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Aurelia First to Make Tacking Move in Fastnet 450’s Ocean Chess Game

23rd August 2020
Chris and Patanne Smith's J122 Aurelia from the Royal St George Yacht Club Chris and Patanne Smith's J122 Aurelia from the Royal St George Yacht Club Credit: Afloat

Day two, Sunday 1400 hrs: Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia was the first of the three on-the-water leaders in the Fastnet 450 to tack far offshore for the longboard that will take her from the area of stronger west wind many miles out at sea into the lighter conditions along the West Cork coast and on down toward the turning point at the Fastnet Rock. The J/122’s decision maker made the call at 1100 hrs, but it was an hour later before Cian McCarthy’s fighting little Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl – even further at sea, but equally far west – put down the helm to head for the shore around noon, and as she closed towards Denis & Annamarie Murphy’s bigger but equal-rated Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo (vid below), the Murphy boat tacked on the McCarthy boat around 1220hrs.

It has been a difficult one to call, real ocean chess, as a slight backing of the wind off West Cork is forecast this afternoon, thereby freeing up those coming in from offshore, but providing the problem that they might overstand the Invisible Menace. The “Invisible Menace” is the Traffic Separation Exclusion Zone, a large rectangular box south and southeast of the Fastnet Rock. It might well enclose the least busy shipping Traffic Separation Zone on the planet, but it’s very real in offshore racing terms nevertheless, as you’re cast into outer darkness with ferocious time penalties if you so much as infringe on one square inch of this verboten space.

So ideally the perfect tactical ploy would be to time your tack onto port such that it brings you in on a curving course as the winds backs ever so slightly to take you close past the northeast corner of that unspeakable red box, but still sailing hard on the wind. The really unforgivable sin racing-wise would be to lose ground by having to ease sheets and pay off to keep the red zone’s nor’east corner to port. Any tactician causing that will be hung from the yard arm……

Looking at the overall picture, overall leader on IRC Nieulargo already looks to be freed enough to start worrying about that Northeast Corner Conundrum, but Cinnamon Girl is currently laying just west of Galley Head, yet further towards the shore it is noticeable that Aurelia is slowly but steadily curving more steadily to the west, while maintaining 7.2 knots to Nieulargo’s 7.1, with Cinnamon Girl – maybe footing a bit freer – making 7.0.knts.

Next in line to the northeast of them, the Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (John O’Gorman) and the J/109 Indian Simon Knowles are also now on port like the bulk of the fleet, and if Aurelia’s gradually changing course made good is anything to go by, they might have read it very neatly, but the nearer you get to that West Cork Coast, the odder the winds become, which is of course no reflection on the people who live there.

Blackjack (IRL 1988), a Pocock 37 skippered by Peter CoadBlackjack (IRL 1988), a Pocock 37 skippered by Peter Coad

In the big picture on IRC overall it is the turn of Peter Coad’s vintage Pocock 38 Blackjack from Dunmore East to be having a great time, she rates only 0.917 and has been ploughing steadily on to such good effect that she lies fourth overall, behind Nieulargo, Aurelia and Cinnamon Girl in that order on CT, while Hot Cookie (vid below) and Indian are 5th and 6th a matter of minutes apart. 

As for this morning’s drama of the Red Alert retirement, it was pretty total as she’d been dismasted, but all are well and she’s headed for Dunmore East while Ronan O Siochru’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star (Irish Offshore Sailing), which stood by in an exemplary seamanlike manner, has resumed racing and will receive full-time compensation.


Published in Fastnet 450 Race
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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The Kingstown to Queenstown Yacht Race or 'K2Q', previously the Fastnet 450

The Organising Authority ("OA") are ISORA & SCORA in association with The National Yacht Club & The Royal Cork Yacht Club.

The Kingstown to Queenstown Race (K2Q Race) is a 260-mile offshore race that will start in Dun Laoghaire (formerly Kingstown), around the famous Fastnet Rock and finish in Cork Harbour at Cobh (formerly Queenstown).

The  K2Q race follows from the successful inaugural 'Fastnet 450 Race' that ran in 2020 when Ireland was in the middle of the COVID Pandemic. It was run by the National Yacht Club, and the Royal cork Yacht Club were both celebrating significant anniversaries. The clubs combined forces to mark the 150th anniversary of the National Yacht Club and the 300th (Tricentenary) of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

Of course, this race has some deeper roots. In 1860 the first-ever ocean yacht race on Irish Waters was held from Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) to Queenstown (now Cobh).

It is reported that the winner of the race was paid a prize of £15 at the time, and all competing boats got a bursary of 10/6 each. The first race winner was a Schooner Kingfisher owned by Cooper Penrose Esq. The race was held on July 14th 1860, and had sixteen boats racing.

In 2022, the winning boat will be awarded the first prize of a cheque for €15 mounted and framed and a Trophy provided by the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest yacht club in the world.

The 2022 race will differ from the original course because it will be via the Fastnet Rock, so it is a c. 260m race, a race distance approved by the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club as an AZAB qualifier. 

A link to an Afloat article written by WM Nixon for some history on this original race is here.

The aim is to develop the race similarly to the Dun Laoghaire–Dingle Race that runs in alternate years. 

Fastnet 450 in 2020

The South Coast of Ireland Racing Association, in association with the National Yacht Club on Dublin Bay and the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Cork, staged the first edition of this race from Dun Laoghaire to Cork Harbour via the Fastnet Rock on August 22nd 2020.

The IRC race started in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday, August 22nd 2020. It passed the Muglin, Tuscar, Conningbeg and Fastnet Lighthouses to Starboard before returning to Cork Harbour and passing the Cork Buoy to Port, finishing when Roches's Point bears due East. The course was specifically designed to be of sufficient length to qualify skippers and crew for the RORC Fastnet Race 2021.

At A Glance – K2Q Race 2022

The second edition of this 260-nautical mile race starts from the National Yacht Club on Dublin Bay on July 1st 2022 goes via the Fastnet Rock and finishes in Cork Harbour.

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