Penultimate Tuesday provides a keen competition

Post date: Aug 20, 2014 8:7:32 AM

The penultimate Tuesday night race of the DBSC Series of races for Fireballs produced an entertaining and competitive night of racing that saw the final result in question until the last lap.

Although my favoured website forecaster had been predicting light winds of the order of less than 10 knots, just as the afternoon progressed into evening some more breeze came through to give us a lively sail out to the race area. Five boats answered the starter’s call for a 3-lap triangular course with the wind coming from a bearing of 340˚. A windward mark was set off the East Pier of the harbour, the gybe mark was set inshore, and with a flooding tide, logic would have suggested that going offshore to gain the tidal effect, out from underneath the wind-shadow of the pier wall would be the way to go………and 60% of the fleet thought that way. Wrong!!

Mick Creighton & Stephen Oram (15061), Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (14775) and Louis Smyth & Cormac Bradley (15007) all went offshore after some last second manoeuvring to avoid being over the line at the start. This left the “inshore track” completely open to the two all-lady crews of Cariosa Power & Marie Barry (14854) and Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865). While the “60- per-centers” were keeping a close watch on each other the two inshore boats sailed a more relaxed first beat to round the weather mark in 1st and 2nd respectively. The other three boats had by now tacked back onto starboard and reading from inshore to offshore the sequence was Creighton, Colin and Smyth. The first two were below the mark with Colin in the controlling position, effectively blocking Creighton’s tack onto the port layline to round the mark – a repeat of a similar tactic the previous week when the shoe was on the other foot. Creighton eventually gybed out of his predicament to round the weather mark by a longer route behind Power, Chambers, Colin, and Smyth, but an oversized blanket would have covered the last three boats.

Smyth’s spinnaker hoist came “unstuck” with a fouled spinnaker halyard (internally) relegating him quickly to fifth place. Releasing the rig tension allowed that situation to be recovered, but would the spinnaker come down? All five boats gybed safely and the fleet condensed as they went down the second reach of the triangle. Creighton and Smyth locked horns halfway down the leg with a bit of barking at each other, but there was no contact and in any case both were keeping an eye on Colin as well. Power rounded the leeward mark in the lead but Chambers had a drop problem which saw her drift slightly to lee. Colin too had a difficult spinnaker drop but managed to stay ahead of both Creighton and Smyth. Initially all the boats headed offshore until Smyth took an early hitch inshore as much to get out of everyone else’s “dirty wind”. After all, the tactic had worked for the girls earlier. This tactic did bring some benefits as it allowed him to close on Creighton and Colin and overtake Chambers.

At the second weather mark the order was Power, Creighton, Colin, Smyth & Chambers. Down the run and Smyth got ahead of Colin and closely marginally on Creighton, but Power still had the lead. Cariosa & Marie were revelling in the conditions and proving very hard to catch. A tighter rounding by Smyth of the second leeward mark left him further inshore than Creighton and when the wind shifted shorewards, it left both Power and Smyth in “the pound seats”. The beat had become a long one-tack, slightly relaxed two sailer and with Creighton to leeward of him, Smyth was able to sail into second place. But there was one more throw of the dice!

With the wind going shorewards, it would mean that the first reach of the second triangle would be tighter, so it was with some surprise that we saw a red sail coming out of the leading boat. Surely not! Smyth & Bradley had already decided to two sail the leg and behind them Creighton & Oram were doing the same. Realising the error of their ways the red sail was recovered but not in time to save their lead and see two places lost to Smyth and Creighton. The gap between Smyth/Bradley and Creighton/Oram was, at this stage down to maybe 5-6 boat lengths. Could the former negotiate the last gybe and stay ahead on the spinnaker leg? Yes! The gybe was safely negotiated and while the two boats stayed in close contact, there was no sense that the pursuers were closing in on their quarry.

A tidy drop at the leeward mark saw Smyth safely round the last leeward mark for the two-sailer to the finish. Creighton & Oram were inside them but this wasn’t enough of an advantage to mount a final attack on the leaders. Colin got through the long-time race leaders to record third place on the night.

Thus, for the majority of the five entries, spinnaker decisions and handling influenced their evening’s pursuits, with Marie and Cariosa paying the heaviest price.

Thus with one race to sail, Butler & Oram are yet again secure in 1st place overall, but there should be an interesting race between Colin & Casey and Smyth & Bradley for the bridesmaid slot!

The Nationals at Lough Ree Yacht Club outside Athlone are just less than a month away and provisional arrangements with our hosts for the regatta are being discussed as this goes to print. The venue has been chosen for ease of access and the hospitality that we were afforded there last year when we went in September. Racing takes place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with an early afternoon “kick-off” proposed to accommodate those who want to travel on the Friday morning. A challenge has gone out to our “northern brethren” to have a presence at the regatta. Camping is available again so the idea is to try and emphasise the social potential as well as the racing.