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Cullen's Checkmate XV Drops to Fourth at Light Airs Half Ton Classic Cup

22nd August 2018
Howth Yacht Club's Checkmate XV, skippered by Dave Cullen, in light airs racing yesterday Howth Yacht Club's Checkmate XV, skippered by Dave Cullen, in light airs racing yesterday Photo: Fiona Brown

Light airs continued to plague the Half Ton Classics Cup 2018 on day two of the regatta where, in spite of the often extremely fickle conditions, Race Officer Paul Charlier and his team did a superb job to achieve races two and three of the series. It did not suit Howth Yacht Club's Checkmate XV, skippered by Dave Cullen, however, who slipped two places down the leaderboard from second to fourth overall. Dublin Clubmate Jonny Swann in Harmony lies sixth in the 19-boat fleet

There was a deceptive light breeze blowing in the marina as the boats left the dock, but in the race area there was virtually no wind, leaden skies, glassy seas and murky visibility. Up went the postponement flag and the waiting began. Fortunately, Half Ton Sailors are a resourceful lot and various coffee parties and swimming sessions sprang up to keep everyone entertained.

Eventually, though a light breeze began to establish itself sufficiently for Charlier to get the fleet underway for race two. With the wind rarely getting above five knots, it was hard work trying to stay in the wind lanes, keep clear air, stay on the right side of the tide and constantly change gears to keep the boats moving. Robbie Tregear's Per Elisa once again demonstrated that she and her team revel in light airs by beating Philippe Pillate's General Tapioca into second place by just over two minutes. Tapioca had had her work cut out to fend off the pack with Jacques Lemaire's Waverider taking third, Tom Florizoone's Red Cloud fourth and Toni Stoschek and Janne Tukolas' Superhero fifth.

As the boats came to the finish line for race two the slowly emerging sunshine killed the breeze and so another postponement was hoisted. Fortunately, the cloud returned and the wind filled in again allowing race three to be run. Off the start line the right side of the beat was favoured by the tide and initially looked good, but the breeze was building more rapidly on the left and at the first weather mark the boats from that side had gained a significant advantage. John Hick's 1985 Briand designed Rampage headed the fleet, closely pursued by Waverider, Ian Van Burm's 1980 Humphreys' designed Fantasy and Red Cloud. Per Elisa rounded in mid pack but immediately began to pick off the fleet. By the second weather mark Per Elisa was in the lead from Rampage and Red Cloud with Waverider fourth and Superhero fifth. Per Elisa went on to win the race by sixteen seconds from Waverider with Rampage third by just one second, Red Cloud fourth and Superhero fifth.

In the overall standings Per Elisa now has a perfect 1, 1, 1 scoreline to lead the regatta by six points from Waverider, who has jumped up from fourth place, leapfrogging Red Cloud who remains in third with eleven points. Having gone into the day second overall, David Cullen's Checkmate XV was very consistent with two sixth places, but drops down into fourth overall on fourteen points. Superhero was also extremely consistent with two fifth places, which added to yesterday's fifth place means that she remains in fifth overall, just one point behind Checkmate XV.

Waverider continues to lead the Vintage Division for unmodified boats, where Skippy's Ton, the 1984 Briand design owned by Nicolas Lejeune, is lying second and Fantasy third.

Ashore the traditional daily prize giving saw the Harken Winch Handles being presented to General Tapioca and Waverider and the Spinlock Deckvest Lifejacket to Skippy's Ton. The prize giving was followed by another Half Ton Classics Cup tradition - the Fancy Dress Party, where each team vies for the right to be named as the best disguised. As we write the jury is still out on the question of this year's winner, but for sure there are some spectacular costumes and a good time is being had by all.

Looking ahead the wind is due to increase over the remaining days of the regatta. Day three promises eight to ten knots from the west, increasing further into the mid to upper teens for Thursday and Friday.

The championship continues until Friday 24 August and will feature a mixture of windward/leeward, short coastal and long coastal courses, with a maximum of three races being sailed each day.

Provisional Top Five After Three Races

1. Per Elisa - 1, 1, 1 = 3
2. Waverider - 4, 3, 2 = 9
3. Red Cloud - 3, 4, 4 = 11
4. Checkmate XV - 2, 6, 6 = 14
5. Superhero - 5, 5, 5 = 15

Full results here

Published in Half Tonners Team

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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.


The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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