By Louay Habib with images from Bob Bateman and Rick Tomlinson..
Racing at Volvo Cork Week starts 11th of July, after a four-year hiatus. The Royal Cork Yacht Club was 300 years old in 2020, but due to Covid the regatta couldn’t happen. Waiting two more years to celebrate the first tricentenary of any yacht club has not blunted the enthusiasm for Volvo Cork Week, if anything, the legendary Craic of Crosshaven will be bigger than ever.
The international fleet is approaching close to 200 boats for Volvo Cork Week, and the majority will be racing under IRC and ECHO Rules for the Irish ICRA National Championships.
At the top end of the size scale, the well-travelled and highly successful Lombard 46 Pata Negra is the largest boat in the class and is chartered to Joe Brito from Rhode Island USA. Tim Kane from the Royal Irish YC will race Ker 37 WOW and Jaimie McWilliam is bringing a crew from the Royal Hong Kong YC to mix with local sailors racing McWilliams Ker 40+ Signal 8. Andrew McIrvine’s British Ker 39 La Reponse will be taking on the international fleet, the boat was formerly Anthony O’Leary’s Antix.
IRC Zero will have the addition of the new one-design Cape 31 Class on their race course. The Cape 31 Class will race for the inaugural Cape 31 Irish National Championships under one-design rules. It is the first proper meeting of the Irish boats with Anthony O’Leary’s RCYC Antix joining the Irish Cape 31s from Howth YC; Dave McGuire’s Valkyrie, Dan O’Grady Aja, and Darren Wright’s Adrenaline. British ‘Cape Crusaders’ making the trip to Volvo Cork Week are Lance Adams’ Katabatic and Michael Wilson’s Shotgun.
The highest rated boat in IRC One is Dubliner Mike O’Donnell’s Hamble-based J/121 Darkwood. Racing inshore after their class triumph in the Round Ireland Race, the Darkwood crew has plenty of Irish talent, including past RORC Commodore Michael Boyd, Barry Hurley, and Kenny Rumball. New to the fleet is the Irish First 50 Checkmate XX, sailed by ICRA Commodore David Cullen and Nigel Biggs, who were struck with COVID on the eve of the Round Ireland and could be worth watching. There is no one who loves Volvo Cork Week more than Royal Cork’s Paul & Deirdre Tingle who will be racing their X4ºAlpaca. Mills 39 Zero II, is the former all-conquering Mariners Cove, which is chartered to Nick Burns from the Royal Hong Kong YC. The Hong Kong invasion also includes Adrian McCarroll’s team, which have been coming to Cork Week for 20 years, they will be racing First 40.7 Playing Around. Top competition from Great Britain includes Louise Minchin and Chris Jones’ J/111 JourneyMaker II and J/112 Happy Daize, skippered by James Chalmers.
A vast array of boats will be racing in IRC Two, with some close duels expected. Assume fireworks from the pack of J/109s racing, especially from the Kinsale YC team on Finbarr O’Regan’s Artful Dodjer, third overall in the Round Ireland Race, and Pat Kelly’s team racing the highly successful Storm. Two of the latest J Boats designs, the J/99, will be in action with Michael and Richard Evans’ team from Howth YC racing Snapshot, second overall for the Round Ireland Race, taking on Wayne Palmer’s British team racing J/99 Jam. Highly competitive Half Tonners include two from the Royal Cork YC; Ronan & John Downing racing Miss Whiplash and David Dwyer’s Swuzzlebubble. Norbert Reilly’s team from Howth YC, racing Ghost Raider, will also be in the mix. Watch out for J/97 Jeneral Lee from Howth YC, sailed by Colin & Kathy Kavanagh, which is a proven winner. Steve Hayes’ First 34.7 Magic Touch from Greystones SC was second in the Coastal Class at Volvo Cork Week 2018 and switches up to IRC Two.
The 2019 Overall ICRA Champion X-302 Dux sailed by Caroline Gore-Grimes’ Howth YC team will be one to watch in IRC Three. A battle is expected among the Quarter Tonners. Pick of the classic designs are Anchor Challenge sailed by Royal Cork’s Conor Murphy and Sam Laidlaw’s Quarter Ton Cup winner; Cowes-based BLT. Colman Garvey and Kieran Kelleher’s Munster team will be racing Diamond. After IRC time correction, if the breeze is up, the Under 25 teams in the J24s should hopefully give the Quarter Tonners a run for their money, as will Royal Cork’s North Star, sailed by Fiona Young, and Pat Collins’ Ealu from Baltimore SC.
The Coastal Fleet is a mixed fleet of cruising designs. Denis Hewitt & Ors Mills 30 Raptor will be defending their win in 2018 with a team from the Royal Irish YC. With a strong Cork entry, local knowledge of tides could give the upper-hand in the Coastal Fleet. Royal Cork’s J/122 Jellybaby sailed by the Jones Family, and Frank Doyle’s J/112 Cara will be in the knowledge zone. Watch out for Patrick Burke’s First 40 Prima Forte, the Royal Irish team finished third in the 2018 Coastal Class on a previous boat. Also, Pete Smith’s Sun Fast 3300 Searcher from the National Sailing Club, which will be quick on reaching legs in solid breeze.
Varying in size from Clive Doherty’s Westerly 29 Phaeton to J/122 Damacle raced by Jan and Susan Van der Puil. With 21 teams already entered the Non-Spinnaker Class is the largest class racing at the ICRA Nationals. Race reports for this class will focus on the progressive handicap system ECHO, where time corrections may alter after each race result. Darren McCann’s Dufour 35 Tailte will be defending their ECHO Class win from 2018. Clodagh O’Donovan’s Beneteau 35 and Thomas O’Mahony’s Hanse 31 Loch Grèibe where both on the podium in 2018 .
Hundreds of sailors from all over the world will be competing at the ICRA National Championships, looking to take on well-sailed Irish boats,” commented ICRA Commodore Dave Cullen. “ICRA trophies will be awarded to each class, including the highly sought Irish Sailing medals and of course potential places at the annual Irish Sailing All Ireland Sailing Championships. It is going to be a fantastic week of racing at Volvo Cork Week.”