A Full Pelt/Flirt coming together at Cork highlights the swing keel dilemma

The wind and waves finally arrived at Cork Week and reminded the 550 teams why they come to this great regatta every two years. With south-westerly breezes of 15-20 knots, it was a welcome alternative to the frustratingly light and drizzly weather of the previous two days. Roy Disney said he has been hooked on the regatta since first competing here in 1992 aboard his Transpac sled Pyewacket. “It’s always special to win any regatta, but it would be really special to win here this week,” he said, as he was about to set foot on his latest Pyewacket, the Maxi Z86. He went a long way towards realising that dream with two victories in IRC 0 division, the swing-keeled wonderboat revelling in the large swell on the Olympic-type triangle courses.

Once again, Pyewacket beat arch rival Morning Glory to the punch off the start line. “We’re starting great but we’ve got some real good speed out of the boat too,” said Disney. For the two boats it is a marriage of convenience, a matter of can’t live with each other, can’t live without. “It’s a pretty serious rivalry between Morning Glory and Pyewacket. Putting spells on people is our deal but they had the hex on us in Antigua so I’m glad to break the curse now.”

There has been a definite souring of relations after Hasso Plattner opted to use spinnakers on Morning Glory, having previously left them ashore to attempt to level the slight IRC handicap advantage he holds over Disney.

Further down the scale in swing keel technology, Full Pelt, Stephen Fein’s 36ft upscaled 49er skiff, had a coming together with Flirt on the start line of the second race. Eddie English, the local navigator aboard Flirt, explained. “We were coming up to the line to windward of Full Pelt, and then she heeled to windward and I heard a noise. I didn’t know what it was to begin with, but I looked up and saw her mast had caught our mainsail.” Full Pelt’s carbonfibre rig ripped the main from luff to leech, forcing Flirt out of the race and sending the crew home to an early bath. “As windward boat, we know we were in the wrong,” commented English, “but there wasn’t anything we could do about it. Something will need to be done about these boats with swing keels.”

Full Pelt’s designer and helmsman, Olympic medallist Jo Richards, did not deny the accusation. “There is a potential problem with these swing keel boats, and the rules weren’t designed with such boats in mind, so something may need to be done in the future. When the Dutch boat Tonnerre de Breskens sailed over us at the start, the lull in the wind sent us heeling over to windward, and then Flirt came past too and the accident occurred.” Full Pelt continued racing, struggling upwind but tearing downwind at a phenomenal rate, looking for all the world like the skiff on which she was modelled. So much so that at one point the 36-footer did a nose plant before landing unceremoniously and continuing on her way to the downwind finish.

In the IRM division, Bear of Britain sailed appallingly in the first race. “I told them if they sailed like in the second race we’d pack up and go home early,” co-owner Kit Hobday commented afterwards. The dressing down at half time appeared to have the desired effect as Bear of Britain sailed an excellent second race, coming in some way ahead of rival Farr 52 Chernikeeff 2, and giving Hobday something to cheer about on his birthday.

While the 52s are locked in their private battle, it is the British DK46 Erivale helmed by Tim Powell which shares the lead in IRM with Ireland’s Colm Barrington on Flying Glove.

Craig Mitchell and the Mr & Mrs team continue to lead the Cork 1720s, although two boats have closed the gap – Graeme Scott’s King Quick and Anthony O’Leary’s Antix.