The morning dawned with a black, rainy sky blanketing the county of Cork. The air was humid and the drizzle was cold, all because of the infamous storm that has been hot news on every weather forecast the length of the country. It all looked decidedly ominous. It takes more than a storm to stop these weather-hardened sailors, so all arrived in Monkstown in fine spirits and ready for a morning’s racing.
Only a quarter of the regular fleet chose to race. This meant that only six competitors got out of their cars, to rig up their dinghies in the high wind. Onlookers were taken aback, as the league participants made ready to hit the water. Rigs were raised with great difficulty as the wind threatened to knock them back down. Monkstown residents were awoken with the sound of flogging sails. Rigging was completed and the sailors began the descent down the slip to hit the boiling waters of Monkstown Bay.
First to launch his Laser was MBSC’s Ronan Kenneally, as enthusiastic as ever to test the wild conditions. The wind ripped across the bay, averaging 25 knots and gusting over 30 knots from the South West. Alas, Kenneally broke his boom before anyone else had launched. He quickly retreated to shore, not put out in the slightest, where he simply rigged another boom and launched with the other sailors.
The six laser sailors sailed out to the course situated at the southern end of the Marina. The wind ripped down, tearing up the water. Race Officer Alan Fehily with his team, Judy Moynihan and John Hegarty, set a windward/leeward course with the help of Emmett O’ Sullivan and Simon Butler in the low-sprung crash boat.
The start was scheduled for 10:10 am. As the competitors blasted around in the heavy breeze, the start went into sequence right on time. A strong ebb tide pushed against the wind, making the start a tricky manoeuvre. With gusts hitting the water at 35 knots, the gun went and race one was underway.
The small fleet kept the racing close as the competitors battled up to the windward mark. The wind became patchy as they came closer to land, with extreme gusts from all angles threatening to knock the dinghies over. These were of no moment to the competitors and the fleet rounded the top mark in succession. Three rounds of the course were to be completed. The wind increased even more, causing a few capsizes among the fleet. As the finish line came into sight, it was MBSC’s Chris Bateman, Inniscarra’s James Long, and MBSC’s Ronan Kenneally in first, second and third. These positions held true across the line.
Race two began in equal amounts of wind. The sailors battled upwind in the solid 30 knots of wind, successfully staying upright. They reached the windward mark, with your correspondent in the lead. James Long was just behind, with Kenneally in third. Masts threatened to snap as the fleet screamed down to the leeward mark, where Bateman capsized in a wild gybe around the leeward mark, with Long and Kenneally planing right behind. Two rounds of the course later, and your correspondent managed to take first place. James long maintained his second place for the majority of the race, but he too capsized in a gybe around the leeward mark. This let Kenneally sail through into second place, while Long finished up in third.
The third and final race of the day was the most difficult, as it began in the most breeze. With the knowledge that all events across the country had been cancelled, the enthusiastic Cork sailors began the ascent to the windward mark. The gusts were vicious, knocking over half the fleet. Kenneally took the lead, ahead of your correspondent and James Long. As Kenneally and Bateman battled it out downwind, the competitors just behind screamed down to the leeward mark. Two insane, very close rounds of the course later, and your correspondent took first position. Kenneally followed up in second, while just behind James Long and RCYC’s Robin Bateman were having a battle of their own. A gust of over 30 knots managed to capsize Long, allowing Robin Bateman to sail through into third place.
Although the races were finished, nobody was out of the woods yet. The shoreline looked good, but there was still one more downwind home. A squall recorded over 35 knots tore up the bay, as Bateman and Kenneally screamed downwind, with insane amounts of pressure on the hull and rigs, boat speed topping over 20 knots, The two just made it back, broad-reaching across the dockyard. The other competitors were further up the bay and had further to come. This resulted in several wipeouts. Once upright, everyone enjoyed the crazy-fast broad reach home.
Once ashore safely, everyone staggered up the slip pulling their battered dinghies behind them. As usual, the sailors were in before 12 O'Clock. Showers, food and warmth awaited, but the competitors will remember how they had conquered the storm in the finest fashion possible. The lasers were put to bed, and the sailors departed.
Next week marks the final day of the series, so join us on the water for some of the finest dinghy racing in the harbour.