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Cork Week

July 14-18 , 2008

Held every two years, Cork Week regatta has become a major event in the London Corinthians calendar, and this year, members raced on countless boats including two organised directly by the club

At Cork this year, London Corinthians fielded two matched Sunfast 37 yachts, which were chartered from Sunsail’s Largs base on the west coast of Scotland. I was allocated Sunsail 67, leaving Charlie Storr to deliver and Rod Eames to race skipper Sunsail 66. The latter was quickly renamed by the crew of Sunsail 67 as 99 on account of its propensity to sink, but that’s another story to be recounted elsewhere.

Sunsail transfers its yachts to Largs when they become too tired to be chartered at their main base at Port Solent and our boats were showing the signs of a tough time during their six year life.  Perhaps a further hint was given when the Sunsail chap cheerily waved us off from the dock saying: “Well, we’ll hopefully see you in three weeks.”

The delivery itself was everything it should have been, with occasionally challenging conditions, but a great learning experience all round, and a lot of fun. We took it in turns to skipper and navigate, stopping first at Howth near Dublin then Kilmore Quay, right on the south east corner of Ireland. Kilmore turned out to be a little gem of a haven and it was here that we came across the happiest looking seal I have ever seen, lolling around in the water right up to the pontoon. Finally an overnight fetch to Kinsale, complete with dolphin escort for an hour or so, brought us to just round the corner from Crosshaven, the base for the regatta.

For those who’ve never been, Cork is a delightful setting for a regatta - where else would you be shouting: "Get out of the way!" at a pod of dolphins as you approach the windward mark! The well organised racing comprises a different type of course each day, the most memorable being the harbour race, which takes you to the far reaches of the harbour and along the town quay, and the slalom race involving four spinnaker gybes in quick succession (try doing that without a grin on your face!).

It was clear from the outset that with a rig set up for one-design racing and sails looking like old paper bags we were never going to be a cause of anxiety for the leaders in our IRC class. And so a duel it was between the two matched club boats.

As the week progressed, our crew on Sunsail 67 managed to gain the upper hand, but it was by no means a whitewash. The last day brought some fickle winds in which the lead between Sunsail 66 and Sunsail 67 changed six times as the fortunes of the two boats ebbed and flowed. 

On the final circuit, Rod managed to call water on us at the downwind mark, forcing us to break away and take a less conventional route back upwind. By pure luck, this route got the better winds and we arrived at the upwind mark well in front.

By now after a week’s racing, both boats’ spinnakers were being hoisted flawlessly, however as we approached the finish line it was Rod that had the better speed, steadily catching us up in a heart stopping final few moments. Amazingly after a three hour race, we crossed the finish line at exactly the same time resulting in an official dead heat.

It was a fitting end to a week raced with great sportsmanship and humility, although not to the extent of course that we weren’t going to blast Sunsail 66 with We Are The Champions on account of our overall victory.

My next sailing assignment will be at Cowes week, when I shall be part of Rod’s crew and presumably be allocated a choice position on his boat... mid-race bilge cleaner or the like, I should imagine.

My thanks to both delivery and race crews for making the trip a blast from start to finish, and above all to Tom Partridge and Mike Ridley back at base for their selfless time spent organising which made it all happen.

by James Alsop

Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, September 2008