IRC rating counts down to 2024

The 2023 international IRC Congress was held in Paris, hosted by the Yacht Club de France, joint owners of the international IRC rating rule with the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

Chaired by Michael Boyd, also Chairman of the IRC Board, the meeting was well attended with representatives of several countries present along with the IRC teams from the UK and France, while others around the world participated by video conference. IRC is a rating rule made by sailors for sailors, illustrated by the fact that most IRC Congress members are racing sailors themselves as well as talking to boat owners, with direct experience on the water that helps shape the proposals and decisions they make in the meeting room.

Reports from the different nations spanning various continents and sailing cultures offered a comprehensive global perspective on IRC racing. This panoramic view helps to identify underlying trends and facilitates valuable exchanges of insights among members from different countries.

Technical developments of the IRC rating rule

The IRC Congress is pleased to announce a series of rule changes for the 2024 racing season. These changes have been carefully considered and approved by Congress and their aim is to ensure the fairness and competitiveness of IRC racing while addressing specific concerns and developments in the sailing community. The IRC Technical Committee and IRC Congress are committed to keeping the IRC rule system responsive to the evolving needs and practices of today’s sailing community while protecting the existing fleet.

The biggest change for 2024 is the introduction of rating the number of headsails carried. Carrying multiple headsails can give a distinct advantage due to flexibility in a boat’s sail wardrobe for varying conditions, and the ability to increase headsail area by multiple headsails set flying, particularly for larger boats and in a reaching configuration. The recent notice has been updated with further details and this can be found on the IRC website (

For Endorsed IRC certificates any sails certified (measured) after 31st December 2023 will require a measurement sticker or stamp. Sail stamps serve as a visual confirmation that a sail has been properly measured and complies with the rating certificate, and aid equipment inspection at events when checking sails. The design of IRC flying headsails has been opened up with a reduction in the minimum half-width ratio from 62.5% to 60%.

The IRC Technical Committee is committed to further enhancing transparency within the world of competitive sailing and discussions at Congress included improving openness and providing valuable insights into boat ratings and their influencing factors while preventing the potential misuse of data. It is proposed to publish page 2 of the IRC certificate to provide sailors and the sailing community with a clear understanding of each boat’s equipment and measurements, such as the number of sails that should be aboard.

IRC events thriving

Events are central to the success of IRC and continue to thrive, with many events seeing notably close results. As well as the major offshore races using IRC, continental championships continue to grow. Dubai will play host to the 2023 IRC Middle East Championship this December, promising to bring together sailors from the region, offering them a platform to showcase their skills in unique Middle Eastern conditions. The coastal town of Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, is set to host the next IRC European Championship in September 2024. This event will draw sailors from across Europe and beyond, offering challenging competition and the opportunity to experience the beauty of Irish waters. Looking further ahead to the Admiral’s Cup in 2025, RORC has already received interest from over 20 countries, underscoring the event’s and IRC’s international appeal.

Overall the 2023 Congress was a great success with the enthusiastic discussions illustrating the passion that our members have for IRC and for the sport and a positive outlook for the future. The rule changes that have been agreed, and the formulation development by the Technical Committee, promise to support the continued success of the IRC International rating rule around the world.

The IRC Congress Minutes and papers are published here:

The 2024 agreed rule changes and full rule text will be published on when finalised.

From 2024 the number of headsails carried aboard will be rated in IRC. ©RORC/Paul Wyeth –