Left to right: Jamie Matheson, Laurence Mead, Anthony O'Leary and Andrew McIrvine
James Boyd Photography / www.thedailysail.com
Left to right: Jamie Matheson, Laurence Mead, Anthony O'Leary and Andrew McIrvine

Secure future for the Commodores' Cup

Brewen Dolphin's backing of the event; format changes for 2012 and Ian Loffhagen's departure

Monday October 24th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Wednesday’s announcement that Brewin Dolphin are to back the RORC’s Commodores’ Cup for the next three events (or six years) comes as welcome news, following the expiry of Rolex’s sponsorship after the 2010 event.

The keen eyed will notice that Brewin Dolphin is yet another investment management company to back sailing following Artemis, Aberdeen Asset Management and Skandia. In fact Brewen Dolphin’s involvement with sailing is not new. They have been involved in yachting event sponsorship for 12 years, most notably with the Scottish Series, although, as their CEO Jamie Matheson points out, their backing the RORC’s amateur team racing event will coincide with their 250th anniversary next year.

“It is not completely alien territory,” said Matheson. “We went into it because the participants are our target audience. We are putting something into the sport. It also gives us brand awareness in a bigger sense. Coming into something like the Commodores’ Cup, we are simply turning up the volume. It is the sort of sport that is largely amateur, funded by people with some disposable investable wealth, although the marine industry has absorbed a lot of it! That is our target audience.”

According to the RORC’s CEO Eddie Warden Owen, the sponsorship means that the future of the Commodores’ Cup is secure. “A lot of people were really worried that with the demise of Rolex’s previous sponsorship that the event would just wither away. We have been talking to Brewin Dolphin for quite some time. They are into sailing and it is an opportunity for them to build on the sailing sponsorship that they know and like and they will be a really good supporter of the event.”

A preliminary Notice of Race was published in May indicating welcome changes to the rating bands. In the past there has been an attempt to separate small, medium and big boats into classes, but prior to the 2010 event the rating bands for the medium and bigs was modified so that they overlapped in order to allow teams to use lower rating boats as their big boat. This time around the RORC has taken this a stage further so that the rating band range for the whole fleet will be 1.020 to 1.230, with one boat to rate 1.150 or above.

The only other change is the offshore race moving to the second day of the competition rather than later in the event, while the short offshore is likely to be a lap of the Isle of Wight. The double points scoring final race will remain.

The full Notice of Race for the Brewen Dolphin Commodores’ Cup is due to be published imminently. Warden Owen says that the RYA will then announce details of the selection trials for the British team. From within the British Isles the RORC anticipates three teams from the UK and one from Scotland.

According to RORC Rear Commodore Anthony O’Leary, who spearheaded the winning Irish team in 2010, they will be back to defend, while UNCL Commodore Marc St Denis says there will be an equivalent entry to the British effort from France: “Everybody is willing to be selected to race and this time we will come with three or four teams. We always have great fun and we like to sail this fantastic race. We like to come with competitive teams, but we also encourage people to do this event for the first time and to come and enjoy this beautiful area called the Solent which we all love in France.”

Elsewhere in Europe, interest has been shown from Holland, Belgium and Scandinavia.

Meanwhile Hong Kong is a long way down the road formulating plans to mount their third campaign, having previously finished fifth and then second.

“This is a great event for Hong Kong sailors and Corinthian sailors,” commented Laurence Mead, who was part of the last Hong Kong line-up. “The Commodores’ Cup is a very competitive event and we are going to take it very seriously.” Mead says that at present two teams are “90% certain” of returning – Mandrake, while Jamie McWilliam has the prospect of bringing a new boat. “One or two more international teams, the Aussies or Americans to come over - that would cement its position as the number one team event in the world. You can expect Hong Kong to be back next year and probably the time after as well.”

At the IRC Congress held recently, interest was shown in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup from Japan and Australia. While to date there has been no direct contact with potential US contenders, it is in the consciousness over there, according to RORC Commodore Andrew McIrvine.

Due to the hard economic times and the escalating cost of shipping boats around the world, the RORC is attempting to make it easier for competitors from abroad to take part in the event by chartering local boats. That was one reason for rejigging the rating bands, says Eddie Warden Owen: “We are trying to make it a more interesting competition to come along, to charter boats - if that is the way things are going at this austere time we’re in economically - and also we want to change and improve the event. That is the feedback we go from competitors. We will try and improve it and keep it up to date and that is what we’ve done.”

The other news from the RORC is that Ian Loffhagen, who has worked at the club for the last 11 years, firstly as assistant to the legendary Janet Grosvenor, subsequently filling her shoes as Racing Manager when she retired, has himself moved on to run a marine electronics company in North Wales.

“He had holiday and a lot of time off in lieu because he works a lot during the summer and having bought the business he wanted to leave and the club were very supportive. He has been a good servant for the club and it was good he left it to the end of the season. The club hope it works out for him,” says Warden Owen, who as yet doesn’t know how he will replace him or if they will re-arrange the club’s capable race management team for 2012. “We will replace him in a different way, but we are still discussing it.”

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