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Ballyholme Yacht Club Laser Fleet's 50th Anniversary to be Celebrated with a Special Regatta

22nd September 2021
Trevor Millar's Laser bottom' up in Ballyholme Bay
Trevor Millar's Laser bottom' up in Ballyholme Bay Credit: courtesy BYC

Their names will be forever associated with Ballyholme Yacht Club's Laser class. Instrumental in getting the class going in 1974 were Ron Hutchieson and Trevor Millar. Ron persuaded Trevor to leave Newtownards SC and come to Ballyholme. And Ron bought the first BYC Laser, for, brand new, the princely sum of £263! His interest in switching from motorsport to sailing could be attributed to his wife Doris who suggested that; "I should join the local yacht club as this would take up less time and mean that I could go sailing and yet be back home in time for my meals" Little did she know!

Trevor was a motivator and his and Ron's tireless work in the Seventies shows today with the fleet at Ballyholme numbering over 80. Ron says some of the highlights are "Seeing the children of the Laser sailors that I knew in the '70s and '80s now coming into the Laser Class and I am delighted that so many of the sailors on the larger boats nowadays either used to be, or still are Laser sailors". The big attraction in the 70s was that the Laser was virtually maintenance-free.

"Warriors About to Go into Battle". This properly serious-looking foursome from the cream of the 1982 Irish Laser Class, with their mentor Ron Huthcieson on right, are (left to right) Simon Brien (later multiple Edinburgh Cup winner and other majors), multiple champion Charlie Taylor (still at it in the Laser Masters), Olympian Bill O'Hara, and Dave Cummins, All-Ireland Helmsmans Champion 1981 and 1982 Credit: courtesy Bill O'Hara"Warriors About to Go into Battle". This properly serious-looking foursome from the cream of the 1982 Irish Laser Class, with their mentor Ron Huthcieson on right, are (left to right) Simon Brien (later multiple Edinburgh Cup winner and other majors), multiple champion Charlie Taylor (still at it in the Laser Masters), Olympian Bill O'Hara, and Dave Cummins, All-Ireland Helmsmans Champion 1981 and 1982 Credit: courtesy Bill O'Hara

Also, there in the first few years were Willie Forsythe, Charlie Taylor, John Stewart, Mike Kinnear and in case you think it was an all-male preserve, Elaine Taylor, who joined in 1977, as did Bill O'Hara who is among the 'old hands' planning to turn out on Saturday 25th September for the Anniversary open event. John Simms started in 1978.

The event will feature ILCA 7 (Standards), ILCA 6 (Radials) and ILCA 4 (4.7s). The warning gun is at 10.25 am with racing over Windward-Leeward and Trapezoid courses.

Maeve Donnelly (McNally) and Trevor Millar courtesy Elaine TaylorMaeve Donnelly (McNally) and Trevor Millar courtesy Elaine Taylor

Ron was Hon Secretary of the Irish Laser Class was from 1974 – when the Laser made its debut in this country – until 2017. Last year he retired as Chairman of Irish Sailing's Racing Rules & Appeals Board 

Bill reached the top of international sailing at Olympic level and ultimately held the three positions in the world of sailing competition as Judge, Umpire and Race Officer. Earlier this year he was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to sailing. 

Olympian Bill O'HaraOlympian Bill O'Hara

Just as well neither Ron nor Bill was judging in the early days at a Royal North Regatta at Cultra on Belfast Lough when Charlie Taylor got somewhat annoyed and (I saw this happening) drew alongside Trevor Miller and jumped aboard – let's say it was surprising they stayed upright! But two in a Laser was small fry compared to when Elaine set what she says was a "World Record" with 42 people on board! She does admit they were mostly young Cadet members.

Those were the days when sailors named their boats. Trevor's was Maggie Mae after the Rod Stewart song; John Simms's was Strawberry Streak; Bill O'Hara called his The Flying Fenian and he says, "I redressed the balance with my next Laser which was called King Billy". Ms Elaineous is self-explanatory, and Mike Kinnear's was Ruth.

Gillian Guinness and Elaine TaylorGillian Guinness and Elaine Taylor

Trevor Millar went on to form SailCoach in the Newtownards Business Centre and worked for the RYA. And long before the RYANI had 'Squads', Trevor started Ross's Water Sailing Squad. Elaine reminisces " Those were the days when we travelled the length and breadth of Ireland going to Laser events - Trevor towed us with his Dad's old Marina Estate, then his builder's van. Everyone camped before racing all weekend!". She continued "They were halcyon days with no cares, mortgages or pressure to perform, and lots and lots of laughs. We all made lifelong friends through Lasers, and some are still my best friends today - Gillian Guinness and Maeve McNally. I raced against Annalise Murphy's Mum over the years, Cathy MacAleavey".

Irish Ladies Laser and Masters Championships circa 1975 courtesy Elaine TaylorIrish Ladies Laser and Masters Championships circa 1975 courtesy Elaine Taylor

BYC's Rear Commodore Sailing Des Magee says that "With one of the largest Laser club fleets in Ireland, Ballyholme Yacht Club is pleased to welcome all Laser sailors to its celebration 50th Laser Anniversary Open Event on Saturday 25th September. BYC has a long association with the Laser class and a wealth of talent from ex Olympians, top Laser sailors and less experienced recent additions to the fleet. We are excited to be offering Laser sailors of all abilities the opportunity to spend a day of sailing celebration at BYC sailing amongst the greats - and the rest of us".

Laser racing today at Ballyholme Laser racing today at Ballyholme

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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