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Displaying items by tag: Ballyronan Boat Club

Ballyronan Boat Club lies on the northwestern shore of Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles. In his welcoming words on the club website, Commodore Elywn Agnew says the Club is keen to create great experiences and long-lasting memories, and he himself has in the past year done just that, but not in Lough Neagh.

Elwyn keeps his Jeanneau SO45DS Optimistic in Carrickfergus Marina on Belfast Lough, and it was from there that he embarked on the 2022 ARC to Gran Canaria in four legs, with members of Ballyronan Boat Club from where they joined the ARC+ fleet and sailed to Mindelo, Cape Verde and on to Grenada in the Caribbean arriving in early December 22. Elwyn says this passage was quite competitive, and they pushed hard, breaking whisker poles, hydrovane rudders, inner shrouds, furling drums, cars, blocks, and lines along the way. They finished 11th in class and 30th overall from an entry of 102, so a respectable result.

Elwyn Agnew (left) and Andrew Ruussamano repairing the spinnakerElwyn Agnew (left) and Andrew Ruussamano repairing the spinnaker on the Jeanneau SO45DS Optimistic

Having got to the Caribbean, Optimistic stayed on and cruised the islands, finishing in Antigua, from where they crossed the Atlantic via the Azores to Ireland. Over those few months, they made their way North, stopping at every island and enjoying the different cultures. Elwyn and the crew relished the experience: ”The warm waters, easy-going lifestyle and champagne sailing made for a very memorable experience in the Caribbean sunshine”.

He continued, “We took on new crew for the difficult journey home. They came from Switzerland, Canada, America, and Ireland. A stop in Bermuda allowed for restocking supplies and replacement of another broken shroud. Elwyn said that Bermuda was a magical place, and they could have stayed a lot longer, but new crew were waiting in the Azores, and they had to move on, despite the concerns about poor weather ahead.

The lifejacket works anyway! Sailing during a gale between Bermuda and the Azores The lifejacket works anyway! Sailing during a gale between Bermuda and the Azores onboard Optimistic 

Optimistic sailed more conservatively, reefing early and often, but halfway across, they encountered a severe gale lasting 24 hours, but the boat behaved impeccably during the force nine winds with a sliver of main and storm jib. The crew were all in good spirits and it was a fun challenge to get as much speed as possible surfing down the 6m waves.

Emily and Anna chilling as the hydrovane steers the boat Emily and Anna chilling as the hydrovane steers the the Jeanneau SO45DS Optimistic

For the final leg from Horta in the Azores to Carrickfergus, there were 14 days of beating to weather due to the uncharacteristic F5 North-easterly wind. This was likened to a ten mph car crash every 10 seconds, 24/7. Everything had to be secured with a secondary clamp or lashing, or it was sure to break and fall off with the constant abuse.

Family and friends greeted the crew in Carrickfergus after being away from home for nine months. It was a priceless experience and one they will reminisce over many times.

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