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Aurelia First to Make Tacking Move in Fastnet 450’s Ocean Chess Game

23rd August 2020
Chris and Patanne Smith's J122 Aurelia from the Royal St George Yacht Club Chris and Patanne Smith's J122 Aurelia from the Royal St George Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

Day two, Sunday 1400 hrs: Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia was the first of the three on-the-water leaders in the Fastnet 450 to tack far offshore for the longboard that will take her from the area of stronger west wind many miles out at sea into the lighter conditions along the West Cork coast and on down toward the turning point at the Fastnet Rock. The J/122’s decision maker made the call at 1100 hrs, but it was an hour later before Cian McCarthy’s fighting little Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl – even further at sea, but equally far west – put down the helm to head for the shore around noon, and as she closed towards Denis & Annamarie Murphy’s bigger but equal-rated Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo (vid below), the Murphy boat tacked on the McCarthy boat around 1220hrs.

It has been a difficult one to call, real ocean chess, as a slight backing of the wind off West Cork is forecast this afternoon, thereby freeing up those coming in from offshore, but providing the problem that they might overstand the Invisible Menace. The “Invisible Menace” is the Traffic Separation Exclusion Zone, a large rectangular box south and southeast of the Fastnet Rock. It might well enclose the least busy shipping Traffic Separation Zone on the planet, but it’s very real in offshore racing terms nevertheless, as you’re cast into outer darkness with ferocious time penalties if you so much as infringe on one square inch of this verboten space.

So ideally the perfect tactical ploy would be to time your tack onto port such that it brings you in on a curving course as the winds backs ever so slightly to take you close past the northeast corner of that unspeakable red box, but still sailing hard on the wind. The really unforgivable sin racing-wise would be to lose ground by having to ease sheets and pay off to keep the red zone’s nor’east corner to port. Any tactician causing that will be hung from the yard arm……

Looking at the overall picture, overall leader on IRC Nieulargo already looks to be freed enough to start worrying about that Northeast Corner Conundrum, but Cinnamon Girl is currently laying just west of Galley Head, yet further towards the shore it is noticeable that Aurelia is slowly but steadily curving more steadily to the west, while maintaining 7.2 knots to Nieulargo’s 7.1, with Cinnamon Girl – maybe footing a bit freer – making 7.0.knts.

Next in line to the northeast of them, the Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (John O’Gorman) and the J/109 Indian Simon Knowles are also now on port like the bulk of the fleet, and if Aurelia’s gradually changing course made good is anything to go by, they might have read it very neatly, but the nearer you get to that West Cork Coast, the odder the winds become, which is of course no reflection on the people who live there.

Blackjack (IRL 1988), a Pocock 37 skippered by Peter CoadBlackjack (IRL 1988), a Pocock 37 skippered by Peter Coad

In the big picture on IRC overall it is the turn of Peter Coad’s vintage Pocock 38 Blackjack from Dunmore East to be having a great time, she rates only 0.917 and has been ploughing steadily on to such good effect that she lies fourth overall, behind Nieulargo, Aurelia and Cinnamon Girl in that order on CT, while Hot Cookie (vid below) and Indian are 5th and 6th a matter of minutes apart. 

As for this morning’s drama of the Red Alert retirement, it was pretty total as she’d been dismasted, but all are well and she’s headed for Dunmore East while Ronan O Siochru’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star (Irish Offshore Sailing), which stood by in an exemplary seamanlike manner, has resumed racing and will receive full-time compensation.

 

Published in Fastnet 450 Race
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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Fastnet 450

The South Coast of Ireland Racing Association, in association with the National Yacht Club on Dublin Bay and the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Cork will stage the first edition of this race from Dun Laoghaire to Cork Harbour via the Fastnet Rock on August 22nd 2020.

The IRC race will start in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday 22nd August 2020 and pass the Muglin, Tuscar, Conningbeg and Fastnet Lighthouses to Starboard before returning to Cork Harbour and passing the Cork Buoy to Port, finishing when Roches’s Point bears due East. The course is specifically designed to be of sufficient length to qualify skippers and crew for the RORC Fastnet Race 2021.

The clubs have combined forces to mark their anniversary celebrations, it being the 150th anniversary of the National Yacht Club and 300th (Tricentenary) of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

At A Glance – Fastnet 450 Race

The first edition of this 270-nautical mile race starts from the National Yacht Club on Dublin Bay on August 22nd 2020 and finishes in Cork Harbour

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