Ireland has done it. After mounting multiple teams, considered favourite going into both the 2006 and 2008 events but failing to win either, so the Irish boats Antix, marinerscove.ie and Roxy 6 today secured the Rolex Commodores' Cup for the emerald isle.
"It is delightful to finally have a chance to get our hands on the trophy
," declared Anthony O'Leary, owner and helmsman of the Ker 39 Antix, the Irish team's big boat. "For all three boats, the Rolex Commodores' Cup has been the absolute pinnacle of what we have wanted to do this year. While Antix and marinerscove have been around, it is a credit to the guys on Roxy because they had a new build and got the boat in the water, and then there were all the attendant things you have to do. Owner Rob Davies, in fairness to him, didn't take a huge amount of persuasion to sign up and make the extra effort required to do it. We owe him a huge debt.
David Dwyer and his marinerscove.ie team were equally ecstatic. "I bought this boat in 2006 and we have been waiting since then for the right time. This time it worked. It was absolutely brilliant
Roxy 6's pro sailor Maurice 'Prof' O'Connell added: "We put in a massive effort and it is nice to have got the reward. Cowes is going to go ballistic tonight!
The 2010 Rolex Commodores' Cup could not have finished on a better note. While the day dawned grim, with rain and visibility down to less than a mile, by start time at 10:30BST it was blowing 20+ knots and with the tidal effect this was churning up the Solent. With the weather mark not visible there was a distinct Irish hiccup on the first start when Antix collided with a French competitor and had to carry out a penalty turn.
"It was 110% our fault, but we are glad we got it out of the way," said O'Leary. "Fortunately with that amount of weather, there was always going to be a chance to have a come back
And so it was on the run when, with the wind gusting to more than 30 knots and the sea seeming to come from all directions, that there were many instances of boats becoming overpowered and wiping out. This provided O'Leary and his crew with the chance they were looking for: "Down the first run Inis Mor tried to gybe, spun out and blew her kite to bits. White Heat had the same problem just ahead. Then we got to the bottom mark and our friends from Hong Kong trawled the kite, so we got inside them. Then we extended to the finish
This was enough for Antix, despite her poor start, to post a second, typical of her scoreline this week, which has never featured a result lower than this.
One of the most dramatic scenes from the water today was of the Farr 45 Alice II in GBR White, streaming the top of her blown out spinnaker on the final upwind leg at the extent of the halyard.
"Coming into the leeward mark we saw 36.4 knots
," recounted Alice II crewman James Read. "We were doing 17 knots in flat water and about one third of the chute was in the hatch and then the head just caught the water and then 'zooop' it went out of the back, the sheets, the lot... We tried to blow the halyard but it wrapped up. So we flew it as a massive flag for the last beat! It was a bit of an air break.
In the two smaller classes, there were few boats that came off unscathed, other than the impeccable Irish. Peter Rutter's Grand Soleil 43 Quokka 8 in GBR Red had to retire when the bottom of their mast buckled. On the downwind legs there were many many broaches, the most dramatic being that of François Blossier's A-35 RealAx in France Red, which ended up with her masthead almost in the water.
"It was a little bit windy
," admitted Blossier, who sails with a completely amateur crew and raced the Rolex Commodores's Cup four years ago on Pierre Follenfant's TBS. "We had a problem, because we took the big black spinnaker and we probably should have taken the smaller one. When we gybed we had a little bit of trouble with the pole...and that was it
On board Blondie IV with the Hong Kong teams, Jamie McWilliam found the conditions exhilarating. "It was a perfect day, brilliant. I wish it had been like that all way. The funny thing about it, it was very tricky to catch a set of waves that worked because they were coming from everywhere. It was very sporty coming down the last run. The tack shackle of our tack line on the kite, which has a working load of 4 tonnes, exploded in a 20 ton gust. It was magic
McWilliam's Hong Kong team finished second to the Irish, on 117.5 points to Ireland's 73.5. However McWilliam was satisfied with the result: "I think if we'd been second having cocked it up, it would have been irritating, but the Irish guys sailed with great style and great skill and I'm absolutely delighted for them
Andrew McIrvine, Commodore of the RORC said that his Beneteau First 40 La Réponse had been pushed to the limit. "We shredded a spinnaker. All our jammers started slipping. We have never put them under so much load before - they were tested beyond their working strain
Otherwise McIrvine was pleased with the outcome of the regatta. "It has gone very well, particularly for the Irish who very much deserved their win. It was a very exciting day. As the French said it was 'un peu agitée'!' The results are good. Everyone had a good day. Ireland deserved it. They got so nearly there before. Now they have a hot team and they have gone for it properly and they deserved to win
Top Five Teams - Provisional Overall Positions after completion of 8 races
Team / Points / Place
Ireland / 73,5 / 1
Hong Kong / 117,5 / 2
France Blue / 136 / 3
France Yellow / 167 / 4
GBR red /175 / 5
Full results and team lists are available on the event website