Then it's on Round Ireland's most spectacularly beautiful southwestern coastline, past one great headland after another, each more impressive than the last. The final turning mark is reached, a rock so spectacular it's first choice for location shooting on sci-fi blockbusters. Thus is the mighty and mystical Skellig Michael put astern. And then, with the majestic scenery of the great mountains of Kerry setting the style, you head up a splendid inlet and sail through a small and almost hidden gap in its rugged northern coastline.
You've suddenly entered a secret yet commodious natural harbour, and may find yourself being welcomed by the amiable yet often spectacular resident dolphin. But far from finding you've arrived at a sparse little village which is appropriately dwarfed by the big country about it, on the contrary there's a proper little port town with an air of confidence and cosmopolitan chic, and the aromas of good cooking in the breeze off the land. But the contrast with the smooth metropolitan harbour town you left a couple of days earlier simply couldn't be greater. For you have just finished the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, and all is very well with the world at one of Ireland's best destination ports.
As the fleet sailed into the night, some were doing better than others almost regardless of the wind they found. And the D2D Race Tracker began its work on Afloat.ie to such good effect that within a couple of days its visitor hits had knocked "James Bond in Dun Laoghaire" off the top of the popularity sidebar on their website.
However, through the remainder of the short June night, the two leaders were powering away, and by 0530 they had broken past the Tuskar Rock while the fleet astern found the new flood tide piling up against them to enable Antix to start to assert her position at the top of the leaderboard on IRC. This was what had been expected with the weather forecasts on Thursday morning, when predictions had been that a favorable wind pattern - briskly from the north - might enable Antix to get to Dingle within the 24 hours, with the stratospherically-rated Lee Overlay Partners doing even better.
But by Friday morning the wind expectations and the betting had softened. It seemed there were going to be at least two significant flat patches that would have to be negotiated before they could breathe the Kerry air. In those circumstances, the smart money shifted to boats with middle ratings in the fleet, and where better to settle than on the half dozen ever-reliable J/109s? And within those ever-reliable J/109s, where safer than the Shanahan family with RUTH, the 2014 ISORA Champion?
It has to be admitted that with POWDER MONKEY leading the charge for glory in the J/109s in the early stages, RUTH had her backers worried. But by the time they were out past the Coningbeg at 11 o'clock on Saturday morning, the money was looking a little bit safer, for although Antix was still reaching along in glorious style and fine weather with the Old Head of Kinsale the next mark in mind and her still on top of the handicap lead, RUTH was now emerging from the pack and was picking at the lead in the J/109s which had been taken over by the Welsh boat MOJITO (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), while early sprinter POWDER MONKEY had run out of steam and was now well back.
While the northerly breeze lasted, Lee Overlay Partners and Antix were in a race of their own. Horizon job doesn't even begin to describe it. And when the wind did go soft and then drew locally from ahead on Saturday afternoon during an otherwise perfect summer's day, they were better able to cope in clear conditions. But many miles astern, the most of the rest of the fleet were in those messy waters south of the Hook, where head winds in the usual lumpy sea make any progress difficult, and some took desperate tactical gambles.
Yet such is the nature of this race that the more optimistic continued to hope that their time might yet come, and so it proved through Saturday night. The underlying northerly breeze had returned as forecast, reinforced by being the night breeze off the land right along the south coast of West Cork. But for the two leaders ploughing along approaching the Fastnet Rock at midnight, they were sailing into another calm. The Fastnet Rock, legendary emblem of rough water, was no more than a great big pussy cat sitting serenely in its own bed of almost windless sea. Antix came as near as dammit to a halt.
Yet the rest of the fleet, led by the offshore-course-favouring J/122 Aurelia (Chris & Patanne Power Smith), were coming down from the Old Head of Kinsale through the velvet night in considerable style and at a very fine speed. Then through that night, as each cohort in turn came to the Fastnet and found it calm and then had some very slow progress towards the next bit of a reasonably moving air out by Mizzen Head, the corrected time leadership changed almost by the minute, and certainly by the hour.
In such circumstances, with all the benefit of hindsight, we can see a trend emerging. The close racing between MOJITO and RUTH had developed into an exhausting duel. But their heightened performance for that one-on-one challenge meant they in turn were out-performing all others. Oh for sure, from time to time other boats appeared at the top of the leaderboard. But thanks to the MOJITO/ RUTH contest - "a dogfight" was how Liam Shanahan later laconically described it - when anything remotely like reasonable sailing emerged, the two top J/109s were poised to take the lead.
It was at Cape Clear and heading on towards the Fastnet at 6 o'clock on Sunday morning that RUTH for the first time started to show ahead, though only just, when they were only 80 metres apart. But she stayed ahead of MOJITO thereafter, even though like everyone else they spent a considerable time – three hours in the case of some boats – becalmed at the mouth of Bantry Bay. Yet all the time RUTH was somehow nibbling away, and as the northerly returned to give a summer day's beat out past Dursey Head and on towards the big turn at the Skellig, RUTH was building towards having two miles in hand on MOJITO.
She never lost it thereafter, and as the chips were falling exactly the right way for whoever was leading the J/109s, they were able to get round the Skellig and up to the finish at Dingle carrying the port tack all the way, albeit hard on the wind, while those ahead had found things flukey towards Dingle, and those far astern were to find the wind veering to give a beat, and then falling away.
The early overall leader Antix was no longer in a commanding position when she finally finished the D2D 2015 shortly after 2pm on Sunday, having to contend with a local south to east breeze to get across the line. But in the end, she did very well to correct to 8th place overall after a race in which conditions were against her.
Yet not so far behind the two big glamour girls, RUTH took the win with style, finishing at 1945 hrs still that crucial two miles ahead of MOJIYO, which in turn came in twenty minutes later to move into second on corrected time.
It was fairly clearcut in terms of time for the first three places, but fourth slot was a very close run thing. If there was a prize for the most inappropriately-named boat in the race, it would have been no contest for Jay Bourke's J/109 DEAR PRUDENCE. She seemed to be crewed mostly by some of the most colourful characters on the Irish sailing scene. And in those difficult stages to the west of the Coningbeg and Saltees, DEAR PRUDENCE seemed to be taking unsuccessful flyers that belied her name. But as the race progressed, her motley crew – sorry about the cliché, but nothing else will do – began to get their act together, and they fairly milled their way through the fleet.
By the time DEAR PRUDENCE got out of the Bantry Bay calm, she was becoming a contender. Thereafter, the motley crew sailed like men possessed. To get to Dingle as quickly as possible, they made some inspired tactical decisions in the beat up to the Skellig. And then, on the final leg to the finish, they didn't sail an inch further than was absolutely necessary, skirting Valentia Island close inshore with a splendidly cavalier disregard for the supposed perils of doing so, and hounding down boats in front of them like a very hungry lion after his prey.
Thus from being an also ran going nowhere, DEAR PRUDENCE came in a commendable fourth, albeit by just 50 seconds ahead of Alchimiste. It was an astounding performance. And it added yet further lustre to the J/Boat sweep of the results, as they now took five of the first six places. Overall is was the Shanahan’s J/109 RUTH in first followed by Peter Dunlop & Vicki Cox’s J/109 MOJITO in second, Chris & Patanne Power Smith’s J/122 AURELIA in third, Jonathan Bourke’s J/109 DEAR PRUDENCE in fourth, and James & Sheila Tyrrell J/122 AQUELINA in sixth. For more Dun-laoghaire to Dingle Race sailing information