The wisdom of the old salts would have it that in a regatta series, a set of steady results towards the front of the fleet with no silly mistakes is much more useful in the final tally than an uneven performance with the occasional utterly fabulous first place writes W M Nixon. And after the three-day Irish Cruiser Racing Association Nats at Howth, in which the real winners were the race officer teams who managed to complete a reasonably proper programme despite the winds being fickle in the extreme, we can maybe add in a second rule for series success.
Rule 1 of the Old Salts’ Book of Racing Lore is that you put together a good series of steady results. Keep the head down and keep the points down too. And the new Rule 2 of the OSBRL would seem to be something along the lines of not being utterly brilliant in the first afternoon’s two races. For if you do, you’re a marked boat thereafter. Just because you happen to be paranoid in everyday life doesn’t mean that they really are in fact out to get you. For as Annalise Murphy discovered at the 2012 Olympics, if that’s not what’s actually happening, then it’s something which is very like it nevertheless.
So on Friday we saw some stars clearly emerge, which we duly highlighted in Saturday’s morning’s overview. But as you’ll have gathered if you didn’t spend the main part of the weekend in a Trappist monastery, through Saturday the leaderboard was re-shuffled more than somewhat. And though today’s final racing didn’t find a promised breeze, there was still enough slightly mobile air around to provide some further sets of viable results, and they seemed to confirm that those who were Kings of the Castle on Friday evening were in many case consigned to the dungeon, relatively speaking, as the series concluded early this (Sunday) afternoon.
Half of the boats in the 22-strong Division 2 were J/09s.
Joker II (John Maybury) successsfully defended her class one national title
In the impersonal world of racing to the handicaps of the IRC, there’s no getting away from one totally outstanding performance, a performance which fulfilled both rules of the OSBRL. On Friday, John Maybury’s J/109 Joker 2, from the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire with the not inconsiderable talents of Olympian Mark Mansfield of Cork in the crew, put in what we now recognise to have been a very neat holding performance. In the 22 boats of Division 1 – the most numerous class - Joker was sixth and second on the first day. Not at all spectacular, but she was there or thereabouts as other boats headed one of the championship’s most competitive divisions.
Then on Saturday, after recording another sixth in the first race, Joker 2 seemed to find her mojo, that mojo which made her class champion in 2015 at Kinsale. Perhaps they’d simply been keeping it in storage on Friday, knowing they’d need it more on Saturday. Whatever the story, they romped through Saturday with a winning consistency of performance while other boats – to put it mildly – fluctuated more than somewhat.
For that last Saturday race, and Sunday’s single race for Division 1, saw Joker 2 notching two wins. Clearly her crew had got the measure of the waters of Fingal, for it gave her an absurd lead of 14.5 points over the runner-up, which was another J/109, Pat Kelly’s Storm, which in theory was right at home, as they list Rush SC as their club even though they keep the boat in Howth.
Despite racing in her home waters, the Kelly family’s J/109 Storm of Rush SC had to concede first place to Dun Laoghaire invader Joker 2 (John Maybury)
Dave Cullen’s Classic Half Ton World Champion Checkmate XV found form to win her class at the ICRA Nats. This week, the Checkmate crew move aboard the J/109 Storm to race her as Euro Car Parks in the Volvo Round Ireland
With eleven J/109s racing, not surprisingly they dominated Class 1 in which they were half of the fleet, with the Shanahan family’s Ruth (NYC) taking third while Colin Byrne’s XP 33 Bon Exemple (RIYC) was first of the non-Js in fourth, with Rob McConnell’s A 35 Fool’s Gold from Dunmore East fifth.
But you get some idea of the scale of Joker’s achievement when you realize that Storm was only half a point ahead of the next three boats, which were all tied on 31 points and needed a countback to sort the placings.
Division 2 was the next most numerous with 15 boats, and here they managed six races with a discard kicking in. It is of course the class for the classic Half Tonners, so inevitably Howth YC was dominant to an almost embarrassing extent. Early leader The Big Picture (Michael & Richard Evans) had slipped down the rankings as the curtain came down, she finished fourth overall, but after a sneeze in the first race on Day 1, Dave Cullen’s Checkmate XV got her act together and logged a final scoreline of 2,1,3,3,1,2.
Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules took a second in Division 2 in the ICRA Nats, and on Saturday she’ll be one of the smallest boats competing in the Volvo Round Ireland Race.
It’s good to be discarding a third, but an interesting performance was turned in by the runner-up, Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules, as she’d a list of 5,2,1,,2,4,5. While it’s said that Dave Cullen is so delighted with the silver trophy he got for winning the class that he’s going to take it with him as he goes off on Saturday to do the Volvo Round Ireland as skipper of the J/109 Storm which will have transformed to become Euro Car Parks, for Stephen Quinn this second place with his very attractive 32-footer is direct round Ireland encouragement, as he’s racing Lambay Rules out of Wicklow round Ireland on Saturday. And if the J/97 isn’t the smallest boat in the Round Ireland fleet, then she’s something very near it.
Third place in Division 2 went to John Swan’s re-vamped Half Tonner Harmony after a ding-dong with the Big Picture, while fifth went to Ross McDonald’s X332 Equinox.
Well above the rough and tumble of Class 2, the aristocrats of Class 0 made up in quality what they lacked in quantity, but as there were only half a dozen of them, the points margins could never be large, and though Conor Phelan’s now-classic Ker 37 Jump Juice from Crosshaven had three wins in five races, Jay Colville’s First 40 Licks from East Down YC in Strangford Lough was always right there to take second, while third slot went to the Scottish XP38i Roxtsar (Finlay & Anderson, Cyde Cr C).
Tumbling down the size scale, in Division 3 the Quarter Tonners of the Royal Irish YC were out in strength in an extremely closely-fought series in which Royal Cork’s Paul Gibbons’ Farr 79 Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge managed to snatch third overall with two RIYC boats ahead of her and one immediately astern, the winner being Cartoon (Ken Lawless & Sybil McCormack) with the ever-lovely Quest (Barry Cunningham & Jonathan Skerritt) in second. Half a dozen of the reviving J/24 Class raced in this division, and best of them was Flor O’Driscoll with Hard on Port, who was fifth overall.
Class Three winner Cartoon (Ken Lawless & Sybil McCormack)
The Quarter Tonner Quest, ICRA Champion in 2014, was second in class in 2016.
The reviving J/24 class had six boats racing in the ICRA Championship
Division 4 was once again a problem numbers-wise, and Patrick O’Neill’s E Boat OctopussE of the host club was best of the two competing. As for Division 5 and 6, the non-spinnaker classes, they were re-born as the Corinthian Classes, and in Division A non-spinnaker, IRC saw the three Elan 333s utterly dominant to take the first three places overall, with Colm Bermingham’s Bite the Bullet (HYC) the dominator of the dominants, as she won with a clean sheet, second going to David Sargent’s Indulgence, also HYC, with DMYC’s Paul Tully getting third with White Lotus.
Colm Bermingham’s Elan 333 Bite the Bullet was a winner all the way
Division B had it very close on IRC between Harry Byrne’s Jeanneau Sunrise Alphida and Windsor & Steffi’s Cub Shamrock Demelza, with Alphida taking it this time round, while third slot went to John Roberts’s veteran Doug Peterson-designed Contention 33 Poppy from Whitehaven in Cumberland.
Peadar Murphy, administrator of ICRA’s Progressive ECHO system at the National Championship, and seen below working the magic Denis Kiely system
But while the serious meat of the racing in the ICRA Nationals 2016 was inevitably under IRC, there was a complete parallel universe out there on the race course with ICRA number-cruncher Denis Kiely’s famous Progressive ECHO system being administered at Howth by Denis’s right-hand man Peadar Murphy.
Under Progressive ECHO, a boat’s rating is revised after every race in the series on the basis that all boats finished dead equal in the race just completed. It works best with a series, and you’ll hear the usual complaints of sand-bagging when it is used in other ways. But what it does do is keep up the interest of every crew right to the end of the series, and a more sophisticated take on it has emerged, as top IRC crews now look on Progressive ECHO as a useful tool to tell them how they’re really doing from race to race, when IRC can be a bit of a blunt instrument.
In the limelight. Terry McCoy (left) of Skerries and John Roberts (second right) from Cumbria found themselves rewarded by the Progressive ECHO system, but John’s veteran Contention 33 Poppy also took third on IRC.
The Progressive ECHO results speak for themselves. In the end, there’s an element of “something for everyone in the audience” about it, and it certainly results in some sailors who have seldom found themselves in the limelight being up there in the Winner’s Enclosure to receive their prizes along with people whose names are usually to be found only at the sharper end of the top classes.
In other words, it adds greatly to the sense of community throughout the fleet, and with sailors from all parts of Ireland and from across the Irish Sea mixing it at Howth, there was no doubting the warmth and strength of that sense of community.
The sun did appear at Howth, but usually only after racing was over and the après sailing was in full swing in HYC.
The ICRA Championship is a fascinating stew of the local and the national, and sometimes the international. The selected venue club will try to put on its best show, but inevitably with an event which is only totally engrossing to the participants, you have to spread the net wide through local contacts to get helpful sponsorship support. In Howth, those who stepped up to the plate were lead sponsors McPeake Auctioneers supported by the tourism initiative Dublin – a Breath of Fresh Air, shoemakers Dubarry of Ireland, and WD40.
So despite the lack of wind strength, and despite the fact that the sun only tended to appear late in the day, we now have a whole new raft of National Champions, the ICRA Nationals 2016 are done and dusted, and attention can swing neatly on time to the Volvo Round Ireland Race.
In the circumstances, surely no-one would begrudge Howth Yacht Club the quiet satisfaction of knowing that they ended the series as winners of both team prizes?
Our boats are packed, and we’re ready to go…..Paul Gibbons’ Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge from Crosshaven (left) and Simon McGibney’s J/24 Gala Racing from Foynes, on the trailers and about to head for home from Howth after another ICRA National Championship.
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Afloat's WM Nixon has a review of day one's ICRA racing action in his Sailing on Saturday blog here
Full IRC results are downloadable below