A spectacular “all-in” start to the penultimate day of racing in Volvo Cork Week saw almost the entire fleet and all classes begin the hallmark Harbour Course in glorious sunshine off Weaver’s Point yesterday.
Unusually, large and small boats gathered on an extended starting-line that caught several crews unawares until they found themselves hurrying into position in a huge display of sailpower.
While normally each division has their own countdown and start amongst their main opposition, Race Officer Peter Crowley dispatched a steady stream of racing boats in from Roche’s Point to race past Cobh twice before returning to finish in the shortest day afloat of the regatta so far.
Today marks the final rounds of racing and while up to three races may be sailed, organisers expect just two races with fresh and gusty conditions expected.
Those two final races will be crucial in every class with no outright leaders assured of victory until at least the first race is out of the way. At stake, the overall regatta champion plus over half a dozen class winners as well as the boat of the week award and Prix d’elegance for the best-presented boat and crew.
Additionally, the inaugural Beaufort Cup and IRC European Championship are being sailed for the first time.
The event for the military and emergency services has been dominated by the Irish Defence Forces crew racing on Joker 2, John Maybury’s J109 that is the current national champion for Class One.
Skippered by Barry Byrne, the team won yesterday’s Harbour Course adding their fourth race win of the week and extending their lead to five points. However, a discard after six races would mean while they would drop their worst result – a second place – their nearest rivals, Baltimore RNLI lifeboat crew on True Penance would drop their worst place, a fourth and the standings would tighten to a spread of just two points.
However, the West Cork crew would not only need to beat the Defence Forces team in both races today but would need a separation of at least two places to avoid a tie-break scenario that would call in the number of race wins.
On balance, it is Byrne’s Defence Forces Beaufort Cup to win all depending on keeping their week-long form in the breezy final day.
Meanwhile, the inaugural IRC European Championship that has only brought perhaps a quarter of the 100-strong fleet as non-Irish competitors to Cork will be decided today.
Ironically, on current standings the championship that is dedicated to the IRC handicapping system could be won by either of two boats originally conceived for a much older-handicapping rule, the International Offshore Rule or IOR. The contenders lead their respective classes and while the result hangs in the balance without counting yesterday’s Harbour race that isn’t included in the championship, a two-race final could hugely affect the outcome.
In Class 4, where 10 boats have been racing, Paul Gibbons’ Anchor Challenge leads overall with all first and second places for the week. It isn’t a foregone conclusion the renovated quarter-tonner will win as Howth Yacht Club’s Youth Squad on Ireland’s Eye Kilcullen are just two behind.
Should Anchor Challenge be defeated by the Dublin crew, the class will be won by one of the world’s most popular one-design keelboats, the J24 that is racing under IRC handicap.
Meanwhile in Class 3, where nine boats are racing, John Swan’s HYC entry Harmony, a renovated IOR half-tonner has a strong seven-point lead over Paul and Deirdre Tingles’ RCYC entry Alpaca. The overall IRC title is calculated using a formula that takes the winning score in a class with the number of races and number of competitors to work out the best relative performance of the week.
Elsewhere in the regatta, Paul O’Higgins on Rockabill VI saw further erosion of his lead in Class 2 where Rob McConnell’s Fool’s Gold from Dunmore East has closed the gap to one point thanks to a win in yesterday’s Harbour Race. O’Higgins’ clubmate from the Royal Irish YC Tim Goodbody on White Mischief has consolidated his third place in the class.
Also looking good for the final day is Tony Ackland’s Dark Angel from Swansea with an eight-point lead in Class 1 and defeat appears improbable as Charlie Frize’s Scottish entry Prime Suspect in second place has Crosshaven’s Jump Juice within half-a-point of taking the runner-up place.
And after three days of a new overnight leader in Class 0, the RCYC’s Anthony O’Leary on Antix retained the overall lead after placing second on home waters after a follow-the-leader pursuit of Tony Langley’s Gladiator around the Harbour.
The TP52-footer, the largest entry in the regatta was unable shake off her smaller pursuers who finished 15 minutes behind in a race won by Eric de Turkheim’s Teasing Machine.
Amongst the non-spinnaker class, Tom McNeice on Minx 111 still narrowly leads Clive Doherty’s Phaeton by a single point while Judy McGrath’s Bonanza brings up the rest of the remainder of the 12-strong class in an RCYC-dominated leaderboard.
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