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As I headed off to west Cork for my first Cullaun SC annual cruise, little did I know that I was about to take part in the first ever Jolly Roger Cup Race. I'm not quite sure if it will go down in the chronicles of nautical racing history and attract Olympic or Volvo class sailors in the future but it will always remind me of this great weekend- sailing and socialising. 

On Thursday evening last, I travelled south with 13 Cullaun sailors to sniff out the sea breeze. A beautiful sun was setting upon our arrival in Baltimore as we unloaded our gear and tried to find where best to stash away our grub (including a vast quantity of toffee crisp bars and coco pops). Once we had unpacked we all met in the local pub for a few scoops.

The next morning was 'nice and fresh'. After some breakfast and a toffee crisp or two, followed by a quick shop for some fruit in order to avoid scurvy (you cannot live on toffee crisps and coco pops alone!), we got under way at about 10.30am and each boat went their merry ways, one beating (or almost belting) out towards Fastnet lighthouse with the porpoises for company, while the other boat sailed east on a nice run for Barloge Creek.

This cool creek provides a secluded anchorage and we had a refreshing swim there. After we travelled back west and enjoyed the lumpy swells of the Atlantic until we rounded Cape Clear Island and navigated safey into it's north harbour. Our compatriots were already tied up and relaxing on deck with a drink. After a lovely bolognese dinner which Kevin Donolan russsled up we visited the pub for the obligatory night cap (or two).
Saturday's wind was very light. One boat headed out to round the Fastnet and then onto Crookhaven, while the other traveled the opposite direction through the Gascanane Sound and then east to discover Barloge Creek for themselves. Behind the creek is Lough Hyne, a marine lake accessible by a narrow stretch of water known as "the rapids". A bit of white water rafting in the inflatable dingy was tested by this adventurous group, along with their own patience being tested by the outboard engine. Pic Des Mac Mahon

Both crews returned for the evening to moor on Sherkin Island's jetty, one boat returning from Crookhaven on the high tide via the North Passage which required eyeball navigation, especially when passing the Two Women rocks.

After a fine curry dinner which Billy O'Mahony and Maureen Hayes had prepared, we all assembled in the Jolly Roger pub to exchange the stories of our day and enjoy a few drinks. As the pints flowed, that competitive streak of Des McMahon's surfaced and he suggested a race challenge for the following day.
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And so it happened, the following morning, sore heads or not, both boats lined up before the start line. With light winds behind our sails we battled it out with a few tacks to try to establish the best way to luff our sails and point east to the finish line at the entrance to Castletownsend. After half an hour or so, Captain Emmett O'Mahony and his crew snuck into the lead to win the race. Defeated but not deflated, the losing crew stripped off for a swim before boarding the winning ship to congratulate the crew and raise a toast to their victory. Both teams then enjoyed a great fry-up and the sun decided to come out for the remainder of the day, allowing us a fabulous sail with a stiff breeze all the way back to our original starting point in Baltimore. From here we unloaded our gear... and the last few Toffee Crisps were shared out for the drive home.

Overall, it was a truly enjoyable weekend! Thanks to everyone for organising and sharing the experience together, I'm clearing my calendar for next years trip already!

George Fitzgerald

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