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We were promised a storm! The only storm that materialised was the arrival of 130 Optimist sailors and their families in Crosshaven for the Annual National Training Week, as Afloat reports here.

After two days of training, dodging big gusts and learning new skills, the younger and less experienced sailors were presented with a fun, action-packed and unusual event: " La Solitaire Optimist".The event was composed of four legs across Cork harbour, and in a total Figaro-style event, the young skippers had to deal with crazy tides in the Owenabue River, windless doldrums behind Currabinny hill, gusty conditions when approaching the east side of Ringaskiddy.

54 young skippers took part (of which 17 were sailing in the regatta fleet and 37 from the development squad 2023-2024). To keep all the sailors on their toes, the regatta fleet sailors were given a two-minute head start on each leg with the development sailors hot on the chase.

'La Solitaire Optimist' course in Cork Harbour'La Solitaire Optimist' course in Cork Harbour

Leg 1: with the tide down the River

The 17-strong regatta fleet sailors left the startline set in front of the club pushed by the dropping tide in a tight pack, followed two minutes later by another tight bunch. No clear early leads materialised, but the first casualty in the regatta was number 13 who went too close to shore and ended up stuck. And the fleets eventually amalgamated by Currabiny Pier in windless doldrums. With the finish line further North and the wind further right, the kids had two strategies: trying to cut short but risking staying stuck under Currabinny Hill for longer, or going East first with the tide and catching an upwind stretch back to the finish. The second solution proved a bit more effective, and the key was to start the upwind stretch before being carried too far by the strong current.

Development squad Ruairi Slattery (IRL1206 LDYC) found the perfect lane out of the channel, closely followed by clubmate Jess Tottenham (IRL600)...The battle for third was fierce, and it was eventually super fast regatta fleet sailor Andrew Weir (IRL1646) who picked the honours, followed by the rest of the fleet.

Leg 2: Not so straight line towards Ringaskiddy

Here they went again! Two strategies materialised quickly, with a few sailors opting to go high to the west, first led by regatta fleet sailor Sarah McNamara (AHO82) and the majority putting the bow down in the breeze led by 8-year-old Jojo Dion (IRL1407) and Oscar Rowan (IRL1391).

Eventually, both strategies were delivered with a late surge by Ellie Tottenham (IRL1191) from the East taking the win. A minute later the battle between Jojo and Oscar went to the eight years old when Oscar capsized in a rushed tack. He quickly recovered and sailed his "submarine" across the finish, salvaging 7th on the line. The ever-consistent Andrew Weir made good gains to secure yet another 3rd, taking the lead overall.

Leg 3: sweet and short in the Curlane Bank

The third leg was the shortest, leading the fleet back on the bank. The strongest regatta fleet sailors were not to be caught. At the second turning mark after a short upwind just south of the Loughbeg wind turbine, the race delivered a close battle between Oscar yet again, Andrew and 8-year-old Ben Chaix (IRL1576). Ben got squeezed out at the turning point, touching the mark and taking a penalty turn pushing him into a battle for 3rd with Jojo Dion. The development squad was finding it challenging to catch these 4.

Andrew eventually managed to edge out Oscar on the reach finish with Jojo scoring yet another top 3.

After the leg, Andrew Weir had secured a firm lead over the rest of the field with the consistent Ben Chaix a distant second just a mere point ahead of Ruairi Slattery. But leg 4 was certainly to be the most challenging yet so with no legs discarded it was going to be a tough challenge.

Leg 4: River madness

The sailors started in a lovely northwesterly before rapidly falling in the Currabinny Doldrums. Most sailors attempted to cut short to try to reach the breeze just windward of the pier, but with the strong tide still against them they just could not make ground.

The Optimist Solitaire fleets eventually amalgamated by Currabiny Pier in windless doldrumsThe Optimist Solitaire fleets eventually amalgamated by Currabiny Pier in windless doldrums

Oscar Rowan was an early leader in a further south position where the doldrums were narrower but it was to be two sailors who went further south right by Crosshaven shores who eventually caught the breeze first. IRL1495 Fergus Mcnamara who had capsized off the startline took advantage of the error of the fleet ahead and IRL1521 Cian Farrell were the first two into the river breeze battling the strong current yet making ground. A small group of sailors finally noticed and made their way south instead of fighting the current. Notable absentees from this change of heart were Andrew and Ruairi which opened a small opportunity for Ben to deliver a little holdup on the 11th hour.

IRL1521 Cian Farrell was one of the first Optimists into the river in the Cork Harbour Solitaire raceIRL1521 Cian Farrell was one of the first Optimists into the river in the Cork Harbour Solitaire Race

Cian eventually took the lead and made it to the finish, securing the win for leg 4. Fergus was second, with Oscar scoring a second podium finish.

Andrew Weir has a stellar catch-up in the river to climb back to 7th, even overtaking Ben (9th) and securing the overall win of the first "la solitaire Optimist".

The regatta fleet sailors secured a 1-2-3 to the delight of lead coach Sarah Fogarty. The top Development squad sailor was Ruairi Slattery in 4th. The kids had a great day out in Cork Harbour. It was fun, unusual, exciting, and challenging and we can't wait for the second edition in 2024. Perpetual trophy offers?

'La Solitaire Optimist' Results

La Solitaire Optimist Results

Published in Optimist
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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.

Published in Optimist
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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

Published in Optimist
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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.

Published in Optimist
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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

Published in Optimist
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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.

Published in Optimist
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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.

Published in Optimist
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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
Published in Optimist
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Page 1 of 33

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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