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ISORA Logo NewSmallerISORA 2016 Race 5 Dun Laoghaire to Douglas, Isle of Man

Epic weekend, truly epic. Thank God it was a Bank Holiday in Ireland as it transpired that we truly needed every one of those three days. Douglas never disappoints, like never. Douglas is always a challenge, never more so than last weekend. Nineteen clearly deluded but likeminded crews motor their yachts out on a balmy Friday evening to the Kish Bank in a glassy Dublin Bay to our first ever silent ISORA race start courtesy of Yellow Brick. The lighthouse keepers on the Kish must have wondered what the bloody hell was going on. So a silent start with no flags, no rib/committee boat and probably no sound signals. Novel approach but, as ever, technology moves ahead, faster than a J109 downwind, so we can actually pull this off. In the giddy spirit of the holiday weekend the first of many notables was witnessed. No sound signals? Eh, not really under the trade descriptions act but we had sound signals of a uniqueness that could only be pulled off in ISORA. The bould Peter Ryan on Sgrech decided to attempt to vocally issue the warnings and starting signals via Channel 37. The only true and genuine sound heard on the eerily still water of the start zone was the guffaws of laughter from the fleet as Chairman Ryan failed miserably in his attempt to vocally imitate a fog horn on each warning signal – hilariously awful on the five minute warning, even worse on the four minute, truly useless on one minute and he sounded like the late, great Benny Hill on the start signal. Back to stage school for you Peter. You should have had Huw Williams on board – bet he would have nailed it.

Five knots of wind at best. A strong spring flood tide carried the fleet north over the line. All fine and dandy but this wispy wind is forecast to die – what’ll happen when this tide turns? And turns, and turns? This is going to be another marathon by the look of it. We fart around all night heading very slowly north (apart from when Garret stalled Lula Belle while the skipper was in his bunk). Not a great career move my friend - naughty step up for’ard for Garret as Liam was not amused. We drift around in circles for thirty minutes before Liam eventually powers her back up. Crawl north(ish) again until dawn,

slowly but definitely catching Kenny Rumball’s Lynx after he pulled nearly five miles out of us when Garret put on the hand brake. Mid-morning and things are getting mightily interesting. Either by accident or design Lula Belle is the most easterly boat in the fleet and not too far behind the leaders. This is looking quite impressive. Once the tide goes north again, with or without wind, as we are the most eastward boat this strong spring tide is going to drag us further east, in over the line and perhaps having pints by lunchtime. Whisper it but we may even gain a podium finish. Victory on corrected time anyone? Cool. Just make the tide.

Not cool. We didn’t make the tide. It’s ISORA. It ain’t over till it’s over – we all have been around long enough to know that. The big boys in their big fancy J’s and Farrs and whatevers gain the very last ounce of tide to crawl across the line. Our good friends on Mojito post Facebook photos (yes we are that close that we have 4g) of them supping pints up in the Bridge at 13.00hrs – bastards! Meanwhile for the rest of us poor unfortunates, the strong spring tide has now turned and we are treated to at least 3 knots of opposition. Oh oh – we may be out here for some time, despite only being 4.6 miles from the finish. May not even get to see any bikes doing the TT after all. Merde. Our skipper Liam Coyne on once writing a FB post didn’t notice that autocorrect had changed ISORA to “IDIOTS”. That Zuckerberg lad ain’t as stupid as he looks.

The Leinster Ladyboys rugby team has a slogan on their team bus – can’t actually imagine those D4 heads ever being on a bus. I bet it’s totally unused as they travel in Beemers and Hummers. It’s probably just a “morkeshing” tool so they can strive to expand their fan base outside the Pale. D4 heads on a bus? Nah, don’t think so. Anyhow, the slogan reads “every season has a story”. Our ISORA story of this season has two themes – lack of wind and savage tides.

When I was much younger a wise old sage used a nice analogy to explain tides and their flooding and ebbing concept. Imagine, says O wise one, you have a huge bath tub and you turn on both the taps full blast to fill the bath with water – that’s a flood tide as you are flooding the bath. Then, says he, after about 5 hours after you’ve had a good auld scrub, you pull the plug out and all the water drains out – that’s an ebb tide. Now, springs is when you fill the bath right up to the brim, nearly overflowing – neaps is when you only put in a few inches. Got it? Yes I’ve got it. Jaysus but the residents of Douglas must be spotless ‘cause they sure as hell must have big massive bath tubs. My sweet Jesus but there was some rush on that ebb out of Douglas. All the bikers over for the TT must have emptied their B&B baths around the same time. Their landladies must have warned them that the immersion goes off at midday and they must leave their lodgings by lunchtime.

So the rest of the poor numb arsed, tired and hungry unfortunate fleet settles down to 3+ knots of foul tide, listening to the roar of TT competing motorbikes off the land, smelling the barley and hops of the pints being consumed up in town, hearing the muted roars of the excited kids on the big wheel yet going absolutely bloody nowhere near the finish line. Going backwards actually. Just not fair. Life’s is tough and then you die, I tell my kids. So true. Now we are calculating when exactly this tide is going to turn. Can we hold our positions and get in on the next flood at tea time. Where is that anchor stowed anyway, Liam?

And then a group of us, Adelie, Sgrech, Thalia and us on Lula Belle come to meet Wilson. Wilson? Let me explain. Actually the best way to explain it is this. You know the way Tom Hanks went a bit crazy trapped alone on that island in that movie Castaway? And got nominated for an Oscar for his performance but got robbed by Russell Crowe? And started talking deliriously to a volleyball on the island that he subsequently christened Wilson after his dead mate? You with me here?

So, we are tacking left and right just off one of the headlands which has a fine big yellow house, numerous outhouses and a barn up on the clifftop. I know this house well – we stared at it for nearly four hours. I could draw up plans for that big house. Anyway off this headland was a bright pink lobster pot. Taunting us, the bastard. The run of tide off it was fierce. So to properly explain how we all felt off that headland for close on the whole afternoon, continuously tacking, kidding ourselves we were making progress but actually going nowhere fast and completely losing our sanity, I think a short little on act drama could do this scenario justice:

“ How’ya Wilson”

The scene – five tired, cranky and emotional sailors on board a 36 foot yacht off the Isle of Man. They stare longingly, under overcast grey skies, at a finish line under five miles away. They have five knots of breeze as they plug stoically into a strong south going ebb tide, going nowhere fast.

The characters – Mayo man (skipper), Dub, Cute Cavan Hoor (a man of little word), Wickla old and Wickla young

Mayo Man – Some tide ripping off that pot lads
Wickla Young – bloody hell, we’ll be out here a while
Wickla Old – it’s bobbing up and down like it’s Michelle Smith moving through the water
Dub – ah would ya look at that, it’s taunting us even
Cute Cavan Hoor – Ah Jaysus

Twenty minutes pass……….

Mayo Man – There’s that effin pot again
Dub – I think you’re right Skip
Wickla Old – didn’t we pass that like ten minutes ago?
Wickla Young – it’s the same one. Look at that house over it – seen that a while ago
Cute Cavan Hoor – Ah Jaysus

Another twenty minutes pass……….

Mayo Man – bloody hell, here it is again
Wickla Young – no way
Wickla Old – I’m getting sick of this
Dub – Are we hallucinating?
Cute Cavan Hoor – Ah Jaysus

A further twenty minutes pass……….

Wickla old – ah here, this pot is taking the mickey out of us
Mayo Man – I bet there’s a lobshtur down there with his feet schticking out of the pot pulling it like mad
Dub – It’s Wilson, from that Tom Hanks movie
Wickla young – looks like it alright, the bollix
Cute Cavan Hoor – Ah Jaysus

A further twenty minutes pass……….

Mayo Man – I don’t feckin’ believe it, Wilsons back!
Wickla Young – I’ve had enough of this guy
Dub – ah lads, when you’re being overtaken by a lobster pot it’s probably time to reassess your ISORA career
Wickla old – that’s it, where’s the flares, I’m gonna blast this bastard out of the water
Cute Cavan Hoor – Ah Jaysus

Curtain.

 

Tom Mc Sweeneys “Seascapes” could get an award winning documentary out of that afternoon’s madness. So, we eventually finish on the turn of the tide at 17.00hrs after twenty hours on the water. Two marathons in the space of a week – hardcore ISORA alright. Both Adelie and Thalia who we have been dicing with all afternoon nip in ahead of us. Sgrech has also been in this quartet but unbelievably throw in the towel for their first ever ISORA retirement. I know it was Chairman Ryan’s birthday and he was scheduled to fly out of Ronaldsway Airport at 18.00hrs, but retire? Seriously? As we watched them drop their jib and power up their motor I was reminded of Axel Foley, Munster Coach, who when explaining Munster’s bitterness (“better when bitter” was their mantra for years) said that any slight, however apparent “was noted” and banked in the bitterness box to be regurgitated come next match day. Quite. Ah Peter, is it now gone to “do as I say, not as I do?” Spirit of ISORA? It’s all about the taking part, not the winning? “To the brave and the faithful, nothing is impossible?” Not great Mr. Chairman – not great at all.

Rob Pemberton and his Sea Cadets meet us on the dock. Despite now being on dry land the dock is swaying for us. Quick couple of pints in Douglas Bay SC before we head to The Bridge. Mojito are in residence. They look like they have each drunk their own bodyweight in beer. Anthony Doyle and Dave Jackson on the pool table – losing to all comers. What is it about alcohol and pool tables? Like, it’s a tricky enough old game at the best of times but when you are langers drunk? It’s akin to trying to push a ten pin bowling ball through the eye of a needle with a biro. The post mortem of an horrific endurance race is had with Adelie. They eventually depart for the return home. Lula Belle and Mojito (or what’s left of them) adjourn to The Little Fish Cafe for grub. Interesting. Douglas is absolutely jammers for the TT races, all us middle aged sailors are on a free pass away from home and what happens? Well some of us (myself being one) crash and burn and start to fall asleep at the dinner table. For real? So two sad old boat crews end up struggling back to the dock and are tucked up snoring in their cots before midnight. Extra sad or what? Minds more than willing but bodies unable. Welcome to middle age.

RealBoat2016SeriesUp bright and early Sunday morning for the famous breakfast on a shovel in the Railway Café. Cast off the dock on a glorious morning for the return home to Dun Laoghaire. It’s a scorcher. Our three day Irish summer arrived this weekend. Any Irish person will attest to the fact that in Ireland we don’t choose summer – summer chooses us so happy days to actually be out on the water for two thirds of the Irish summer. Wounds are licked, broken dreams are nursed and egos are shredded on the long return home. Why do we do ISORA? Because it’s there. Because we can. It’s a narcotic for the sadistic nautically minded lunatic. For WAFI’s. And we are hooked. Where else would you get such good clean fun, camaraderie, a sense of worth, a sense of togetherness, a sense of belonging and achievement? Only at sea – only ISORA.

Go Offshore – Real Boats Race Offshore!

Fogra – Would you ever give up that “high fiving” lark Anthony Doyle? We’re not young enough, not American enough and you’re certainly not cool enough for that sort of carry on. Cop on. Cease and desist.

Fogra eile – thanks Kuba. You are a legend and this race is now THE most favoured in the calendar