With 85 confirmed entries to date plus the usual last-minute rush expected with dinghy sailors, the likely total fleet is expected to be about 150 boats at its peak over the weekend.
That number is a deliberate reduction from the 2015 edition, which catered for 200 boats, where up to three different classes raced on each of the four course areas set around Cork Harbour.
“We learnt from the last event that we had too many classes racing. We listened to the feedback that we got after the series last time and have made changes,” regatta chairman Nicholas O’Leary told the Irish Examiner yesterday.
“The feeling was that having multiple classes on the one course was crowded and made for long delays between races and long days afloat.”
Instead, just two classes will be hosted on each course with two inside Roche’s Point at Cuskinny and the Curlane Banks while two more course areas will be in the Outer Harbour between Roche’s Point and Power Head.
Each course area will have two classes of similar performance profiles racing so that both the RS200 and the larger RS400 will sail together while the International 420s and the National 18s will be in the same group for the outer courses.
Inside Roche’s Point, RS Feva and mixed dinghy classes will sail at Cuskinny. It’s closer to the Royal Cork Yacht Club, a visual treat and based on the Curlane Banks within easy reach of their base at Castle Point Boatyard.
The proximity to shore will be relatively spectator friendly but anyone afloat will get the best view of the foiling dinghies that are growing in popularity in Ireland and are increasingly seen as a pathway boat to America’s Cup style boats, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Five boats are expected for this course area, all International Moths with top Irish sailor Rory Fitzpatrick, coach to Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy, likely to lead the field.
Murphy herself would likely have been racing at Cork except her boat is understood to be en route to Italy for the annual foiling festival at Lake Garda ahead of her return to Olympic campaigning in August.
In keeping with current America’s Cup racing, the Moth dinghies will be restricted to boundary racing areas so the speed and agility of these boats will be easily seen.
Also racing with the Moths will be John Chambers who is the agent for the Wasp foiler, a significantly cheaper alternative to the Moth that typically sells new for €20-25,000 thanks to the extensive use of carbon fibre in its construction.
Over 300 have already been sold worldwide in less than a year since its introduction. Five are already ordered for Irish sailors though not expected to be delivered in time for Cork Dinghy Fest and O’Leary himself is planning to take up this developing branch of the sport.
Elsewhere inside the harbour, the Optimist fun fleet has been retained with its policy of mixing fun with racing and is currently the second largest class afloat.
The fun fleet will also be introduced to best practice seamanship thanks to event sponsors Port of Cork with its pilot service on hand to bring the up and coming young sailors around their pilotage district to point out various hazards and the priority of commercial shipping.
While the RS200 class has increased in popularity and is proving popular with parent/child and husband/wife type combinations, the RS400s are likely to be a battleground class with the current ISA All-Ireland Sailing Champion and defending champion Alex Barry out to retain his title.
Gareth Flanigan leads the challengers while prospective Olympian Fionn Lyden has entered the fray thanks to a loan boat from O’Leary.
Prizes up for grabs by the expected turnout of upwards of 300 competitors across the event will be provided by CH Marine and their Zyck range of sailing gear.
Racing gets underway tomorrow for the start of the national championships in the RS200 and 420 classes while all boats will be afloat over the weekend including the foiling boats from 2.30pm on Saturday.