It only happens every other year and this July the Royal Cork Yacht Club will host Ireland’s most prestigious regatta. Cork Week has always attracted an international fleet and the 2012 edition of the race is no exception.

From Cape Town, South Africa Mike Bartholomew will be racing at Cork Week with his Mills 40, Tokoloshe. The sleek blue hull has been tremendously successful and was in fine form last year, winning the prestigious Britannia Cup at Cowes week. A previous winner of at the Scottish Series and RORC Easter Challenge, Tokoloshe has a fine racing pedigree and represented South Africa in the 2010 Rolex Commodores’ Cup.

Mike Bartholomew explains why he is returning to Cork Week having missed the 2010 edition.

“At the start of the year, we planned out our season and Cork Week wasn’t going to feature. However, we have changed our plans and will be in Crosshaven in July. The reason behind it is the relaxation of the rules about sailors classed as professionals. Tokoloshe is based in Hamble and most of the crew live in the village and work in the marine industry. None of them are paid to sail on Tokoloshe but because they are classed by ISAF as pros, this caused a major problem when entering Cork Week. I am delighted that the rules have been relaxed because we love coming to Cork Week, fantastic racing and a great atmosphere ashore, it really does tick all the boxes.”

From Breskens, Holland Piet Vroon will be racing his Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens. 2010 RORC Yacht of the Year and Overall Round Ireland winner, Tonnerre has been one of the most successful yachts on the international racing circuit. Piet is now in his 80s and knows a thing or two about yacht racing. He has competed in 26 Fastnet Races, as skipper including last year’s record-breaking race. Whilst Piet may well be one of the oldest competitors at Cork Week, his crew is composes of young aspiring sailors but none of them are paid to sail, that is Piet’s way.

“I don’t care much for the huge parties in the event village after racing but the boys love it. I prefer to relax in the evenings and get recharged for the next day’s racing. The race management at Cork Week is first class and the variety of courses is excellent, one big advantage at Cork Week is that, besides the Harbour Course, there is very little tide, which means far better courses than say Cowes Week. I was introduced to Crosshaven by Dennis Doyle many years ago and I have been coming ever since.”

From Hong Kong, Cork Week will be welcoming back one of their prodigal son’s Jamie McWilliam with his brand new Ker 40, Signal 8. The McWilliam family needs no introduction to Cork Week regulars. However, Jamie has lived in Hong Kong for many years and missed out in 2010.

“We plan to bring Signal 8 over to compete in the RORC IRC Nationals in June and we have an extensive programme throughout July with our sights firmly set on the Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup but Cork Week is most definitely a must.

The key ingredients to a successful regatta are great courses and excellent race management. There are other regattas that can match the superb range of courses at Cork Week but in my opinion, nobody does it better than Cork Week. If I was going to give competitors one good tip, it would be get some local knowledge on board. Back in 2000 on Swan 48 Jacobite, we were sailing towards the finish, rock hopping under Weaver’s Point. Keith MacKeown was on board and his house was just yards from the finish line. Keith was lying on the foredeck with his head over the bow as we went in ducking the bricks, it made one hell of a difference to our result.”

From Crosshaven, Ireland Anthony O’Leary from the host club is delighted to be renewing old rivalries at the helm of his Ker 39, Antix.

“It is fantastic to hear that the South African King 40 Tokoloshe is coming to Cork Week and now that Jamie McWilliam will be bringing Signal 8 all the way from Hong Kong as well, it will make for a very competitive division. We three have been both sides of very close results in recent years and it is bound to be a real struggle on the water. Knowing Mike and Jamie, I am sure there will also be plenty of banter at the yacht club after racing!

To win at Cork Week, you have to race consistently well every day; the variety of courses evens out the design differences between the boats. I have no illusions, winning against good opposition is never easy but it makes racing at Cork Week all the more rewarding.”

Tonnerre de Breskens RORC/Tim Wright