Cork Week 2008 Preview
380 boats and a fleet packed with quality
(reprinted from Afloat June/July 2008)
Markham Nolan previews ACCBank Cork Week that has announced a new Cup for the amateur cruiser-racer
It’s now 30 years since the concept of Cork Week was born. In 1978 Royal Cork started the tradition of a biennial regatta with just 50 enthusiastic boats and a smattering of volunteers. Little did they know what they had started. The regatta gained momentum, and ten years later the club had a major event with a cult sailing following on its hands. Cork Week had arrived.
At that stage, Cork Week was a welcome antidote to the hot-shot racing that pitted the disgruntled amateur against the pro. No pros were allowed at Cork Week, a Corinthian ethic reiterated this year with a new trophy for the amateur cruiser-racer, the Corinthian Cup supplied by the Sisk Group. Boats in IRC Class Zero, in which professional sailors are allowed, are eligible if they have a maximum of one Group 3 classified sailor on board.
However, the pros are out there, in the one-design classes and in the big boats, and part of the experience of something like Cork Week is racing at an event which can still attract top names in yacht racing. Racing against the best is an education, and there’s always the chance that you’ll rub shoulders at the bar, and perhaps learn a trick or two from a friendly pro over a pint.
Since those early days, then, Cork Week has become something of a sailing must-see. It’s a rite of passage, providing milestones every other year by which Irish sailing is measured. Do you remember your first Cork Week? Of course you do. You still tell the stories. The memory will be blurry, sunburnt and caked in salt, but you’ll remember it – for many reasons.
There’s the fact that Crosshaven, geographically, was never meant by God to see this much action. The narrow tidal estuary has overcome its limitations through innovation, expansion and pure can-do moxy to accommodate all-comers. As craft of every conceivable shape and size funnel into the harbour at the end of the racing day, you could practically walk from shore to shore without getting your feet wet, using the moving boats as stepping stones.
There’s the fact that, for plenty of us, this is, undoubtedly, the biggest and best event available.
Until recently, nothing came close to Cork Week for sheer volume, with several acres of canvas hoisted by thousands of competitors every day, and gallons of liquid refreshment sluiced through bodies every evening. It has been Ireland’s yacht racing behemoth for decades, and the numbers, when all is said and done, are mind-boggling. There’s the craic, the unquantifiable charisma that is a factor of place, people and shared experience.
And then there’s the racing. Outside the heads the fleets go their separate ways in the morning, returning to the marina, bar and bandstand together at the end of the day. The middle part of the day is filled with the reason most go to Cork – a mix of courses, conditions, classes and competition that is unsurpassed.
The secret, as always, is in the successful mix of onshore and offshore pleasures. The tent city provides as many memories as do the racecourses, and with 10,000 visitors through the gates in any given year, its status as one of Ireland’s biggest sporting events is assured. Landlubber delights this year include several top music acts, with Paddy Casey and Aslan just two of the big names gracing the tent city in ’08.
But what of the racing at ACC Bank Cork Week, the 2008 edition, which is likely to be as memorable as any other? Entries have already reached a respectable 380, down from the heady, chaotic days of 600 boats and more, but it’s a fleet packed with quality. Again, it’ll be a spectacle like no other at the top end of the ratings, where the big money and the pros live.
For those who enjoy the skyscraper effect of superyachts, as you crane your neck upwards to take in their monstrous rigs, there are a handful of over-60s, including the awesome STP 65 Moneypenny, owned by San Franciscan Jim Schwarz, and the enormous 90-foot Reichel Pugh, Rambler, one of two maxis which featured in last year’s Fastnet Race.
However, it’s the slightly smaller TP52s that have the most potential for high-speed, close quarters cut-and-thrust racing. The six one-design carbon sleds (or as close as dammit to one-design), include Colm Barrington’s Flash Glove. The fleet will line out off Roches Point and those following form will be offering slim odds on Benny Kelly’s Panthera, which has stolen a clutch of victories around England’s south coast already this year.
Ten Farr 45s form another high-performance one-design category within IRC class Zero, as well as, further down the ratings, ten X332s, a dozen Beneteau 31.7s and more than two dozen J109s, which will share guns for some toe-to-toe action in their Irish Championships.
And among the cruiser-racers, the beating heart of the event, you’ll find a slew of top club racers facing off against crews returned from the Commodore’s Cup.
The newly-swelled ranks of the SB3 class are expected to number into the forties, with entries coming from as far afield as Australia.
For the slightly more sedate, yet no less competitive, forty-something entries flesh out the increasingly popular white sails gentleman’s class.
All that remains is to get thee to the Rebel County for another edition of Ireland’s premier regatta. It’s all there once again – everything that makes the week as special as it is. The line-up is solid. The stage is set. Cork it.
The Admiral's View
Describing himself as a ‘reluctant admiral’ when it comes to telling his story, Mike MacCarthy started sailing in dinghies at the Royal Cork Yacht Club at about nine or ten years of age. He’s now been involved for 30-odd years having worked up to admiral, a position he will fill for the next 18 months having started in the position in January 2008.
Enjoying his tenure, looking forward to Cork Week and commenting on what it means to be admiral, MacCarthy maintains that, “the club here is quite large and there are a number of different sections: racing, dinghies, cruising, and motor-boating, and each group has their own social element. I have to try and represent every one of these and not just the club itself, which makes the job time-consuming, yet very interesting”.
Putting a slight sail to his own story, MacCarthy acknowledges “I’m from the racing fraternity and the name of my boat is Checkmate – a family association – which is a racing cruiser, and I enjoy racing in West Cork and go to Dublin on a regular basis, and I’ve been to Dún Laoghaire Week several times”.
If the Royal Cork Yacht Club had the ear of Government, MacCarthy would like to see “a better system to allow the club develop its facilities, both land- and water-based. For instance, if I had a €5 million donation tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to build a marina. Or a slipway. The planning regulations and the red-tape between The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, valuation departments and county councils (even though Cork County Council has been very good to us and has been very understanding) is a nightmare. We have a wish list of a number of projects we’d like to do including extending our marina, putting in a crane, and developing an extra slipway. However, with all the different departments to negotiate with, it’s incredibly difficult to improve the quality of the club.”
Once in or around Crosshaven, when you’re not mesmerised by the delights in the marina, there are walks in every direction to clear the mind or exercise the body, including a number of designated coloured routes like the rising blue and yellow lines which, while having spectacular views of Spike Island, Haulbowline, Rushbrooke and Cobh, also offer a good vantage point to see the starting line for Royal Cork Yacht Club racing. On this walk you’ll also come across Camden Fort (or Fort Meagher), one of the region’s historical landmarks, famous for its magnificent tunnel and fortifications. Crosshaven is also famous for its two holy wells on the edge of Cruachan woods, and its limekilns, on the Carriagline Road which were once used for firing, baking, drying and hardening clay.
While there are a number of ways to get to Crosshaven, prices to Cork, from say Dublin, are around €90 (premium) return by train, or €85 by plane. If you’re driving, the route goes through Cork city following the signposts for the Ringaskiddy Ferry Port until you arrive at the Shannonpark roundabout. From there take the second exit towards Carrigaline and finally at second next roundabout take a left and follow the signs and 13 miles to Crosshaven. If you thinking of visiting you won’t be disappointed. See you there for Cork Week.