When in doubt, send ’em round Lambay. That seems to be the feeling among Howth Yacht Club’s race officers as this uncertain semi-season gradually cranks into action. And with Saturday’s early-start Aqua Double-Hander Challenge seeing a greyish morning giving a fulfilled promise of sunshine to come, the trusty big island seven miles to the north of Howth Harbour came up on the course card with some windward work to get there and gentle progress back, all to fit in with the overall idea of a comfortably-finished event, well on time for a socially-distanced party.
What with a goodly selection of cruiser-racers, and all eight of the club and privately-owned J/80s showing their faces, plus a choice selection of Puppeteer 22s, there were 38 boats racing in idyllic conditions. And in the proper order of things, as they came round the island it was Stephen and Jenny Harris in the First 40.7 Tiger who held a good lead – all of twenty minutes.
But halfway back to Ireland’s Eye, the Leader’s Curse of being first to sail into a wind-hole struck down Tiger’s formerly stylish progress, and she sat there for all of that twenty minutes and more while back along the the fleet, Howth’s nimble flotilla of Half Tonners were best at wriggling their way towards the new breeze – a summer wind from the west – which brought everyone to the finish after around four hours of racing, every minute of it hugely appreciated following the pandemic-imposed drought.
Sam O’Byrne and Ryan Glynn read the wind-shift to perfection in Mata to lead fellow Half Tonner The Big Picture (Mike Evans & Des Flood) by a significant margin, which in turn saw the Evans boat clear of Stephen Quinn’s attractive J/97 Lambay Rules to provide the top three in Open IRC.
The White Sails Division was good day out for Kieran Jameson and Michael Wright on the former’s slightly-modified Sigma 38 and they took the gong with second going to the Malahide McAlister crew of Fore 5, while ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell with son Ben on the J/109 Outrajeous polled well to take third.
Diana Kissane and Graham Curran got it all together with the chartered HYC-owned J/109 Cryptohouse despite the challenges of the private sector, with brothers-in-law Ribert Dix and Richard Burrows bringing Jennie in second ahead of Paddy O’Neill’s Mojo.
The Puppeteer 22s will usually race with four or maybe five, but owners Alan Pearson and Alan Blay with Trick or Treat upped their personal work-rate to win from Honey Badger, with Neil Murphy bringing Yellow Peril in third.
As for the Howth 17s, they decided through the week that in a fore-shortened season it wasn’t fair to squander a precious Saturday by leading half of their crew ashore, so they sailed a normal fully-crewed club race. But now they may find themselves up against a revolutionary movement to dry-sail the boats, as Gerry Comferford (who is building his own completely new Howth 17 up at his house on the hill) was sufficiently fired up with fresh enthusiasm to launch the Class Association-owned almost-new Orla with just two hours to go to the start.
And then, didn’t he go out and win, Ian Malcolm taking second in Aura with the hotshot syndicate third in Deilginis, while a frequent contender for a place in the Howth 17 frame dreamed the afternoon away in waiting for the tide to return and give sufficient thickness of water to a temporarily very thin bit out at Ireland’s Eye, but then it was that kind of day.
Aqua Double-Hander at Howth Yacht Club Results
Aqua Double-Hander All Classes IRC: lst Mata (sailed by Stephen O’Byrne & Liam Glynn), 2nd The Big Picture (Mike Evans & Des Flood), 3rd Lambay Rules (Stephen Quinn and Kieran Cotter).
White Sails IRC: 1st Changeling (Kieran Jameson & Michael Wright), 2nd Force Five (R & J McAllister) 3rd Outrajeous (Richard & Ben Colwell).
J/80 1st Cryptohouse (Diana Kissane & Graham Curran), 2nd Jeannie (Robert Dix & Richard Burrows), 3rd Mojo (Paddy O’Neill & Aaron Jones).
Puppeteer 22s 1st Trick or Treat (Plan Pearson & Alan Blay), 2nd Honey Badger (Burke & May), 3rd Yellow Peril (Neil Murphy & P Costello.
Howths 17s (Club Course) 1st Orla (Gerry Comerford), 2nd Aura (Ian Malcolm) 3rd Deilginis (Massey/Toomey/Kenny).