Getting Ready to Measure

It is all about cleaning house
— Adam Loory

Measuring a boat for IRC is a simple, relatively quick process when compared to an IMS or Americap measurement. As the RORC’s rating office guru Mike Urwin says, “The fundamentals are straightforward. How long is it? How heavy is it? How much sail does it have? It’s not rocket science.”

Unlike IMS, IRC requires no stability test; in fact, most of the measurements can be done with tools as simple as tape measures, plumb bobs, and hinged wooden rulers. What this means for the boat owner is that measurements will take less time and cost less money. At the first official IRC measurement at a New York boatyard last fall, 10 boats were measured in one day. There are, however, several things that need to be accomplished before a measurement takes place to assure a quick, easy measurement.

First, what stays aboard? Whether or not the boat is getting weighed, accurate measurement of the boat’s waterline and overhangs must be done, so the boat must be empty. Urwin has a simple formula. “Turn the boat upside down and shake it,” he says. “Everything that falls out stays out. The only loose items that stay aboard are bunk cushions, spinnaker pole, companionway boards.”

When you think about it, most boats, especially if they’re dual-purpose, have a ton of stuff onboard, and that’s what should be removed. Propane bottles, safety gear, toolboxes, anchors, spare running gear, fire extinguishers, handheld electronics, safety harnesses, sleeping bags, dock lines, any lead ballast that’s not permanently attached, the contents of the nav station—including the laptop—foul weather gear, books, television sets, silverware, plates, pots, pans. The list goes on and the total amount of stuff taken off the boat will surprise you and probably encourage you to reduce the load while racing.

Turn the boat upside down and shake it!
— Butch Ulmer

In terms of tankage, water tanks need to be empty and in the best of all possible worlds, fuel tanks should be empty as well. As fuel is difficult to remove without spillage, measurers are instructed to estimate the amount of fuel in the tank and record an estimated weight.

In terms of tankage, water tanks need to be empty and in the best of all possible worlds, fuel tanks should be empty as well. As fuel is difficult to remove without spillage, measurers are instructed to estimate the amount of fuel in the tank and record an estimated weight.

Most of the tricks people think will improve their rating have been tried already and noted by rule administrators and measurers during the 25 years that the IRC rule (and CHS before it) has been used in Europe. Measurers note items like tables and count the number of batteries, so if you’re checked after a race, they’d all better be there. 

That includes dodgers and biminis. Don’t expect to be weighed if it’s raining or if your boat is wet from a wash down, but if there’s no choice in the matter, the measurer will report the fact that the boat was weighed in the rain and the rating will be adjusted accordingly. You’re only allowed a certain amount of ratings per year, and there’s no quick way to get re-rated, so don’t bother removing bits of the boat such as spinnaker poles for a distance race after seeing a forecast. If your boat is new and sitting in a yard without keel and mast, it can still be measured.

When a novel feature (think canting keels, water ballast, and multiple appendages) first appears, the measurement of it will be quick and dirty, then refined as time goes on. IRC is committed to protecting existing designs to keep the fleet strong and will quickly stop anyone seen modifying a boat to a perceived advantage. The latest gee whiz technology banned by IRC are the kite sails.

There are no rules about the types of sailcloth allowed, nor the type of construction. Your sails can be measured by your sailmaker, who is adept at taking the measurements needed. Don’t worry about people fudging figures, IRC once caught a sailmaker cheating, and he’s no longer in the business. “It’s a self-policing rule,” says Urwin. A spinnaker is defined as a sail set forward of the foremost mast with the half width greater than 75-percent of the foot. The rule sees no difference between a symmetric or an asymmetric spinnaker. If you have a Code Zero sail, check with your sailmaker to see if it will qualify as a jib or spinnaker and what the rating impact may be. You are allowed only three spinnakers when racing without additional rating penalty—but the penalty is less for larger boats.

Measurers don’t work for the boat owner, they represent the whole fleet—even though you, the owner, pay for the measurement and the associated yard costs. To ensure consistency, all measurers are trained and certified through US SAILING. You’re allowed to appeal your rating.