The fat lady hadn’t sung……….or the sailing equivalent!

Post date: Feb 06, 2017 1:48:15 PM

In truth, the storyline above is only one of a number of possible headlines that I contemplated before writing this report. Last week I wrote of the vagaries of weather forecasting and this week was no different and that too could form a headline. As I had been “booked” to sail earlier than normal in the preceding week, I was watching the forecast for Sunday correspondingly early as well. By Wednesday, the seven-day forecast on XCWeather was suggesting that sailing wouldn’t be possible at all. But as the week progressed, so the forecast became more favourable, until at 12 noon on Sunday, the forecast for 15:00 was down to 9 – 14 knots from a westerly direction.Except it seems, that wasn’t the case. As I stopped at a red light on my way to the club, a well-known sailing character was “loitering with intent” outside the chandlers, waiting for them to open. He told me that 10 minutes prior there wasn’t a breath inside the harbour, whereas there was now enough to get a race underway. Indeed, after the race I found out that the big-boat racing of the morning had been cancelled due to a lack of wind.

Rigging in a hurry, because I had arrived late, again the suggestion was that there wasn’t a great deal of breeze but as we launched the word was that we were going to be sailing outside. That suggested breeze! And oh how much breeze there was – full on trapezing conditions!

A five-lap race was set outside the harbour with a start area just to the west of the harbour mouth. Inside the harbour there was some protection from the westerly even if there was the occasional squall coming across the water, but once outside, rigs were adjusted as the full force of the westerly became apparent. One Fireball took a swim before the start!

Eight Fireballs assembled for the start and they all headed leftwards off the start line, in parallel with the PY fleet which had gone that direction as well, six minutes earlier. Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) got quickly into the groove and started to pull away at an early stage. Behind them a tight bunch formed, made up of Frank Miller & Ed Butler (14713), Conor & James Clancy (14807), Alistair Court & Gordon Syme (14706) and Louise McKenna & Cormac Bradley (14691). Darragh Dineen and crew, with sail number 15058, were in touch with this bigger group but Neil Colin & Margaret Casey (14775) and Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865) were slightly off the pace and both became early retirees, with the former pair caught out by the chill of the westerly and the robust conditions – they had too few layers on!

Butler & Oram led comfortably at the first weather mark but the group that followed them was very tight with McKenna on the inside, Miller to her weather, Court to Miller’s weather and the Clancys a bit further out on the outside of the bunch – none of them having clear water (in a bow to stern sense) relative to the others. Behind the bunch, Dineen was lurking!

While the fleet all gybed at Mark 2 the first time, it wasn’t the right thing to do because it left the approach to Mark 3 awkward as one had to sail by the lee to get there. However, after everyone in the bunch had gybed, McKenna was the windward-most boat and sailed into a clear 2nd place by Mark 3. Mark 3 to Mark 4 was too tight even for Butler & Oram, so the rest of us followed their lead and dropped bag for a tight two sail reach across the bottom of the course.

Whereas everyone had gone principally left on the first beat, the fashionable thing to do the second time was go right. Butler and McKenna went this way but the boats behind them were eventually required to go left and work a course inside the confines of the course. Up the second beat the Clancys took over second spot though they were a good distance behind Butler & Oram. McKenna, Miller & Court then took over the competitive mantle as they rounded the weather mark and charged off towards Mark 2, this time sailing past Mark 2 to get a better angle in to Mark 3. McKenna held the other two off to Mark 3 before dropping the spinnaker and putting the leeward sheet under the boat.

This time McKenna followed Butler & Clancy by going left on the beat but couldn’t cover both her chasers as Miller went right while after a short hitch to the right, Court also came left. By the third weather mark, Butler & Clancy were comfortable and both Miller & Court had passed McKenna to relegate her to fifth. A spinnaker hoist was attempted to see if the sheet under the boat could be freed but to no avail. Miller & Court then played cat and mouse with each other with Miller flying spinnaker across the bottom reach on the third lap.

At the front of the fleet, there was no sense that Butler would be headed by Clancy, he was comfortably ahead. However, by the last rounding of Mark 3, the distance between them had closed significantly though Butler still had the lead. But on the last reach from Mark 3 to Mark 4, Butler & Oram decided to fly bag and soon found themselves having to bear off considerably before being forced into an Aussie drop to get back to Mark 4. Clancy played safe and two-sailed the leg in a straight line to go into the lead. In the short hitch to the finish, Clancy kept a vigil on Butler to secure an unexpected win! The fat lady had sung!

Afterwards it turned out that Butler & Oram lost their significant lead in a capsize, with spinnaker, when they went wide at Mark 2. However, while they righted quickly, the spinnaker sheet was snagged on the boom which wasn’t ideal in the conditions. The different approaches to the last leg was down to personal choice, but from my perspective on the water, flying bag across the bottom of the course cost Butler & Oram the win.

Darragh Dineen and crew won the Frostbite Mugs for the day.