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Ballyholme's Gareth Flannigan Tops Irish Laser Masters Championships

22nd May 2017
Prize winners at the Laser Masters in Ballyholme with event organiser Claire Storey and Rear Commodore Ruan O'Tiarnaigh Prize winners at the Laser Masters in Ballyholme with event organiser Claire Storey and Rear Commodore Ruan O'Tiarnaigh Photo: Mark Mackey

Almost 40 Laser sailors enjoyed great sailing over the weekend in Belfast Lough, hosted by Ballyholme Yacht Club at the Danske Bank Private Banking sponsored Irish Laser Master Championships. Despite the forecast of little wind on the Saturday followed by too much on Sunday, the conditions were much more enjoyable. Saturday was a bit gentler Westerly with the odd hole but there was plenty of hiking and the odd gust into the high teens or low 20's, whilst Sunday was a bit stronger but thankfully manageable with flat seas due to a fairly steady Southerly. Race Officer Aidan Pounder was heard to comment that somehow the wind strength on Sunday seemed to lower on each downwind leg - divine intervention maybe.

The racing was very tight for most with little room on the start-line for those not used to accelerating as quick as some of the others. Top and bottom mark roundings are always busy and there were more than a couple capsizing at the leeward mark on top of other Lasers - in fact one mast slicing the tiller extension rope somehow on the other. However you could almost see a smile on the victims face as instead of a long slog of a beat home, he happily accepted a tow.

It was always going to be a close championship between Cork's Nick Walsh and Ballyholme's Gareth Flannigan even if Gareth has been seen more in RS400's over the last couple of years. Both have won the overall title before, and it was Flannigan who set the early pace with a marked lead in Race 1 followed by 2 second places. Unfortunately Walsh hadn't fully read the sailing instructions which detailed different coloured buoys for the start and finish line and having thought he had finished high in the first race, was signalled by a colleague to finish properly and ended up counting an 8th. This proved pivotal as he then won 4 of the next 5 races (and by some margin on the Sunday) discarding the last race of Saturday but the race one event gave Flannigan some wriggle room.

More used recently to getting his RS400 crew mate David Fletcher (who won the final race of Saturday) to do the hiking for him, Gareth struggled a little on the breezier Sunday and was often found at the first mark mid-fleet or in the final race almost last. In the 5th race he even found himself upside down not once but twice after an initial rear end bump from Theo Little - a rare sight for the multiple Irish champion. However his downwind speed came to his rescue and needing a 4th in the final race, scrambled back through the fleet to win the championship by a single point from Nick Walsh.

Monkstown's Paul O'Sullivan won the Apprentice Masters whilst Great Grand Master Chris Boyd somehow kept his body with a 5th overall place and the GGM trophy. Grand Master Charlie Taylor also showed great speed as always in the breeze with 4,8,3 on the Sunday. Royal St George's Shirley Gilmore was Lady Master in the Radials with Colm McLarnon winning overall. With one year to go before the Laser Masters World Championships come to Dun Laoghaire, there was a lot of chatter on how to qualify for next years event, especially as 8 hope to go to Croatia this year but with only 6 guaranteed spaces. Ron Hutchieson spelled out that 3 out of the 5 provincial/national Championships will count towards ILCA ranking points and there should be a few more Masters seen at the next event at Wexford Harbour.

The event was great craic as always with the traditional Laser Masters dinner attended by most of the competitors and partners. Many thanks must go to Garth Maxwell of Dankebank Private Banking for sponsorship, and Quay Marina for assistance. It was great to see lots of visitors from Cork and Dublin bay to come and play with the large Ballyholme contingent.

Results

Radial
1st Colm McLarnon
2nd Shirley Gilmore (1st Lady Master)

Apprentice Master
1st Paul O'Sullivan
2nd David Fletcher

Master
1st Gareth Flannigan
2nd Nick Walsh
3rd Theo Lyttle

Grand Master
1st Charlie Taylor
2nd Richard Ramsay

Great Grand Master
1st Chris Boyd

Overall
1st Gareth Flannigan
2nd Nick Walsh
3rd Theo Lyttle

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