#carrickfergus – Carrickfergus Sailing Club on Belfast lough is celebrating the re-opening of its newly restored clubhouse just two years after a major fire destroyed the building.
VIPs and members of the sailing fraternity from across Northern Ireland gathered at Rodgers Quay for the Grand Opening and to sample the impressive new facilities that will make Carrickfergus one of the top sailing clubs in Ireland.
The new clubhouse was opened by Terry Windsor, who is one of the best known members of the club, having joined in 1955. He is also one of the most experienced sailors and for the last five years has been Race Officer for the Clubs Points Racing.
Members of the club have worked hard over the past two years to ensure that sailing continued as normal and events went ahead despite the devastating loss of their clubhouse.
Up to seven fire appliances were called to the clubhouse at Rodgers Quay on June 23, 2012 as a major blaze swept through the building. The next morning, club members met to begin drawing up a Development Plan which would see the clubhouse fully restored.
The restored premises are better than ever with new state-of-the-art changing facilities fully accessible to sailors with a disability and a new multi-purpose room ideal for dinghy sailing. The clubhouse also features a large first floor balcony area with stunning views across Belfast Lough.
Club Commodore Trevor Kirkpatrick praised club members for their work in ensuring that the club's sailing calendar continued.
He said: "It has been a difficult two years but I am so delighted that we are back at the clubhouse that has been our home for the past 35 years. I would like to thank everyone in the sailing fraternity who rallied round and helped ensure this great club continued.
"We are immensely proud of this new building that is not only much more environmentally friendly but also has full disabled access. Carrickfergus is now very well placed to attract a host of major sailing events to our town."
Mr Kirkpatrick added: "After the fire we were struck by the messages of support we received from sailing clubs as far away as Dublin. Our members really rose to the challenge, volunteering for extra duties and helping to clear up after the fire.
""We would like to thank our neighbours including Carrick Sea Cadets, Belfast Lough Sailability, Carrickfergus Marina & Premier Inn for helping us out with use of their facilities during the time of restoration."
The Deputy Mayor of Carrickfergus, Councillor Lynn McClurg, who officiated at the re-launch, commented: "It gives me great pleasure to be here today representing Carrickfergus Borough Council and deputising for the Mayor,
Alderman Johnston, who sends his apologies as he has a prior engagement.
"It was actually our current Mayor, Alderman Johnston, who officially opened the Club when it was first built in 1984. Despite the tragic circumstances of the fire, the Club pulled together and with an immense fundraising effort, has managed to create this very valuable local community asset. All of those involved are to be highly commended for their endeavours and the analogy of the 'phoenix rising from the ashes' is entirely appropriate on this occasion."
Ronnie Brown, Chief Operations Officer of the Royal Yachting Association Northern Ireland, said: "We in the Royal Yachting Association Northern Ireland are aware of the huge effort which has gone into getting this project to completion and delighted that Carrickfergus Sailing Club, which has produced and continues to produce so many top class sailors, is now fully back in business in exciting new accommodation."