Series leader Bango (James Gorman, Philip Lawton and Keith Staunton) held the slenderest of leads over the chasing pack, including Alert Packaging (Justin Burke et al) and Sin Bin (Michael O'Connor et al), but with Beijing 470 Olympian Lawton on board Bango calling the shots, they certainly came prepared for the fight.
Two races were scheduled in a light (6-10 knots) shifty east-northeasterly breeze that was oscillating through 40 degrees over the course of the day. The patchy and shifty breeze meant that there were big gains or losses to be made on each leg so it definitely wasn't over until you had crossed the finish line.
Race 1 saw a split of the fleet up the first beat, with Bango, Smoke on the Water (Bob Hobby, Louise McKenna et al) and Sin Bin going right in search of pressure and Alert Packaging, Bad (Jerry and Jimmy Dowlng), Defiant (G Jones et al), Timber (Marty Cuppage) and Sunday Brunch (Dave Dwyer at al) choosing the left.
A big left-hand shift up the first beat meant that 'the lefts' certainly had it and Alert Packaging, Defiant and Bad led into the weather mark while series leader Bango and Sin Bin had much work to do to catch up.
Down the first run, Alert Packaging and Bad gybed off onto port towards the left of the run in search of better breeze while Defiant, Bango and Sin Bin continued on on starboard towards the right of the run in expectation of the shift back. The right side of the run paid and by the leeward gate Alert Packaging held onto the narrowest of leads over Sin Bin and Defiant, who rounded the left-hand gate mark overlapped in hot pursuit of Alert Packaging.
Alert Packaging called the second beat beautifully, catching the breeze and the shifts to perfection and extended out their lead on the chasing pack. They rounded the weather mark with a handsome lead over the fleet and went on to take the gun after a leisurely stroll down the run followed by Sin Bin some distance behind in second.
There was still some drama to come, though, as Bango and Defiant were battling it out for third place coming into the final gate just to weather of the finish line. A quick gybing duel ensued and the more experienced heads on Bango saw them out gybe their rivals and get around the gate first and take third place.
Unfortunately for Defiant, disaster struck as they hit the gate mark, hooked it and dragged it out of position, much to the consternation of the following boats trying to finish. (It's a requirement to go through the gate on this last downwind leg.) Bad, Sunday Brunch and Smoke on the Water managed to take full advantage of their misfortune and claimed fourth, fifth and sixth places respectfully.
After the first race (race 7 of the series), the second discard kicked in, resulting in a shuffle at the top of the standings. Sin Bin now led by a few points from Bango and Alert Packaging but it was still all to play for as big numbers were possible in the light shifty breeze.
In the second race of the day, the final race of the first Saturday series, the OOD signalled three rounds of the outer course for the SBs. The majority of the fleet decided to go right up the first beat in search of pressure with the exception of Alert Packaging, Timber and Sunday Brunch. The rest of the fleet should really start paying attention to what these guys are doing because yet again they came up trumps at the weather mark. Again Sin Bin and Bango had left themselves with a lot to do.
A split down the run saw the fleet compress once more at the leeward gate and the back markers made gains on the leaders with Bango, Defiant and Sin Bin getting back in the hunt.
Bango and Sin Bin, keeping a watchful eye on each other, drag raced out to the right hand corner of the next beat taking some ground off Alert Packaging in the process who was methodically picking their way through the shifts up the middle of the beat.
It was definitely a day to be behind on the run and again the boats astern managed to make gains on the boats ahead on the second run. By the final leeward gate, Alert Packaging's lead had been cut to around four boat lengths from Sin Bin, with Bango a further four boat lengths back. So it was all down to the last lap.
The three lead boats got onto starboard tack immediately after the leeward gate and picked their way up the left side of the beat into the oncoming traffic of the squibs, sportsboat fleet, Dragons and Flying Fifteens. Tight covering tacks were being thrown in like confetti and with no quarter being asked or given, the oncoming traffic offered some opportunity for the following boats to break free from a tight cover.
Towards the top third of the beat, one such opportunity arose with Sin Bin managing to get some separation to the left of Alert Packaging. A favourable left-hand shift was enough to allow them sneak into a two-boat-length lead just before the weather mark.
Alert Packaging were not done yet, though, and chased hard down the run, gradually eating into Sin Bin's slender lead. As the two leaders simultaneously gybed onto port and sailed high towards the left side of the run – hoping to get over the boat ahead or protecting their breeze, depending on the boat you were in – Bango astern had one last throw of the dice and continued on starboard down the run to the opposite, right hand side of the course.
Alert Packaging, seeing that they couldn't quite get over the top of Sin Bin before the layline and in an effort to both overtake Sin Bin and keep in touch with Bango, gybed back onto starboard 15 boat lengths shy of the layline to the gate. So now we had Sin Bin out left, Alert Packaging in the middle and Bango out right –the top three boats in the series, all charging towards the final leeward gate to decide the winner.
Sin Bin continued to the starboard layline to the gate before gybing onto starboard 25 boat lengths out from the mark. Alert Packaging continued all the way to the port layline for the gate before gybing back onto port, 15 boat lengths out from the mark. Although Bango had gained massively out on the right hand side of the run, it wasn't quite enough to get ahead of Alert Packaging and they trailed them into the gate mark by two boat lengths.
With only a very short run to the finish after the gate (around five boat lengths) Bango's race was effectively run. It was all down to the cross between Alert Packaging and Sin Bin at the last leeward gate.
As the boats converged, Alert Packaging on the inside called for water at the last gate mark, five boat lengths for the finish. However, Sin Bin were clear ahead at the mark by about three-quarters of a boat length and snuck past for the win and the series, with Alert Packaging second in the race and the series and Bango taking third place in the race and third in the series.
It was very encouraging to see the new boys on Defiant and Timber and the prodigal sons (and daughter) on Sunday Brunch shaking it up at the top of the fleet with these boats leading or in the lead bunch around the first weather mark in both races. Without doubt they will be a force to be reckoned with once they get a bit more time in the boat and perfect their downwind gybing angles and gybes.
Next up for the fleet is the Westerns next weekend in beautiful Westport, Co Mayo with normal racing for those in Dublin Bay that can't make it.