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Lucas The Superstar As New Youth Champions Show A Healthy Spread Across Clubs

23rd April 2017
Star of the show – Justin Lucas (13) from Tralee Bay was the clear winner in the Optimist class trials at Ballyholme Star of the show – Justin Lucas (13) from Tralee Bay was the clear winner in the Optimist class trials at Ballyholme Photo: Simon McIlwaine

One of the most notable aspects of the ISA Youth Pathway National Championship 2017, which has concluded this afternoon at Ballyholme on Belfast Lough with a good programme sailed, is the healthy way in which the new champions come from a wide range of clubs and sailing locations writes W M Nixon.

Admittedly, as the rising stars become more established as front runners, we find that bigger clubs at the main centres will make every effort to recruit this fresh talent onto their strength. Nevertheless with crews from as far away as Crookhaven Harbour, Dingle and Tralee Bay making their way up the long road to Ballyholme (and if you’re coming from Dingle, it is one very long road), there’s no escaping the feeling that the Annalise Effect is working. Irish junior sailing is not just undergoing a renaissance. It is putting out energetic new shoots in places where it was relatively dormant before, and the future looks rosy.

Prospects for today’s last races weren’t looking too good on some forecasts, with the lack of wind that bedevilled some of Saturday’s racing looking like persisting. But bang on cue a nice southwest to west breeze settled in on most of the sailing areas, and the fleets went at it as if they’d had no sailing at all until then, with the Optimist class particularly requesting that if at all possible they’d like three races.

ISA rory Fitzpatrick jack roy1"The bringer of sunshine”. After a championship of mostly grey weather, the sun came out when ISA star coach Rory Fitzpatrick took ISA President Jack Roy out for a spin around the three course areas.

That was a tall order with the last starting sequence required to be no later than 1300hrs. But with very efficient turn-rounds after each race, the thing was done and the series was completed with that wonderful feeling of a good regatta accomplished, which is a whole world away from the default position of “Well, we got a result....”

As for the final results, in the end there were no surprises from the overnight positions. But while some leaders may now look to have been securely in place for some time, in most classes they had to keep working at it until the very end.

In terms of sheer scale of win, the star of the show has to be Justin Lucas (13), who gives his clubs as both Royal Cork and Tralee Bay, so you can guess his career trajectory. In a fleet of 62, after thirteen races he was discarding a 12th and an 11th, leaving a scoreline of 1,1,4,5,1,2,3,5,1,1,4 and a total only 28 points against the 72 of next-in-line Conor Gorman of the National YC.

Third place kept up the pace for remote clubs, as it was won by Harry Twomey of Crookhaven Harbur, then the next two slots were filled by the leading 12-year-old juniors, Johnny Flynn and Luke Turvey, who are both members of Howth, but they also give allegiance to Royal St George and National respectively.

Top girl sailor was Emily Riordan of Royal St George, she was 8th overall on 98 points, second girl was clubmate Alana Coakley at 11th while the National’s Leah Rickard was third at 12th overall.

jack Roy ISA 2ISA President Jack Roy speaking at the awards ceremony at Ballyholme after the biggest ISA Youth Pathway Championship ever staged, with 208 registered sailors all under the age of 19 (and many very much younger) taking part.

The little ’uns in the Optimists may have served up the numbers and an overall winner with a stratospheric lead, but inevitably the glamour class was the Laser Radials which had gone into Saturday night with Silver Medallist Ewan McMahon’s lead somehow looking vulnerable as he closed with an 11th while Cork’s Johnny Durcan, after a winter spent Laser racing in Australia, was coming on by leaps and bounds.

However, any evidence of super-kangaroo abilities were in short supply for the Durcan camp today, for although McMahon still looked off the pace with a 14th in the first race, Durcan was DNF, and when that was added to a BFD in Saturdays first race, his challenge was effectively over, and in the end he was 9th overall.

So McMahon’s 9th in the final race was enough to retain his lead with a final points total of 41. But all the excitement in the Laser Radials was elsewhere, as the talk today has been of the huge rush of Rush. Aaron Rogers of Rush Sailing Club was in fact the initial overall leader, but today it was clubmate Conor Quinn (who also lists Carlingford Lough YC as his affiliation) who set the pace, with an 8th and then a first to move into second overall, while Rogers took third overall by round the series with a 7th and a 13th.

For quite a few years, the population of Fingal aka North County Dublin was the fastest growing in Ireland, so it was only a matter of time before the new demographic began to show in the national junior sailing results. However, the smart money might have been on Skerries Sailing Club to lead the way, and for a while they did so. But now Rush Sailing Club is showing itself the pace-setter inshore at junior level as seen at Ballyholme, and offshore with the Kelly family in their all-conquering J/109 Storm.

But if you looked solely at club affiliation as an indicator of what’s going on where, the 33-strong Laser 4.7 fleet at Ballyholme would only have lead to confusion, as 2017’s overall winner Jack Fahy lists his clubs as Royal St George, Royal Cork, and Lough Derg. Presumably he has club subscriptions at the top of his preferred Christmas gift list.......

Be that as it may, his scoreline of 6,1,2,1,2,5 discarding his final 8th provides something for everyone. That said, Caoimhe Foster of Royal Cork came on very well at the end, starting with a discarded 11th but recording three straight wins on the trot in the final trio of races, to share 22 points with Clare Gorman of the National with Fahy five points ahead of them at 17, Foster edging ahead into second on the countback to make her first girl.

It came within an ace of being first girls every which way in the 420s, as Malahide’s Gemma McDowell and Emma Gallagher took second in the first race astern of Nicola and Fiona Ferguson of the national, but with overnight leaders Geoff Power and James McCann of Dunmore East losing places back in fourth. The final race might have changed things overall, but Power & McCann did the business by being fourth with McDowell and Gallagher in fifth. So Dunmore East had it over Malahide by two points in the end at 18 to 20, while Royal St George’s Kate Lyttle and Niamh Henry were third on 21.

The competition is clearly close in the 420s, but in the Topper fleet of 32, much had been expected beforehand of northern star Jenna McCarlile of County Antrim Yacht Club at Whitehead, which is straight across the lough from Ballyholme.

But Jenna had a sporting quandary, as the first day’s racing clashed with her trial for the Ulster Under-16 Hockey Squad. She went for the hockey, and qualified. And then she threw herself into the sailing at Ballyholme. But even with three firsts, a 3rd and a 7th, the fact that the Toppers only had enough races for one discard made the mathematics impossible.

Nevertheless a sixth overall when short of a whole day’s racing is quite some achievement. But Heaven only knows what they’ll make of it all at Irish Topper HQ, as we read somewhere that only the first five places in the fleet at the Youth Nationals were eligible for positions in the Pathway programme......

Meanwhile among those who did the complete fixture, Rob Keale of Royal Cork continued his excellent progress with a scoreline of 1,1,4,3,2,4 with a discarded 10th to put him at 15, four points clear of Dan McCaughey of Ballyholme and Donaghadee, with Conor Horgan of Royal Cork third on 20 and Sarah Jennings of East Down fourth and also first girl. As for the Topper 4.2s, Lewis Thompson of Donagadee maintained his overnight dominance, in fact at the end he was discarding a second, but Adam Irvin of Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire came through on this final day to move into second overall with two seconds, while Hannah Dadley-Young of Ballyholme was third overall with two fourths today.

youth sailing prize crowd3This is the sort of crowd that soon overfills the marquee after the Youth Championship which beats all others. Meanwhile, all parents absent from this pic are loading up the boats for the long haul home…

Even as we post this on Afloat.ie, there are some little people with their tiny boats and long-suffering parents who still have a very long way to get home to many distant corners of Ireland after this cracker of a regatta. We wish them a safe journey. And for many of them, it’s back to school tomorrow after the Easter holidays. Gosh, what fun....

Full results are here. Optimist trials results may be found here.

Ballyholme YC adds:

Ewan McMahon won the ISA Youth Pathways despite another difficult day in a light shifting south westerly on Belfast Lough. His earlier form in the championships allowed him to discard the higher of his two results today and comfortably win overall. The two Rush sailors Conor Quinn and Aaron Rodgers had better results with a win in the last race for Conor to lift him to second overall from Aaron by one point. Royal North of Ireland's Sally Bell won 1st lady.

Geoff Power and James McCann wrapped up the 420 fleet even with the worst scores of the top four. The best results went to the Ferguson sisters - Nicola and Fiona - with two 1sts although not enough to break into the tight top three places. Only 3 net points over 9 races split the winners from Gemma McDowell in second place overall and 1st lady crew, and Kate Lyttle and Niamh Henry in third.

In the Laser 4.7 fleet on Course 2, Caoimhe Foster won both races on the final day to lift her to second overall and first lady. Jack Fahy had seen victory stolen from him before last summer at the Topper Worlds when he had been outgunned on the final windy day by the English squad sailors. This time his lead was large enough to maintain first place overall while Clare Gorman was third.

In the Topper fleet Rob Keal scored consistently to wrap up the championship. Local sailor from Ballyholme and Donaghadee - Dan McCaughey - won the final race to jump up to second overall while Conor Horgan was third. Sarah Jennings was first lady.

Another Ballyholme/Donaghadee sailor Lewis Thompson won the final two races and was the overall winner in the Topper 4.2 fleet with a net score of just 6 points from 7 races. Adam Irvin rose above Hannah Dadley Young for second place with Hannah first lady and third overall

The Optimist fleet on Course 3 managed to complete three races today with Race Officer Harry Gallagher determined to complete the full schedule. Justin Lucas continued his grip on the fleet with another 2 wins to add to his 3 earlier in the championship. Not only did he win overall but his net points were almost 50 points better than Conor Gorman in second and Harry Twomey in third. Emily Riordan was first girl.

ISA President Jack Roy thanked Ballyholme Yacht Club for successfully hosting the championships for the first time with the strong hint that it would return to the North again in future years.

Ballyholme Commodore Mark Mackey thanked all of the competitors and their families for travelling up to Bangor and making the event such a success - the largest entry ever. Thanks were also given to the Mayor Deborah Girvan and Ards & North Down Borough Council and Quay Marinas who supported the event, and CH Marine and McCready Sailboats who helped sponsor the prizes.

Thanks were also given by Jack and Mark to all of the Race Management team - the Principal Race Officer Robin Gray supported by Angela Gilmour, Harry Gallagher and Ruan O'Tiarnaigh, the Jury under Chris Lindsay and Gordon Davies, the 100 plus volunteers on the water and ashore helping at the event along with Eurosaf visitors and Andy Millington from the RYA marklaying team, and finally the event organiser Richard Glynn - more famous as the travelling father and sponsor of previous Topper World Champion Liam Glynn who is now campaigning in the Laser and just back from training in Croatia. Special thanks also went to the volunteers from local clubs in Belfast Lough and across Northern Ireland who took time off work this week and without who's help it would have been impossible to run three courses so successfully.

After the Prize Giving the teams for the various Irish Optimist squads travelling to the World Championships, Europeans, the ICT Poland and ICT France squads were read out - with particular special significance for Leah Rickard from the National Yacht Club who was born in Thailand and has qualified to travel to the World Championships which will be held there later this summer.

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