Strong turnout expected as cruiser-racer championships head west

Galway Bay the popular venue for an eclectic mix of entries from around the country

 John Maybury’s Joker II defends its ICRA crown in Galway Bay next week. Photograph: Afloat.ie

John Maybury’s Joker II defends its ICRA crown in Galway Bay next week. Photograph: Afloat.ie

 

A buoyant turnout from sailing clubs right along the west coast is a just reward for organisers who will stage the national cruiser-racer championships for the first time on Galway Bay next week.

An eclectic mix of entries, broadly representative of the current Irish sailing scene, includes class one title-holder John Maybury in the J109 Joker II from the Royal Irish Yacht Club on Dublin Bay who is seeking a fourth successive win. Maybury is one of several defending champions heading for the City of the Tribes next Thursday.

ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney, of Foynes Yacht Club, who lobbied for the Galway championships says the strong turnout is “a reminder of the resurgence of the sailing scene in the west that can easily be forgotten as western clubs are more spread out than in Dublin or Cork”.

ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney
ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney

ICRA is set to publish class divisions and sailing instructions this weekend, and while this championship does lack a ‘big boat’ dimension, there are plenty of smaller division competitors.

A custom 1720, one of three of the Royal Cork designs are racing, eight J24s, two-quarter tonners, a half tonner plus four Corby 25s are among models that make an unassuming line-up from which four national champions will be crowned next Sunday.

It’s the second time the championships have sailed in the west in its 16-year history. The first was at Tralee Bay in County Kerry in 2013 when ICRA mustered a fleet of 61 boats.

With eight entries from Dublin this time, the 2018 fleet, at 53 yachts, is similar in size to five years ago in Fenit, given its remoteness from Dublin where 80 per cent of the cruiser stock is based – plus the knock-on effect of the sheer choice of alternative regattas this summer, including Calves Week that concludes in West Cork this weekend.

“ICRA needed to give the boats that normally face the challenge of a long delivery trip east the chance to compete on home waters,” said ICRA committee member Ric Morris of Howth.

From a total of 15 yacht clubs represented, nine are from the west with the most prominent participants Foynes Yacht Club and the hosts, each with 11-boats apiece.

Smaller clubs

Some smaller clubs are taking the opportunity to make national championship debuts. Mullaghmore and Garrykennedy Sailing Clubs are both sending boats.

The ICRA championships begin on Thursday and are preceded by a West of Ireland Championships at the same venue on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, two Howth Yacht Club sailors embark on a 1,805 nautical miles non-stop race on Sunday, hoping to repeat a famous Irish victory in the Round Britain and Ireland Challenge set four years ago.

Offshore sailors Conor Fogerty and Simon Knowles have already shown the depths of their endurance in the Sunfast 3600, Bam, with a class win in the 2018 Caribbean 600 but the clockwise race from the Royal Yacht Squadron line is three times as long.

With 29 international entries (eight two-handed), and with four Sunfast 3600 sisterships already in the line-up, the pressure is on Fogerty and Knowles.

While the teams will race in a variety of performance cruisers under the IRC Rating system, the race for the best corrected time will be highly competitive.

Ireland has strong form in this four-yearly marathon, as the previous staging in 2014 saw the two-handed division and three classes won by the First 36.7 Lula Belle, campaigned through extreme conditions by Liam Coyne of the National Yacht Club, and Brian Flahive of Wicklow.

The race starts at noon on Sunday.

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