A full programme of races started the biennial Volvo Cork Week yesterday as strong winds gave way to moderate offshore breezes for the 100-boat fleet competing around the harbour.
First off was the largest fleet in the event as the 13 entries in the Beaufort Cup mustered off the Naval Base at Haulbowline where an Air Corps flypast took place exactly on the starting signal at 10am for the race to the Fastnet Rock and back.
A gybing duel soon followed and initially the group looked evenly matched as most of the crews tried to find the best combination of wind angle and fast flowing ebb tide that propelled them past Cobh.
Once past the Spit Tower however, a form guide of sorts soon started to show.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the largest boats started to show their potential and the two biggest boats in the race started to ease away from the main pack as the fleet cleared Roche’s Point on their upwind haul westwards.
The Irish Defence Forces D team on Merdian and the PSNI on Freya were leading the race as they closed on the famous lighthouse off Cape Clear, less than 12 hours after starting at Haulbowline.
All 13 boats have until this afternoon at 3pm to complete the course.
This race will be decided on IRC handicap and like most offshore races, the larger entries are racing the handicap clock and hope the breeze will fade shortly after they finish.
Perhaps a tall order, the focus invariably shifts to the well-sailed mid-sized boats and even at the start, a two-boat duel was emerging.
Housing Minister and former Defence Minister Simon Coveney, who promoted the concept of the Beaufort Cup last year, joined his brother Patrick on a borrowed A35 Another Adventure to enter with a Defence Forces crew.
While the big boats pulled away, Another Adventure remained close behind but was in turn under pressure from the Baltimore RNLI lifeboat crew on True Penance, skippered by Youen Jacob with fellow regulars on Anthony O’Leary’s Antix stable as well as Baltimore SC top sailor Nicholas O’Leary.
However, as the fleet converged on the Fastnet Rock after 9pm last night, it emerged that some of the boats including True Penance and Another Adventure had sailed into a large patch of light winds off Courtmacsherry and the resulting ‘park-up’ shook up the standings.
That saw the Crosshaven/South Coast RNLI team on End Game shoot up to the front of the fleet, mixing it with the two larger boats.
Tactics closing on the Fastnet saw those boats hugging the shore and along Cape Clear make good gains and almost the entire fleet were within sight of one another. But with at least 12 hours at sea left, the outcome of this 150-mile race was uncertain.
The 13 boats will have a rest day today before resuming competition in Class 2 with the rest of the regular Cork Week entries while the outcome of the Beaufort Cup itself will see a €10,000 donation made to the charity of choice for the winning crew.
Amongst the other divisions, Tony Ackland’ Swansea entry and former Cork Harbour regular Dark Angel nailed Class One with two wins and a second, denying Conor Phelan’s Jump Juice an early lead in the series. The RCYC stalwart only trails by two points.
In Class Two, three straight wins for Paul O’Higgins new Rockabill VI also denied Ian Nagle’s J109 Jelly Baby the overall lead on home waters as the visitor sorted out teething issues with the new JPK1080. While Nagle holds second overall, Rob McConnell’s Fool’s Gold from Waterford is close by in third with Tim Goodbody’s White Mischief close behind.
The visitors’ rout continued in Class Three where John Swan’s half-tonner Harmony from Howth YC had three wins, keeping Paul and Deirdre Tingle’s Alpaca from the RCYC in second.
Howth’s youth squad on Ireland’s Eye Kilcullen had two firsts and a second in Class 4, Crosshaven Anchor Challenge skippered by Paul Gibbons kept off the overnight lead by a single point at the head of their nine-boat class..
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