There were ideal saiing conditions at Lough Derg Yacht Club for the 22 boats competing at this year's IDRA 14 dinghy national championships writes Philip Hackett.
I set off for this year’s nationals thinking that a fairly sedate affair was in store; light winds set to weaken and lots of 70th anniversary yarns to sit through...fool me. The unexpected moderate winds and sunny spells made for ideal conditions in a superb location. That combined with the excellent facilities and hospitality afforded to us by LDYC made this one of the best nationals for our class in my experience.
A quiet few days on the Shannon away from the crowds?.... The start line was worse than the M50 on a Friday bank holiday weekend and far more exciting. All very bad for the blood pressure but the starts really helped to mix up the fleet and gave some people a taste of glory up front for a while (Gordon and Mark race 6) and made the front runners work hard for points, having to battle up from the back of the fleet in several races. That all helped to make this event very competitive with a tight fleet and lots of tussles, front, middle and rear. The exception being the #1 spot with Alan Henry and Simon Revill (#134 Dubious) dominating the front without any serious challenge until they got snarled up on the start line on the final race. A little more on that later.
The first day ended following a double win for #134. Pat O’Neill/Oisín O’Conor (#15 Delos II) tied for second position with Alan Carr/Ian MC Cormack (#38 Starfish) and third position also tied between myself/Fiachra Collins (#163 Chance), Frank Hamilton/Marjo Moonen (#140 Dunmoanin) and Andy Sargent/Callum Maher (#4 Dusk) and several others in close position thereafter.
The second day saw 134 again with a double win and second position still tied between Alan Carr/38 and Pat O’Neill/15. Pierre Long/John Parker(#161 Dart) moved up into 4th place behind them. The second race on this day had to be restarted due to the leeward mark drifting….post race chat revealed that most people reckoned the race was theirs if only it hadn't been restarted….indeed. Other notable events of the day saw Jim Lambkin/Wendy Rudd(#1 Error) mistakenly returning to the line for someone else's individual recall and Pat O’Neill receiving a schelp from our boom following an inadvertent jibe on the start line (sorry again Pat).
The final day was showdown time for second place between Alan Carr and Pat O’Neil but both were badly hemmed in on the start line in the first race and they finished 5th and 6th respectively. Second place went to Frank Hamilton/140 and third to Pierre Long/161. Running into the final race Alan Henry/134’s winning streak remained unbroken and just one point separated Alan Carr ahead of Pat O’Neil. The Committee Boat end of the line had been particularly busy in several of the previous races and so several people decided that the pin end would be the smart place to be…...however the pin end in this final race turned out to be the veritable eye of the needle….several of the leading contenders either coming into contact with each other or the the mark or else stalling in the general melee. Myself and Fiachra managed to stay clear of it and crossed the start line with good speed and time. We kept our clear lead for the rest of the race. Gordon Kelly/Mark Masterson(#129 Del) had a lengthy taste of potential glory holding a good second position for most of the race until suffering a capsize at the end of the final reach. Pat O’Neill started at the very back of the fleet and #134 helmed by Simon Revill with Alan Henry now crewing also trailed the fleet at the start. However both these boats battled their way up through most of the fleet with Pat finally finishing 4th and Simon 2nd. Alan Carr also worked hard to make his way up and finished in 7th. Another very notable result being that of 3rd place taken by Catherine Martin/Brian Murphy(#122 Diane). Catherine is new to the class and had little prior experience of spinnaker sailing.
The final results saw Alan Henry/Simon Revill take 1st, Pat O’Neill/Oisín O’Connor 2nd and Alan Carr/Ian McCormack 3rd.
One very welcome innovation at this year’s Nationals being a rescue boat with a sun deck and onboard bar facilities…..Donal Heney/Louise Coulter(#71 Atomic) being taken in tow and aboard by a spectating motor cruiser. Ageing boy scouts John Lynch/Stephen Harrison(#158 Stoked) lived up to the motto Be Prepared by having a spare tiller to hand when they also suffered similar equipment failure.
The number of family members, over a 3 generation spread, racing with or against each other was also very notable this year...with the youngest competitor, SDC’s Caoimhe Fleming, aged 14 and the oldest being in his mid sixties. There was also a big contingent of younger sailors from CYBC’s junior section attending the event with four boats either being crewed or helmed by them, Pat O’Neill’s crew, Oisín O’Connor, being one of these.
A thoroughly enjoyable and successful event. I am looking forward to returning to Lough Derg again soon.