Student Yachting World Cup 2013. There are two distinct strands in Irish university sailing these days. The annual National Team Racing Opens in Fireflies – won five weeks ago on Tralee Bay from 26 college teams by University of Limerick skippered by Ross Murray – continues to be the backbone of the national students' programme. This is as it should be. Team racing is a natural fit in college life, but it's equally natural that afterwards, most folk grow out of it.
However, with the success in recent years by the Irish colleges in the Student Yachting Worlds in France in the last week of October, this major international championship with one keelboat apiece has zoomed to the top of the agenda. With the availability of the SailFleet flotilla of J/80s, the top Irish college sailing clubs are able to have a proper selection series with fleet racing which emulates the championship itself, especially this year as J/80s will also be the boat used in France in six months time.
On top of that, University College Dublin are current world champions, and they have a place at the worlds as of right. So there has been a second team place in France up for grabs in a three day selection series spread over three weekends, concluding today in Howth where the J/80s are based this Spring.
The Student Worlds is a massive season-long commitment for a transient membership college sailing club to make, but they mustered seven teams at mid-series with UCD:Simon Doran; TCD:Scott Flanigan; UL: Rob O'Leary; DIT: Nessa Coady; CIT: Donough Good. Seventh team DCU, skippered by Ryan Scott, had already committed to a team racing series in France on the first weekend when this three-Saturday schedule for April was announced, so they've been allowed to compete the latter two weekends with average points allowed for their no-show first day in a series which will have no discards.
However, University of Limerick continue on a roll, and their helmsman Rob O'Leary only has to make sure he doesn't record a last place in either of today's two races to ensure that UL will be providing a two-pronged attack for Ireland along with UCD at the big one in France in October.
Tomorrow, the J/80s are back in action with the ICRA training day, and it's good to see them doing what they're intended for. The SailFleet concept is achieving exactly what everyone hoped, and we can be proud of them – they're The People's Boats. That said, we may need to organise some sort of fund-raising do - a gala dinner might fit the bill – to put right a problem with ISA SailFleet J/80 No 4. At least two bolts in the upper rudder gudgeon on the transom are producing an unsightly stain. Of course it can't be rust. It just can't be rust.
It must be a stain of some sort. But nevertheless, a focused fund-raising drive may be necessary to raise the resources to replace those bolts with fastenings in proper naval grade SS 316. It's the least we can do for The People's Boats.
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