better than 11h00) and unfortunately the windward/leeward format was once again the course of the day.

So why did only 3 boats pitch for racing? Perhaps there is just too much racing and too much crew commitment? It is certainly time to address the poor attendance and make a plan.

The temptation to abandon the tiny IRC fleet and join in the Club fleet was huge, but we decided to do the "right thing" by supporting the IRC fleet in deference to the changes that were made to improve things.

Our racing was as one would expect it to be with a 45 footer, a 35 footer and a 27 footer in the mix. Both races delivered results in precisely that order. We left the race course feeling frustrated.

The times they are a-changin'