A small but high class field of eleven boats took to the water on day 1 of the 2013 Squib East Coast Championship in Howth today, the second of the four regional events for the class this season. With a forecast of 16-25 knot Southwesterlies with sunshine and only occasional showers the fleet was understandably keen to get on the water and get the five race series started despite the distraction of the first Lions test on the TV in the bar. Given the expected 35 knot breezes forecast for Sunday, PRO Rupert Jeffers wisely planned to get as many as 4 races sailed today and with this in mind ran a series of 2 lap windward/ leeward courses in the steadily building winds.
Pre race plans on most boats seemed to focus on hitting the right hand side of the first beat to take advantage of the strong ebb tide but this proved costly as a left hand shift saw Howth's own Fergus O'Kelly and Jonathan Wormald, Vincent Delany & Paul Maguire of the RSGYC and Des Clayton & Paul Henry of the RNIYC sailing 794 Inismara get to the mark first. O'Kelly, sailing 223 Selik with Jonathan Wormald, made use of the clear air at the front to extend his lead and took the bullet by an impressive margin from Delany in second and Jonathan Craig & Hazel Ruane sailing Kerfuffle in third.
The second race followed a similar pattern with the boats that went left from the start coming out on top. This time Delany, in 24 Femme Fatal, led from Craig in second. The closeness of the racing was clear to see as both O'Kelly and 820 Quickstep sailed by Gordon Patterson with Ross Nolan of the RNIYC, making large gains on the final downwind leg to leave the top 4 neck and neck at the finish. Four consecutive hoots led to some confusion about the final positions but the gun went to Femme Fetale from Kerfuffle, who had led at the last leeward, with Selik in third and Quickstep fourth.
The third race was started in increasingly strong winds with gusts of 36 knots recorded on the committee boat and the conditions had begun to take their toll. By the first mark just seven boats remained and Delaney led from the right with O'Kelly/Wormald Patterson, Jill Fleming in Perfection 44 and Michael O'Connell in Tais 642 in hot pursuit. By the finish both O'Kelly and Delany were battling for the honours and the local boat just pipped the visitor on the line with Patterson on third and Fleming fourth.
The PRO then made the sensible call to send the fleet to shore as winds continued to increase and gear failure put paid to a number of competitors. This left O'Kelly/Wormald (1, 3, 1) holding the overnight lead on countback from Delany (2, 1, 2) with Craig in third, Patterson fourth and Fleming fifth. Two more races are scheduled for tomorrow with the hope that the forecast strong wind might blow through overnight as the competitors enjoy their championship BBQ in the club.