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Sailing: Ill wind blows good as weather helps UCD to glory

When something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

But on Wednesday evening, there was no catch for followers of the Irish team in the Student Yachting Worlds at La Rochelle in France who were soaking in a dream scenario. Could it really be that, after 13 races and a stewards' enquiry, UCD were actually leading overall by all of 12 points?

And after all the disappointments at the final hurdle in so many international sailing events this year, could it possibly be the case that with just two more races to sail, Cathal Leigh-Doyle, Aidan McLaverty and their crew of 10 could hang onto their lead? There was an anxious study of the weather prospects.

Mostly the breezes in the region were fresh west to southwest, but the forecast charts showed a bullet of stronger wind barrelling its way up the Bay of Biscay, right on line for La Rochelle through Thursday and yesterday.

Initially it didn't look too rough, but then we got to thinking that they'd go out to race in tough conditions, and UCD might get dismasted. But the ill wind blew Ireland good. It arrived as a gale, and further racing was eventually cancelled. We were home and dry.

It had been an excellent series already, and the Irish team had excelled both inshore and offshore. For part of this week, they were racing in the knowledge that points gained in the second race had been lost through an alleged start-line infringement.

But eventually an analysis of video evidence showed Ireland to be in the clear, and with the points reinstated they moved into a massive overall lead.

Massive leads, however, have been the bugbear of Irish international sailing this year. Get one early in any major series, and the opposition will naturally gang up on you. But thanks to the weather, this time they didn't have the opportunity.

The team were a credit -- Leigh-Doyle, McLaverty, Barry McCartin, Ben Fusco, Simon Doran, Theo Murphy, David Fitzgerald, Ellen Cahill, Isabella Morehead and Alyson Rumball all excelling. They come from every corner of Ireland, they represent virtually all the main sailing centres and many smaller ones throughout the country, and they've all done us proud.

This autumn of achievement has our cup overflowing. The student victory in France fits nicely into November, but Barry Hurley is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie October Sailor of the Month after his victory last weekend in the two-handed division in the 606-mile Rolex Middle Sea Race out of Malta with his JOD 35 Dinah.

Hurley (32), originally from Cobh, had a very capable shipmate with him in the form of Andrew Boyle, who has raced several times on major events as the No 2 on Dinah.

The placings in the two-handed division went right down to the wire, as the race has a seven-day time limit, and though Hurley and Boyle knew they were in with a shout for their class win as they came towards the finish line last Saturday, in the end they only had 25 minutes to spare.

For Hurley, it was "the most intense" race he has ever sailed.

Jim Hennessy, the Irish ambassador to Malta, was there to welcome them in an emotional finish as they beat the clock by that crucial 25 minutes, which enabled them to take a clear corrected time win by six hours.

Irish Independent