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Bateman of Cork & Wallace of Wexford Tops in Howth’s Laser Round Ireland’s Eye Classic

9th March 2020
The Round Ireland’s Eye Race gets a clean start on Saturday in the sheltered waters of Howth Sound for the finale of Howth YC’s annual Laser Winter Frostbite series, a regular feature since 1974 The Round Ireland’s Eye Race gets a clean start on Saturday in the sheltered waters of Howth Sound for the finale of Howth YC’s annual Laser Winter Frostbite series, a regular feature since 1974

All-Ireland Junior Champion Chris Bateman of Monkstown Bay SC on Cork Harbour and seasoned participant Ronan Wallace of Wexford showed that local knowledge is not a pre-requisite to success in taking the top places in the time-honoured Round Ireland’s Eye Race, which on Saturday concluded Howth YC’s traditional Laser Winter Frostbite Series, a fixture event since 1974.

With the breeze already brisk and forecast to build, some of the competitors decided that discretion was better than valour and spectating had distinct advantages. The remaining 15 Standards and 3 Radials headed out for the Warm-up, or to be more accurate, Cool-down Race in the Sound. As a concession to the conditions - south-westerly gusting to 20 knots and changeable in direction - and to avoid wearing the sailors out too early, the ‘three triangles’ course was signalled by the Race Committee, always popular with the fleet on windy days when running dead downwind in a Laser with the water temperature below 10oC becomes unappealing.

A general recall showed the fleet was well up for the day and a U flag was broken out for the restart with Chris Bateman, visiting from Monkstown Bay SC for the day’s racing, being the only casualty. With swimming practice well underway, there was a ferocious battle between 4 or 5 sailors to avoid finishing last, with positions gained and lost on each leg as they each struggled to get to grips with the conditions.

Conor Costello was involved for a while but his heavy weather ability allowed him to break away, leaving Zander Mackay and Mark Kennedy to fight it out for the honour of being the last finisher - but with bragging rights over the retirees - before Mark ultimately took the place due to an unfortunate capsize at the last mark rounding. At the front of the fleet, the honours were equally hard-fought before Ronan Wallace took the gun in the Standards and Peter Kilmartin led the Radials home.

sheltered water2Close quarters racing inshore before the offshore sections provided a “Capsizefest”
Paul McMahon and Darach Dinneen gave a masterclass in tactical thinking by opting to skip the warm-up race in favour of last-minute refreshments ashore, staying fresh and dry to then increase the fleet for the main event round the multi-faceted and challenging Ireland’s Eye. By the time of its start, the conditions had become even more challenging, with the dense-air breeze now regularly heading for the mid-twenties and a steeply-building sea. The late arrivals joined the rest of a fleet by now somewhat tired and wet and were rewarded with a clean start for the concluding highlight.

What followed would later be described as a fast, memorable, terrifying and challenging Capsizefest, with lots of what older generations of Laser sailors are rumoured to have called ‘orgasmic planing’.

A feature of the event is that sailors have the choice of leaving the Island to port or starboard, their assessment based on the impact of wind direction, tide, sea state and the extent of wind shadowing expected from the Island’s high points. Only two sailors, both in Standard rigs, chose the clockwise route this year, Mike Evans doing best of them to eventually finish fourth. The second decided to head for home after reaching his self-imposed capsize limit before reaching the Martello Tower at the north-west end of the Island, with approximately a fifth of distance completed and the long legs along the north and east still to do.

For those choosing anti-clockwise, sailing into an ebb tide on the seaward side of the island with a very confused win-over-tide sea to deal with at the corners meant the rounding of the southern tip and the Stack challenged many, resulting in lots of shiny hull bottoms being put on display as capsizes quickly turned into energy-sapping turtles. Having swum and sailed their way around, the leading pack rounded the northwest corner at the Martello Tower to head down the Sound for the finish with a close battle still underway in both fleets, the outcome being mainly determined by who had the fewest capsizes and most energy left.

Chris Bateman’s victory in his first outing at the event gave the Standard rig sailors with more experience of the local waters a lot to think about, and his return next year to defend his title - allowing them a chance to redeem their pride - is much anticipated. Ronan Wallace and Darragh Sheridan filled the remaining podium positions while in the Radials, Peter Hassett was the top survivor, followed by Peter Kilmartin in second.

chris bateman wins3 He came, he saw, he conquered…..Chris Bateman’s debut in Howth’s classic Laser race Round Ireland’s Eye was a convincing success. He is seen here (left) with Howth Laser Captain Zander Mackay.

The fleet adjourned to the Clubhouse to ease tired bodies, rehydrate, share tales of adventure and enjoy the lunch and prizegiving for the Frostbite and Round the Island.

Next event for the Laser fleet is Howth’s Icebreaker Series (Sundays, March 22nd – Apr 12th) before the 2020 Laser Class Leinster Championship is hosted at HYC on the weekend of May 9/10.

Published in Howth YC
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Howth Yacht Club is the largest members sailing club in Ireland, with over 1,700 members. The club welcomes inquiries about membership - see top of this page for contact details.

Howth Yacht Club (HYC) is 125 years old. It operates from its award-winning building overlooking Howth Harbour that houses office, bar, dining, and changing facilities. Apart from the Clubhouse, HYC has a 250-berth marina, two cranes and a boat storage area. In addition. its moorings in the harbour are serviced by launch.

The Club employs up to 31 staff during the summer and is the largest employer in Howth village and has a turnover of €2.2m.

HYC normally provides an annual programme of club racing on a year-round basis as well as hosting a full calendar of International, National and Regional competitive events. It operates a fleet of two large committee boats, 9 RIBs, 5 J80 Sportboats, a J24 and a variety of sailing dinghies that are available for members and training. The Club is also growing its commercial activities afloat using its QUEST sail and power boat training operation while ashore it hosts a wide range of functions each year, including conferences, weddings, parties and the like.

Howth Yacht Club originated as Howth Sailing Club in 1895. In 1968 Howth Sailing Club combined with Howth Motor Yacht Club, which had operated from the West Pier since 1935, to form Howth Yacht Club. The new clubhouse was opened in 1987 with further extensions carried out and more planned for the future including dredging and expanded marina facilities.

HYC caters for sailors of all ages and run sailing courses throughout the year as part of being an Irish Sailing accredited training facility with its own sailing school.

The club has a fully serviced marina with berthing for 250 yachts and HYC is delighted to be able to welcome visitors to this famous and scenic area of Dublin.

New applications for membership are always welcome and can be accessed through its official website.

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