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This year's Howth Yacht Club Autumn League – sponsored by WD-40, Crystal Holidays and The Food Room – ended on a high note from a competitive viewpoint, with moderate northerly winds and plenty of sunshine to complete the series with two back-to-back sailing races on all three courses.

While a number of pre-racing favourites and series leaders came through to take the honours in their respective classes, there were a few anxious moments on some boats, with some indifferent results on the final day.

No such concerns were on board Pat Kelly's Storm, with a win in the first race sealing the series in which their discard was a 2nd place. While Ross McDonald's Equinox challenged hard and won the second race of the day, it was never going to be enough so the runner-up spot was their reward. The same two boats also shared the day's spoils in the WD-40 mini-series and the overall placings were identical to the IRC, although a double success on ECHO meant Equinox enjoyed overall honours in both events ahead of their main rival.

The day didn't start well for Class 2 favourite Kinetic with an OCS in the first race which was won by the narrowest of margins by MiniMumm (Cobbe/McDonald) ahead of Impetuous (Noonan/Chambers). That aberration was put to rights in the second race with the Colwell/Murphy crew getting the nod over Impetuous, a result that wrapped up the IRC title with six points to spare over Dave Cullen's King One. A second and a first on ECHO were sufficient to give Impetuous overall victory in that division to add to 3rd overall on IRC.

Class 3 ended as it started with Vince Gaffney's Alliance to the fore. Winning the first race ahead of Kevin Darmody's Gecko and then swapping places in the second was more than enough to maintain the overall lead and win on IRC by four points from the principal rival. The ECHO honours went to Malahide boat Tobago (Tom Ray & Others) which tied with Gecko on points and won on better discard.

Trinculo (Michael Fleming) and Bite the Bullet (Colm Bermingham) won the two races in Class 5 on both ECHO and IRC, the upshot of which was overall success on ECHO for the Bermingham crew by three points over the Boyle's On the Rox. On IRC, a third and a second put Flashback on level terms with Bite the Bullet on points but getting the nod on countback.

Stephanie Ennis and Windsor Laudan will remember the 2010 Autumn League with some fondness, as their debut series in the veteran Shamrock Demelza was outstandingly successful in Class 5. The smallest boat in the fleet was competitive throughout the series and a double win on ECHO just cemented their dominance of the class, with a healthy 8-point margin over runner-up Harmony (D&H Toomey). Harry Byrne's Alphida, with a first and second on the final day, emerged top of the IRC rankings by two points ahead of Joe Carton's Voyager.

On the one-design course, Jay Bourke's Northside Dragon from the Royal St.George YC, experienced its worst day of the series, with a 9th and a 4th, yet discarding that last

place in the opening race was enough to take the Etchells title by a single point from Simon Knowles' Jabberwocky. The day's two races were won by Robert Dix's Glance and Dan O'Grady's Kootamundra Wattle respectively.

Mossy Shanahan, helming Scandal, enjoyed a good win in the first J24 race with a minute to spare over national champion Flor O'Driscoll in Hard on Port although the latter had the last laugh by reversing the order in the final race. Howth's Jibberish (Fergus O'Kelly et al) did not have a good day but even two third places were enough to head the small fleet by one point from Scandal.

A double success for Puppeteer champion Garrett May and crew on Ibis was no doubt satisfying but it was never going to be enough to deny Harlequin (Clarke/Egan) unless the early pace-setter faltered badly. Finishing right on the tail of the double-winner was all they needed to take the crown by a comfortable 8-point gap. On handicap, another double success, this time by Flycatcher (Wright/Dillon), moved them up the rankings to 2nd overall, one point behind a delighted Harlequin crew taking those honours too.

After a slow start, Emmet Dalton's Klipbok emerged at the top of the Squib fleet yet again but it required two straight wins and two average results by the series leader Kerfuffle (Craig/Raune) to achieve that result. A double handicap success for Rechaun (C.Kellett) did not spoil the party for Emer Harte's Puffin, handicap winner by a single point from Phil Merry's Shadowfax.

It was all change on the Seventeen's course, with two firsts giving the overall honours to Ian Malcolm's Aura, three points clear of the early leader Rita (Lynch/Curley). A first and a second on handicap were also enough for Aura to enjoy a double success, with Derek Bothwell's Sheila taking the runner-up spot.

Published in Howth YC

In total contrast to the opening day's race, the second race in the Howth YC Autumn League was sailed in light airs of less than 10 knots and massive wind shifts which caused headaches for crews and messed up the race officers' best laid plans to have several good windward legs on both courses. Starting in light westerly winds and finishing in an even lighter easterly and an ebb tide illustrates how frustrating the conditions were for the 123 boats participating, reducing some races into a procession and forcing a number of DNFs.

 

On the offshore course, a second successive win for 'Storm' (P.Kelly), beating 'Crazy Horse' (Chambers/Reilly) by 20 seconds on the water but even more impressively on both handicaps, has helped them to extend their overall IRC lead over 'Equinox' (R.McDonald). The double victory also gives 'Storm' a share of the ECHO leadership with Equinox after two races.

 

Twenty-one boats made the start of Class 2 and all bar one completed the course, although there was a sizeable spread between first – 'Kinetic' (Colwell/Murphy) – and last. 'King One' (Dave Cullen) took line honours but Kinetic was less than a minute behind and that was enough to secure the IRC win and also the ECHO one too. As a result, the two rivals share the overall lead on IRC while 'Kinetic' has a one point advantage on ECHO over 'Maximus' (P.Kyne).

 

Vince Gaffney's 'Alliance' continues to live up to the pre-event favourites tag with a second win in a row to head Class 3 on IRC, this time ahead of 'Gecko' (Kevin Darmody) and 'Holly' (Basil MacMahon), the latter lying 2nd overall. Gecko, now 3rd overall on IRC, won on ECHO and now trails division leader 'Rossinver' (C.Scott) by just two points.

 

An emphatic win in Class 4 for 'Flashback' (Hogg & Others) on IRC (and 2nd on ECHO) has seen her move into 2nd overall behind 'Bite the Bullet' (Colm Bermingham – 2nd in race 2). Winner of ECHO was Charlie Boyle's 'On the Rox', a win which gives them equal first overall with 'Bite the Bullet'.

 

In the other White Sail division, Class 5, a boat which made a habit of winning races in the past returned to those winning ways when 'Demelza', now under the ownership of the Ennis/Laudan partnership, came up trumps on ECHO ahead of Joe Carton's 'Voyager' who won on IRC. 'Demelza' now ties with 'Harmony' (D&H Toomey) on ECHO while Harry Byrne's 'Alphida' has one point to spare overall on 'Voyager'.

 

On the inshore course, the Etchells led the way as always and in the true style of one-design racing, only 6 minutes separated first from ninth in the 9-boat fleet. Much to the chagrin of the class regulars, Brian O'Neill, who has barely sailed an Etchells in two years, won the race by a minute on 'Fuzzy Duck' from 'Kootamundra Wattle' (O'Grady/Reilly), with last week's winner 'Northside Dragon' (Jay Bourke, RStGYC) in third. The Dun Laoghaire visitor heads the rankings after two races, two points ahead of Simon Knowles' 'Jabberwocky'.

 

Half way through the J24 race, the four boats competing were within spitting distance of one another but getting around the West Mark first and benefitting from the ebb tide gave Fergus O'Kelly and the crew of 'Jibberish' the extra momentum to open out a good lead over second-placed 'Scandal' (Mossy Shanahan on the helm). The result was identical to the first Sunday so the overall standings stay the same.

 

'Harlequin' (Clarke/Egan) notched their second win on the trot but they were pushed all the way by Neil Murphy's 'Yellow Peril', so much so that only 7 seconds separated them on the line. That was good enough for Murphy to claim the handicap honours and move up to sharing second overall with 'Gold Dust' (Walls/Browne). 'Gepetto' (E.O'Reilly) now has a single point margin over 'Ghosty Ned' (D.Harkin) overall on handicap.

 

It was a case of a second successive win in the Squibs too, with the Craig/Raune partnership in 'Kerfuffle' enjoying a 5-minute lead over 'Klipbok' (Emmet Dalton), with the rest of the fleet a long way back. The result was the same on handicap, and on the overall rankings, 'Kerfuffle' leads on both scratch and handicap from 'Shadowfax' (P.Merry).

 

Ian Malcolm and the crew of 'Aura' were so far ahead of the Seventeens fleet – 14 minutes to be precise – that it was no surprise that they also took the handicap honours. 'Rita' (Lynch/Curley) and 'Deilginis' (Deilginis Group) took the next two places on scratch respectively, with the order reversed on handicap. 'Aura' now shares the overall lead with 'Rita' but has a 4 point gap over the same boat on handicap.

 

The Autumn League, sponsored by WD-40, Crystal Holidays and The Food Room, continues next Sunday with race 3 in the 6-race series.

Published in Howth YC

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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