Champagne not so evident!

Post date: May 18, 2016 2:24:2 PM

After the champagne conditions enjoyed by the ten boats that contested the Ulsters on Belfast Lough on the weekend just past, a marginally smaller fleet of eight boats had slightly less glamorous conditions on Scotsman’s Bay in Dun Laoghaire last night. The blue skies and accompanying temperatures gave way to slightly overcast conditions and a forecast that suggested we could expect rain from the west. The rain didn’t materialise until much later in the evening and we enjoyed good wind conditions, though it wasn’t coming from the direction that XCWeather had suggested, SSW, but rather from the east. With a flooding tide, the scheduled start was 3hrs off high tide and everyone would be thinking head inshore. And so they did off a crowded committee boat end. With the tide pushing the fleet behind the line, there was room for a bit of aggression on the start line and the fleet got bunched up with Frank Miller & Cormac Bradley sitting to weather of Noel Butler & Stephen Oram with the Clancy brothers, Conor & James in close proximity. Slightly astern of them could be found the other players, Louis Smyth & Joe O’Reilly, Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe, Cariosa Power & Marie Barry, Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire and Darragh McDonagh & crew.

While everyone decided to go inshore for the windward/leeward course, the initial decision on how far out to go to the left before the right hand turn was the only variable off the line. Once inshore, the next decision was how far in to go, relative to the starboard layline. Team Clancy, Butler/Oram and Miller/Bradley opened a marginal gap on the balance of the fleet with Butler/Oram leading the charge to the weather mark. Team Clancy and Miller/Bradley crossed each other with Team Clancy tacking to occupy a weather slot on the layline approach relative to Miller. Miller bailed out and conceded the 2nd place rounding to Team Clancy to give a rounding order of Butler, Clancy, Miller, Smyth, McKenna and Chambers.

The fleet headed offshore to benefit from the flooding tide and the lead two boats got into close company as they headed off to the leeward mark. Unusually, Team Clancy gained the upper hand on this downwind leg to round the leeward mark in the lead. Thereafter, the running order was unchanged. There was some confusion on our boat as to how many laps we were sailing and in the bar afterwards it turned out we weren’t the only ones confused.

A triangle-sausage-triangle course was set for the 2nd race of the evening. With slightly less tide, the fleet were a little less cramped at the committee boat end but an individual recall was signalled at the start and Messrs Butler and Oram went back and restarted. Chambers/McGuire were well placed at the start but in her enthusiasm to tell her helm what signals were flying – after the two sound signals – Brenda went swimming and that inhibited their progress up the beat. Even though conventional wisdom would suggest otherwise, Power/Barry went hard left, against the tide and didn’t seem to suffer any consequence of theoretically fighting the tide. We surmised later that there may have been better breeze further out. Team Clancy powered away and were never seen again. By this stage an Irish Naval vessel had taken up station to windward of the course so the first reach of the triangle might have been a little more subdued than the RC might have preferred. Behind the Clancys the ladies were in the driving seats, with McKenna and Power leading the chasing pack, Smyth and Butler were next, followed by Miller, being pressed by Chambers with McDonagh only marginally further astern.

The second reach was a lot tighter and this allowed the heavier male crews to close up on the ladies in front. Smyth and Butler were still in close company but Miller was able to sail through Power wind to gain a place. Rounding astern of Butler and Oram, Miller was persuaded by his crew to head out to sea, buoyed by the success of Power on the first beat. However, while no distance was lost, no places were gained either. The running order at the second windward mark was Clancy, McKenna, Smyth, Butler, Miller, Power, Chambers, McDonagh and everyone gybed onto port reflecting a shoreward shift in the wind.

Butler and Smyth were both getting “hot and bothered” as they sailed down the sausage with a robust exchange of who was where and what the other should be doing! Within a short distance, McKenna, Smyth, Butler and Miller were sharing a modest piece of water with the leeward mark approaching rapidly. Miller’s crew intervened again to suggest an early spinnaker drop and gybe which was rewarded when a gap big enough for 1½ Fireball widths (at least) to round the mark unmolested. This time there would be no hitch to sea. As Butler, Smyth and Miller headed inshore, Smyth was the meat in a very tight sandwich. Having gone out the back, Smyth was then able to tack first – onto starboard. Butler and Miller hung on a bit longer before tacking and sailing in parallel up the right hand side of the beat though neither were in a position to round the weather mark.

Having sailed to a position to leeward of the weather mark both had to put in a tack to get back to the starboard layline – only to be met by a single-hander of the PY fleet approaching the weather mark on starboard. Miller bore off to round the transom of the single-hander and tacked outside him to round. It seems this was not to Butler’s satisfaction, we were to learn later (in the bar) as the manoeuvre led to shouting which we assumed to be directed at the single-hander, incorrectly. The two Fireballs rounded in close company and Miller edged ahead on the first reach keeping a wary eye on both Butler and Smyth who was hovering should either of the other two get it wrong. Overlapped for a large part of the leg, Miller eked ahead in time to push Butler outside him at the gybe mark and gybed ahead. On the second reach a gap of a couple of boat-lengths developed in Miller’s favour as the pair headed to the last leeward mark of the evening.

The expectation was of a short hitch to windward for the finish after the leeward mark, but though the committee boat was flying a blue flag – on station – it was sitting to leeward of the leeward mark. Team Clancy were long gone so they weren’t of any help in deciding how to finish. So after an anxious exchange of views, Miller & Bradley decided to drop and round the leeward mark conventionally. To their relief, there was a finishing sound signal and the first glimpse of an “S for shorten” flag. Thus the finishing order was Clancy, Miller, Butler, and Smyth.

After 6 races completed, Noel Butler & Stephan Oram lead with 8pts, followed by Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe with 15pts and Louis Smyth & Joe O’Reilly with 17pts.