Sunshine start for the second half of the Frostbites

Post date: Jan 11, 2016 9:27:56 AM

The early morning forecast told the waking masses that snow had fallen on high ground overnight and on coming ashore after two races, the hills behind Dun Laoghaire had a light dusting of the white stuff. But for the Fireballs racing on the first Sunday of the second half of the Frostbite Series, the predominant weather was sunshine and blue skies. The wind was a “bit all over the place” with some strong gusts sweeping over the race course but the average wind strength was quite modest. The weather app, “Windfinder” has recorded the wind as being 12 – 18 knots from the SW, with an air temperature of 6˚.

The reconnaissance of the course in advance of the race suggested that there was better wind on the right hand side of the course, the problem with going left was that you got under the lee of the land that bit sooner. The bias of the line favoured a pin-end start so the debate was whether to commit to that end or to hedge one’s bets and start on the middle of the line to facilitate an early departure to the right.

Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) and the Clancy Brothers, Conor and James were in close company at the pin end and at the starting signal they both tacked onto port to set off for the weather mark. Those closer to the committee boat did the same thing but at slightly different times to the two boats mentioned. The starting manoeuvre by Butler & Clancy effectively sealed the race for them as they were never headed thereafter. On days such as these, Neil Colin and Margaret Casey (14775) come into their own and they worked the left hand side of the course as well to round the weather mark in 3rd place. 4th place at this first mark of the course went to Frank Miller and Cormac Bradley (14713) who had tacked off the line earlier than most and were looking good on the right hand side until a header on starboard tack allowed the aforementioned Colin & Casey to get ahead of them. The first reach of the 4-lap trapezoid course was tight but spinnakers were flown. On the next leg there were a variety of approaches to getting to Mark 3 Butler, Clancy, Miller went right, Colin and Alistair Court & Gordon Syme (14706) went left as did some of those who were immediately behind Miller at Mark 1. This led to a convergence at Mark 3 with two boats exchanging views of the applicability of water at the mark to the rounding. Miller & Bradley couldn’t catch Colin & Casey and for the balance of the race, the first four boats weren’t challenged on the race course.

The top reach of the trapezoid became tighter as the wind shifted eastwards and on the second lap no spinnakers were flown, but the wind eased again and three sail reaches reverted to being the order of the day.

Behind the first four boats the competition was between Court/Syme, the all-lady crew of Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691) and Darragh McDonagh (14330).

A second, shorter race was sailed in wind that was starting to ease in strength with less frequent gusts. The weather mark stayed where it was, just off the approach to the marina in the harbour, but No. 2 was dropped a little further into the harbour to make the reaches less testing.

Colin & Casey stole the march on the fleet for the second start with a port tack start on the pin. They managed to clear the “cluster” of boats at that end of the line and headed off with a distinct advantage on the rest of the fleet. Miller & Bradley has a poor start, having to duck transoms but the advantage was that they got out to the right hand side. Colin held the lead to the weather mark, chased by Butler & Clancy with Miller pulling in to 4th place. Behind them the other all-lady team of Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865) were leading the chase. Again the first four places stayed stable for the first lap. At Mark 4 Butler & Clancy decided to work the left hand side of the course while Colin stayed right, as did Miller. Halfway up the beat it appeared that the left hand gamble hadn’t paid off as Miller stayed in better breeze on the right. At the weather mark for the second time, Colin was still in charge but now Miller was in 2nd. Past Marks 2, 3 and 4 and Miller was able to stay ahead of Clancy who has passed out Butler.

Up the third and last beat, Butler and Clancy took the same left-ish approach. Miller, sailing between these two and Colin to his lee, but ahead, picked up his own independent supply of wind to sail through Colin’s weather and through the lee of the other two, and was lifted in to the mark. Now sitting in the lead, Miller & Bradley had to keep a watching brief on the Clancy brothers who had “squeaked” into 2nd place just ahead of Colin. From 1 to 2 to 3 Miller didn’t lose distance to the brothers but after the gybe at Mk. 3, taking a slightly windward course to 4, Miller ran out of breeze and despite having to go to leeward of two-single-handers, the brothers slipped into the lead just before Mk.4 and covered Miller up the short hitch to the finish.