ORC approves agreement to become ISAF's offshore racing committee

But new remit could force a major change in outlook on the organisation

Friday November 10th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Much of the attention at the ISAF meetings in Edinburgh this week has focused on the Olympic classes, but offshore racing is also undergoing a quiet revolution. The ORC formerly approved their new status as a part of the ISAF this week, becoming the committee within the international governing body with responsibility for offshore racing.

While much of the detail about who does what remains to be settled, it's already clear that the remit handed down to its new offshore committee by ISAF could force a dramatic change of outlook within the ORC. As a separate organisation, the ORC was free to produce and promote whichever handicap rules it chose - and that meant the IMS.

But the largely unsuccessful struggle of the IMS to find widespread international acceptance - resulting in its being dropped from the Admiral's Cup completely for 2001 - has been undermining the ORC's authority for some time. And the development of other 'products' (the way to look at handicap rules in this market-driven world) to fill the gap left by an unpopular IMS rule meant the ORC found itself competing for 'customers' (owners and boats) with other organisations with different rules. In the UK that meant the RORC and its IR2000 rules, IRM and IRC.

This uneasy and confusing situation - no one is keen to build a new boat when they don't know which handicap rule will be dominant in a couple of years time - may now be headed towards some sort of resolution. The ORC will be forced to look after all 'international' handicap rules, to a definition agreed with ISAF. That means that should the IR2000 rules meet the requirements - and sources at the RORC have no reason to believe they won't - the ORC will find itself promoting the British developed rule alongside its own IMS.

The RORC have no direct status or influence at ISAF, and so IR2000 can only be presented to ISAF for international recognition by the RYA, who will presumably be seeking to ensure that British representation and influence in this new offshore committee is strong.

If the IR2000 rule is accepted by ISAF as an international handicap rule, it ought to level the playing field between IR2000 and IMS. And allow the better rule to achieve widespread international acceptance much more quickly than might otherwise have been the case - which ought to be good for offshore racing. But any handicap rule still has to overcome the overwhelming popularity and marketplace dominance of the one designs.

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