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Despite all the setbacks of season, there is a busy climax for ISORA's 2020 offshore racers with two more races following quickly in the wake of last weekend's inaugural Fastnet 450 Race.

The Royal St. George line honours winner, Aurelia, will be back on her home Dublin Bay race track this Saturday for the final race of the ISORA Viking Marine Coastal Series 2020. 

Chris Power Smith's J122 is among a number of ISORA boats that completed last week's 270-mile Dublin to Cork offshore that return to the fray for the 35-mile Dun Laoghaire Coastal Race.

Lying first overall is Paul O'Higgins' Rockabill VI, second is Power Smith's Aurelia and third is the Skerries-based J109 Mojito campaign. 

The Archambault A31 A Plus is an ISORA Race winner Photo: AfloatThe Archambault A31 A Plus is an ISORA Race winner Photo: Afloat

According to ISORA chief Peter Ryan, also racing will be the Archambault 31 A Plus, the J99 Juggerknot 2, the J109 Indian, the X-45 Samatom, the Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie and possibly her sistership YoYo too. 

Andrew Algeo's Juggerknot 2 at the Fastnet 450 Race start on Dublin Bay. Photo: AfloatAndrew Algeo's Juggerknot 2 at the Fastnet 450 Race start on Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat

Unfortunately, it looks like the season has ended for Greystones competitor Red Alert that was dismasted racing to Cork Harbour.

This Saturday's final race has an overall 0.9 weighting.

National Yacht Club Race Officer Larry Power will start the last race of the coastal series at 10 am.

Samatom from Howth Yacht Club is an ISORA regularSamatom from Howth Yacht Club is an ISORA regular Photo: Afloat

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Ireland's sports organisations are taking a battering during the pandemic, and the operating model of sailing clubs, in particular, makes them especially vulnerable to a downturn in all activities afloat and ashore.'s W M Nixon wrote this piece yesterday for his home club at Howth, where the mood has been dampened by the news that the J/24 Nationals - scheduled at Howth for the first weekend of September – has been cancelled, as the nationwide J/24 Class felt it didn't merit the effort of long – sometimes very long - road haulages, when everything that they hoped to do ashore in connection with the event would be severely constrained or non-existent under the latest Government guidelines. The Nixon response has been to celebrate some of the Howth achievements which have been possible during August, and to those mentioned here he would add the success of the Howth 17 Nationals

Howth Yacht Club came very well out of the Optimist Nationals at Royal Cork ten days ago, with Johnny Flynn the new champion and Rocco Wright finishing third overall. So there was a certain amount of pressure of expectation on our two entries in the weekend's pop-up 266-mile offshore race on Saturday 22nd August from Dun Laoghaire (where the National YC's 150th Anniversary plans have been mangled by the pandemic) round the Fastnet Rock and back to Crosshaven, where most of the Royal Cork's planned Tricentenary plans have also been blown clean away, with entrants for events like the socially-distanced Oppie championship being limited to the island of Ireland.

When the 2020 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow - re-scheduled by the pandemic from mid-summer weekend in June to the 22nd August – was finally cancelled on August 9th with less than three weeks before its new date, the determined Cork trio of Mark Mansfield, RCYC Rear Admiral Annamarie Murphy, and SCORA Commodore Johanna Murphy decided to see if they could put a completely new race together for the same August 22nd weekend start, but with all entrants being firmly told it was pure racing – shoreside activity of any kind would be minimal.

There was barely a fortnight to go as the clearer outline of this pop-up event began to take shape. But it soon had entries pouring in with its catchy name of the Fastnet 450, which is the 150 years of the National YC and the 300 of the Royal Cork combined, while the actual distance from Dun Laoghaire leaving the Muglins, Tuskar, Coningbeg and Fastnet Rock to starboard and the Daunt Buoy to port before finishing at Roche's Point in the entrance to Cork Harbour is around 266 miles, though nearly all entrants were to sail more than 300.

Howth almost immediately had two boats into the 20-strong entry pot, both of them disappointed Round Ireland entrants in the form of Robert Rendell's XC 45 Samatom and Simon Knowles' J/109 Indian. Samatom inclines toward the cruising end of the performance cruiser spectrum, so if the race involved a preponderance of windward work – which proved to be the case – it wouldn't really suit her, and while she was in the running at times, eventually - after getting round most of the course including the Fastnet itself - she retired into Kinsale rather than continue over the final 15 miles to Crosshaven.

Robert Rendell's XC 45 SamatomRobert Rendell's XC 45 Samatom at the start of the Fastnet 450

But Indian was in there as a frontline contender from the start, her crew of all the talents of Fingal including – in addition to Simon Knowles himself – Anthony Doyle, Frank Dillon, Jon Hartshorn, Cillian & Rima Macken, Darragh White and the key man, John Flynn, who was there under double pressure, as his son Johnny Flynn is the new Optimist National Champion.

As Simon reports, although the wind after the start at 1300 hrs Saturday was sufficiently off the land to lay the course – sometimes with sheets slightly cracked - down the Wicklow and Wexford coasts towards the Tuskar, it was gusting to 30 knots, at times it headed to make it a dead beat, and with the spring ebb running full blast, the sea state was rough and the sailing was brutal.

As for the competition, it was fierce, as their most frequent contender was the Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (John O'Gorman NYC) a sister-ship of Conor Fogerty's OSTAR-winning BAM! with the special talents of Maurice "Prof" O'Connell on the strength, and Indian was also in face-to-face competition with two newer J boats, Andrew Algeo's J/99 Juggerknot 2 from the Royal Irish YC, and James Tyrrell's J/112E Aquelina from Arklow.

After they'd put the Tuskar astern and came hard on the wind late on Saturday evening, things were looking extra good for the Howth boat. For though the tide had turned to be against them, this smoothed the sea a bit and yet they were past the area of maximum adverse flood stream, while as a bonus, they and Juggerknot 2 found a favouable if brief twist in the wind which enabled them to lay the course, putting them right into the frame.

That little twist of wind wasn't to last, but it helped to keep them well in contention in a fleet where the current top performer from Cork, the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo – fresh from winning the Kinsale-Fasnet-Kinsale Race a fortnight earlier, and with her crew including Olympian Nin O'Leary – was battling for line honours at the sharp end with Chris Power Smith's higher-rated J/122 Aurelia (RStGYC), with the very fast little new Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl (Cian McCarthy, Kinsale, with Mark Mansfield on board) never too far astern in third.

Simon Knowles' J109 Indian from Howth Yacht ClubSimon Knowles' J109 Indian from Howth Yacht Club passes Dalkey Island at the start of the Fastnet 450 Photo: Afloat

It was an unremitting dead beat the entire length of the south coast. And with more wind offshore, that was the place to be, such that some boats were 35 miles at sea before they tacked for the Fastnet. Aboard Indian, they were well in the hunt, and after the 24-hour mark, everyone had settled down to the determined routine of endless windward work with seasickness conquered, proper meals being served, and Hot Cookie and the other two J Boats kept in hand, with the only problem being that the nearer they got to West Cork, the lighter the wind became.

So it was frustrating work getting to the Fastnet Rock itself in the dark, and they rounded at 0245 hrs on Monday morning in just 8 knots of breeze, lying a good 4th on corrected time, but knowing that in a long and meandering 60 miles run back to Cork Harbour, they'd somehow to keep a lot of boats covered in a difficult downwind leg where, once again, the best of the wind appeared to be offshore.

While on the wind, they'd been able to keep Hot Cookie well in control, but this long run suited the Sunfast 3600 better. Yet with her lower rating Indian was able to keep in touch, and coming in past the Old Head of Kinsale late on Monday morning, they knew the Cookie was ahead while Juggerknot and Aquelina were astern.

But the challenge of maintaining sufficient proximity to Hot Cookie made for a tough final three hours, yet they managed it, in fact they did so well that not only did they stay ahead of the Sunfast 3600 on corrected time, but they even closed the gap on her newer smaller sister Cinnamon Girl.

Indian's crew sorting themselves for a gybe are (left to right) John Flynn, Simon Knowles, Cillian Macken on helm, and Jon Hartshorn.Those final tricky downwind miles. With the Old Head of Kinsale well astern, and the finish coming into view, Indian's crew sorting themselves for a gybe are (left to right) John Flynn, Simon Knowles, Cillian Macken on the helm, and Jon Hartshorn

At the sharp end of the fleet, Aurelia took the line honours at 1026 hrs Monday, Nieulargo was next in 23 minutes later to take an unassailable overall lead, but back down the line Cinnamon Girl was bedevilled by very light patches, and all the time Indian was taking it out of her. So when Cinnamon Girl finally got across at 1146 hrs, she still was third overall, but it was by a smaller margin ahead of Indian, which was fifth across the line behind Hot Cookie, but corrected into a good fourth overall to round out a successful fortnight for Howth Yacht Club down Cork way.

As to what virtual celebrations are like, we'll have to wait until they get back to Howth to tell us. With the remains of Storm Frances now well cleared, having gone through in all its power since the Fastnet 450 finished, Indian leaves Crosshaven for home tonight (Tuesday) after the virtual prize-giving at the RCYC.

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Day 3, Monday, 1600 hrs: The demanding Fastnet 450 course kept crews working very hard indeed until the last couple of miles running in towards the finish in the entrance to Cork Harbour under the iconic Roche's Point Lighthouse this (Monday) morning. Out at sea in the Harbour approaches, and struggling to reach the final turning point at the Daunt Rock Buoy, a sloppy sea and light winds had downwind sailing speeds down to below four knots as Chris Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia kept her cool to stave off a persistent line honours challenge.

Chris & Patanne Power Smith's line honours winner, the J/122 Aurelia, finally finds an encouraging breezeChris & Patanne Power Smith's line honours winner, the J/122 Aurelia, finally finds an encouraging breeze as she shapes her course for the finish from the final turning mark at the Daunt Rock Buoy. Photo: Robert Bateman

Aurelia crew Fastnet 450 RaceWe made it! Line honours winning crew from Aurelia celebrate keeping the superstars on Nieulargo at bay. Photo: North Sails Ireland

This came from corrected time leader Denis and Annamarie Murphy's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo, which in turn was constantly keeping an eye over the shoulder toward the much smaller Cinnamon Girl, Cian McCarthy's Sunfast 3300 with the determined Mark Mansfield aboard and always looking for a way to pull another Lazarus Act out of the hat.

But it was not to be. In fact, weather and wind-wise, the only time Cinnamon Girl really had conditions which truly suited her was during the short three-sail dash from the start at Dun Laoghaire to the Muglins at the entrance to Dublin Bay, where she duly led the entire fleet.

Just about done in……the little Cinnamon Girl's crew can finally ease the pressure as they cross the finish line after a tough race. Photo: Robert Bateman

Yet now approaching the finish many miles later off Cork with the Daunt finally astern, for the last three miles Aurelia found herself more comfortably in business at the front of the fleet, sailing in a slightly firmer breeze in a more purpose-like way for the finish, which she reached at 10.26, having covered 304 nautical miles to complete the 263.5 miles course.

When Nieulargo came in just 23 minutes later, she'd covered 303 miles, and immediately with her lower rating had jumped into an unassailable Corrected Time lead. But although the Murphy boat had Cinnamon Girl clearly beaten as they have the same IRC Rating, when the McCarthy boat finally finished at 11.46 she still had corrected time comfortably in hand on Aurelia to move into second overall on IRC, which no other boat can now challenge.

the highly-individual-looking Cinnamon Girl gave an extremely good account of herself despite having a tough ratingHandsome is as handsome does – the highly-individual-looking Cinnamon Girl gave an extremely good account of herself despite having a tough rating. Photo: Robert Bateman 

Interestingly, Cinnamon Girl had sailed 314 miles, but this reflected the successfully determined tacking on every wind shift she'd done in getting herself back in the frame while still beating towards the Fastnet, after her placing had slipped a bit yesterday (Sunday) afternoon.

Fourth to finish was John O'Gorman's Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (National YC) with The Prof on the strength. But although the Cookie had been in a CT battle for much of the race with Simon Knowles' J/109 Indian from Howth for the fourth overall slot, at the finish Indian succeeded in being ahead on CT of the O'Gorman boat, and she'd also staved off the challenge of both Andrew Algeo's J/99 Juggerknot II (Royal Irish YC), and James Tyrrell's J/112E Aquelina from Arklow, which was racing with a vigorous crew mix made up from both Arklow SC and the 250-year-old Lough Ree Yacht Club which, like the Fastnet 450's sponsoring clubs of the National YC and the Royal Cork YC, has been severely constrained in its celebrations.

James Tyrrell's J/112E Aquelina in the Fastnet 450Leave no turn unturned…..When the 250-year-old Lough Ree YC and the much newer Arklow SC get together to race James Tyrrell's J/112E Aquelina in the Fastnet 450, it's a case of all hands to the wheel. Photo: John Malone

It will be well into this evening when the low-rated tail-enders Big Deal (Derek Dillon, Foynes YC) and Blackjack (Peter Coad, Waterford Harbour SC) finally get to the finish. But while the weather in the end panned out to suit the biggies, both of these vintage craft had their time well in the frame at some stage during the course of an extremely interesting race. It's a race which has miraculously managed to be staged, despite everything that the pandemic problems and the cussed Irish weather have tried to throw at it. So all credit to those involved in organising and promoting it - they never gave up hope that it should and could and would happen, and we now have a real sailing highlight for this frustrating year.

The 2020 season has a highlight after all the frustration – Nieulargo crosses the finish line at 1049 hrs this morning to win the Fastnet 450. Photo North Sails

If this is as good as it gets, then that's just grand – having already won the Kinsale-Fastnet-Kinsale Race a fortnight ago, Nieulargo's crew celebrate the Fastnet 450 win at their home port of Crosshaven today. Back: Denis, Annamarie and Molly Murphy, Mark ‘Nipper’ Murphy (no relation), Killian Collins, Clive O'Shea. Front: Mia Murphy, Cian Byrne, James Fegan, Nin O'Leary Photo: North Sails

Read all our Fastnet 450 coverage in one handy link here

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Day 3, Monday, 0900hrs Chris Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia may have had nearly two miles in hand on Denis and Annamarie Murphy's Grand Soleil 40 when she led the Fastnet 450 fleet round the Fastnet Rock at 0040 hrs in the small hours of this morning (Monday). But in a downwind tacking duel which initially took them well offshore over the 58 miles to the finish at Roche's Point at the entrance to Cork Harbour, the slightest sneeze on Aurelia's part saw both Nieulargo and Cian McCarthy's Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl taking bites out of her lead, and at 0800 hrs this morning running in past the Old Head of Kinsale, the margin on Nieulargo was just under a mile, with Cinnamon Girl barely two miles further back.

Nieulargo pictured off the Cork Buoy this morning Photo: Bob BatemanNieulargo pictured off the Cork Buoy this morning Photo: Bob Bateman

The keenly-anticipated firm sou'wester has yet to materialize, and progress eastward has mostly relied on getting offshore and back into the stronger sou'west to west breeze which has doggedly remained in place out on the ocean for more than three days now. That said, after slowish initial progress eastward from the Fastnet, they began to record better speeds offshore, and approaching the Old Head, all three were comfortably over 7 knots, with Aurelia pushing above 8 knots to open the gap slightly on Nieulargo.

Derek & Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal from FoynesDerek & Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal from Foynes

Back at the Fastnet Rock, it is still light and lumpy, such that the lower-rated tail-enders, Derek and Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 The Big Deal from Foynes, and Peter Coad's veteran Blackjack, were still struggling to make their rounding as the leaders came past the Old Head of Kinsale. The front runners – slowed to 6.7 knots as we complete this report at 0900 – should be nearing the finish line by 1000 hrs, with every indication that Nieulargo will retain her lead in most of the main contests except for line honours, which Aurelia is fighting every inch of the way.

For now, all attention is focused on simply finishing a quite tough race.

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Day Two, Sunday, 2030hrs:  After a stimulating day's sailing along the length of the south coast, turning to windward in very sailable breezes and enjoying more sunshine than much of the rest of Ireland, the leaders in the Fastnet 450 are now struggling through a period of frustratingly light airs as they negotiate the Atlantic swell off the West Cork coast and try to find boat speed over the last twenty miles to the Fastnet Rock.

Things had been looking good for Chris Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia as she closed on port tack towards the land on course towards Glandore, and lifted up from under the following boats as the breeze backed. But as it backed it eased further and then went all over the place with a wind full of holes, and at around 1730hrs Aurelia tacked off Galley Head and went seaward again in search of firmer conditions.

AureliaChris Power-Smith's J122 Aurelia

But out at sea she found the Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo (Denis & Annamarie Murphy) likewise significantly slowed, so the Power Smith boat tacked again to maintain cover, and speeds are beginning to improve at 2000 hrs as they feel what may be the first of a forecast new sou'wester, but it's still very fitful.

Nieulargo, the Grand Soleil 44, Denis and Annamarie Murphy's Nieulargo

There's quite a generational thing going on board Aurelia, as her crew includes 16-year-old Max Goodbody and his father Richard, who normally sail on the family's J/109 White Mischief in Dublin Bay where the Father and Grandfather of all the Clan is legendary helmsman Tim Goodbody who, in a long and extraordinarily varied sailing career, didn't get around to doing his first Fastnet Race until 1987.

Yet although it may have taken him some time to take on the challenge of The Rock, he made a beauty of it when he finally did so, as he was lead helm on the Dubois 40 Irish Independent as the top-scoring member of the Irish Admirals Cup Team, and they won the Fastnet Race overall.

This made for quite a moment as Irish Independent came round the rock in daylight and already doing very well all of 33 years ago. So even though Aurelia will be rounding in the dark, it will be quite a milestone for family history, and if they can continue to stay ahead of Nieulargo (where some other formidable sailing families are involved), that will be all to the good for the Goodbodys.

With the new sou'wester being the harbinger of a full gale by tomorrow (Monday) night, it's expected that the fleet should be well across the finish line at the entrance to Cork Harbour by then. But for some of the less well-placed boats further down the fleet, the fact that they've been more or less slugging to windward since coming past the Muglins at the entrance to Dublin Bay since lunchtime yesterday has seen a couple of boats already diverting into Cork Harbour. Yet down off the coast of West Cork, the battle for the win is still being very emphatically played out, and the picture should be clearer for our next report tomorrow (Monday) morning. 

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Day two, Sunday 1400 hrs: Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia was the first of the three on-the-water leaders in the Fastnet 450 to tack far offshore for the longboard that will take her from the area of stronger west wind many miles out at sea into the lighter conditions along the West Cork coast and on down toward the turning point at the Fastnet Rock. The J/122’s decision maker made the call at 1100 hrs, but it was an hour later before Cian McCarthy’s fighting little Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl – even further at sea, but equally far west – put down the helm to head for the shore around noon, and as she closed towards Denis & Annamarie Murphy’s bigger but equal-rated Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo (vid below), the Murphy boat tacked on the McCarthy boat around 1220hrs.

It has been a difficult one to call, real ocean chess, as a slight backing of the wind off West Cork is forecast this afternoon, thereby freeing up those coming in from offshore, but providing the problem that they might overstand the Invisible Menace. The “Invisible Menace” is the Traffic Separation Exclusion Zone, a large rectangular box south and southeast of the Fastnet Rock. It might well enclose the least busy shipping Traffic Separation Zone on the planet, but it’s very real in offshore racing terms nevertheless, as you’re cast into outer darkness with ferocious time penalties if you so much as infringe on one square inch of this verboten space.

So ideally the perfect tactical ploy would be to time your tack onto port such that it brings you in on a curving course as the winds backs ever so slightly to take you close past the northeast corner of that unspeakable red box, but still sailing hard on the wind. The really unforgivable sin racing-wise would be to lose ground by having to ease sheets and pay off to keep the red zone’s nor’east corner to port. Any tactician causing that will be hung from the yard arm……

Looking at the overall picture, overall leader on IRC Nieulargo already looks to be freed enough to start worrying about that Northeast Corner Conundrum, but Cinnamon Girl is currently laying just west of Galley Head, yet further towards the shore it is noticeable that Aurelia is slowly but steadily curving more steadily to the west, while maintaining 7.2 knots to Nieulargo’s 7.1, with Cinnamon Girl – maybe footing a bit freer – making 7.0.knts.

Next in line to the northeast of them, the Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (John O’Gorman) and the J/109 Indian Simon Knowles are also now on port like the bulk of the fleet, and if Aurelia’s gradually changing course made good is anything to go by, they might have read it very neatly, but the nearer you get to that West Cork Coast, the odder the winds become, which is of course no reflection on the people who live there.

Blackjack (IRL 1988), a Pocock 37 skippered by Peter CoadBlackjack (IRL 1988), a Pocock 37 skippered by Peter Coad

In the big picture on IRC overall it is the turn of Peter Coad’s vintage Pocock 38 Blackjack from Dunmore East to be having a great time, she rates only 0.917 and has been ploughing steadily on to such good effect that she lies fourth overall, behind Nieulargo, Aurelia and Cinnamon Girl in that order on CT, while Hot Cookie (vid below) and Indian are 5th and 6th a matter of minutes apart. 

As for this morning’s drama of the Red Alert retirement, it was pretty total as she’d been dismasted, but all are well and she’s headed for Dunmore East while Ronan O Siochru’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star (Irish Offshore Sailing), which stood by in an exemplary seamanlike manner, has resumed racing and will receive full-time compensation.


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Sunday, day two, 0930hrs: After yesterday (Saturday) afternoon's swift ebb-assisted close reach down the East Coast from Dun Laoghaire to the first major turn at the Tuskar Rock, the fleet in the Fastnet 450 have found a determinedly west wind of between 15 and 20 knots blowing almost directly along the south coast, with only a slight tendency to draw off the land, so there's every likelihood they'll have a slug directly to windward all the way down to the Fastnet.

Fastnet 450 race course tracker The Fastnet 450 race course at 10 am this morning. See tracker below

Progress has been steady with the fleet gradually seeing the leaders extend ahead, but racing numbers are now down to 13 as more recent retirees have included the Sigma 33 Valfreya and the Oyster 37 Blue Oyster, while an incident around 0712 this morning saw the JOD 35 Red Alert (Rupert Barry, Greystones SC) pull out, and the Sunfast 37 Desert Star (Ronan O Siochru, Irish Offshore Sailing) change course to assist and accompany the Greystones boat towards Dunmore East.

Valfreya Sigma 33 - IRL 4297 Skipper: D Riome & M Leonard Retired - Sigma 33 Valfreya

JOD 35 Red Alert (Rupert Barry, Greystones SC)Dismasted - JOD 35 Red Alert (Rupert Barry, Greystones SC)

With firmer breezes offshore, all the racing fleet have stayed on starboard with only the occasional stab at port to see how it is shaping up before reverting to starboard again. The first night at sea has been particularly demanding for crews less hardened in the offshore racing game, and some boats that had been showing well in yesterday's daylight and straight-line sailing have found themselves slipping in the rankings during the dark.

Still in line abreast at the front, and now almost due south of Cork though around 30 miles offshore, Chris Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia (RStGYC) continues narrowly in line honours ahead of Denis & Annamarie Murphy's Grand Soleil Niueulargo, and Cian McCarthy's little Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl neck and neck, but a couple of miles further south.

cinnamon girl Sunfast 3300Cian McCarthy's Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl

In the main part of the fleet, only two boats had found the wind briefly obliging enough to enable them to hold the westward course as they put the Tuskar astern, they were Red Alert and Siimon Knowles J/109 Indian, but while Red Sert subsequently sipped to lee. Indian hung on to her small but significant advantage, and though now in the same wind as everyone else, is in a useful windward station close to the higher-rated Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (John O'Gorman, NYC) and ahead of the J/99 Juggerknot (Andrew Algeo).

Juggerknot IIJ/99 Juggerknot (Andrew Algeo)

A really steady performance has been put in by Peter Coad's vintage Pocock 37 Blackjack (WHSC), which revels in windward work and is boosted by a rating of only 0.917. Signing off at 0930 Sunday, we find on IRC overall Nieulargo continues to lead, Cinnamon Girl is second, Blackjack third, Aurelia fourth, Indian fifth, and Hot Cookie sixth.

Big Deal Dehler 34 - IRL 3492  Skipper: Derek DillonBig Deal, Dehler 34 (Derek Dillon)


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Day One 1830 - As the onset of the adverse flood tide approaches with the leaders sluicing south past Cahore Point with the last of the ebb and more than 50 miles of the Fastnet 450 course already sailed, an underlying pattern is in evidence, with boats offshore experiencing a more westerly wind, while those closing the shore have found more sou'west in it as it tries to blows along the line of the beach, with five of them tacking.

The smaller slower boats have been tending more towards this tacking option, as the prospect of a weaker foul tide close along the Wexford beach, and being nearest the hoped-for onset of a forecast veering, is an attractive possibility. Nevertheless, the star of the lower-rated fleet, John Conlon's Sunfast 37 Humdinger from Arklow, has been continuing to blast south well offshore, and in a significantly stronger tidal stream and wind with more west in it, has got herself back ahead of sister ship Desert Star (Ronan O'Siochru, Irish Offshore Sailing). The Star was in front for a while, but is now inshore on the tacking strategy.

Desert Star - Ronan O'Siochru, Irish Offshore SailingDesert Star (Ronan O'Siochru, Irish Offshore Sailing)

Thus at time of writing (1830hrs), Humdinger's crew are having the time of their lives, leading both IRC 2 and ECHO 2, and in a close third overall in the entire fleet on IRC, with only Nieulargo (Denis & Annamarie Murphy) and Cinnamon Girl (Cian McCarthy) ahead.

John Conlon's Sunfast 37 Humdinger from ArklowJohn Conlon's Sunfast 37 Humdinger from Arklow

Nieulargo meanwhile is continuing the line honours battle with Chris Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia, while the cheeky little Cinnamon Girl with Mono Mansfield aboard and the bit between his teeth continues to keep bigger sisters Hot Cookie and YOYO at bay.

Chris and Patanne Power Smith's J/122 AureliaChris Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia

As for the pride of Foynes, Derek and Conor Dillon's Deher 34 Big Deal which rivalled Cinnamon Girl in the precision of her start, she's in a ding dong with another little 'un. The First 31.7 More Mischief, but as we write the other small boat, the A 31 A Plus ((Grant Kinsman) appears to have pulled out, and looks to be heading for Arklow. This leaves us with 17 boats racing, as Andante was unable to leave Kilmore Quay to get to the start because of Storm Ellen, while the northern entry, the X38 eXcession, managed to batter her way south through the tail end of Ellen to Dun Laoghaire, but was unable to go any further.

Derek and Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal clears the Muglins on Dublin BayDerek and Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal clears the Muglins on Dublin Bay


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A brisk sou'wester provided a fast reaching start for the 266-mile Fastnet 450 Race at 1300 hrs today in Dublin Bay, with Chris Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia (RStGYC), John O'Gorman's Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (NYC) and Robert Rendell's X45 Samatom (HYC) seeming to get the best of it at the weather end of the line. But top contenders such as Cian McCarthy's new Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl from Kinsale and Denis & Annamarie Murphy's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo (RCYC) out towards the pin were more interested in keeping their wind clear in order to shape their course at max speed towards the Muglins and the stronger south-going tide beyond.

Those who held to weather found a flat gap off Killiney, while Mark Mansfield's presence on Cinnamon Girl manifesting itself in a pesky persistence in being in the lead every which way, while another notable performance was being put in by John Conlon's now-vintage Sunfast 37 Humdinger from Arklow, which was right in there going like a train and showing her transom to boats who should have been clear ahead.

Eventually, the Killiney Delayeds got themselves going again, and heading on south far enough off Bray Head to avoid any wind shadow. Aurelia began to show just in front of Nieulargo, but Cinnamon Girl was clearly being sailed by men possessed, as she stayed doggedly ahead of big sister Hot Cookie with The Prof himself on board.

It's always a mistake to assume an offshore breeze down the Wicklow and Wexford coasts turns it into a straightforward drag race. Even when the gradient wind has power to it, unexpected gaps always appear, and this afternoon were are twists and turns with rain about.

IRC leader Cinnamon Girl works her way along the Wicklow coast in the inaugural Fastnet 450 Race from Dublin to Cork Photo: Roger BatemanIRC leader Cinnamon Girl works her way along the Wicklow coast in the inaugural Fastnet 450 Race from Dublin to Cork Photo: Roger Bateman

But eventually, it's going to veer and ease, and in the demanding business of covering ground against the late evening's new north-going flood tide, smaller craft may find themselves having to resort to all sort of tide-dodging channels with bewildering names through the Wexford Banks, while the leaders find that as they close in on the corner at the Tuskar, those enigmatic sandbanks get placed by a profusion of non-nonsense rocks.

Signing this off after two hours of racing, with next thing on the agenda a thoughtful passing of Wicklow on the very day they'd hoped to have their last chance of staging the Round Ireland Race, we have Aurelia, Hot Cookie, Cinnamon Girl and Samatom more or less in line abreast across a mile of sea with 250 miles still to race, Nieulargo is right on their tail, and in the next less even line abreast just over a mile astern, we find Aquelina, Indian, and Juggerknot 2 with Humdinger out to sea half a mile away, going like a train and giving the newer boats a tough time – there'll be pensioners dancing in the streets of Arklow, even if it does contravene COVID guidance for the elderly.


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The Fastnet 450 starts today (Saturday) at 1300hrs in Dublin Bay, and sends the fleet on a 270-mile course southward, taking them all the way to the Fastnet Rock before finishing back at the entrance to Cork Harbour, clear of the coast and shoreside communities throughout the race. The 450 comes from the combined ages of the Royal Cork YC and the National YC – 300 and 150 years respectively. As both have been prevented by the pandemic from implementing anything but the most basic parts of their planned celebrations, there's an impressive amount of pent-up energy going into this one permissible pop-up offshore event, which is COVID-compliant with designated Crew Pods.

This event has come to mean so much for the ultimate well-being of Irish sailing in this frustrated season of 2020 that it would surely be for the best if we could somehow – for the time being at least - set aside the burden of expectation which many are putting on it as primarily an icon of hope, and see it instead as just a uniquely historical challenge which will provide an enthusiastic group of Irish sailors with a very welcome sporting challenge, in which everyone will live for the moment and seize the day, without risking anyone's health.

In hoping to achieve that attitude this weekend, we are helped by that sometimes much-maligned yet ever-present element in our sport, the Irish weather. After a week of some of the grimmest weather - by any metric - in Irish meteorological history, whether summer or winter, our climate seems to have decided that a few light-hearted days won't go amiss. 

Grzegorz Kalnecki's First 31.7 More Mischief from Dun LaoghaireGrzegorz Kalnecki's First 31.7 More Mischief from Dun Laoghaire is the smallest boat in the Fastnet 450. Her successes this year include an ISORA Race overall win. Photo: O'Brien

Admittedly we are not going to have a high-summer weekend of firmly settled weather. And by the time the fleet are getting themselves past Hook Head tomorrow morning after a fast reaching-to-close-reaching passage in an "off the grass" southwest to west wind down the east coast, they'll know for sure that they've put in some real offshore slugging to windward from the Tuskar out past the Coningbeg, particularly when the ebb is running against the big leftover swell which – for a while – will be one of the legacies of the now well-gone Storm Ellen.

But through Sunday there'll be a modest attempt at a pet day as a weak ridge builds, and they may even get the breeze drawing off the land before the wind starts to back on the west side of the ridge, when the leaders may well be closing towards the handbrake turn at the Fastnet. The way that plays out – coupled with the inevitability of local breezes or even calm spots - is going to make for a fascinating comparison of the racing benefits or otherwise of different boat sizes and types.

The 270-mile course. The most rugged section is likely to be off southeast Ireland getting past the Tuskar Rock, Carnsore Point and the Saltee Islands.The 270-mile course. The most rugged section is likely to be off southeast Ireland getting past the Tuskar Rock, Carnsore Point and the Saltee Islands. See race tracker embedded below,

For although it may seem to be a very compact fleet, with all 20 boats in the 31ft to 40ft LOA range, the difference in performance possibilities increases exponentially. And while it may not be so extreme as the variations in wind power, where a Beaufort Force 6 of 25 to 32 knots is actually exerting 200 times the pressure of a Beaufort Force 2 of 5 to 8 knots, nevertheless the windward potential of a 40 footer such as Denis and Annamarie Murphy's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo, or Chris and Patanne Smith's J/122 Aurelia, is in a different category completely to the upwind speed ability of little 'uns like Grzegorz Kalnecki's First 31.7 More Mischief from Dun Laoghaire, or Conor and Derek Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal from Foynes.

 Simon Knowles Indian (Howth YC) is the only J/109 entered in the Fastnet 450Simon Knowles Indian (Howth YC) is the only J/109 entered in the Fastnet 450. Photo: O'Brien

That said, offwind flying machines like Cian McCarthy's new Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl from Kinsale – which will have the formidable talents of Mark Mansfield on board - and her larger older sisters, the Sunfast 3600s YOYO (Brendan Coghlan, RStGYC) and Hot Cookie (John O'Gorman, NYC, with Maurice "The Prof" O'Connell on the strength), will be hoping that the effect of the run back from the Fastnet is maximised to optimise their gains from their startling offwind performance, captured here (yet again) in this now-famous vid of Cinnamon Girl making hay off the Old Head of Kinsale. We run it for the umpteenth time in the hope that somebody will finally reveal the names of the auteurs, for crediting it to "A Couple of Kids in a RIB" really won't do.

That famous Cinnamon Girl vid recorded by "a couple of kids in a RIB". If the "couple of kids in a RIB" could identify themselves, we'd be delighted to credit this super bit of work to them. (Update: Vid by Jack & Robert Carroll)

However, as revealed in the Kinsale-Fastnet-Kinsale race a fortnight ago, the overall winner Nieulargo (which once again has Nin O'Leary and Killian Collins on board) sails to a rating of only 1.023 when she limits herself to her non-overlapping headsail, which had her level-pegging rating-wise with Cinnamon Girl, yet The Girl finished half an hour astern on the water. And though Nieulargo may be sailing with full headsail which would put her rating up to 1.035 this time round, it still keeps her below the Sunfast 3600s around the 1.040 mark, so both Sunfast marques will have their work cut out, and Nieulargo remains a good sensible wager.

Yet, Aurelia, the Golden One should never be under-estimated, even if she is the highest-rated boat in the fleet at IRC 1.076. In the last big fleet offshore race in Irish waters – the 2019 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – she was in consistent form to finish second overall. In fact, consistency is an Aurelia hallmark, and if ever a boat deserved an outstanding win such as the Fastnet 450 offers, then she is that boat.

Chris and Patanne Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia is one of Irish offshore racing's most consistent performersChris and Patanne Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia is one of Irish offshore racing's most consistent performers

But then, the crews of the 19 other boats all think exactly the same way about their craft, and while the compact fleet of 20 boats may be in line with COVID-19 compliance, between them they manage to represent 16 different yacht and sailing clubs, which for a race which has been put together in a fortnight, really is a remarkable achievement, and different clubs will be rooting for their own sailing gladiators.

Thus through being among the lowest-rated boats in the fleet, it's conceivable that More Mischief and Big Deal could have their day in the sun. Equally, the highly competitive racing among J Boats has really sharpened their game in the Dublin area, and there are those punters who would support the potential of Alan Algeo's J99 Juggerknot from the Royal Irish with dinghy champ Conor Kinsella in the crew, or Simon Knowles' well-prepared J/109 Indian from Howth.

Derek & Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal from FoynesDerek & Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal from Foynes. Photo: O'Brien

Either way, it's little short of miraculous that a competitive fleet has been recruited in such a short time. But as we've pointed out already in Afloat, the granddaddy of them all, the Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour or Kingstown to Queenstown Race of July 1860 was also a pop-up event, put together in the days beforehand by the 80-year-old Admiral of the Royal Cork, T G French, who recruited his 16 entries among the yacht racing in a week of regattas in Dublin Bay staged by the Royal St George YC.

So ad hoc was it all that the "fine old Admiral" (as Hunt's Yachting Magazine described him in its August 1860 issue) confirmed entries by visiting each of the 16 interested yacht on the morning of the start in order to confirm entries by collecting the entry fee, which was based on the size of the yacht being entered.

Admiral Colin Morehead of the Royal Cork Yacht Club will be following the example set 160 years ago by his predecessor Thomas G French through being in Dun Laoghaire for the start of the race to Cork Harbour, where he will greet them as they finish Admiral Colin Morehead of the Royal Cork Yacht Club will be following the example set 160 years ago by his predecessor Thomas G French through being in Dun Laoghaire for the start of the race to Cork Harbour, where he will greet them as they finish Photo: Bob Bateman

The total amount collected was a tidy £60, which was a very substantial sum of money in 1860. But instead of augmenting club coffers, it became the prize purse which went to the crew of the winning boat. And as the winner by matter of minutes was one of the smallest competitors, the 39-ton cutter Sibyl skippered by the noted amateur Henry O'Bryen, her relatively small professional crew will have hit the inns of the Holy Ground like a tsunami with their newfound personal wealth.

The fine young Admiral of today's Royal Cork, Colin Morehead, is in Dun Laoghaire this (Saturday) morning to see the fleet on its way, just as his predecessor did 160 years ago. But whether he and his host - NYC Commodore Martin McCarthy – can arrange contactless payments from entries to make up a prize purse for the winning crew is something else altogether, and in any case when the fleet reaches Crosshaven, there'll be no way that financial tsunamis of any size can hit the local hostelries under lockdown rules.

Commodore Martin McCarthy of the National Yacht Club, whjch is 150 years old in 2020.Commodore Martin McCarthy of the National Yacht Club, which is 150 years old in 2020.

For as Mark Mansfield, one of those who have determinedly put together this one and only chance of a decent mid-length offshore race in 2020 has bluntly put it:

"This is pure racing, boy. Forget about your parties before and after. This is all about those who really care very deeply about their sailing – that's the beginning and the middle and the end of it all." 

Thanks to the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, all competitors have been provided with a Yellowbrick tracker below

The 1 pm race start may also be visible on the Dublin Bay webcam here


Fastnet 450 Race Entry List @ 20/08/20

First Name Last Name Club Boat Name Boat Type Sail Number class IRC TCC Echo
James Tyrrell Arklow Sailing club Aquelina J-112E IRL 1507 1 1.061 1.055
John Harrington RUYC and BYC eXcession IMX38 IRL1880 1 1.014 No ECHO
John O'Gorman NYC Hot Cookie Sunfast 3600 GBR7536R 1 1.037 1.035
Brendan Coghlan George YOYO Sunfast3600 IRL3618 1 1.036 1.035
Rónán Ó Siochrú Irish Offshore Sailing Desert Star Irish Offshore Sailing Sunfast 37 IRL1455 2 0.952 0.97
Cian McCarthy Kinsale yacht club cinnamon girl Sunfast 3300 IRL1627 1 1.023 1.025
ROBERT RENDELL Howth Samatom XC45 GBR1345R 1 1.074 1.075
Simon Knowles Howth Yacht club Indian J109 IRL1543 1 1.007 1.015
Derek Dillon Foynes Yacht Club Big Deal Dehler 34 IRL3492 2 0.928 0.93
Grzegorz Kalinecki ISA More Mischief first 310 IRL966 2 0.911 0.92
Peter Coad Waterford Harbour Sailing Club Blackjack Pocock 37 IRL1988 2 0.917 0.92
Andrew Algeo RIYC / BSC Juggerknot 2 J/99 IRL3990 1 1.01 1.02
Rupert Barry Greystones Sailing Club Red Alert JOD35 IRL6036 2 0.993 1
Flynn Kinsman NYC A plus Archambault 31 IRL977 2 0.978 0.98
John Conlon Arklow Humdinger sunfast 37 IRL1357 2 0.98 0.97
Coleman/Coleman David/Noel RCYC Blue Oyster Oyster 37 IRL3852 2 0.93 0.932
Denis & Annamarie Murphy Royal Cork Yacht Club Nieulargo Grand Soleil 40 B+C IRL2129 1 1.023 1.035
Riome (skipper)/ co owner Leonard David/ Mark Kinsale Yacht Club Valfreya Sigma 33 IRL 4297 2 0.912 0.915
Power Smith Chris Royal St George Yacht Club Aurelia J112 IRL35950 1 1.076 1.08
dMiller Keith Kilmore quay Andante Yamaha 36 IRL375 2 0.95 0.935
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