Conor Doyle’s Xp 50 Freya from Kinsale – which placed tenth in Class IRC 1A - looks to be the 2019 winner of the Gull Salver for the best-placed Irish boat on corrected time overall in the current Rolex Fastnet Race as the hectic prize-giving swings into action in Plymouth this evening, with the hyper-busy RORC staff working against the clock to ensure that “only about forty cups and trophies” go to the right recipients writes W M Nixon
As it happens, Freya’s skipper will take possession of the Salver in the less frenetic atmosphere of the Irish Cruising Club AGM in the New Year. The Gull Salver is named in honour of Corkman Harry Donegan and his 17-ton cutter Gull. They took part in the first Fastnet race in 1925, placing third, and were also present at the founding of the ICC in Glengarriff in 1929.
Thus the Gull Salver is in the custody of the ICC, although it originated in a 1972 gathering of all Ireland’s Fastnet competitors, including Captain Jim Kelly who as a young man had been on Gull’s 1925 crew. Forty-three years later, this hugely convivial “Fastneteers Dinner” generated a surplus which was then very properly used to fund the Gull Salver, and the ICC has looked after it ever since.
For the past two Fastnet Races, Ireland has provided the winner of the Roger Justice Trophy for the top-placed sailing school boat, with Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi, skippered by Kenneth Rumball, winning in 2017, while Irish Offshore Sailing’s Sun Fast 37 Desert Star with Ronan O Siochru in charge won in 2015.
This year Irish Offshore Sailing had two boats in the race – a remarkable logistics effort for an organisation based in Dun Laoghaire. In addition to Desert Star skippered again by school principal Ronan O Siochru, sister-ship Sherkin Two skippered by Daniel Smith also took part. And however much they tried to avoid it, they ended up having a boat-for-boat duel, with Sherkin Two finishing last night just one minute ahead of Desert Star.
Yet as Desert Star has a slightly lower rating, in the overall rankings she finished ahead of Sherkin Two by two places. And though they were well down the fleet generally, in sailing school terms they were well placed. There was even a slight chance that Desert Star might win the Roger Justice Trophy again.
However, it was not to be, though everything points to them getting a podium place as third in the Sailing Shools division. But with the impending bad weather, they’d to leave before the awards ceremony in order to log some miles back towards Ireland before seeking storm shelter in Newlyn.
Meanwhile, although most of the cups and trophies were going to French boats, there were special cheers for two American boats which had found their journey well worthwhile – the former Volvo 70 Wizard (Peter & Dave Askew) which was lauded as overall winner to add the Fastnet trophies to her already remarkable 2019 record of winning the Transatlantic and the RORC Caribbean races in July and February respectively. And the 50-year old 48ft McCurdy Rhodes design Carina (Rives Potts), a veteran of the 1969 race and also the storm-struck 1979 race, which took the Dorade Trophy for top-placed Classic Yacht.