In the build up to next month's all–important Round Ireland Race, yesterdays' ISORA race from Dun Laoghaire was an important tune–up. Chris Power–Smith's J122 Aurelia crew showed the depth of their ambition by outwitting some of the ISORA big guns over a tricky course – Start (Dun Laoghaire); Rockabill (S); East Kish (S); Muglins (P); Finish (Dun Laoghaire) – that lasted over 12 hours.
Afloat.ie caught up with Chris after post race celebrations at the National Yacht Club and he gave us this background to his own sailing and how he and his Royal St. George Yacht Club crew came out on top yesterday evening to lead the ISORA Championships overall.
Aurelia is my sixth J Boat. Having started with a J24 and then through, a J92, J92S, two J109s, Jetstream and the very successfully campaigned Rollercoaster in which we won two Dublin Bay Championships and two out of three of the first ISORAs we tried. I am a self–taught sailor who took up sailing at age 34. I was also fooled into thinking it might be easy to win ISORA races. In fact it is a very very competitive fleet, with hard won races, and some of the races can be very grueling. Winkie Nixon didn’t mention me in the recent history of J109s but I had the second one in Ireland after George Sisk had sold his one and bought the J133. I think the fact that I, as a relative novice, was so successful in mine spurred others to buy into the fleet. Rollercoaster had a full new set of Norths and I think this was a big help to the sailmaker in launching their sails onto the bay.
"I needed a new challenge outside of bay racing & offshore fitted the bill"
Deciding I needed a new challenge outside of bay racing, offshore fitted the bill, I decided to buy a bigger boat and moved up to the 40 footer. I have found the J122 to be a very fast, competitive and comfortable boat. I have really enjoyed the offshore racing and my first long race was D2D 3 years ago when we came third. I also took part in the last round Ireland and it was a big personal achievement for me to skipper the boat with a fully corinthian crew.
We won the ISORA series in Class Zero last year and came third overall the previous year.
Yesterday, we got smothered at the start off Dun Laoghaire Harbour and made our way painfully slowly over to the Baily Lighthouse on the north shore of Dublin Bay. The other boats that got clean starts went out of the bay and got more breeze. We were neck and neck with Rockabill VI (Paul O'Higgins) and Jedi (Kenneth Rumball) at the Baily, but managed to break away with our A1 up. We then decided to go inside Lambay to take advantage of the lower current gradient in the ebbing southerly flowing tide and where we expected more breeze, closer to the clouds on the shore. We were the only boat to go inside the Island and it was a hard battle to persuade all on board that this was the way to go, with constant discussion until the point of no return.
"We got smothered at the start and made our way painfully slowly over to the Baily"
When we converged at Rockabill VI, Jacknife, who rounded first and Sgrech second were over two miles ahead. We dropped the A1 and hoisted the J1 for the long one sided beat 22 miles to East Kish. We had to put in a couple of tacks to get around the Easter tip of Lambay. We slowly ground Sgrech down, and as the wind got up to around 12 to 14 knots we peeled to the J2. We tacked and dueled with them all the way down in choppy wind against tide conditions, eventually crossing ahead close to East Kish and tacking ahead of them to make the mark.
This year I decided to rate the boat higher on IRC in anticipation of the Round Ireland Race. We extended the bow sprit from 6.1m to 6.42 and we bought a new larger 155 square metre North Sails kite moving up from the old one of 143 square meters. We chose gold to match the name of the boat Aurelia, which means "golden one”.
"We hoisted the kite as we rounded the mark, with Sgrech close behind"
Prof O’Connell of North Sails Ireland came along for his first ever ISORA yesterday to show us the ropes and check out the cut and fit of the new sail. All the way down the beat, we were really worried that it was going to be too tight back to the finish in the harbour mouth to fly our beautiful gold brand new kite. But the wind continued to veer southerly and the true wind angle opened up to 115 to 120 in about 14 knots. We hoisted the kite as we rounded the mark, with Sgrech close behind. Sgrech, former J109 owner and ISORA multiple champion Stephen Tudor's new J111, rates exactly the same as us 1.083, so this was a one design style race to be first over the line. We stayed high and bore off just before the harbour to make the entrance. Sgrech went lower, anticipating a dying wind. We then came up to pass through the harbour finish with the kite up at 19.04. A real thrill for us and spectacular sight for the pier walkers. Sgrech finished only three minutes behind us after 11 hours of racing. Jacknife got line honours and we worried that she might have pipped us on handicap, but she came third overall to Sgrech second overall.
We were really delighted with the new North Sails kite and while we also have to carry the rating penalty upwind, we saw a huge performance increase on the last leg yesterday. We had no problem carrying the extra sail area at a tight angle and she accelerated superbly as we bore away.
Combined with the last race’s second place, we are now leading the championship overall.
Aurelia's winning crew yesterday consisted of: owners: Chris and Patanne Power Smith (RSGYC, RORC); Chris Power Smith: Skipper; Aileen Kelleher, just back from Caribbean 600 on J122 Noisey Oyster; Bernard McGranaghan (just back from Caribbean 600 on J122 Noisey Oyster, he chartered her); Francois Penn Ditto; Ger Walshe; Lynda McCracken; Niall Smythe; John McManus; Michael Keatinge and Prof O’Connell North Sails Representative
Overall ISORA results here