Don’t risk a capsize!

Post date: Mar 07, 2017 9:4:48 AM

For the first Sunday of March it was cold and blustery and the racing scene in Dun Laoghaire, for the Fireballs at least, was conspicuous by the absence of Noel Butler, Stephen Oram or their Fireball, 15061. In all the time I have tried to cover the Frostbite racing I think I can count on one hand the number of times that there was no presence at all from this particular combination. It left the race as an easy one for the Clancy Brothers Conor & James (14807) to win, as by the time I reached the harbour, they had a comfortable lead which was never challenged. Behind them Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (14713) sailed a conservative race without any spinnaker action that I saw to finish second. Alistair Court and Gordon Syme were much more adventurous as they flew spinnaker across the bottom reach of the trapezoid course where nobody else bothered. However, for all their sense of adventure, they could not close the gap on Miller & Donnelly. The fourth placed boat was the “pink ladies”, Louise & Hermine (14691) who also sailed a conservative race to stay upright.

Initially the weather station in the harbour complex was not giving any details but the wind was out of the western quadrant of the compass and on my way out is was showing a wind direction of 300˚, a base wind strength of 18 knots with gusts going up to 24 knots and an air temperature of 6.9˚.

With this wind direction the Race Officer was able to set one of the longer courses across the width of the harbour with a weather mark off the block house on the West Pier, No. 2 off the entrance to the marina, No.3 just off the end of the HSS terminal and No.4 in the vicinity of the monument on the East Pier. The beat was sailed by taking a port tack to the end of the East Pier before crossing the course on starboard. That left everyone putting in a port tack approach to the weather mark.

The top reach was challenging and none of the Fireballs flew spinnaker with the exception of the Clancys who hoisted just as they approached No.2 each time. 2 to 3 was sailed on starboard tack to an area just to windward of the HSS Terminal, at which point a gybe was undertaken to sail towards No.3. In each instance the Clancys dropped at No.3. Court and Syme did fly spinnaker across the bottom reach but the price to be paid was falling off the rhumb line between the two marks. It was very challenging as evidenced by a flogging mainsail over the second half of the leg.

The four boats were well spread out with Clancys having a lead the length of the top reach over Miller and Donnelly and the other gaps between the boats were also sizeable.

The award for boat-handling must go to the solitary Enterprise which has contested all the Frostbites this season. Scorching along the bottom reach of the trapezoid, I caught sight of one of the crew being washed overboard, to windward. Despite the blustery conditions, the remaining crew member was able to take some form of control, turn the boat around and sail back towards their crew member who then clambered over the transom to allow them to resume the race which they finished.