Once again this tough mix of inshore and offshore races will be compacted into a challenging seven day racing schedule on the testing waters in and around the Solent. As in 2006 the handicap system will be IRC (Endorsed) and there will be three rating bands.
The international teams will consist of three boats, with one boat from each of the following Bands:
Within these Bands, each boat must also comply with STIX and AVS (Safety and Stability Indices) requirements.
The continued tightening of the three bands, a format reintroduced in 2004, is an evolutionary process designed to promote close racing on the water, whilst still ensuring competing teams have a sufficiently large pool of yachts from which choose. The bands selected for 2006 reflect the views of a wide number of interested parties drawn from all elements of the offshore racing fraternity.
A significant change for 2008 is in the racing programme for the week. Again, in an effort to evolve the regatta in line with the wishes of the main stakeholders - those that compete - RORC has carried out a thorough review of the weeklong schedule and made some bold decisions. Most striking is the positioning of the offshore race in the middle of the week and the short passage race, provisionally a Round the Island course, towards the end. The removal of one of the inshore races offers crews greater breathing space during an intense week of racing, but the final inshore race of the series carries double points adding to the excitement at the event climax.
Nationality rules remain as per 2006, with a 50% requirement. The relationship between Professionals and Amateurs has been reviewed in some detail, with considerable attention paid to competitors from both sides of the sport. In 2006, widely regarded as one of the most fiercely competitive in the 15 year history of the event, only 15% of the crew were professionals; a fact that RORC believes shows how strong and well prepared the fleet has become. Whilst recognizing the significant role the professional element has had to play in raising standards amongst the crews, stricter limitations have been placed on the number of pros/Group 3 (ISAF Sailor Classification Code) sailors allowed on board each boat:
Corinthian sailors will continue to play their integral role throughout the inshore series and at the start of the offshore race, when they are required to helm. For the purposes of the Rolex Commodores' Cup 2008 an owner who becomes Group 3 solely by virtue of a charter will not be counted as part of the Group 3 allowance. For the avoidance of doubt, this modification applies only for Rolex Commodores' Cup and does not alter the ISAF Sailor Classification Code.
After a successful title bid in 2006, the French remain in a defiant mood and Géry TRENTESAUX (FRA) readily emphasised their intentions to seek a third win in four events during the UNCL Annual Dinner held in Paris just before Christmas, 'For us, defending the Rolex Commodores' Cup is a matter of great honour. We have good sailors that enjoy the challenge of inshore and offshore racing, and we enjoy the challenge of competing against other nation teams. The French Federation is very focussed on starting preparations this year, looking at both the crews and the boat combinations.'
Commenting on the changes, RORC Commodore David AISHER said, 'We are delighted to be making this early announcement. Several owners intend to have new boats built. I know the French will defend with great skill and passion. The stage is being set for a truly competitive, international event.''
Further details about the Rolex Commodores' Cup 2008 including the dates, which are yet to be finaliszed, will be released later in 2007 along with the full Notice of Race.