Irish show no signs of relinquishing hold on the leaderboard at the Rolex Commodores' Cup 30/6/06

With the three Irish teams still holding on to the top three places, they now hold a practically unassailable advantage over the rest of the teams in the Rolex Commodores? Cup with one inshore race and the long double points scoring 36 hour offshore race to come tomorrow. Fourth placed GBR White, in comparison, is 30 points off third closely followed by France Bleu.

While the Irish seem all but assured of victory the question remains – which of the three Irish teams will come out on top following the final high scoring offshore race? Only 10 points separate the three teams.

Two years ago the Irish challenge fell away on the last race. The teams are determined not to let that happen again. At present the lead is still held by Ireland Green but the second-placed Ireland Orange team showed some signs of aggression today in attempting to leapfrog their compatriots. Several incidents on the racecourse yesterday ended up in the protest room.

In Ireland Green it was Eammon Rohan’s mid-sized Blondie that scored the best result for their team with a first and a third in the two inshore races. “We got two laylines right, nice clean air and the boat just loves that 12-15 knots of breeze,” said one of Blondie’s pro sailors, sailmaker Neil Mackley of their first race.

The second he said, held in lighter winds was a case once again of the winning boat being the one that started closest to the pin and was first into the shore to stem the tide.

Today’s results were comparatively lacklustre for Andrew Allen and Colm Monohan’s J/109 No Naked Flames, superbly sailed all week until their 10th and 5th placed finishes yesterday. The poor result in the first race was initially due to them being over early and having to restart. Then mid-fleet they became embroiled in a protest at the Rolex buoy off the Royal Yacht Squadron when Classes 2 and 3 converged at the mark. This resulted in several boats touching; one – Ian Maclean’s Ker 36 Software Mistress – even broached. “We were having to dive in between two boats and unfortunately one of the twinners [a barber-hauler for the spinnaker sheet] was left on. We pulled the spinnaker in and it pulled the boat over,” described navigator Simon Shaw.

Unfortunately some of the collisions were between Irish boats and once the fleet returned to Cowes Yacht Haven the Irish team leaders were hard at work endeavouring to maintain the inter-Ireland détente that has been evident throughout the week so far, and hopefully with minimal resort to the protest room.

Ultimately, the lively conditions saw some new faces on the podium today. The Rolex mark, close in to shore, provided excellent entertainment for the gathered spectators, and it was the Dutch Grand Soleil 37 Swisslife that took the corrected time win in the first race in the small boat class.

With sailmaker Frans Hinfelaar calling tactics, Swisslife is skippered by Mark Flamand a veteran of three Admiral?s Cups including the heinous 1979 one. “Our boat is very fast in breeze and slow without wind,” described Flamand. “So we did well checking the upwind leg with the currents and decided to start at the pin end. We rounded the upper mark first and then could control the other boats.”

After being disqualified from Wednesday’s coastal race for failing to sail the correct course, so France Bleu team leader Géry Trentesaux on board the Beneteau 44.7 Courrier de Coeur had a blazing day scoring second and first places. “Today we were very hungry!” described Courrier crewman Thierry de Bourquenoy. “We did our best but it is more easy for us because we are one of the smaller boats. Sometimes we have the medium boats just behind us so the wind is not good for us. But this morning it wasn’t like that and it was easier for us to win.”

Matching the success of David Dwyer’s 2 in Ireland White, so their big boat, a DK 46, posted a win in the first race once again with America’s Cup helmsman and Volvo Ocean Race skipper Lawrie Smith behind the wheel. According to former GBR Challenge helmsman Andy Beadsworth, one of the professionals sailing on board, the boat likes more breeze and enjoyed the 14-16 knots of the morning’s race. “This morning there were long runs against the tide – that really helps us,” said Beadsworth, keeping his fingers crossed there will be more of this in tonight’s offshore race.

While the last inshore race is scheduled for this morning, this evening at 1830 sees the start of the offshore race. Everything, be it the outcome of the inter-Irish competition for first place or even the inter-GBR/ France Bleu contest for fourth, lies on this race particularly so as the race scores double points (or 4X the points scored in the inshore races.)

Local knowledge will play a vital part in this race, again forecast to be light, as former RORC Commodore Peter Rutter describes it: “?it will be fairly light, so a lot of us are thinking about our anchoring practise!”

Results (provisional)
Ireland Green 37 1
Ireland Orange 45.5 2
Ireland White 47.25 3
GBR White 78 4
France Bleu 80.5 5