Cavatina the surprise winner
SAILING: In yet another twist to this year's event, Eric Lisson's Granada 38-footer Cavatina emerged as overall winner of the Bord Fáilte Round Ireland Race yesterday, defeating reigning champion George Radley and the crew of Imp with 2½ hours to spare on corrected time.
The turnaround in the expected final result from Wednesday evening came about for the same reason that Radley held for defeating another host of notables: steady racing and maximising weather shifts. The same fresh westerly winds that filled in from the north on Tuesday, relieving the becalmed mid-fleet boats first, continued to strengthen into Wednesday.
While Imp and others such as Frank Clarke's Sapphire (Cobh Sailing Club) and John Maybury's Joker (Royal Irish YC) sucked up the miles to close down on the fleet leaders, the fresh weather, in turn, brought the fleet back-markers down on top of the mid-fleet boats.
It was a victory of sorts, too, for the handicapping system - rewarding those with seemingly less-competitive boats.
At one stage, having ended the race with line honours securely won, Nick Hewson's fast time for Team Tonic managed to eliminate Bob and Bairbre's Stewart's Dubois 40 Azure and veteran Roy Dickson on Cracklin' Rosie.
Oliver Sheehy's Beneteau 40.7 Tiger arguably fared best of the "modern" racers, taking a highly-creditable fifth overall and third in class three.
But Radley and Imp had been in the running all week on handicap time and all eyes focused on the approach to the Wicklow finish to see if the green-hulled ex-IOR racer would beat its handicap deadline which it did, with hours to spare.
With no sign of Cavatina and the back-markers at Rockabill, some 40 miles distant, Imp seemed to have secured victory.
Then, in the early hours of yesterday morning, Lisson and his crew crossed the finishing line with seeming ease. From their grandstand view at the back of the fleet they could monitor the finishing times and calculate the resulting handicap differences. They knew without doubt that they had pulled it off.
The overall race win is and will always be decided on handicap corrected time. Once again, as proven by Cavatina this year and Imp in 2000, lower handicaps associated with smaller-sized racers seem to suit this event.
Ultimately, the weather rules the course and, as prevailing conditions over Ireland tend to alter little for the south coast and Atlantic stages, the final north coast and Irish Sea stages hold the key to victory.
Final overall placings IRC handicap: 1 Cavatina (Eric Lisson); 2 Imp (George Radley); 3 Hippocampus (Michael Greville); 4 Changeling (Kieran Jameson); 5 Tiger (Oliver Sheehy); 6 Sapphire (Frank Clarke); 7 Joker (John Maybury); 8 Team Tonic (Nick Hewson); 9 Cracklin Rosie (Roy Dickson); 10 Errislannan (Paul Kirwan); 11 Xerxes (M Liddy); 12 Aquelina (James Tyrrell); 13 Azure (Bob & Barbie Stewart); 14 Kingfisher (Fiona Naisbitt); 15 Trinculo of Howth (M Fleming); 16 Fenix (Richard Balding); 17 Something Fishy (Johnny Morgan); 18 Lobster (Gary A Horgan); 19 Lancastrian (Neil Eatough); 20 Endeavour (Conor Phelan); 21 White Rooster (Dermot Cronin); 22 Thalia (Lemass and Tennyson); 23 Maiden (Terry Nielson); 24 Irisha (Adrian F Lee);
Retired: Jabberwokky (Tim Costello); Fusion (Micheal O'Carroll); State O' Chassis (Kevin Buckley); Fandango (Terence Fair);
Did not start: Pichenette (Samuel Caillault).