The Future of Offshore Yacht Racing

The offshore racing scene has changed a lot during the last few years, so there was a need for an update on design, technical development, rating rules and race formats. Against this background the German Offshore Owners Association together with Pantaenius, North Sails, hanseboot Boatshow and SGS arranged a free forum on the future in Offshore Yacht Racing.

The offshore regatta scene has changed dramatically during the last years. New formalities and numerous changes In measurement have internationally caused a lot of discussion. Fast yachts and sailing fun are booming.

Against this background the German Offshore Owners Association together with hanseboot Boatshow, the sail maker North Sails. the specialist for yacht insurances Pantaenius and SGS Yachttesting Services invite to a free forum concerning the future in Offshore Yacht Racing.

We have been able to secure international experts as discussion partners for this workshop, who will elucidate various topics. In an open discussion the participants will be able to direct questions to the experts and discuss different points of view.

The first edition of the International Yacht Forum was held this weekend in Hamburg with over 220 participants from Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Spain, Netherlandsm USA and the UK. Besides some of the best designers and leaders in the industry, we got to hear Michael Castania (ORM), Dobbs Davies (ORC/Seahorse), Rob Weiland (TP 52 Class Manager) Andrew McIrvine (Commodore of RORC) and many others presented their view on “The Future in Offshore Yacht Racing”.

The day started out with a panel on Yacht Design, with Simon Rogers, John Corby, Mark Mills and Torsten Conradi from Judel/Vrolik & Co. They all had 5 minutes each to pitch a design philosophy, but with so many exciting designs and projects to talk about everyone spent mire like 20 minutes. Still very intersting.

Simon Rogers, Rogers Yacht Design, were founded in 1991 after Roger built boats together with his father. He were inspired by the french deigners and shorthanded sailing. He served on several RORC committees as well as in IMOCA. Of his designs the IRC 36′, 46′ and 82′ are most well known and there are now 56′, 60′ and 94′ coming up. Lots of work has also been Class 40, VOR and IMOCA-designs (Artemis being one of the best examples).

Today focus is on technical design, CAD and visualization that allow them to design advances structures in carbon or titanium. Also, CFD (computational fluid dynamics) becomes increasingly important. But tank tests still gives new ideas, for example the “interceptor” we’ve been seing on IMOCA 60s, where they were able to sit in the scale model in the tank and dynamically change the hull form.

Another important aspect of yacht design are the sailors themselves. All input is important, and together we must discuss how we want our sport and the designs to evolve.

On the drawing board is a new Rogers Class 40 MkII. Simon also presented the Artemis 20 which is a “Mini America’s Cup Class”-boat used by Hillary Lister to sail around britain. Also there’s a Class 40 on the drawing board that Hillary would use for Fastnet Race!? The most well known bigger IRC boat is the Rogers 46 designed for top-end-club racing.

So whats’s up next? A IRC 56, a more offshore-oriented “TP 52”, suitable for trans-Atlantic races. Also a Rogers 60 and the cruiser/racer Rogens 82 Aegir.

John Corby calls himself as much boatbuilder as yacht designer. He’s behind 42 different designs and 85 boats built, 90% of them for CHS/IRC. Carbon is great, but wood is a fantastic materal. “The Corby Transom” use to have a structural purpose, but now it’s more a trademark. Buyers have the option to skip it, but moet people want it.

“Recycling & chopping off” have been popular for the last couple of years. To take an older design and do some (more or less subtle) changes often gives a greta boat for a fraction of the cost of a new boat.

BRW, check out the iPhone app to keep track of IRC rounding results:

MiRC handicap results calculator for iPhone and iPod Touch.

The first in what will be a new family of Apps for IRC racing designed and developed by Corby Yachts and Alliants Ltd.

Have you ever wanted to…. Know how you are doing on handicap at each mark during a race? View a plot of the place changing throughout the race? Build up a database of boats and race results?

There’s now an App for that

John also presented 5 point for RORC to consider going forward

  • Give satisfactory answers
  • Reveal subjective input
  • Less protection for existing fleet
  • More encouragement for stability
  • Use the opportunity

And followed up with a suggestion for the “best design rule”:

  • The boat should be 35 foot
  • Build it in wood
  • Meet at the course at 2 PM

Mark Mills were born in San Francisco but moved to Ireland early on. Then moved back to California and sailed ULDB (Moore, Express, Santa Cruz) and work for West Coast Design. Marks earliest designs were the CHS 32 Aztec, IMS/CHS 36 Quokka, IRM/IRC 50 Mandrake. All of those still wins in IRC all over the world. DK46 was a 46′ cruiser/racer. Newer designs are the IRC 40 Tiamat, MAT 12 and IRC 39 Mariners Cove. Also, Marks is involved in several daysailer designs.

The Landmark 45 is a good showcase for a dual purpose IRC design. Summit 40 (ex King 40) have been very successful and the follow up Summit 35 raced in Key West (unfortunately in PHRF). Other successful designs are the IRC 41 Ambush in Asia and the Mini-Maxi Alegre. IRC 70 seems pouplar, and we’ll see more boats in that size.

Design statements

  • AVOID CONTRADICTION “In producing a new yacht, the central philosophy of Mills Design is that of developing and maintaining a focal design concept, the nature and integrity of which will determine the character of the finished product.”
  • REDUCE COMPLICATION “In attempting to hold to a clear design concept we have found that with careful analysis complex requirements are often best satisfied with simple discrete solutions, simplicity being a key to success in competitive sailing.”

Torsten Conradi from Judel/Vrolik & Co. Torsten was the third partner in the firm, that now employs 15 people. They had seen many rating rules through the years, so the questions raised at this forum are not new.

Design is often decision on ambition and money. To do everything right, including simulations and tank tests can be very expensive.

Hottest designs right now might be several TP 52’s and naturally Ran.

For most amateur crews, boat and rig design matters less…

…than on a professional boat were most of the crew work are taken for granted.

Also, deck layout becomes increasingly important on race boat, and they work closely with the crew on this. To similar TP 52’s (Matador and Artemis) might look very different on deck depending on priorities.

Much work is also done to compare performance between designs. Then it’s important to get actual feedback from earlier boats to put a “probability” factor into the VPP calculation to estimate what the actual speed in different conditions might be. Different designs might have pros and cons in different conditions, and different teams decide on their priorities.

Questions & answers

VPP Tools

Dobbs Davies. VPP tools, how close can you get to reality?

Conradi: I’m quite confident. We work with actual feedback + experience. Usually within 1-5% and in some areas <1%. But it’s always “junk in – junk out”.

Rogers: VPPs are quite different for different boat types. So you have to develop different VPP tools to be able to get useful results. Tank tests rules! CFD is a wonderfult tool… in the right hands, but 10+ years of experience needed.

Corby: nothing beats “real life tank testing” (real boats sailing). VPP gives you a ballpark figure. We don’t use VPP at all on the new 36-footers. Actual feedback from the boat & crew is what we need to refine our designs.

Mills: we use all tools. VPP are simplistic, but you need to get into a loop with tank tests and CFD. Every project is different.


Hans Peter Baum: I’m still confused but on a higher level. 12 years ago CHS became IRC. How come IRC is the most important rule in the world?

Corby: there’s no alternative. It’s not perfect but we’ve seen nothing better in the last 20 years.

Mills: manages to avoid the mistakes that other rules made. Like Churchill said:

Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Dobbs: race whatever rule that makes sense. Problem is that it might be type-forming.

Rogers: no rule can be perfect, the secret with IRC is that it’s developed organically. No big jumps, but they listen to the owners and evolve the rule. Plus it encourage stable, fast boats and works out for different <42 production cruiser/racers works great, >45′ more focus on development and racing and >60′ gloves come off. 42-45′ = “twilight zone”

Conradi: Can esthetics be a factor? “Shape of speed” works out.

Main concern: weakest point is protection of the current fleet?

Maxi Race Division 79-100 feet are dying, one-design (Z86) never took off. Fast growing interest in the Mini Maxis. It’s going to become the RACING division (including STP 65). Minimum size 65 feet. Top limit might me 79 or 72 feet?

Weiland: every class struggles. TP52 manages ok. Horses for courses (or horses for pockets). Will be a market for all segments, but it’s important to not recruit from each others.

Stability might lead to type-forming, but we need to understand where it’s going. More important than treating everything exactly fair (because it can’t be done). We have to encourage fast boats.

Conradi: “Everyone order a good looking and fast boat and not a rule beater. Nothing else… then they add that they want it just a little bit faster then the other guys”.

Mills: IRC secrecy is still there. But with thousands of boats you get a lot of data to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Conradi: Designers are “not guilty” – we just do what the owners want. So the owners are driving the development. If you wan’t a “average” boat, I can do that :-)

Corby: I suspect that there’s no formula at all, just a long list and they just put you in there…

On mainsails. “A bigger mainsail is better than a small one” :-)

Mainsail is the last thing in any projects. Trial certs to understand what gets penalized. There’s no easy way to see that works better (so IRC seems to manage it).


Can I have a boat that works in ORCi and IRC?

ORCi is also following the trend towards faster boats. Will come a time when they converge. But if you want international racing, stay in one rule.

Conradi: Reasonable well in both rules is possible. Each rule has to protect the existing fleet. So it’s a balance between new development & knowledge and stabilizing the rule. You can’t move to fast. ORCi penalizes some areas that makes boats faster.

Speed vs rating is usually the design brief you get. I assume that the rules will converge.

Are box-rules the answer? Different owners have different priorities. And box-rules always optimize inte one corder which becomes exremely expensive.

None of the designers had designed to ORCi in the last 10 years?

Crew weight? Rated or not? Is it a weakness in IRC or is it a choice? The trend is that it’s harder and harder to get crew, and the boats don’t need big crews to get around the course.

What should a cruiser/racers look like in 10 years. Or racer/cruiser? Or “performance cruisers”?

Where will we see changes ahead?

Rogers: We’ve seen huge developments in rig (weight savings), sails. Perception have changed on what’s ok. Quality in the yards have improved. Going forward? Wing sails? Foiling? More will happen with appendages? Less significant changes in the IRC racing scene.

Corby: Gone from heavy to lighter to more moderate & heavier. Non overlap – we might see a return to overlap genoas again…

Conradi: hull shapes gone wide to accommodate higher speeds. Building techniques will continue to develop.

Mills: Big development in the analytical and CFD tools we use.

Composite Rigging

René Villefrance, Nordic Mast: composite vs rod. Advantage: weight, performance, boat handling, comfort & ease of handling.

Generic 50-footer with 3 spreader rig: rod = 126 kg, composites = 36 kg. 90 kg difference. Generally 1 kg in the rig equals 4 kg in the boat. Mast tube in aluminium = 347, high modulus carbon = 157 kg. In total = 280 kg savings. Better performance, easier handling and a proud owner :-) Drawbacks are windage, cost and vibration.

Life span is 4-6 years. Have to be inspected every year (every manufacturer have a service scheme).

Speed vs rating hit is usually ok, at least for bigger boats. J/V 43 1.5 meter longer mast + bigger spinnakers = 0.005. More a rig reconfiguration than a comparison between rig material?

Tried on a older Baltic. Much less pitching. 10 degrees less heal.

We’re also seeing solid carbon rigging, and it can actually be aerodynamically shaped.

Rogers: crossover for composite rigging might be 45-50′.

Mills: crossover for carbon mast 35-40”. Example Summit 35 that has alloy to keep the cost & rating down.
<60′ stay away from composite rigging (unless you just want to look good).


Mills: Introduction of ISO-standards will apply to keels as well. More sophisticated, will drive cost but give better reliability.

Corby: wanted to do T-keels for a long time but owners were reluctant. Much easier now when the market accept them, which makes it easier to configue fin, bulb & rig.

Bulb-shapes on bigger boats are different. Less comparable wetted surface on big boats. On small boats wetted surface is an issue. Going from long to “short and fat”.


Useful stuff, even if many wanted a little more insight and understanding of IRC.

Hopefully this can be an annual event touring the Baltic, maybe with Copenhagen as a host for 2011?