We may all be thinking Hurricane Lorenzo as we look towards later this week writes W M Nixon. But in looking back at the underlying themes of the weather forecasts as the weekend’s busy programmes at places as diverse as Schull, Dun Laoghaire and Howth shaped up to do the best they could to provide racing in exceptionally volatile Atlantic weather conditions, the best that could be hoped was that some sort of racing “could be slipped in under the radar”.
For the reality is that the weather off northwest Europe is currently so unpredictable that race organisers are not just decision-making from one day to the next, in some cases it’s hour-by-hour. And in La Rochelle in France, the record fleet of 92 entries in the Minitransat 2019 must by now be going crazy, as their earliest expected start was going to be on Wednesday – and that’s a whole week late – but now Lorenzo will probably shift it even further.
The psychological effect of rotting in harbour for seven days is incalculable. Even longer is beyond belief. One way or another, the team therapists will be very busy. But as Europe undergoes meteorological stress with violent fronts sweeping across Biscay and mega-rainstorms running north through England to literally wash a major international bicycle race clean off the roads in Yorkshire, little old Ireland - usually the wind-battered rain sodden frontier of the continent’s weather - managed a weekend of magic sailing.
A whole island nation slipped neatly and unobtrusively under the foul weather radar…..Admittedly by Saturday afternoon, it was wet and light of wind in Schull. And then a lot of wind and rain went through, but for most of the country it obligingly did so at night, with Saturday having been a magic day of silver light and slanting sunbeams on the East Coast, with a warm sou’wester giving perfect sailing conditions in Dublin Bay and at Howth. Then Sunday saw a hint and more of a brief ridge day developing, with bright and brisk nor’westers bringing the All-Ireland Junior Championship at Schull to a vivid conclusion which the Bateman family will rightly celebrate for a day or two yet.
In Howth, with four good races now logged in the Beshoff Motors Autumn Leagues and three Autumn Saturdays still to go before the 1974-established Frostbite series starts to move up the agenda, although the top placings are becoming clarified, most of the leaders are hanging in very close. In the ancient Howth 17s, there were just two minutes covering the first four boats after a decent afternoon of racing which finished at the very civilised regatta time of 1600 hrs, and the top-turnout Puppeteer 22 class saw Algy Pearson and Alan Blay in Trick or Treat in runaway form, as they’d 2 minutes and 1 second in hand on 2019 National Champion Yellow Peril (Neil Murhy & Conor Costello) who were fighting off the challenge from Scorie Walls in Gold Dust with a margin of just 19 seconds.
Among the biggies, Richard Colwell and Johnny Murphy in the J/109 Outrajeous (HYC) found their groove with a win of nearly two minutes from Pat Kelly’s sistership Storm (Rush SC), while the new 2019 ISORA Champion Rockabill VI (JPK 10.80, Paul O’Higgins, RIYC) was 27 seconds astern of Storm.
The Half Tonners in IRC 2 continued to see Nigel Biggs (HYC & RIYC) consolidate his overall lead, but it was with a win of only 26 seconds from Dave Cullen’s Checkmate XV with the Evans brothers in The Big Picture another 29 seconds behind that, so it’s a real ding-dong with the discard now kicking in.
In IRC 3, they’ve been ringing the leadership between the Laser 28 Alliance II (Vincent Gaffney), the Sigma 33 Insider (Mullaney brothers, current Irish National Sigma 33 Champion) and the Patterson/Darmody team on Viking which has been changed about so much few can remember what she was originally……but no matter, on Saturday it was Alliance’s turn to get the gong, albeit by only 8 seconds from Viking, making it the closest finish of the day.
The whitesail classes for once saw the First 40.7 Tiger (Stephen Harris & Frank Hughes) not getting the win in IRC 4, it went to the Davis family’s Sigma 400 Raging Bull from Skerries with the Tiger chasing the Bull with the gap at only 14 seconds, third going to another First 40.7, Dermot Cronin’s Encore from Malahide. IRC 5 meanwhile saw Steph & Windsor’s Club Shamrock Demelza win with a minute and 13 seconds in hand on Joe Carton’s Dehler 34 Voyager.
In the other One-Design Classes, the Squibs saw a tussle between local hero Simon Sheahan with O’Leary and visiting Strangford Lough ace Rob Marshall from Killyleagh with Slipstream, with O’Leary getting it by 29 seconds, both of them well clear of Fantome (Ronan MacDonnell) in third. As for the J/80s, Jabs (J O’Dowd) had her afternoon of glory to win from Dan O’Grady with Raz Beshoff aboard in Jammy by just 21 seconds, while Nobby Reilly was third in Red Cloud.
After the sheer busy-ness of the two windward-leewards back-to-back a week ago, this was by contrast a user-friendly afternoon of warmth and gentle weather and soft light and good sailing, with an excellent turnout well representative of the Fingal clubs, and all nicely finished with plenty of time for the après-sailing before the night’s gale and rain started to assert itself towards 2000 hrs.
Results details here