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Tuesday, July 10, 2012
There were more high spirits than high winds to set the first day of competitive racing off to a breezy start at Cork Week yesterday as sailors and landlubbers descended on Crosshaven for the biennial event.
Billed as a boutique week, the fear was that the recession, the huge success of the Volvo Ocean Race finale in Galway, and the upcoming Olympics in London would turn the week into a non-event.
Thankfully, that hasn’t happened, as diehard sailors and supporters, mostly from Ireland, Britain, and France, once again made the journey to the home of the hosts, the Royal Cork Yacht Club.
Yet there is no doubt that Cork Week 2012 is smaller than in previous years. There are around 100 boats competing, as against 750 during the heady, corporate-sponsored days of 2006; the crowds on and off the water are fewer; the tented village, which has become a hallmark of Cork Week in recent years, is smaller. Even the stray dogs that usually turn up for discarded pickings look fewer in number. But small is good — more quality than quantity.
RCYC Admiral Peter Deasy reflects the optimism of the organisers. "We in the Royal Cork are very confident that the support of the people of Cork and, in particular Crosshaven, will ensure that Cork Week 2012 will, once again, prove that people are prepared to enjoy their hard-earned leisure time in what has always been one of the best sailing, and fun, regattas in Europe."
Event chairman Pat Lyons agrees: "Cork Week comes along every two years and offers an occasion to celebrate all that is best about how we can enjoy the wonderful facilities that our environment has placed on our doorstep."
While it was wet on land in the afternoon, the morning was glorious. The high winds that were forecast didn’t materialise. But some people were still not satisfied. "We could do with a bit more puff," complained one sailor. "I like it when it is really blowing a gale. It separates the men from the boys."
Whatever about the boys, the girls were determined to have fun as they set out to follow the morning’s racing. Margaret How and her friends Mary Collins and Louie Hegarty didn’t have to worry about the winds too much as she gunned her Merry Fisher powerboat from the berth at the RCYC to catch up with the boats outside the harbour.
The trio had more than a passing interest in the morning’s racing. "Our boys are out there," explained Mary, like a true Irish Mammy. "We each have a son on board Jelly Baby." The boat is racing in the J/109 Irish National Championship at Cork Week.
As we leave Crosshaven, on the horizon are two fleets of 30 boats each, arranged and spread like bookends as they race their individual courses. Coming closer, the drama is evident as the swirling sails and soggy sailors tussle for dominance. The three Irish Mammies, with Mammy Margaret at the helm, crane their necks to get a glimpse of their offspring — Glenn How, Killian Collins, and Donal Hegarty. They have even brought packed lunches for them but they know better than to interrupt the morning’s excitement.
Cathy Verco, a photographer on board, asks Mammy Collins: "Do you know the spinnaker colour of the boat your son is on?" It is not a loaded ques-tion but Mary looks downcast as she admits she doesn’t.
"What kind of mother are you," jokes Cathy. "Maybe you could buy him one next Christmas with ‘Hi Mum’ written on it."
But Mammy Collins triumphs. "There they are," she shouts, pointing to the sleek Jelly Baby as it rounds a race mark. "We mustn’t come too close, though," she warns Margaret at the wheel. "We wouldn’t want to disturb them."
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