Sea Area Folkboat Rally 1993
The early part of the season was mostly wet and very windy, and the week before the Folkboat rally at Howth was no exception. Strong W and SW winds meant that it took over a week before the Welsh and English boats had gathered in Holyhead for the cruise in company across the Irish Sea. We in Neomys had a particularly bumpy trip from Beaumaris in company with Rococa, and Siskin, but by Friday evening the fleet had gathered.
Merch Medina made the journey direct from Caernarfon to Howth, while the rest of us, Rococa, Neomys, Spook IV, and Blyth Spirit had a relatively uneventful crossing on the Saturday morning, apart from travelling backwards on the tide round Carmel Head for the first three hours of the voyage. This was followed by a close encounter with the new catamaran ferry travelling at 30 knots towards us off the Kish light. By then the forecast had proved more or less correct with clear skies, and a freeing southerly wind.
Howth lived up to its usual expectation for friendliness and the warmth of the Irish welcome. There were 22 boats at the rally, which is the best turn out we, have had for a number of years. Besides the boats from across the water boats also came from Arklow, Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire, Poolbeg, Malahide, and of course Howth.
The aim of the rally was to mix some racing with cruising visits and various social events, so it turned into one long hazy party interspersed with feverish bouts of activity (racing) followed by more partying into the night for the younger and fitter crews.
The racing was carried out in the friendliest of terms; just like the parties afterwards! Sunday began with the first race, which was from Howth to Poolbeg Yacht Club, which is up the Liffy on the way to Dublin. The wind was light to moderate easterly as I remember which gave us a fine spinnaker run once we had cleared the Ben of Howth, but did it rain.
It came down in stair rods with visibility towards the end of the race down to 400 metres. The problem was to find the finish line, which eventually we did, just one boats length behind Alar and Talisman. As we made our way up the river there was a loud bang accompanied by the sound of escaping gas. I thought our gas bottle had exploded but then realised my crews automatic life jacket, in the deluge had gone into automatic mode, resulting in him looking like the Michelin Man. Irish rain can obviously travel up hill. The Poolbeg Yacht Club made us most welcome in their clubhouse and kindly provided sandwiches for lunch and to help the beer down. The cruise back was delightful as the sun came out and the rain stopped. In fact this turned out to be the pattern for the most of the week, with rain early (usually at night), plenty of wind in the mornings and very pleasant sunny evenings, except for the barbecue of course.
On Monday we started the race off Island Eye and had another long downwind leg to Dun Laoghaire. This race was memorable mainly for the very fine lunch at the National Yacht Club where we were joined by the non boating crews who came by DART from Howth, but also for the fact that most of the lead boats could not find the first mark (including the locals). This had the interesting effect of putting the faster boats to the rear of the fleet after the turn south towards Dun Laoghaire and produced some exciting down wind surfing to catch up.
On Tuesday we raced round the cans to Lambay Island and hove-to for lunch. Since I cant remember our finish position this race must have been fairly uneventful! The afternoon race was much more exciting. The course was from the committee boat start to the west of Lambay Island then eastwards along its northern shore followed by a run south back to Howth. The tide was already running south as we beat north into the northerly wind.
We followed Alar, which seemed to have local knowledge, stood into the Island and just shaved the rocks on the western edge of the island to avoid the worst of the tide. The boats which stood clear were held up by the tide and as we rounded the island the tail enders were still in second place battling north. We had a fine run down wind all the time desperately trying to overhaul Alar, but the sting was in the tail in this race. The OD had laid the finish line with the tide running along it, while most of us assumed that that the tide was running with us across the line, and the result, one minute we were easily making the committee boat, the next we were beating., still with the spinnaker set trying to avoid the pin.
By the time we had disentangled ourselves from the buoy, and unwrapped the spinnaker, we had forfeited our hard won second place. That evening we went into Dublin to Whisky Corner, the old Jamesons distillery and sampled the delights of Irish Whisky; another memorable event.
Wednesday was a lay day. Some of the boats entered the best cruising boat competition. Other crews went off to the bright lights of Dublin. Rococa's crew did both! They left a bottle of Whisky and two glasses for the judge and caught the earliest possible train into Dublin, but the bribery didn't work. My crew had spent the previous evening talking/drinking with the skipper of Je Reviens who lives in Malahide and had arranged to borrow his range Rover for the day so we were fortunate to be able to explore the Wicklow Mountains in beautiful sunshine. Many thanks to Henry.
Thursday morning was the crew's race. The wind had eased to the top end of 3, which seems to suit Neomys, so we had high expectations. Unfortunately yours truly was not up to scratch a crew and after getting a real jam up with the spinnaker at the first leeward mark we never recovered and finished fourth. However we were to finish in fine style in the final race in the afternoon, an Olympic course. There was a strong bias on the line favouring a port tack start, so we decided to go for it getting away in excellent style. Most of the others in contention went away on starboard from the committee boat end and despite our good start it became increasingly obvious that we would have to dip most of the fleet as we closed on opposite tacks, and then a miracle. The lead boat tacked to port and all the other boats followed! We were left clear and to windward with a lead of about 100 metres at the first mark. After that everything worked like clockwork for once. We had no spinnaker disasters and finished the race very satisfied with our first place.
Overall we finished third, not as good as last year when were first but in many ways much more satisfying. The racing was carried out in the friendliest of spirit sand it was most fitting that the prizes awarded at the splendid dinner that evening should be shared amongst our crews.
Congratulations to Graham Wilson in Alar, the overall winner and thank you to our hosts for giving us a most memorable rally.