While the opening regattas of the main Irish sailing season have proven to be robust affairs, it fell to Kinsale and the opening races of the O’Leary Life Sovereigns Cup to provide some respite yesterday.
Light winds and sunshine delivered a full racing programme, mostly incident-free and certainly without the drama of recent weeks.
A turnout of 98 boats from around Ireland and further afield is close enough to the supposed maximum capacity for the event and three more than the organisers’ goal of 95 entries.
With larger class sizes across the board, for some crews this event will be a restaging of the recent gale-lashed ICRA national championships at nearby Crosshaven.
And while that regatta saw the total loss of one entry even before the event started, followed by a man-overboard incident with another entry returning from Cork — thankfully with a happy outcome — the lead-up to the Sovereigns Cup wasn’t without drama either.
Last weekend saw the conclusion to the 275-mile Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race that attracted a record 45-strong entry.
Paul O’Higgins and his crew on Rockabill VI from the Royal Irish Yacht Club won the sprint in a time of 49 hours and 49 minutes, arriving into Dingle “in time for dinner” on Friday night, though their passage belied the rigorous race faced by the remainder of the fleet.
Over half the fleet were forced to retire from the event after taking a pasting once past the notorious Tuskar Rock and into the full force of the fresh-to-strong westerly winds that caused widespread problems.
Kinsale may yet receive a lash from the weather as today’s forecast sees winds strengthening in the afternoon and continuing into tomorrow’s third day.
However, with some shelter from the Old Head of Kinsale, the risk to the racing programme may not be as severe as of late.
But the mix of weather is certain to shake up the first overnight standings as a variation of conditions will suit some boats over others.
One of the highlights of the ICRA event was the match-race between defending Division 0 champion Conor Phelan on Jump Juice and Tony Ackland Dark Angel from Swansea, helmed by local Robert O’Leary.
Phelan was beaten in every race of the series, which was mostly held inside Cork Harbour due to the conditions, though the scoreline belied the nip-and-tuck action that the pair enjoyed.
Numbers in Class 0 doubled for Kinsale with the addition of the latest Mark Mills Design MAT1180 Tschuss from the US and Robert Douglas’ Spirit of Jacana from Carrickfergus.
Racing in open waters, Jump Juice and Dark Angel scored a win and a second place apiece, with the Welsh boat only taking the lead on the tie-break.
Their class might well have been bigger but for the Coastal fleet that is becoming a regular feature of Irish regattas and features several larger boats including Kinsale’s Merdian and Wow! from Dun Laoghaire.
In this class, the visitor led the pack around the extended round the buoys course between the Big Sovereign and the Old Head but a finishing-line error saw the Dun Laoghaire boat obliged to retire.
Among the other classes, a close family contest between veteran skipper Anthony O’Leary and his double- Olympian son Peter is being played out once again in the 1720 Sportsboat fleet that is sailing its European championships as part of the main regatta.
O’Leary Sr took the overnight night lead with Tom Durcan’s T-Bone duelling with Peter O’Leary for second place in this ten-strong class.
Division 1 had a clear leader with Waterford Harbour Sailing Club’s Rob McConnell gaining the upper hand with straight bullets yesterday.
Howth’s David Kelly in J109 Storm was also consistent with two second places.
In Class 2, Kieran Collins’ Olson 30 footer Coracle VI holding the overall lead only on countback after a win and a fifth yesterday.
Howth’s Ritchie Evans on The Big Picture had a more consistent second and fourth place. Former national champion David Cullen on Checkmate XV lies third after a less than ideal opening race start that may well have cost a higher overnight place.
However, his half-tonner is among those poised to benefit from the fresher weather expected today.
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