To Clare Island and into the Wild Atlantic Waters
The race action around Clare Island on the Sunday of the June bank holiday weekend had all the intrigue of a world class sailing race. Wind out of the SE holding steady at 20 knots at the start but gusting over 40 knots on the North side of the island. Fog, mist, rain. An MOB (man overboard) successfully recovered in textbook style within about 3 minutes attesting to the fine seamanship of the skipper and crew. Gear failure. Seasickness. The makings of many stories. Two boats retired. Six over the finish line with the faces of experience on board. Awards won by sailors sporting broad smiles knowing they had lived up to the challenges. Characters from every walk of life, both young and old, had set their sails against one another for the prestige of winning the Kay O’Grady Memorial Trophy.
Of course, the fleet of racing and cruising boats had some stories of their own outside the race. A failed engine required picking up a mooring under sail (not easy). An anchor stuck in the bottom was not to be lost – finally retrieved with the help of friends. Steering failure resulting in a life threatening situation led to a Coast Guard call of Pan-Pan (just shy of Mayday) with a scramble of lifeboats from Achill and Clifden; fortunately the Pan-Pan alert was cancelled when chance and ingenuity combined to permit a successful manoeuvre to re-anchor in the harbour and fix the problem – without outside assistance. These sailors are all intrepid souls.
Part of getting out there is putting oneself into the territory of new experience and lifelong learning. Challenging oneself in a calculated way makes one feel alive and helps to put everything else into perspective. Making it through the tough situations with the help of a bit of teamwork instils a sense of accomplishment like none other. And sharing the stories over a pint at the end of the day with friends cements the memories for a lifetime.
A sighting on the way home of a pod of bottlenose dolphins 3-meters in length and more than 40 in number topped it off. You cannot experience something this magical if you do not get out there to see it. We were very aware that it doesn’t get much better than this, and it is right in our back yards. How lucky we are. We just turned to the sea and plunged right in!
Of course it all started with plans for a simple cruise in company, an introduction to sailing for the island residents, a friendly club race around the island followed by a BBQ dinner and prize giving. But the weather gods simply didn’t get the notice that it was June and summer, which meant it should be warm and gentle. No. The weather gods sent fury. The cruising boats were rocking and rolling through the night in the harbour when the wind turned southeast, the direction from which the harbour is exposed. The racing boats were sent out on a wild ride into the Wild Atlantic. The adrenaline junkies got their thrill. Everyone else got their lessons. And all survived to tell the tales. “It was hell out there. Wind gusting over 35 and 40 and from no predictable direction. Square waves in crossed patterns with swell bouncing off the cliffs, it was absolutely intense,” were the words of one experienced sailor who braved the elements with his crew that day and lived to tell the tale with a crooked smile.
Fortunately the day before, Saturday, was a lovely day for a marvellous sail out by most of the cruising fleet. As the wind veered from the West to the Southeast, the course sailed became one long tack out of the Bay. It started with glorious sunshine, then heavy cloud cover, followed by a parting of the clouds over the Island itself to facilitate a taste of sailing by the island children and adults. The Club fleet of dinghies was once again brought out by ferry and rigged, while a Mayo Sailing Club instructor gave basic training and a rib provided supervision and rescue services if needed – all for no charge. A brilliant experience enjoyed by all.
The Clare-islanders were very welcoming and provided sumptuous fare both nights. Friendships were renewed and new ones made long into the wee hours as the music by the Con Artist’s Band delivered popular entertainment at the Sailor’s Bar. It was a wonderful weekend with lots of activities both on the sea and on shore. An Annual event we’ll look forward to for years to come.
Line honours in the Around Clare Island Race, part of the King of the Islands Series:
- Blue Moon
On corrected time:
1st Place Excel
2nd Place Privateer
3rd Place Xena
2nd Place Privateer
3rd Place Xena
Next event at Mayo Sailing Club: WIORA West Coast Championships 23-26 July 2014 Visit the Mayo Sailing Club website for more information.
Created on behalf of Mayo Sailing Club. The rest of the story will be posted in the next installment.