THE open waters surrounding Roche’s Point are often cited as one of the draws of Cork Week, with direct comparisons made to the busy shipping channels and leisure waterways that throng the Solent.
So with space in abundance, it’s hardly surprising that fleets large and small can easily be accommodated on Ireland’s south coast.
And with that space comes the flexibility that the race management teams from the Royal Cork Yacht Club rely upon to deliver a huge variety of race courses and competition styles.
That appeal has extended to including various championships under the banner of Cork Week and 2010 will feature the J109 Eurocup that will comprise upwards of 20 of these 36-foot one-designs.
The trophy itself originated at Deauville Race Week in northern France in 2006 and has travelled to Ireland for the first time thanks to the strength of the class in Irish waters, where a combined fleet of more than a dozen boats, especially in the Dun Laoghaire area, underpins the class.
From the same stable that delivered the J24, the world’s most popular keelboat Rod Johnstone’s smaller boat is unlikely to be surpassed in numbers by the J109 any time soon; at hull number 370, the bigger boat has a long way to go to reach almost 6,000 J24-footers.
However, beating their previous record production is not the aim and for J-Boats, this newer class has delivered their first proper keelboat that is both one-design and competitive under IRC handicapping.
And at more than €200,000 for a new boat ready to race, the class has achieved significant popularity not only globally but especially around Ireland and Britain.
Cork Week has attracted a good representation of crews from at home and further afield, including a strong contingent expected to arrive from north Wales, led by Brian Morton on Jukebox.
Morton has close links with the neighbouring Dun Laoghaire fleet on the opposite coast and regularly joins the class coaching sessions there. Class Captain Chris Moore on Powder Monkey will be bringing his crew south to Cork as will John Maybury on Joker 2 who recently placed second in the Liebherr ICRA National Championships, leading a pack of J109 into the runner-up places in IRC Class One. Seamus Fitzpatrick and Mermaid competed in the British Championships’ J-Cup in 2009 and placed ninth out of 27 boats.
The dreaded ‘R-word’ is rarely far from anyone’s mind but Greg Burgess’ Blue Jay is back in action this season and another owner has been persuaded to get involved in the cut and thrust of the Eurocup thanks to the enthusiasm of some local young sailors keen to compete in the class at Crosshaven.
An email from Rob O’Leary of the well-known Cork sailing family to the class association on the availability of his services and that of his pals was translated into a group email under the headline “Ready-made ‘rock-star’ crew available...”
Jeroboam owner Jim Prower was first back to accept the offer of keen sailors that will be considered “the ones to watch” as the newly-matched boat and crew bring their advantage of home-waters knowledge to a willing skipper.
Meanwhile, class insiders also tip Ken Grant on Tighfolius from Scotland whose crew is capable of “moments of blinding inspiration” on the course. Ashore, Cork Week stalwart Jamie Arnell and his team on Jeez-Louise (also known as J’nickit? when loaned to the crew) are certain to have the loudest shirts in the fleet.
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