| 14.4°C Dublin

Longer season adds plenty of spice to competitive calendar

Time was when mid-September saw clubs making the final arrangements for their special end-of-season events, while boats based in the less sheltered anchorages were already being hauled out to comply with insurance restrictions in face of the approaching equinoctial gales.

But the topsy-turvy summer has knocked tradition astray. And much-improved harbours enable us to take advantage of a longer season. You'd have been greeted with derision if you'd suggested two or three decades ago that late August 2012 would see a hugely successful Tall Ships Festival in Dublin, followed in September by the sun-filled, fun-filled visit to Dun Laoghaire of the mind-blowing sailing equivalent of Formula One.

You would have been declared crazy if you asserted that a week of racing for one of the holy grails -- the Dragon Gold Cup -- would get under way in Kinsale in mid-September. Admittedly the crack fleet of 60 International Dragons racing at Kinsale have been experiencing quite rugged conditions, and superstar Lawrie Smith has seen a knee injury on day one cramp his style.

Injury or no injury, there was little he could do to catch German Tommy Mueller in the final yesterday. The 2002 Gold Cup winner scorched ahead of the rest of the 60-boat fleet to win easily.

Smith meanwhile was buried somewhere mid-fleet and desperately seeking a passing-lane.

In the end, the best he could do was 22nd place but frustratingly, he had two more boats in his sights at the finishing-line and was just pipped into second overall by a single point. But there were plenty of other celebrations in Kinsale last night as KYC Commodore Cameron Good won best Corinthian boat with his sailing mates Simon Furney and Henry Kingston.

The trio were an impressive 12th overall, one place behind Royal St. George YC Commodore Martin Byrne with Adam Winkelmann and Perdo Andrade as best of the Irish boats.

As for the five MOD 70 trimarans which wowed the sailors of Ireland last weekend in Dublin Bay, they too have been finding the weather getting warmer, but then their course was south towards Cascais in Portugal after "a quick little loop" to take in the Fastnet Rock.

Surprisingly, they had smooth seas approaching northwest Spain, and good speeds above 20 knots, but once again the finish was a nail-biter in light airs, with Yann Guichard in Spindrift taking the win ahead of Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux) and Oman (Sidney Gavignet) third. Overall, Spindrift leads by one point from Foncia, with Groupe Rothschild third.

With Galway at Croke Park last weekend, perhaps it was proper the staging of the International Optimist Connacht Championship should take place just down the road on Broadmeadow Water at Malahide with 130 boats. Cork dominated, though, flooding the lead places in all divisions, with Douglas Elmes winning the seniors and James McCann the juniors.

And last month in Howth, junior sailors in the 420 Nationals also saw Royal Cork setting the pace with a runaway win by Patrick Crosbie and Grattan Roberts.

Irish Independent