Major issues set to be debated at annual ICRA conference

Combined Commodores’ Cup and European IRC Championships expected to attract 100 boats

The Commodores’ may move from its traditional Solent venue in 2020. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport.

The Commodores’ may move from its traditional Solent venue in 2020. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport.

 

As clubs and sailors from around Ireland gather for the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) conference in Limerick on Saturday, news from the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) will be of particular significance as major issues are debated at the day-long gathering.

After victories in 2010 and 2014 for the ICRA teams in the biennial Commodores’ Cup led by Anthony O’Leary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, Ireland was unable to defend its title due to a shortage of suitable boats while numbers at the event were also fewer than expected.

The cup was first sailed in 1992 and is aimed squarely at top-club level sailors with just one professional permitted per boat in teams comprising three boats varying in size from 35 to 45 feet in length.

A new initiative by the RORC to boost interest will see the 2018 edition staged in the first half of June and will combine the mainly amateur-crewed Commodores’ Cup with an open European IRC Championship without limits on professional sailors.

By combining the two regattas, upwards of 100 boats and over 1,000 crew would be involved drawn from 10 or more countries.

The stated aim is to deliver a multi-discipline event, covering a variety of inshore courses as well as offshore races in a tight week-long format on The Solent that has proven popular with many crews in recent years.

Final details for the event have yet to be fully ironed out with protracted discussions on-going about how countries will enter their teams, whether by national authority or by groups of boat-owners forming their own squads.

Guarded welcome

Former ICRA Commodore Norbert Reilly of Howth YC, now responsible for co-ordinating Ireland’s next Commodores’ Cup team gave a guarded welcome to the news though also sounded a cautionary note.

“We need certainty sooner rather than later to begin preparing and training well in advance of the event if you want to be competitive,” said Reilly.

The RORC expects to issue the formal Notice of Race by the end of June this year, a delay that reflects the complexity of the team selection issue.

“The Commodores’ Cup is a fantastic event and the RORC needed to boost it a bit,” says professional sailor Maurice “Prof” O’Connell. “Ultimately, the owners decide. They’re the most important people as they’re the ones that have to marshall their resources.”

The European championship event was first staged at the RCYC last Summer during Volvo Cork Week and this year moves to Marseilles before Cowes in 2018 and a continental venue in 2019.

But in a twist, RORC Commodore Michael Boyd told the news conference that the Europeans were being slated for Crosshaven once again in 2020 as part of the RCYC’s 300th anniversary celebrations, a year when the Commodores’ Cup would also be next held.

Asked by The Irish Times if that meant that the Commodores’ Cup would break with its traditional Solent venue and also move to Cork – to keep with the new cycle established with the 2018 combined format – RORC CEO Eddie Warden-Owen agreed that it was likely though still subject to agreement by both clubs.

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