When you sail out to the racecourse in a westerly breeze inside the harbour and observe the boats outside the harbour in an easterly breeze, you know that Dublin bay has something a little unusual in store for you... Such was the predicament for the SB20 fleet last Saturday afternoon.
OOD Brian Matthews and his team set up a windward leeward course for the green fleet in a moderate (F4) easterly breeze. By the time the fleet had reached the weather mark, the wind had swung around 15 degrees to the right and had really started to growl... (the weather station on the pier recorded a gust of 29knts (F7) just before 3pm).
First around the weather mark was Venuesworld.com (Ger, Rory and Chris) followed closely by Sin Bin (Michael, Owen and John) and Alert Packaging (Justin, Henrik and Ed) with the chasing pack not far behind. The kites went up and the fleet cantered down the run in a now howling near gale. The wind against tide meant that there was an awkward lumpy sea and with the SBs reaching speeds of over 15knts, the boats seemed to bounce across the top of the waves like skimming stones. Sin Bin was the first to gybe off followed by Venuesworld and the boats weaved their way through the beating dragon fleet. A rare mistake by Venuesworld resulted in a broach mid gybe giving Sin Bin the opportunity to pass at the leeward gate. Most boats suffered a wipeout or two down the run with two boats leaving crew members behind (I told you it was hairy!) thankfully all crew members were safely retrieved.
By the second weather mark, Venuesworld had caught back up with Sin Bin and Alert Packaging was still very much in the hunt. All three boats gybed off early but half way down the run, the wind calmed and shifted to a southerly breeze. Alert packaging were first to react, taking their kite down for the fetch to the "leeward" gate and then to the finish just beyond. Alert Packaging skilfully took the win from Sin Bin in second and Venuesworld in third. Fourth place went to Bango (James, Dave and Keith) ahead of Timber (Marty, Gary et al) and Mephisto in sixth. Unfortunately, there were a number of retirees as boats struggled to retrieve their full complement of crew and others (honourable mention to Sunday Brunch (Dave et al)) assisted them in the process.
The OOD had a short postponement to allow the wind to settle and it eventually did settle (briefly) to a F3 from a westerly direction. First around the weather mark was Venuesworld who had tacked off to the right shortly after the start. They were followed around by Bango in second just ahead of Alert packaging in third, Timber in fourth and Sin Bin in fifth. Sunday brunch, Mephisto and Seriously Bonkers (Peter and Nick) were battling hard to catch up. As the boats made their way down the run, the wind began to die. Venuesworld opted for the left gate mark while Bango split and went for the right gate mark. Sin Bin were able to creep inside Alert Packaging in third place around the leeward behind clear leader Venuesworld.
As the boats made their way up the second and last beat, that's when things got weird... Depending on where you were on the course and when, you could have experienced entirely different conditions to those mentioned below but the following is an accurate account of what happened to at least one boat out on the right hand side of the course... First of all, the wind started to die and veer around to the northwest. Eventually, the wind shut off altogether across the course and at least one boat (ahem!) were sailing backwards for a while. Then, the breeze started to fill in from the north east so boats hoisted their kites and started running towards the "weather" mark. At the weather mark, Venuesworld kept a narrow lead from Bango and Alert Packaging and started beating back to the "leeward" gate. By now, Mephisto was back in on the action too. The stragglers including Sin Bin, Sunday Brunch and Timber experienced the wind shutting off once more and barely scraped around the weather mark in a light northeasterly (again).
Shortly after these last three boats rounded the weather mark, the wind shifted back to the west once more and started coming in waves of 20+knt gusts, sometimes from the southwest, sometimes from the northwest, alternating between the two. These three boats hoisted their kites and rode the gusts towards the leeward gate, gybing with each lull in expectation of the gust from the other direction shortly thereafter. Venuesworld managed to stay in the centre of the course while Bango had gone far right and Alert Packaging and Mephisto went centre left. Venuesworld held on for the win by a good distance while Sin Bin managed to carve a path between the boats ahead, gybing numerous times down the run to keep in phase and sneaked over the line in a photo finish ahead of Mephisto in third and Alert Packaging in fourth, all three boats broaching as they went over the finish line! Series leader Bango, forced to drop their kite and two sail reach to the finish, had to settle for fifth.
Several therapy sessions will be required before the next DBSC race weekend. There is a break from DBSC next weekend as the Sportsboat cup is on in HYC from Friday 27th to Sunday 29th inclusive, incorporating the SB20 Easterns on the Saturday and Sunday. Organisers are hoping for c. 20 boats in the SB20 fleet and with 11 already entered and 5 more confirmed, that's looking possible so great racing is in store.