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Scotland Pip Northern Ireland at RYA Celtic Cup Youth Sailing Event

8th February 2022
The RYA Northern Ireland Celtic Cup team
The RYA Northern Ireland Celtic Cup team

The last weekend of January saw the RYA Celtic Cup hosted by RYA Scotland at Largs Sailing Club, and taking part were RYANI Youth Sailing Squad Members with RYA Wales and RYA Scotland. As well as racing for the Celtic Cup there was coaching for Optimist, Topper and ILCA 6 classes.

The event brought together the best ILCA and Topper sailors from each home country to compete for the overall team prize. It’s the first time the event has run since 2013 and the intention is that this will be an annual fixture alternating between the home countries of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The event serves as a combined training session with races included to constitute the Celtic Cup.

Chosen to represent Northern Ireland were two youth members of East Antrim Boat Club at Larne, ten from Ballyholme on Belfast Lough and four from County Antrim YC. The EABC sailors were Tom Coulter and Matthew McClernon in the ILCA division and the four from BYC in the same class were Charlotte Eadie, Joshua McGregor, Lewis Thompson and Lucas Nixon. From County Antrim Yacht Club on Belfast Lough were Ellen Barbour and Daniel Corbett. In the Toppers were Bobby Driscoll, Cormac Byrne, Henry Nelson, Autumn Halliday, Katie Brow and Emily McAfee from Ballyholme but due to unforeseen circumstances Katie and Emily were unable to travel. And the CAYC sailors were Rory Pollard and Luke Simpson.

The RYA Northern Ireland Celtic Cup Laser teamThe RYA Northern Ireland Celtic Cup Laser team

The team was accompanied by coaches, Chris Penny and Barry McCartan along with Andrew Baker, Performance Manager for RYA NI.

Saturday brought heavy winds and unsettled seas with a baseline wind speed at Largs of 38 kts with gusts of 48 kts and the forecast was windy for the rest of the day. So a coaching session was held which comprised an early gym session before breakfast, followed by a packed programme of workshops, talks and teambuilding activities. Athletes were mixed up across countries and teams, to share experiences and learn with different sailors and coaches.

Sunday’s weather to start with was a complete contrast and before the heavy weather which was forecast arrived there was a flurry of activity in the boat parks and marina with race management, mark personnel and coaching staff getting their respective teams launched and the course set. With RYA Scotland’s Performance Manager, Matt Toynbee keeping an eye on the water proceedings accompanied by Kate Pounder, RYA Scotland’s Performance Sailing Officer, a trapezoid course was set and the Race Officer got racing underway in 13 kt winds from the south. As predicted, the wind continued to build quickly over the morning and by 1230 hrs the competitors were racing in 25 knots with a big sea, making for very challenging sailing conditions. Unsurprisingly the high winds produced capsizes in the last race. With no change in sight the decision was taken to finish racing for the day at lunchtime with four races completed in the ILCA 6 Class and three in the Topper and Optimist classes.

The individual results in the ILCA 6 saw Tom Mitchell from Scotland take first place with four bullets, second place went to Finlay Tulett also from Scotland and the best NI results came from Tom Coulter (EABC) at third, and in fourth, Josh McGregor of BYC; Ellen Barbour of County Antrim was sixth and Lucas Nixon (BYC) eighth. In the Topper Class, BYC’s Bobby Driscoll, took the individual win and his clubmate Autumn Halliday was runner up. In third was Finley Briggs from Scotland. Rory Pollard was ninth.
The Celtic Cup was awarded to the RYA Scotland team, with RYA NI coming a close second and RYA Wales, third.

Ballyholme’s Aidan Pounder (Recognised Training Centre Principal) said “It was a great event and experience and thanks to RYA Scotland for hosting and to the RYA NI Team and Coaches for their great preparation and support. We look forward now to 2023, where The Celtic Cup will be contested either in Wales or Northern Ireland”.

Andrew Baker, RYANI Performance Manager said; “it was a very close fight between Scotland and Northern Ireland. With Scotland’s top two in the ILCA and consistently mid-fleet in the Topper they just managed to pip us. Notable results were Bobby Driscoll (BYC) and Autumn Halliday (BYC) in the Topper, and Tom Coulter (EABC) and Josh McGregor (BYC) in the ILCA. A few black flags and breakages may have come into the mix but show’s we can be competitive. I am sure we can bring the cup home next year.”

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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About the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Northern Ireland 

  • The RYA is the national body for dinghy, yacht and motor cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs and sports boats, windsurfing and personal watercraft and a leading representative for inland waterways cruising.
  • The RYA is recognised by Government, the media and opinion formers as the representative body and voice for the activities that it represents. It continually fights for the rights and freedoms of its 112,000 personal members.
  • The RYA has more than 1,500 affiliated clubs and classes, which represent some 350,000 boaters throughout the UK. It is estimated that 4 million people in the UK take part in boating activity annually.
  • The RYA also sets and maintains recognised standards for training for both leisure and commercial boating through a network of more than 2,400 RYA Recognised Training Centres across 58 countries. More than 250,000 people per year complete RYA training courses.
  • The RYA is responsible for one of the UK’s most successful Olympic medal-winning sports. Our coaching and development schemes actively support 800 of our country’s top sailors, from talented juniors to Olympic and World champions.
  • The RYA is committed to promoting all forms of boating and making them accessible to everyone. For more information please visit
  • The Royal Yachting Association Northern Ireland (RYA NI) acts for the RYA in Northern Ireland (NI) and the Chairman of RYA NI is invited to join the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) Policy Review Committee.
  • You can find the RYA Northern Ireland at Sketrick House, GE8, Jubilee Road, Newtownards, BT23 4YH.
  • RYA NI is a company limited by guarantee – Registration number NI 51945
  • Contact RYA NI: Tel: 02891 827154 email: [email protected]



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