The Mackey Opticians sponsored Belfast Lough Autumn Series came to a sad finale yesterday with Storm Brian hanging around long enough to put paid to the morning's racing.
Race Officer Ruan O'Tiarnaigh had hoped to run two races as the series had only completed three out of six Sunday mornings due to the previous Storm Ophelia and a cou-ple of windless days before that. However a constant 30 knots and gusts into the late 30's made the RO's mind up that it was better to end the season with all of the boats in one piece.
There has been some close racing in the 3 races achieved. The IRC handicap has worked well for the wide range of sizes in their class with the 44 foot Hanse Grey Goose, First 40 Giggle, 38 foot Indigo and First 31.7 competing against the much small-er Beneteau 26 Stratus Sailing campaigned by Gavin Watson and his compatriots who normally compete on Jay Colville's Forty Licks. Despite managing to almost deglove the finger of one crew member on the first race, followed by a young crew member having to be taken off the boat during the second race after getting his hand stuck in a block, Stratus Sailing won the class by 3 points from Dickie and Pauline Donnan's Indigo
The Belfast Lough Quarter Ton class had a good turnout for the series and the differing breezes over the 3 races upset the normal standings with the older ladies Chatterbox owned by Davy Quinn winning the class and Mumbo Jumbo - a 1976 Contessa 25 owned by the Moran/Storey/Westhurst partnership coming in second with more con-sistent results than the rest.
The NHC Whitesail fleet may have been won by Gerry Bell and Bryan Lawther's Merry Jack if they had read the Sailing Instructions for the first race. After completing their two laps, they opted to try and sail a 3rd rather than sailing through the downwind finish line - winning Mug of the Day instead of the first race. Instead John Moorehead and his team on Margarita took the overall class win from David McMullan's Steel Pulse.
The Sigma class saw some close racing as typified by the Sigma fleet this summer in Scotland and Dún Laoghaire. Paul and Emma Prentice's Irish Sigma Champions on Squawk managed to get a jump on the others in the breezier first two races to win over-all although both Starshine Challenger and Impulse showed some good pace at times - in particular in the lighter wind 3rd race with Impulse's shiny and crackling new genoa - to promise more great one design contests when the boats relaunch for next season.
Rear Commodore Ruan O'Tiarnaigh thanked the various committee boat owners, race management teams and mark layers from Ballyholme and Royal Ulster Yacht Clubs for their help over the seven weekends. Mark Mackey and Mackey Opticians were also thanked for sponsoring the event, as well as all of the competitors for continuing to support what is normally some of the best racing of the year in Belfast Lough sadly limited by this years hopefully freak weather.