All six class leaders made clear their intentions for the series on the opening day of the ICRA National Championships on Dublin Bay yesterday. Unusually, the six divisions saw back-to-back wins, with the exception of the Zero fleet, that sailed a single, long coastal race.
Despite the overcast and rainy conditions, the breeze held around 10 knots for most of the day for the 93-strong entry from 24 clubs around Ireland and beyond. With just three races planned for the series, the coastal racing big boats could be a pricey affair with no margin for error.
So, it was for Frank Whelan’s Eleuthera from Greystones Sailing Club, leading Division Zero on the water all the way out to the North Kish buoy, which they left to starboard — the course required them to pass to port — before sailing off with the fleet well behind. It was only when the chasing pack passed the mark correctly that Whelan’s team spotted their error and they sailed back to correct matters, but the damage was done for a race decided on handicap corrected time.
Instead of a possible podium result, they scored last place and in a series that doesn’t permit a discard, the best they can hope for is pyrrhic victories in the remaining two races. However, a comfortable win for Paul O’Higgins’ Rockabill V suggests that even winning the last two races could be a tall order, as the Dún Laoghaire boat jousts with Jay Colville’s Forty Licks, from East Down YC, at the front of the division.
While the zeroes have nine boats entered, the bulk of the event is concentrated in Divisions One, Two and Three, with at least 20 competing boats in each. John Maybury’s Joker II, from the Royal Irish YC — the J109 that has been consistently the top-performing boat in this size range over the past three seasons — delivered two race wins for the day to lead division one.
Hot on Joker’s heels is newcomer to the class Richard Colwell, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association commodore, on Outrageous from Howth YC, in his first major outing. Colwell opened with a fourth, then a second, to hold a narrow second overall, with Storm, of Rush Sailing Club’s Pat Kelly and family, taking third place on the overall standings, completing a J109 dominance of the podium.
Johnny Swan’s Harmony, also Howth, topped Division Two, also with back-to-back wins, and leads his 20-boat division with clubmates Darren and Michael Wright on Mata. That result sees Manchester’s Nigel Biggs on Checkmate XVIII unusually edged into third overall, watching his back from Miss Whiplash, Ronan Downing’s half-tonner from the Royal Cork YC, which lived up to expectations of a strong showing.
Division Three is arguably the most consistent of the fleet, with the top four boats delivering matching results for both races: F’n Gr8, skippered by Rory Fekkes from Carrickfergus SC, led the way, ahead of Brendan Foley’s Running Wild from the hosting Royal St George YC.
Philip O’Dwyer’s Supernova from the Royal Irish YC leads Division 4, the fifth fleet that will decide its national champion this weekend. Slightly stronger winds forecast for today could upset the running-order for all.