The ISA Match Race Nationals 2009 hosted by Kinsale Yacht Club were sailed over the weekend of October 24-26. Howth had two teams in the Nationals, Ben Duncan (& Ric Morris) and Tom Fitzpatrick and finish in the top 3.
With a gale forcing a postponement on Saturday racing got under way on Sunday in fresh westerly conditions. As the early rounds unfolded the adage that a match race is still a sailboat race held true and the basic boat speed of some teams saw some sort of order begin to take shape. In round 4, Tom Fitzpatrick suffered an early setback with a defeat by the North Sails Ireland helmed by Prof O'Connell. Mean while John Sheehy and Ben Duncan quietly went about their way and these teams together with Andrew Fowler emerged from the mornings racing undefeated.
Rounds 5, 6, 7 and 8 proved critical to the final rankings. Having survived an extremely close encounter with Ger Ownes, Ben Duncan took a nail biting race from Fowler. With a penalty against him in the pre start Andrew fought hard to open a lead that would enable him to make the turn that would allow him to exonerate himself. When he did, instead of going back on the wind to complete his penalty he went on the attack hunting Duncan who was by then pinned over the port layline. As the wind picked up both teams screamed down the run in 27kts of breeze under spinnaker with Flower, with the penalty still against him, trying to draw Duncan in and the excitable Kiwi trying to stay close enough to go into the lead when Fowler took his penalty turn but not so close as to allow Fowler to go on the attack. Both boats ended up outside the finish line and in a frantic last minute of action Ben did just enough to cross the line no more than a couple of seconds before Andrew. In the match of round 7 Sheehy continued his march to the title with a win over Tom, the only team to takes races from him all year, and in round 8 defeated Ben.
By the completion of round 10 that evening the leader board looked as follows: John Sheehy 7-0, Ben Duncan and North Sails Ireland 5-1, Tom Fitzpatrick 7-2, Andrew Fowler 4-2.
As the morning mist and fog cleared Mondays racing started in a gentle southerly. In the opening round of the day North Sails Ireland out sailed a sleepy Duncan team to go into a clear second, who in turn put pay to Tom Fitzpatricks hopes in a ding dong rig clashing encounter in round 13.
Ben Duncan survived a close call in the prestart with a split decision on the umpire boat over whether Ben was able to keep clear from the point that Tom completed a tack resulting in the incident being green flagged. This positioned Ben to lead away from the line towards the favored left hand side and shortly after the start Tom was forced to tack away to the right. When the boats reconverge Ben was still the one boat length ahead, allowing him to slam dunk and forced Tom back out to the right.
The teams converged on the windward mark in much the same position this time with Tom holding an advantage as starboard boat coming into the starboard rounding. However Bens team where up to the challenge and dipped Toms stern as he tacked placing them in an inside overlap as Tom exited his tack and allowing Ben luffing rights and mark room. As Ben shot the mark Toms boat leant over in a gust and the rigs clashed. As the boats rounded the mark and into the set the kite on Toms boat hoisted into Bens rig as Tom rolled Ben to windward. A penalty against Tom as windward boat.
The teams then set off down reach 30 degrees high of the mark as Ben tried desperately to hold Tom out to gybe and take a safe lead back into the mark. It was touch and go and by the time the boats gybed it was necessary to crash drop the spinnakers. After much frantic foredeck action and Tom taking his penalty turn a large enough gap opened up for Ben to sail to the finish of the toughest race of their weekend and a shot and second place and a final should there be one.
As Sheehy saw off Ger Owens in round 14, Fowler beet the North Sails lads leaving Sheehy, Duncan and North Sails Ireland to close out the final rounds to finish on the podium in that order. Sheehy and Duncan duly delivered but as thick fog obliterated the race course the local team skippered by George Kingston stole a win in the very last race of the event knocking North Sails Ireland down into 5th place overall promoting Tom into a deserved 3rd place.
As consolation Tom consolidated his second place in the Match Racing Tour of Ireland.
Final event standings: John Sheehy 11-0, Ben Duncan 9-2, Tom Fitzpatrick 8-3, Andrew Fowler 8-3, North Sails Ireland 7-4, Andrew Deekin 5-6, Ger Owens 5-6, George Kingston 4-7, Martin Mahon 4-7, Mark Tighe 3-8, Mary O'Loughlin 2-9, Kristian Molbech 0-11.
Final Match Racing Tour of Ireland standings: John Sheehy 48 points, Tom Fitzpatrick 34 points, Andrew Fowler, Ben Duncan and North Sails Ireland tied on 20 points, Martin Mahon 13, Ger Owens 12, Andrew Deakin 9, Brian Reilly 8, Alex Barry 6, Thesaurus Software 3, Conal Casey 3