April has come upon us with so many podium positions suddenly taken by Irish sailors in major events that you could have been forgiven for thinking that our usual April 1st specials had been allowed to run on for a day or two extra writes W M Nixon. But before fully savouring the new successes, we must bid a final farewell to March, which had its moments of extreme excitement - and some taking of silverware too.
Nothing was more extreme than the RORC Easter Challenge in the Solent from March 25th to 27th, with the tail-end of the winter providing one final ferocious flick for a fleet which included several bats with Irish connections And within the series, nothing was more extreme than Black Sunday, March 27th, when hyper- black striker squalls of the kind that would make you wonder if the roof on the house was safe, let alone if you could carry extra downwind sails on the boat, were top of the agenda as they swept in at record speeds.
Yet Black Sunday was the best day for the Irish, with two wins being recorded in the final race. Until then, Anthony O’Leary’s Kery 40 Antix in the Fast40+ division had been had been out of the frame – albeit by a small margin – by what the owner had cheerfully admitted to be “silly mistakes”. But on that final day as mayhem was the experience of most of the fleet, Antix was beautifully in control at top performance, tearing up the Solent in a blaze of spray to take the final race win, though she wasn’t to finish first overall.
But in Class 2, Conor Phelan’s 2008-vintage Ker 36 Jump Juice had been lying second throughout the series, despite being up against some superbly-sailed boats which included America’s Cup sailors among their crews. Yet even the AC aces found themselves wiping out in spectacular style on Black Sunday, while Jump Juice streaked along in cool control to take the race win and the Class win overall to make Conor Phelan of Royal Cork YC the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for March 2016.