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Headcases Collect Another Title in J/24 Easterns in Howth

30th August 2021
Good company. J/24s in their 2021 style – in the foreground is Out of Control (David Kelly), one of two boats recently up-graded in a pandemic lockdown project in Rush
Good company. J/24s in their 2021 style – in the foreground is Out of Control (David Kelly), one of two boats recently up-graded in a pandemic lockdown project in Rush Credit: Annraoi Blaney

While several national and international classes are notably successful in having a truly all-Ireland spread, only in the J/24s would you somehow end up with ten different clubs from every part of the country coming up in lights in the final setting of the leaderboard.

But then Rod Johnstone's 45-year-old first pitch at yacht design has acquired something of a cult status among its devotees. And though there have been more than a few hyper-successful J Boat designs since (and then some), for the true aficionados, there's only one, and that's the 24.

Thus when impecunious young folk decide they've simply got to have a boat of their own, a class of such longevity offers a very wide selection of good-value doer-uppers. And once they get the boat restored and back in racing trim, they'll find the class is a friendly community with any amount of senior – and some very senior – lifelong enthusiasts who are generous with support and helpful advice.

Clean start. Three boats – 5219 (Il Ricco), 4212 (Scandal) and 4794 (Hard on Port) – are getting the best of it. At the end of the day, their overall placings were 5219: 4th overall, 4212: 12th oa, and 4794: 3rd overall. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyClean start. Three boats – 5219 (Il Ricco), 4212 (Scandal) and 4794 (Hard on Port) – are getting the best of it. At the end of the day, their overall placings were 5219: 4th overall, 4212: 12th oa, and 4794: 3rd overall. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Father of the Class – longtime enthusiast Flor O'Driscoll (centre) originally of Cobh but now very much of Bray, with his loyal crew in the process of receiving the prize for third overall.Father of the Class – longtime enthusiast Flor O'Driscoll (centre) originally of Cobh but now very much of Bray, with his loyal crew in the process of receiving the prize for third overall.

Thus although the class got together in strength for the recent J/24 Nationals in Sligo, with the prize this year being the Bicentenary-celebrating Ladies' Cup of Sligo Yacht Club, it was a distinctly storm-curtailed event. So with the pandemic restrictions being further eased, all the signs were there'd be a good turnout for this past weekend's WaterWipes J/24 Eastern Championship at Howth, and the signs were right on target.

Nevertheless, despite some warmly-welcomed fresh crews and boats entering the 18-fleet equation, up at the sharpest end of the fleet it was a case of As You Were with the clear overall winner being Headcase, the National Champion at Sligo, syndicate-owned and raced with Cillian Dickson on the helm, and sailing under the colours of Howth YC, Lough Ree YC, Mayo SC, and Ballyholme YC in a remarkable combination from which Munster is the only missing province.

Anyone who complains that the mainsail number and the spinnaker number on Crazy Horse (Luke McBride, Lough Swilly YC) don't match, and that the blue spinnaker on Scandal (Isobel Cahill, Howth YC) doesn't seem to gave a number at all, is missing the point of the contemporary J/24 Class in Ireland. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyAnyone who complains that the mainsail number and the spinnaker number on Crazy Horse (Luke McBride, Lough Swilly YC) don't match, and that the blue spinnaker on Scandal (Isobel Cahill, Howth YC) doesn't seem to gave a number at all, is missing the point of the contemporary J/24 Class in Ireland. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

The other domineer was Colm O'Flaherty of Sligo with Jana, who together with Headcase had put down a marker in the first race with the old one-two, while third went to Mark Usher of Greystones. But Race 2 saw a hugely popular win for the Father of the Class, Flor O'Driscoll of Bray, and this kept things a bit more open for the six-race series.

Line up the usual suspects….HYC Commodore Paddy Judge (centre) with the victorious HeadcasesLine up the usual suspects….HYC Commodore Paddy Judge (centre) with the victorious Headcases

Nevertheless, the underlying trend was irreversible, the final total having Headcase on 6pts, Jana on 13, and Flor O'Driscoll's Hard on Port on 16, just one point clear of Lough Erne's J P McCaldin on 17 in Il Ricco. A detailed analysis of the complete scorecard speaks volumes for the key role this timeless little boat plays at clubs throughout the country. And yes, it was noticed that between the J/24s and the 420s, Lough Ree YC was having an extremely successful weekend at Howth.

Results here

Sam O'Byrne, Quarter Master of the championship-winning Headcase Society, explaining how you can successfully campaign a J/24 with a crew drawn from three of Ireland's four provincesSam O'Byrne, Quarter Master of the championship-winning Headcase Society, explaining how you can successfully campaign a J/24 with a crew drawn from three of Ireland's four provinces

Published in J24
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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