O'Rourke sweeps to epic victory

Fri, Aug 18, 2006, 01:00

Sailing: Limerick's Ger O'Rourke has swept to an overall win in the Round Britain and Ireland race this week following a gruelling 1,780-mile race in Kingspan Chieftain with many of the fleet still battling light winds to finish this weekend.

The Western Yacht Club sailor knew he had won his class outright when he crossed the line on Tuesday - after an epic sail down the east coast of England when speeds reached 26 knots - but it was only yesterday afternoon that the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) confirmed the Limerick yacht - one of two Irish entries - could not be beaten on handicap to win the overall Sevenstar trophy.

O'Rourke made his principal gains on the British east coast in gale-force winds,where some of the fleet are now becalmed, covering a distance of 550 miles in 30 hours, speeds akin to Volvo 70s in a boat some 20 foot smaller.

At his first attempt O'Rourke and his 12-man crew have lifted both the Round Britain and Ireland and Sydney-Hobart trophies in one season. The result tops a remarkable debut for the 50-foot yacht that began in January with a class win in the Sydney-Hobart race. But it hasn't always been an easy ride for O'Rourke who was was ineligible for this year's Commodore's Cup regatta in July because the Cookson-built boat uses shifting ballast in the form of a canting keel.

The decision, in hindsight, to concentrate instead on an offshore circuit - but nevertheless winning the British IRC Nationals in May- has proved to be a significant move and one where the rewards are now evident. He took a class win in July's Round Ireland plus an overall win in the British IRC Nationals.

"I am the oldest man on the boat besides Jochem Visser, the navigator, and all my crew are in their 20s so I am really happy for them as much as myself that we have done so well," O'Rourke said from Cowes yesterday.

Kingspan Chieftain is moored up in the Hamble and her next event is Cowes to Cascais race, a 750-mile sprint from the Solent to Portugal (September). A win here would seal RORC's coveted yacht of the year award in December.

The single handed La Solitaire Afflelou Le Figaro race comes to Dingle next week and the 44 sailors involved would do well to heed the notice issued by Marine Minister Noel Dempsey during their four-day, non-stop, 545-mile sail to Kerry that starts in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie today.

In November 2005 Dempsey issued a notice to mariners "drawing the attention of all concerned" to the "Statutory Instruments" by which the Irish Authorities can prosecute infringements of the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions (IRPCS) at Sea in Irish waters. The notice went on to say: "All the requirements of the [ IRPCS] apply to solo sailors as they do to any other vessel. In avoiding collision situations solo sailors are required to observe fully the [ IRPCS] and to manoeuvre their vessels as required".

On Dublin Bay, the final race of the Lee Overlay Partners Offshore Series takes place tonight to the Arklow Buoy. The series is lead by by Matt Davis in Independent Bear and so far the inaugural league has achieved a turnout of six boats per race.

In dinghy news, England's Dave Wade, sailing with Dun Laoghaire's Hugh Butler crewing, took the Irish Open Fireball title from Tim Rush and Sam Bearley in Tralee last weekend.

CHIEFTAIN'S WINNING CREW: Ger O'Rourke (skipper), Jochem Visser (navigator), Mark Tighe (boat captain), Tom Whitburn (trimmer), Lawrie Jury (trimmer), Morgan White (bow), Stuart Molloy (pit), Gordon Spain (bow), Doug Innes (mastman), Edwin O'Connor (trimmer), Andrew Deakin (cockpit), Revelin Minihane (cockpit).