The 2023 Challenge Squib Irish Eastern Championships,  hosted by Howth YC attracted 23 teams for an event  held in generally  light breezes and under the recently unfamiliar glare of glorious sunshine.

Saturday morning’s clearing fog left PRO Derek Bothwell with no option but to delay for a short time before the pea soup diluted and the fleet snaked out of the harbour. Once the breeze settled, racing quickly got under way, with a long-held early lead for the host club’s Kerfuffle  (Dalton & Merry) overtaken by team Granat  (Stewart & Hare) from the Royal Irish YC sealing the Race 1 deal with Howth’s Cool Beans (Class Captain Tom O’Reilly and Phil Merry) pocketing a tasty 2nd place.

The bit was firmly between Granat’s teeth and they ‘drove it like it was nicked’ to dominate Race 2, with Kerfuffle followed by Dogwatch , sailed byTerry Rowan from Royal North of Ireland YC and his HYC Puppeteer Class Captain Crew Paul McMahon.

Speed was of the essence to rein in Granat, so Kerfuffle hit the hyperspace button for an impressive Race 3 win. The second swift RIYC boat Ruby Blue (O’Connell & O’Donoghue) followed, with Blue (Hanna & Kelly from Killyleagh YC) taking 3rd.The delayed start to the day and fried brains from the sometimes bewildering downwind legs sent the fleet ashore for some welcome recuperation at the bar and a dinner arranged in a characteristically weird Tetris layout.   Kerfuffle led Granat by a single point as night set in.

Spat out of the harbour on Sunday morning by a strong flood tide but in near-zero breeze, some boats chose to tie up off the Spit Mark at Ireland’s Eye to wait for the fun to begin. Once the wind appeared, the Race Management team wasn’t long opening the traps for Race 4. Kerfuffle its claim to that race, chased by multiple championship winners Quickstep III (Patterson & Nolan from RNIYC) and the fleet’s oldest boat, Squib 24 Femme Fatale (Delany & Fenton) representing RStGYC and Arklow SC”.

At this stage Kerfuffle and Granat were locked in a battle royale and the two boats knew the championship outcome would depend on one leading the other over the line in the final two races. Sacrificing a maybe, coulda-woulda Race 5 win, the Howth boat made sure the Dublin Bay boat didn’t escape. It was maths at play!    Femme Fataletook that race win ahead of Quickstep III and Howth’s Durt (O’Kelly & Stanley).

Last race….Granat had to beat Kerfuffle  by 5 places to take the title. Pre-start match racing was the order of the day but the Howth boat shook off its rival at a bumpy start line and kept the points gap high enough to take the silverware. Kinsale’s Outlaw (Travers & O’Riordan) demolished the fleet in Race 6, chased by Quickstep III  and Durt .  Outlaw did enough to split Kerfuffle and iranat overall.

Cool Beans took the Silver Fleet honours just ahead of Howth’s Tears in Heaven  (McMahon & Sommerville)

At the tea and medals ceremony, Commodore Neil Murphy acknowledged the work put in by Class Captain Thomas O’Reilly, Fergus O’Kelly, Ronan MacDonell and Emmet Dalton for pulling the event together. Derek Bothwell went away well balanced with a bottle of his favourite tipple for each arm and sponsors challenge were given a warm round of applause from the assembled sailors and supporters.

Howth YC will host the 2024 Squib Irish Championships and already at least two new local owners have been shopping!