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Ballyholme Yacht Club's Junior Icebreaker series came to a conclusion with prize giving on Saturday, 17th December, for ILCA, 29er, Feva, Topper 5.3, Topper 4.2 and Optimist classes.

The series is open to all cadets and particularly aims to support those new to racing. A mainly parent-led team of volunteers, including RYA Race Coaches, was available from the start of October until the middle of December to provide racing accompanied by on-the-water coaching.

Several days were lost due to the windy autumn weather and two extra days were added in December to compensate. There was a fantastic turnout, with close to fifty boats over the series. The first-ever Junior Icebreaker was almost all Toppers, and BYC have now seen the fleets expand to include double-handers like the Feva and 29er as well as the single-handed Optimist, ILCA 4 and ILCA 6.

Ballyholme Yacht Club's Junior Icebreaker series prizegiving Photo: Adele McafeeBallyholme Yacht Club's Junior Icebreaker series prizegiving Photo: Adele Mcafee

The biggest fleet was the Topper 5.3 rig, with 20 boats out across the series. The winner who consistently finished in the top few over all the races was Hannah Archer. Jack Ives was a close second, and in third was Zoe Westhurst, who did enough to get on the podium even though she had some weekends away on RYANI Squad training.

As with the Topper 5.3 fleet, the Topper 4.2 fleet had several new sailors taking part, but Polly Robinson continued her form from last year and took the top place on the podium. Second place went to Alex Eadie, with her brother James rounding off the podium in third.

The Optimist fleet also had another past winner take the first spot, with Matthew Holden winning convincingly from Oliver Stephens and Job Wong competing in their first-ever racing event.

The final single-handed class was the ILCA (Laser), won by Hunter Reddy, with Annika Hunter in second and Hannah Dadley in third.

The biggest of the double-handers fleets was the Fevas, with seven boats competing. This class has increased from the two we had last year. The “old hands“ of Emily and Annabel Ridout won with a long string of first places; second place was Jessica

Dadley and Sally Nixon chose the Feva above the Topper this year, and the final podium place went to Peter and Mat Ridout.

Finally, the 29er class was won by Joseph Robinson and Henry Nelson, with Hannah Dadley and Toby Hughes in second. The club has gone for 15 years with no 29ers, and with Hunter Reddy actively looking we hope to have three in the fleet for next spring.

Published in Youth Sailing
Tagged under

Northern Ireland's Ballyholme Yacht Club and County Antrim Yacht Club have both been announced as finalists in the RYA Club of the Year 2023.

Although six miles apart on opposite sides of Belfast Lough, the clubs were formed within about twenty years of each other, CAYC emerging with the twentieth century in 1902 and Ballyholme in 1919. But one keelboat class connects the two, the Waverley class, designed by John Wylie and first raced in 1903 at Whitehead, the home of County Antrim YC. By the end of WW1, the class was no longer exclusive to CAYC, and two boats were built at Ballyholme. By 1961 when the class had been reformed as a racing class at BYC, there were Waverleys at most Belfast Lough Clubs. Now the class has moved on again, this time to Strangford Lough Yacht Club at Whiterock.

As Afloat reported earlier, both clubs are passionate about youth sailing.

Ballyholme Yacht Club

In 2018 the Ballyholme club had one Topper racing regularly, and at a recent Topper event, 35 of the competitors were BYC cadets. The club is known both locally and internationally as expert at hosting big events and in the past those have included not only its local regatta but the ISA Youth Championships, ILA Masters, RS 400/200/Feva Nationals, the RYANI Youth Championships and Optimist Ulsters. Many of the youth sailors are in the RYANI Topper and ILCA squads, and among its members are past Olympians such as Bill O’Hara and Matt McGovern. Also, John Driscoll, Chris Boyd, and Conrad Simpson have all represented Ballyholme at Olympic Games in the Finn class, and the club hosted the Finn Gold Cup (World Championship) in 1992. Other club activities are open-water swimming and Stand Up Paddleboarding.

RS Feva racing at Ballyholme Yacht Club Photo:Simon McIlwaineRS Feva racing at Ballyholme Yacht Club Photo:Simon McIlwaine

Commodore Dougie Rennie commented, “It is, of course, a privilege to be nominated again for this award and is a testament to the members of BYC who volunteer to help BYC host all the events and activities that the club puts on for the benefit of all sailors and the wider community”.

County Antrim Yacht Club

County Antrim YC is a relatively small club delivering a varied and successful programme of activities on the water and ashore, planned to benefit club members and the local community, including charities. The club has a strong volunteering culture and encourages members from all backgrounds to access the water, free-of-charge or low-cost dinghy loans and courses are offered. The club’s junior development pathway resulted in 2022 successes at regional and national, and world championship levels. In addition, the club hosts regional and national events, most recently the Flying 15 Northerns. The club provides race management and mark laying/safety boat teams to support events across Northern Ireland, including Irish Sailability and the RYANI Youth Championships. CAYC introduced ‘try sailing’ days and a ‘get to know your club’ day, with targeted communications resulting in significantly increased membership.

Flying Fifteen keelboat racing at WhiterockFlying Fifteen keelboat racing at County Antrim Yacht Club Photo: CYCA

The club believes it can have a cohesive role in its relatively small community and has worked with local stakeholders to host community events coming out of the pandemic. It has bulk-purchased SUPs and kayaks so there are now around 30 and 40, respectively available, enabling non-sailing members to get on the water and reach out to non-members. Due to 2022’s new-member successes, the club is providing additional training and coaching efforts – it also identified a Covid-related age gap in junior sailors and is planning additional confidence-building coaching sessions for the 2023 pre-season.

Commodore Peter Darragh is delighted that his club will be one of 12 clubs shortlisted for RYA Club of the Year. “This is significant given over 1,000 other diverse clubs across the UK are in the running for this accolade. A successful club is built on its members, so we see this as a great recognition of the hard work, expertise, and commitment our volunteers put into operating a very full calendar of sailing and other water-based activities. Support for our members ranges from structured training for those new to sailing to coaching and assisting those experiencing racing success on a world stage. We also play an important role in supporting the wider sailing fraternity in Northern Ireland and love being at the heart of our local community: encouraging young and old to give sailing a go and be safe on the water. We’re a small club with a big impact and are very proud to have this validation of our efforts.”

 A year to the day after a successful inaugural windsurfing event last year, Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough is running, in association with the Irish Windsurfing Association, the Open Ulster Championships on 22nd October, and a Coastal windsurf or wing foiling and Novice races on the following day, Sunday 23rd.

This will be the first time a ranked event will have been hosted in Bangor and follows the success of an IWA event last Autumn.

Event Organiser, Aidan Pounder has been liaising with Nick Fletcher, who runs the annual IWA event in Downings, Co Donegal and he is delighted that Ballyholme has been offered the opportunity to host this event this year. “We are really looking forward to a fun and enjoyable event for all concerned. Hopefully the weather and sea state conditions will be favourable to the competitors and spectators alike”.

Coastal windsurf and wing foiling will also be held on Ballyholme BayCoastal windsurf and wing foiling will also be held on Ballyholme Bay

The event will take place off Ballymacormick beach on the east side of the Bay. It is expected that the competitors will be assembling and registering at the nearby Banks Lane car park from 0730 hrs, with racing starting 1055 hrs.

This is an IWA ranked event and will have Gold, Silver and Bronze fleets on a slalom/figure of 8 courses with up to 11 races, either on fin or foil for Gold and Silver fleets only on Saturday.

There will be Coastal races on Sunday, for windsurf or wing foiling only. At the same time, there will be racing for the Novice class, alongside try-a-windsurf activity.

Irish Windsurfing Association, the Open Ulster Championships

Published in Belfast Lough

Following last weekend’s RS Nationals, Ballyholme Yacht Club hosted the first ever open training session of its kind for RS Fevas with RYA Northern Ireland coaches earlier this week.

Eight RS Fevas took to the water for their first training session with RYANI’s performance programme coach Chris Penny and performance manager Andrew Baker.

There were two sessions on the water in Belfast Lough in Northern Ireland on Monday (22 August) with plenty of onshore boat prep as well as theory.


While some of the youth sailors are experienced sailing with the Feva, it was the first time for others — and for some it was their first time sailing a double hander.

All of the participants made significant improvements in their manoeuvres and crew work as the day progressed.


Unfortunately, poor weather conditions on Tuesday (23 August) meant the sailors couldn’t get on the water but they took part in more theory and some outdoor games and drills.

One pair did venture out for a blast across the bay with a RIB escort and despite a bit of swimming they handled the conditions well.

Baker said: “It was great to see so many enthusiastic juniors keen to sail together and embrace the double handed side of sailing. Both Chris and I genuinely enjoyed both days witnessing what will hopefully be the start of a bright future for the class here in Northern Ireland.”

“Hopefully more clubs can take on the Fevas and add to a growing community. They are a great training boat and with the right sailors onboard, clubs could send teams to events and really build a thriving class.”

He added: “We wish all the sailors good luck this weekend at the RS Feva Northern Championships as they race in conjunction with the larger RS event at Ballyholme Yacht Club.


“We also hope to see a good turnout for the class at our annual RYANI Youth Championships which will take place on 10 and 11 September.”

Published in RS Sailing

A lively south-westerly forecast for the start today (19th) of the RS event at Ballyholme should give exciting racing in Belfast Lough for the 48-strong fleet.

Racing for the National Championship will be the RS 200s and RS 400s and for the Northern Championship will be the Fevas, Aeros and 2000s.

The event comes hot on the heels of the RS 400 Nationals at East Lothian Yacht Club in Scotland and two Northern Ireland crews who raced there have made it to Ballyholme to take part. They are Paul and Jane McMeekin and William Findlay and Tom McMeekin from Strangford Sailing Club.

Unfortunately, the runners-up in the Nationals at East Lothian, Chris Eames, originally from Strangford Lough YC and crew Rachel Tilley will not be competing in Ballyholme. They were lying first until the last race when on countback, they were pipped by Sam Knight and Chris Bownes.

The Feva class at BYC is showing increased numbers this season, and of these two crews who raced in the UK RS Feva Nationals and more recently the Worlds at Weymouth, Matt & Peter Ridout, Emily & Annabel Ridout, will relish sailing on home waters.

Among the senior contestants in the RS Aero are John and Julia Simms from the host club. John, with Adam Winkelmann and Martin Byrne, were the Royal St George team who came third in the Edinburgh Cup in Falmouth in July

Given that it seems that some crews leave entering until the last minute, the fleet may well increase to over 50. It is pleasing though that the event has attracted competitors from as far away as Galway, Killaloe, Greystones and Howth as well as from all over the North.

Published in RS Sailing
Tagged under

Ballyholme Yacht Club will be the venue over the weekend of 19th till 21st August for an RS championship event which organiser Bob Espey hopes will attract around 60 competitors.

The event will be held in the waters of Belfast Lough and consists of two different championships; the two day six race RS Aero, RS Feva and RS 2000 Northern Championship 2022 on the Saturday and Sunday and the three day nine race RS 400 and RS 200 National Championship which starts on Friday 19th August.

This will the first time the RS2000 class will have an individual start.

Entrants are encouraged to take advantage of the Early Bird entry fees if booked before 15th August, and the first 30 entries will get a free one-off event T shirt. And among the prizes will be the daily Mug of the Day award, a frequent fun feature of BYC competition and a new idea, the best Social Media post of the event.

RS championship

The Race Officer for the two-day event, sponsored by Simply Telecom and supported by Ridgeway, will be Aidan Pounder, and for the RS200/400 event, Sheela Lewis.

More information is here 

Published in RS Sailing

On the first day of racing at the 2022 Irish Youth Sailing National Championships at Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough on Thursday, the event got off to a staggered start with four of the six classes racing. 

A 50-strong Optimist contingent had, what organisers termed 'a false start of sorts' when the fleet sailed to the wrong first mark and the first race had to be abandoned.

In the following two races, Caoilinn Geraghty-McDonnell of the Royal St. George YC emerged as overnight leader from Royal Cork's Oisin Pearse with a slim two boat lead.

Three races had been planned originally for all four classes but the fresh breeze dropped off mid-afternoon.

Nevertheless, two races were enough for Jonathan O'Shaughnessy (Royal Cork YC) to establish a six-point lead over no fewer than five Dublin boats tied for second place amongst the 38 Laser/ILCA6 single-handers.

The group includes Howth's Eve McMahon, the Under 17 World ILCA6 World Champion who was beaten into third place in the opening race right at the finish by O'Shaughnessy and would otherwise have edged ahead in the standings.

"We got two races, it didn't rain so I think everyone's pretty happy," said Olympian and International Umpire Bill O'Hara who is on the race management team this week. "When we went out we were expecting it to be full-on with 15-16 knots and some gusts to 20 and we didn't have any reason to think it wouldn't drop til five o'clock. But the forecast is brilliant (for the next few days) with wind from the northeast and nice, big rolling waves."

In the eight boat 29er skiff event, the lead is tied between Ben O'Shaughnessy with Eimer McMorrow Moriarty and James Dwyer with Andrew Conan both from the Royal Cork YC in Crosshaven.

Jack McDowell with Henry Thompson (Malahide Yacht Club) proved most consistent for the day in the 420 event with two race wins in the eleven-boat class. Racing continues on Friday with all classes due on the water from 11 am. 

Published in Youth Sailing

Planting trees is very different to sailing at Ballyholme, but this month a team from the Belfast Lough club travelled to Glas Na Braden wood in the Belfast Hills behind Newtownabbey on the north shore of the Lough to take part in a Woodland Trust tree planting session.

The Woodland Trust is the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity and recently secured the future of 98 hectares in the Belfast Hills.

The team planted over 700 saplings to help carbon offset the RIB emissions during the Irish Youth Sailing Championships to be held at the club next week and as part of Sailors for the Sea Clean Regattas Award.

The Sailors for the Sea Powered by Oceana is the world’s only ocean conservation organization that engages, educates, and activates the sailing and boating community toward restoring ocean health.

The hilltop site, which has been named via public vote as Glas-na-Bradan Wood, will be transformed into a new native woodland and will be planted for the first time in the Woodland Trust’s history in Northern Ireland completely by the public.

Interestingly the name Glas na Braden does have a connection with the sea in that the historical translation of Glas-na-Bradan is The Salmon Stream.

Published in Belfast Lough

Ballyholme Yacht Club in Bangor on Belfast Lough is the host club for this year’s Irish National Youth Sailing Championships from 21st until 24th April.

The cream of youth and junior sailors from across Ireland will compete in the Laser/ILCA 6, 29er, 420, Topper 5.3 and ILCA 4 classes and making a welcome return for 2022, the Optimist class.

The four days of racing will be on the virtually tide and hazard free Belfast Lough, organised by a club with many years of experience of hosting world, international and national events. There are four days of racing for the ILCA 6, 29er, 420 and Optimist classes, from Thursday 21st April – Sunday 24th and three days of racing starting on Friday 22nd for Topper 5.3 and ILCA 4.

Eleven races are scheduled for the Optimist, ILCA 6, 420 and 29er classes. Eight races are scheduled for the ILCA 4 and Topper 5.3 classes.

One of the standout competitors travelling to Bangor is 18-year-old Eve McMahon, who is Afloat.ie Irish Sailor of the Year 2021. The Howth ILCA 6 sailor won the Gold Medal at the Laser Youth Worlds on Lake Garda in July last year.

The entry list stands currently at 57 and with the early bird entry closing in less than a week on 1st March, and the Optimist entry not yet open, it is expected that there will be many more entries.

Apart from the sailing, there will be speakers each evening giving inspiring and informative talks to the sailors, family, and friends. All young sailors are encouraged to attend these talks (within COVID guidelines), even if not competing.

This is a Clean Regattas event registered with Sailors for the Sea. The event has a set of environmental standards to follow throughout the event, to help reduce the impact on the environment and keep the sea a cleaner place to sail.

Ballyholme is lucky to have copious dinghy and car parking and is within walking distance of the town centre.

Bob Espey is a long-time sailor at Ballyholme Yacht Club having raced Lasers, 49ers and RS400s, he now owns a Waszp dinghy. A ‘bonkers’ plan is what he has called his standout fundraising effort for little Jodi Tomalin who has, along with his parents Jeremy and Lisa been through the mill for most of 2021. A year ago Jodi was diagnosed with cancer.

Bob explains “To help raise money for the three charities who supported them through this I’ve come up with a plan of trying to sail a hydrofoiling dinghy (Waszp) across the Irish Sea and back. And so as not to be lonely, I’ve roped in my brother-in-law Matt McGovern (49er Olympian) to accompany me in his own Waszp. It’s about 20 miles from Ballyholme to Portpatrick on the Ayrshire coast across the North Channel and of course the date, which is most likely to be in March, is weather dependent. Bob estimates a time of 3 to 4 hours nonstop and, for their wives reassurance, amongst other reasons, they will be accompanied by safety boats.

Bob continues “A trip like this has never been attempted in a hydrofoiling dinghy and I’ve no doubt it will be a big challenge. I hope you will get behind us to say, “Buzz off to cancer” and hopefully we can raise some money for three very worthy charities – The Cancer Fund for Children, the Children’s Cancer Unit and Angel Wishes”.

Published in Waszp
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