Report on Race 11 – Dun Laoghaire to Howth Offshore - Rollercoaster Ride.
The 11th race in the ISORA Offshore Series took place on the 28th July with an 08.00 start from Dun Laoghaire. 20 boats were due on the start line for the race but poor weather forecasts and a problem with adequate crewing levels for the race, resulted in two boats withdrawing.
The 60 mile course was from the normal start at Dun Laoghaire – South Burford (P) – M2 Weather Buoy (P) – Rockabill (P) – Rowan Rocks (S) and to a virtual finish line set up just west of Rowan Rocks. M2 Weather buoy is located in the middle of the Irish Sea east of Lambay Island.
The weather started to deteriorate before the race when 20 Knots of wind built rapidly while boats were still in the marina. The weather forecasts for the race area varied widely. While Met Eireann were forecasting SW 7-8 for the general sea area north of Howth, other more site specific weather forecasts were talking about SW 25 knots veering W and decreasing 15 knots. Unfortunately for the fleet, MET Eireann was more accurate.
At the start the wind was 25 knots SW and gusty, as the fleet headed over the start line set by past Commodore of the NYC, Larry Power. Some boats attempted to set spinnakers for the short reach to South Burford but were very quickly knocked over. Boats started to retire very shortly after arriving at the race area.
By the time the fleet rounded South Burford and went on the 22 mile dead run towards M2 the winds had increased to 30 knots with stronger gusts. Nobody attempted to fly spinnakers and most boats had reefed mains.
Andrew Hall’s “Jackknife” led the charge from start to finish and Paul O’Higgins’s “Rockabill VI” soon took their place on the rollercoaster behind “Jackknife”. On the leg to M2 Stephen Tudor’s “Sgrech J111” was following the lead boats with “Mojito”, Wakey Wakey” and “YoYo” in hot pursuit.
On the leg to M2 the winds were a steady 30-35 knots with stronger gusts. “Sgrech J111” recorded a gust of 42 knots. Boats speeds on this leg were extraordinary. Again “Sgrech J111” recorded a maximum speed of 22.3 knots while surfing the top of a wave.
The thrill of the rollercoaster ride was soon to be paid for in the fetch west towards Rockabill. Having sustained some sail damage “Sgrech J111” slipped behind the two J109’s. During this leg the wind and seas decreased significantly with 15 knots from the SW at Rockabill providing another fetch to Rowan Rocks, east of Howth. While Lambay Island was not on the course the fleet were divided with some boats taking the inshore passage towards Ireland’s Eye and the Rowan Rocks buoy and the finish Line. The inshore passage appeared to be the best choice with those boats pulling ahead.
By the time “Jackknife” crossed the finish line, 9 of the 18 starters had retired. While “Jackknife” took line honours, “Rockabill VI” took IRC Overall and Class 0. “Wakey Wakey” took 2nd Overall and Class 1 while “Windjammer” took Class 2. “More Mischief” won Silver Class.
With Chris Power-Smith’s “Aurelia” early withdrawal from the race, it kicked the 2018 Overall Offshore Series wide open. After the race, “Mojito”, the 2017 champions, have taken the lead in the overall table with fours races to go. “Rockabill VI” have slipped into second place followed closely by “Aurelia” and “Wakey Wakey”. Only 30 points separate these four boats, not a significant amount considering that up to 120 points could be awarded to a winning boat using the High Points Scoring system.
The next race will be critical for the shape of the series. That race is an 85 mile Offshore from Dun Laoghaire to Pwllheli on the 11th August. A win by any of the leading four boats could push them beyond reasonable reach for the last race, The James Eadie race from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire on the 8th September.