Fickle winds for closing session

Post date: Sep 14, 2016 10:13:6 AM

In Dublin Bay racing terms the sign that the summer is over is the advent of the last Tuesday night race of the year. Seven Fireballs embraced the last of the Tuesday night races by their presence on the water and they got a very fickle evening of wind for their attendance.Throughout the day the forecast had been for 17 – 27 knots from the South but by 19:00, while the wind may have been southerly in direction, it certainly wasn’t in the strength range predicted. A windward-leeward with a spreader mark at the weather mark was set and in physical terms it ran parallel to the East Pier with the windward mark set inshore in Scotsman’s Bay.

For the first start the fleet were stockpiled at the committee boat end of the line until the Clancys, Conor & James (14807), broke away to start about halfway down the line and a couple of boat lengths apart from everyone else. Noel Butler, with Teddy Byrne deputising for Stephen Oram, (15061) followed the Clancys to the left side of the course and after securing a weather slot relative to the brothers proceeded to apply a loose cover on them for the early part of the beat. Four of the others, Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691), Louis Smyth & Francis Rowan (15007), Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865) and Peter & Michael Keegan (14676) also stayed left-ish while Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (14713) worked the right-hand side in solitude. The beat effectively turned into a soldier’s course with only a single tack required to get to the weather mark, but conditions were tricky with the breeze not uniform across the course. This was confirmed when Miller & Donnelly rounded the weather mark third behind Butler & Byrne and the Clancy brothers, even though they had taken the opposite approach to the beat. The Keegans rounded next but hadn’t spotted the spreader mark and lost two places when the spinnaker went up and then had to come back down sharpish. That allowed Smyth & Rowan and McKenna & O’Keeffe to get ahead in the pecking order.

The leg back to the leeward mark turned into more of a reach as the wind clocked leftwards, but even on this leg there were varying strengths of wind. Butler, as ever, had worked his usual magic to open up a significant lead on the chasing pack and, at the leeward mark he rounded up and took a short hitch to the left to ensure that he would be to windward of the fleet when they rounded in turn. He would take another hitch left about halfway up the “beat” to maintain his watching brief on the others. In reality, he needn’t have worried as he rounded the weather mark with a 1:55 advantage over the Clancys in second. He would extend this to 2:25 at the finish. The Clancys, meanwhile, had both McKenna and Miller snapping at their transom, but managed to hold both of them off as they rounded in second place.

Smyth & Rowan now joined Miller and McKenna at the latter stages of the windward leg and down the final leg to the finish in the fight to occupy the last podium place. However, Miller & Donnelly won out to finish third, while Smyth and McKenna were probably overlapped, from my vantage point as they crossed the line.

With the wind constantly flicking left, the race management team adjusted the course by moving the weather mark the best part of 250m eastwards giving a transit for the weather mark closer to the 40-foot bathing spot. Course X1 was signalled again, two roundings of the weather mark, with spreader, and a downwind finish.

The Clancys and Miller & Donnelly decided to show their hand early and hovered around the pin end of the line. Butler & Byrne were at the opposite end but interestingly all started on port tack, initially heading inshore. The Keegans got their times wrong and were left behind at the start and 50m off the start line it appeared as if Conor Clancy and Frank Miller had got it right when they occupied the windward slots on the course with Butler much further to leeward. However, the fickle distribution of wind across the course manifested itself again when Butler, sailing faster, got out from underneath the other two to tack across the fleet on starboard and ahead of everyone. That was the signal for Clancy to go further left again, leaving Miller to pioneer his own route up the inner left-hand side. This soon left Miller as the leeward-most boat as Clancy and then McKenna worked the area to windward of him. When Miller came across on starboard he crossed ahead of Clancy but behind McKenna. The problem didn’t appear to be getting inshore, the starboard hitch to get across to the mark was proving infinitely more challenging. The rounding sequence was Butler, Clancy, McKenna, Miller, Chambers, Smyth and Keegan.

With Butler and Clancy seemingly clear, Chambers & McGuire with a more windward position sailed past both McKenna and Miller. The adjacent Mermaid, also under spinnaker, didn’t help the latter’s cause, but once they got out from underneath it, both Miller and McKenna would re-join the battle with Chambers for third position and all three closed on Clancy as they approached the leeward mark. Clancy and McKenna rounded that overlapped and like Butler before them, the tactic seemed to be to harden up and proceed inshore. Now only Butler seemed to be safe as the two boats overlapped at the mark fought for second place with McKenna winning out. However, there were to be a few more throws of the dice before the weather mark was reached. Again, the problem seemed to be getting left. There seemed to be breeze on the water, but the speed and angle of the boats as they fought to go left suggested it wasn’t “plain sailing”. Eventually they rounded the final weather mark of the season with the order:- Butler, McKenna, Clancy, Chambers, Miller, Smyth and Keegan. The final place change of the 2016 DBSC Fireball Series saw Miller & Donnelly overtake Chambers & McGuire to claim fourth place behind Butler, McKenna and Clancy.