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Gold Cup race abandoned after protests

22nd July 1997
Protests against the Royal Irish race committee have resulted in the second race of the Dragon Gold Cup at Dun Laoghaire being abandoned following a decision by the international jury late last night. The protests against the race committee were lodged after the fitful Dublin Bay breeze died away as the top 30 or so yachts rounded the first kick mark. Spinnakers that were hauled up were then quickly stowed again as helms tried to second guess where the new wind would eventually appear. Masthead wind indicators rotated through 360 degrees as the weak sea breeze dissolved. Neither the principal race officer, Tony O'Gorman, nor any of the race committee, was available for comment last night as protests against the committee queued up to be heard at the waterfront clubhouse.
Since the regatta opened on Sunday, and despite excellent organisation ashore, the event has suffered from oscillating winds, and competitors drawn from 12 nations have faced long delays in the preparation of courses. O'Gorman has been in the unenviable position of depending on a fickle sea breeze to complete racing for one of the most sought after trophies in world sailing. Despite the hope to rerun the race later this week, it will be of little consolation for the host nation as Irish crews swept into the top three places in yesterday's race, which will now be remembered as the race that spoiled the Gold Cup dreams of many. At 4.0 p.m. yesterday, local sailor Clare Foley had toppled triple winner Pol Rikard Hoj Jensen of Denmark from the leader board after two races of the Dragon Gold cup and was sipping champagne on the Royal Irish deck. But for the success of the protesters hours later, the Royal Irish YC helmswoman should have been leading the 81-boat fleet into the half-way stage of the competition. Half of the fleet who failed to round the mark before the lull descended began racing in their own "private" wind stream. The situation was verging on the farcical and, as the fleet was so divided, a race within a race developed. After 15 or 20 minutes in the doldrums the breeze reappeared from its original direction, to the temporary relief of O'Gorman who, after having had a fair first beat, resorted to contracting the windward-leeward course in order to complete the race in the strong tide. To their credit, the leading Irish boats maintained their position throughout, though the windward mark leader John Ross Murphy, a skilful light air sailor, slipped to fourth and allowed Foley, crewed by her brother, Tom, and Olympic 49er campaigner Mel Collins, to slip through. Northern Ireland's Simon Brien, the current Irish champion, pressed hard after Foley, but she kept her nerve and inched her way to the finish, and admitted by the end of the final beat that it was neck and neck with her teammates: "We had to call for water (room to manoeuvre at an obstruction) at the finish-line. We nearly ended up on the committee boat's mooring chain - it was very tight and we got the gun by only a couple of feet." Meanwhile, there has been some resentment following the international jury's decision to disqualify three crews - including two Irish boats - from the opening race following alleged infringement of class rules. A disqualification was also handed down to a top Dutch competitor NED 263 - Tjacko Van Olst sailing Ted de Draak. Elsewhere, at Dublin Airport yesterday, the chairman of the Irish Sailing Association Olympic committee bid farewell to Ciara Peelo, the 1996 bronze medallist in the Laser 2 dinghy. Peelo, of Malahide, is hoping to double up on last year's bronze medal when she travels to Fukuoka, Japan, as part of the Irish squad competing at the 1997 ISAF Youth World Championships. Team

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