There is a new All-Ireland Team Racing event in the Ruffian 23 one-design keelboats, between North, South, East and West, hosted by Carrickfergus SC, Wicklow SC, DL Combined clubs & Mayo SC writes Colin McMullen
A Sunday evening stroller on Tarmonbarry Bridge might have noticed a band of sailors who looked a little battered and bruised in body, but jubilant in spirit, as they retreated into the twilight across the Shannon to their lairs among the drumlins of the Mayo coast, following a triumphant dawn raid on the Irish Sea. The weapons of choice were Ruffian 23 class boats on the somewhat cramped battlefield that is Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The opponents on this occasion were Dun Laoghaire Ruffian Fleet, aka Team East, who triumphed in a match against Westerners last September. The latest meeting was the first of a revitalized All-Ireland Team Racing Championship at Ruffians, the brainchild of longtime Ruffian sailor Brendan Duffy of the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club (DMYC) who hosted the event. Four teams, representing North, South, East and West, based in Carrickfergus, Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire and Westport will compete for the All-Ireland title.
Intending to run out of port, a new F6 reaching west for much of the day put that idea to rest. Thus, a route was drawn in the harbor with two laps instead of the only planned lap. While the 200-year-old granite walls of Dalkey provided sufficiently flat seas, they were no match for the westerly wind. A metaphorical “westerly wind” blew the home side, sailing into an unassailable 4-0 lead in the 6-run contest. Such an outcome seemed very unlikely at the end of the first lap of Race 1, when the East team was in a dominant position. Unfortunately for them, a tactical error gave Team West the initiative and victory in Race 1. The West then took the next three races to seal the deal. The Eastern team fought back to win Races 5 and 6, including a 1-2-3 combination, to restore their pride and narrow the points gap that comes into play for the All-Ireland title in the event of a tie break.
To a large extent, the event was a family affair, with the Guilfoyle clan leading the way by providing no less than five front row members. Team West captain was Fergal Guilfoyle, whose brothers Kealan and Ronan acted as RIB pilot and race crew respectively. Papa Frank drove the committee boat “Goose” while Frank’s sister, Trish, was on the East team. Incidentally, Frank and Fergal were commodores of their respective clubs at the same time, which must be a bit of a record. Frank Bradley, a former captain of the Ruffian class, has included in his crew his niece Helen who is the current captain of the class. Finally crewing a RIB was current DMYC Commodore Ian Cutliffe, whose father is longtime Ruffian sailor Michael Cutliffe and one of the Team East skippers, as is Frank. Rounding out the East team was Ann Kirwan of the National Yacht Club, who is the reigning Ruffian 23 National Champion and whose versatility is highlighted by her position as Commodore of the Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC). News of Ann’s prowess had filtered through the Shannon with counter-strategies discussed in detail. She took line honors in Race 2, albeit in a losing cause, then Team West coxswain David Quinn returned the compliment by beating Ann in Race 3.
The race committee was led by your correspondent, ably assisted by longtime DBSC stalwarts Ida Kiernan, Jill Fleming and Tina Dunne, with Ian Cutliffe, Dave Coleman and Kealan Guilfoyle at the controls of the hardtails. Unlike last year, the event featured on-water refereeing, provided by Vincent Delany and Eunice Kennedy. However, the strong winds reduced a lot of the team racing maneuvers possible, so they had a fairly calm day. There was a great buzz ashore afterwards, perhaps reflecting universal joy at finally being able to indulge in a good after sail, something all sailors have been missing a lot of lately. The conversation at the bar spoke of eager anticipation for the second leg next year and the remaining games of the 2022 Championship.
A superb day in testing conditions was enjoyed by all. Thanks go to Brendan Duffy for initiating and organizing the event, to the boat owners for their generosity in loaning their boats, to the race committee crew, referees and RIB drivers and to the DMYC for their excellent hospitality.
Results: The West team beat the East team by 4 runs to 2. The point difference was 2 points in favor of the West.
East team: Mick Cutliffe (bar), Paul Griffin, Derek Gill, Simon Bridgeman, Ann Kirwan (bar), Feena Lynch, Emer Ní Mhéalóid, Trish Guilfoyle, Frank Bradley (bar), Eoin O’hEochaidh, Mike Hinkson, Aoife Hall
West team: Fergal Guilfoyle (helm), Pat O’ Malley and Libby Lambe, Bobby Conlon (helm and current Mayo SC Commodore), Meghan Goldrick, Callum McLoughlin and Ronan Guilfoyle, David Quinn (helm), Blair Stanaway, Maeve Curley and Kyra Mullee.
Next game: West v South (Wicklow SC) at Rosmoney, Westport (Mayo SC) on July 9.