International yacht racing competition returns to the waters off Cowes, Isle of Wight this coming Monday (26 July) with the first race of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Rolex Commodores' Cup.
Held biennially, the Rolex Commodores' Cup is a championship for teams of offshore yachts run under RORC's IRC rule. National teams each field three boats falling into small, medium and large categories according to their IRC rating. Very approximately these categories equate to boats of 35, 40 and 45 feet in overall length.
As in 2002, eleven teams in total will be competing in the Rolex Commodores' Cup. The bulk of these are from the Great Britain and France with single three boat teams from Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands plus an eleventh hour Team Europe entry made up of individual boats from Russia, Belgium and France.
The race schedule is designed to test crews to the limit through a mixture of inshore and offshore races. The latter includes a short passage race of around 12 hours duration on Wednesday, 28th July and the RORC Channel Race, on a course of 24-36 hours duration starting at 1830 on Friday, 30th July.
For the inshore races the crews will have to contend with the complex navigation required while racing in the Solent. This stretch of water between the Isle of Wight and the English mainland has one of the most complicated tidal situations in the world with water flushing in and out of Southampton Water, across numerous shallows and underwater ledges; idiosyncrasies that have challenged yachtsmen for centuries. Those familiar with the Solent's unique characteristics will be able to make substantial gains over those who don't.
In the long distance races the crews will have the benefit of more constant tide, but will have to tackle variable wind conditions as well as maintaining their complete concentration over the duration of each race. During the Channel Race, crews are likely to find their skills and stamina thoroughly tested, with little time to rest if they are to keep the boat at optimum speed throughout the 24-36 hours.
Each race is scored according to a 'points factor' and these are weighted so the longer races score more. Significantly the last race, the Channel Race, scores 2.0x the points so it is likely that the final outcome of the event will go to the wire - it all hinging on the outcome of this one final race.
A significant change for this year's Rolex Commodores' Cup has been a tightening up of each team's nationality requirements. Team entries are lodged by their national authority such as the RYA in the Great Britain or the FFV in France. Earlier this season both France and GBR held selection trials over a number of regattas to establish the best boats and combinations to enter in the Rolex Commodores' Cup.
This year for the first time the RORC have stipulated that at least 50% of the crew on each boat must comprise nationals of the country their team is representing or had this as their principle residence for more than one year.
To emphasis the Corinthian element to the Rolex Commodores' Cup at least 50% of the crew on each boat must be amateur sailors as defined by Group 1 of the International Sailing Federation's Competitor Classification Code. A Group 1 sailor must also helm for all the inshore races and for the start and the following hour of the short passage and Channel races.
Full details are available on the event website at the address below.