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The anticipation had been building for weeks, and as a group of 39 of the country's more experienced Optimist sailors headed for the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven from April 4th to 7th, excited at the prospect of four days of racing at Irish Sailing's premier youth event.

Unfortunately, Storm Kathleen had other ideas and curtailed racing to just one day. Under the experienced guidance of RO Ciaran McSweeney, four competitive races were run in a mix of conditions, securing a series. There was an anxious wait to see if conditions would allow for more racing, but the difficult decision was made to cancel the remainder of the event for safety reasons.

Sailors used the waiting time ashore to catch up with friends they would have raced against only months ago, who have now progressed to other pathway classes such as Lasers and Toppers.

The Youth Nationals are also used to select Optimist sailors for international competition. This year, the IODAI/Irish Sailing Teams were chosen for the Optimist Europeans, European Two Team, and an Irish Development Team. The process used to select the teams follows the Irish Sailing Youth Nationals and IODAI Selection Policy.

Due to the IODA World Championships being held in South America, the Euro 2 Team will be used this year as per the selection policy.

The following sailors accepted places on Teams;


  • Juliet Ryan RSGYC / MYC / HYC
  • Holly Cantwell RSGYC
  • George Doig EABC
  • Abigail O’Sullivan RCYC
  • Conor Lynch RCYC
  • Abby Murphy RSGYC
  • Alex Butcher NYC / MYC


  • Emily Donagh RSGYC / LDYC
  • Kate Spain RSGYC / HYC
  • Luke Power RCYC
  • Rían O’Neill RCYC
  • Annabelle Wilson RCYC / KYC
  • Ella Rock RSGYC
  • Dougie Venner RCYC


  • Mae Byrne LRYC
  • Ayda Bruen RCYC / MBSC
  • Tom Darcy RSGYC
  • James Crawford RSGYC
  • Isaac Vaughan RCYC
  • Blake Vaughan RCYC
  • Donnchadh Duane LRYC
  • Tara Hayes RCYC/MBSC

The 2024 teams will now start training in earnest to compete this summer. The Europeans and European 2 Team are being coached by Søren M. Laugesen, and the International Development Team are being coached by Dara O’Shea.

The European team will compete at the IODA European Championships in Carrara, Italy, from June 26th to July 6th.

The Euro2 Team will compete at the Optimist Gold Cup in Monfalcone, Italy from the 9th to 16th of July.

The International Development Team will compete at Coupe Internationale d’été Optimist in Biscarrosse, France, from 13th to 19th July.

Max O’Hare, RSGYC; Patrick Fegan, RSGYC / MYC; and Maeve and Lily Donagh, both of RSGYC / LDYC, also qualified for the European Team but did not take their places. They have the option to travel independently to the IODA World Championships, which will be held in Argentina in December.

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The annual Brassed-Off Cup for Optimists which has been running in Howth for 21 years, was held on Sunday in breezy south easterly conditions over a relatively flat sea with some strong gusts to test the boat handling of the fleet. Eighteen enthusiastic sailors took part with the event being used by many as a final practice session before the Irish Sailing Youth National Championships in Royal Cork next weekend.

Given that the event schedule was three races without a discard, the PRO had hopes that the fleet might not be too aggressive on the start line and tried the first start on a Blue Peter. After a general recall, with at least half the fleet over, as promised in the briefing, the U flag was then broken out for all subsequent starts.

On the second race start, the tide under the fleet picked up pace and was a major factor in two general recalls. The race committee was beginning to anticipate a long day on the water and was relieved to get the race away on the third attempt. By the third race, the sailors seemed to have mastered the art of starting with tide under them and a clean start was achieved on the first attempt.

The overall and Senior Fleet winner with three bullets was Juliet Ryan HYC/MYC/Royal St George Yacht Club who built a commanding lead in each of the races. The Junior Fleet winner was Juliet’s younger brother Ollie Ryan MYC/RStG, who sailed consistently to finish 7th overall.

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Optimist sailors from the Royal St George achieved stellar results at the UK Spring Nationals in Rugby over St Patrick’s Weekend.

Five of the Dun Laoghaire club’s nine-strong youth group placed in the top 25 out of 120 boats taking part in the event at Draycote Water Sailing Club on 16-17 March.

And three cracked the top 10, with Maeve Donagh placing third overall in the Main Fleet, echoing her success in last August’s British Nationals.

“Huge thanks to Jason Crawford for organising, to their coach Rian Geraghty-McDonnell and also to Draycote Water Sailing Club and the UK Optimist Association for their hospitality,” the RStGYC says.

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Optimist sailors in Ireland have found a new and exciting way to stave off boredom during winter training. The Irish Optimist Dinghy Association (IODAI) recently created the IODAI Sprint Series, which aims to give young sailors more opportunities to race and socialise with their peers. 

Despite the series' first run being postponed due to bad weather, 35 Optimist sailors took to the water last Saturday in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for an exhilarating start to the Series. Hosted by the National Yacht Club and led by OOD Alex Walsh, four highly competitive races were run in a light westerly breeze. 

Coaching was a feature of the Irish Optimist Dinghy Association's Sprint Series at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Anatole GuinamardCoaching was a feature of the Irish Optimist Dinghy Association's Sprint Series at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Anatole Guinamard

Unlike other regattas, the IODAI Sprint Series does not divide competitors by age or experience level, allowing everyone to race together. The ‘Worlds’ course, which will also be used for the upcoming Youth Nationals, ensured that races were turned around quickly while still providing a highly competitive track for the fleet within the confines of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. 

IODAI Sprint Series leg at Dun Laoghaire Harbour hosted by the National Yacht Club Photo: Anatole GuinamardIODAI Sprint Series leg at Dun Laoghaire Harbour hosted by the National Yacht Club Photo: Anatole Guinamard

Max O’Hare (RStGYC) emerged as the star of the day, bagging three first-place finishes and discarding only a final OCS. Juliet Ryan (RStGYC/MYC/HYC) followed closely behind, with Abby Murphy (RStGYC) finishing in third place. Local sailors Dylan O’Sullivan and Rian O’Neill from the Royal Cork Yacht Club also showed no signs of fatigue from their early start that morning. 

Max O’Hare (RStGYC) Irish Optimist Dinghy Association's Sprint Series winner at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Laura GreerMax O’Hare (RStGYC) Irish Optimist Dinghy Association's Sprint Series winner at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Laura Greer

The IODAI Sprint Series is not just about providing young sailors with more racing opportunities, it also supports sailors from smaller clubs with their winter programs by giving them access to a national fleet. The later-than-usual start time meant that there were entries from Strangford Lough to Kinsale Yacht Club

The format of the IODAI Sprint Series was received well by competitors, who enjoyed hot chocolate and the chance to catch the second half of the Ireland vs. Wales match. The final leg of the series will take place on March 23, 2024, at Lough Derg Yacht Club. 

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Young sailors from all over Ireland are getting ready to compete in the highly anticipated Irish Optimist Dinghy Association (IODAI) Sprint Series 2024 and Youth Sailing National Championships.

The Sprint Series, is billed as 'one of the most exciting events on the 2024 sailing calendar'.

The series offers young sailors the chance to train and compete over the winter months and to prepare for the upcoming Youth Nationals in April.

The IODAI Sprint Series 2024 will be held on two race days, the first on February 24th at the National Yacht Club and the second on March 23rd at the Lough Derg Yacht Club. Unfortunately, the first leg of the series, scheduled to take place in January at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, had to be cancelled because of high winds.

This series is designed to be accessible to sailors from all parts of Ireland, with a convenient later start and a schedule of four races each day. It gives young sailors ample time to sharpen their skills and prepare for the official start of the sailing season.

But the Sprint Series is not just about racing; it is also an opportunity for young sailors to make lasting friendships and connect with the wider sailing community. As sailors compete and share experiences, they will be part of a supportive network that encourages everyone to strive for their personal best.

The series serves as a vital preparation ground for the Youth Nationals, which will take place at the Royal Cork Yacht Club in late April. Success in the Youth Nationals is crucial for sailors aiming to represent Ireland internationally, as the nationals are a selection event for the teams heading to competitions in Italy and France this summer.

The IODAI Sprint Series series serves as a vital preparation ground for the Youth NationalsThe IODAI Sprint Series series serves as a vital preparation ground for the Youth Nationals Photo: Simon McIlwaine

These international events are a significant undertaking for the Optimist class, with some sailors away from their families for up to ten days for the first time. However, the benefits to their sailing and sense of achievement are immense. They offer young sailors the opportunity to don the Irish colours and represent their country on a global stage, grow in confidence, and make friends from around the world.

For those interested in learning more about the IODAI Sprint Series 2024 or getting insights from the recent IODAI webinar on the Youth Nationals and IODAI teams, check out the association's website.

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The Irish Optimist Dinghy Association (IODAI) has announced the much-anticipated Sprint Series 2024, an exciting addition to the Optimist 2024 sailing calendar.

The series is aimed at Gold and Silver fleet sailors who are preparing for the Youth Sailing National Championships in April and are seeking a competitive edge.

Scheduled for three race days across Ireland, the series promises to test the skills of young sailors and provide valuable experience.

The race days are as follows:

  • Royal Cork Yacht Club on January 20th, 2024
  • National Yacht Club on February 24th, 2024
  • Lough Derg Yacht Club on March 23rd, 2024

With a later start time, the Sprint Series accommodates sailors from all over the country, ensuring maximum participation. Each race day will have four races, giving sailors ample opportunities to showcase their skills.

The series kicks off at RCYC in January, where participants can also take advantage of an additional day of Optimist training on January 21st, which is open to all. This training day will not only enhance individual skills but also foster connections between sailors and clubs, creating a vibrant community within the series.

Registration is open until January 13th, so interested sailors are encouraged to submit their entries as soon as possible to help race organisers make preparations. Clubs are also asked to spread the word among their advanced Gold and Silver fleet sailors.

The IODAI Sprint Series 2024 promises to be an exciting and challenging event for young sailors, and we look forward to seeing the best of Irish sailing talent in action.

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It has been a busy year for the Irish Optimist Fleet, the largest and youngest class in the country, and its class association, the International Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland (IODAI), held its AGM on Tuesday, the 28th of November, 2023, via Zoom.

In his report, the President of the Association, Paddy Ryan, outlined the commitments that the Committee had made for 2023 and the work undertaken by the Committee to achieve those goals throughout the year.

A survey was undertaken at the start of 2022 to see what the sailors and parents wanted and to ensure that the Association was in step with its membership. The overall successes of this engagement were evident in the significantly increased fleet numbers and the very successful national training week held at the Royal Court Yacht Club over the Halloween break, not to mention the numerous smiling faces seen at Optimist events throughout the year.

The financial position was presented by the Honorary Treasurer, Dominic Byrne. He relayed a clear picture of the income and expenditure over the 2022 calendar year. The increased costs associated with the running of events and the support given to teams, as well as the national training week, were underpinned.

Steve O’Sullivan (RCYC), the Teams Manager, gave a run-through of the four international teams that represented Ireland in competitions in Spain, Greece, France, and the UK during the summer. With new structures put in place and a strong coaching and supporting team, Irish Oppie sailors performed well overall, benefiting significantly from some of their first exposures to international competition.

The domestic growth of the fleet in 2023 was particularly evident, as Neil Spain (HYC), Events Officer, explained with references to the various events across the country.

Neil also unveiled the much-anticipated calendar for 2024, which will see the fleet travel from East Antrim to Crosshaven throughout the year. The National Championships and Team Racing Championships will be held in Howth in August.

The President acknowledged the invaluable commitment of retiring Committee Members Ross Gorman, Jill Doig, Brendan Foley and Darragh Brady. He welcomed the new Committee Members, Nick Smith (RstGYC), who will be in charge of training; Laura Greer (RstGYC), who has taken up the role of Communications Officer; Cian Baynes (GBSC), who will support events; and Angela Duane (LRYC) who will assist with the association's Finances.

Finally, it was noted that the Children’s Officer, Emer O’Donnell, was stepping down from her position and that Jill Doig (EABC) would be taking up this critical role.

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We were promised a storm! The only storm that materialised was the arrival of 130 Optimist sailors and their families in Crosshaven for the Annual National Training Week, as Afloat reports here.

After two days of training, dodging big gusts and learning new skills, the younger and less experienced sailors were presented with a fun, action-packed and unusual event: " La Solitaire Optimist".The event was composed of four legs across Cork harbour, and in a total Figaro-style event, the young skippers had to deal with crazy tides in the Owenabue River, windless doldrums behind Currabinny hill, gusty conditions when approaching the east side of Ringaskiddy.

54 young skippers took part (of which 17 were sailing in the regatta fleet and 37 from the development squad 2023-2024). To keep all the sailors on their toes, the regatta fleet sailors were given a two-minute head start on each leg with the development sailors hot on the chase.

'La Solitaire Optimist' course in Cork Harbour'La Solitaire Optimist' course in Cork Harbour

Leg 1: with the tide down the River

The 17-strong regatta fleet sailors left the startline set in front of the club pushed by the dropping tide in a tight pack, followed two minutes later by another tight bunch. No clear early leads materialised, but the first casualty in the regatta was number 13 who went too close to shore and ended up stuck. And the fleets eventually amalgamated by Currabiny Pier in windless doldrums. With the finish line further North and the wind further right, the kids had two strategies: trying to cut short but risking staying stuck under Currabinny Hill for longer, or going East first with the tide and catching an upwind stretch back to the finish. The second solution proved a bit more effective, and the key was to start the upwind stretch before being carried too far by the strong current.

Development squad Ruairi Slattery (IRL1206 LDYC) found the perfect lane out of the channel, closely followed by clubmate Jess Tottenham (IRL600)...The battle for third was fierce, and it was eventually super fast regatta fleet sailor Andrew Weir (IRL1646) who picked the honours, followed by the rest of the fleet.

Leg 2: Not so straight line towards Ringaskiddy

Here they went again! Two strategies materialised quickly, with a few sailors opting to go high to the west, first led by regatta fleet sailor Sarah McNamara (AHO82) and the majority putting the bow down in the breeze led by 8-year-old Jojo Dion (IRL1407) and Oscar Rowan (IRL1391).

Eventually, both strategies were delivered with a late surge by Ellie Tottenham (IRL1191) from the East taking the win. A minute later the battle between Jojo and Oscar went to the eight years old when Oscar capsized in a rushed tack. He quickly recovered and sailed his "submarine" across the finish, salvaging 7th on the line. The ever-consistent Andrew Weir made good gains to secure yet another 3rd, taking the lead overall.

Leg 3: sweet and short in the Curlane Bank

The third leg was the shortest, leading the fleet back on the bank. The strongest regatta fleet sailors were not to be caught. At the second turning mark after a short upwind just south of the Loughbeg wind turbine, the race delivered a close battle between Oscar yet again, Andrew and 8-year-old Ben Chaix (IRL1576). Ben got squeezed out at the turning point, touching the mark and taking a penalty turn pushing him into a battle for 3rd with Jojo Dion. The development squad was finding it challenging to catch these 4.

Andrew eventually managed to edge out Oscar on the reach finish with Jojo scoring yet another top 3.

After the leg, Andrew Weir had secured a firm lead over the rest of the field with the consistent Ben Chaix a distant second just a mere point ahead of Ruairi Slattery. But leg 4 was certainly to be the most challenging yet so with no legs discarded it was going to be a tough challenge.

Leg 4: River madness

The sailors started in a lovely northwesterly before rapidly falling in the Currabinny Doldrums. Most sailors attempted to cut short to try to reach the breeze just windward of the pier, but with the strong tide still against them they just could not make ground.

The Optimist Solitaire fleets eventually amalgamated by Currabiny Pier in windless doldrumsThe Optimist Solitaire fleets eventually amalgamated by Currabiny Pier in windless doldrums

Oscar Rowan was an early leader in a further south position where the doldrums were narrower but it was to be two sailors who went further south right by Crosshaven shores who eventually caught the breeze first. IRL1495 Fergus Mcnamara who had capsized off the startline took advantage of the error of the fleet ahead and IRL1521 Cian Farrell were the first two into the river breeze battling the strong current yet making ground. A small group of sailors finally noticed and made their way south instead of fighting the current. Notable absentees from this change of heart were Andrew and Ruairi which opened a small opportunity for Ben to deliver a little holdup on the 11th hour.

IRL1521 Cian Farrell was one of the first Optimists into the river in the Cork Harbour Solitaire raceIRL1521 Cian Farrell was one of the first Optimists into the river in the Cork Harbour Solitaire Race

Cian eventually took the lead and made it to the finish, securing the win for leg 4. Fergus was second, with Oscar scoring a second podium finish.

Andrew Weir has a stellar catch-up in the river to climb back to 7th, even overtaking Ben (9th) and securing the overall win of the first "la solitaire Optimist".

The regatta fleet sailors secured a 1-2-3 to the delight of lead coach Sarah Fogarty. The top Development squad sailor was Ruairi Slattery in 4th. The kids had a great day out in Cork Harbour. It was fun, unusual, exciting, and challenging and we can't wait for the second edition in 2024. Perpetual trophy offers?

'La Solitaire Optimist' Results

La Solitaire Optimist Results

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The 130 Optimist sailors and their parents who descended on the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven last week were full of trepidation, with storm Ciaran potentially leading to no sailing. As it happened, all four days of IODAI NTW (National Training Week) were sailable, and the options in Cork Harbour for sheltered sailing helped.

Now in it’s third year, NTW has become a centrepiece in the Optimist calendar. Its mix of training, social and fun, with less emphasis on racing results, has seen a huge increase in new sailors participating in this event. The IODAI committee were delighted to see lots of new regatta fleet participants, auguring well for the healthy future of the class.

Jim Hughes of host club RCYC, along with the IODAI team, ran an excellent week of training culminating in the final day being sailed as the Halloween Regatta incorporating the Crosbie Cup. An army of volunteers on and off the water supported the coaching team led by world-renowned Olympic coach Bocha Pollitzer of Argentina.

Optimist sailors during a Optimist Dinghy 2023 National Training Week race at Royal Cork Yacht Club in Cork HarbourOptimist sailors during a Optimist Dinghy 2023 National Training Week race at Royal Cork Yacht Club in Cork Harbour

The disco was a huge hit with the sailors, and the now famous “In it to win it” prize draw each day kept the fun and social aspect of sailing at the forefront. For the parents, Dr Aine McNamara gave a presentation on supporting your child in sailing with the ability to overcome setbacks and a positive mental attitude as key takeaways.

All four days of IODAI Optimist National Training Week were sailable, and the options in Cork Harbour for sheltered sailing helped to complete the programmeAll four days of IODAI Optimist National Training Week were sailable, and the options in Cork Harbour for sheltered sailing helped to complete the programme

On Saturday, the focus shifted from training to racing, with the Crosbie Cup and Halloween Cup run in parallel. The top three in the Halloween Cup were Patrick Fegan (MYC/RSGYC), Max O’Hare (RSGYC) and Juliette Ryan (RSGYC/MYC/HYC). In the Crosbie Cup for Bronze Fleet sailors, the top three were Tara Hayes (RCYC/MBSC), Emily Lynch (RCYC) and Dylan O’Sullivan (RCYC).

Full results below.

Both parents and sailors alike were unanimous in their feedback that the week had been a huge success and created lots of positive memories and new and renewed friendships. Sponsors Grant Thornton and O’Leary Insurance were delighted to be associated with the NTW. President Paddy Ryan said, “I am thrilled that the weather worked out for us and that the sailors and parents had a great time.” Ryan gave thanks to all those who supported the event and promised an even better NTW next year.

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The Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven in Cork Harbour will be the centre for fun and learning at the IODAI Optimist National Training Week from the 1st to the 4th of November.

Over 120 boats are signed up at the time of writing, and more latecomers are also expected.

Now in its third year, the NTW offers Optimist sailors from all over Ireland a chance to connect and learn from some great coaching.

The coaching ticket is led by world-famous ‘Bocha’ Pollitzer of Argentina, who has coached Olympic Teams from the 49er class and has coached world champions in the 29er class and Optimists. Supported by Soren Laugenson of Denmark and Thomas Chaix of Ireland and France. This senior team will lead a talented Irish lineup of younger coaches, ensuring great fun and lots of learning.

The sponsors Grant Thornton and O’Leary Insurance Group, are delighted to support this gathering of the Optimist tribe, say the IODAI.

Swag’ bags have been put together, and the NTW event hoodie is now a collector's item. RCYC has a full food menu for the kids and parents, and the Club and Class are happy to give back by running a coffee morning in aid of the RNLI. As is tradition now, the training week ends with a Halloween Regatta, allowing the sailors to test their newfound skills.

IODAI President Paddy Ryan says, ‘National Training Week is really our most important event of the year. After a long season, it’s the perfect tonic for the sailors and their family to relax, spend time with their friends and engage with the sport in a very positive way that differs hugely from their Regional and National events. As one of the biggest fleets in the country, we are very aware of how an event such as NTW can build a really positive atmosphere for the whole Oppie family and support our sailors in the years ahead'.

Last minute booking can be done here and RCYC have an information page here 

Published in Royal Cork YC
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