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The 130 Optimist sailors and their parents who descended on the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven last week were full of trepidation, with storm Ciaran potentially leading to no sailing. As it happened, all four days of IODAI NTW (National Training Week) were sailable, and the options in Cork Harbour for sheltered sailing helped.

Now in it’s third year, NTW has become a centrepiece in the Optimist calendar. Its mix of training, social and fun, with less emphasis on racing results, has seen a huge increase in new sailors participating in this event. The IODAI committee were delighted to see lots of new regatta fleet participants, auguring well for the healthy future of the class.

Jim Hughes of host club RCYC, along with the IODAI team, ran an excellent week of training culminating in the final day being sailed as the Halloween Regatta incorporating the Crosbie Cup. An army of volunteers on and off the water supported the coaching team led by world-renowned Olympic coach Bocha Pollitzer of Argentina.

Optimist sailors during a Optimist Dinghy 2023 National Training Week race at Royal Cork Yacht Club in Cork HarbourOptimist sailors during a Optimist Dinghy 2023 National Training Week race at Royal Cork Yacht Club in Cork Harbour

The disco was a huge hit with the sailors, and the now famous “In it to win it” prize draw each day kept the fun and social aspect of sailing at the forefront. For the parents, Dr Aine McNamara gave a presentation on supporting your child in sailing with the ability to overcome setbacks and a positive mental attitude as key takeaways.

All four days of IODAI Optimist National Training Week were sailable, and the options in Cork Harbour for sheltered sailing helped to complete the programmeAll four days of IODAI Optimist National Training Week were sailable, and the options in Cork Harbour for sheltered sailing helped to complete the programme

On Saturday, the focus shifted from training to racing, with the Crosbie Cup and Halloween Cup run in parallel. The top three in the Halloween Cup were Patrick Fegan (MYC/RSGYC), Max O’Hare (RSGYC) and Juliette Ryan (RSGYC/MYC/HYC). In the Crosbie Cup for Bronze Fleet sailors, the top three were Tara Hayes (RCYC/MBSC), Emily Lynch (RCYC) and Dylan O’Sullivan (RCYC).

Full results below.

Both parents and sailors alike were unanimous in their feedback that the week had been a huge success and created lots of positive memories and new and renewed friendships. Sponsors Grant Thornton and O’Leary Insurance were delighted to be associated with the NTW. President Paddy Ryan said, “I am thrilled that the weather worked out for us and that the sailors and parents had a great time.” Ryan gave thanks to all those who supported the event and promised an even better NTW next year.

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The Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven in Cork Harbour will be the centre for fun and learning at the IODAI Optimist National Training Week from the 1st to the 4th of November.

Over 120 boats are signed up at the time of writing, and more latecomers are also expected.

Now in its third year, the NTW offers Optimist sailors from all over Ireland a chance to connect and learn from some great coaching.

The coaching ticket is led by world-famous ‘Bocha’ Pollitzer of Argentina, who has coached Olympic Teams from the 49er class and has coached world champions in the 29er class and Optimists. Supported by Soren Laugenson of Denmark and Thomas Chaix of Ireland and France. This senior team will lead a talented Irish lineup of younger coaches, ensuring great fun and lots of learning.

The sponsors Grant Thornton and O’Leary Insurance Group, are delighted to support this gathering of the Optimist tribe, say the IODAI.

Swag’ bags have been put together, and the NTW event hoodie is now a collector's item. RCYC has a full food menu for the kids and parents, and the Club and Class are happy to give back by running a coffee morning in aid of the RNLI. As is tradition now, the training week ends with a Halloween Regatta, allowing the sailors to test their newfound skills.

IODAI President Paddy Ryan says, ‘National Training Week is really our most important event of the year. After a long season, it’s the perfect tonic for the sailors and their family to relax, spend time with their friends and engage with the sport in a very positive way that differs hugely from their Regional and National events. As one of the biggest fleets in the country, we are very aware of how an event such as NTW can build a really positive atmosphere for the whole Oppie family and support our sailors in the years ahead'.

Last minute booking can be done here and RCYC have an information page here 

Published in Royal Cork YC

The last IODAI Regional Championship of the year saw a massive fleet of 172 Optimist sailors descend on the midlands club of Lough Ree last weekend to compete in the Connaught Championships.

After a busy summer, it was fitting to see the fleet return to a venue that always welcomes them with a relaxed attitude and open arms. The large numbers in the entry and development fleets of the Coached and Racing Regatta are a testament to the commitment and success of the initiatives of the Association, who have prioritised the growth and development of the fleet at all levels, not just at the highly competitive top end.

Lough Ree Yacht Club was the perfect venue for the event, with Saturday serving up a brisk Northerly wind. With gusts of up to 26 knots, the normally tranquil lake was full of short, steep chop and gusting winds. This was too much for the Regatta Fleet who wisely stayed ashore, played games on the lawn and went out to watch and cheer on their club mates on the main fleet.

On the lake the Junior and Senior Main fleets battled the conditions and each other with three races run by PRO David Dickson.

Saturday night, pre-billed as something to rival an electric picnic saw a huge BBQ with over 400 covers. The adults then decamped to the bar to watch the Ireland-Tonga game while an Indiana Jones movie of approximately the length of a rugby match was shown to the sailors in the function room. As all fell quiet on Saturday night a sunglass fairy that is reported to look suspiciously like event Chairman Dominic Byrne delivered gifts to all the sailors boats and so while Dublin had lots of rain Lough Ree had great blasts of sunshine allowing the sailors to model their new one design shades on Sunday morning!

Milder and lighter conditions prevailed on Sunday and the sailors had to deal with the expected shifty and fickle conditions that make lake sailors so good. In the end, the Royal St George sailors Max O’Hare and Maeve Donagh won the Senior and Junior Trophies.

Race Officers Cathal and Ciara Breen on the Racing Regatta fleet ran four highly competitive races for over 50 sailors, with local sailor Michael Malone of Lough Ree Yacht Club taking the lead. The Regatta Coached fleet got to show off all they had learnt this year and Will McElligott of Lough Derg Yacht Club just held off Hugo Jackson of Waterford Harbour Sailing Club on a count back. 

The well attended IODAI Optimist Dinghy Connaught Championships at Lough Ree Yacht ClubThe well attended IODAI Optimist Dinghy Connaught Championships at Lough Ree Yacht Club

Commodore Gerogina Kenny thanked the huge volunteer effort that made the event possible a sentiment Paddy Ryan, President of IODAI, concurred with and thanked all involved for making the weekend so special.

The fleet now has their National Training Week and Halloween Regatta to look forward to in the Royal Cork Yacht Club on the 1st to 4th of November.

Senior fleet results are below
Junior fleet results here
Regatta Racing fleet results here
Regatta Coaching fleet results here

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Four of Ireland’s top Optimists sailors will be getting ready to sail in the Junior Champions Cup to be held in Schull, West Cork, on September 23rd and 24th.

Harry Dunne (HYC), Gemma Brady (NYC/LDYC), Max O’Hare (RStGYC) were nominated based on their Nationals results, and Lilly Donagh (RstGYC/LDYC), based on Female wildcard invitation as the next best female helm.

These sailors have demonstrated great results and skills over the Summer and now face off against the champions of the other Irish junior classes.

Of the 16 entries, four are from the Optimist and four from the ILCA classes, who must all now learn to work with another sailor in the boat!

The event will be raced in the David Harte-designed TR 3.6, a two-person team racing style dinghy.

Interestingly, at least 5 or 6 of the other competitors are ex-oppie sailors, demonstrating the Optimist fleet's importance in getting young sailors on the water and into competition.

The upcoming Optimists Connaughts, to be held in Lough Ree, show great numbers, with 170 sailors entered at this end-of-season event.

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In progressing through each phase of a sailing career, the received wisdom is that you should tick off each staging post while you’re ahead.

Harry Dunne of Howth was registered with a Departure Lounge “Optimist Age” of 15 going into the 115-boat Nationals at Ballyholme, and thus it was irrevocably his farewell tour, his last chance to exit an already successful Optimist racing stage of life with a real flourish.

And despite – or maybe because of – some very challenging sailing conditions, he did it with style, winning the seniors by a clear margin of nine points and eventually heading for home with every trophy for which he had been competing.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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On Monday, as the international squads arrived at Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough in Northern Ireland, the IODAI Development Squad - who are the newest sailors in the Main Fleet - took to the water with Head Coach Adam Walsh for some excellent coaching and practice. Champagne sailing conditions greeted the squads as they continued their preparations into Tuesday.

Wednesday saw the hotly contested Team Racing event with eight teams of four on the water. Team CN Janea came out on top for the Open Trophy, and Royal Cork Yacht Club are the Irish Optimist Team Racing Champions for 2023.

On Thursday, the National Championship kicked off in freshening conditions with some great racing for all fleets before Storm Betty arrived. This left plenty of time for the social side of the Optimist fleet, which is so important with sailors making friends and memories for life, and the ever-popular In it to Win It raffle is now a firm fixture at the National Championships.

It was 3 pm on Saturday afternoon before we were able to take to the water again with Junior, Senior and Regatta Racing sailors going afloat, and Principal Race Officer, Ruan O’ Tiarnaigh was able to run two exciting races for the main fleet before heading in for the evening.

In sharp contrast, the Sunday brought ideal conditions, and all fleets launched as soon as they could for four races in Junior, Senior and Regatta Fleets. And the Regatta coached fleet – the very youngest in the fleet with kids as young as 7 – took to the water under the expert coaching of Sophie Gorman. With the regatta fleets sailing so close to the club in beautiful Ballyholme Bay, it was a great spectacle.

The Mayor of Ards, North Down Borough Council, Jennifer Gilmore and Romain Ingouf, Technical Director of Artemis Technology joined in to present the prizes to the many winners.

Howth sailor Harry Dunne topped the podium in the Senior fleet followed by Gemma Brady of National Yacht Club and Lough Derg Yacht Club. Visitor Charlotte Crosbie of CN Javae (Spain) was third. Fourth was Liam Woods of Baltimore and CN Javae, and in fifth place and third Irish boat was Max O’Hare of the Royal St George. The top 3 Irish boats got IS Medal and the Senior Team Prize was won by the Royal St George.

In the Junior fleet Arthur Baker also of CN Javae was first, with Patrick Fegan of the Royal St George Yacht Club and Malahide Yacht Club, first Irish sailor in second place overall and the new Irish Junior National Champion. Third place went to Emily Donagh of RstGYC / LDYC. Her sister Maeve was in fourth place, while fifth place went to Basile Dion of the National Yacht Club. By special request, the PRO Ruan O’Tiarnaigh was delighted to present the Junior Irish Championship prize to Patrick – as he had won the very same prize some 43 years ago at the start of his sailing career! Again the Junior team prize was also won by the Royal St George Yacht Club.

Regatta Racing was won by UK sailor Iain Coward of Hayling Island, with Michael Hanley of the National Yacht Club second, but as the first Irish boat is the National Champion and Arthur Fegan coming home in third sailing from Malahide Yacht Club and the Royal St George Yacht Club. Fourth and fifth place went to Amy Whyte of Waterford Harbour Sailing Club and Robbie Clarke of Sutton Dinghy Club. The Coached Regatta fleet, which provides a supportive format for younger sailors, had great racing and in the spirit of that class results are not presented as that’s not its focus. Rather fun, ice cream and meeting new friends is the focus!

As he reflected on the event, Paddy Ryan, President of IODAI said, “our thanks go to Ballyholme Yacht Club, and the many volunteers, for running a fantastic event under challenging circumstances. Also thanks to those who travelled from afar, including GB, Spain, France, Netherlands, Ukraine and South Africa. Despite Storm Betty, our young sailors got brilliant racing across three days, had great fun and made many new friends. Our congratulations go to all the winners, and we look forward to seeing the fleet back together for the Connaughts in Lough Ree in a few week's time.” He also thanked the organisers, especially Sean Doran and Emma Holden and their team of volunteers.

Of note, on a weekend that saw the Wazps and ILCAs hold their national championships, many of the medallists in both those fleets were past Optimist sailors. Demonstrating the importance of the class in feeding many other dinghy fleets in Ireland.

The Optimist fleet travels to Lough Ree next for the Connaughts on the 16th and 17th of September.

Irish Optimist Championships 2023 Prizewinners

Irish Optimist Championships 2023 Prizewinners

Irish Optimist Championships 2023 Prizewinners

Irish Optimist Championships 2023 Prizewinners

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Howth Yacht Club's Harry Dunne has a four-point margin at the top of the Optimist Irish National Championships at Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough.

Gemma Brady of the National Yacht Club and Lough Derg lies second on ten, with Charlotte Crosbie from Spain's CN Javae lying third in the 38-boat main fleet. 

See results below

With no racing but a nonetheless eventful day on the second day, the fleet was eager to get going on Saturday. As Sorm Betty left its mark on the country, PRO Ruan O’Tiarnaigh made a sensible call and told the fleet to stay in bed until at least lunchtime!

The afternoon tested the patience of race officials and sailors alike, but finally, at 15.30, the fleet took to the water, and Ballyholme shone again at its finest.

The main fleet was treated to two races in a gusty southerly breeze while the Racing Regatta fleet clocked in four highly competitive and enjoyable races.

The steady progress of the sailors' Racing Regatta was clear for all to see with the windward leg right in front of the clubhouse.

It was a busy day too for the Coached Regatta fleet, and while their Oppies might have stayed under the covers, IODAI coach Sophie Gorman had them off on adventures all around Ballyholme Bay.

Whilst it was a long day, much fun was had, so at the end day, there were 128 tired sailors tucked up in bed, eagerly awaiting slightly lighter conditions for their final day’s sailing.

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On Thursday, 116 young sailors participated in the Optimist Optimist Irish and Open National Championships, competing in Junior, Senior, and Regatta fleets at Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough.

Despite challenging weather conditions, with the wind gradually increasing throughout the day and notable retirements, most sailors completed the race with pride in their achievement, whether they placed in the top ten or simply finished the course.

The day after the exciting opening ceremony, featuring a raffle for four unique McWilliams bags, the prizegiving ceremony took place under the bright sun on Thursday evening. The evening ended with the popular 'In It to Win It' raffle, offering many exciting prizes.

"Optimist Irish and Open National Championships has top UK coach Steve Irish in attendance"

Unfortunately, due to the windy weather, racing was cancelled for Friday, with the kids participating in a variety of fun theory and rules sessions from top UK coach Steve Irish and the International Jury instead. However, the organizers are optimistic for more great sailing over the weekend, and a postponement has been announced until 12:55 to allow the worst of the weather to pass.

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It’s been several years since the Optimist dinghy fleet has participated in team racing, and this year the association undertook to re-introduce the format into the fleet.

With the National Championships happening later in the week in Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough, it was seen as the perfect venue to dust off the Team Racing Open Championship but also to introduce a new IODAI National Team Racing trophy.

In Optimists, the Team Racing format is four v four boats, making for interesting winning combinations. Eight Teams took to the water in the beautiful surrounding of Ballyholme Bay. Thomas Chaix ran 24 races which ultimately saw a Spanish Team from CN Javea take the Open Championship, closely followed by RCYC with Rory White, Andrew O’Neil, Dougie Venner and Fionn Hayes, the first Irish Team.

Interestingly, there was a bit of Irish flare in the Spanish teams as former two-time Oppie National Champion David Crosbie had returned with his daughter sailing as part of the team.

The event was very much a collaborative day, with coaches, parents and jury rowing together to make a very successful day possible.

Optimist Fleet Team Racing Final Results

  1. CN Javea
  2. RCYC 1
  3. RStG 1
  4. NYC Senior
  5. RCYC 2
  6. NYC Junior
  7. RStG 2
  8. IODAI 1
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Weymouth, the site of the 2012 Olympic games, played host to the British Optimist Nationals 2023, a major sailing event that saw 267 competitors from across the globe gather to race.

The sailors hailed from countries such as the USA, Netherlands, Bahamas, France, Australia, Hong Kong, and many more. But it was the Irish team that stood out in the opening ceremony, proudly waving their green flags and sporting their team gear.

The under-12 Irish Optimist sailors, selected from rankings in the previous year, put up a strong showing, with Abigail O'Sullivan, Tara Hayes, Eoin Pierse, Tomás A Coistealbha, Patrick Fegan, Basile Dion, Hugo Breen, Donnchadh Duane, Clara McElligott, Lucy Scott, Holly Cantwell, Emily Donagh, and Maeve Donagh all competing. Coached by Frances Corkery and assisted by Megan O'Sullivan, the team was managed by Lorraine O'Sullivan.

The event was challenging, with difficult conditions throughout the week, including gusts of wind that exceeded 30 knots on Tuesday. But the Irish sailors rose to the occasion and showed their skills, competing across the fleet from Regatta coached right through to Senior Main Fleet.

Maeve Donagh brough home three trophies: 1st Overseas Junior Girl, Top Girl, and 3rd OverallMaeve Donagh brough home three trophies: 1st Overseas Junior Girl, Top Girl, and 3rd Overall

Maeve Donagh, in particular, shone brightly, bringing home three trophies: 1st Overseas Junior Girl, Top Girl, and 3rd Overall. But all the sailors, whether winning or simply surviving the tough conditions, learned a great deal and represented their country with pride.

Overall, the Irish team's performance was exceptional, and they can be proud of their showing at the British Optimist Nationals 2023. showing at the British Optimist Nationals 2023. showing at the British Optimist Nationals 2023.

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Irish Sailing

The Irish Sailing Association, also known as Irish Sailing, is the national governing body for sailing, powerboating and windsurfing in Ireland.

Founded in 1945 as the Irish Dinghy Racing Association, it became the Irish Yachting Association in 1964 and the Irish Sailing Association in 1992.

Irish Sailing is a Member National Authority (MNA) of World Sailing and a member of the Olympic Federation of Ireland.

The Association is governed by a volunteer board, elected by the member clubs. Policy Groups provide the link with members and stakeholders while advising the Board on specialist areas. There is a professional administration and performance staff, based at the headquarters in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

Core functions include the regulation of sailing education, administering racing and selection of Irish sailors for international competition. It is the body recognised by the Olympic Federation of Ireland for nominating Irish qualified sailors to be considered for selection to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games. Irish sailors have medalled twice at the Olympics – David Wilkins and Jamie Wikinson at the 1980 games, and Annalise Murphy at the 2016 games.

The Association, through its network of clubs and centres, offers curriculum-based training in the various sailing, windsurfing and powerboating disciplines. Irish Sailing qualifications are recognised by Irish and European Authorities. Most prominent of these are the Yachtmaster and the International Certificate of Competency.

It runs the annual All-Ireland Championships (formerly the Helmsman’s Championship) for senior and junior sailors.

The Association has been led by leading lights in the sailing and business communities. These include Douglas Heard, Clayton Love Junior, John Burke and Robert Dix.

Close to 100 sailors have represented Ireland at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Membership of Irish Sailing is either by direct application or through membership of an affiliated organisation. The annual membership fee ranges from €75 for families, down to €20 for Seniors and Juniors.