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A Word About IRC

by Kurt Hoehne

I hear that the big boats are contemplating racing under IRC handicapping (instead of PHRF), and will in the Van Isle 360 race. As with all things, we’ll wait and see. However, it’s probably worth it to revisit exactly what IRC is, and just superficially its strengths and weaknesses.

IRC’s origins are in the CHS/Channel Handicapping System of the U.K., which was developed as a measurement system to race cruiser racers. It has been forced into duty to handicap racing-oriented boats because of the lack of a universally accepted and effective Grand Prix rule. The IRC administrators are making it work with small secret adjustments to the rule (NOT individual boat ratings) to accommodate changes in design and technology. The data used for these annual adjustments to the formula come from around the world. An IRC rating does not change with geography.

If you don’t like your rating you can run “trial certificates” on theoretical changes to try to figure out changes to your boat that might get it, in your estimation, a better rating. You cannot lobby a handicapper or committee to change your rating or your competitor’s rating.

It appears to slightly favor more cruisy (heavier, less powered up) boats in the smaller size range and high powered racers in the bigger sizes. It penalizes rigs that utilize runners, exotic materials, lighter weight etc. It attempts to account for the slowing effect of creature comforts down below. It’s a single-number system with those limitations. It is the predominant measurement system in use internationally at this time.

Designers are designing IRC raceboats, but they are by nature very good sailing boats without the distortions seen in dedicated IOR or IMS boats. Production boats such as Beneteaus have fared well under IRC, and there are many instances, when old IMS and IOR warhorses have won big. Some of those old warhorses can be reworked to have very competitive IRC ratings.

There are two ways to get rated, endorsed and non-endorsed. Haulout and weighing are not required for a non-endorsed certificate. The cost according to the application is $26.80/meter for the initial non-endorsed certificate. Annual renewal is less.

Some folk will not be happy with their IRC rating. Nobody will like paying more for a rating. But it would take the nonsensical banter out of the equation, and allow sailors to put more of their mental energy toward sailing and less toward ratings.


ORC or ORR would also work just fine. ORC is a measurement system and seems to be more focused on raceboats and ORR is a derivative of the old IMS/MHS velocity prediction programs and can be fine-tuned toward wind velocity/direction. It is in use primarily for the Mackinac races, and as one of the systems for the Bermuda Race and Transpac.

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1 comment

Chris February 22, 2013 - 03:35

Thank Kurt.


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