Squally conditions challenge Frostbite sailors

27 January 2020
Squally conditions challenge Frostbite sailors
Following a cancellation due to lack of breeze the previous week, Howth YC Frostbite Laser sailors were relieved to launch and make their way to the race area in moderate 11 knot breeze and flat sea, though many were aware of stronger winds forecast for later that morning. Both races would be sailed on an Olympic course, and the Race Committee did a good job of getting underway on time, with the co-operation of the fleet who pushed the line hard but got their timing just right. Tide was mostly slack at the start of Race 1, leading to an even split in the fleet on the first beat, although by the second round it was more of a factor meaning the left-hand side, in out of the main flow, was preferred.
In the Standard rig, a smiling Ronan Wallace (top photo) proved to be the quickest after a hard fought battle throughout the race with Darragh Kelleher and Dave Kirwan, who finished in that order. Peter Hassett claimed the top spot in the Radials, with Peter Kilmartin and Scott McNally in second and third. The 4.7 fleet was conquered by Sophie Kilmartin with Lucy Butcher in second.
Race two got underway in similar conditions, but with the ebb tide now kicking in, most of the fleet opted for the left side of the beat. There were a few incidents of sailors underestimating the tide, causing some to get swept onto the windward mark and triggering a few minor pile ups.  
On the second beat, sailors found themselves heading towards a dark and very ominous looking black cloud approaching from the direction of Sutton and started mentally bracing themselves for what is often referred to as “a light dusting”.
With the front of the fleet two thirds of the way down the run, and back-markers just rounding the top mark, things got tricky. Rain showers, sustained gusts of up to 29.5 knots and building seas saw a significant portion of the fleet go swimming, many more than once, as focus shifted from racing to basic survival. The ever-vigilant RIB crews’ multi-tasking abilities were put to the test as they made sure all were safe and frustrated the plans of some sailors apparently intent on a quick trip to Wales.  
Once the squall had passed and left the fleet scattered and soggy, some sailors opted to head for the Harbour but the majority persevered with completing the course in the by now relatively benign 20 knots.
Ultimately, Darragh Keller did the best job of negotiating the tricky conditions in the full rig, closely followed by the relentless Ronan Wallace and Dave Kirwan.
Podium positions in the Radials were a carbon copy of the first race, while Sophie Kilmartin was the only finisher in the 4.7s, showing great skill and determination in recovering from a capsize on the run near the leeward mark that turned into a marathon of mini capsizes and near recoveries before she got the boat right way up and across the finish line to add to her haul of race wins.
Report by Zander Mackay and photos from Neil Murphy and Harry Gallagher.