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For sailors planning to race in Storm Trysail Club (STC) handicap events next season, "the time to start the IRC measurement process is now," says incoming Commodore Rich du Moulin. Earlier this year, STC jointly announced with the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) that they would lead the effort among major American yacht clubs and event organizers to offer the IRC handicap rule for events in 2005. "Beginning with the Block Island Distance Race in May, and including Block Island Race Week in June," said du Moulin, "IRC will be our primary rule, and IMS and Americap divisions will no longer be offered."

For all STC regattas, two types of IRC certificates may be used. An IRC endorsed certificate is required for boats with a PHRF rating of 50 or faster or an IRC rating of 1.08 or faster. An unendorsed or endorsed IRC certificate may be used for boats with a PHRF rating of 51 or slower or an

IRC rating of slower than 1.08. du Moulin noted, however, that there are two exceptions for all STC events. Boats that have a PHRF rating of 90 or slower may sail under PHRF. If the boat has an IRC certificate, then it is welcome to race under IRC, or sail PHRF and also be scored for overall trophies using IRC. Additionally, non-spinnaker and navigator classes will race under PHRF, although double-handed entries will race under IRC. For more information on this ruling, see www.stormtrysail.org.

On the other hand, and just to add some confusion, three clubs in the United States have announced their combined effort behind a mid-level handicap rule initiative for three distance races in the US. Rick Lillie, Chicago-Mackinac Race Chairman, Commodore Truman Casner of the Cruising Club of America (CCA) and Commodore Jerry Montgomery of the Transpacific YC marks the formation of the Offshore Racing Association (ORA). Working in collaboration with US Sailing, ORA will focus on the management and development of AMERICAP II, currently used by those clubs. US Sailing will retain administrative functions while ORA will undertake promotional and developmental tasks. Olin Stephens and Stan Honey will participate as advisors to the ORA. In addition, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC), co-organizers of the Newport-Bermuda Race with CCA are supportive of the initiative, as well as the organizers of the Marion Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race. ORA will be used for the Newport-Bermuda, Transpac Race and the Chicago-Mackinac Races. For more information on the ORA, visit http://www.offshorerace.org.

The America's Cup is alive and well. There was some talk - a lot of it really - that the Cup had changed so much, that no one would want to face Team Alinghi in the next Cup race, the Cup was getting so wildly expensive many challengers would be put off - the list goes on. But that has not been the case at all. The Societe Natuique de Geneve, the defending yacht club, has announced that two more teams have submitted their paperwork and are planning to challenge in the 32nd America's Cup. Team names have not been revealed, leaving those honors to the individuals to communicate. The two new teams will joining six other challengers: BMW Oracle Racing, USA, +39 Challenge, ITA, Team Shosholza, RSA, Emirates Team New Zealand, NZL, Luna Rossa Challenge, ITA, K-Challenge, FRA.

Though the "off-season" in sailing has just begun, many sailors are already missing the excitement of action on the race course. For those readers, here is some news from Nick Malone, a skipper in the Vendée Globe, where he describes the madness of racing his Skandia in 65 knots of wind. The good news is he was able to post this online, indicating that he is alive and well. His interview including some of the following: "I was sailing along OK with just the staysail in 65 knots of wind, but the waves were breaking like the surf [on the beach]. I don't exaggerate, but I would say crumbling white water was about 20 feet high, and I knew the situation was quite serious. I actually made the phone calls to say goodbye to my family. I was adamant I was going to pay the price. For a four hour period I wondered how it would end. I totally thought that my number was up completely. After the second phone call to Mark, I didn't have anything else I could do. Situation was breaking waves everywhere, it was all pure luck (where the waves would break). If a wave took you out, it took you out. I was down below, and then bang the boat got hit by a huge wave. We went over, it happened so quickly. I definitely saw the bottom of the pool. Equipment bouncing off the ceiling, keyboards, lids of the computers, the cooker, everything flying across, everything smashing around like in an Agitator. Boat came back up and everything else flung around the place and on top of me. I was so shell-shocked. I had my drysuit on but only around my legs, I ran out on deck, the boat was on the other gybe heeling over at 60 degrees. I was on deck and I said to myself I've got to get off the deck otherwise I'm going to drown. I just held myself down below. I really thought one of these waves had got my name on it and there was nothing I could do. Crazy." Full interview: ww.ocftp2.com/audio/vendee2004/nm151204a_uk_e.mp3

Ellen MacArthur is at it again. This time she is looking to break the time record for sailing solo and non-stop around the world - a feat accomplished by just one other person in history. Ellen has crossed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope at 17:56 GMT on Friday, Dec. 17, setting a new solo record for the fasted time of 19 days, 9 hours and 46 minutes. This is 10 hours and 45 minutes less that the record holder, Francis Joyon. Her lead over her closest competitor has dropped from almost 24 hours to just 17 hours, due to some mechanical difficulties on her trimaran B&Q. Ellen has a terrific website that readers may want to check out. Her great accomplishments on the water are highlighted using webcams and a journal, with all sorts of other information. While this pales in comparison to what Ellen is encountering on a daily basis, it does give the viewer a snapshot of her adventure. If she pulls this off, and breaks the around the world record, she will be the youngest and the first women in history to do so. Stay tuned. www.teamellen.com

Season's greetings to all. Have a wonderful holiday.


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