After what might prove to be the last of the mild autumnal weather for the MSL Park Motors Mercedes Benz Autumn League in Howth Yacht Club this weekend, the completion of the fourth race in this series means that a discard now applies, allowing the competing boats to rid themselves of their worst score and concentrating the minds of the strategists.
On the Inshore 'one-design fleet' Course, some very close racing has led to four boats battling for the scratch prize, with Algie Pearson's Trick or Treating leading the chasing pack that includes Gold Dust, Yellow Peril and Harlequin. The Murphy/ Costello owned Yellow Peril is also in the leading position on handicap scoring, with 3 points separating them from Gerry Kennedy's Schiggy. Discarding an initial 'Did Not Start' for the first race of the series, Jeff Kay's Chatterbox completed a hat-trick of wins in the Squib class ensuring top spot in the scratch competition as well as dominating the handicap division. As per the Notce of Race, it should be noted that boats receiving scratch or IRC prizes (daily and overall) are not eligible for performance-rated handicap prizes. A second place this week for Peter Courtney's Howth 17 Oona consolidates their team's position at the top of the scratch leaderboard, putting it up to the chasing fleet within the 117 year-old class. They also top the handicap division which, as noted previously, sees 2nd placed Hera as the real contender once not appearing on the scratch division podium.
On the more northerly racecourse, the cruiser classes also encountered light winds and tricky conditions. However Pat Kelly's J109 Storm demonstrated that it's name belies the ability to manage the light airs with equal authority and will give 2nd placed Flashback no favours as both boats contend the Class 1 IRC honours over the remaining 2 weeks. Whilst it's far from over just yet, Flashback and Dear Prudence may be left to battle for the ECHO prize. Another win for Dave Cullen and crew on Checkmate XV sees them just 2 points clear of 2nd-placed Lambay Rules in Class 2 IRC while all the prominent IRC teams also dominate the ECHO pole positions - that prize is certainly up for grabs.
In Class 3, the HYC K25 team on Kilcullen showed their strength in their squad by finishing second in IRC and consolidating their top spot despite many of their team contending the ISA Senior All Ireland Helmsman's Championships in Dun Laoghaire this weekend. It would appear to this writer that Tobago could be prominently positioned to battle for the ECHO prize by the end of the series. In Class 4, White Lotus and Splashdance share top spot in the IRC division, while the maths suggest that Changeling might be clearing a spot on the mantlepiece for the ECHO prize. The Class 5 fleet is an extraordinary combination of experience and racing prowess, with Harry Byrne's Alphida leading the IRC division from Windsor Lauden and Steffi Ennis' Demelza and Robert Micheal's Mistique of Malahide. With 2 races to go, and in the ECHO division, all eyes will be on Kevin O'Byrne's Mary Ellen and Richard McAllister's Force Five.