Complete revamp for Admiral's Cup
Farewell to the Solent?
The details of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's long-awaited rescue package for its once great event - the Admiral's Cup - are due to be released on 9 January but speculation about what may lay in store is already rampant.
What seems clear is that the RORC's Admiral's Cup management committee has been true to its word and has gone for a root and branch reform of a championship which since inception in 1957 has been the club's flagship event.
The Irish Times reported several days ago that Ireland, in the form of Dun Laoghaire, had met the criteria for the new format for the Admiral's Cup and suggested it was likely the championship could be held in Dublin at some point.
Could it be that the RORC has abandoned the Solent and Cowes, regarded as among the least likely aspects of the event to be changed? Indeed so. Janet Grosvenor, the Director of Racing at the RORC, has confirmed to madfor sailing that the AC will no longer be based in one location but will travel to different venues with each successive staging after its re-launch next year.
"Certainly the way the committee are looking at the future of the Admiral's Cup is not to take it to one venue next time and stay there - the idea is that it should be transportable so that the venue for 2003 will not be the same as 2005," said Grosvenor.
This is a revolutionary step which will no doubt please those who are fed up with Cowes, its limited shoreside facilities and high prices. But you don't have to stop to consider Grosvenor's comments for long to realise what a radical effect this will have on the format of racing. The Fastnet Race or the Wolf Rock can hardly be permanent features of future ACs and nor can racing in the Solent.
A brave new era is dawning for an old championship and clearly the RORC has been prepared to take huge risks to breath new life into the AC. So will the next event be staged in Ireland? Grosvenor would not be drawn on this. But there is clearly something in offing on the Irish front. "It's certainly true that we've been talking to various people in Ireland and other places, really because we feel the Admiral's Cup had to have some lateral thinking and possibly some big changes," she said.
Grosvenor said everybody concerned recognised that it will be a gradual process to build the AC back up to where it was in its heyday when it attracted over 20 three-boat teams, and this would take time. "Nobody believes you can wave a magic wand and get it back to where it was immediately," she explained, "but I think it's very exciting - the RORC is doing its usual thing - when it really needs to change, it changes."
We still do not know what format the racing in the new AC will follow, but it seems certain that a wholly new approach will be tried.