Frostbites go out with a bang (and a few whimpers)
08 March 2020
Saturday 7th of March saw the hosting of the much anticipated HYC Lasers ‘Round the Island’ race, which traditionally marks the end of the popular Frostbite Series. With the breeze already brisk and forecast to build, some of the competitors decided that discretion was better than valour and spectating had distinct advantages. However, the remaining 15 Standards and 3 Radials headed out for the warm-up, or to be more accurate, cool down race in the Sound. As a concession to the conditions - south westerly gusting to 20 knots and changeable in direction - and to avoid wearing the sailors out too early, the ‘three triangles’ course was signalled by the Race Committee, always popular with the fleet on windy days when running dead downwind in a Laser with the water temperature less than 10oC becomes very unappealing. A general recall showed the fleet was well up for the day and a U flag was broken out for the recall with Chris Bateman, visiting from Monkstown Bay SC for the day’s racing, being the only casualty. With swimming practice well under way, there was a ferocious battle between 4 or 5 sailors to avoid finishing last, with positions gained and lost on each leg as they all struggled to get to grips with the conditions. Conor Costello was involved for a while but his heavy weather ability allowed him to break away from the dog fight, leaving Zander Mackay and Mark Kennedy to fight it out for the honour of being last finisher (and with bragging rights over the retirees) before Mark ultimately took the place due to an unfortunate capsize at the last mark rounding. At the front of the fleet, the honours were equally hard fought before Ronan Wallace took the gun in the Standards and Peter Kilmartin led the Radials home.
Paul McMahon and Darach Dinneen gave a masterclass in tactical thinking by opting to skip the first race in favour of last minute refreshments ashore, staying fresh and dry for the main event. By the time of its start, the conditions had become even more challenging with the breeze now regularly heading for the mid twenties and a building sea. The late arrivals joined the rest of the fleet, by now somewhat tired and wet, for a clean start to the highlight of the Frostbite event, the Round the Island.
What followed would later be described as a fast, memorable, terrifying and challenging capsize fest, with lots of what older generations of Laser sailors are rumoured to have called ‘orgasmic planing’. A feature of the event is that sailors have the choice of leaving the Island to port or starboard, their assessment based on the impact of wind direction, tide, sea state and the extent of wind shadowing expected from the Island high points.
Only two sailors, both in Standard rigs, chose the clockwise route this year, Mike Evans eventually finishing 4th. The other decided to head for home after achieving his self-imposed capsize limit before reaching the Martello Tower at the north-west end of the Island, with approximately a fifth of distance completed and the long legs along the north and east still to do.
For those rounding anti-clockwise, sailing into an ebb tide and with a confused sea to deal with at the corners, the rounding of the southern tip and the Stack challenged many and there were lots of shiny hull bottoms on display as capsizes quickly turned into energy-sapping turtles. Having swam and sailed their way around, the leading pack rounded the corner at the Martello Tower to head for the finish with a close battle still under way in both fleets, the outcome being mainly determined by who had the fewest capsizes and with most energy left.
Chris Bateman, who had fallen foul to a U flag at the restart of the warm up race, gave local Standard rig sailors a lot to think about by beating them all on what are by now their home waters and his return next year to defend his title and give them a chance to redeem their pride is much anticipated. Ronan Wallace and Darragh Sheridan filled the remaining podium positions. In the Radials, Peter Hassett was the top survivor, followed by Peter Kilmartin in second.
The fleet adjourned to the Clubhouse to ease tired bodies, rehydrate, share tales of adventure and enjoy the lunch and prizegiving for the Frostbite and Round the Island (see pics in Gallery). Next event for the Laser fleet is Howth’s Icebreaker Series (March 22 – Apr 12th) before the 2020 Laser Class Leinster Championship is hosted at HYC on the weekend of May 9/10.