A while back David Macfarlane posed the question: “Why did the IOR die?” The answer is surprisingly simple and has little to do with economic downturns, crazy, escalating costs or the perception that the boats were unseaworthy and slow.
|Australia's Ragamuffin during the last Admiral's Cup under IOR in 1993, not long before the eventual demise of the IOR altogether|
IMS was very much an American based initiative formulated by a burgeoning interest in the power of computers as envisioned by ‘idealists’ at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This belief in a ‘perfect’ system filtered into the ITC who then increasingly believed that IMS could replace IOR as THE rule for Grand Prix Offshore Racing. At a stroke IMS was perceived as a handicapping system that would allow the return of ‘wholesome’ cruiser racers to the Grand Prix level.
|ILC40s, as a level-rating derivative of the IMS rule, seen here competing in the 1995 Admiral's Cup|
|The 1976 French cat rigged Mini Tonner L'Effraie|
|The Farr One Ton centreboarder, Jenny H, 1977|
The IOR Mk IV, proposed from the audience at the 1988 November meetings promulgated similar outcomes, but utilising the proven and robust linear formulas of IOR rather than the largely unknown reliance on unproven Velocity Predictions inherent in the IMS formula.
|Turkish Delight trying to stay on her feet during the 1987 Irish Admiral's Cup trials|
Gone too would be the ubiquitous 150 percent overlap on headsails which gave unrated sail area. This change would have opened the door to the development of non-overlap rigs.
|Victory (left), Hitchhiker and Pinta sporting their big no.1 genoas during the first race of the 1981 Admiral's Cup|
While the outcomes of such changes cannot ever be accurately predicted, cause and effect is highly influential in a formula like IOR. The simple removal of the penalty on stability would have quickly allowed designers to create lighter boats as stability could have been found in low CG keels rather than hull form and brute overall weight. In turn lighter and more powerful boats would have pointed the way to fuller sterns.
|Gunboat Rangiriri - one of the new breed of Farr-designed light displacement centreboarders of 1977, showing the relatively clean lines that were possible before the ITC forced an increase in displacement|
And so the ITC policy was set at that fateful November meeting in 1988. The two rules would run in parallel while the anomalies inherent in the VPP-driven IMS were sorted out and a new era of dual purpose offshore racers would begin.
Work would continue on the development of IOR, but with none of the suggested fundamental changes implemented. A Mk IV Rule was duly drafted, but few in authority had any real enthusiasm for it. As far as they were concerned IOR was dying and IMS was the new kid on the block to be nurtured.
|The Whitbread Maxi ketch Steinlager 2|
|Matador 2, the biggest and fastest of the IOR Maxis|
|Gaucho (above and below)|
But while IMS continued to be promoted as the solution to ‘fair’ global offshore yacht racing IOR struggled on, shouldering virtually all of the blame for declining racing fleets.
I remember talking to Olin (Stephens) about it all. He was very sanguine - perhaps even a little surprised by the way IOR had developed, but ever the enthusiast for a mathematical solution he liked the theories behind IMS and perhaps felt that the apparent shortcomings in the IOR could be addressed more effectively by the overarching qualities of IMS. It was a mathematically-based theory that wasn’t born out in practice.
With the advantage of a 21st century perspective and taking into account yacht racing developments since the death of IOR in 1994, would keeping IOR been better for the sport as a whole? In terms of continuity and preventing the explosion of multiple, fleet sapping alternative classes, it would assuredly have been beneficial. But it did need a major shot in the arm at the end of the 1980s to reassure an ever more cynical owner base that their worries were being addressed.
|Cookson's High 5 followed the Gaucho theme and was dominant in the 2000 Kenwood Cup|
|New Zealand Endeavour - one of three new Farr-designed Whitbread Maxi ketches for the 1993-94 race|
Would a boat designed to an updated version of IOR as suggested back in 1988 at the ITC meetings evolved into something equivalent to today’s high performance designs as typified by the IRC racers, TP52’s and Fast 40’s? Yes. Is the simple answer. Advances in lightweight construction, appendage design, carbon spars would have all contributed hugely, but the biggest single factor effecting overall design and concept would have been the removal of attempting to measure stability. Just as is the case today, boats would not have become more stable, but would simply have become significantly lighter and capable of carrying larger rigs effectively. These are the primary elements driving the performance in today’s designs.
To have arrived at this point in the genesis of the offshore yacht within the IOR style framework would have resulted in far more fleet continuity across the globe and possibly allowed the major offshore championships to survive the various financial challenges and rule uncertainties that killed them off.
Julian's article concludes with the above image of his 43 footer Backlash, with the caption "It's not easy to pick a single picture that represents the entire IOR era from 1970 to 1994, but this comes from a high point of the rule in 1985. Fleets were huge and there was enormous variety of design from a multitude of designers".