The fleet of 60 boats from around Ireland were treated to perfect conditions off Fenit for the opening two races of the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Association National Championships. Flat seas, brilliant sunshine and breeze ranging from 15 to 25 knots at times placed the championships on a firm footing in all five classes afloat before “the craic” ashore at the hospitable Tralee Bay Sailing Club.
Of the four IRC handicap classes, three featured strong performances with back to back wins by the day one leaders. IRC class one leader Pat Kelly on J109 Storm from Rush Sailing Club in North Dublin had the edge over a group of potential challengers headed by Paul O’Higgins Corby 33 Rockabill V from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Clubmate Colin Byrne on an X-Yachts 33 Bon Exemple is placed third overnight and the leaders are separated by a single point each in this 15 strong class. Another O’Higgins clubmate, John Maybury on J109 Joker II leads the ECHO championship.
In Class Zero, Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 39 Antix from the Royal Cork Yacht Club surprised few by winning both races yesterday. A man overboard on Denise Phelan’s Jump Juice, also from Crosshaven has probably taken this challenger out of contention for the series as the Ker 37 was obliged to retire when the navigator was recovered from the water by the Irish Sailing Association support RIB skippered by Racing Manager Ed Alcock. ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly on Crazy Horse from Howth Yacht Club had a second and a fourth for the day and lies second overall while Martin Breen’s Lynx Clipper sailing under the DiscoverIreland.ie brand for The Gathering Cruise next month was in third place for the day.
Under ECHO handicap, Breen leads George Sisk’s Farr 42 Wow from the Royal Irish YC in second overall with Antix in third, all three on equal points.
Classes Two and Three also had dominant leaders though with two days of racing remaining and close challengers in both classes, the outcome for these is less certain compared to class zero.
Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate sailing for the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire had straight wins in Class Two while David Cullen’s Howth YC Half-tonner King One had two second places so a match-race for the overall class win seems likely. Ray McGibney’s Dehler 34 Dis-a-Ray from Foynes lies third overall after a consistent day and is overall leader under the ECHO handicap. A navigational error in the second race of the day saw all but the two leaders sail to the wrong mark before correcting to complete the course.
In Class Three, it was a matching result between two quarter-tonners with Barry Cunningham’s Quest taking two bullets from Cove Sailing Club’s Illes Pitiuses so both hold first and second places overall going into Friday’s racing. Gary Fort’s J24 Jaguar from Tralee Bay Sailing Club holds third overall as best of the home fleet competitors in the series so far. John Paul Buckley’s Golden Shamrock Battle leads under ECHO.
The ICRA championship races are non-discardable this year following a decision taken at the November 2012 annual conference in Kilkenny that took it’s lead from last Summer’s Dragon Gold Cup event in Kinsale.