When Niall Dowling’s exceptional Ker 43 Baraka GP crossed the finish line at Wicklow at 1320 hrs this afternoon to take Line Honours and put down a very strong marker for the IRC overall win, the way was cleared for attention to focus on what we might call the Real Round Ireland Race writes W M Nixon.
While the Baraka show was at full throttle, we could only marvel at the sheer competence with which this Performance Yacht Charter package was sent out on the Round Ireland challenge, and the particular skill shown by navigator/tactician Ian ‘Soapy’ Moore.
As they say in showbiz and in celebrity culinary circles, it was simply the best. But for most of the entries who are still out there plugging away, while this may indeed be simply the best, it’s just not the real world.
"The real world is getting your boat and amateur crew together, and setting out with your heart in your mouth"
The real world is getting your boat and amateur crew together, and setting out with your heart in your mouth to face up to whatever the 704-mile course has to offer.
It’s not the day job, nor is it the night job. It’s what you do as a personal private sport in precious holiday time carved from a busy working life. But it’s what you want to do.
So for those outside observers who are feeling maybe a little sorry for the amateur sailors in their little boats still slogging along mostly to windward off the sometimes decidedly harsh coasts of Donegal and Antrim, and sailing across a sea which is seldom as smooth as the sea across which Baraka sliced so suavely at the Kish LH this morning, the message is: Forget about it. Or as they’d say in New York: fuggedaboudid.
They don’t need your sympathy. The fact is, these guys in their little boats aren’t feeling sorry for themselves at all. On the contrary, you can be quite sure they’re in some intense private battle with a boat nearby, or some particular rival boat they know to be already round the next headland. They are utterly absorbed in what they’re doing. And they’ll likely be back on the next Round Ireland Race in two years’ time.
So in the Real Round Ireland Race, the leader is Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, currently turning to windward off Garron Point on the Antrim coast, with the favourable flood tide reaching its last gasp under her to keep her speed at 7.2 knots.
Second in the real Round Ireland race is Paul Kavanagh’s lovely vintage Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland, being raced two-handed. She’s due north of Inishtrahull and showing only 4.3 knots, but is in some much higher-rated company, and all is well with the world.
Third in our Real Round Ireland race is Team Fujitsu, an X41 which is owned by Donal Ryan but is racing as a Services competitor. This means she’s head-to-head with Commandant Barry Byrne, Mick Liddy et al on board the J/109 Joker II. But the much higher-rated Team Fujitsu is actually close beside Aurelia well into the North Channel, while Joker II – lying fourth overall in the Real Round Ireland and just seven minutes on corrected time behind Team Fujitsu - is laying in on port tack towards the north coast, but is still well offshore at Portrush.
Fifth in the RRI is former overall leader Jaasap (Nicolas Pasternak from France) which is another of these hyper-keen two-handed contenders. Jaasap is close east of Inishtrahull and is making only 3.3 knots, but they have a handy little race going on with sailing school entries in their area, notably the First 40 Olympia’s Tigress which is being jointly skippered by Susan Glenny and Irish Sailor of the Year Conor Fogerty.
With this setup, we find ourselves in the area of the Utterly Real Round Ireland Race. We are about as far as we can get from the highly-paid rock stars who took Baraka GP to such a famous victory. For a significant proportion of the crew on sailing school entries are relatively newcomers to sailing who are prepared to pay good money for the exquisite tortures and profound satisfaction which a Round Ireland Race can serve up.
So all this is still going on, and will continue for two or three days yet. We'll have another update on the 'Real' Round Ireland race around 9.0pm tonight.
Meanwhile, here’s the Tracker Chart and Leaderboard:
Race tracker and leaderboard HERE
Afloat.ie Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE