The people of Ireland – sailors and farmers alike - are gasping for a bit of real summer. But with Met Eireann predicting that next week will be favourable for hay-making, there’s a dilemma for grassland farmers who like a bit of sailing writes W M Nixon.
The top line of attention in Irish sailing is definitely not turning towards haymaking. On the contrary, it’s looking very much to Kinsale and the biennial Sovereigns Cup Regatta. This year’s O’Leary Life-sponsored staging of the popular event starts next Wednesday afternoon – June 21st – and continues until Saturday June 24th. That’s spot on the traditional Mid-summers Day, when Kinsale is usually looking its very best - so much so that they even have a pretty little place on the harbour called Summercove.
The thought of sailing serenely past Summercove into Kinsale YC’s welcoming marina sounds very good indeed to the cruiser-racer fraternity just now. After being battered briefly but frequently during the ICRA Nationals at Crosshaven a week ago, and then battered longterm in the 275-mile Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race which started on Wednesday evening and still has some of the surviving fleet finishing through today, the thought of smooth sailing past Summercove, with all those hospitality options close ahead in Kinsale, is very attractive and then some.
And there’s always the beguiling possibility that the 94-strong fleet will have excellent but not too ferocious racing, for it’s emphasized that this is a regatta, and not a championship, national or otherwise. Thus in addition to the cruiser-racer divisions, the option of other classes is available, while the new headline sponsors have provided the O’Leary Trophy for the Family Boat Award, the best-sailed boat with a family crew.
As for the social programme, wall-to-wall is a phrase that springs to mind. Club groups from elsewhere book their accommodation maybe years in advance in order to be sure of having the most convenient access to the club, the marina, and the many fabulous eating places, pubs and party venues in the town. So it’s not surprising that for many sailors from abroad, Kinsale sailing IS Irish sailing.
Thus after other events during July, the next big one up on the Kinsale fixtures list is the World Half Ton Classics from 14th to 17th August. Kinsale does not have a significant Half Ton Classic element in its own fleet, but when the Irish Half Ton Classics Association was told that 2017 was to be their slot and which port did they wish to use, the almost-immediate choice was Kinsale with its wide selection of places to stay, and it has clearly hit the target - already the potential fleet is pushing towards the 30 mark.
But that’s in August, meanwhile in celebrating the Sovereigns Cup regatta which originally was the brainchild of Kinsale-based sailing handicap numbers ace Denis Kiely more than 25 years ago, let’s cast a final eye back to 2015 and its winners’ list, when they carried out the tricky experiment of combining it with the ICRA Nats.
Division 0 IRC winner was George Sisk’s Farr 42 WOW from Conor Phelan’s Ker 37 Jump Juice, with the Nobby Reilly/Alan Chambers Mills 36 Crazy Horse third. Division 1 IRC was John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II from Rob McConnell’s A35 Fools’ Gold, with Ian Nagle’s J/109 Jelly Baby third. Div 2 winner was Ross McDonald’s X332 Equinox from Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV, while third was Jonny Swann’s Half Tonner Harmony.
Division 4 was taken by the Howth YC club-owned junior crew-sailed J/24 Kilcullen, with the Quarter Tonner Quest (Barry Cunningham) second, and Donal Harding’s Albin Express White Magic third, while the non-spinnaker Div A was won by Colm Bermingham’s Elan 333 Bite the Bullet from Paul Tully’s sister-ship White Lotus. Non-spinnaker Division B was dominated with a run of bullets by Windsor Laudan and Steph Ennis with the veteran Club Shamrock Demelza, an impressive display.
Once the Sovereigns Cup bug has bitten, you stay bitten, and most of those owners from two years ago – some of them now in bigger boats – will be there next Wednesday to enjoy the Kinsale buzz again. But as this evidence of proper summer finally arriving takes over our thinking, it’s time to spare a thought for those who will be spending this weekend in more rugged pursuits.
Top among them is Conor Fogerty, who has been sailing an absolute blinder in his Sunfast 3600 Bam in the OSTAR – the Original Singlehanded Transatlantic race. Although the leader Andrea Mura in the very much larger Open 60 Vento di Sardegna is already finished in Newport, Rhode Island, Fogerty is currently the favourite to win the Gypsy Moth Trophy which is the very essence of this historic event. He may even manage to be second on line honours, and has worked out an astonishing lead of 385 miles on his closest direct rival, Mark Hipgrave in the other Sunfast 3600 Mister Lucky.
As for our other noted single-hander Tom Dolan, he’s in a different scenario starting tomorrow, the two-handed Mini-Fastnet from Douarnenez round the famous rock, racing Mini 650s. His crew is his regular shipmate Francois Jambou, and for those concerned about keeping up fleet numbers elsewhere, it’s of interest to note that for the 2017 Mini-Fastnet the organisers have had to limit fleet numbers to a manageable 70 boats, and they had to set that limit quite some time ago, so keen were people to take part.
All this can be rugged stuff, but we hope that conditions are benign for this weekend’s festival of Classic and Traditional Craft in Crosshaven. For there at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, they have a modern classic which is the focus of much well-earned attention.
This is the greatly modified Etchells 22 which Bill Trafford of the very appropriately named Alchemy Marine, up at Skenakilla near Mitchelstown in North Cork, has transformed into a perfect little weekend cruiser. We’ve carried the continuing story of this Etchells transformation during the past year, but everyone has waited with bated breath for news of the first sail, and how she performed.
It’s only this week they’ve completed the rigging and sail-setting in Crosshaven, and Bill Trafford was hoping for more summery conditions to take his latest creation out for the first time. But Des McWilliam turned up with an absolutely lovely suit of sails on Wednesday evening, and with a “never mind the weather, we’re in the shelter of the harbour” attitude, they took Guapa out for her first spin.
The reactions were somewhere beyond the merely rapturous. Des McWilliam would not be backwards in coming forward in telling you if he thought your boat didn’t make the grade, but he waxed lyrical with joy at the transformed boat’s ease of effortlessly making seven-plus knots, “sitting in style in your little bit of Chippendale”.
As for helming characteristics, despite the rudder being moved all of two feet aft to accommodate the new cockpit/cabin layout, the word is that she balances a treat. “Weather helm is just on three degrees” reports Des, “which I’d regard as about perfect”.
We’ve followed this intriguing story with fascination. Now that it turns out to be a good news story – and a really good news story at that – great credit is reflected on all involved, as an Etchells modification has never been taken this far before. But as ever with Bill Trafford, the question is: What next?