Ireland has done it. After mounting multiple teams, considered favourite going into both the 2006 and 2008 events but failing to win either, so the Irish boats Antix, marinerscove.ie and Roxy 6 today secured the Rolex Commodores' Cup for the emerald isle.
"It is delightful to finally have a chance to get our hands on the trophy," declared Anthony O'Leary, owner and helmsman of the Ker 39 Antix, the Irish team's big boat. "For all three boats, the Rolex Commodores' Cup has been the absolute pinnacle of what we have wanted to do this year. While Antix and marinerscove have been around, it is a credit to the guys on Roxy because they had a new build and got the boat in the water, and then there were all the attendant things you have to do. Owner Rob Davies, in fairness to him, didn't take a huge amount of persuasion to sign up and make the extra effort required to do it. We owe him a huge debt."
Roxy 6's pro sailor Maurice 'Prof' O'Connell added: "We put in a massive effort and it is nice to have got the reward. Cowes is going to go ballistic tonight!"
The 2010 Rolex Commodores' Cup could not have finished on a better note. While the day dawned grim, with rain and visibility down to less than a mile, by start time at 10:30BST it was blowing 20+ knots and with the tidal effect this was churning up the Solent. With the weather mark not visible there was a distinct Irish hiccup on the first start when Antix collided with a French competitor and had to carry out a penalty turn.
"It was 110% our fault, but we are glad we got it out of the way," said O'Leary. "Fortunately with that amount of weather, there was always going to be a chance to have a come back."
And so it was on the run when, with the wind gusting to more than 30 knots and the sea seeming to come from all directions, that there were many instances of boats becoming overpowered and wiping out. This provided O'Leary and his crew with the chance they were looking for: "Down the first run Inis Mor tried to gybe, spun out and blew her kite to bits. White Heat had the same problem just ahead. Then we got to the bottom mark and our friends from Hong Kong trawled the kite, so we got inside them. Then we extended to the finish."
This was enough for Antix, despite her poor start, to post a second, typical of her scoreline this week, which has never featured a result lower than this.
One of the most dramatic scenes from the water today was of the Farr 45 Alice II in GBR White, streaming the top of her blown out spinnaker on the final upwind leg at the extent of the halyard.
"Coming into the leeward mark we saw 36.4 knots," recounted Alice II crewman James Read. "We were doing 17 knots in flat water and about one third of the chute was in the hatch and then thehead just caught the water and then 'zooop' it went out of the back, the sheets, the lot... We tried to blow the halyard but it wrapped up. So we flew it as a massive flag for the last beat! It was a bit of an air break."
In the two smaller classes, there were few boats that came off unscathed, other than the impeccable Irish. Peter Rutter's Grand Soleil 43 Quokka 8 in GBR Red had to retire when the bottom of their mast buckled. On the downwind legs there were many many broaches, the most dramatic being that of François Blossier's A-35 RealAx in France Red, which ended up with her masthead almost in the water.
"It was a little bit windy," admitted Blossier, who sails with a completely amateur crew and raced the Rolex Commodores's Cup four years ago on Pierre Follenfant's TBS. "We had a problem, because we took the big black spinnaker and we probably should have taken the smaller one. When we gybed we had a little bit of trouble with the pole...and that was it."
On board Blondie IV with the Hong Kong teams, Jamie McWilliam found the conditions exhilarating. "It was a perfect day, brilliant. I wish it had been like that all way. The funny thing about it, it was very tricky to catch a set of waves that worked because they were coming from everywhere. It was very sporty coming down the last run. The tack shackle of our tack line on the kite, which has a working load of 4 tonnes, exploded in a 20 ton gust. It was magic!"
McWilliam's Hong Kong team finished second to the Irish, on 117.5 points to Ireland's 73.5. However McWilliam was satisfied with the result: "I think if we'd been second having cocked it up, it would have been irritating, but the Irish guys sailed with great style and great skill and I'm absolutely delighted for them."
Andrew McIrvine, Commodore of the RORC said that his Beneteau First 40 La Réponse had been pushed to the limit. "We shredded a spinnaker. All our jammers started slipping. We have never put them under so much load before - they were tested beyond their working strain."
Otherwise McIrvine was pleased with the outcome of the regatta. "It has gone very well, particularly for the Irish who very much deserved their win. It was a very exciting day. As the French said it was 'un peu agitée'!' The results are good. Everyone had a good day. Ireland deserved it. They got so nearly there before. Now they have a hot team and they have gone for it properly and they deserved to win."
Top Five Teams – Provisional Overall Positions after completion of 8 races
Team / Points / Place
Ireland / 73,5 / 1
Hong Kong / 117,5 / 2
France Blue / 136 / 3
France Yellow / 167 / 4
GBR red /175 / 5
Full results and team lists are available at http://commodorescup.rorc.org/
Additional PR issued by ICRA;
Ireland wins Rolex Commodores' Cup at Cowes
As winds gusted to Near Gale force, Ireland's three boats in the Rolex Commodores' Cup delivered their strongest result since last Sunday's first day with a first and two second places in the high-scoring series finale. The Irish Cruiser Racing Association team of Antix, marinerscove.ie and Roxy will be presented with the trophy at the Royal Yacht Squadron at 5.00pm today.
Mist and driving rain clouded the racing area for the duration of the 90-minute race but presented no obstacles to the trio. Team captain Anthony O'Leary at the helm of Antix was able to recover from a pre-start incident with a French entry by taking a penalty-turn seconds before the start to avoid a protest and went on to score second place in Class 1.
Both marinerscove.ie skippered by Dave Dwyer and Roxy 6 subsequently steered clear of other boats and started well to score a race win and second place respectively. Overall, Ireland increased its lead to a winning margin of 44-points with Hong Kong placed second and France Blue in third.
"We finally managed to do what we've been trying to do for quite a very long time," commented O'Leary at Cowes Yachthaven marina shortly after coming ashore. "Thankfully we got the conditions that suited the Irish boats better than others; we are strong in those winds as we're well used to sailing them at home."
The win is the first major international trophy at Cowes in almost four decades of successive Irish teams who have come close to overall wins in the Admiral's Cup in 1979 and 1987 also as more recently in the Rolex Commodores' Cup that succeeded it.
"If you go back 30-odd years, you had Denis Doyle, Clayton Love and Archie O'Leary bringing boats here to sail in the Admiral's Cup," said O'Leary. "The demise of the Admiral's Cup led to the start of this event and Ireland has been sending teams for a very long time.
"We've been winning races and in the hunt in both previous events but seemed to fall at the final hurdle or not have that vital bit of luck when it counted. This time round I think probably we've had the strongest team we've ever had, with good focus and it managed to work out well."
The three-boat team was supported by shore-crew and representatives from the Irish Cruiser Racing Association both in Cowes and with extensive assistance from home as well. "This is the result that we had set our sights on and through the dedicated and united effort of everyone, we have won the Commodores' Cup for Ireland and Irish Sailing," said Barry Rose, ICRA Commodore. "We look forward to bringing everyone together at home for a full celebration of our sailors' achievements in Cowes over the past seven days."
"The fact that there are 50-plus people here for a week, trying to win a sailing event is proof enough that we want it and we were prepared to work very, very hard to get there and thankfully it came off in the end," said O'Leary.