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Strangford Lough Yacht Club Pair Win Flying Fifteen Northerns at County Antrim

4th July 2022
Flying Fifteens start at County Antrim YC Whitehead. Willis and McPeake 4074 in front, Team Ridgeway 3920 chasing and Waterford's Statham and Paul (4070) behind
Flying Fifteens start at County Antrim YC Whitehead. Willis and McPeake 4074 in front, Team Ridgeway 3920 chasing and Waterford's Statham and Paul (4070) behind Credit: Kathryn Anderson

Peter Kennedy and Stephen Kane from Strangford Lough YC topped the fourteen-strong fleet of Flying Fifteens at the Northern Championships hosted by County Antrim YC on the north shore of Belfast Lough.

Competitors travelled from as far away as Draycote Sailing Club in the English West Midlands, and the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, Waterford and Connemara.

A fourteen-strong fleet of Flying Fifteens contested the Northern Championships hosted by County Antrim YC Photo: Kathryn AndersonA fourteen-strong fleet of Flying Fifteens contested the Northern Championships hosted by County Antrim YC Photo: Kathryn Anderson

Race Office Sheela Lewis started the Saturday races in a shifty SSW to SW breeze, average 12kts which necessitated alterations to windward legs after the first beat but they got three two-lap windward/leeward races completed.

On Day 2 the fleet got away in an offshore North Westerly shifting to Westerly of about 8 knots. After Race 4 a lull meant a wait for the breeze to fill in and Race 5 was completed with no further course alterations.

Winners - Peter Kennedy and Stephen Kane from Strangford Lough YC Winners - Peter Kennedy and Stephen Kane from Strangford Lough YC Photo: Kathryn Anderson

Kennedy and Kane (Team Ridgeway) started with a seventh but subsequently counted three wins and although finishing the five races with a sixth were a reasonably comfortable three points ahead of the runners-up, Bryan Willis and John McPeake in Simply Gold from the host club who counted a first and two seconds. Willis and McPeake are previous Leinster GP 14 champions.

Lee Statham and Andrew Paul of Waterford Harbour SC Photo: Kathryn AndersonLee Statham and Andrew Paul of Waterford Harbour SC Photo: Kathryn Anderson

In third slot were the Waterford Harbour SC pair, Lee Stratham and Andrew Paul who did win the final race to tie on 14 points with FFRIGT sailed by Peter Lawson and Chris Hannon of Portaferry, also on Strangford Lough.

The next big event at Whitehead is the Whitehead Water Fest 2022 in aid of RNLI Lifeboats on 30th July. Activities will include a long-distance swim, family fun kayak and SUP races a coastal row and raft races.

Cormac Bradley adds: 

A modest fleet of fourteen Flying Fifteens contested a five-race Northern Championship at County Antrim Yacht Club, Whitehead on the northern shores of Belfast Lough. While there were a large number of absentees, there was a boat from Dunmore East, Lee Statham and Andy Paul (4070), two boats from Connemara, Niall O’Brien & Ronan Brien (3621) and Mairtin O’Flatharta & Mike Hopkins (3686) and a single UK numbered entry with Irish and Canadian connections, Tony Gaffney & Raymond Flannagan (4097) out of Draycote Water Sailing Club. The biggest fleet in the country mustered three entries and the balance was made up of northern boats.

Saturday morning at Whitehead was marked by the traditional welcome of tea/coffee with scones and biscuits.

So why such a small-ish entry? Maybe Covid reticence is an issue for some people, completely understandable! One DL combination is concentrating on sailing UK events – again completely understandable! There are at least three boats out with specific injuries to crew members – unavoidable! There was a one-day regatta in Dun Laoghaire (the “George Regatta”) which had an eleven-boat entry and a number of people are concentrating on the Fireball Worlds and practising for that rather than sailing two classes, another two boats. Holidays also take their place in the pecking order – another two boats were out due to specific holiday plans. And of course, with fuel costs being what they are, that too may have put people off. So, for non-speculative reasons, the fleet could have been boosted by at least another eight boats. And that’s all this paragraph is about – speculation!

On the water, our Race Officer had to work continuously on both days to keep the race track relevant. On the Saturday three races were completed and for the first two of these she was able to leapfrog the spreader mark over the weather mark (repeatedly) to make the beat true. However, as the afternoon wore on, the wind moved further westwards and for the final race the marks had to be lifted out of the water and re-laid. On the Sunday the wind was lighter and shiftier and for the second race she had to relay the marks. Consequently, a great deal of credit goes to the RO and her team of mark-layers who were kept busy throughout the weekend and managed to give us five good races.

The breeze on the Saturday was a good 10 – 15knots and in the second race of the day that went up when a big rain shower descended on the race course. In the first race of the day a new combination led the fleet round the course for the vast majority of the race only to lose out narrowly when they engaged in arm-to-arm wrestling with the party in second place. Niall O’Brien had shown in the regatta in Carraroe in May that he knew where to point a Flying Fifteen and he showed that same innate talent in this weekend’s first race. Crewed this time by Ronan Brien, they popped out first at the first weather mark and held onto that position until the final hundred or so metres to the finish of the two lap Windward – Leeward course, with spreader mark and leeward gate. The cause of their demise – being challenged by Bryan Willis & John McPeake for first place. There was luffing and ducking and diving going on but Willis & McPeake came out as the winners. O’Brien & Brien may have lost out but they still had big smiles on their faces at a second place in their first sortie on the Fifteen circuit.

The records will show that Kennedy & Kane won the next three races, but they had to work hard for them all. In the second race of the day, at the finish they were overlapped by Ben Mulligan & Cormac Bradley and Statham & Paul were only a couple of boat-lengths behind the front two. All three had come down the second run in close company and in a reasonably tight formation.

In the last race of Saturday, the winning pair had a more comfortable race, but still had to keep a weather eye on Willis and Mulligan. Indeed, in the early part of the race with the rain sweeping down from Belfast, Mulligan had deliberately sailed to the “rainy shore” and was looking very good until the final approach to the weather mark when Kennedy and Willis came into the frame. Lawson & Hannon also had a good two races on the Saturday scoring two 4th places, in the latter two races, but were down the pecking order on Saturday night due to a 13th. And then, just to let you know it was July in Ireland, the fleet was drenched in a fierce rain shower as they sailed for home at the conclusion of the day’s racing.
After three races, 1st to 3rd was separated by one point, with Kennedy having that solitary advantage over Willis and Mulligan who were tied on 10 points each.

The acknowledged Whitehead hospitality was again in evidence on Saturday night as three main courses and a generous choice of salads and bread was provided for the competitors and helpers. A glass of wine was also available for those who wished to avail of it.

Sunday morning’s tea/coffee & scones/biscuits was enjoyed in lighter wind conditions from a slightly more northerly direction, still in the western quadrant but more directly offshore from the clubhouse. As usual, competitors were able to get in their boats dry as the beachmaster and his team of helpers, some of whom were chest-deep in the water launched the fleet. The wind was definitely lighter and spinnakers were set to get to the race area. After some moving around to compensate for a wind that wouldn’t settle initially, the fourth race got underway.

“Team Ridgeway”, Kennedy & Kane got away early and led the race throughout followed home by Willis & McPeake. In golf there is a reference to “moving day” which I think is Day 3 of a four-day tournament. Sunday was “moving day” for this fleet. Mulligan & Bradley had a poor start to Race 4 and while they staged a recovery of sorts, they would lose two places on the finish when they were one of three boats, all overlapped, that went through the finish line together. On reflection on Monday morning, I am not sure we should have lost both those places in terms of the finishing sequence recorded! In contrast, Statham & Paul scored a fourth and Lawson & Hannon scored a third which put Mulligan’s 3rd place overnight in severe jeopardy. The last third of this race was sailed in very light conditions which made the downwind leg very tense.

The breeze strengthened a little for the last race of the series and Statham & Paul made an early declaration of intent by leading from an early stage on the first upwind leg. The majority of the fleet had gone left, but one or two pioneers went right and from about 150m off the weather mark, it looked very good for one of those pioneers, Ben Mulligan. However, Statham, Lawson, D’Arcy and Kennedy were all in the frame coming in from the port-hand side and Willis wasn’t too far away either. Kennedy dropped off the pace at the weather mark but Statham had a healthy lead. There wasn’t a great deal of change down the run and up the next beat McCleery & Dougan got inside Mulligan, but not through him at the 2nd weather mark. The first four boats kept right, Statham, D’Arcy, Lawson and Mulligan, but McCleery went left and though he sailed a longer distance, at the leeward gate he was a boat-length ahead of Mulligan. Kennedy and Willis closed out the top seven.

At the prize-giving, the Vice Commodore of CAYC thanked and made presentations to the Race Officer, the Beachmaster and the Lady who led the catering team and their respective teams. He also thanked the competitors for their support and made a special presentation to the UK/Canadian combination for their “distance travelled” to the event.
For the Flying Fifteen fleet, the next calendar date is August and Dunmore East

Results here

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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Flying Fifteen - At A Glance

Overall Length 20 ft6.1 m

Waterline Length 15 ft4.6 m

Mast Height 22 ft 6 in6.86 m

Sail Area 150 sq ft14 sqm

Spinnaker Area 140 sq ft13 sqm

Hull Weight 300 lb136 kg

Keel Weight 400 lb169 kg

Minimum Weight 685 lb305 kg

Racing Crew Two

Ideal Crew Range 18 - 28 st145 - 185 kg

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