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With the recent series of storms model yacht racers had to cancel a number of events but a few managed to get on the water. We had a friendly outing in Gortin lake in November and another one on Lough Erne last weekend writes Gilbert Louis.

One of the main comments about these 2 outings is that most of the boats that you see in the pictures and videos are home built. Most of these wooden boats were built by Neill Suitor a sailing enthusiast from Northern Ireland who clearly has ‘golden fingers’ to build these beauties. Having said this, others also built their own boat. Trevor Fisher and Bob Wells also from Northern Ireland built a Goth XP design in wood. Des Dwyer and Sephen Fay from Dublin built an Alternative design… (Alternative is the actual name of the boat design. This boat was designed by Brad Gibson).

The IOM class is not a one design but a box rules where the rigging is pretty much one-design but the class rules allow for creativity and designs opportunity with the hull. This ensure evolution of the class while keeping the cost down and all boats racing competitively together. 

This allows home designs and home built boat to be as competitive as series built fiberglass boats and this is a really good thing.

Brad for example who’s multiple world and European champion designs and builds his own boats and his sails. One of the successful German skipper also designed and built his own boat, sails and even his rigs with wooden rigging with pre-bend in them. While this amateur building is still a minority amongst IOM skippers it shows that whether you buy a ‘production’ boat or build it yourself you can be competitive in the class.

I race with a wooden boat designed by Frank Russell, a well-known model boat designer from Australia (http://www.frankrusselldesign.com/) which was built by Neill Suitor. I finished 5th in national regatta in France in Autumn last year with it. I was the only competitor there racing a wooden boat but I was racing against all the latest designs (Britpop, V8, V9, Fraktal, MX, cheinz, etc…).

The Irish fleet is currently enjoying growth in the Cork region and in Northern Ireland at the moment which is encouraging.

In Dublin, Howth YC which is a great base for the Dublin fleet is hosting the regular Winter and Spring series with events every 2 weeks.

Looking forward to see you on the water! Or rather ashore with us to control your boat ;-)

Gilbert Louis

Published in Model Boats

Gilbert Louis (IRL141) from Howth Yacht Club competed at the IOM Mortelecque Trophy regatta in Valenciennes the weekend of the 12th & 13th September and reports here for Afloat.ie
Gilbert joined his brother in France and together made the trip up to Valenciennes arriving after just over 2 hour car journey to a typical French breakfast welcome… Et oui! A coffee with a croissant… hmmmm nice!
Very quickly it was time to rig up the boats, confirm the registration and boat cert before we were out for the first race. It was very well organised.
21 boat which is about the max IOM can realistically sail together. Anything above this and the fleet is broken down into 2 fleets with 4 boats moving each way (top 4 boats from B fleet progressing to A and last 4 of the A fleet going down to B fleet for the next race). This provided for some well disputed starts. And Starts were key to the end result as the top weather mark was not that far.
The IOM class only allows 3 rigs to cover winds up to 30-35 knots. Here there was no question on the choice of rig. Despite a forecast for 11-21 knots we had 6-10 knots max all day, so top rig it was for everyone.
Gilbert races a Goth XP IOM boat designed by Frank Russell Design from Australia, built in wood by our national Irish master-craftsman Neill Suitor from our Northern Ireland fleet. Gilbert was the only wooden boat racing there.
Gilbert found the pace early one with 3 5th place for the first 3 races establishing him in 3rd place after 3 race. But then as the wind got even lighter Gilbert found difficult to find the same pace. Whilst he manage to get in the top 3 a number of time he didn’t manage to finish better then 5th.
After day 1 and 11 races completed Gilbert found himself in 8th place out of 21 boats.
Day 2 was pretty much the same wind but this time coming 180 degree from the Saturday. But as light if not lighter at times. Once again Gilbert didn’t break the top 5 despite once again sail in the top 3 even leading some of the races at times. This was frustrating! His boat was outpointing pretty much everyone else but Gilbert was looking to find speed not pointing and despite making tuning changes between each race only found some marginal speed improvements.
Nonetheless this was a really good experience to gain as Gilbert knows what he needs to work on. A new main with the max draft in different location, a bigger rudder is on the works to try next. And this is part of the tuning when you sail a new design boat. This is part of the fun too!
At the end of day 2 Gilbert had progressed and built a nice gap in 6th place overall. The event was won by Guillaume Florent (Bronze Olympic medallist in Finn class).

Published in Model Boats

#modelboats – Despite an uneasy weather forecast and torrential rain during the week model boat skippers heading for the Ulster IOM championships just couldn't complain about the weekend as we had light wind, a good few sunny spells and no rain at all writes Gilbert Louis.

With this in mind we had more skippers than last year's Ulster's championships. They came from the Republic, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England, 18 in total.

Saturday saw the whole fleet of 18 boats sailing together. Despite talks of splitting into 2 fleets the decision was made to keep us all in one fleet which has one key advantage. We get twice as many race and time on the water and this is part of sailing.

The format was sets of 3 races pretty much back to back with only a few minutes for skippers to make adjustments if needed between the races, to tune their boats to the conditions. Or giving an opportunity for quick fixes in case of brakeage.

Then a longer break before the next set of 3 races. This format allowed us to spend great time on the water and get the most of the day sailing not watching others sail. Everyone enjoyed it.

Sure it also made for spectacular starts ! 18 boats on the starting line is not something we're used to so you have to be on the first line or you get spat out at the back very quickly after the start. This is excellent training for us as we don't have that experience in Ireland but that's what they do at international levels so a good exposure for us.

The trick is to be amongst the front line of boats in the last few seconds before the start. You need to make your space and defend it. Not easy when you're in your boat, even more difficult when you have your boat in a swarm of other boats all looking to have the perfect start.

The start and first beat to the weather mark will dictate pretty much 70-80% of your race result. It is so much easier to control the fleet from the front then try to sail through it to get there. Particularly when there is very little difference in boat speed. It is too easy when you're behind to say my boat is not as fast as the other at the front but actually I found that my boat speed particularly on the Sunday was very similar to them. So the difference is elsewhere: a good start, clean air, going on the right side, staying clear of contacts and good tacks. Yes the difference will show in making mistake on any of these and at the end when you add all the boat lengths you lost in a bad tack, going the wrong side or worth a bad start and I don't even count getting cought up with other boats, penalties and these add up to several boat lengths and places between you and the first boat.

Jeff Kay from HYC who's our most experienced skipper having competed at several European and World championships was able to use that experience and get great starts and was "fighting" for top 5 places on regular basis.

There were 5 of us coming from the Republic: Jeff and his brother Stephen Kay, both racing the now very popular and successful Britpop designed by Brad Gibson. Then Des and myself sailing a XP designed by Frank Russell, and Oscar, a new addition to our fleet who came to compete for his first ever IOM regatta with my trusty V6 designed by Ian Vickers.

The intensity of the races back to back took its toll on Jeff's back and he had to sit a a number of races despite really good performance on the water.

Stephen did well up until his electric issue started. He got very irregular results due to a random receiver problem which got worse and forced him to abandon the event. A real pity as he also had the pace.

Des struggled on the saturday with his XP, trying to find a good tuning for the light wind conditions and his work paid out as he was right in the fight on day 2.

Gilbert was trying his brand new XP which only touched the water once before for the floatation test so it was very much unknown whether that design could match the reputable speed of the Britpop. Race after race Gilbert fixed a number of teething problems which improved reliability and upwind performance but an alignment problem of the gooseneck forcing the main boom upwards as the sheets were eased, spilling the wind out meant that he coudn't gain places on the downwind legs but was rather loosing some.

On day 2 and a fixed gooseneck Gilbert managed to bring the pace of the boat closer to the best. But the starts were still a problem which coudn't be fixed in tuning. Yet race after race he was working his way up to the front of the fleet and finished on a high as he managed a stunning start of the last race and after good tactical decision led at the weather mark and managed to keep no 46 britpop at bay to lead to the finish. So the XP has potential, more time sailing in different conditions will give us more information on this new design.

Bottom line we still have work to do in Ireland to match the Scots and English but we're making progress which is encouraging. A great meal at Paddy's barn pub put an end to this great event before people left to get their ferry back.

Supporting this event is our repeat sponsor Catsails so thank you Nigel and Sue for your on going support.

Brian O'Neill planned and organised this event with the support of Bill, Ali and others making this year's event another great success. 

Next is the Winter Series in Howth Yacht Club that starts shortly.

Published in Model Boats

#modelboats – The IOM or International One Metre model boat class is truly international. At more than one level writes Gilbert Louis.

With fleets on all continents across multiple countries: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Malta, the UK, the US, Israel and a number of European and Scandinavian countries to name a few.

In total 26 National Class Association (NCA) are registered to the International Class Association (ICA) and of which 20 countries had skippers representing them at the 2014 European Championships in September.

Australia, Croatia, the US and the UK, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands have well established big fleets for sure, while others have smaller fleets like Malta, Ireland without forgetting emerging ones like Israel, Chile. So we have a good mix of representation across the world.

In fact the IOM is probably the most sailed boats in the world as not everyone is into racing. A lot of people would pick IOM boats because of their attractive size (which allows them to be easily packed in any car and are quickly ready for sail), their class rules (open enough to allow people to design, build and race their creation if they want and yet be competitive due to the class limitation), their popularity as stated in previous paragraphs and because they do react quite like full size boats too.

The other dimension of the IOM's truly international status is simply the boat itself. Looking at my boat for example, most of the parts are coming from various locations in the world. You can also get it all from one supplier but in Ireland we don't have any so we source our parts elsewhere.

My boat was designed in Australia by Frank Russell, built by Neil Suitor in Northern Ireland, sailed by me in Ireland, the sails come from New Zealand and Australia, the masts from France, the Winch from Australia, the booms and ball–bearing goosenecks from the UK, fittings (mix from the UK, France, Italy and the US), the appendices and the bulb come from the UK, the rudder servo bought from Germany, batteries from Hong-Kong.

You may think wow what a headache to find the right parts you are looking for with all this. Well no because I am quite picky with what I want to use on my boat. You can simply order all the parts from one providers. Most of the big providers will have all the parts needed so then after that it comes to personal preferences. I have listed them in our class site www.iomireland.org for your convenience.

But sure half the fun in model activity is building it yourself or customising it to make it unique to you. Trying new stuff, modifying it so it suits your setup, etc... it's all part of the fun !

Even the Irish IOM fleet itself a mix of French (your scribe), Irish sailors of course and now a new skipper from Sweden who recently joined us.

Published in Model Boats

#modelyacht – Once again there is a model yacht skipper representing Ireland at the up-coming 2014 IOM European Championships held in Lake Garda in September writes Gilbert Louis.

Jeff Kay from Howth Yacht Club will be flying the Irish flag once again. Jeff is not new to this level of competition as he represented Ireland at a number of European and World Championships over the past few years.

Probably the most experienced skipper in our fleet, Jeff has a wealth of experience in sailing (laser, squib, cruiser/racers, etc...) as well as in model boats too. He brings a great technical knowledge to the fleet because of his experience over the years of racing often in the top 20 at international events.

One important element to understand! The IOM fleet at international level is the most competitive fleet there is in model boats. It includes a number of World class sailors from national, international, World, European champions and Olympic sailors too. The fleet also includes professionals in the sailing world: be TP52 campaigns, VOR, skiffs, even from the America's cup teams, like Ian Vickers (OT USA). That is not counting on the countless top model boat skippers. The top 20 includes over 50% of former EU or World champions. So it is no break in the top 20.

Jeff will be racing a Britpop, a boat designed by Brad Gibson (AUS) which has taken the IOM world by storm. A still relatively new boat design with chines. It has already won numerous podiums around the world as well as Gold medals a the last EU and World champs. So it is already proven design – so proven in fact that a lot of other skippers will race one too.

In June Jeff travelled to the UK for one of their event and he managed 4th behind 2 former World champions and ahead of a 3rd. Not a bad performance considering we don't get as much on-the-water time as our friends across the Irish sea do. We are wishing Jeff the very best for the Europeans.

But that's not all Ireland will also be represented in the umpires as our national rules guru Gordon will be part of the teams of umpires and jury there to make sure everyone stick to the ISAF RRS rules. Gordon is also experienced as he has already been called upon for his services at previous international model boat events in France and the UK. Gordon is our most experienced model boat official in Ireland and we are lucky to have someone like him in the fleet. So on behalf of the Irish IOM fleet, Thank you Gordon and wish you the best in Italy in September.

Athough we may be small in number and not as known as other fleets, we do have quality and passionate skippers in the fleet. Jeff, Gilbert, Brian and Neill have been racing across the pond to the UK numbers of times, even winning some of the events. Team Ireland finished 2nd behind Scotland at the recently launched Celtic Trophy, and the Irish flag has been flying at a number of past European and World championships.

For the past 2 years we enjoyed a slow but progressive growth in the fleet with the addition of our Northern Ireland fleet to which Brian O'Neil has been instrumental in setting up and growing. As a result model boats are now sailing again on the Belfast Waterworks, thanks to the support of the county council who welcomed the activity and helped the club to setup. Sure we even had for the first time ever an Irish sailor a the UK A class National Championships with Brian entering the event despite being completely new to this class and with very little experience with his newly acquired A class. And it is not all about racing we have Gilbert who loves multis: he has a replica of Jet Service II of the 80's and a Mini40 trimaran which was based on the 60 Orma trimaran of the 90's. In Cork we even have a 1/10 sailing replica of Illbruck a VOR60 (have you done the math yet? Yes that's a 2.4m long boat, controlled by radio control). We also welcomed the return of Stephen Kay to the class who took a break for a few years – Like his brother Stephen is an experienced sailor and will be pushing top Irish skippers too.

For now on behalf of the Irish IOM National Class Association we thank you Jeff and Gordon and we wish you the best.

Published in Model Boats

#modelboat – The model boat classes have been experimenting with chines for a while now. We have seen a new trend over the recent years in boat designs. This new wave came from the racing boats, TP52, VOR70, and recently making its way to the cruiser racer designs like the new X boats or Malango to name a few.  The funny thing is that not until recently chined boats were still built by amateur builders as they are easier to build. Yet now we are coming back to them, the 10R, A class, Marblehead and also the One Metre class are now coming out with chine.
The IOM or International One Metre Class operates under a box rules format. This, in a nutshell, allows for a relatively open format to boat designs but the rules on the number of rigs and their dimensions are very stricts.
This ensures close racing as we have seen over the years. For the past couple of years the arrival of chines on boat design increased the performance of these boats a notch up. However there are still many debates about the chine and its effect on performance. From what I have seen and tested so far, I can give 3 advantages of the chine design over rounded hulls:
1- the chine helps the boat to accelerate that bit quicker after a tack.
2- It allows to track nicely on the beat versus a rounded hull that would "slide" more as it heels in the gusts.
3- it helps the boat to get planning that little bit earlier and longer on the run
there is a 4th point often discussed within the class. That boats with chines tend to nose dive less in the gusts and accelerate more. I agree to some extend as in my opinion this is primaliry due to more volume in the forward section, complemented by a higher radius of the foredeck to help the come up should it nose dive. I am not of the view that the chine helps here, and the proof is that Brad Gibson who made the most successful chine design, did design another boat before called the SKA which goes well downwind and has no chine.
See the pictures attached to see the difference in designs and even amongst the chined boats, its length, position and angle varies across the design range.
So does that means that rounded boats are passed their due date ? No not at all, not later than a month ago I won an event in Scotland with my 2006 V6 which has a rounded hull, ahead of newer chined boats. There are many other rounded hulls that are at least as successful like the Obsession, the V7 to name a few.
There is it seems a "fashion" trend to go and get a chined boat, but like any other sailing class you can focus on the little things and miss on the big picture. Like getting the tuning of the boat wrong, opting for the wrong rig, an electric failure, a bad start, seaweed in the keel, a wrong tack, overstanding a mark, and the list goes on. One has more to lose in doing any of these errors than not getting a chined boat.

Published in Model Boats

#IrishIOMclass – Three sailors of the Irish IOM (International One Metre, model boat class) fleet travelled to Paisley in Scotland, near Glasgow. After meeting up in Belfast ferry terminal Gilbert Louis / HYC, Brian O'Neill / EDYC and Neil Suitor from Omagh boarded the 3:30am ferry to Stranraer.

A two hour drive followed to reach the Paisley Model Yacht Club. After travelling for most of the night a good full Scottish breakfast was in order to wake up the mind.

Other sailors started to arrive as we started to rig up our boats. A short breifing to explain the fleet system, the course and we were off to start sailing the seeding race. Having 14 boats we had the option to sail altogether but the committy decided to opt for the heat system to ensure fair and smooth sailing to all due to the wind conditions and the size of the pond – And smooth it was. We sailed race after race until our well deserved break. A hot soup with beans on a tart went down a treat in the cold weather.

There was a good panel of boats, some old ones, in wood or fibreglass, some professionally made while others were home made and even home designed. One of the strength of the IOM box rule class is that it does allow for various boat design as long as they comply with the class rules.

We started the racing with a mix of sailors opting for the top and intermediate rig. The class rules allows 3 rigs to enable sailing from light to 35/40 knots. Everyone progressively changed up to the top rig although some of the gusts prooved too strong for that rig and the skills of the skippers were pushed to try to keep their boat up right and accelerating. But some of the gusts were too strong and I remember one of the afternoon race I was leading, I saw 2 boats which were behind me nose diving in a gust and managed to pull away in the process to be cought by the same gust a few seconds later which resulted in my boat doing a chinese gybe and a 180 in the process, facing head to wind and more worryingly my 2 competitors who kindly passed me. Just showed that we had to be vigilant at all times until the finish line was crossed.

The course was a triangle + a beat and a run to the finish. 4 top skippers from the B fleet would be promoted to the A fleet and the last 4 on each A fleet relegated to B fleet.

Brian O'Neill who was sailing his new Frank Russell Design MX14 started in the B fleet but quickly found his way to the A fleet to improve throughout the day and went on to win the last race. He learned a lot in tuning his boat and he will no doubt be a hard man to beat soon. His MX14 is showing a good potential and Brian too as he is still relatively new to the fleet. He went on to finish 3rd overall – a great result.

Neill Suitor who is newer to the fleet sailed his newly acquired V8 from New Zealand and he is still learning to sail and tune it. Neill started well showing a good early pace but he went through a lull in late morning and visited the B fleet a couple of times before the break. A bit of tuning together and he found a new pace, going on to win 2 races. Overall he gained valuable experienced and he will no doubt progress quickly.

Gilbert had a great start winning the seeding race and he managed to stay all day in the A fleet. Winning a number of races, struggling a bit more in the afternoon as the wind eased off a bit but never worse than 4th place. Though built in 2006 his V6 is still showing good pace against the more modern designs. Consistency paid off and he went on to win the Paisley Open with 19 points, 4 points ahead of a local sailor.

It was a fantastic regatta organised by our Scottish friends. We take this opportunity to thank them for their warm welcome as ever and we all had a great day.

Quickly it was time for us to pack and drive back to the ferry. We all arrived back in our home safe and sound, and well tired as I finally parked the car in our driveway at 2am on Sunday morning. My bed never felt so comfy and it didn't take me long to fall asleep.

Published in Racing

In stark contrast to the blustery conditions of Day One of the IOM Championship, day two started with light and very shifty conditions.

That steep terrain directly above the Western shore of the venue did in fact come strongly into play.

A moderate westerly breeze one would normally expect to be sailed on No.2 Rig was prevented from reaching the Lough by this unusual topography, causing a dilution of its strength, swirling it around then finally allowing it to settle over the race area from a South Easterly direction.

Such large variations in both direction and pressure made it very challenging for both Race Team and Competitors and only after significant alterations to the layout of the course could racing got underway with a single fleet of 14 boats.

Steve Taylor from Aberdeen, sailing his Britpop put in a notably strong performance in the first races of the morning session with 3 wins, but both the Ulster and Irish skippers were also beginning to fare much better in these lighter, yet difficult No 1 Rig conditions. Team Captain Richard Rowan sailing his Topiko, lead Ulster's recovery, scoring 3 wins along with several top 3 finishes; his work ashore in helping team mates refine their boat tuning for the challenging conditions also paid dividends.

Overnight leader Ali Law from Peterhead was not getting the consistently good results like he did on the first day, having been called OCS in several races. Local East Down skipper Brian O'Neill sailing his Stealth added to the Ulster team's tally by taking advantage of splitting from the fleet at the leeward gate, then twice recovering the lead and holding off the dominant Britpops in Race 10's final beat to take a deserved win.

Irish Team Captain Gilbert Louis sailing his V6, continued their recovery with several top 5 finishes throughout the course of the day. This performance was topped by a great win in Race 13 where he got off the start line in clean air and expertly covered the fleet to secure a well-earned bullet, further contributing to the Irish team's tally.

The Scottish team however, determined not to give up the advantage they gained on the first day, were fighting hard as big gains and losses could be made around the course, even in the last few meters before the finish line.

Ian Dundas remained consistent throughout the day, and with a string of great results, lead his fellow Scottish skippers in defending and consolidating Day One's advantage.

Over the course of the 17-race Championships Ian scored no fewer than 3 firsts, 7 seconds and 4 third places, never dropping out of the top six over the whole event to clinch the overall title of 2013 Ulster Champion. A mightily impressive set of results by anyone's standards.

There were many great individual battles within each of the races, but perhaps most heartening was to see IOM newcomer and ex-Marblehead skipper, Neil Suitor of Lough Erne, starting to get to grips with his borrowed boat and finishing a very credible 9th overall. One to watch for the future.

Despite the initial concerns during Day 2 the wind held steady enough to set fair courses and it held through till mid-afternoon allowing 9 races to be completed, one more than on the previous day.

Saturday brought its drama with very gusty conditions, requiring many skippers to hastily affect repairs just to stay on the water racing, surviving the early conditions of Day One.
Sunday brought a day of intense concentration, sometimes tempered with frustration in the fluky conditions. Hard fought places often vanished as the fickle breeze left them only to fill in and help boats behind, causing either glee or great disappointment.
But on both days the battle-hardened and more experienced skippers skills shone through in what proved to be a very challenging event for all competitors.

Overall results:

1. Ian Dundas 29 points
2. Steve Taylor 35 points
3. Ali Law 35 points
4. Richard Rowan 40 points
5. Pat Johnston 64 points
6. Richard Ennos 78 points

Celtic Cup Results:

1. Scottish Team 77 points
2. Irish Team 107 points
3. Ulster Team 154 points

Competitors retired to Paddy's Barn for Prize giving and a well-earned meal.

Thanks went to overall Event Sponsors Cat Sails, to Race Team Wayne Lavery, Bill Scott & John Darcy.
Thanks also went to the Department of Culture and Leisure for granting us permission to use the venue to host the event.
A final word of thanks went to the Shore Team sisters, Ashleen O'Neill, Jackie McKeown and Joleen McKinney for organising, cooking and delivering a much welcomed on site hot lunch of Irish broth, with sandwiches,
followed by tea or coffee and homemade fruit cake. Well done the girls!

IOM Ulster Championships Prizes:
1st overall - The Noel Pantry Trophy, along with a Top Suit of Cat Sails
2nd overall - A Cat Sails Rig Bag
3rd overall - A Cat Sails Boat Bag

Celtic Challenge:
The Celtic Challenge Cup was awarded to the winning team, along with a 400th anniversary bottle of Bushmills from the distillery to celebrate their win.

For the furthest Travelled team:

A bottle of champagne was also awarded to the furthest travelled competitors - skippers from the North East of Scotland, with Team Captain Ali Law of Peterhead being the farthest travelled skipper and making a round trip of a whopping 680miles! Ali also reported on his Facebook page that he arrived safely home at 0300hrs on the morning after the event, and even managed to make it into work at 0700hrs.

Those North Eastern skippers - tough competitors and even tougher men!

The success of this inaugural Celtic Challenge and the friendships that have been built will ensure that it becomes a fixture on the Annual Scottish/Irish IOM Racing Calendar, with Scotland ready to host the 2014 event.

Report by Ian Dundas/Brian O'Neill.

Published in Model Boats