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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

#modelboats – Exciting times in model boat racing in Ireland as a new class is launched.  Although the  A Class was born in the early 1920's the design barely survived as faster slimmer classes emerged but these boats are simply beautiful writes Gilbert Louis.

Two Irish model boat sailors travelled  to the PRACC event in Portishead. The Birth of the A Class in Ireland.

Brian O'Neill and Gilbert Louis travelled on Saturday to Rosslare to hop on the ferry to Fishguard. Another 3 hour drive later we arrived at the pond near the seaside.

Time for Gilbert to meet Graham from the UK who he bought his first A class. It's 17:00.

Graham rigged up the boat for me and we put her on the water for a first test sail. First impression? It's not an IOM boat – first feeling, I can feel the weight (my boat is 14.7Kg) so it doesn't quite accelerate like an IOM boat (4 Kg) nor handle like one. It feels like a small keel boat actually. And like a full size keel boat you got to let the sheet off quickly as you bear away or the boat won't bear off.

They're no sluggish monsters either. The wind is rather light as the evening sets in and Brian joins me with his A Class. But they carry their speed very well indeed and surprisingly they go well in light wind conditions. My new A Class is a Sweet 9, an evo from Peter Stollery original design by Peter Wiles. The same design as Brian, but mine is slightly lighter.

Contrary to IOM class rules the A class rules are more similar to the 12m JI of the glory years of the America's cup (before more politics and solicitors got involved). Sorry just slipped there!

So even boats of a same design and builder can have a different weight and sail area. The boat weight and water length impact on the sail area so it all works out at the end. A lighter boat may be more interesting but then you'll have less sail area whereas a heavier boat will be allowed more sail area. Bear in mind I am hugely simplifying the concept of the rules here so it is easier to grasp.

As the light started to fade we packed up for the evening and headed to our hotel. They do have a great Italian restaurant there ! Not good for the waist line !

7:00am Sunday morning, last top of of he battery charge, a breakfast on the go and we drive to the pond. We were the first 2 at the pond and there was a reason for this as we both wanted to get as much practice as we could before the racing starts.

We both opted for the light A sails. It is worth noting that in the A class we typically only have one rig and we change the sails. The wind is light which suits me down to a T with my lack of experience sailing these majestic boats.

Competitors are arriving and shortly we get more boats on sailing on the pond as each skipper is trying to get a quick tuning time on the water before the skipper breifing.

 

So far I had no idea where I would finish and that was exciting. I started with light pressure on the shrouds but a good bit of backstay to get a nice twist on the main. Wrong I quickly found out that it was bending the mast too much and flattening the sails too much for the light wind. Race one was now over so time for a quick tuning change before race 2. release the backstay to straighten the mast, fill the main but now the leech is too tight for my liking. So release the kicker to open the leech. Race 2 starts.

 

model_A_Class1.jpg

Gilbert Louis with the new A class for Ireland

 

 

I find myself naturally getting in the pre-start battle but try to stay clear. The last thing I want is to get entangled with another boat. I'm still learning to sail those beautiful boats afterall.

With the pond shape and the wind direction it feels more like a drag race making the start so important to get away and have the highest chance to round the weather mark. The wind has a tendency to go right in the middle of the beat. The starting line is favored at the pin end but then you are at the risk of sailing into that header and with the rest of the fleet coming just behind on starboard, that's race over before the first mark.

But I like risk and saw the benefit of that header but this meant having an excellent start at full speed at the pin end to have sufficient lead to have time to tack on port and cross the fleet and the temptation was too strong to refuse. So I obliged and though it did almost work a few times (yes I can be stubborn at time) I got caught up in the pack of starboard boats if I wasn't fast enough to pull away quickly after the start and execute a smooth tack. It did pay off twice though and allowed me to reach the weather mark first.

In the afternoon as the wind picked up Brian changed to his heavy A suit and that paid out for him as we were similar in points after a few races he continued to progressed and finish in the top 3 more regularly when I ended up finding my regularity in the last 6 of the 11 boat fleet.

As the wind increased I decided to play safe and purposely didn't engage with the pack at the start as I decided to get a clearer start at full speed at times on port at the windward end to then tack and arrive on starboard on the pack. Kinda worked but I paid cash as this never got me in the top at the weather mark. A compromised I was not happy but conscious about and accepted as on doesn't handle an A class like an IOM. But my objective there as my first racing experience in that class was to learn and got I learned plenty.

The A class skippers are a great bunch of people and I was glad to have met them. Happy to share tuning tips and advices which are always welcome. Doesn't matter how many years sailing I have I always learn.

Time to pack and for me to remove all those stickers from the hulls and deck patches to unveil what's hiding underneath. And actually I didn't find anything major. Clearly the deck patches had not been removed for years as the deck varnish came up with the patches. That's ok – I need a good sanding and re-varnish of the deck. But I will check every fitting in the process as we're also not talking about the same pressure as other model boats.

Time for the prize giving and to no surprise Peter wiles won, ah well we live another day and this gives us something to aim for. He is a great sailor and knows his boat so well too. He is very smooth at sailing her and he remains calm despite others colliding with him on the odd occasion.

Then time to think of home and oh god what is it that I feel on my forehead, heat... not good, a quick look in the car mirror and I think tomatoes would be proud of my colour, except I had powerful sunglasses so... hum how to put it, it gave me an interesting look :-)

Overall, wow... what an experience. And I'm the proud owner of an A class boat. The 5th in this country this year. Oh yes forgot to mention this is a brand new model boat class. Thanks to Brian who gently convinced us that they're great boats and worth getting involved... Thanks Brian now I have a 2m long boat in my workshop. As if I had plenty of space! But you know what I loved it and can't wait for the next outing, probably amongst ourselves to get more on-the-water time to get to know more about these majestic beauties.

Want to know more about the A class, see its history which started in the early 20's and which is now complementing our IOM and Dragon Force fleets then visit our new class website at www.aclassireland.org.

Yes they are big but by god they are majestic on the water and the price tag doesn't go along with its size as they are no more expensive than other smaller model boat classes. Keep in touch as we'll be posting more as get to learn and sail these boats.

Published in Model Boats

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

#modelyachtracing – Seven skippers from Howth and East Down Yacht Clubs, and Carrickfergus Model Boat Club braved a cold and wet start to the Irish 2013 IOM circuit with the first event of their series being hosted by Howth Yacht Club on Sunday 13th of January.

Competitors were kept on their toes for this first race meeting of the year with International Model Yacht Umpire Gordon Davies officiating as Race Officer. Gordon's considerable experience ensured competing skippers enjoyed true windward/leeward courses of around 350m in length with tight and unbiased start lines, despite the morning's fickle & shifty 3-6 knot Westerly which was to fall away to almost nothing later in the morning as the dreaded rain crept in. He also set up a control area on No.2 pontoon's end finger and quickly got the day's racing underway.

Howth's Gilbert Louis sailing his V6, took the first bullet closely followed by East Down's Brian O'Neill sailing his immaculately prepared wooden Swallow, with fellow Howth skipper Des Dwyer, coming 3rd with his Disco.

After this first race the morning's leader board was set to be dominated by a very close battle between Howth's Des Dwyer & Fergal Noonan; Fergal sailing his Reggae. The fickle morning breeze offered no set pattern and the best plan of action turned out to be good starts, good boatspeed and keen concentration as neither side of the course or even the central route offered and real advantage on the upwind legs. Both Howth skippers demonstrated tremendous pace as they got to grips with getting the best out of their tuning sets for the fickle conditions. At the lunch break just ¾ of a point separated them with early pace setter Gilbert Louis following in 3rd, Brian O'Neill in 4th, fellow East Down skipper Don Howes sailing his Ikon in 5th, with Bill Scott & Wayne Lavery of Carrickfergus Model Boat Club holding up the rear in 6th & 7th places sailing a MkII Stealth and a MkI Widget.

Special mention must go to Bill and Wayne - newcomers to the IOM fleet, and sailing their first competitive event. After receiving some tuning assistance from their fellow competitors, both skippers' pace improved considerably and they began to put in some impressive results as the morning progressed. It was a great pity the late morning rain put pay to Bill's radio, meaning his event was over, and Wayne too suffered gremlins with winch problems on his Widget, also meaning he had to sit out a couple of the races in the afternoon to effect repairs.

After the morning's first 6 races all of the competitors were very glad of a much-needed lunch break. Thanks must go to the superb hospitality of Howth Yacht Club, offering a varied and appetising menu of piping hot bar food with coffee. This was just the ticket to revive the cold and sodden competing skippers and helping restore their enthusiasm for the afternoon's onslaught.

After the lunch break wind & weather conditions improved considerably. The rain ceased and the breeze filled in to around 8-10 knots from the same Westerly direction, but also steadied somewhat.

In these breezier conditions Gilbert Louis' V6 came alive with the Frenchman taking 4 bullets of the 6 remaining races. Only first places taken by the two East Down boats prevented him making an afternoon's clean sweep. However, the final outcome of the event was not decided until the last race as just 4 points separated the first 4 boats going into it.

Don Howes took his first bullet of the day in this final race with his much improved Ikon, and this result enabled him to just scrape into to 3rd over all. He was followed closely by Gilbert Louis finishing 2nd in the race and this placing gave him just enough to claim the overall title. Fergal Noonan's came in 3rd, but it wasn't enough to prevent Gilbert's overall win with Fergal dropping down to 2nd on the final leader board tally.

Our thanks goes to our O.O.D. Gordon Davies, for setting superb courses, along with some sharp observations keeping us all on our toes, and also for his sound advice for all the fleet on rules interpretation. These little nuggets of information will help add to our rules knowledge base.

Thanks also to Howth Yacht Club, particularly for the very welcomed and reviving hot lunches, and finally a big thanks to our overall winner Gilbert Louis, for all the time and effort he put into organising this first event of the 2013 season and making it a thoroughly enjoyable one despite inclement weather doing its best to dampen our enthusiasm.

Some very close racing on great courses, superbly officiated was the day's winner too.

For more information on the Irish IOM Class and racing schedule please visit: http://www.iomireland.org/

Results:

Position Skipper Boat Club

1 Gilbert Louis V6 Howth YC

2 Fergal Noonan Disco Howth YC

3 Don Howes Ikon East Down YC

4 Brian O'Neill Swallow East Down YC

5 Des Dwyer Reggae Howth YC

6 Wayne Lavery MkI Widget Carrickfergus MBC

7 Bill Scott Stealth MkII Carrickfergus MBC

O.O.D. Gordon Davies

Report compiled by Brian O'Neill and photographs by Bill Scott.

Published in Howth YC