Admiral's Cup 2003
The RORC Steering Group tasked with rescuing the AC after the embarrassment of having to cancel the 2001 event for lack of entries, can certainly not be accused of tinkering in the face of a crisis. If anything - and no doubt there will be those who will accuse them of doing this - they may have gone too far.
The key points are that the AC will no longer be based permanently in Cowes and becomes a 'transportable' event in line with ISAF's requirements for official world championships. As a result, the first staging under the new format will be held in July 2003 in Dun Laoghaire in the Irish Republic with future venues as yet to be announced.
The Irish regatta will consist of inshore racing in Dublin Bay followed by a full, non-stop round Ireland race of approximately 710 miles. The event will be open to up to two teams from each country representing yacht clubs affiliated to the national authority and is designed to last no more than two weeks.
As for the chosen classes, the three-boat-per-team format has been abandoned for now in favour of two. One is to be an IRC (endorsed) big boat of over 50ft with the exact size as yet to be confirmed but it is envisaged that maxis will be eligible. The other is a boat from the newly-formed IMS 600 offshore cruiser/racer class which has a rating band of 595-615 seconds per mile - boats eligible include the IMX 40, the Beneteau 40.7 and the Tripp 40.
On the thorny issue of professionalism, there will be no restrictions in the big boat class while class rules will apply with the IMS 600, rules which currently restrict pros to no more than 50% of any crew rounded down, though unlike the Farr 40 class drivers can be professionals. Nationality rules will be "minimal".
The RORC's aim is revive its old flagship in what it calls a format which is "primarily, but not exclusively professional" and which includes a "recognisable offshore race as well as inshore racing." There is also emphasis on the AC's initial aim, namely international competition between nations. The club is hoping that the new format will eventually attract between 10 and 20 countries and this underpins its choice of boats.
There will obviously be surprise that the RORC has not selected its own grand prix rule (IRM) for one of the designated classes. It seems the club is taking a realistic stance here as it awaits a further spread internationally of its own rule. "The two biggest international rules today are IRC and IMS, they therefore select themselves - we hope to use IRM once it has international penetration," notes a RORC briefing document. "The Club has many interests and it is not always possible to reconcile them. Our task in this instance is to rebuild the Admiral's Cup and we feel our choice gives us a realistic chance of achieving this aim. We continue to strongly support IRM and look forward to taking its place in the international forum," it adds.
The same document addresses the sacred cow of Cowes. The decision to leave Cowes will be applauded by many who resent its off-putting mix of high costs and low-quality facilities, especially on shore. The club's briefing document notes only: "Cowes has a very crowded programme and cannot necessarily meet the requirements we have." However some senior RORC members made the point privately that it was pressure groups within Cowes that first forced the club to move the AC in 1999 when it was held for the first time before Cowes Week, and implied that the Cowes may not get the championship back, even if it does return to the UK.
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