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Due to heavy winds, the annual Howth Yacht Club ‘Round the Island’ Laser Race was postponed last weekend until this Saturday, 16th March writes Dave Quinn.

Entry is still open, with the first gun scheduled for 10:55. We plan on having a Windward Leeward Race first, before the main event. Lunch and prizegiving is planned for 1:30, which should allow for viewing of the Ireland V Wales match afterwards on big screens in the bar.

Published in Howth YC
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While most sailors pack up their boats in October and look forward to a cosy and relaxed winter, there are a few hardy sailors who actually look forward to the Winter months writes Dave Quinn. The Laser dinghy was unveiled in 1971 at the New York Boat Show. Frostbite sailing has been a fixture on many club calendars since the mid-’70s, with fleets mostly comprising Lasers in venues other than Dun Laoghaire. Recent years have seen an impressive increase in numbers around the country and this success should attract the attention of those trying to grow the sport. From my perspective, the appeal of Frostbite sailing is the convenience. Given the time of year, racing tends to be around short courses, with quick turnarounds, convenient start times and a focus on fun. We have compiled some reports from around to country to give some background to Frostbite sailing in the various centres, and an insight into the current success of the winter sailing scene.

Dublin Laser Sailing

In Dublin, there are two main winter sailing centres, Howth and Dun Laoghaire. The Howth Winter ‘Frostbite’ Series, which is the oldest in Ireland, has been running since the Autumn of 1974. John Gore-Grimes first identified that the Laser, with its sturdy design, easy transport options and low maintenance offered a unique opportunity for Howth sailors to race regularly through the winter. The first races were held that Autumn and this marked the start of year-round sailing in Howth Yacht Club. Vincent Wallace won the first two series, with the familiar names of Anthony Gore-Grimes, Robert Michael, Neville Maguire and David Dickson all featuring.

Harbour SailingEarly photo of Laser racing from inside Howth Harbour

Racing was originally held in the harbour, similar to Dun Laoghaire now, but once the new harbour development was completed, racing moved outside to the channel between Howth and Irelands Eye. Such was the popularity of the years' Frostbite series that Laser International declared it the biggest Laser Club series in Europe. Since those early years there has always been a large winter series fleet in Howth, which has attracted some of the top laser sailors of the day Once the series moved outside the harbour, racing was mostly held off a fixed start line from the starters hut at the end of the west pier (which can still be seen today next to Aqua restaurant). This often led to reaching starts, and huge amounts of fun. I distinctly remember a certain Gavan Jones approaching the line from above, calling Starboard on the entire fleet, reaching towards the line on port! In more recent years, the format was improved with a dedicated committee boat, 2 races a day and high-quality courses. The series ends each year with the unique ‘Round the Island’ race. This is a single lap race, around the Island, with a twist. Sailors can go either way round. Tides, Winds, Eddies and Wave patterns all dominate sailors minds in the week running up to the big race. One side always wins out, although its not always that obvious. This is one of the most prestigious and sought after trophies in Howth Yacht Club. Simon Knowles currently holds the record for the most number of wins, at 4.

Round the IslandLaser racing Round Ireland’s eye in the annual Round the Island race

The now 49-year-old DMYC Frostbite series (next year is the big Five-O) has seen a monumental increase in Laser entries this season in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The first series kicked off on Nov 04th with a whopping 61 lasers entered across the 3 rigs. This marks a 154% increase on the 2017/2018 season. Such was the volume of entries, the DMYC organisers and laser representatives agreed that it would be wise to merge the standard and 4.7 rigs and give the radials their own start. What has been most encouraging to see has been the number of youth sailors taking part in the series. This came about as a result of ongoing dialogue between the Laser reps, parents and youth coaches where it was highlighted to them that the quality of racing and organisation on the water was worth their investment as it would give them plenty of starting and race management practice, not only amongst their peers but amongst some of slightly ‘saltier’ dog’s too! The genuine willingness of the DMYC frostbite organisers to accommodate the laser class has also been a major factor in the success of the series to date. Special thanks must go to Neil Colin and his team. They have not only facilitated our wishes to provide both windward/leeward courses but triangular too. This has been lapped up by the competitors as it has enabled them to get much-needed race course practice in the winter, keeping them sharp and fit. The more ‘mature’ sailors have been surprised by the push for the line by their younger competitors with 2 minutes to go, making the starts a somewhat nerve-wracking experience for some! As you can gather, the laser fleet is alive and well in Dun Laoghaire and is super excited about the prospects the future holds!

Belfast Laser Sailing

In late 1974, Ron Hutchieson brought the first Laser to Ballyholme. In conjunction with Trevor Millar and a few others, by 1976, permission had been granted for racing at Ballyholme during the closed season with a short winter break in January. Initially, a practical break allowing for maintenance and recovery of tired rescue drivers (and presumably sailors). It now serves as a convenient time for half of the fleet to go skiing!

In 1977, a small drinks Ice Pick from Harrods was purchased and mounted as the overall prize. The “Icebreaker,” was born. In the following years, the Icebreaker grew both with racing for lasers, but also GP14s, and Enterprises. In the mid-1980s twenty to twenty-five lasers were regularly seen racing, with stalwarts past and present of the class and indeed Northern Irish and Irish sailing being amongst the fleet. At this time Gareth Flannigan often took home the trophy, but Chris Boyd, Charlie Taylor, Bill O’Hara, Brian Spence, Elaine Taylor and the late Denis Finlay were regular competitors.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Laser sailing boomed at Ballyholme, with many top sailors coming through the Icebreaker as we know it today. In the early 2000s when I joined the fleet, the front of a Sunday Icebreaker often resembled the front of the regional qualifiers with the McGovern brothers, James Espey, Bill O’Hara, Gareth Flannigan, Chris Boyd and Peter Kennedy sharing the spoils locally as well as more than a few regional and national championships.

More recently, the resurgence of the class in Ireland as a whole and the efforts of the committee to bring more Masters back to sailing the Icebreaker is going strong. Locally in Ballyholme, the efforts of Garth Maxwell to support and encourage those returning seem to know no bounds. At times upwards of forty boats, but usually nearly thirty race each week. Tough competition is seen in gold, silver, bronze and radial fleets with many old names returning to the fray. The ever-shrewd Chris Boyd remains more often than not at the front of the fleet, as any Masters who raced in Dun Laoghaire last year will be aware. John Simms, and his son Conor spar with each other weekly, and this year has seen the return of Matthew and Russell McGovern to racing alongside the occasional appearance from multiple former national champions. Further down the fleet, the racing is if anything tougher and more vicious as bragging rights are often so much more valuable than series results. The Ballyholme Icebreaker is in rude health and seems fit to continue its increase in standard and numbers taking part.

Cork Laser Sailing

Down in Cork, the laser fleet has thrived for many years. Since the mid-1970s, the fleet has grown into what it is today.

The Cork Laser fleet has proved to not be exclusive, with events held all year round that are tailored to suit each individual sailor. As a result, the number of laser sailors on the water over the past few years has been high.

The most popular events are usually the annual frostbite leagues, hosted by several Cork-based clubs. These include Kinsale, Monkstown and Royal Cork, to select a few. These leagues can attract all kinds of competition from a parent looking for a break, to the local club hotshot.

mbsc laserCork Harbour Laser Racing at Monkstown Bay Photo: Bob Bateman

Cork has an ever-expanding mix of Master and Youth sailors. Ever since the smaller sail plans were introduced, youth sailors in Cork have increased in number over the years. In conjunction with the rise in youth sailors, more experienced Master sailors have been dusting off their lasers and taking to the water.

The “youth” sailors tend to be very competitive about their racing. The Master laser sailors are very competitive in their own right, but prefer a friendly environment adopting a “Life is too short” attitude. This created a slight divide in the fleet, which then led to the organisation of a Laser frostbite series hosted by Monkstown Bay sailing club. Only standard rigs could compete at the time. This event suits the Master laser sailor, with short amounts of time on the water and fun racing. The youth sailors annually converge in October for the Royal Cork frostbites, where they compete for top spot in heated competition.

Every year the Cork Laser fleet continues to grow in size, including recreational sailors, Masters and youths.

Wexford Laser Sailing

Wexford is another well-established centre for Winter Laser sailing. They have been running a winter series since the late 1980s with 20 to 30 boats out on average. They also follow a common theme to the other series with racing on Sunday mornings at 11, and the series running from November to the end of April. They welcome visitors from as far as Blessington, Courtown, Dunmore East and Wicklow.

Overall it appears that winter club dinghy sailing continues to be a very important and successful aspect of our sport, covering a 6 month period where there is very little other activity in many centres. The short races, convenient start and finish times and low cost offer some valuable lessons to our sailing administrators and clubs at a time when we are trying to retain and grow our younger membership numbers.

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Colin Leonard and Ron Hutchieson (Ballyholme), Chris Bateman (Cork), Gavan Murphy (Dun Laoghaire), Ronan Wallace/Paul Ebrill and James Sinnott (Wexford) in the compilation of this article.

Published in Laser
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When the 17 boat fleet followed the Race Committee out into Howth Sound for the last day of the Laser Frostbite Spring Series they found the wind following its forecast pattern of slowly working its way from south to north while increasing from very light to something more robust and the rain pouring down. With a strongly ebbing tide adding to the mix, it looked like nature had decided to make the final day of the Laser Frostbite series extra challenging.

After the Race Committee had quickly relaid the course twice with the AP displayed and deciding that it was either make the most of the conditions or abandon, the fleet was started using a Black Flag and all got away cleanly.

Howth yacht club race teamThe dedicated and hard working HYC Race Committee for the Series - left to right are R. Kissane, D Jones, J Doran and L Dinneen. Not pictured are H Gallagher and N Murphy.

The wind, all four knots at a maximum, was arcing from 150 to 210 and provided the sailors with plenty of opportunity for inspired choices (or guesses?? ) of which way to go and what was really a header or lift. Darragh Sheridan got all the choices correct and he rounded the first mark with a big lead. He protected it all the way around the next two legs before finding that one lap and a short beat to the finish had been decided to be enough punishment for the fleet. There was no hope of a second race in the conditions and thus ended the Laser Frostbite Series of 2018 - 2019.

"Ronan Wallace collects the Rowan Trophy for winning the Standard Rig fleet after a very close battle with Daragh Kelleher all series"

This concludes our Spring Series, with Ronan Wallace collects the Rowan Trophy for winning the Standard Rig fleet after a very close battle with Daragh Kelleher all series. Tom Fox won the Radial Trophy, discarding a second and Sophie Gilmartin won the 4.7 fleet prize.

Huge thanks and appreciation must go to the Race Committee team of Harry Gallagher, Neil Murphy, Richard Kissane, Liam Dinneen, John Doran and David Jones. We are very lucky to have such an experienced and dedicated group looking after our very long series, which runs from the start of November to mid-March. They are out on the water, in a volunteer capacity, every week throughout the winter, giving the sailors national championship levels races courses and organisation week in week out.

We now look forward to the annual Round the Island Race next Saturday morning. This unique event should be on the bucket list for any Laser sailor. It’s a huge amount of fun, and the Skehan Trophy is considered one of the most highly sought-after and prestigious trophies in Howth Yacht Club. This is an open event, and anyone looking to join the fun can enter here

Video of yesterday's single start: 

Published in Howth YC
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For the first time during the series, the 18 boat turnout for the penultimate race of Howth Yacht Club Laser Frostbite event found themselves having to contend with fog. Adding to the challenge conditions were a strong tide and wind ranging in direction from 140 to 170 and from the 4 knots the fleet found in the Sound when they left the Harbour to a brisk 21 knots in the occasional gusts.

In both races Darragh Kelleher and Ronan Wallace battled it out at the front of the fleet all the way around the lap, sausage, lap course. In race 1 they swapped the lead three times before Ronan took the gun. In the second, Ronan grabbed the lead early on and used his off-wind speed advantage to build a comfortable lead before again crossing first. Behind them there was close racing all the way through the fleet. Conor Murphy took third place from Stephen Quinn in race 1. In race 2, Stephen's individual recall damaged his chance of a repeat and Mike Evans took third from Conor Murphy. Tom Fox took first place in the Radial fleet in both races.

Next Sunday sees the final two races being sailed, leading to the season climax, the Round the Island race, on Saturday, March 9th

Published in Laser
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It might be Mid-term holidays for some but sailors in the Irish Laser Radial Academy still have classroom work!

Pictured above is a rules session led by International judge and race officer Bill O'Hara, a 1984 Olympian in the Finn class.

The week-long camp in Cadiz, Spain includes the National Yacht Club's Carmel Winkelmann Cup winner Clare Gorman, Jamie McMahon, Eve McMahon, Tom Higgins and Micheal O'Sullivan.

The Academy is Joined by Tokyo Olympic trialist, Aoife Hopkins who competes in Andalusia Olympic Week next week.

Published in Youth Sailing
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What a change a week makes! There was a certain sceptical air in the Howth Yacht Club Laser dinghy pen as sailors took off coats and searched their bags for baseball caps in very mild and sunny conditions. The breeze was perfect, with a steady 16kts, gusting in the mid-20s. However, with the gusty breeze coming from the South West and a residual swell rolling in from the East, it was tricky to keep a consistent level of heel and good boatspeed. There were plenty of 20-degree shifts, which meant a conservative and flexible strategy up the middle generally paid off.

Start line videos shows Ronan Wallace and Dan O’Connell both timed their starts to perfection to lead off the line. Dan lead at the first mark but had a couple of incidents, letting Ronan Wallace and Daragh Kelleher through. They had space to extend their lead, especially on the fast second reach. Kelleher overtook Wallace on this reach, but was passed again downwind by Wallace to take the race. Dan O’Connell finished third, with Dave Quinn in fourth and Mike Evans in fifth. The second race saw a significant lull and shift just at the gun which made for a confused start.

The breeze quickly settled back into the steady shifting pattern though. The race played out in a smilar fashion to the first, with Ronan Wallace taking the gun, from Daragh Kelleher and Dan O’Connell. Mike Evans passed Dave Quinn at the last gybe mark to reverse their positions from the first race.

Published in Laser
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Saturday, February 16th saw the Laser sailors of Cork gather for the final day of the Monkstown Laser Frostbite League, sponsored by CH Marine writes Chris Bateman.

The morning began with a mixed sky over the bay. Patches of blue were seen in amongst ominous-looking clouds. A fresh breeze blew from the south, whistling through shrouds on the Sandquay. The bay looked inviting; a dark blue in colour and a slight chop disturbing the water.

The sailors arrived in Monkstown as early as ever. Sails were heard before they were seen, flogging in the strong wind. Without delay, Race Officer Alan Fehily set a windward/leeward course at the entrance to Monkstown Creek. Raring to go, the competitors took to the waters in record time.

The sequence began for race one at 10:15am, the exact scheduled time. Ten sailors worked hard to hold their positions on the line until the gun went. It was a clean start and the dinghies were seen battling their way up the course. The breeze was shifty, threatening to knock the sailors over with every gust. It was all they could do to stay upright and they had to sail carefully for three rounds. Sundays Well sailor Paul O’Sullivan stayed ahead of the fleet for the majority of the race, holding off MBSC sailors Rob Howe and Ronan Kenneally. O’ Sullivan took first place, with Howe close behind in second. Kenneally followed up in third place.

In the radial category, MBSC’s Harry Pritchard was the only one to test the conditions. He sailed fast, mixing it in with the bigger standard rig sailors.

The second race was challenging, with gusts of 25 knots hitting the water. The conditions were typical for Monkstown Bay; holes in the wind and a strong flood tide dominated the course. Paths were picked carefully and it was all but decided at the finish line. Kenneally sailed well and took first place, just in front of Howe who finished second. MBSC’s William O’Brien finished close behind in third place.

The third and final race of the league began in a more constant wind, averaging roughly 15 knots down the course. It was close racing off the start line and all the sailors tussled up to the windward mark. Kenneally took the lead early and fought to hold his position. O’Brien was in hot pursuit, contesting the laser ace. Howe sailed close behind, carefully covering the fleet.

Kenneally crossed the finish line in first, winning the last race of the league. O’Brien followed in second, with Howe close behind in third place.

The final race concluded and the sailors went ashore. A prizegiving was scheduled for 12:30pm and all the competitors looked forward to the warmth of the Bosun. Eighteen races had not been sailed for nothing; all of the sailors had raced in earnest for the prestigious Yard of Ale trophy, over six cold Saturdays. In the end, MBSC sailors dominated the top four positions. Former UK Laser Olympic squad member Rob Howe finished in fourth position. In third position was the well-known avid National 18 sailor Charles Dwyer. In second place was the two-time Monkstown laser frostbite league winner Ronan Kenneally. The winner of the Yard of Ale trophy was your correspondent, who finished just a point ahead of Kenneally.

In the radial category, Harry Pritchard from MBSC finished in first position; he was also the first person to win in this category. He sailed well and by the end of the league he had lots of race wins under his belt.

All scheduled races had been sailed and it was in high spirits the competitors left the Bosun, ready to enjoy another season of laser sailing. Rest assured they will be the first to start next year’s season, at the next Monkstown Laser frostbite league.

Photos below by Bob Bateman

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Brendan Dwyer (foreground) Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Rob Howe Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Paul O'Sullivan (foreground) Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1James long (foreground) and William O'Brien (background) Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Harry Pritchard Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Ronan Kenneally (left) And Chris Bateman Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Tight downwind on Monkstown Bay Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Rob Bateman Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Chris Bateman Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Paul O'Sullivan bears away in a gust Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1The Lasers get a clean start Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Ronan Kenneally (left) second in the standard fleet and Harry Pritchard radial winner Photo: Bob BatemanMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy1Chris Bateman with the MBSC Yard of Ale trophy Photo: Bob Bateman

Published in Cork Harbour

Two races were sailed by the Lasers at Howth Yacht Club on Sunday 10 February in demanding conditions, writes Dave Quinn.

We had westerly winds against a flooding tide, which generated a small but steep chop. Absolutely brilliant for reaching, but somewhat tougher upwind.

It was probably the fastest your correspondent has ever gone in a Laser. Winds were averaging 20 knots and gusting to 28.

Howth Lasers 10 Feb 19

The first race was sailed over a lap-sausage-lap of a triangular course with the run and the gybe marks being where most capsizes occurred.

The race management team took pity on the fleet and changed to triangles without a run for the second race and, in recognition of the number of competitors who were swimming rather than sailing during that race, the course was shortened after just two laps.

The fleet was still left with a broad reach back to the sanctuary of the harbour, which gave further opportunity for some more Sunday morning swimming but all survived and there were plenty of tall tails to be told in the bar afterwards.

Howth Lasers 10 Feb 19

Howth Lasers 10 Feb 19 04

Daragh Kelleher won both races in the Standard Rig, and Tom Fox showed some impressive speed to beat most of the standard rigs on his way to winning the Radial fleet. Sophie Kilmartin continued her winning ways also with two wins in the 4.7 fleet.

The impressive speeds on the reaches were vouched for by the Sailracer GPS trackers fitted to the boats for the event, confirming that over 14 knots can readily be achieved in a Laser, albeit not a comfortable situation to be in with the gybe mark approaching fast.

Published in Howth YC
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Cork Laser sailors converged in Monkstown on Saturday, February 9th for the fifth day of the Monkstown Laser Frostbite league sponsored by CH Marine.

A cold morning dawned with cloudless blue skies and a light breeze blowing down the bay from the south-west. As motivated as ever, the competitors eagerly took to the Cork Harbour water in their dinghies.

There was commotion on the Sandquay as early as 9:00 am as the sailors prepared their boats for the mornings racing. The forecast of 20 knots was not enough to put off the weather hardened Laser sailors. A beautiful blue sea awaited and in the blink of an eye, all of the competitors had launched their boats.

Race Officer Alan Fehily cast off from Monkstown marina in time for the 10:15 start. A windward/leeward course was set at the entrance to the creek and a start line was set opposite the houses of Alta Terrace.

With no time lost, the start went into sequence. A strong ebb tide swept through the course and the sailors had to work hard to stay behind the line. The gun went and for the first time in the series, the majority of competitors were over the line, forcing a general recall. The second start attempt was successful and the sailors began the first upwind leg. Each competitor picked a path up the course, using the tide and shifty wind to their advantage. It was close racing at the windward mark with MBSC sailors Charles Dwyer, Ronan Kenneally and your correspondent fighting for the top spot. Bateman held his lead over Dwyer and took first place. Dwyer finished in second place, in front of Innascarra sailor James Long who took third.

In the radial fleet, MBSC’s Harry Pritchard finished in first place after holding a comfortable lead for the majority of the race.

The second race was another tough race with the tide getting close to full strength and the wind increased slightly. Dwyer took the lead from the start and stayed just ahead of Kenneally and Long. First, second and third looked secure, but all was not what it seemed. Kenneally capsized in front of the windward mark and Long got stuck on the same mark. This allowed MBSC’s William O’Brien and your correspondent to sail through. Meanwhile, Dwyer extended his lead to take first place. Bateman took second, with O’Brien just behind in third.

In the Radial fleet, Pritchard sailed well to secure first place with another comfortable lead.

Race three saw the wind and tide increase in strength. The sailors struggled to stay behind the line and after two attempts, a black flag was raised. The third attempt was successful and the competitors got away cleanly. Dwyer rounded in first with radial sailor Harry Pritchard just behind. Over the course of the race, Long, Kenneally and your correspondent sailed through. The finish line saw Bateman in first, with Long in second and Kenneally in third.

MBSC’s Harry Pritchard not only took first place in the Radial category, but he also sailed exceptionally well and finished second overall, in front of the majority of the standard fleet.

The Laser sailors returned to shore after having endured tough conditions. The trusty rescue/mark boat returned home, its berth kindly sponsored by Monkstown marina for the duration of the series. The boats were put away, ready to race for next weeks final races.

Published in Laser
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January was very disappointing with Howth Yacht Club racing held on only one weekend out of four during the month. Hopefully, February will be different as yesterday gave us excellent conditions for Laser racing. 19 boats competed in breeze that varied from 10 to 19 knots, generally from 230. I’m not sure whether it was the match the previous evening, or the break in sailing in January, but there were definitely some rusty sailors this Sunday morning. Tide was a key factor yet again, with a strong ebb pushing boats fast towards the pin end of the starting line. Anyone more than halfway down the line with a minute to go found it hard not to be swept by the pin end. Dan O’Connell sailed an excellent first beat to lead at the top mark, followed very closely by Ronan Wallace and a big group including Daragh Kelleher, Mike Evans, Simon Reville, Conor Costello, Stephen Quinn and Dave Kirwan. The tide was proving tricky with a number of sailors hitting marks, including Kelleher at the first windward. Dan showed impressive speed on the first 2 reaches to extend his lead. Wallace finally got past him though at the bottom of the first run, with Dan hitting the leeward mark. Wallace went on to win, from O’Connell in second and Mike Evans in third. Peter Hassett curtailed Tom Fox’s dominance in the Radial Fleet by taking the first race of the day, but Sophie Kilmartin continued her winning ways in the 4.7.

Two boats were OCS at the start of the second race, Dave Kirwan and Dave Quinn, both of whom were spotted drowning their sorrows in the Aviva stadium the previous evening, so may not have been at their best. Ronan Wallace started conservatively mid-line and tacked off whereas the rest of the fleet went hard left to get out of the tide. This proved to be decisive as most of the leaders significantly overstood the port layline and left Wallace with a big lead at the first mark, which he held to the finish. Dan O’Connell finished second and Daragh Kelleher third, with very little place changing. Tom Fox won the second radial race, with Sophie Kilmartin winning again in the 4.7.

Published in Howth YC
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