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An Ocean Racer’s Dream

The revamped Admiral’s Cup will present a precious opportunity for the avid ocean racer.

August 27, 2002
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As a teenager I often imagined all the boats I’d buy and places I’d sail if I had a windfall inheritance. The day dream kept me going as I worked, mowing lawns or picking up golf balls at a driving range. It’s been a while, but I had another dream recently that might sound good to you, too.

Summer’s still a week away, but you’ve been racing hard since January on your sleek 60-foot ocean racer. Now you’re off again, only this time you’re headed for Germany in the New York YC’s Daimler Chrysler transatlantic with two dozen other good boats. Your team sails well, and before June is history, you’ve joined a short list of navigators who’ve raced the Atlantic in competitions spanning the last century.

When you finish, you don’t even think about catching a plane home. Instead, you make a fast delivery up the Irish Sea to the Royal St. George YC, because your next race is the Admiral’s Cup! Your teammate, a member of your home club you recruited last fall, is already there, practicing on Dublin Bay. He’s tuning up his chartered 40-footer and mostly amateur crew to compete in the IMS 600 class.

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Before you both know it, the revamped Admiral’s Cup is underway. First you do a hard-core week of inshore and short-distance racing, then the whole thing climaxes with a 710-miler around Ireland. Now you’re really earning your navigator’s stripes.

If you win, you’ll be hosting cocktail parties until 2005 in front of the Admiral’s Cup trophy case at your home club, but win or lose, you’ve already had an unforgettable summer. Still, it wouldn’t seem complete without making it to Cowes, and you’re in luck. You just have time to make the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race–the most famous distance race of all–which sets sail from the Solent in early August.

When the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Admiral’s Cup was cancelled last year, the RORC needed to make some brave and radical moves to restart it. I offered some advice in this space, but the club ignored me and instead hit on the idea of approaching yacht clubs (not national authorities) to send teams of two boats (not three). Club pride can be powerful motivator, and the word is out at New York, Storm Trysail, Chicago, the Royal Canadian, and other North American clubs.

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By using IRC (the RORC’s secret formula rule) for a big-boat class of 50- to 80-footers and the IMS 600 class for small boats (production boats such as the Beneteau 40.7 and IMX 40), the RORC has taken an approach both politic and practical. And by moving the Cup away from Cowes and adopting the principle that it will continue to move, like any world championship, the series can stay fresh. Your club could be the host in 2005, although winning is no guarantee of that.

Will the reincarnated Cup succeed as the RORC hopes, drawing multiple teams from several continents? Indications are positive, but it’s early yet. Potential pitfalls I can see are some surprises with IRC ratings and the relatively untested ISAF Classification Code (a factor for the IMS 600s). But heck, we’re talking about ocean-racing adventure here; the final result isn’t absolutely central to having a lifetime experience. Yes, there’s a hefty price tag that goes with making this dream happen, but if you’ve already bought the boat, why settle for a minor-league campaign? Unless we’re lucky enough to be on your crew, the rest of us will wait a bit longer for our windfall, but we’ll surely make our run in 2005.

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