The popularity of competing at Skandia Cowes Week continues unabated. In the last ten years, the regatta has grown from around 750 entries and 25 classes to 1,000 entries and over 40 classes. Race management has grown increasingly complex but CCC (Cowes Combined Clubs) continues to support up and coming classes and existing fleets where possible with the overall aim being to provide the best racing for the greatest percentage of the overall fleet.
Key CCC initiatives introduced for the 2005 Regatta, Saturday 30 July to Saturday 6 August:
- IRC split into 8 classes
- IRM crew weights to be up to 15% heavier than stated on a certificate
- Laser SB3 class gets own start
- Sonatas will race in a handicap class
- Class splits/schedules will be advised in Entry List booklet at registration
- New course setting software introduced. Strings and pins are out
- New time limits
- Black group start/finish line
Classes for 2005
IRC will be split into eight classes. Boats with both IRC and IRM certificates are offered dual scoring under both systems and in order to minimise the optimisation differences, the Rating Office has granted dispensation to allow IRM crew weights to be up to 15% heavier than stated on a certificate.
With over 40 boats expected to race in the Laser SB3 fleet this year, the class will have its own start. The Sonatas - whose numbers have declined in recent years - will no longer have their own class and will race in one of the handicap classes.
Class breaks and starting schedules
Rather than publishing class splits and schedules in the Official Programme, this year, CCC will publish the class splits and starting schedules in the Entry List booklet, ready for collection at registration.
The course setting software that CCC has used for the past four years is being totally rewritten for the 2005 Regatta. This removes the need for pin-and-string chart-boards as the race officers will now design courses straight onto large computer screens. CCC expects this to prevent mark rounding clashes and provide even better co-ordination between black and white group courses. The software also allows for more sophisticated weather forecasts and should assist with decisions on potential shortening of courses.
Time limits - their extension once one boat in a class has finished - are controversial, especially in handicap classes where there might be a large rating spread between the fastest and slowest boat.
CCC is maintaining the basic time limits – that is 1800 hrs for the first boat to finish or 1830 hrs for boats whose start was at 1430 hrs or later.
In the past, CCC has had a one-hour extension after the first boat's time for other boats to finish, thus potentially giving a different extended time limit for each class.
As this leaves many competitors unsure of precisely what time they have to finish, CCC is standardising the extension of any time limit to 1900 hrs. All classes so extended will be announced on VHF channel 28 shortly after 1800 hrs.
Black Group start and finish lines
Mooring (rather than anchoring) the committee vessel as the ODM (Outer Distance Mark) of the black group start line has been trialled successfully and CCC is changing the start line definition this year so that the line is between the RYS flagstaff and an orange flag on the ODM, with the transit lights as a guide. This should reduce the number of boats being scored OCS (On Course Side).
At the start of each day they will signal whether black group boats should finish at Alpha or at Beta, thus minimising the risk of boats finishing from the West being forced into the harbour fairway.
Parade landing in place for 2006
The Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) plans to build a small haven to protect the RYS steps and to provide short term berthing for up to a dozen boats. An integral part of the planning application is for a new stub jetty and public landing pontoon off Cowes Parade. This is jointly funded by the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes Harbour Commissioners and Cowes Combined Clubs.
It is hoped that work will commence in the Autumn of 2005 and the whole project should be completed by the start of the 2006 sailing season. The pontoon will provide much needed drop-off and pick-up facilities for competitors during Skandia Cowes Week 2006.