Maguire's Leopard out to hunt down Rambler
The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race came of age as soon as the first one was staged in 1993, and the 10th edition of this instant classic begins on June 11.
The attractive mixture of sailing experiences, coupled with the grandstand start in Dublin Bay and the warmth of the welcome in west Kerry, makes this 320-mile offshore challenge one of Ireland's most popular events, an ideal package for a wide variety of boats.
Martin Crotty of the National YC has been chairman from the start, and this year he and his team are confident entries will hit the 50 mark for the first time. Certainly the host club, under the commodoreship of Peter Ryan, one of Ireland's leading offshore skippers, can provide a substantial entry from within its own membership.
Last time round in 2009, the strong group of entries from the neighbouring Royal St George dominated the results, with Mick Cotter's 78ft Whisper taking line honours and setting a course record, which is likely to stand for a long time. Winds were strong north-easterly for much of 2009's race, but gentler conditions towards the finish saw the 40-footers doing best, with the overall win going to the X41 Legally Brunette (Cathal Drohan and Paul Egan).
For 2011, the first entry is already in, an Open 40 chartered by Alan McGettigan. Having sailed an Open 60 in last year's Round Ireland, the Dun Laoghaire skipper reckons that Irish courses better suit the 40ft version of these waterborne drag racers.
Boats around the 100ft mark will be setting the pace in the annual RORC Caribbean 600, which starts from Antigua on Monday week. If the north-east trade winds are in fighting form, it can be tough going.
Last year, there was an unseasonal calm, but in the inaugural event in 2009, Adrian Lee from Dun Laoghaire with the Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners found the going so good he was overall winner.
There's another Cookson 50 shaping up against the Lee boat on Monday, Chris Bull's Jazz, which has already given a good showing in the Sydney-Hobart, while Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens, overall winner of last year's Round Ireland, should also give a good showing.
But the biggies at the front of the fleet will attract the attention, with ex-pat Gordon Maguire at the helm of Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard taking on George David's Rambler 100, which has Kenny Read in charge.
Oisin van Gelderen of Skerries became the fastest ever in Irelandat Dungarvan when he was officially recognised as achieving 43.96 over 500 metres, enhancing his position as Irish Speed Champion 2010.
Meanwhile, having been hotly tipped to get involved in the America's Cup 2013 now that it involves 72ft wing-sailed catamarans, French brothers Bruno and Loick Peyron have made it official as the sixth challenger for the series in 2013.
They've reserved top multi-hull builders Multiplast in Vannes with work to start on September 1. Their team are now eligible for trialling in the new America's Cup 45 wingsail cats, which will be having preliminary jousting in Auckland.