Irish sweep to victory in the Rolex Commodores’ Cup

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The Independent Online

In a gun to tape display of unstoppable power, the Irish swept to victory in the Rolex Commodores’ Cup, followed by Hong Kong and two French teams, leaving the best of the home sides in a humiliating fifth.

The murky conditions supplied an appropriate shroud for the GBR endeavours, but the Irish had turned black into velvet.

As the organising Royal Ocean Racing Club is still searching for way to bring the more professional Admiral’s Cup back to life, the Commodores’ version, which sees three-boat teams vying for the top prize, seems likely to continue on its merry biennial way.

Some stiffer opposition needs to be organised if a real challenge to the Irish and the French is to materialise.

This is the first outright win of its kind for some time for the Irish. You have to go back to 1979 to see a more co-ordinated effort. They were leading the Admiral’s Cup that year going into the final race. But that race was the notorious Fastnet Race which had every emergency service at full stretch and claimed 15 race fleet lives.

Runaway yacht of the series was the 39-foot Antix, owned and skippered by a man who was in the Irish Admiral’s Cup teams of the late ‘70s, Anthony O’Leary, who wisely missed the ’79 debacle. “I am both excited and satisfied in equal quantities with this win,” he said in Cowes Yacht Haven. “We have put a lot of work into this with two of the three boats having worked through any snags over the last couple of years.

“All three boats are from Cork, which made our crew training easier, especially having all sailed in Cork Week last month.

“This is a unique event, a fantastic event attracting sailors from all around the world – though it would be nice to see more countries coming back – and the combination of inshore and offshore races captures the imagination.”

His Ker 39 certainly enjoyed the fresher conditions over the seven days of racing which included six inshores in the Solent, a race round the Isle of Wight, and a 180-mile offshore. But for the British teams, who let saw many talented crew sail for the opposition, this was a dismal week.

Two days into Sidney Gavignet’s attempt to set a new record for sailing anti-clockwise round Britain and Ireland his 105-foot trimaran Oman Air was well inside the schedule to beat Thomas Coville’s time of 6d 6h 30m 41s in August 2006.

On Monday, 29 yachts set off anti-clockwise from Cowes for the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race with the focus also on both record-setting, with Mike Slade’s 100-foot Leopard in pole position, and a very serious clash between two teams gearing up for next year’s Volvo round the world race. The Spanish team, Telefonica is being characteristically coy about a crew skippered by Iker Martinez – Volvo, what Volvo? is the official line – and about which Neal McDonald is writing for The Independent.

More upfront is the Lorient-based Groupama team, skippered by Franck Cammas, which has already announced its intention to race in 2011 and 2014, is building a new boat – as are the Spanish – and will host two stopovers, with the Spanish hosting the next three starts.

They are all chasing a race record of 7d 4h 29m 40s set by Jonny Malbon in the fully-crewed Open 60 Artemis in 2006 and the course record of 6d 11h 30m 53s set by Sam Davies and Dee Caffari in the Open 60 Aviva last year.