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Royal St George & National Yacht Clubs' Laser 4.7 Youth Worlds 2021 Battle on Despite Post-Pandemic Uncertainties

23rd January 2021
Laser 4.7 Euro Championship 2019 underway in Belgium. The classic Laser has served sailing well – the hull design may have been in existence for more than fifty years, yet it still looks very right no matter which of the three rig options you choose. Laser 4.7 Euro Championship 2019 underway in Belgium. The classic Laser has served sailing well – the hull design may have been in existence for more than fifty years, yet it still looks very right no matter which of the three rig options you choose.

At one stage last Autumn, it looked for a week or two as though Irish venues might be hosting no less than five World Championships for dinghy classes during the three week period between the July 24th and August 14th 2021. But since then, as the only certainty in this rolling pandemic has proven to be uncertainty itself, two events have been shunted on into 2022.

However, the biggest 2021 Worlds of all in Ireland - the Laser 4.7 Youth Worlds at the Royal St George YC and the National Yacht Club from 7th to August 14th – has this week confirmed that the Organising Committee chaired by Ian Simington is pressing on with planning in the assumption that the event is going to take place. Entries will open at the end of the first week of February.

Being a typical Laser mega-event, most entries will be invitation-only on a national qualification basis. But as these regattas are planned on the expectation of accommodating between 300 and 400 boats, there's a good chance that extra places will be available for keen young Irish sailors determined to take part if at all possible, and the word is that already there's no lack of names wishing to be considered. 

Laser 4.7s enjoying the kind of weather and racing that is planned for Dublin Bay in August……..Laser 4.7s enjoying the kind of weather and racing that is planned for Dublin Bay in August…

In an event of this stature and magnitude, the behind-the-scenes work is almost immeasurable, with the fact of it being in Ireland providing unique difficulties in the countdown period. While we go along with enthusiasm in support of the view that Ireland is a small island at the centre of the world, there's no doubt that in trying to see our way towards and through the post-pandemic revival of international sailing events here, our glorious island status poses extra problems.

For sure, major offshore racing events avoid many of these through the simple fact that the boats get here on their own, and if needs be can take part – provided they're certified and scrutineered - without any direct inter-personal shoreside contact whatever. However, with the more popular dinghy classes, not only is there the need for cross-channel ferry access and subsequent road-trailering to the venue, but there's the usual attractive element of it being a family venture, with two or even three family-campaigned boats being supported by a veritable tribe of related supporters, who see the big championship as the focus of a family holiday.

This is one of the reasons why two dinghy World Championships planned for Ireland in 2020 – for the GP14s and the Fireballs - were cancelled so promptly. The feeling among the class associations was that if it couldn't be a lovely big community party in addition to being a white-hot sailing competition, then it really wasn't worth thinking about 2020 at all, and the best thing was to start planning towards 2021 immediately.

Mirror Championship at Sligo, venue for the Worlds in August 2021 Mirror Championship at Sligo, venue for the Worlds in August 2021  

Thus there was a crazy if brief period back in the Autumn when the most extreme optimists were thinking that Ireland might be hosting no less than five World Championships in 2021. In terms of boat numbers, the biggest – long since set in the calendar - was almost inevitably going to be these Laser 4.7 Youth Worlds at the Royal St George YC and National YC in Dun Laoghaire, and equally long term was the Mirror Worlds at Sligo from August 2nd to 8th.

But then with the GP14 Worlds 2020 at Skerries dropped for 2020's shutdown yet with 2021 still held out as probable, and with the same approach for the Fireball Worlds 2020 at Howth, we'd the possible 2021 Worlds listings up to five, as in June 2020 the Toppers had booked in their big one for the Royal Cork Yacht Club from July 24th to 30th 2021.

The family holiday nature of these five major events was emphasised by their timing right in the middle of the main holiday season, for with the GPs and Fireballs talking in terms of late July and early August, we were going to get a hectic mosaic of World Championships starting with the Toppers in Cork and the GP14s at Skerries around July 24th, and concluding with the last Laser 4.7 races at RStGYC in Dublin Bay on August 14th.

If this off-the-wall "Five Worlds in Three Weeks" scenario had come to pass, one could imagine that personnel resources of qualified race officials might have been severely stretched. But it very quickly did indeed prove to be off-the-wall, as the GP 14 International Association continued to monitor the pandemic situation, and then in tandem with the Irish Association and Skerries Sailing Club, they moved their entire circus on another year to 2022. As for the Fireball Association, they have now decided to skip 2021 as they had to skip 2020, and their next worlds in 2022 will be in Australia at Geelong from 7th to February 18th, which is – when you think of it – simply a slight extension of 2021 by other means.

Toppers in action on Belfast Lough. If their 2021 programme goes according to plan, they'll be holding the Worlds at Crosshaven in late July, followed a few days later by the UK Open Nationals at Ballyholme.Toppers in action on Belfast Lough. If their 2021 programme goes according to plan, they'll be holding the Worlds at Crosshaven in late July, followed a few days later by the UK Open Nationals at Ballyholme.

Meanwhile, the Toppers are hoping to shape up with an all-Ireland caravanserai, as their Worlds at Crosshaven will be closely succeeded by the UK Nationals at Ballyholme. We can only guess at what the logistical permutations might be like in getting across what is now an EU border in a hopefully post-pandemic situation. But meanwhile, across in Dun Laoghaire, the big Laser event will be emerging rock-like from seas which - for many of us - are at the moment decidedly confused.

Certainly, there's quite head of steam building up, as the 2020 Laser 4.7 Worlds at Arco on Lake Garda, having initially been postponed, were ultimately cancelled, so as a form indicator we have to go back to Canada in 2019, and the huge Laser regatta at Kingston, Ontario.

That was when the main Irish impact was in the Laser Radials, with Eve McMahon taking the Bronze, but in the Laser 4.7s it was either the Mediterranean or Eastern Europe setting the pace, with Niccolo Nordera from Italy winning from Roko Stepanovic of Croatia, with Slovenia's Gasper Strahnovik getting third, while the Girls Fleet was won by Anja von Allmen from Switzerland, with Lara Himmes of Spain second and Sara Savelli of Italy third.

As we lost the 2020 Irish Laser Championship in August's short season through storm conditions, the most recent Laser 4.7 results we have in Ireland are from 2019, when Cillian Foster of Royal Cork won the class in the Irish Youth Pathway Nationals from Alana Coakley of Royal St George, with Emily Riordan (RStGYC) third, and two National YC helms - Hugh O'Connor and Conor Gorman - in fourth and fifth.

façade which the 1838-founded Royal St George YC presents to the town of Dun Laoghaire…Front of house….this is the façade which the 1838-founded Royal St George YC presents to the town of Dun Laoghaire

…..but the real action is "round the back", with RStGYC hosting a Laser event …..but the real action is "round the back", with RStGYC hosting a Laser event with their National Yacht Club neighbours (below)

National Yacht Club

For young sailors, 2019 is now aeons ago, so the anticipation levels for this August regatta are running at a stratospheric level. For a man at the eye of the storm, Ian Simington remains remarkably calm. But then, in addition to being a Laser sailor himself as well as campaigning a J/80, he has wide experience of event organisation including four years at the sharp end of Optimist organisation, which is not a place for the faint-hearted.

However, as it was with the 301-boat Laser Masters Worlds in Dun Laoghaire in September 2018, the huge administrative challenge ashore and afloat is being undertaken in full partnership with the National Yacht Club. In fact, with boat numbers this size, it becomes a true Dun Laoghaire Harbour communal effort in order to keep everything on track, with Ian Simington heading a central committee which in turn will be supported by several specialist sub-groups.

At the heart of it – Ian Simington brings extensive experience to his role as Chairman of the Organising Committee for the Laser 4.7 Youth Worlds 2021.At the heart of it – Ian Simington brings extensive experience to his role as Chairman of the Organising Committee for the Laser 4.7 Youth Worlds 2021.

And in addition to the calming effect of his wide experience, he knows that the strong Irish club tradition will provide a host of volunteers ready for any useful role which can help to keep this vitally important World Championship running smoothly to remind us that no matter what size of a sail you put on a Laser, it still looks like – and is - a great boat

The Laser Lineup – still a world-beating set of options after more than fifty years. The Laser Lineup – still a world-beating set of options after more than fifty years

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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