Wednesday, April 1st marked the day that the Cork Harbour National 18 fleet would begin their April League. This league is traditionally marked as the beginning of their racing season. As was predicted, the crewed-by-three 18 footers had their league cancelled. This was of no moment to the big dinghy class and soon enough, racing had been organised elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the races would not be run in any of the usual spots. Instead, the National 18 class decided to take a step into the unknown world of virtual online sailing. No beauty scenes to be spoken of, but in replacement of the gulls and sunlight there would be simple, short and competitive online racing for the National 18 fleet.
A competitor from each boat would enter the six races scheduled. With the first gun set for 20:00 pm, twenty boats lined up on the start line to begin race one. It became evident who had been practising, with the computer-savvy competitors flying into the lead. Unfortunately, the game crashed for most of the fleet and had to be abandoned. We’ll pretend it was a squall.
Race two began with closer racing, as the fleet improved their button pressing. It’s no mainsheet, but the racing was tight and competitive. Wildcard Alex Barry racing his GP14 “Gee Pee” took out race two. In second place was Charles Dwyer racing his 18 “Shark II”. Making up third was Adam McCarthy, racing the well known “Badger”.
Race three was close but eventually taken out by Colin Barry racing “Herbie”. Staying consistent in second place was Dwyer in “Shark II”. In third place was Paddy Crosbie, racing “Second Wind”.
By the time race, four came around, the buttons had been pressed enough for the stragglers to take on the “gamers”. McCarthy in “Badger” dominated the fleet and won the race. In second was Colin Barry racing “Herbie” and in third was the familiar “Shark II” raced by Dwyer. By this stage, it was clear who was the dominant force, with race four being taken out by Crosbie in “Second Wind”. Keeping a consistent second was “Shark II” raced by Dwyer, with old “Badger” raced by McCarthy making up third.
The final race of the day was won by “Badger” raced by Adam McCarthy, who pulled into the overall lead with his two strong bullets. Coming second in that race was “Oystercatcher” (raced by your overjoyed and slightly confused correspondent). Making up third was Paddy Crosbie in “Second Wind”.
Overall, a brilliant start to the virtual National 18 April League. Great fun and great racing, even without the smell of the sea. In the end, it’s all good craic. We believe Rory Fitzpatrick in “Blacklist” came the closest to genuine freshwater activity, having attempted to take his iPad for a swim mid-race.
Next week’s racing will be held in the same place, with all National 18’s and their representatives present and correct.