“Wave afloat, rave ashore? And all good? What more could you ask?” The new-style Wave Regatta at Howth over the June Bank Holiday weekend set itself so many ambitious targets that it takes a day or two to get it all into perspective writes W M Nixon. But if anything, the feedback gets better with the passage of time.
After all, with an organisation team headed by Brian Turvey, they set out to build a fun regatta for our times around an expanded version of the venerable annual Lambay Race - which dates back at least to 1904 - while at the same time providing a three day series of hot racing for some razor-keen IRC classes which had been judiciously divided ratings-wise to provide – as far as possible – divisions of optimum size.
At the same time, they’d to provide good racing for the local One Design Puppeteer 22s and Howth 17s which continue to provide the backbone of Howth local racing when the IRC squad are away chasing other glamour events.
Well, with entries rising up to 164 boats on Saturday’s peak day of racing, there could be no complaints about turnout, And as to the scene ashore, the Howth-headquartered Michael Wright Hospitality Group took over all entertainment arrangements in a professional style which left nobody in any doubt they were dealing with experts, and the result was a hugely popular 12-band programme which made the best of the gorgeous weather once Friday’s minor glitch of fog and calm had been put out of the way.
The combined outcome afloat and ashore exceeded even the most optimistic anticipation. But it has to be admitted that while our preview here last Saturday got most of the names which were to feature at the front of each class as racing drew to a sunny close on Sunday, we somehow failed to highlight the potential of Dave Cullen’s classic Half Tonner Checkmate XXXV while talking of the success six days earlier in Scotland of another of Howth’s vintage Half Tonners, Johnny Swan’s Harmony.
But while Johnny sails with his mates, Dave is always game to get a rock star onto the strength, and at Howth it was soon noted that Checkmate’s lineup included the one and only Nin O’Leary. Any further comment is superfluous. While Harmony managed to hang in to be second in Class 2, it was Checkmate XV all the way, Class Winner and Regatta Champion by the end of the series.
In Class 1, the sharpening effect of their virtual One-Design-racing within-a-division is putting the J/109s in a class of their own. But while Pat Kelly’s Storm may have been away in the north winning the Scottish Series, Andrew Algeo and partners in Juggerknot are in a speedy place, and they won all but two races at Howth. One of these was the 1.5 points-scoring Lambay Race which went to Storm, racing through her home waters off Rush, which made sure she placed second overall at the end of the regatta, while the other went to one of the Howth boats, Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles’ Indian.
At the top of the size scale in Class O, it was Jamie McWilliam’s Ker 43 Signal 8 from Hong Kong almost all the way, but Conor Phelan’s gallantly-campaigned veteran Jump Juice, a 12-year-old Ker 36, was rewarded with one win as she took in the Howth Wave event on her way back to Cork from after featuring in the frame at the Scottish Series.
As to the historical feature which is placed like a jewel at the heart of this new Wave happening, the Lambay Race has become such a diverse event that the ultimate trophy, the silver statuette of the Lambay Lady, goes to the winning boat which has the biggest time lapse between it and second place. It says much for the fiercely close competition for the IRC and ECHO classes that this time round, it was won by Peter Courtney with the One-Design Howth 17 Oonagh.
The Courtney family have been racing Howth 17s round Lambay since 1907. But in his time, Peter Courtney has been a Fireball Champion and an offshore winner as well. Howth sailing today is a broad church, and it has embraced the new Wave Regatta with aplomb. The next one has already been confirmed by HYC Commodore Joe McPeake, it’s set for the June Bank Holiday Weekend in 2020.