Sarah J holding a commanding lead


THE deciding race in the summer long Royal Alfred Carlsberg Superleague gets underway on Dublin Bay tomorrow afternoon with final class winners depending on nail biting overall point margins in most classes.

Although the prevailing balmy autumn weather carries the risk of light winds for the final, the last few days have seen moderate to fresh easterly winds making for ideal racing conditions for the estimated 115 yachts.

Leading the high profile field in class zero is Cormac Twomey's Beneteau 42s7 Sarah J with an apparent commanding lead in the 10 boat division. Although nearest rival Colm Barrington on Surfin' Shoes needs to win and beat Twomey by four places, the leader has not had an easy season so far and the required winning margin may be more attainable than at first glance.

Roy Dickson's Corby 40 footer Cracklin' Rosie is also nearby though with more than seven points of a gap to Sarah J, first overall may be out of reach.

However, the protest committee has yet to rule on the Howth boat's application for redress in the penultimate race of the series when they abandoned racing to stand by a dead body in the water before summoning the Lifeboat for assistance.

The same race also saw Surfin' Shoes and Sarah J retire after discovering they had sailed the wrong course. A favourable decision from the protest committee could yet elevate Dickson into contention depending on the effect the time allowed for the incident.

The recent Dublin Bay SC Cruiser Challenge saw Cracklin' Rosie win class zero due mainly to consistency and poor performances from Twomey and Barrington's yachts.

In class two, Peter Beamish's new Aztec appears unstoppable with a clear 4 1/2 point advantage from Jim Hyland's J-Beam. Whether or not the older boat can withstand the pressure of Stewart Kinnear's Scenario Encore just one point away remains to be seen.

However, with more than 10 points of a gap between the leading three boats and the remainder of the pack, Hyland and his crew should be in with a good shout of a creditable top three finishing result.

However, some fierce competition can also be expected from the one design classes where several class leaders are separated by fractions of points. The classic Glen fleet, one of the biggest classes in the superleague is being led by just .25 points by defending 1995 winner Donal O'Connor in Glenluce from the threatening Glenmumbles partnership.

In the Ruffians, Dermot Baker's Shillelagh also narrowly leads Fred Ridgway's Scruffian but with the later super charged over the loss of the DBSC series to his rival by the same margin, his sights are firmly set for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a seven boat team are heading to Pwellheli, Wales, this weekend for the Dragon European championship. The Irish squad includes leading hopefuls such as Mick Cotter, Robin Hennessey, John Lavery and Johnny Ross Murphy. All at the event will be hoping that the events witnessed at the recent Gold Cup in France will not be repeated. At Dournanez, there were 44 protests against mostly local boats for not having measured sails while a number of Rule 755 (gross misconduct) are also understood to be pending.

Today also sees the closing date for nominations by sporting federations for places on the Olympic Council of Ireland. While it is understood that the Executive of the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) met this week, sources close to the national authority would not be drawn on its intentions before today's deadline of 5.00 p.m.