Record cruiser-racer fleet all set for upwind slog to Dingle

If last weekend’s gale-battered ICRA National Championships in Cork Harbour wasn’t punishment enough, another fleet of cruiser-racers last night departed Dun Laoghaire heading for Dingle on the 275-mile Volvo D2D race.

After returning from the ICRA National Championships in Crosshaven since the weekend, Paul O'Higgins' Rockabill VI.

Most of the record 45 boat entry can expect to be a sea for at least 48 hours, probably longer for the slower boats but for all concerned, the race is set to be an upwind slog almost the entire distance.

Starting out from Dun Laoghaire, the boats had an easy stretch of sorts as far as Dalkey Island but immediately afterwards split tacks to begin the leg southwards to the Tuskar Rock.

From there, the southerly wind is expect to veer to a westerly direction so no passage records can be expected this year.

What is a record is the turnout, boosted by a high-profile sailing sponsor and also recognition of the race as a qualification event for the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race in August this year.

Also boosting numbers is the uptick in numbers participating in offshore sailing, a branch of sailing widely regarded to be unsuited to modern living due to the long distances involved.

But the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association has been attracting more and more boats in recent seasons and these form the nucleus of the D2D fleet this week.

Given the sheer numbers, almost any of the J109 class taking part could be a contender for the overall win on IRC handicap although the Shanahan family’s Ruth from the National Yacht Club has an established track-record offshore.

Kenny Rumball’s Jedi from the Irish National Sailing School is another J109 that is an offshore regular while Andrew Algeo’s Juggerknot representing the Royal Irish YC and Baltimore Sailing Club has achieved promising results early in its debut on the Irish Sea.

However, despite their promise, the J109’s only account for six of the 45 boats.

George Sisk’s WOW! has a long-standing crew that enjoy the longer coastal courses on day races. And the Rockabill VI team that turned around from last weekend’s ICRA championship to be back in time for the D2D will be hoping to make up for the disappointment of the final two races of last weekend due to gales with a good result in Dingle tomorrow night.

Of the other boats, arguably one of the best-looking entries is Soufriere, Stephen O’Flaherty’s Spirit 54-footer that starred in Casino Royale with Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond/007.

On the opposite end of the scale, three Mini 6.5 will be racing in their double-handed mode.

Although best known as single-handed boats, notably in France and Britain and elsewhere on the continent, solo sailing over long-distances is enforced as illegal in Ireland.

Records set by single-handed sailors are no longer recognised by the World Speed Sailing Record Council that specifically identifies Ireland as an exception in its rules due to government measures in this country.

Meanwhile, once the prize-giving for the D2D concludes at the Dingle Skellig Hotel on Saturday night, another exodus is expected to get underway with most of the fleet expected to remain in the region for the Summer cruising season while the racing fixtures list continues almost immediately.

Next Wednesday sees the biennial O’Leary Life & Pensions Sovereigns Cup get underway in Kinsale with racing over four days.

A targeted fleet size of 95 boats is expected to be easily reached with the entry deadline extended by a week to allow for boats from the foreshortened ICRA championships in Crosshaven to take part.

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