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Cove SC Friday Night League – Race 11 report

It was almost like old times on Cork Harbour’s eastern bank last Friday, as July’s balmy summer weather (I presume) brought the largest fleet of the season to the line for race 10 Cove SC’s Friday Night League.   Eleven boats came racing on this occasion, seven of which were spinnaker class boats.  It was particularly pleasing to see the Alaistair/Doyle/Russell team aboard Bedlam make a return to sailing, and for the Impala to be competitive, right off the bat.  Cove SC’s scratch boat from seasons past seems to have suffered no ill-effects from her extended lay-off.  Of course, her sails must still be quite crinkly.  They have not been over-used, in recent years.  ‘One swallow does not make a summer’, however.  Let’s hope that the Bedlam-three were energised enough by the close racing they encountered last Friday to remain engaged with Cove SC’s racing fleet over the coming weeks, and not fly west too soon.  The Friday Night League has been less interesting in their absence.   No Half Measures also made a welcome return to the Friday Night League.  The Dorgan’s sonar has been missing for far too much of the season.

Bright Wing’s Nick O’Rourke acted as OD this time and the night’s light but steady easterly breeze allowed him to buck recent trends and keep the fleet on the eastern bank.  A triangular course was set for both ‘whites’ and ‘kites’.   From a start/finish line at buoy number EF2, in the vicinity of the refinery, the fleet were sent to a windward mark at buoy number EF1, off Aghada, and a gybe mark at buoy number 13, off Cuskinny.  The pin-end of the line – buoy number EF2 – acted as third mark and closed out the triangle.  The spinnaker division were asked to sail three rounds of the triangle.  The White Sail division were to sail two.  Although, the OD did advise that a shortened course was a possibility.

Jay

Boats were well behaved at the start and no dramas occurred.  A pin-end start was favoured – again.  Kieran Dorgan picked up where he left off last season, and led the fleet over the line.  Jay followed close astern of the sonar, with the rest fleet funnelling in behind the two leaders.  Damien Ahern’s ReEile started well.  The white-sail Moody crossed the line ahead of Fergus Coughlan’s Impala – Whyte Knight – setting a pattern for much of the race to come.  C’est La Vie, on the other hand, suffered from some ‘finger trouble’, as a lost jib-sheet ruined their speed on their drive for the line.  Declan Murphy’s First 32s5 was eventually to start behind Wader and La Chanteuse in the white sail division.

Conditions on the beat did not suit the early leader and it quickly became apparent that the second placed Jay was going to benefit from greater boat-speed over the Sonar.  Indeed, Jay quickly drove underneath No Half Measures to assume overall lead of the race after barely one third of the first beat. Jay led, first time round the windward mark.  No Half Measures rounded in second, with Bedlam closing in third and Kodachi beginning to build speed, in fourth.

Tacticians had to don their thinking caps, once around the mark – the vagaries of the out-flowing tide focusing their minds.  Brian Carroll and Red Hallahan were certainly working hard in this phase of the race aboard Jay.  In the end, Jay chose to play it safe and sail as direct a line for the mark as possible, coming up only when pressure dictated.  Bedlam, who had passed No Half Measures at the start of the run, seemed to initially toy with a move to the north, only to recant and settle into a drag race, astern and to leeward of the J24.  Jay, Bedlam and Kodachi led the fleet around buoy number 13 – already a significant distance ahead of the other boats.   The scene was set, and some often intense racing ensued at the head of the fleet.

Friday Night League races can often settle into a processional rhythm.  Not on this occasion, however.  Nick O’Rourke’s choice of a triangular course presented the fleet with options on a number of different legs.  Skippers/tacticians were certainly kept busy – assessing their position and making decisions about which side of the course to exploit.

Such decisions were to the fore on the beat back to buoy number EF2 and passing opportunities did present themselves to boats who were dialled into the conditions.  Skippers could choose to work the left-hand side of the beat by hooking the mark and driving on starboard for the Great Island side of the harbour in search of potentially more breeze, or simply harden up on port and drive into the centre of the harbour but, in-so-doing, run the risk of bucking the out-flowing tide nearer to the Aghada side.   Jay chose to work the right and harden up on port.  Bedlam chose to work the left.   The error of Jay’s ways quickly became apparent though, as a very obvious tide-line forced the J24 to tack back into the centre of the harbour and lose time in the process.  Bedlam gained considerably on the left and assumed the lead of the race as she approached buoy number EF2.  Jay’s boat speed was not in question though and she kept pace, trading tacks with the bigger boat, on the beat to EF1.  With Brian Carroll – freshly back from the Quarter Ton Cup – and Red Hallahan calling the shots, Jay snapped at Bedlam’s heels on a number of occasions but could not reclaim the race lead.   Bedlam led, second time around EF1, with Jay second and Kodachi third.

The run back to buoy number 13 was frustrating for Jay.  Jay sailed for height, and worked a direct line to the mark – again.  Bedlam, on the other hand, sailed a much lower, and presumably longer, course to the mark.  It looked, for a long time, as if the Impala had over-cooked their course by going too far to the South and would have to buck significant tide as they turned back to the north, on their final approach to the mark.  This didn’t happen however, and the Impala extended their lead over a slightly frustrated Jay.  Things were to get worse for the one-time leader however, as a fast moving Kodachi powered under the J24 to take second place at buoy number 13, a fact compounded by a difficult drop aboard Jay, and a slow recovery.

Jay’s race looked to be run, at this point.  Inexplicably however, both Bedlam and Kodachi failed to learn the lessons of the previous beat to EF2.   Both the first and second placed boats choosing to replicate Jay’s unsuccessful first circuit tactic by hardening up on Port and beating for the Aghada-side.  Jay on the other hand, learned our lessons well and adopted Bedlam’s first circuit tactic by hooking the mark and working the left hand side of the bank, inside the tide.  There were no real lifts in there, just good pressure, and Jay powered up very nicely indeed to pass Bedlam and a gentlemanly Kodachi on the beat to the finish of the by-now shortened course.

Jay crossed the line in first place on the water.  Kodachi crossed in second.  Bedlam crossed in third.  The rest of the fleet finished some 15-20 minutes behind the leaders.  A huge distance adrift, really.  Jay placed first in the premier IRC category with Bedlam second and Kodachi third.  Bedlam won the ECHO category, with Jay second and Kodachi third once more.  The normally strongly performing GK24 – Gaelic Kiwi – had a bad night on the water.  The Aghada-based winner of Friday Night League races 8 and 9 finished well down the fleet, in fourth position. John Doyle’s La Chanteuse won the White Sail division on adjusted time with Wader placed second, ReEile third and C’est La Vie fishing in fourth.

With 10 of a possible 16 races now sailed, the season is, at last, beginning to take shape.  Jay continues to lead in IRC, some 15 points clear of the field.  Early season pace-setters – No Half Measures – have dropped back into a battle for second place, thanks to a string of recent DNCs.  Only one point now separates the second, third and fourth-placed boats.  Jay also leads the ECHO standings.  Whyte Knight, Bombora and Gaelic Kiwi currently contest second place.  ReEile leads the ‘white sail’ division.

(Thanks go to Liam Coakley once again for his race commentary and to read more of his views from the water check out the Jay Weekly.)