Calves Week highlight as south coast takes centre stage

When it comes to boats and sailing, West Cork is a mecca of sorts depending on outlook and interests.

But add in some real Irish summer weather and it’s up with the best of the Mediterranean and similar destinations.

Add in 400 odd boats in the Rolex Fastnet Race plus another 60 or so in the annual Gas Calves Week – not forgetting the hundreds of small craft likes RIBs and angling boats – and the south coast is the centre of the world of sail.

Just as Sunday’s 605-mile race from Cowes to Plymouth via the famous lighthouse off Cape Clear draws to a close over the next 24 hours, activity levels around the West Cork islands are at a peak.

Today sees the turn of the Calves Week fleet to take on the Fastnet with their own race from Schull to the rock and back and perhaps the boats may even encounter the tail-end stragglers of the bigger race just passed.

Neil Collier Wakefield’s MOD70 trimaran Concise galloped around the course, passing the Fastnet Rock just over 24 hours into the race.

And it was a full 12 hours before the first of the monohulls – technically speaking, the only boats eligible for the overall prize decided on IRC handicap – did the same with George David’s American entry Rambler 88 trailing by almost 120 miles.

The offshore racing veteran who is the reigning Volvo Round Ireland race champion went on to win line honours in Plymouth overnight on Tuesday. In a finishing-line interview, he recalled passing the rock where he and his crew of Rambler 100 were dramatically rescued six years ago, a rescue that formed a deep bond between him and his hosts in Baltimore and Ireland.

Other large and exotic boats followed including the giant 115-foot Nikata and then a slew of Open 60-footers, a class won by Paul Meilhats SMA which was a poignant result as the boat was last in Irish waters 18 months ago following a salvage operation during a transatlantic qualifier race for the Vendee Globe.

Seven Volvo 65 footers also passed the rock, match-racing one another in preparation for their 45,000 mile race around the world later this year.

Just 54 seconds separated the two leading boats in Plymouth with Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng taking the win.

Meanwhile in Schull, only Division 1 on IRC is an exception to a close-fought series after two days of racing.

Calves Week regular Paul O’Higgins on Rockabill VI has straight bullets for the regatta so far with Patrick Cruise O’Brien’s Dear Prudence matching the leader for consistency with two second places.

In Division 2, Royal Cork Yacht Club entries hold the top three places led Frank Desmond’s Sunfast 32 Bad Company.

Visiting boats also dominate Division 3 with Dungarvan’s Seconds Count skippered by Dan O’Donovan is tied for the lead with Billy Burke’s Sigma 33 Muskateer from Cove Sailing Club.

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