The Royal Ocean Racing Club have enlisted Skandia to help revive the Admiral's Cup

The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) has secured the support of Skandia to undertake a feasibility study into the revival of the Admiral’s Cup – one of the world’s great international regattas – as the premier offshore racing regatta on the world circuit.

RORC, through Chief Executive Eddie Warden Owen, has been working on reviving the Admiral’s Cup for sometime. “With this commitment from Skandia we can put resources in place to carry out a thorough feasibility study leading to a plan that could enable our vision to become a reality” says Eddie. “We have considerable interest from all over the world but we want to ensure that the Admiral’s Cup meets the needs and expectations of all prospective competitors.”

RORC is consulting with yacht clubs, boat owners and sailors from all over the world with a view to holding the event in the summer of 2011.

Andrew McIrvine, the commodore of RORC is excited at the prospect of working with Skandia. “Skandia is a company with a long history of yachting sponsorship and one which understands what is required to make an event of this calibre work for the sponsors and sailors. With Skandia’s experience and support at this crucial planning stage there are real prospects of restoring the Admiral’s Cup to prominence.”

Tim Sewell, Skandia’s Sponsorship Manager, added: “The history and heritage of the Admiral’s Cup is immense. We hope that our support with the feasibility study will enable RORC to create an event that will do justice to its history and reputation as one of the world’s leading offshore racing regattas.”

So how would a renewed Admiral’s Cup shape up?

In March 09 issue of Yachting World Matthew Sheahan talked to RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen about his ideas for the return of the Admiral’s Cup. Here’s the text of the feature.


The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s new CEO, Eddie Warden Owen talks to Matthew Sheahan about the return of this prestigious trophy and the future of one of the world’s most famous yacht clubs

In accepting the role as CEO for the Royal Ocean Racing Club last year, Eddie Warden Owen knew that there would be one question he would be asked repeatedly. Would he bring back the Admiral’s Cup?

Despite being a decade since this prestigious and world famous trophy was last competed for, the future of the Admiral’s Cup is still a topic that raises lively debate. To some, the trophy and event should move with the times and represent the best and most popular big boat racing currently available. To others, the event should be aimed at the pinnacle of grand prix professional racing. Some think the distinctive golden trophy should be left in peace.

Now, after a season to consider both his role and the workings of the club, Warden Owen’s answer is yes.

“We are working towards running an Admiral’s Cup event in 2011,” he confirmed. The format however is less clear.

“I need to do my homework by talking to the owners and the sailors about what sort of event they want to compete in,” he said. “What is clear is that everyone says, ‘yes’ they want to do the Admiral’s Cup, but how many of them would actually turn up? It’s important to the club to make sure that it’s a lasting success.”

But would that mean handicap or one design racing, inshore or offshore, team or individual entries?

“In my view, it has to be a handicap event as that will bring the most participants together,” he continued. “The event also has to embrace offshore racing. The Admiral’s Cup has always been a tough event and we shouldn’t make it easy.

“It doesn’t have to be IRC, it should be what the sailors want.

“Then there’s the debate as to whether we should include the Fastnet Race or not. I can’t answer that one at present. The trouble is that the club can’t underwrite an Admiral’s Cup without a sponsor and the Fastnet already has a sponsor in Rolex, so you can’t have an event within an event.”

And what of the team format? Individual entries or teams, how does he see the new Admiral’s Cup shaping up?

“I think it has to be a team event, sailed under national flags.”

The essence of which suggests little change, good news for the traditionalists, a red rag to the modernisers. Yet picking up where the Admiral’s Cup ran out of steam might not provide sufficient incentive for owners, teams and sponsors to participate.

Nevertheless, Warden Owen is quick to point out that times are different and that the RORC has to keep an open mind. Where some have suggested one design or box rule classes for the new style Admiral’s Cup, he presents a strong case for handicap racing, using the TP52 class as an example of how a popular and exciting fleet may prove to be the wrong formula for this particular event.

“The trouble with the TP52 class is that the box rule nature of the class produces boats that become highly optimised season after season and the less competitive boats drop off the back of the fleet,” he explained. “I spent a season sailing aboard the Spanish boat Aifos and I thought I could make a bit of a difference, but when it came to it we were simply slow. As it happens, that boat now sails very competitively under IRC with a bowsprit, a bigger spinnaker and with the lead taken out from under the floor and put into the keel. The crew are now having great fun, handicap racing.

“If they wanted to do the TP52 circuit now they’d have to throw away the boat and build a new one. So where would you do the Admiral’s Cup? Handicap racing, because it brings more people to the party.”

When it comes to the offshore element, he believes there is a broader range of options to consider in which shorthanded sailing could be considered.

“The Class 40 could be an idea,” he said. “I use this as an example, as the message is that we should expand our thinking from those aimed at windward leeward or run of the mill boats. The club has already embraced double handed sailing as it sees difficulties with single handed sailing with safety issues, but these are the kinds of ideas we might want to consider.”

And what of offshore racing?

“Offshore racing is still strong,” he said. “Over the last seven or eight years we’ve seen entries rising steadily, more recently we’ve seen a drop. But this is no different to the eighties when IMS racing came along and the popularity of offshore racing declined. Maybe people will want to do more inshore racing, but whatever it is that people want, we’ll respond.

“We saw a slight decrease last year but then there’s always a drop in non-Fastnet years but this was more than we’d seen in the past. I would expect that the numbers will be down this year. Having said that, do I think we’ll reach the maximum numbers for this year’s Fastnet, early indications are that we will. There’s a lot of unfinished business out there after the last event when so many boats had to pull out because of the weather.”

So does the Caribbean 600 regatta, the newest of RORC races, a 605 mile offshore race around a combination of islands and inflatable marks, represent the beginning of a new series of overseas offshore races?

“No, we already have a huge overseas calendar with events like the Raja Muda, the China Sea race and the Middle Sea race. But there is a need for an offshore race in the Caribbean. All those islands, natural turning marks, great conditions, shorts and t-shirts day and night, make this an appealing race.”

“The RORC is perceived as being a big organisation that has led many areas of the sport including safety and regulation, but I think it’s reputation has slipped slightly over the years. I’d like to see it leading again. It’s one of the reasons why we were so keen on the new Caribbean 600 regatta. I think that this event shows that RORC isn’t just about racing in the Channel.”

At the other end of the scale the club has included more inshore racing closer to home.

“This year there’s another inshore race in the programme, the Autumn IRC Regatta. Both the Red Funnel at Easter and the IRC Nationals were record entries last year, so we decided to include another inshore event.”

So where should the Admiral’s Cup go? What would you like to see? Drop us a line with your views on where the Cup should go, what it should be sailed in and how it could be run.