Fab five eclipse 'unbeatable' Lakota 19 years on
WHEN Steve Fossett's 60ft trimaran Lakota came into Dun Laoghaire Harbour after setting a well-nigh unbeatable Round Ireland record in September 1993, it was Dublin Bay's first introduction to the new generation of ultra-light speed machines, which were sweeping away long-standing time achievements by the fastest mono-hulls and the earlier waves of offshore multihulls.
Until this week, Lakota was our benchmark for the sharp end of multi-hull development. And she was a very good boat in her day.
But as of midnight Wednesday, we're up to speed with the very latest thinking. The arrival of the five boats of the MOD 70 class at the end of Leg One of their European Tour has brought the awe-inspiring presence of machines which are 15pc bigger than Lakota, yet considerably lighter, and much faster.
That is if they get the wind. Originally, the plan had been to race from Kiel out of the Baltic north of Scotland, then south to Dun Laoghaire. But the forecast -- subsequently fulfilled -- of gales in the high latitudes led to a re-routing through the English Channel. In this upside-down summer, they found precious little wind down south.
But as they're one design, they'd brilliantly close racing. The lead changed several times, and the finish in the faintest zephyrs on Wednesday night, just minutes before midnight, saw the three front-runners crawl across the line in just 77 seconds. That would be impressive in club racing. But in a 1,300-mile offshore race, it's sensational.
Michel Desjoyeaux and his crew racing Foncia snatched it from Yann Guichard on Spindrift by 32 seconds, with Sebastian Josse and the Groupe Edmond de Rothschild team 45 seconds further back.
Another 35 minutes elapsed before Steve Ravusin brought Race for Water to the finish. And then 1 hour and 34 minutes behind the leader, the fifth-placed Oman glided across in virtual calm, the crew including international multihull legend Brian Thompson, who was with the late Steve Fossett -- as were the National YC's Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavy -- when Lakota did the business 19 years ago.
Today, with Dun Laoghaire en fete, the five boats will be showing their exceptional speed potential with an afternoon of racing and speed trials from 2.0 to 5.0 off Dun Laoghaire harbour to Sandycove point.
Then, tomorrow afternoon, it's back to serious work -- Leg Two of 1215 miles from Dun Laoghaire to Cascais in Portugal, with a good sou'wester in prospect.
While the MOD 70 circuit is the new sailing going very public indeed, down in Kinsale they're geared up for one of the classics of international sport, a week of racing for the Dragon Gold Cup which dates back to 1937.
A remarkable fleet of 60 boats has converged on the south coast port, and with Simon Brien from Belfast Lough already putting down a marker by winning the class' historic Edinburgh Cup back in July, the thriving Irish fleet includes several favourites for the gold.
Meanwhile, both the 1720s and the Laser SB20 (formerly the Laser SB3) were showing they're in good heart with major championships last weekend, Mark Mansfield and Terry English of Crosshaven taking the 1720 Euros at Baltimore in the last race, while Ben Duncan of Howth emerged from the pack to win the SB20 Nationals.
This weekend at Malahide, we've a geographical conundrum. At its newly refurbished dinghy headquarters on the Broadmeadow, Malahide YC is hosting more than 100 very junior helms in the International Optimist Connacht Championship.
Is this inter-provincial confusion, or what? We're assured that Malahide is the Connacht of Howth, and geography can be stretched from there.