Powerful Irish on the cusp of Commodores' Cup success
A final race counting for double-points is all that stands between Ireland and an historic win at Cowes that has been decades in the making.
In the penultimate race of the Rolex Commodores' Cup yesterday that saw the 10 teams race 50 miles around the Isle of Wight, Ireland further extended their overall lead of the event, even though only one boat finished inside the top three.
Anthony O'Leary added another race win to Antix's series in Class One, while the team's two other boats focused on minimising gains by Hong Kong, the second-placed challenger most likely to upset Irish hopes.
The squad's Class Two boat duelled with Blondie IV after losing the overall lead of the race when winds turned to a less favourable angle.
"We knew it was going to be very tough for us as the wind was going to mean a fetch for us for most of the race," said Dave Dwyer, skipper of marinerscove.ie that finished fourth in class.
"But our goal today was just to beat Blondie and we put up a huge fight that turned out to be a battle royal."
Ireland's small boat had a sixth place, one place behind Rockall III from Hong Kong, so damage to the points standings was only offset by this one place.
Overall, Ireland held a 36-point advantage last night and were also hoping to regain points if a protest appeal was successful. This hinged on the redress awarded to Rockall III on Thursday for missing a course change mid-race.
Regardless of that outcome, Ireland remains the favourite to win the Commodores' Cup and apart from a massive reversal of form, such as all three boats finishing in the bottom half of their respective classes plus Hong Kong winning all three of their races, gear failure is the main concern.
Last night, Irish crews were busy re-checking their boats for possible damage ahead of what is certain to be a momentous day.