A Close Shave

I promised after the finish that I would go back and fill in the gaps of the final two days of the race. When I last gave a proper blog, Oscar had overtaken me with his bold move North, leaving me with a lot of miles to catch up and the countdown to the finish getting more and more stressful.

I knew that tactically Oscar had trumped me by getting into the other weather system earlier, and that I effectively had one big move left before the finish. I pushed Dinah to run as deep as she would possibly go. I knew Oscar would have to sail at much higher angles due to his assymetric sails, and that running deep should at least get me into the same water, and the same weather as him. Once in the same conditions, I was comfortable that I could outsail him boat for boat. Dinah rose to the challenge, running at 155/160 degrees apparent wind through the night, at speeds well above her polars for those light airs.

By the time we were crossing Nantucket shoals, Oscar was reported 15 miles behind, and we switched back to defensive sailing. I was very uneasy though, as we were relying on unofficial position reports due to Oscars difficulties with his tracker. Just before sunset I was taking a moment to admire the Nantucket shoreline through binoculars, when I spotted a spinnaker on the horizon. Fearful that there had been a mistake in the position I had been given for Oscar, I sailed really aggressively thorough the night, especially along the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

As the sun came up it became clear that the boat I had been fighting against all night was not Oscar, but in fact Luca Zoccoli, from the class above me… Dinah really was punching above her weight! A light airs beat into Newport against the tide saw the result of many years racing in similar conditions in Cork Harbour pay off handsomely, allowing Dinah to pass Luca, short tacking up the shore, and finishing ahead of him on the water, despite the Open 35 being a much more powerful boat.

At 10.05 UT, Dinah crossed the finish line at Castle Hill lighthouse on the Western shore of Naragansett Harbour. She finished 4 minutes ahead of Luca Zoccoli on the open 35, and 2hrs 32min ahead of Oscar Mead on “King of Shaves” to win her class by 33min 12sec.

Coming ashore was an emotional experience, with friends, family and fellow skippers there on the dock. Sirens, cannons, cheering. It was very very overwhelming after 20 days of solitude. One of the wonderful demonstrations of the Corinthian spirit of this event is that the skippers go out to help the following skippers to come in from the finish line, put away sails, find those fenders that were last seen three weeks before, provide direction into the harbour, and most importantly deliver that all important first drink as a fully fledged member of the Half Crown Club. The atmosphere in Newport is just amazing, and the celebrations begin afresh with every new boat that arrives.

Messages of goodwill have been flooding in from around the globe. Sadly the waterproof pouch for my mobile phone failed to keep out the North Atlantic, and so as a result I have lost all my contact numbers and emaiol addresses. So many messages have come in from people, and I simply don’t know who they’re from! Apologies to anybody that didn’t get a personal response, but at least now you know why. Please everybody do send a text and put your name on it so that I can start building up my address book again.

The last of the tv, radio, and newspaper interviews are now complete. The reaction from the public has been amazing. Two gestures in particular stand out. Northport Yacht Club in Maine, seem to have adopted me as one of their own. Jim Coughlin, drove all the way down here to see me and my family, bringing gifts including a marvellous letter from the Northport Commodore, and a Northport Yacht Club burgee. Also, Cove Sailing Club, my first ever club in Ireland where I grew up and where I was once a committee member, have made me an honorary member and also sent a club burgee. Both burgees are now flying with pride on Dinah, and I am quite humbled everytime I see them.

Thanks to all for the many messages and gestures of goodwill. I will treasure them always. This photo was taken as I stepped off the pontoon having been handed one of the many tricolours that were there to mark the arrival of the only Irishman in the race.

Ostar Finish

Don’t worry, the beard didn’t last long!