If you happen to be in Cobh this afternoon, about lunchtime onwards watch out for a Cork Harbour tradition that has endured for the past 34 years.
The famous biennial event based in Crosshaven, now known as Volvo Cork Week, is underway, and today the official racing programme begins, with the Harbour Course that is the hallmark of the series.
The picture-postcard backdrop of the stepped town of Cobh, topped by St Colman’s Cathedral, overlooks the turning mark on the racecourse and will act as the perfect grandstand.
The entire fleet of 100 boats is due to race past and with a northerly wind forecast, the start off Roche’s Point will send each class inside the harbour initially so the sail-past should begin around 1pm.
While the essence of the event such as the Harbour Course remains unchanged, where Cork Week differs from popular memory is size of the event.
From the peak over a decade ago when in excess of 700 boats and thousands of daily competitors descended on Crosshaven and its environs, the modern era Cork Week is more akin to its roots almost four decades ago.
While a fleet of 100 boats and perhaps a thousand or so competitors afloat is a marked contrast to the boom-time, traditionalists can revel in the smaller, more intimate gathering at the Royal Cork Yacht Club that still retains its core values.
Racing has been trimmed back from five to four days in keeping with trends at other major events that recognise the amateur sailor’s limited annual leave and family commitments.
Of the racing classes competing principally under IRC handicap, the biggest turnout will be in Class 3, where 20 crews are entered. The large number of J109s in this class are certain to dominate racing. with Ian Nagle’s Jelly Baby — fresh from the ICRA Nationals in Dun Laoghaire — the boat to beat.
Class 2 marks the return of Howth’s Nobby Reilly on Crazy Horse after off-season repairs, and he can go head to head with newly-crowned champions Jump Juice, who will have a definite home advantage.
In reviewing the changes from the heyday to 2014, perhaps the most notable absences afloat are the larger and exotic super racing machines with their professional crews that are only permitted in certain classes in this unapologetically amateur event.
Ashore, the vast tented village and entertainment is gone, replaced by a more traditional yacht club atmosphere and hospitality programme. This includes abandonment of the nightly entertainment line-up at multiple venues inside the race village that attracted thousand.
Instead, doors close at 6pm for all except competitors, their families and club members, a move that is certain to draw comment on the accessibility of sailing.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved