The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia has confirmed that the Overall Winner of the 2004 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race would be the first yacht on corrected time in the IRC handicap category.
CYCA Commodore John MESSENGER forecast this move in December 2003, citing evidence of the growing popularity of the IRC rule 'down under'.
On 29 January, the decision was made by the full board of the CYCA. Rear-Commodore Roger HICKMAN confirmed the decision that the George Adams Tattersalls Cup would be awarded to the overall winner of the IRC divisions in the 2004 Rolex Sydney to Hobart race, to a CYCA owners meeting on 4 February.
This afternoon Hickman, who is the Chairman of the Sailing Committee, explained the Tattersalls Cup was originally conceived as a time correction system trophy.
He explained, "The CYCA has not locked themselves into the IRC handicapping system for any period beyond this year, ensuring they have the flexibility to move to another system should a better one arise."
The decision means that almost the entire fleet will be eligible for the prestigious Overall first place and to be winner of the historic Tattersalls Cup.
The CYCA move follows the increasing growth of International and Australian IRC fleet numbers. Over the last twelve months Yachting Australia records show a significant increase in the IRC fleet numbers, with 78 new boats being rated under this system in the first half of this season.
Total figures at the end of the current rating year (30 June) are expected to be significantly higher than in previous years, demonstrating the popularity and suitability of the rule to many Australian yacht owners.
There has been a slight decrease in IMS rated boats in Australia this year and the CYCA decision is likely to cause a plunge in IMS certificate numbers.
In the 2003 Rolex Sydney to Hobart, the most successful yacht in the fleet was the Beneteau 40.7 First National Real Estate, co-skippered by Michael Spies and Peter Johnston, which won under the IMS handicap rule and was declared the Overall winner.
Interestingly she was also the IRC winner and would therefore have won overall, had the IRC handicap rule reigned supreme.
In the IRC category, First National Real Estate took overall honours from Toecutter, the 31-footer designed, built and skippered by Robert HICK from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.
Third place went to another Royal Yacht Club of Victoria boat Chutzpah, Bruce Taylor's Sydney 38.
Robert HICK commented, "The change to the Hobart winner being decided under the IRC rule was a welcome one. Boats configured in Australia for IRC racing have proven to be excellent offshore race boats, a change to IRC is most welcome."
CYCA Director Matt ALLEN, owner of the Farr 52 Ichi Ban, was the 2004 Skandia Geelong Week, 2004 Sailing South and 2003 JPMorgan regatta winner under IRC.
"Everyone wants to sail fast seaworthy stiff boats and that is exactly what the IRC rules are encouraging. In fact, there are very few genuine IMS boats left in Australia. Boats like Quest, who have won Hamilton Island Race Week and the Rolex Sydney to Hobart under IMS, have then made the conversion to IRC configuration and again been successful under IRC, have shown the way.
With the 2004 Rolex Sydney to Hobart being the 60th and with the rapid growth of the IRC fleet, I am expecting to see more than 100 boats on the start line next Boxing Day,"
he said. The IMS rule had excluded many of the top boats in the fleet over recent years including the two 98 footers Skandia and Zana who fought for line honours in 2003.
Certainly the switch to IRC will dramatically increase the competition for 2004 with up to 70 boats competing for the Overall Trophy.
A detailed statement explaining the background to the decision is expected from the CYCA in the next few days.