AFLOAT gives two owner/skippers the chance to share their view.

For: Hugh Ellis

Hugh Ellis, Owner/skipper Mistral.
Hugh Ellis, Owner/skipper Mistral.

Two-handed racing has long been included in IRC racing around the world. The 2013 Fastnet Race saw the first, and to date only, overall IRC win by a two-handed entry – the father and son team of Pascal and Alexis Loison from Cherbourg, France on their JPK 10.10 Night and Day. I only reference the Fastnet Race given its reputation as one of the great ocean classics, like the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The introduction and evolution of technology and varying incarnations allows sport to grow and encourage new participants. Competitive sailing highlights this point. The introduction of canting keels, foils and electric-powered winches on the cutting edge fully crewed boats once met with contention, are now accepted and the IRC rating system allows accordingly.

For the first time, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia has invited double-handed entries to compete in the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart. Many were waiting for this inclusion after watching the growth of the class in the other classic 600+ mile races around the globe. I jumped at the challenge. After purchasing and campaigning Voodoo, an RP63, in 2018 and taking out the Division 1 win in the Hobart, I was looking for another challenge. The double-handed entry, in my mind, was about getting back to pure sailing, and testing one’s abilities both technically and physically, so I purchased a Lombard 34 twin rudder racer/cruiser called Mistral for the challenge. The impediments such as crew weight on the rail and sleep management make winning all the more difficult. To be successful in this class you need to bring all the skills that are spread over many specialists on the TP52s and maxi yachts.

The question has now been raised as to whether the two-handed entries should be eligible for the overall IRC victory, given the permitted the use of autopilot. The autopilot systems on these circa 30ft+ boats (usually the B&G5000 system) is no match for a competent helmsman or woman. They can’t pre-empt or respond to sea and wind conditions, despite what the brochures say. Two-handed racers are often solo sailing while the co-skipper is asleep, and the auto pilot is a short-term set of hands when you are busy with other aspects of the boat. To suggest the auto pilots on these boats are anything like the million dollar three dimensional systems on the IMOCA 60 yachts, I feel is misleading. If we are going to attract the top boats and sailors in the double-handed division, they need to be eligible for the overall prize. Competitors want to know that it is possible for a well-sailed double-handed boat to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

I think all discussion is healthy. In the same way there was resistance to advancements in the division zero and one boats, autopilot capabilities need to be understood for what they are, a safety device but no match for a skilled human. With double-handed entries now making up nearly half of the Fastnet fleet, the inclusion for the overall win is healthy for the whole sport.

The IRC system is understood, and history shows that double-handed entries don’t disproportionately win races. Change and advancement will always be a constant, let’s encourage the sport and new participants.

Hugh Ellis
Owner/skipper Mistral
3 Rolex Sydney Hobarts

Chutzpah, Boxing Day 2014 - Bruce Taylor and his son Drew
Bruce Taylor and his son Drew

Against: Bruce Taylor

I, like several other regular entrants in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, was intrigued to discover when reading the Notice of Race for 2020 that two-handed yachts would be eligible for the overall trophy, the Tattersall Cup. Our concerns are manifold.

There has been a rapid increase in the development of the double-handed fleet in Europe. These yachts have evolved into highly specialised craft with specific hull forms, sail plans and systems. They are no longer simply a conventional yacht sailed by a crew of two.

The origin of the IRC rule, unlike its predecessors, is simplistic and unsophisticated. It is yet to demonstrate an ability to handicap these new craft equitably and transparently against a conventional, fully crewed boat, particularly in Category 1 passage races. For example, it does not allow for the differential in carry-on weight (crew weight, vittles’ and safety gear) between the two types of craft, which for a 40-footer is over 1000kg on boats of a dry weight of around 4500kgs. Nor does IRC give any clarity to the performance enhancing effect of what are now extraordinarily sophisticated self-steering systems.

Many of the new double-handed boats are around 40-feet and ocean raced by highly skilled sailors. The traditional entry level into the sport of ocean racing, for both owners and crew, is 36-45 feet. If this cohort of fully crewed boats is rendered (or perceived to be rendered) uncompetitive in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the long-term ramifications for both the sport and this race could be profound.

The tradition of progressing from weekend club racing to overnighters and onto ‘the Hobart’ with a group of friends is an integral part of the sport which must be preserved. As must the opportunity for rookies to participate, within the precinct of an experienced crew.

Change and innovation is the life blood of any sport, however, the mechanism of its introduction is crucial.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is applauded for seeking feedback from previous entrants via surveys and forums. However, the extensive survey post the 2019 race did not focus on this issue. The organising committee must exhibit innovative leadership, but it is also beholden to the corpus of the fleet. A plebiscite of the current entrants could be revealing.

We have faced challenges in the past; multihulls, IOR/IMS (with two winners), canting keels and in the future (?), foiling hulls.

The double-handed yachts can be embraced by providing them with their own division, with appropriate recognition, from which data can be derived to then allow refining of handicaps and restrictions for the future.

The Tattersall Cup must only be awarded via an equitable and transparent process.

Bruce Taylor
Owner/skipper Chutzpah
30 Rolex Sydney Hobarts