Home team has strong hand

DOMESTIC entries have held strong despite the economic downturn as Cork Week prepares to begin racing off Roche’s Point this morning. Irish boats account for more than half the official entry list in contrast to previous years when overseas boats would account for as much as 80% of the turnout.

Around 2,000 competitors will start racing at 11a.m. today on five completely different race courses located around Cork Harbour and in the approaches to Roche’s Point.

As usual, the 13 different classes featuring all sizes of boats from ‘white-sails’ and strictly amateur crews to the Class zero and super zero divisions where professional crews are limited.

In place of the super-size maxi yachts that visited Cork in peak years, regulars at Crosshaven last night predicted much closer racing and better sport amongst the more evenly matched boats, especially in Class Zero where up to 18 boats are entered, including several contenders for next month’s Commodore’s Cup regatta in Cowes.

The biggest boats in the event will be competing on the Slalom course this morning, located three miles off Roche’s Point.

However, the first fleet to race on the Harbour Course, one of Cork Week’s hallmark events will feature close to 40 boats when the J109 Eurocup fleet joins the Division 2 entries off Weaver’s Point.

This race typically begins with several short legs outside Roche’s Point before the sprint inside to a turning-mark off between Haulbowline and Cobh with the latter acting as both grandstand and backdrop for the iconic image of sailing on the harbour.

The leaders should reach this innermost mark around lunchtime and a similar format is repeated for all the classes. However, the forecast of strong winds for mid-week could yet alter the schedule though the big boat divisions seem certain to have a clear run at their harbour race on Friday.

The J109 Europcup event features a local entry of sorts as Crosshaven’s Rob O’Leary and seven college friends have teamed up with Jerobaum owner Jim Prower who needed crew for the event and the local knowledge could yet deliver a competitive edge in this well-matched one-design fleet.

O’Leary’s father Anthony on Antix begins the series in Class Zero with a wary eye out for Dave Dwyer’s marinerscove.ie that recently scooped the overall British IRC National Championship title at Cowes for the second consecutive year.

Elsewhere amongst the classes, former Cobh-sailor Flor O’Driscoll is on home waters once more with his J24 Hard on Port that has made a successful switch from one-design racing to IRC-handicap and will be a boat to watch in Class Six.

However, his nemesis at this year’s Irish championships, by a small points difference proved to be another Cork entry as Tiger, a Fauroux quarter ton, owned by James O’Brien with Neil Kenefick and sailing for the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

One of the biggest classes will be Class 2 on IRC handicap where Paul O’Higgins Rockabill V from Dun Laoghaire, a hugely successful Corby 33-footer and current national champion will have plenty of close competition in one of the most international of divisions at the event.


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