A 24 BOAT Irish team are set to take on the might of European Mirror sailing at a breezy venue 500 kilometres south of the Arctic circle at Osterund, Sweden, this weekend. Main Irish hopes are represented by the winners of last week's 140 boat Eastern championships, Ross Killian (19) and Alex Blayney (14) of the National Yacht Club, sailing Flashpoint II, who head the Irish ranking lists after three events. The current world champion, David Gebhard of England, will be the sole UK entry in Osterund and must be a leading contender for the title. Gebhard will be confident of his form over the Irish squad, having won both the Northern and Southern Irish championships this season. But the small UK entry will favour the Irish who have had better results than the host nation in recent years. Entries are expected from at least another six or seven countries. The 10 ft 10 in Mirror dinghy is the most numerous of all dinghies sailed in Ireland and attracts the biggest fleets up to 200 boats are expected for this month's national championships at the Royal North Ireland YC on Belfast Lough.
Most of the fleet are junior or youth sailors, up to age 20, and the competition among the front runners is keen. A surprise entrant to last week's championship on Dublin Bay was Tom Fitzpatrick, the ISA senior helmsmans champion, who only managed third place a measure of the standard of the Irish fleet. An international title has been a growing prospect for Irish officials over the past few seasons and internationally it is accepted that Ireland has the depth of talent to produce such a winner. The Royal Cork's Mel Collins and Stefan Hyde came the closest yet with a second overall at the 1995 World event in Wales. Also making the running on the Swedish lake will be Ross Killian's sister Rebecca (IS), who will crew for club mate Gerbil Owens (17), and Lough Derg entries Robbie Hamilton (17) and Michael Bayly (14). The team manager, Kieran Collins of Cork, will be assisted by coach Dwayne Lysaght of the Royal St George YC. Hamilton and Bayly's club, at Dromineer, will, after all, host the Mirror Western championships following a meeting of the class association and the event will now be staged in the last weekend of August. The event was cancelled in July because of allegations that pollution in the lake made sailing unsafe. Meanwhile, Jim Carthy and the crew of Vee will be attempting to equal Harry Grimes's five wins at Carlsberg Mermaid week which begins tomorrow at Skerries Sailing Club. Carthy, of the host club, won the event from 1991 to 1994 but was stopped from making Mermaid history last year by club mate John Davies, sailing Helen. Davies will defend his 1995 title from a fleet of 50 boats over six races. Dublin Bay Sailing club will host their annual cruiser challenge from August 24th-25th, and according to the honorary secretary, Donal O'Sullivan, entries are expected to top last year's, even though this year the event will run for the first time without sponsorship. Rear commodore Fintan Cairns is the organiser of the event and he can be contacted on Tel: 01 288 5027. A four race programme is planned to include windward leeward and round the cans course configurations. Howth Yacht Club are preparing for a French invasion on August 9th with the arrival of 46 French solo competitors in the first leg of the gruelling 1,600 mile Le Figaro race from the French port of Perros Guirec. The sailors will race 495 miles to Howth via the Tuskar Rock and the Isle of Man on the longest leg of the internationally renowned race, now in its 27th year. Accompanying the crews will be a mother ship, a French naval vessel, two support boats, a helicopter and four 40 foot containers. Each competitor has a support team, and in total there will be over 400 people at Howth for the four day stop over. The race leaves Howth for the 443 mile second leg to Saint Nazaire. The third leg of 320 miles is to Gijon, Spain, and the race ends after the final leg to Le Crouestyen, Arzon.
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