Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Erin and Ellie Team Up for 49erFX 2028 Olympic Bid

24th December 2022
Erin McIlwaine (left) of Kilkeel and Ellie Cunnane of Tralee are teaming up in an Irish skiff partnership for Los Angeles 2028
Erin McIlwaine (left) of Kilkeel and Ellie Cunnane of Tralee are teaming up in an Irish skiff partnership for Los Angeles 2028 Credit: via Facebook

Erin McIlwaine is an 18-year-old sailor from Kilkeel on the South Down coast and a member of the nearby Newcastle Yacht Club and Royal St. George in Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay.

Erin has recently teamed up with Ellie Cunnane from Tralee Bay SC to campaign a 49erFX for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, USA. Erin is the skipper, and she and Ellie began sailing together in the 49erFX in July of this year after a long friendship that evolved in the Junior Topper Class. They currently sail out of the Royal St George Yacht Club.

The 49erFX European Championship will be held at Vilamoura in Portugal in October next, so Erin and Ellie head out to that venue on Boxing Day to train and will return to Ireland in March ahead of a busy competition season.

Erin McIlwaine on the helm and Ellie Cunnane in the 49erFX Photo: via FacebookErin McIlwaine on the helm and Ellie Cunnane in the 49erFX Photo: via Facebook

Erin can count among her achievements to date the Female World Topper Championship in China in 2018 and then she moved into the 29er two-person dinghy. She travelled to CN El Balis, in Spain in August last to the 29er World Championships.

Erin said “ This was a huge event, with a record number of boats for the 29er class. With 240 teams competing, we were split into six fleets, spread over three courses. I was sailing with Emily Conan from Royal St George Yacht Club, and we got eighth in the Silver Fleet and eighth Girls overall”.

Ellie was placed in the top third of the 72-boat fleet at last year’s EURILCA Youth Championships in Croatia.

Around the middle of May Erin and Ellie bought an FX with the aim of training over the summer. That began at Tralee Bay SC with Thomas Chaix from Dinghy Performance before starting training with Irish Sailing as part of the new 49er FX Development Programme.

RYA Northern Ireland posted on Facebook “Great to see further diversity in our sport, with double-handed sailing becoming more popular and increased Olympic Sailing opportunities for female athletes”.

Erin is being supported by Boost Drinks through its partnership with SportsAid.

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 29er Skiff Dinghy

The 29er is a one-design double-handed, single trapeze skiff for youth sailors.

There is an active class in Ireland, just one of the 38-countries from across all continents now racing the high-performance skiff.

The 29er is one of the latest dinghy classes to arrive in Ireland and has a 50/50 split between boys and girls.

The class like to describe the boat as "The most popular skiff for sailors who want to go fast!".

Derived from the Olympic class 49er class and designed by Julian Bethwaite the 29er was first produced in 1998.

Two sailors sail the 29er, one on trapeze.

The class is targeted at youth sailors aiming at sailing the larger 49er which is an Olympic class.

The 6.25-metre high rig features a fractional asymmetrical spinnaker; a self-tacking jib decreases the workload of the crew, making manoeuvres more efficient and freeing the crew to take the mainsheet upwind and on two-sail reaches.

The 15.00 m2 spinnaker rigging set-up challenges crews to be fit and coordinated, and manoeuvres in the boat require athleticism due to its lack of inherent stability and the high speed with which the fully battened mainsail and jib power up.

The 74kg weight hull is constructed of fibreglass-reinforced polyester in a foam sandwich layout.

The fully battened mainsail and jib are made from a transparent Mylar laminate with orange or red Dacron trimming, while the spinnaker is manufactured from ripstop Nylon.

The mast is in three parts - an aluminium bottom and middle section, with a polyester-fibreglass composite tip to increase mast bend and decrease both overall weights, and the capsizing moment a heavy mast tip can generate. Foils are aluminium or fibreglass.

About the ILCA/Laser Dinghy

The ILCA, formerly known as the Laser, is the most produced boat in the world, with 220,000 units built since 1971.

It's easy to see why the single-handed dinghy has won the title of the most widely distributed boat of all time.

The Laser is a one-design dinghy, the hulls being identical but three rigs that can be used according to the size and weight of the sailor.

The class is international, with sailors from 120 countries. The boat has also been an Olympic class since 1996, being both the men's and women's singlehanded dinghy.

Three rigs are recognised by the International Laser Class Association (ILCA):

  • ILCA 4: sail of 4.70m2
  • ILCA 6: sail of 5.76 m2
  • ILCA 7: sail of 7.06 m2

29er skiff technical specs

  • Hull weight 74kg (163lb)
  • LOA 4.45m (14.4ft)
  • Beam 1.77m (5ft 7in)
  • Crew 2 (single trapeze) 
  • Spinnaker area 15.00 m2 (181.2sq.ft)
  • Upwind sail area 12.5 m2 (142.0 sq.ft)
  • Mast length 6.25m (20.5ft)

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