Ireland’s Eye Race Concludes Frostbites Series
13 March 2022
After a week of intimidating forecasts threatened the hosting of the annual Howth YC Round the Island race, sponsored by Key Capital, March 12th delivered a morning of sunlight and a nice sailing breeze, although still with big wind promised for the afternoon. The 43 boats entered, with a Portsmouth Yardstick fleet competing for the first time, took to the water to enjoy a ‘warm-up’ race (contradiction for early March sailing?) before the main event produced a high speed spin around the Island under blue skies.
The Round the Island is the traditional conclusion to the HYC Laser Frostbite Series, now closing in on its 50th anniversary. Over that time the names of the sailors have changed and Lasers are now titled ILCAs but the racers’ enthusiasm for the challenges of winter dinghy sailing remains a constant. For the first time, 2022 saw an invite being issued to the broader dinghy sailing fraternity to compete in a PY handicap event and not alone test their racing skills but their ability to assess the likely wind and tide implications of a clockwise or anticlockwise rounding. Despite the weather threat in the lead-up, 16 boats of various types took up the PY offer with the Class entry list including some high tech modern racing dinghies such as RS Aeros (both 5 and 7 rigs), RS 600 and RS 800, the 1950 and 60s era GP 14 and 420 Classes along with a Water Wag and 6 IDRA 14s representing the more traditional clinker built (or moulded) end of the dinghy racing spectrum. A wide range of Clubs was represented with Greystones, National YC, RStGYC, Skerries SC and Malahide YC figuring while Clontarf’s six strong IDRA 14 fleet, along with their Laser entries, provided the biggest representation from a visiting Club. The Laser fleet also saw a turnout from around the country with boats from Monkstown Bay, Royal Cork, Rush, Lough Ree, Wexford Harbour and Blessington joining the home fleet.
The event format is simple, a short Windward Leeward race to get the competitors afloat and finalising their race strategy for the ‘big one’, followed by the RTI itself. The 6 – 8 knot breeze that welcomed the fleet to Howth Sound belied the 18 - 23 knot southerly on the forecasts but, with the opening act completed and the wind starting to prove the forecast correct, the Round the Island was ready for the off by 11.45. The course layout sees the boats race to a windward mark and then back downwind to a turning mark that this year, given the wind direction, had to be left to starboard. Arrival at the turning mark is final decision time for skippers – am I committed to the direction I decided on earlier, is there someone I want to follow or have I made a mess of the race so far and it’s time to do something different from the majority?
The 15 boat PY Class was first away, followed by the14 ILCA 7s (formerly Standard) rigs while the ILCA 5s and 4s shared the third start. By now the breeze was hovering in the high teens and gusty and, despite Low Water not being for another 75 minutes, the tide had already started to flood north, upsetting some of the strategic decisions. Only four boats decided to chance a clockwise rounding and before they had even reached the Stack at the north east corner of the Island, less than half-way around, they were already resigned to 2023 being their next chance of success. In the anti-clockwise fleet, the RS800 of Mike Evans and Shane Hughes (HYC) streaked away but the broad reach up the east of the Island in the left-over sea from the week’s gales saw them horizontal a few times, not a good move for the scratch boat in a handicap fleet. Capsizes were frequent along the east side of the Island as the fleet broad reached on the gusty breeze, occasionally hitting 23 knots, but the support craft were on standby to assist and only one boat needed help to return to the harbour. The Water Wag of Ian and Judith Malcolm (NYC/HYC), built in 1915 and sailing in its now unaccustomed environment of the open sea and sizeable waves, was going well amongst its more youthful timber and GRP opposition. The ILCA 7s saw a ding-dong battle along the north side of the island as the pathfinder group in the Class, Ronan Wallace (WHBTC), Ronan Kenneally (MBSC), Dan O’Connell (ISA) and Conor Murphy (HYC), tested their decisions on how close to go the lee of the cliffs, the best course to allow the shortest distance to be sailed and how to maximise the advantage from the tide.
After a relatively quick race, helped by the freshening southerly breeze and the flooding tide, the first boat to finish was the twin-trapeze RS 800, which completed the course in 30 minutes and 18 seconds. However, with a PY number of 820 and racing against boats with as high a number as 1281, it would need a big winning margin to get to the top of the list of corrected times.
After a great day of sailing providing the top quality racing around the beautiful coast of a spectacular island that the sailors came to enjoy, they came ashore for lunch in HYC followed by the Ireland England rugby match and the prizegiving – happy faces all round. The winners in the ILCA Classes were ILCA 7 – Conor Murphy (HYC), ILCA 5 – Peter Hassett (DBSC) and ILCA 4 – Fiachra Farrelly (HYC). After the computer had done its stuff, the winner of the PY Class on corrected time saw the Aeros take the top three spots, Roy van Maanen (Greystones SC) first in a 5 rig, just ahead of Daragh Sheridan (HYC) in a 7 with Sarah Dwyer (RStGYC) third in her 5 and pipping the Malcolm’s Water Wag by just 2 seconds. First of the IDRA 14s in the PY Class was Finlay McDonald of Clontarf Y&BC.
With winter sailing for the HYC dinghy fleet now completed, the next HYC open dinghy event is the long running Brassed Off Cup on Good Friday, so named because the young participants were originally those peeved at not being invited onto the team for the Easter Optimist Regatta on Lake Braassermermeer in the Netherlands. Nowadays the Brassed Off Cup is the early season ‘must-do’ for juniors in the Dublin area and will be held this year on April 15th.
(Top photo is of Tristan Nelson in his RS600)