The International Flying Fifteen class returns to Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay where 78 competitors from nine nations will go to battle for the 2019 title. Host club the National Yacht Club will host the event which has 12 races scheduled to be sailed from Friday 6 - Friday 13 September.
A highly competitive fleet of 78 boats has gathered in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, the same venue that hosted the 1992 and 2003 world championships.
The UK has sent the largest contingent of boats with some of the big names in Flying Fifteen sailing. Among them are Steve Goacher and Tim Harper from Royal Windermere YC, sailing ‘The whippet & the whopper’.
Steve Goacher is the current world champion securing his fourth world title at Napier, New Zealand in February 2019. He first won the worlds in 1995 at Hong Kong and held the title for three consecutive championships at Cowes, UK in 1997 and Esperance Bay in West Australia in 1999. All three regattas were sailing with Phil Evans as crew. It was then some 18 years before he won the worlds again at Napier with new crew Tim Harper. He has also won a string of European and UK Championships. The ‘Goach’ a real stalwart of the class and big Tim, finished fourth at the recent UKFFA Championships at Poole Harbour and go to Dublin as one of the favourites. He can’t be expected to give up his title without a real fight!
Steve sums up his expectations: “I think Dublin is going to be quite variable conditions, I have sailed out there quite a lot so I am familiar with the waters. We always like going to Dublin it is always a great regatta, always very welcoming.”
The Goach is sure to be pushed hard by three-time world champion Graham Vials sailing with Chris Turner from Derwent Reservoir SC who returns to the class after some time out of the boat.
Graham: “I did three worlds on the trot and then was lucky enough to have twins so took a bit of time out which is nice but we are just getting back into it now.
We sailed the UK Inlands in Rutland in around May time, so we bought a boat for that, it was the first time we had sailed for a year to 18 months. We are a bit rusty but back into our new boat”
Graham and Chris won three back to back Flying Fifteen World Championships: 2011 at Hayling Island, 2013 at Hong Kong and 2015 at Crozon. The team then took a break and missed the last worlds in Napier in 2017. Back in the boat, the pair won the UKFFA Nationals in Poole by a margin of 18 points having won 5 out of 10 races.
Graham explains: “You get back in the boat after a while and you don’t really know how fast you are going to go and what mistakes you are going to make but everything came together really well, it has been a pleasure sailing with Chris again, we get on really well and sail the boat nice and fast so no complaints.”
Leading the Pre-Worlds Irish Championship after day one, Richard Lovering and Matt Alvarado are previous winners of the UK Flying Fifteen Championship at the Royal Northern & Clyde YC in Scotland in 2015 and again at the Royal Cornwall YC at Falmouth in 2017. At this year’s regatta at Poole, they finished fourth in a highly competitive UK fleet.
Richard: “We haven’t sailed in Dublin Bay before, we have sailed around the coast at Howth so it will be a bit of a steep learning curve. I expect any conditions coming off the land to be quite shifty so we will have to be in the right place at the right time.”
Some of the other experienced regulars in the UKFFA fleet have swapped crews last season and claim to be a bit rusty! but are still likely to be top 10 contenders in Dublin.
Greg Wells representing Hayling Island SC, will be sailing with Andrew Jameson. He has raced at the Flying Fifteen worlds as long as he can remember. He has never won a world title but has been runner-up and has been Flying Fifteen European Champion twice.
Greg: “I have sailed two world championships in Dublin and there is always a full range of conditions. I like that, I know some people like good steady breezes but It will be about consistency, it will not be about just getting lots of firsts. You will have to claw your way back from bad first beats and try and get back to top 10 - 15, which will be good counting scores.”
Ian Pinnell has long been associated with the Flying Fifteen class as part of the very successful Pinnell & Bax partnership. Ian has picked up the tiller to race in the class whenever he can. He is crewed by Jeremy Wise.
Nathan Batchelor of Ovington Boats has teamed up with former British champion crew Ricky Rigg in advance of this year's worlds in Dublin. Almost all the latest Flying Fifteens come out of the Ovington Boats factory.
Nathan: “It is a great spot and the Irish always have a great craic so for a home regatta I am sure the Irish will be out in full force supported by family and friends, so it will be a great regatta I am sure.”
The current European champions are in Dublin. Hamish Mackay and Andrew Lawless from the Royal Thames YC had a great win in Lake Garda last September and have consistently been at the front end of the fleet for a number of years.
Other teams from the UK likely to challenge for a podium spot at the 2019 Worlds include the Anglo-Irish team of Charles Apthorp from Hayling Island SC, crewed by Irish local Alan Green. The pair finished fourth at the last worlds in Napier in New Zealand.
Class regulars who can regularly finish in the top 10 also include Chris Waples and Peter Bannister also from Hayling Island SC and two boats representing Dovestone SC, namely David Mckee, crewed by Mal Hartland and Andy Mckee and Richard Jones.
The Australian contingent always send a strong team to any Flying Fifteen World Championship. This time around, the 2017 Napier Worlds runner up couple of Nick and Janet Jerwood are unable to compete but nevertheless there are 9 Aussie crews from all corners of the country that have made the journey to Ireland.
Of them a former world champion Dean McAullay has teamed up with seasoned F15 regular Mike Hart, sailing in ‘Firefly’ representing the Royal Freshwater Bay YC in Perth. The next F15 Worlds will take place under the burgee of the Royal Freshwater Bay YC in 2021. Dean’s club mates include the ‘Glamour Buoys’ Greg ‘Levo’ Leaversuch and Peter Barblett, currently going well at the Pre-Worlds. A number of regular F15 sailors representing South of Perth YC, Lake Macquarie YC, Royal Queensland YS and Darwin SC have all made the long journey to Dublin.
Naturally, a strong local team of Irish competitors will be competing on home waters in Dublin Bay. The team who have been showing great form over the past two seasons are Irish Champions Dave Gorman crewed by Chris Doorly, just one of many teams from the local organising club the National Yacht Club.
Two other Irish boats representing Strangford Lough YC, Andy and Rory Martin and Hammy Baker with crew Peter Chamberlain are going well in the Pre-Worlds regatta at the time of this report.
The big Irish entry also includes teams representing Royal St George YC, Dun Laoghaire Motor YC, Waterford Harbour SC, Royal Irish YC, and Killyleagh YC.
There are four boats coming from Hong Kong, two each representing France and Spain and two boats from South Africa.
Campbell Alexander from South Africa has been on a global tour of F15 sailing and comes to Dublin off the back of a good performance at the UKFFA Championships last July in Poole. He is sailing with Debbie Cox representing the Royal Natal YC
Campbell sums up his expectations: “We like a good breeze, give us 25 knots and we are happy. We thought that it was one of the Flying Fifteen regattas we couldn’t miss out on.”
Joining Campbell in Dublin will be Patrick Harris and Jeremy Kriek.
Also competing is the current New Zealand champions Hayden Percy and Scott Pedersen representing Napier SC and a single entry from Canada, Tim O’Connell sailing with Raymond Flanagan on behalf of West Vancouver YC.
Of course, the Flying Fifteens have come from all parts of the globe to not only enjoy the challenging racing conditions offered by Dublin Bay. Competitors are well aware of the Irish hospitality and the world-famous black gold tipple.
Greg Wells from the UK sums up his expectations: “The Guinness will be good and the ‘craic’ as they say will be brilliant”.