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United ORC and IRC Offshore Racing Fleets 2018 World Championship
The Offshore World Championship 2018, a World Sailing sanctioned event, will take place in the Hague, specifically from the port of Scheveningen, in July 2018. An innovative solution will be used for the first time to unite the two largest offshore racing fleets

London and Milan -- Baltic, North Sea, Mediterreanean, Atlantic and English Channel-based yachts along with rated offshore racing boats based everywhere else in the world, will have the chance to compete for the 'best in the world title' in a World Sailing-sanctioned offshore World Championship.

There are many handicap and rating systems in use around the world but the two most successful in terms of numbers of subscribers are ORC and IRC. Together the two have rated over 15,000 boats in over 50 countries worldwide in 2016.

There have been World Championships run since 1999 for yachts handicapped under the Offshore Racing Congress' IMS and ORCi rating systems, while for the first time since being sanctioned as an International Rating system by World Sailing in 2003, IRC scoring will be used in a World Championship.

A pragmatic and innovative solution now opens the door to allow an offshore fleet derived from ORCi and IRC-rated boats to assemble and compete for their discipline's ultimate title, 'World Champion'. By using a combined scoring system, this combined fleet will, in 2018, be able to compete on the water against each other for the first time using both systems.

The compromise reached at the sport's international federation (World Sailing) conference in Barcelona last November calls for each boat entering the world championship to have a measurement certificate from each of the two systems, ORCi and IRC. ORC had previously approved the proposal bid from organizers from The Hague to be hosts for the World Championship based on the ORC's standard week-long championship format, however the details of format and scoring will be re-examined by a Working Party formed from IRC and ORC to examine the options.

Stan Honey, chairman of World Sailing's Oceanic and Offshore Committee said: "It was really important to come up with a solution to find a way for the two most important fleets of offshore yachts to compete for a world title. By using both systems conjointly for the event's scoring neither group is compromised and both groups benefit from the dual system solution that we agreed upon in Barcelona last month. I'm looking forward to the return on experience from this event in 2018. I'm sure it will be a popular and successful event."

Based on the experience from this exciting new cooperation between these two systems, further evolutions and convergence are envisaged in the future.

Information on the 2018 offshore Worlds in the Hague can be found at

Sea Change For Rya Racing As Derbyshire Announces Retirement
John Derbyshire John Derbyshire OBE, whose involvement with the RYA's Racing programmes spans some 32 years as a coach, Olympic Manager and as latterly Director of Racing, is to retire from the organisation in late 2017.

Two exciting opportunities will now exist for two exceptional people to help shape the future of sail racing in the UK and the medal fortunes of the world's leading Olympic sailing nation.

With Olympic Manager Stephen Park OBE also moving on this spring, the RYA is seeking two outstanding candidates to lead the development of racing in the UK, the World Class Programme and the British Sailing Team for the Tokyo 2020 cycle and beyond.

Derbyshire first joined the RYA as National Racing Coach in 1985 - coaching Finns, Europes and Lasers until 1996, whereupon he became Olympic Manager for the Sydney 2000 cycle. Sydney was the first Games following the introduction of National Lottery funding for sport and one which saw Britain's biggest performance improvement at any sailing Games.

Derbyshire was also personal coach to Sir Ben Ainslie from 1994-2000, including at Sydney where Ainslie won the first of his four Olympic gold medals, and coached other notable sailors such as Shirley Robertson, Iain Percy, Andrew Simpson and Hugh Styles during his career.

Since 2001 he has been the Director of Racing, overseeing the RYA's World Class Programme and talent pathways, as well as the broader remit of racing participation in all its forms in the UK.

Role descriptions and application details for both the Director of Racing and Olympic Performance Manager roles are available on the RYA website. Requests for initial confidential conversations in connection with these posts should be sent to Dawn Brown:

A Fierce Final Friday For Bellion And Colman
Eric Bellion, who stands to finish as the first rookie in this eighth edition of the Vendee Globe faces one fierce final Friday, as he fights with the big, active Atlantic low pressure system during his last 800 miles to the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne.

Bellion and Conrad Colman, some 277 miles behind, face a very tough few days as they seek to close out their respective solo round the world races. Winds averaging 60kts and gusting to more than 70 are expected to peak during Friday.

Bellion races the powerful Finot design which started life as DCNS and proved fast in the Pacific in particular as well as making a good ascent of the Atlantic. His first IMOCA race was only last year when he was partnered by young British skipper Sam Goodchild on the Transat Jacques Vabre in which they finished seventh. Bellion told Race Direction this afternoon: "I already had a squall in excess of 70 knots this morning. It's tough, but everything is fine aboard." Both Bellion and Colman are being prudent in their choice of staying to the south of the big depression. The French skipper is expected Sunday afternoon or evening on the finish line off Les Sables d'Olonne. Colman would be just less than 24 hours later.

Ten skippers remain on the course.

Island Flyer Perseveres To Win 2017 Conch Republic Cup
Key West, Florida: Denny Manrique (Tonka Bay, Minnesota) and the crew aboard his Wauquiez Centurion 40 Island Flyer have won the Conch Republic Cup (CRC) with a best-overall performance in the four-part series that comprised this year's Key West Cuba Race Week. Hosted by Key West Community Sailing Center and Cuba's Hemingway International Yacht Club, the event took place January 22 - February 3.

Due to light winds, Manrique's team was one of only two teams to complete the initial 100-mile Key West to Varadero race within a time limit of 22 hours. (The other was Second Star, a J/122 skippered by J.D. Hill of Dallas, Texas, who finished first in this race.)

According to CRC Executive Director Karen Angle, three boats that didn't make the time limit (Terminal Velocity, Naut-On Call and Second Wind) reported completing the Key West to Varadero leg under sail while the remainder of the 25-boat fleet headed for Cuba under motor. "There was some disappointment about that, of course, but weather is the one thing we can't control. Overall, everyone had a positive experience, and our ninth running of the event was a success."

Seahorse March 2017
What's in the Latest Edition Of Seahorse Magazine

Seahorse Magazine

Same features smaller package
Between them Morrelli & Melvin and Hudson Yachts have created another fine-looking big cat, this one with the emphasis on a fast but safe boat that is manageable without the need for professional crew. Yet somehow 'pound for pound' it has come out relatively faster than the big sister that preceded it

Let the audience in
Blue Robinson talks to Leon Sefton about some big changes for the already complex role of the Volvo Ocean Race onboard report

Practical steps
How Ben Ainslie's America's Cup campaign is leading the field in taking care of the pitch...

Patrice Carpentier and Michel Desjoyeaux revisit the 'scene' of one of the great singlehanded ocean racing performances

IRC column - In good shape
It was 20 years ago today... James Dadd

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Largest Working Dry Dock In State To 'close Again' In Dublin Port
The largest dry dock in the State and the last remaining working dry-dock (No. 2) in Dublin Port is to close marking an end of an era of our maritime heritage, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 200m dry dock is where the replica tallship Jeanie Johnston is undergoing work, however according to RTE the Dublin Port Company said the reason for the closure is due to ships on the Irish Sea are too big to fit in the dry dock. The port company also cited ships already are been repaired in UK yards, though Afloat has reported on Arklow Shipping using Cork Dockyard albeit a smaller dry-dock.

DPC added they have expansion plans for the port which require infilling the dry dock as part of the €277m Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) project.

Afloat adds that dry-dock had actually been 'temporarily reopened' by the port company. This was to facilitate ongoing work of the timber built Dublin based famine emigrant floating museum-ship, Jeanie Johnston. The visitor attraction located at a berth on the River Liffey is scheduled to reopen on 17th February.

The rich maritime tradition of Dublin Port is however to become part of a new 'maritime industrial heritage' attraction site commented a port spokesperson. The site chosen will see DPC use a neighbouring disused dry-dock (No.1) which is much older. Afloat previously reported on the plans for dry dock dating to 1860's.

SAP Extreme Sailing Team Returns
SAP Extreme Sailing Team has announced its return to the Extreme Sailing Series ahead of the season opener in Muscat, which takes place in less than a month's time.

In preparation for what will be its sixth season in the world's leading Stadium Racing Series, the team has undergone a major reshuffle in its crew line-up.

The Danish-flagged team is the second to announce its entry into the 2017 season behind Swiss team Alinghi. The Danes finished the 2016 season in fourth place overall but they are setting their sights higher for this year.

Although the Danish-duo of Køstner and Jes Gram-Hansen will remain co-skippers, SAP Extreme Sailing Team will be joined by the former World Match Racing Champion, Adam Minoprio of New Zealand, who will take turns with Gram-Hansen on the helm throughout the season.

No stranger to the GC32 or to the Extreme Sailing Series, Minoprio previously helmed a GC32 as skipper of wildcard team NORAUTO in Act 7 of the 2016 season, coming fresh from a victory in the GC32 Racing Tour in Spain.

Headsail trimmer Pierluigi de Felice of Italy will temporarily be replaced by French multihull specialist Herve Cunningham for the first Act. Cunningham previously competed for SAP Extreme Sailing Team in the 2015 Extreme Sailing Series.

The new-look Danish team will join the fleet as the season kicks off from 8 - 11 March in Muscat, Oman. Act 1 of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series will be preceded by the GC32 Championships in Muscat, in which the team will also compete, from 27 February - 5 March.

Walker Celebrates The Memory Of Merricks With Victory At The Tiger
Photo by Jon Williams. Click on image for photo gallery.

Tiger Trophy Ian Walker celebrated the memory of his fellow Olympic silver medallist by winning the John Merricks Tiger Trophy at Rutland Sailing Club over the weekend of 4th & 5th February. Walker, who competed with Merricks at the Atlanta Games in 1996, was racing an RS400 crewed by Keith Bedborough. Despite having done little dinghy sailing in recent years, Walker proved masterful in the light winds of Saturday to notch up scores of 2,1,2 in the 130-entry handicap fleet.

The Everards sponsored event is also the sixth in the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series and it was the usual high-calibre of entries which included past or present world and national champions in many different classes. Multiple national and world champion Ian Pinnell sailed his 505 to fourth overall crewed by Norman Byrd, while just behind him was Solo national champion and former winner of the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series, Michael Sims.

However, the split between the fast and slow handicap fleets and the square course in light airs really seemed to suit the RS400s, with Russ and Penny Clark winning the third race and placing third overall, a place in front of RS400 national champions Paul and Mark Oakey. The only boat to spoil the 400 party was Phil Meakins' and Andrew Eggett's Osprey which finished second overall.

As it turned out, Saturday would be the only day of racing as Sunday dawned to dense fog and very little wind. So the Pursuit Race didn't take place and Walker and Bedborough's overnight lead turned into overall victory. It had been a few years since Walker had managed to get to the Tiger Trophy, an event he always likes to attend whenever his professional sailing schedule permits, because he's one of the co-founders of the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST). The Trust provides starter boats through the RYA ONBoard scheme to young sailors just starting on their career as Tony Everard did for John back in the mid 1990s.The Leicester brewers, continue to support the regatta and the Tiger Dinner with Tiger beer and prizes and all entrants were included in this years social on Saturday night with 200 sitting down to bangers and mash.

Next year will be the 25th Tiger and plans are being prepared to encourage more young sailors to participate in this Rutland Challenge on the level playing field that is Rutland Water.

Everyone who has taken part over the last quarter century will be invited. The seventh and final event of the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series is the Oxford Blue at Farmoor Reservoir on 18 February. -- Dick Sanders, David Wilkins and Andy Rice

500 Year-Old Sharks With Irradiated Eyes. Yes, We're F'd.
A recent study, led by marine biologist Julius Nielsen, discovered some Greenland sharks could be 500 years old.

Sharks that were alive hundreds of years ago are still swimming strong. A Greenland shark has been found to be at least 272 years old, making the species the longest-lived vertebrate in the world-smashing the previous record held by a 211-year-old bowhead whale. But it may have been as old as 500 years!

The research team, led by Julius Nielsen-a marine biologist at the University of Copenhagen, used radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of 28 of the animals. The team estimated that one 5-metre animal was at least 272 years old, but could be more than 500 years old (392 +/- 120 years). Another was at least 260 years old, and could be more than 400 years old.

It was once thought to be impossible to age Greenland sharks. Other fish are aged by measuring calcareous bodies that grow in their ears, but Greenland shark skeletons are made of cartilage and, therefore, lack the calcified growth rings of hard-boned vertebrates.

In a BBC interview, Nielsen explained that "the Greenland shark is a very, very soft shark-it has no hard body parts where growth layers are deposited. So it was believed that the age could not be investigated."

Instead, Nielsen and his colleagues focused on radiation in the sharks' eyes. Nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s and '60s blasted radioactive particles into the atmosphere. Those particles entered food webs all over the world and show up in the form of radioactive forms of carbon in organisms that lived through that period.

Greenland sharks' eye lens tissue is pretty unique; it doesn't change during its lifetime and preserves the historic radiation.

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