O'Leary and Milne in high spirits after Bacardi second
Peter O'Leary of Cork and Stephen Milne of Belfast Lough have put down a positive marker for the 2012 Olympics with second overall in the Olympic Star class annual Bacardi Cup series in Florida.
While the sun shone as it should, the winds were often more than required, and some of the contests had the flavour of a demolition derby. In fact, only five races were completed, but with a scoreline including a first and two thirds in a very international fleet of 84 boats, the Irish duo were on top form and improving as the regatta went on -- they discarded a 15th from the opening race, but included a 10th in the second, yet made the podium thereafter.
Winners were Rick Merriman and Phil Trinter of the US, while those astern of Ireland included Canada's Richard Clarke, Italy's Diego Negri, Portugal's Afonso Domingos, Brazil's Lars Grael (brother of double Olympic gold medallist Torben), Mats Johansson of Sweden, and defending champion Peter Bromby of Bermuda.
The pace of the campaign will now accelerate for O'Leary and Milne, but at this stage the Corkman also takes in sailing on other boats. He did last month's Caribbean 600 on Adrian Lee's Cookson 50, taking fourth overall, and he'll be helming for Lee again in June when the boat makes what is believed to be a first for Ireland, racing in the biennial Newport-Bermuda classic, America's equivalent to the Fastnet, which dates back to 1906.
Meanwhile, the global unlimited circuit record of 50 days and 16 hours looks like being swept away today by Franck Cammas of France with the giant trimaran Groupama. With a crew of nine, Cammas got clear round the Azores' high pressure with its blocking calms on St Patrick's Day, and has been staying with good conditions to get to the finish at the island of Ushant off the Brittany coast, in real record time.
It's all very timely for the sponsors, as the next major project for the Cammas/ Groupama team is creating the boats and assembling the personnel for the Volvo Ocean Race in 2011-2012, which will finish in Galway.
Already, the French are much-fancied contenders -- they have a huge base in Lorient and have bought up the Ericsson boat which, under Torben Grael's command, was clear overall winner last time round.
Elsewhere, Cork Ireland is back in the Clipper Round the World Race. The campaign's original 68ft boat may have been wrecked on a reef in Indonesia, but a replacement sister-ship is currently being equipped in Antigua, ready to rejoin the fleet in Panama.
The Cork boat had performed so well, in racing terms, in the early stages that they are still by no means last on points. But two more stages will have been completed by the time they rejoin the race skippered by experienced Clipper campaigner Hannah Jenner, who will be turning 30 as the fleet finishes its transatlantic leg in Kinsale in July.