CHALLENGE Squib Easterns title returns to Howth
The 2023 challenge Squib Eastern Championships hosted by Howth YC provided 23 teams with an event held in light breezes and under the recently unfamiliar glare of glorious sunshine.
Saturday morning’s clearing fog left Principal Race Officer Derek Bothwell with no option but to delay for a short time before the pea soup diluted and the fleet snaked out of the harbour.
Once the breeze settled, Derek promptly sent the competitors on their way, with a long-held early lead by the host club’s “Kerfuffle” (Dalton & Merry) overtaken by the “Granat” team (Stewart & Hare) from the Royal Irish YC sealing the Race 1 deal with Howth’s “Cool Beans” (Class Captain Tom O’Reilly and Phil Merry) pocketing a tasty 2nd place.
The bit was between “Granat”’s teeth and they drove it like it was stolen to dominate Race 2, with “Kerfuffle” followed by “Dogwatch” (Terry Rowan from Royal North of Ireland YC and his HYC Puppeteer Class Captain Crew Paul McMahon). Howth was representing!
Speed was of the essence to rein in “Granat” and “Kerfuffle” hit the hyperspace button for a Race 3 win. The second swift RIYC boat “Ruby Blue” (O’Connell & O’Donoghue) followed, with “Blue” (Hanna & Kelly from Killyleagh YC) taking 3rd.
A delayed start to the first day and fried brains from the downwind legs sent the fleet ashore for recuperation and a dinner arranged in a characteristically weird Tetras layout. “Kerfuffle” lead “Granat” by a single point as night set in.
Spat out of the harbour on Sunday morning by a strong flood tide but in near-zero breeze, some boats chose to tie up off the Spit Mark at Ireland’s Eye to wait for the fun to begin. Once the wind appeared, the Race Management team wasn’t long opening the traps for Race 4. “Kerfuffle” laid its claim to that race, chased by multiple championship winners “Quickstep III” (Patterson & Nolan from RNIYC) and the fleet’s oldest boat, Squib 24 “Femme Fatale” (Delany & Fenton representing RStGYC and Arklow SC”.
At this stage “Kerfuffle” and “Granat” were locked in a battle royale and the two boats knew the championship outcome would depend on one leading the other over the line in the final two races. Sacrificing a maybe, coulda-woulda Race 5 win, the Howth boat made sure the Dublin Bay boat didn’t escape. It was maths at play! “Femme Fatale” took that race win ahead of “Quickstep III” and Howth’s “Durt” (O’Kelly & Stanley).
Last race…. “Granat” had to beat “Kerfuffle” by 5 places to take the title. Pre-start match racing was the order of the day but the Howth boat shook off its rival at a bumpy start line and kept the points gap high enough to take the silverware. Kinsale’s “Outlaw” (Travers & O’Riordan) demolished the fleet in Race 6, chased by “Quickstep III” and “Durt”. “Outlaw” did enough to split “Kerfuffle” and “Granat” overall.
“Cool Beans” took the Silver Fleet honours just ahead of Howth’s “Tears in Heaven” (McMahon & Sommerville)
At the tea and medals ceremony, Commodore Neil Murphy acknowledged the work put in by Class Captain Thomas O’Reilly, Fergus O’Kelly, Ronan MacDonell and Emmet Dalton for pulling the event together. Derek Bothwell went away well balanced with a bottle of his favourite tipple for each arm and sponsors challenge were given a warm round of applause from the assembled sailors and supporters.
Howth YC will host the 2024 Squib Irish Championships and already at least two new local owners have been shopping!