Sailing: Kinsale finale adds spice to Helmsman's title race
By accident, we seem to have hit on an attractive formula for the All-Ireland Helmsman's Championship finals today in Kinsale. It's simple. Use the ISA SailFleet of J/80s throughout, but have the preliminaries in one venue and then stage the finals in another.
Thus, if the first location sees its own stars shining in their home waters, by moving along the coast for the ultimate shootout, any benefit of local knowledge no longer applies.
In other words, we're making the best of the fact that, in the original scenario, a three-day event at Royal Cork in Crosshaven at the end of September failed to be completed through lack of wind, though Philip Doran of Courtown emerged as junior champion, with eight finalists emerging from the seniors.
Since then, the J/80s have been moved along the coast to Kinsale, where they've been busy with match racing and other events. But the recent volatile late-autumn weather meant they couldn't be handily sailed back to Cork Harbour, so they have stayed in Kinsale.
As half of the eight finalists are from Royal Cork, staging the final off Kinsale adds an extra spice that would have been lacking at Crosser.
With the winds expected to draw from the east, though with a threat of heavy rain, the top contender has to be Cork's Nicholas O'Leary, who is aiming for three-in-a-row. The other three Royal Cork helms are Neil Kennefick, Anthony O'Leary and Nick Walsh, while Cork Harbour is also represented by Ewen Barry of Monkstown Bay.
Ironically, there's no Kinsale skipper. GP 14 champion Niall Henry of Sligo is in the line-up after an impressive showing in September's races, while the other two are Puppeteer champion Garret May of Howth, and Lasers' James Espey.
The pressure on the Crosshaven squad is all the greater, as last weekend the ICRA Boats of the Year were rightly named as the successful Commodore's Cup team of Anthony O'Leary's Antix, Dave Dwyer's marinerscove.ie, and Rob Davis's Roxy 6. The first two are Royal Cork, while Roxy is Cork-Welsh.
A year hence, the next Volvo World Race should be on its way from Alicante in Spain, and after circling the globe they'll finish in Galway in June 2012. Currently, the highest-profile skipper is France's Franck Cammas, whose massive achievements are well matched by the budget provided by his sponsors Groupama.
Cammas won the recent Route de Rhum race in the Ultimate Class with his giant new multihull Groupama 3. Meanwhile, in Lorient, our own Killian Bushe is steaming ahead building Groupama's new Volvo 70, and Cammas's first mate Damian Foxall is beavering away behind the scenes on the crew assembly.
Meanwhile, the highly-regarded Glenans Sailing Club, which has contributed so much to Irish sailing, has decided to reintegrate with the French Glenans in order to guarantee the numbers required.