The SB20 fleet had a nail-biter on Dublin Bay last night as seven boats battled each other and, more importantly, the weather gods. No fewer than four boats held, and then lost, the lead during the race.
After a general recall, the fleet got away at the second time of asking and beat their way up towards harbour mark in a 10-13 knot shifty westerly breeze (is there any other kind in Dublin Bay?). First around the mark were Sin Bin (Michael, Owen and Nevan) followed closely by Sacrebleu (Richard, Colin and Chris), Alert Packaging (Justin, Henrik and Gareth), Venuesworld.com (Ger, Rory and Chris), Defiant (Gerry et al), Sea Biscuit (Marty and Niall sailing two up) and Smoke on the Water (Bob et al). The kites were popped and the fleet raced on a tight starboard reach down to Omega before freeing off around Omega and gybing for Poldy. Venuesworld.com took an early gybe which paid massively, allowing them to overtake Sacrebleu and getting water on Sin Bin at Poldy mark.
Once around Poldy, the boats rounded up onto a beat and made their way back up to Omega mark. Venuesworld held onto their lead, extending slightly but the fleet weren’t giving up and were keeping in touch with the leaders. After rounding Omega for the second time, the course called for another run down to Poldy mark. Another early gybe paid dividends for Venuesworld and they extended on the fleet down the second run.
After Poldy, the fleet had a long beat into Bay mark where they got some great close up views of the visiting tall ships. By now though, the wind was beginning to slacken as per the forecast and the question was whether to go right out to sea and wait for the expected veer as per the forecast or to go left towards shore and get in out of the tide in the dying breeze. Venuesworld chose the wind while Sacrebleu, Sin Bin and Alert Packaging opted for the tide. The wind gradually died throughout the bay and what little was left generally hugged the shore, allowing Sacrebleu and Sin Bin to overtake Venuesworld by Bay mark and Alert Packaging to close within a few boat lengths of Venuesworld. Around the mark, Sacrebleu led by 10 boat lengths from Sin Bin who had a similar cushion over Venuesworld in third with Alert Packaging another few boat lengths behind in fourth.
The Race Committee stationed themselves at East mark intending to shorten the course at East mark so for all intents and purposes, it looked like a soldiers race to finish from here in the reach across the bay from Bay mark to East mark. That would have been way too easy... a calm patch off the end of the pier grabbed onto Sacrebleu and wouldn’t let go, allowing Sin Bin on a higher heading take the lead. However, they too soon slowed and Venuesworld and Alert Packaging taking an even higher line overtook both Sacrebleu and Sin Bin. The wind was down to the faintest of zephyrs with crews dropping jibs trying to get their gennakers to fill.
As the boats approached the finish, Sin Bin and Sacrebleu dropped their kites and the wind started to veer dramatically towards the northwest, then north, then north east, before finally settling in the east (in their part of the bay anyway!). However, they were being pushed down tide of the committee vessel and were doing everything in their power to keep the boats going. At the same time, a couple of hundred meters away, Venuesworld and Alert Packaging were approaching the finish line from up tide in a northerly wind. As the two pairs of lead boats converged, the Easterly took hold long enough for Sin Bin to cross Venuesworld with Alert Packaging tacking off before being crossed... as the lead boats approached the finish line, the wind swung around to the north once more enabling Alert Packaging to tack for the line and take the gun to a very popular and well-deserved win.
Sin Bin limped over in second quite some time later. Storming through the fleet was Sea Biscuit and the two lads kept her motoring in the really light stuff to take a creditable third place. Venuesworld and Sacrebleu crept slowly towards the line and in the end, Venuesworld stole fourth by a nose. The other competitors perhaps had more sense and retired up the last leg, ensuring that they got a tow home in the process.
After four races, the first discard has kicked in and Alert Packaging and Sin Bin are tied for first place on 5 points with a slender one point lead overall from Venuesworld in third. Sacrebleu is by no means out of the series on 11 points in fourth place.