It has been a frantically busy weekend in Cork Harbor with crowded classic events such as the Cobh-Blackrock race and other events of varying levels of association with the 75th anniversary of naval service. Yet somehow time and space have been found at Crosshaven for the annual staging of the 77-year-old Book Challenge, which dates back to 1944 when the sailing dinghies of Cork Harbor SC (replaced in time by Royal Munster YC then Royal Cork) faced their counterparts from the Sutton Dinghy Club for the team races in International 12, the trophy being a large vellum book in which the winners are obliged to enter the result of the last staging.
Since 1980 the program has been doubled with a junior section, so with the acceleration of navigation from 2021 into post-pandemic mode, the logistics were great to bring the teams together from Sutton and get to Crosshaven, where it was. it was the RCYC’s turn to welcome him with the national firefly dinghy flotilla. We let the Sutton Dinghy Club team principal and former commodore Andy Johnston pick up the story:
The teams were due to travel to Cork in April 2020 as part of the Cork Club tercentenary celebration, but Covid meant the event was canceled. However, between Andy Johnston in Sutton and Alex Barry at Royal Cork, the engagement has been maintained, and a date of September 4, 2021 has become available in Cork. Andy – with the help of Kirk Durnford – worked to ensure that SDC could take on a junior squad with the seniors. Despite their inexperience in team races, it was felt that traveling juniors would benefit greatly from both racing and watching senior teams.
The Sutton Squad started arriving in Cork on Friday evening and were greeted by RCYC Admiral Colin Morehead and RCYC Archivist Paul McCarthy, with the main book being brought to the Clubhouse and on display for the weekend.
Time constraints were such that the selection of Sutton’s senior squad was not finalized until Saturday morning with Commodore Ian McCormack entering the last spot on the crew, possibly one of the oldest rookies – he teamed up with team captain Alan Blay. It was a great honor to have Robert Dickson – fresh from his Olympic efforts – also on the team. Robert was making his Book Trophy debut, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Roy and sister Sinead.
After sailing in the Sutton Regatta the week before, Robert is taking some time off after the pressures and efforts of Tokyo. We’re not sure it was as relaxing as he might have thought it would be, however …… He was associated with Shane McLoughlin, who has just returned from his studies in Galway and joined our GP14 fleet in Sutton. Our last pairing saw two young GP14 coxswains team up with Conor Twohig, piloted by Peter Boyle.
As a team leader, I would like to say that Robert’s presence has been a huge boost for our junior team, and it was greatly appreciated by everyone at the Sutton Dinghy Club that he took the time to join. us for this historic event.
The Senior & Junior race was the best of seven in the Royal Cork Yacht Club-based Fireflies fleet and took place in the river between Currabinny and Crosshaven clubhouse.
The junior team of Ciaran Durnford (captain) & Eimear Fleming, Luke Kellet & Denis McCarrick, and Oisin Kelly & Finn O’Doherty, would be the first on the water at 3:30, and had the opportunity to s’ train on the Fireflies on Saturday morning. The young team from Cork was led by 2021 National Laser Radial Champion Jonathan O’Shaughnessy and included two Laser 4.7 coxswains who had competed in the recent Laser ILCA World Championships. It would be a baptism of fire for the young Sutton team but they prepared as best they could and are committed to enjoying the experience.
Although well beaten by the more experienced team in Cork, our young team gained vital boating experience and tactical knowledge while also challenging the more subtle arts of team racing. After the transfer, the juniors then had a grandstand view of the senior races in the river from the hammerhead end of the marina. And boy, was competitive and fiery racing.
From the first shot, there was no quarter given by the two teams, with superb maneuverability of the boat on the part of all the crews. Cork was ably led by Book Trophy veteran and sailing champion Alex Barry with his crew Maeve O’Sullivan. The team also included Patrick and Chloe Crosbie, son and daughter of Tom Crosbie who had competed in many Book Trophy events in his time. Cork’s third boat was helmed by youngster Harry Pritchard, recent finalist of the National Laser Radial Championships, crewed with 29er national champion Lola Kohl – a formidable team indeed, and on their home waters too.
The busiest man on the water if not the most stressed was the referee. Yours truly was in the referee boat as a photographer, and anyone who tells you PRO work is the most stressful is wrong – I wouldn’t be a referee for all the money spent.
Although one of Sutton’s boats crossed the line at the start, we got off to a great start, literally taking race 1 (10-11) on the last maneuver, with mind-blowing maneuverability from both teams. With positions changing all the time, RCYC regained his composure and won Race 2 (12-9). RCYC followed with a similar score in Race 3 (12-9) to put pressure on the Sutton crews. It was obvious that Robert and Shane were being followed and followed, but that didn’t seem to confuse them at all, and the Sutton crews fought back to win Race 4 (7-14) and tie the game.
Race 5 really saw the referee stretch with incidents across the width of the course, one of which will be discussed for years to come. The green flag was given, but many Suttonians felt it should have been a penalty against the RCYC. Yet even in the long discussion that followed, there was still some uncertainty as to the correct call.
Sutton looked like he had recovered from this situation to touch the finish line, and despite a quick recovery, Cork placed 5th and took the victory 11-10. Despite the disappointment of Race 5, Sutton with superb pressing and communication overwhelmed Cork to win Race 6 (6-15) and hold a grandstand final race.
With foggy, wet and turning dark weather, an unfortunately poor start put Sutton under immediate pressure which Cork capitalized on and secured a 1,2 lead position early on. Despite a huge comeback and commitment, Sutton couldn’t put leader Cork under enough pressure, and Cork eventually won race 7 (12-9) to give them the 4-3 victory as the darkness of autumn was descending on the river.
Ian McCormack was invited to address the teams, alikadoos and members of the Royal Cork Yacht Club ahead of the awards ceremony. He thanked the Club for their hospitality and the opportunity to continue the event. And in keeping with the history of the event, RCYC Sutton Book veteran Dom Long made the introductions to the respective RCYC captains, Jonathan O’Shaughnessy of the junior team and Patrick Crosbie of the senior team.
All in all, an excellent demonstration of handling the boat, very competitive team races and a beautiful day from all points of view, worthy of this historic and very special event. We look forward to returning to Sutton in 2022.