Ballyholme Yacht Club was one of the first to organise winter sailing on Belfast Lough way back in the seventies. It’s called the Icebreaker and in the past, it has indeed at times involved breaking ice on boat cover.
The series is supported by Charles Hurst Jaguar and Part 2 starts on Sunday, February 2nd. But to revive the enthusiasm last Saturday the club held the first of a Pre-Icebreaker Winter Sprint Races for Toppers, Lasers, Large and Small dinghies and Catamarans in aid of the RNLI.
For the 29 strong fleet, the proposed format was six one lap windward-leeward races for the three fleets in this instance, Toppers and Laser 4.7s in the Low PY, large PY handicap and the Laser Radials and Standards.
Gusts over 20 knots played havoc with the fleets in the first two races, with some shifts downwind taking their toll. Only a couple of boats didn’t succumb to a capsize.
David Nelson won the Laser Standards. He showed his speed in the heavier airs with clear starts and it was a generally a competition between himself and Dan McGaughey in the Radial to get to the top mark first. Chris Boyd caught up on the down winds although most of the fleet were well behind the first two. After a late start and a DNF in Race 1 and another late start in the second, Mark Mackey managed to split Nelson and McGaughey in the third and then, after a clean start in the final, was first to the windward mark with a gap big enough to contend with the disappearance of the wind to allow him to finish in front of McGaughey who was the Laser Radial winner. Thereafter racing was cancelled as the wind had shut off and the Rescue boats crews were feeling the cold. The Toppers showed great skill in surviving all four races, managing to get the last race in before the wind disappeared. Some struggled with the shifting winds and one gust took out nearly the whole fleet near the windward mark in the third race. The winner was Conor Allen. And top of the 4.7 fleet was Lucas Nixon.
Only two Large PY turned out and they survived two races before they sensibly came ashore due to the cold strong winds.
The traditional ‘Mug of the Day’ went to Keith Storey for his three capsizes and wrapping his main sheet around one of the leeward gate marks.
A worthwhile exercise to encourage the fleet out again for the 10-week Icebreaker open event starting on in just a week’s time on 2nd February.