Last weekend saw the latest installment of the Sutton Dinghy Club Royal Cork Yacht Club rivalry with both Senior and Junior Book Trophy on the line. Arguably the oldest dinghy team racing event cin the World, first raced in 1944 between Sutton Dinghy Club and the Cork Harbour Sailing Club, the forerunner of Royal Cork Yacht Club, the Book Trophy or the Sutton Book as its known in Cork has attracted some of Irelands best know sailors down the years.

The teams were meant to travel to Cork in April 2020 as part of the Cork Clubs Tricentenary celebration but Covid meant the event was cancelled. However between Andy Johnston in Sutton and Alex Barry in Royal Cork the engagement continued and a date of September 4th became available in Cork. Andy with the help of Kirk Durnford set about making sure we could take a Juniior team along with a Senior team. Despite our lack of experience in team racing it was felt that the Junior on the trip would greatly benefit from both racing and watching the Senior teams. The Sutton team began arriving in Cork on Friday evening and were welcomed by RCYC Admiral Colin Moorehead and RCYC Archivist Paul McCarthy. The Senior Book was quickly brought to the Clubhouse and went of display for the weekend.

The Senior team selection was not concluded till the Saturday morning with our Commodore Ian McCormack stepping into the last crew slot, probably one of the oldest debutants, pairing up with Alan Blay our team Captain. It was a great honour to have Robert Dickson fresh from his Olympic endeavours also in the team. Robert was making his Book Trophy debut and was following in his grandfather Roy and indeed his sister Sineads footsteps. Having sailed in our Regatta the previous week, Robert is taking a little low key time after the pressures and efforts in Tokyo. Not sure this was as relaxing as he might have been thinking though. Robert was partnered by Shane McLoughlin, who has just returned from his studies in Galway and has joined our building GP14 fleet. Our final pairing saw 2 young GP14 helms combine with Cornor Twohig crewed by Peter Boyle. As team manager, I would like to say Roberts presence was a huge boost for our Junior team and greatly appreciated by all in Sutton Dinghy Club that he made made the time to join us for this historic event. 

The Senior & Junior racing was best of 7 in the fleet of Irish Sailing Fireflies that are based in Royal Cork Yacht Club and was held in the river between Currabinny and the Crosshaven Club house.

The Junior  team of Ciaran Durnford (c) & Eimear Fleming, Luke Kellet & Denis McCarrick and Oisin Kelly & Finn O’Doherty would be first on the water at 3:30 and were afforded an opportunity to get some practice on the Fireflies on Saturday morning. The young Cork team were led by the by 2021 Laser Radial National Champion Jonathan O’Shaugnessy and included 2 Laser 4.7 that had competed at the recent Laser ILCA Worlds. This would be a baptism of fire for the young team but they prepared as best they could and were committed to enjoying the experience.

Despite being well beaten by the more experienced Cork team, our young team gained vital boat handling experience and tactical insight as well as coming face to face with the subtler arts of team racing. Following the handover the Juniors had grandstand view of the Senior racing in the river from the hammerhead end of the marina. And boy was the racing competive and fiery. From the first gun, there was no quarter given by either teams, with superb boat handling from all the crews.  

Cork were ably lead by Book Trophy veteran and champion sailor Alex Barry with his crew Maeve O’Sullivan. The team also included Patrick and Chloe Crosbie, son and daughter of Tom Crosbie who had sailed in many Book Trophy events in his time. The 3rd Cork boat was helmed by young Harry Pritchard, recent runner up in the Laser Radial National Championships and crewed by 29er National Champion Lola Kohl. A formidable team indeed and on home waters to boot. The busiest man on the water if not the most stressed was the Umpire. Yours truly was in the Umpire boat as photographer and anyone who tells you the PRO job is the most stressful is wrong. I wouldnt be an Umpire for all the money.

Despite one of the Sutton boats being over the line on the start, we got off to a great start taking Race 1 (10-11) literally on the last manoevre, with some breathtaking boat handling from both teams. With positions changing all the time, RCYC recovered composure and took Race 2 (12-9). RCYC followed this up 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 shadowed and followed but this didnt seem to phase them at all and the Sutton crews hit back to take Race 4 (7-14) and level the match. Race 5 really saw the Umpire stretched with incidents across the width of the course including one which will be discussed for years. Green flag was given but many Sutton felt it shold have been a penalty againt RCYC, but even in the long discussion afterwards there was still uncertainty about the correct call. Sutton looked like they had recovered form that situation only to touch the finish mark and despite a swift recovery Cork nipped into 5th and take the win 11-10. Despite the disappointment of Race 5, Sutton with some superb pressing and communication overwhelmed Cork to take Race 6 (6-15) and set up a grandstand final race. With weather drizzly, damp and getting dark, an unfortunate poor start put Sutton under immediate pressure which Cork capitalised on and secured early 1, 2 lead position and despite an immense comeback and engagement, Sutton couldnt put the lead Cork boat under sufficient pressure and they eventually took Race 7 (12-9) to give them victory 4-3 as the gloom and dark descended on the river.

Ian McCormack was asked to address the teams, alikadoos and Royal Cork Yacht Club members before the prizegiving. He assured everybody he was fine despite sailing all 7 races and spilling a bit of of blood for the team along the way. He thanked the Club for their hospitality and the opportunity to keep the event going. Veteran Sutton Book sailor Dom Long made the presentations to the respective RCYC Captains, Jonathan O’Shaughnessy of the Junior team and Patrick Crosbie of the Senior team.

An excellent demonstration of boat handling, very competitive team racing and a great day, worthy of this historic and great event. Looking forward to the return in Sutton in 2022.