Dun Laoghaire's Royal St George Yacht Club hosts this week's Frank Keane BMW ICRA National Championships. Ten races are scheduled with approximately one hundred boats entered. Afloat sticks its neck out to predict the top boats and winners in each division.
Last year's ICRAs in Galway Bay was fairly controversial with a lot of boats choosing not to attend and in the end, no racing whatsoever took place due to weather conditions and lock gate restrictions. So, a year later, It is good to see such a large entry for the Nationals on Dublin Bay.
ICRA is experimenting with some new class type options with similar type boats ensured of being in the same division. The final class splits in the 100-boat fleet are here.
Division 0 boats will sail coastal type courses instead of the Windward Leeward/Round the Cans that the other divisions will sail.
Weather conditions always play a part in trying to work out winners. This year, at the time of writing, the forecast is looking like light winds on the Friday and medium to strong winds for the Saturday and Sunday. Boats will need to be able to perform in all conditions therefore to win.
"Boats will need to be able to perform in all conditions to win"
Boats from IRC 1.040 up, plus some boats in lower divisions who opted for the Coastal type racing
Four or five good boats in this division. George Sisk's new XP44 Wow will like stretching her legs in these longer courses as will Cork Week 2018 winner, Frank Whelan's Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera, with Prof O'Connell calling shots. The other boats in contention will be Paul O'Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI and Jay Colville’s First 40, Forty Licks, fresh from his success in the 2019 Scottish Series. Were the winds to be strong all weekend, you would have to go for Rockabill, but that light Friday might just be a challenge for her, so we will go for the ever consistent Forty Licks to take this one.
From IRC 1.010 to 1.039
This will be, along with division 2, a very hotly contested division. There are 22 entries; all quite similar in speed, though their ratings differ a bit. Included in these 22 are 13 J109s and as a J109 has won this division in the last four ICRA Nationals, then you must expect that one of these, at least, will shine.
The last three ICRA nationals were won by John Maybury's Joker 2, so he is going for four in a row, but will be without the services of four times Olympian, Mark Mansfield who was his tactician for the three previous wins. John will still be a force and is thought he may have another Olympian slotted in. Tim and Richard Goodbody just won the J109 East Coasts and will be up there as likely will be Paul Barrington's Jalapeno and Brian and John Hall's Something else.
However, among the J109’s will be the two Howth Yacht Club Boats Storm 2 of The Kelly Family, and the new J109 to the fleet, John Murphy and Richard Colwell's Outrajeous. Storm is a regular winner in the fleet. Outrajeous has just won her class in last weekend's Lambay Race by a margin, and with Mark Mansfield calling tactics will, without doubt, be in contention. Andrew Craig’s Chimaera, winner of the Scottish Series just a few weeks ago, will be competing but its RIYC skipper is abroad and Brian Mathews is in charge. Brian Jones's Jelly Baby has announced a last-minute hotshot crew here
Apart from J109s, Andrew Algeo's New J99 could be quite slippery in the breezy conditions and will pose a threat. Were the breeze to stay windy all three day's Denis Murphy’s Grand Soleil 40, Nieulargo would romp around the course, but a light Friday might prove her undoing. Stuart Cranston’s Ker 32 From Strangford Lough had a great at her first outing at the Scottish Series to finish second in class, and in mixed conditions may prove fast, if she can escape the clutches of those 13 J109s. Colin Byrne's XP33 Bon Exemple would be in contention, but rig damage means she may not be competing.
In the end, history will say it will be a J109 and the two Howth boats must be the favourites as a result, so Storm 2, White Mischief or Outrajeous to win.
IRC from 1.009 to .930 approx
Again a very strong division with six Half Tonners likely posing the biggest threats and among these Dave Cullen’s Checkmate XV must be the favourite, having won the Lambay race last weekend against all the others. Nigel Biggs' Checkmate XVIII will be close though, as may the Wright's Mata from Howth, which had a very good outing at Scottish Series and likely would have won but for disqualification in one race. Ronan Downing’s Miss Whiplash Half Tonner from Royal Cork could be a dark horse, after winning his class at Cork Week in 2018.
Apart from the Half Tonners, the ones to watch, especially in the breeze are Ross McDonald’s X332, Rope Dock/Equinox, Stephen Quinn’s J97, Lambay Rules and Finbarr O'Regan's Elan 333 Artful Dodger from Kinsale. At the 2017 Sovereign's Cup Equinox and Artful Dodger, in strong winds were able to show the Half Tonners a clean pair of heels. From Royal Cork, Anthony O'Leary's modified 1720 is still something of an unknown quantity because her rating is not confirmed but is potent in the stronger winds downwind especially in the hands of O'Leary who proved this very point last month on Dublin Bay when he recorded 16-knots downwind in his clean sweep of the 1720 East Coast Championships.
However, in the conditions as forecasted, a light Friday may be these boats undoing, so we are going to go for the Half Tonner of Dave Cullen from Howth to take this one.
IRC from .930 to circa .880
Normally the Quarter Tonners would rule the roost here and among these Ken Lawless and Sybil Mc Cormack’s Cartoon would be the one to watch. However, with the two breezy days forecasted you have to look at some other contenders as well. The X302’s are a notable weapon in the breeze and among the four entered; The Gore-Grimes Dux from Howth must be the pick of these.
The highly modified Impala of Brendan Foley from the host club, with his fat head mainsail, will also be in contention.
In the breeze forecasted though, you cannot go further than Rory Fekkes highly modified Beneteau First class 8 F’n GR8 to take this class. Winner of Cork Week overall last year and winner of every race, bar one, at this year's Scottish Series, this boat excels in a breeze and is a hot favourite to take division 3.
IRC from .880 down
With only six entries in this division, it is hard to work out a winner. The Starflash of Philip O'Dwyer will be in the mix as will likely be the Sonata Asterix.