Conditions set to improve as serious racing action begins at Volvo Cork Week

High winds might have forced the cancellation of yesterday’s practice race, but the forecast for this morning’s official start to Volvo Cork Week is promising and the weather is predicted to steadily improve as the series progresses.

Conditions set to improve as serious racing action begins at Volvo Cork Week

Breezy conditions will give the 13-strong entry in the Beaufort Cup a challenging passage, westwards, to the Fastnet Rock, when the event begins off Haulbowline, at 10am today.

Because of upwind for 65 miles, the teams will probably sail a third longer, so the leaders may only reach the famous lighthouse, off West Cork, at around sunset tonight.

But after passing ‘Ireland’s teardrop’, the westerly wind will provide a speedy overnight ride back to Cork Harbour, delivering on the aim of a 24-hour race to start the inter-services championship.

Overall entries for the week-long event peaked at 106 boats, yesterday, though the weather may yet hamper plans for more-distant boats to arrive.

And two entries from Dun Laoghaire were reported to have dropped out, due to crew injury and equipment failure.

A last-minute reshuffle of the IRC handicap class bands has reduced the biggest boats, of Class Zero, to just three, with Anthony O’Leary’s Antix facing Eric de Turkheim’s Teasing Machine and Tom Wilson’s TP52 Gladiator, in a three-way fight to win the smallest class of the series.

The reshuffle has shunted other, former class-zero boats, notably Conor Phelan’s Jump Juice, into Class One, while the smaller, Class One boats now appear in Class Two.

The rearrangement was to avoid a 60-point spread in handicap points across Class One, and makes Class Two the largest individual fleet in the event, with 15 boats racing.

In terms of competition, especially for the overall, IRC European Championship, Class Two is likely to offer some of the closest racing, especially between the J109 and the crop of newer JPK1080s, which will all go head-to-head.

Amongst these Js, Ian Nagle’s Jelly Baby must be the local favourite, while Tim Goodbody’s White Mischief crew is rapidly getting to grips with its their new boat.

Pat Kelly’s Storm, from Rush, in Dublin, is always to the fore, though the absence of national champion, Joker 2, will be noticed until the RIYC boat returns from the Fastnet-and-back race, in the Beaufort Cup, with her 100% defence forces team.

Amongst the JPK boats, Paul O’Higgins’ Rockabill IV has had two major outings, since being launched earlier this year. The ICRA nationals, in Howth, in June, didn’t go to plan in a mostly light-airs series.

The following week saw a more promising performance in the Volvo Round Ireland Race, until light winds again got the better of most of the mid-sized boats.

Royal Ocean Racing Club commodore, Michael Boyd, will also have a JPK specially chartered for Cork and, after scoring top Irish entry in the 704-mile race around Ireland, last month, will also be hunting for more silverware for Friday’s prize-giving.

Amongst the Class One boats, while Phelan’s Jump Juice has to be a firm favourite, Jay Colville’s Forty Licks, from East Down, will easily match the Crosshaven boat, so expect close results between the pair in the leaderboard.

Cork Week veteran, Richard Matthews, on Oystercatcher XXXI, should also be to the front of the pack, and Simon Henning’s Grand Soleil 43 Quokka has a proven pedigree, also.

Returning to home waters, Tony Ackland’s Dubois 37 Dark Angel, from Swansea, and Murray Findlary’s Roxstar, from the Clyde, are both regulars to Irish events.

Meanwhile, in Class Three, the handicap reshuffle has shrunk this field to nine boats, but notables include Paul and Deirdre Tingles’ Alpaca, from the Royal Cork YC, and John Swan’s revamped half-tonner, Harmony, from Howth YC.

Class Four features a 12-boat line-up and several likely contenders will revel in the breezy conditions. Watch out for Howth’s Under 25 keelboat team, on Ireland’s Eye Kilcullen, who cleaned-up at Sovereigns week in Kinsale a year ago and are out to make their mark in the final season in the youth squad.

From the host club, Paul Gibbon’s Anchor Challenge, a restored quarter-tonner, is a certain contender, as well, and likely to give the north Dublin J24 team a good series.

Last-minute entries and ‘have a go’ teams are also appearing in the growing Club Regatta fleet, while the mixed sportsboat class is also growing, currently at eight boats.

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