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Understanding Sail Declarations for ORC Rating Certificates

As the days grow longer and sailing season approaches in northern climates, it’s essential to tackle the paperwork before the rush begins. Among the confusion surrounding sail declarations on rating certificates, particularly for ORC, it’s crucial to clarify what needs to be declared. While other systems like IRC and ORR share similar rules, there are slight differences.

What the Rule States

Let’s dissect the ORC rule to demystify sail declarations:

“The sail area shall be smaller or equal to the respective one printed on the certificate. The sails inventory shall include the largest of each when on board: mainsail, mizzen, quadrilateral sail or sail set on the wishbone boom headsail set on the forestay, symmetric spinnaker, asymmetric spinnaker, mizzen staysail and all headsails set flying and all asymmetric spinnakers having SHW/SFL < 0.85.

While it may seem extensive, this rule accommodates various boat setups. For the majority of single mast sloop-rigged boats, only three or four sails need declaration.

Keeping It Simple

In essence, all boats must declare their largest sail in each major category: mainsails, headsails (jibs or genoas), and spinnakers (asymmetrical and symmetrical), along with any specialty sails. Typically, only one of each category needs declaration as the others will be smaller. Owners with both symmetrical and asymmetrical spinnakers must declare the largest of each. Staysails generally do not require declaration if they are smaller than the largest headsail.

Required measurements for boats without specialty sails

Specialty Sails

Specialty sails, set forward of the headsail with a midgirth to foot ratio below 85% in ORC, fall outside the normal categories. While commonly known as Code Zeros, not all specialty sails fit this description, and vice versa.  Some reaching spinnakers such as A3’s and A1’s had mid girths below 85%.  These sails, often used for reaching must be declared on the rating certificate, regardless of size.  If a boat carries multiple specialty sails, all of them must be declared.

Specialty sails with a midgirth ratio between 75% and 85% will be classified as spinnakers, while those under 75% will be categorized as a “headsail set flying” and show up under the headsail section of the certificate.  ORC requires different measurements for spinnakers and headsails, so double check with your sailmaker or measurer that you have the correct information for your sail. We go more in depth about Code Zeros and mid girth here.

A J122 using their J0 style Code Zero. This sail would be rated as a headsail set flying

Where to find sail information

All of the declared sails for a boat can be found on the last page of the ORC certificate. Every valid ORC certificate can be found at under Sailors Services. The sails are organized into mainsail, headsails, and spinnakers(asymmetrical or symmetrical). Specialty sails will show up in one of two places. Headsails set flying appear under headsails with a yes in the column labeled flying. Specialty sails that fall under spinnakers are not specifically labeled but will show up in the spinnaker tab. The only way to distinguish them is under the ratio column, where they will have a percentage between 75 and 85%

Where to Obtain the Numbers

Sail certificates issued by certified measures, usually sailmakers, contain all necessary information for ORC. When purchasing a new sail, request the certificate from your sailmaker. Additionally, most sailmakers offer sail measurement services for a nominal fee, even for sails they didn’t build.

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