Will the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race next Wednesday find itself sailing with mostly fair winds asks W M Nixon. Will the presence of lows to the west of them, and other lows to the southeast, provide a line of favourable higher pressure down the course to give fair nor’easters in the early stages, and nothing too totally contrary thereafter?
It seems just possible, and would be very welcome. For there have been occasions racing to Dingle in conditions so obtuse that some easier ways of getting from Dublin Bay to West Kerry other than via the National Yacht Club’s biennial D2D have come to mind, such as walking backwards the whole way in your bare feet…….
On the other hand, it’s a race in which at some stage the sailing is inevitably sublime, yet even with the unsettled weather that Ireland is currently experiencing, as of this morning there are 43 sound boats signed up for next Wednesday’s 1800hrs start immediately eastwards Dun Laoghaire’s East Pier. And they include a goodly number of boats and sailors who are busy this weekend in dealing with the sometimes wayward weather which is making the 2019 ICRA Nationals hosted by the Royal St George YC such a fascinating challenge.
"this healthy increase by 33% is good going by anyone’s standards"
So whatever the weather, it looks as though enthusiasm is back in vogue. For when we last took a look at the potential D2D fleet in mid-May, confirmed entries stood at just 32 boats. But Race Chairman Adam Winkelmann was quietly confident that his fleet would be approaching the 40 mark as the race got nearer the top of the agenda in this extraordinarily crowded first half of the 2019 season. His instincts were right - this healthy increase by 33% is good going by anyone’s standards.
That said, the increased fleet size makes predictions even more difficult, for although there were good reasons to hope the weather will have settled down a bit by next Wednesday, the predictions change by the hour and the general instability of the Atlantic airmass could throw all sorts of optimistic expectations haywire.
But we take hope from the fact that, for some of the race, the indications are that the Jetstream will be to the north, whereas in recent days it has been sitting directly overhead, and in a particularly malignant mood too. However, more benign weather will tend to bring lighter winds, and while the fleet’s big one, Mick Cottter’s 94ft Windfall, will likely take line honours, the fact that the rest of the fleet might find the next weather deterioration is preceded by livelier breezes will see any chance of Windfall holding to her lead on handicap as no more than a very long shot.
But Windfall’s speed could be such that she’ll carry the mid-week nor’easters (should they arrive as currently predicted) all of the 280 miles crisply to the finish, leaving smaller craft still at sea dealing with the increasing likelihood of nor’westers on the nose in their latter stages of racing.
However, defending champion Paul O’Higgins (RIYC) with the JPK 1080 Rockabill VI is muted in his enthusiasm for any suggestions there might be benign weather on the way, as he has no doubt that his much-admired boat is at her best in a bit of a breeze.
“We don’t really do benign breezes,” he tells Afloat.ie. “We’re looking for good firm to brisk winds”. Certainly they had no lack of them in 2017’s race, and with regular shipmates including Mark Pettit, Kieran Tarbett and Ian O’Meara on the strength, Rockabill’s firepower is further beefed by Australian James Gunne, who has become a significant force in Dublin Bay sailing.
As ever, Rockabill’s closest battles will be with the J/109s, of which there are six with boats from Holyhead, Pwllheli, Dun Laoghaire, Poolbeg and Howth. One of them, Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli) was runner-up to Rockabill VI last time out, and her form in this year’s ISORA shows she’s still up for it, while another, the Shanahan family’s Ruth (NYC), was overall winner in 2015.
But the more recent additions to the thriving J/109 fleet around Dublin Bay are champing at the bit, and last weekend in Howth’s annual Lambay Race, it was the home club’s Richard Colwell and Johnny Murphy’s Outrajeous which led the pack in Class 1 from Rockabill VI by 1 minute and 49 seconds, though Rockabill VI was back on top in DBSC racing on Thursday night.
The Lambay crew lineup on Outrajeous included Mark Mansfield, but for the D2D, the formidable Cork sailor is moving across to John O’Gorman’s Sun Fast 3600 Hot Cooky (NYC), and he’s keen for some offwind flying that will suit his 2019 mount very well indeed.
Meanwhile Ireland’s former best-known campaigner of Sun Fast 3600s. OSTAR winner and 2017 “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty of Howth, has been battling against time in France with a team including Shane Hughes of North Sails to prepare his very new foiling Beneteau Figaro 3 Raw for the Dingle Dash, which he’ll be racing 2-handed with Susan Glenny.
The race is a key element in his buildup to the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 in August, and the word is Raw is on her way from the Bay of Biscay, but current conditions off western France and Land’s End have become decidedly rugged with Storm Miguel - having swept in close past northwest Spain with mayhem at sea including the rescue of five from the Irish boat Loa Zour 80 miles off the Galician coast - now moved into northwest Europe to further stir the meteorological witch’s brew.
Thus Raw will be well tested, but this same adverse weather may make it difficult for the oldest boat in the race, Paul Moxon of the UK’s classic yawl 50ft Amokura (a handsome 1938 Fred Shepherd design) to make the passage from Falmouth today – we keep our fingers crossed for him, he plans to leave Falmouth later this afternoon as conditions start to relent, and has set Tuesday at the NYC as his target.
Having completed the recent RORC Myth of Malham Race, the beautifully-restored Amokura is getting double value from the D2D 2-handed division, as her crew want to do the event in its own right, and it also adds up points to facilitate their Fastnet Race participation in pursuit of the Iolaire Cup presented for classics way back in 1975 (the Fastnet Race Golden Jubilee) by our own national nautical treasure, Don Street of Glandore.
While Raw and Amokura represent the extremes in age and type in the Dingle Race and the J/109s are far and away the most numerous class type, the rest of the fleet are of so many different marques that it’s something of an active boat show afloat.
All of which is another way of saying that any one of at least a dozen craft is in with a good chance, and one to watch in particular is Chris and Patanne Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, which won her class and placed third overall in last year’s Round Ireland during a notably consistent season in which she also came within a ace of winning the ISORA Championship.
Aboard for that round Ireland success was Maurice ‘The Prof’ O’Connell, and he’s re-joining the ship for the Dingle Race. Aurelia is an excellent all-rounder which is almost always in the frame, so maybe the 2019 Dingle Race is her long overdue turn in the gold spot. Either way it’s yet another chapter in the Mark Mansfield/Maurice O’Connell contest, last seen as recently as a fortnight ago in the Scottish Series when O’Connell won out on Andrew Craig’s Chimaera against the Ker 32 Hijacker with Mansfield on board.
Yet getting them on the same team can sometimes be achieved, as was seen to such good effect in 2016’s Round Ireland when Dave Cullen chartered the Kelly family’s superstar J/109 Storm, turned her into Euro Car Parks, and inveigled both Mansfield and O’Connell on board to share the tent and get the only class win by an Irish boat in that mighty staging of the big one.
There are three boats from the X Yachts stable in the lineup, Kinsale YC’s Cian McCarthy being the smallest one with the X362 EOS, while considerable distinction comes in the form of Conor Doyle’s Xp50 Freya from Kinsale, and George Sisk’s Xp44 WOW from Dun Laoghaire, with the latter’s crew becoming accustomed to the sad business of racing without their longtime shipmate the late and much-lamented Tom Power, whose contribution to so many aspects of Irish sailing spanned more than forty active years.
Classic Beneteaus are well represented, with Paddy Cronin of Malahide skippering the First 40.7 Encore with which he and his father Dermot won the two-handed division in the 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race, while there are two of those grand old war-horses, the First 44.7 in the form of the Martin brothers’ Lively Lady (RIYC) and Barry O’Donovan’s Black Magic which shares her home port between Dunmore East and Howth.
The newer range of J Boats has interesting representation with a couple of J/112Es – James Tyrrell’s Aquelina from Arklow and Frank Doyle’s very new Cara from Crosshaven - while Andrew Algeo’s recently acquired new J/99 Juggerknot 2 will be observed with special interest, for although she’s smaller than his previous J/109 of the same name, Juggerknot 2’s rating of 1.014 puts her towards the top of the rating band shared by the J/109s.
In fact, the 1.000 to 1.020 rating band is going to see its own in-built competition, as it has many hot boats including one of the south coast’s most successful all-rounders, Denis Murphy’s family-campaigned Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo from the Royal Cork, and Tom Roche’s Salona 40 Meridian from Kinsale.
"The sailing clubs of the southwest and western seaboards are making their pitch"
The sailing clubs of the southwest and western seaboards are making their pitch, with Noel Coleman’s Oyster 37 Blue Oyster racing for Schull, Kenneth Cunnane’s Swan 46 Mynx representing Dingle, Derek & Conor Dillon;s Dehler 34 The Big Deal sailing for Foynes, and Liam Burke’s Farr 31 Tribal from Galway Bay SC racing - like The Big Deal - in the two-handed division.
Also from the west are the two Minis 6.50s, Louis Mulloy’s Blackshell Farm from Mayo SC, and Yannick Lemonnier and Dan Mill’s Port of Galway (GBSC). Small they may be, but they can’t half shift, and their rating of 1.052 reflects this.
Which makes it interesting to round out this inevitably incomplete review with the lowest-rated boats, whose crews can always envisage a wind pattern developing to make it their day at the end. They include Keith Miller’s Yamaha 36 Andante from Kilmore Quay at 0.937, Finbarr O’Regan’s Elan 33 Artful Dodger from Kinsale at 0.957, Peter Coad’s 1988-vintage Pocock 38 Blackjack from Dunmore East at 0.917, Irish Offshore Sailing’s Sunfast 37 Desert Start, skippered by Ronan O Siochru, on 0.952, Joe Conway’s Sigma 33 Elandra (RIYC) on 0.912, Ruper Barry’s JOD Red Alert from Greystones on 0.933, another Sigma 33, Ian Bowring’s Springer (RStGYC), on 0.912, top of the bunch Mark & Jo Thompson’s Sunfast 3200i Jac Y Do at 0.997, and lowest rated of all, David Bolger’s Sadler 34 Lady Rowena (RStGYC) on 0.906.
Most encouraging of all, perhaps, is the range of clubs taking part, as they run from Carlingford (Declan Murphy, Hanse 370e Zuri) all the way round to Mayo SC (Louis Mulloy), with boats from the Welsh coast as well. It’s a cracker of a fleet - Adam Winkelmann’s quiet faith in his support base is fully justified. It’s going to get very interesting towards 1800hrs on Wednesday, June 12th.
Details of entries here