The first event of the 2018 J24 season took place this weekend with the J24 Eastern Championships at Howth Yacht Club. Pre weekend forecasts looked ominous for any racing at all with less than 5kts forecast all week long so competitors could only be pleased when winds picked up to a sailable 6-8kts southerly on Saturday morning.
Racing took place just north of Irelands Eye. Conditions while sailable were very challenging as winds were very light and very shifty. Racing throughout the weekend would find the fleets continuously splitting between the right & left sides of the course in attempts to judge pressure versus tide.
In race one, in the Gold Fleet, 2017 National Champion, JP McCaldin from LEYC got a good start and headed out to sea to get the wind, while most of the rest of the fleet went right, and had pulled out enough of a lead by the first windward mark to take the first race of the year. Dave Lane & Sinéad Enright from RCYC on YaGottaWanna also went left and a fifth saw them lead the Silver Fleet. In race two, in Gold, Darragh McCormack on Stouche from Foynes favouring the right side of the course towards Howth this time led from the first beat only to be pipped on the final tack with a wind shift and Flor O’Driscoll from Bray Sailing Club on Hard on Port capitalised to take first. Howth K25 Team, Kilcullen also choosing the favoured side in sixth place were the lead boat in the Silver Fleet. A thick fog descended over Irelands Eye resulting in a delay in racing with the OOD Derek Bothwell continuously reminding competitors to stay nearby and within visibility. With no sign of fog lifting scouts were send inshore to find visibility much better and the fleet moved closer to Howth. In race three the fleet again split left and right and with less tide inshore Steve Atkinson on Bád from Carrickfergus Sailing Club lead on the first beat but again Hard on Port hot on their heels overtook Bád on the first downwind and lead to the finish. In Silver, Gerard Gilligan’s Jana from Sligo Yacht Club with consistently improving place finishes took fifth to lead the fleet.
The OOD judged enough was enough by that stage and the fleet were sent ashore to a smashing championship dinner laid on by Howth Yacht Club.
On day two sunshine and a consistent breeze meant racing got off to a great start with smiles all round and sunblock even applied. In race four there was consistency across the course with slack tides and the fleet again split left and right but merged in unison at the windward mark. Overnight leaders in the Gold Fleet, Stouche, kept their championships hopes well and truly alive with an excellent win being matched tack for tack by Jamais Encore and YaGottaWanna who lead the Silver Fleet. By race five it was still anyone’s championship in both Gold and Silver. Hard on Port, so hard to beat, took the win ahead of Jamais Encore to take the lead in Gold and Jana pipped YaGottaWana for third to jump ahead in the overalls by half a point. And that was the end of the lovely conditions, race six started but was abandoned mid race as another thick fog appeared and the race marks disappeared from sight!
A fantastic opening weekend of sailing for the J24 season. The next event is the J24 National Championships in Foynes Yacht Club on the 8th to 10th June.
Gold Fleet: 1st Hard on Port, 2nd Stouche, 3rd Jamais Encore
Silver Fleet: 1st Jana, 2nd YaGottaWanna, 3rd Kilcullen
Full results available on the J24 website: