A last-minute entry for this evening’s 280-mile Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race is a clear case of horses for courses writes W M Nixon.
Andrew Hall’s relatively new J/125 Jackknife from Pwllheli is renowned for her speed on a reach, and when her entry was finally confirmed on Monday, the weather forecasts were all suggesting a real drag race in brisk northerlies the full length of the south coast.
With her experienced crew beefed up by the addition of that noted ISORA stalwart Stephen Tudor, Jackknife has completed a very comprehensive three-boat challenge from the Pwllheli club, as her Welsh-based partners in the dash to Dingle will be the consistently successful J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox) and the Sunfast 3200i Jac Y Do (Mark Thompson).
While the J/109 is noted as an all-round performer which is good but not exceptional on all points of sailing, the Sunfast range is noted for its reaching abilities, so with Jackknife rating 1.143, Mojito on a very competitive 1.009, and Jac Y Do on 0.995, the Pwllheli club looks to have all options well covered for being there or thereabouts when the final handicap winner is announced.
That might be sooner rather than later, for aboard Mick Cotter’s mighty 94ft Windfall in a windy and rain-swept Dun Laoghaire Harbour this morning, their computer model was optimistically showing that they could be finished some time between 2.0 pm and 6.0pm tomorrow.
That’s fine and dandy for a big one carrying the blustery breeze all the way to the finish, with a minimum of beating at the end. But if the breeze goes round to the northwest, getting to the Fastnet Rock in a record speed will be a snare and a delusion for the smaller craft. For the 70 miles thereafter, from the Fastnet to Dingle, slugging along to windward on one of the most challenging coasts in Europe, can soon start to seem like the longest 70 miles in the world.
That said, the likelihood of Windfall seeing her line honours becoming the handicap win as well is surely a long shot. But don’t forget that George David’s Rambler 88 did that very thing in some style in the 2016 Round Ireland Race.
Nevertheless with a very solid phalanx of boats between the 40ft and 50ft mark including Jackknife, Chris & Patanne Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia (with ISORA boss Peter Ryan onboard), George Sisk’s Xp 44 WOW, and Conor Doyle’s Xp 50 Freya, we have a group who might just manage the race’s win move of also carrying the best breeze the whole way.
And then there are the flying outsiders such as Conor Fogerty’s utterly new Figaro 3 Raw. She’s so new his experience of making best use of her foils is minimal, but that could all change tonight. It will be intriguing to watch Raw’s progress, as the word from Stage 2 of the ongoing Solitaire URGO Figaro is that two of the boats had to pull out of the Kinsale-Needles Fairway-Roscoff course to head direct for Roscoff with “water ingress” problems around the casings for their foils.
All this talk of cunning club combinations, and biggies of 94ft, and solid phalanxes of 40-to 50ft boats - plus musings of whether or not the new Figaro 3 could still be reasonably described as Work in Progress - shouldn’t blind us to the fact that there are competitive boats at every level in this best-ever 44-strong Dingle fleet, and somewhere amongst them will be the defending champion, Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 1080 Rockabill VI, quietly getting on with the business of getting to Dingle with the least fuss and in the shortest possible time.
But first, they all have to get cleanly way from Race Director Con Murphy’s start line in a vigorous onshore breeze on an evening of Arctic air with a lumpy sea coming every which way. At the start of the 2017 race in an easier-to-handle offshore wind, the adrenalin was pumping and sheer animal spirits led to some decidedly unorthodox manoeuvring. Having a significant sea running adds to the challenge. But it’s all part of the sport of this very special race, and it starts off Dun Laoghaire’s East Pier at 6.0pm this evening