Sailing: Commodores' triumph ends Irish wait in style
It may have been a soft day on The Solent, but there was nothing easy about Ireland's first major international trophy win at Cowes at the weekend as almost 40 years of effort finally came to fruition.
The prize was the Rolex Commodores' Cup, successor to the now demised Admiral's Cup and goal for countless club sailors racing under amateur status.
Ireland's overall lead of the event from Day 1 appeared unassailable after the three-boat team recorded a near-perfect score of five wins and a second place for the two races.
But tensions ran high almost as soon as the event started. This was a pattern all too familiar for Ireland in the recent years and the opening races were modestly scored compared to last Wednesday's 190-mile offshore race that carried a 2.5-times weighting.
The fleet of 30 boats, racing in three handicap classes, soon started showing their form as this 'no-discard' contest instantly gathered pace.
With Ireland marked yet again as the pacesetters, Britain's Red team started out as primary runner-up, but with France Blue and Hong Kong boasting highly-rated boats and crew.
The offshore did, indeed, prove decisive, but in Ireland's favour as winds remained strong and suited to Irish abilities in heavier conditions. France, as the notorious masters of offshore racing, failed on this occasion to deliver on expectations and the overall irish lead was extended.
But even with the offshore out of the way, a code of silence enveloped the Irish camp.
One race at a time -- as if it is only another day in which you give your all to grind out a result -- was the mantra. On no account mention the 'v-word' until after the eighth and final race.
A certain lady of operatic proportions was rumoured to be warming-up, but was either completely sound-proofed or had yet to sing.
By Saturday morning, the team comprising Antix, marinerscove.ie and Roxy 6, all from the Royal Cork Yacht Club had a lead that, though sizeable, was still mathematically beatable.
Hong Kong had all but admitted defeat on Friday and a reversal of some of the points awarded to them in redress for a course error on Thursday did little to counteract their mood.
Only straight-wins by the Hong Kong team plus disaster for the three Irish boats would alter the outcome.
A brush with a French boat seconds from the start for team captain Anthony O'Leary was set aside with a precautionary penalty turn, just in case a foul had actually been committed.
O'Leary and the crew of Antix surged back into the fray as the winds gusted again, working their way back through the fleet in the misty Solent and arrived at the finishing-line after 91 minutes of racing with a second place.
Game over, nearly.
Next up was Class 2 and Dave Dwyer's marinerscove.ie stepped-up to the plate in their speciality conditions and delivered a solid race win with Hong Kong's Blondie IV left in their wake.
Set to Ireland.
And then it was the small boats of Class 3 and the Welsh-owned, Irish- managed Roxy 3 that was effectively the weakest link having only been launched in April.
Skipper Andrew Creighton could only trail Hong Kong's Rockall III that sped away from the starting-line as both boats have been trading wins and runner-up places all week. But it was a second place for Ireland and that was more than good enough.
Match over, result to Ireland that now brings the Commodores' Cup to a new home in Cork.