With the full programme of nine races for the IRC Classes and seven for the two White Sail Divisions very comprehensively completed in the four day 28-boat WIORA Championship 2019 hosted by Foynes Yacht Club, the word in the west is that the Shannon Estuary is an ideal venue when the winds and weather co-operate writes WM Nixon.
Perhaps surprising is the fact that though each day’s breeze – usually with a reasonable spot of sunshine and often with prolonged periods of brightness – managed regularly to get up to 15 to 20 knots, each day the wind managed to be in a different direction. It was as good as having four different venues rolled into one, yet with the same famously hospitable clubhouse ready and waiting with the welcoming machine primed for action as the crews came ashore.
For organiser and FYC Commodore Donal McCormack, it was gratifying that so many western clubs were represented, as the lineup included Galway Bay SC, Royal Western of Ireland YC from Kilrush, Tralee Bay SC from Kerry, and the Royal Cork YC for good measure, with boats ranging from a vintage O’Brien Kennedy Kerry 6-tonner to a brace of J/109s, though the reality is that the best-represented club was Foynes itself - but then it is a club in which the active encouragement of J/24s for younger sailors is bearing fruit in a big way in numbers and performance.
Competition was intense, particularly among the J/24s, and cool heads were needed on the Committee Boats. But even though regular WIORA guest PRO Alan Crosbie was unable to attend at the last minute for family reasons, Derek Bothwell of Howth was able to step in at short notice, and as is ever the case when an Irish Sea race officer experiences the legendary Foynes reception, he was able to report back home that hospitality is only in its infancy on the East Coast…..
Peter Moore of Tralee Bay did the officering duties for the White Sails, and between them they managed an excellent programme which usually relied on round-the-buoys-contests, but in the best WIORA traditions, one day was allocated to a distance race which included going round Foynes Island in addition to other diversions, so all tastes were catered for.
In Class 1 IRC, the X332 Dexterity (Team Foynes, aka Liam Madden, Ruari Buckley, Ger Hobbs and Michael Campion, all FYC) started with a fourth, but that became their discard as they then scored 3,1,1,2,3,1,4 to win overall in comfort.
The Corby 25 Stonehaven Racing from Kilrush (Glynn/Griffin/Callanan, RWIYC) only managed one win but as they had a string of seconds they also discarded a fourth to take second overall, while Liam Burke’s Farr 31 Tribal from Galway had three firsts and three thirds, but also had to carry a fourth while discarding a sixth and taking a penalty in Race 7, which put her back to third overall.
In ECHO, it was re-arranged slightly, with Stonehaven racing the overall winner, Tribal second and Dexterity third.
Class 2 IRC was the Feast of the Foynes Flying J/24s, with the host club’s McCormack triplets – skipper Darragh crewed by brothers Mark and Noel – setting the pace with five wins and two seconds in Stouche. For good measure, their sister Mary helming the FYC Under-25 J/24 Jasper was second overall (3,2,2,(4),2,3,2,1) while J/24s elder statesman Simon McGibney was third in Gaia Racing with a string of thirds and a couple of seconds.
The implementation of ECHO gave one other boat a look-in, with Ed Enright’s Hunter 707 Lady Laura snatching a third overall while Stouche and Jasper stayed in one and two.
In White Sails 1, Brian O’Sullivan’s Oyster 37 Amazing Grace from Tralee Bay (an overall winner of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race) made an impressive start with a win, and indeed she got another win later in the series, but otherwise it was largely dominated by Derry Nash’s First 31.7 Catalpa (Royal Cork YC) with four firsts, a second and a fourth, while Amazing Grace held second. Third overall was Martin O’Connor’s First 345 Moonglow (FYC).
White Sails 2 saw the Foynes dominance return, with Ronan Keane’s Albin Express Relativity taking four firsts, a second and a fourth after a shaky start in the first race when they were 7th, but that was gladly discarded. Relativity is a lovely little boat with more than a bit of history, as for many successful years she was campaigned out of Howth by current ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell with partners Johnny and Susy Murphy.
Second overall was something very different yet equally interesting, Tom Murray’s vintage Kerry Class 6 tonner Kerry Dream, which won the first race but had a couple of sixths, one of which they could discard as they’d plenty of seconds. John Reidy’s UFO 27 Wildcat had a second in the first race, but otherwise was counting thirds, fourths and a fifth to place third overall.
In the fleet as a whole, it was Darragh Mc Cormack’s time to star as supreme champion with his overall almost-clean-sweep. Last August he was the tops in Mermaid Week at Foynes, and now, even as this is being posted on Afloat.ie, he and many other legends of Mermaid Racing are gearing up for the Mother of all Mermaid National Championships, at the Royal Cork YC in Crosshaven for the first time ever. At the very least, it will be a mutually educational experience for all involved...