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Cruiser Nationals top the ton

15th May 2008

The Saab Cruiser Nationals, kicking off in Howth tomorrow, has topped the 100-boat entry mark, with entries from 23 clubs around Ireland and the UK.

The event has attracted the cream of Irish cruiser-racing, with last year's Class Zero winner, Eamonn Rohan, just one of several returning champions.

Rohan won Class 0 on home waters last year and is back to defend his IRC title with his new Mills 40, Blondie IV. Rohan and crew have spent evenings this week training out of the Royal Irish YC under the watchful eye of Olympic Star campaigner Maurice 'Prof' O'Connell.

Again, he can expect stiff challenges from those at the vanguard of the cruiser-racer arms race, including fellow Corkonians Anthony O’Leary (‘Antix Eile’) and Conor & Denise Phelan (‘Jump Juice’) while the Dublin challenge will be headed by Tim Costello’s ‘Tiamat’ and the Howth boats ‘Rosie’ (Roy Dickson) and ‘Team Kingspan’ (Matt Davis).

Class 1 was headed by Eamon Crosbie’s ‘Teng Tools’ from the National YC in 2007 and he is looking to repeat the success this year, with the boat undergoing a comprehensive refit, including new rudder and keel.

Among those planning to upset the odds will be the Tyrrell’s ‘Aquelina’ from Arklow, Barry Cunningham’s ‘Contango’ (RIYC) and the Breen/Earls/Hogg combination from HYC in ‘Flashback’.

There are more clubs involved in the 33-strong Class 2 fleet than in any other class yet it probably represents Howth’s best opportunity to do well, with ‘Kinetic’ (Colwell/Murphy), ‘King 1’ (Cullen/Bourke) and ‘Tigger’ (Cassidy/Mulhall) – the ECHO winners in Cork last year – among the candidates. The opposition, however, includes the defending IRC champion Barry Rose in ‘Obsession VI’ from Cork and the always competitive Tim Goodbody on ‘White Mischief’ from RIYC.

With a number of regional titles in recent years, Vincent Gaffney’s ‘Alliance’ will be fancied to be among the front-runners in Class 3. The challengers come in the shape of at least three J24s – Jamie Bergin’s ‘Jaws’ from Lough Ree and Brian McDowell’s ‘Scandal’ and Chris Shackleton’s ‘Johnny Bravo’ both from Malahide – as well as Roger Cagney’s recent acquisition ‘Chanser’ and Basil McMahon’s veteran ‘Holly’, both HYC.

Racing starts at 1100 hrs on each of the three days and will be spread over two race courses – one giving windward-leeward courses and the other round-the-cans. The programme has seven races, with prizes awarded daily and overall on both IRC and ECHO.

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