Commodore's Cup chaos

As the Royal Ocean Racing Club take a hard line on some teams of dubious nationality

Monday July 29th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
With the Admiral's Cup moved to Ireland and to be held in two not three boat teams, there is a feeling within the yachting community that the RORC's supposed cruiser racer championship, the Rolex Commodore's Cup, could well take its place. It is after all sailed in three boat teams and held in the Solent, remarkably like the Admiral's Cup of old. However with just two weeks to go until it kicks off in the Solent, the Rolex Commodore's Cup appears to be in some disarray.

To take a few steps back - the Commodore's Cup was originally introduced to be the antithesis to the Admiral's Cup, the equivalent of the IRC rule to IRM, an event for amateur or semi-amateur crews, as opposed to the full-on grand prix event that is supposed to be the Admiral's Cup. To this end the Rolex Commodore's Cup is sailed by boats racing with a valid IRC (endorsed) certificate where a half or less of the crew must be 'amateur' under the ISAF classification scheme. An amateur must helm the inshore races and at the start of the offshore race.

National teams are entered through their respective authorities and under article 19 of the Notice of Race it states that the crew of each boat shall have at least 30% nationals on board of the country for which that team is racing. Some countries are allowed to field two teams and if there are more boats than spaces a selection trial is held, which in the case of the English team this year was run by the RYA.

On Friday when the nine teams taking part in the Rolex Commodore's Cup were announced, there were two significant omissions: a Commonwealth team led by Peter Harrison aboard his Farr 52 Chernikeef and a European team put together by Farr International's Peter Morton, skipper and owner of Mandrake. The reason it seems is that where in the past RORC have been trying to encourage all asundry to get together teams to take part in the event and been very flexible in accepting entries, this year they are taking a more hardline approach.

"I've surrendered. I've been beaten by the RORC - refused European entry, refused a second Commonwealth entry," admitted Peter Morton to madfor sailing. "Since for as long as I can remember I've been asked by the RORC to help put teams together, both British and non-British, to increase the numbers. And I've had requests from the RORC - could I get together a Channel Islands team and I said 'yes, I'd be very pleased to help.'"

Morton adds this also happened in the last Admiral's Cup, when a European team comprising three Italian boats was 'created'. "And I know Peter Harrison has had numerous requests to put a Commonwealth team together. Now all of a sudden RORC don't seem to want these teams."

Morton points out that paragraph one of the Notice of Race states that the event is for "national and other teams racing under IRC Endorsed".

"They are obviously very happy with the entries that they have got from France and Holland and don't need the teams this time. As it is at the moment they have gone from having four big boats to having one," continued Morton with resignation. As of the time of writing Peter Harrison's Chernikeef and Mandrake are currently not in and Nick Hewson's Farr 52 Team Tonic, down on Friday's list as racing for the Welsh team have pulled out because they have been unable to round up the required number of gentlemen from the 'hills and valleys'. They are now taking part in RORC' s Bayona Race on 11 August.

Part of the problem lies in that there has been some hotly contested trials this year for the two English teams and there is a feeling within the establishment that it is unfair those who didn't not take part in the trials should be able to enter the event through what is effectively a backdoor, by racing for teams of more dubious nationality.

"This time it is not that we are not being flexible, it is just that we have a Notice of Race, we have people who have complied with the Notice of Race and in the case of the English, people who have fought bloody hard to get there," RORC General Manager Peter Wykeham-Martin explained to us. "And if we're going to have what we have now which is a very good international event, then people must comply with the Notice of Race." But he added that RORC have no policy about trying to exclude entries from taking part - quite the opposite. "The Notice of Race does allow us some flexibility to allow other teams in at our discretion and we are still looking at ways of trying to get some more teams in."

Concerning the issue of GBR Challenge boss Peter Harrison's entry on Chernikeef Wykeham-Martin commented: "We didn't have an entry submitted to us by the closing date of 19 July from either Peter Morton or Mark Fitzgerald [Peter Harrison's skipper on the Farr 52]. The answer is there's stacks of time still to go before the competition, the Notice of Race does allow us discretion but it has got to be in line with the Notice of Race and its spirit. Also people have got to remember the spirit of this particular event - this is not the America's Cup, it is the Commodore's Cup."

madfor sailing is led to believe that a resolution to these issues is imminent. We will bring you news as and when...

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