Sailmaker Maurice O'Connell took part in the Dublin Match Racing Open at Howth in July and the Leinster Championships in August. Here he answers a few questions about the new circuit that is winning fans around the country.
Prof, You're enjoying the circuit?
We love it! What a brilliant way to go sailing for the weekend. The J80’s are supplied through Sailfleet, they are launched and tuned and all we have to do is race and ensure that they are tied up alongside and everything packed away after sailing as if it were our own boat.
It was great to race with John Downey, Ruairidh Heraghty and Eoin Leahy. We were a little rusty around the corners so were prob fortunate that there was not too much spinnaker work but I think we improved as the weekend went on.
How did you find the J80s? You had great speed straight from the off. Any tips for sailing them?
The J80’s are no different from any keelboat. In fully powered conditions we used the backstay / mainsheet and traveler combination a lot to get the right upwind mode. We also played around with the jib car positions a fair bit for the same purpose. In lighter stuff we tried to use the body weight as much as possible for the tacks and gybes but didn’t always succeed! I think we need to figure out how to go backwards in the pre start, John Sheehy got us on that one!
People seem to be taken back by the cost of entry though. We’ve got the entry down from €500 for the inlands to €400 for the Leinster Championships, and there’s a youth team entry of €250 available for one team. About half the entry goes on the charter of the boats. How does that stack up against the cost of campaigning a similar size boat?
€400 split four ways is €100 each per person for an tremendous weekends' racing and you walk away afterwards, no insurance, no rigging and de-rigging, no towing, no storage fees, it's great value.
Are there any changes to the way the boats are rigged that you think would be beneficial, purely for match racing?
Yes, put swivel block with cleat on the traveller so that mainsheet hand can effectively do his job in the pre-start. Remove the jib sheet winches and replace with large ratchamatic cheek blocks and 2:1 jib sheets, replace the spinnakers with ones that are more stable, lower aspect and more easy to trim, lead the pole up haul and downhaul aft and exit the kite halyard on the port side of the mast.
It’s a hot topic whenever the boats are sailed and is bound to come up at the All Irelands again but do you see much difference between the boats?
Very little, if any that I can see.......
Is time in the boats going to become an issue for the guys coming to the All Irelands as National Champions in their own fleets vs. the teams that are starting to get experience of sailing them?
Yes it is, if the changes to the boats that I proposed are made, then this will reduce the impact of this greatly because the boats will be easier and more "normal" to sail.
The National Match Racing Championships will be hosted in Kinsale Yacht Club at the end of October. Requests for Entry should be made to Ed Alcock at the ISA before the 18th September.