The final 90-mile leg of the Round Ireland course, from the South Rock off the County Down coast direct to the Wicklow pierheads, is often the most frustrating writes W M Nixon. You feel the finish is almost within sight, yet the Irish Sea often seems to go out of its way to serve up calms and wayward headwinds.
Certainly, this was the expectation of those still racing last night, with the two Mini 6.5s, in particular, going into the gathering dark expecting that their remaining energies would be sapped by endless windward work and wind-seeking as high pressure returned to an upward trend.
Yet this morning, Mini racers Yannick Lemonnier and Cathal Clarke on the 21ft Port of Galway, and Louis Mulloy and Arthur aboard Blackshell Farm, together with the others who were around them to seaward of St John’s Point, find themselves, for the most part, finished in Wicklow, and job done.
And none have done this final stage better than father-and-son two-handed team Derek and Conor Dillon on the Dehler 34 Big Deal from Foynes. Their home waters of the Atlantic seaboard may have treated them harshly to have them at times back among the also-rans. But the Irish Sea was kindness itself, everything fell neatly into place, and they rocketed up the rankings to finish fourth overall, slotting in neatly between the Irish Defence Forces in Joker II and the British Army in Team Fujitsu.
As for Lemonnier and Clarke on Port of Galway, it’s job extra well done. They now hold the record for the smallest boat ever to have sailed round Ireland non-stop, as they got into Wicklow at 0645 hrs this morning, an hour and 40 minutes ahead of the Mayo entry Blackshell Farm. For those only following the race on the tracker, Port of Galway literally came out of the blue. Her tracker packed it in at Malin Head, but Cathal Clarke’s cheery phone calls kept supporters informed.
The message from that long final leg was was: Keep to the straight and narrow. Whatever the wind was doing, don’t stray too far from the long direct line from the South Rock to the Wicklow pierhead. Those who did, such as Paul Kavanagh with the Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland who went way southeast into the middle of the Irish Sea in search of a win move, found themselves hung out to dry.
"those who emulated overall winner Baraka GP in finding a leading breeze which enabled them to hold to the basic track were well rewarded"
But those who emulated overall winner Baraka GP in finding a leading breeze which enabled them to hold to the basic track were well rewarded, with Big Deal coming down the line as though on rails at a steady 4.5 to 6.5 knots, with only a short bit of tacking at the end.
Last night, we concluded our report with the leaders in, and a certain East Coast emphasis in the results. But this morning, the West’s awake.