On the eve of the 2015 St Barths Bucket, captains, race crew and renowned yacht designers gathered for a Q&A session with race officer Peter Craig of the Superyacht Racing Association (SYRA) and the Offshore Racing Congress to discuss the new handicapping system - the Offshore Racing Congress Superyacht Rule (ORCsy). The packed room was representative of the huge importance placed on the success of the new rule.

Having debuted at the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta and Rendezvous in Virgin Gorda last week, Craig announced the feedback had been mostly positive, but wanted to make a few points clear about in rule in “layman’s terms”. “This is an ORC rule, not a SYRA or Bucket rule, so they make final decisions,” he announced. “However, SYRA has played an active role in the technical side of things and the ORC has been very good at taking input from us.” He also pointed out that SYRA does not determine which rule to use, and the use of this rule in particular was a difficult decision that was made by the Bucket organisers.

Race officer Peter Craig addresses captains and crew prior to the start of the St Barths Bucket

“It is not a purely scientific rule, but it is certainly more science-based than rules we have had in the past,” he added, emphasising that it is still very much in its infancy. “It will evolve as they learn things and gather feedback from you [the captains, race crew and designers]. What we want is a dialogue between you and the ORC team. These guys will be sailing on the boats and around the course, so talk to them and follow up any discussion with an email to SYRA. This is a fully transparent rule and we will make improvements based on the feedback we get.”

While they try to group the boats on sailing characteristics as best they can, there are approximately 10 boats in the fleet this year that could fit into an additional class.

With regards to the division of classes, of which there are four at the Bucket, Craig also pointed out that while they try to group the boats on sailing characteristics as best they can, there are approximately 10 boats in the fleet this year that could fit into an additional class. “But there have to be compromises, and in these cases the one factor that has come into play is the owner’s interest,” he explains.

Once the discussion was opened up to the floor, many captains raised their concerns over the rule’s statement of an “intent not to change handicaps during a regatta”, questioning the fact that if a boat tears a spinnaker during racing, the boat might qualify for an adjusted handicap. Some believed that this might be used as a tactic and would give an unfair advantage to that boat. “This is a debatable item,” answered Craig, asking for a show of hands for those who that thought a boat’s rating shouldn’t be able to be adjusted, of which most of the room was in agreement that it shouldn’t.

Superyachts flock to St Barths for the Bucket

Another important consideration for the new rule is that it requires a full measurement of the boat. “We haven’t had time to do this for all the boats in time for the Bucket,” the ORC team explained. “But we invite anyone who is having a haul-out and is available to be measured to do so if they are racing in any more of the regattas.”

The overriding message of the meeting was to convey that the fundamental essence of the ORC system is that it is a fully transparent rule, but it is still fallible and will be responsive to the superyacht fleet. “Please be positive with the owners, but also realistic that there will be bumps in the road as the rule evolves,” concludes Craig. “Rest assured we will find mistakes.”