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Ballyholme's Olympic trialist Liam Glynn won the CH Marine Ulster Laser Championship title last weekend on Belfast Lough counting five race wins.

Royal St George Yacht Club sailors did the double by securing the 4.7 and Radial titles. The Radial winner was Henry Higgins with the 4.7’s won by newcomer to the class, Moss Simington.

A large number of laser sailors from around the country headed northwards last Friday night to compete in the Championships.

The regatta was hosted this year by Ballyholme Yacht Club and entries were significantly increased given it was the last qualifying event for Irish masters who wished to get on the ranking ladders. Ninety seven competitors were ready to race early on Saturday morning.

"The regatta was hosted this year by Ballyholme Yacht Club and entries were significantly increased given it was the last qualifying event for Irish Masters"

The fleets launched in 8 -10 knots of breeze on Saturday with PRO Robin Gray and his team completing 3 races for all fleets after a long day on the water. Alana Coakley, Henry Higgins and Liam Glynn led the 4.7, radial and standard fleets respectively.

Sunday morning the sailors were greeted with glorious sunshine and a breeze of 6-10 knots. Another 3 races were secured for all fleets completing a full series. This weekend gave great light weather practice for our international event sailors travelling away this Summer.

There was a change in the 4.7 fleet overnight standings with newcomer Moss Simington - Royal St George YC scoring a 3, 1 and 2 on Sunday to take the 4.7 title by one point. Atlee Kohl - Royal Cork YC had to be happy with 2nd after his recent wins at the Munsters and Youth Nationals. Alana Coakley - RStGYC/RVYC was third and First Lady.

After the successful introduction of the Silver Fleet at the recent Munster Championships, the 4.7 silver fleet prizes went to - 1st Joseph Karauzum County Antrim YC, 2nd Jennifer O'Shaughnessy Royal Cork YC and 3rd Jamie McDonnell Lettice Royal Cork YC.

Henry Higgins of the Royal St George YC retained his overnight lead and took the Radial Title. Chris Bateman of the Royal Cork revelled in the conditions on Sunday with two bullets and secured 2nd ahead of Jack Fahy - RStGYC/RCYC/LDYC 3rd. The first Radial Master was local sailor and former Olympian Chris Boyd.

The Radial Silver Fleet prizes were awarded as follows - 1st Howard Massie Ballyholme YC, 2nd Ella Hemeryck NYC/HYC and 3rd Russell Finlay Ballyholme YC.

Liam Glynn’s performance in home waters was superb with five bullets counting to win the Standard Fleet. Fionn Conway from Killaloe/NYC who was competing in his first standard event, was second overall and David Quinn - Howth YC third overall and first master. This podium finish for Dave Quinn was a great reward for a lot of hard work over the winter months as he has returned to the fleet after a 20 year absence. Also notable in the standard fleet was that 26 of the 29 competing were Masters with another 11 racing in the Radial Fleet.

This was a great event to see ahead of the Lennon Racewear Irish Laser Master Nationals in Dun Laoghaire on the 19th and 20th May. Online entry is now open here. This will be a great opportunity for sailors to experience racing in Dublin Bay ahead of the Master Worlds in September. Event Organiser Sean Craig advises that a number of international sailors are travelling to compete in May.

Full Ulster Championship results can be found here

Published in Laser
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Following the recent announcement that Craftinsure is now an official insurance partner and sponsor of the Irish Laser Association, Craftinsure's Rod Daniel presented some prizes at the CH Marine Munster Laser Championships in Baltimore over the Easter weekend.

This first provincial event on the Irish Laser calendar attracted 114 sailors, with a silver fleet being introduced for the first time. Howth's Ewan McMahon took overall honours, with Thomas Chaix 1st Master (5th), and Clare Gorman 1st lady (6th).

The next of the Irish Laser provincial series will be the Ulsters on 28th/29th April at Ballyholme Yacht Club.

Published in Laser
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Howth Yacht Club's Ewan McMahon won the four race CH Marine Laser Munster Championships in convinging style with three race wins in his 37–boat fleet. Dublin sailors also made a clean sweep of a 19–boat Radial fleet with Royal St. George's Jack Fahy the victor but Royal Cork's Atlee Kohl was the winner of the 4.7 fleet. Download PDF of results below.

Baltimore Sailing Club played host again this Easter to the first Provincial event on the Irish Laser calendar. The Club welcomed 114 sailors and their families to the village to compete in the CH Marine Laser Munsters. Registration was held in the Clubhouse on Friday night with sailors receiving a gift from sponsor Craftinsure and t-shirts from the Laser Association. Registration opened again bright and early on Saturday morning and a few additional faces appeared that were keen to race. Event sponsor CH Marine had a van with laser essentials available from Friday afternoon and this was much appreciated by the sailors who needed their services!.

The PRO David O’Brien briefed the sailors and advised that given the forecast for Sunday he would do his best to get 4 races completed for all fleets on Saturday. As it transpired the forecast was correct and there was no sailing on Sunday. Launching on Saturday got underway at low water so huge credit to the team of volunteers directed by John McCarthy who hauled and organised all the trolleys. 

With a light north westerly breeze racing started in sunshine from under the Beacon. The low water and northerly wind direction made the Lousy Rocks a hazard to be considered by all competitors. The standard fleet were the first away with Ewan McMahon, Howth Yacht Club taking the first bullet of the day, the radial fleet was led by Thomas Chaix from Tralee Bay Sailing Club and Alana Coakley (Royal St George YC) a newcomer to the laser class took the first 4.7 race win.

Race Two was sailed in similar conditions to the first but sailors were settling back into race mode and Paul McMahon won in the standards, Jack Fahy (Royal St George YC/Royal Cork YC/Lough Derg YC) took the Radial fleet win and Atlee Kohl (Royal Cork YC/St Croix YC) caught club mate Jonathan O’Shaughnessy to secure his first bullet of the regatta.

Ewan McMahon showed winning form in race 3 and 4 in the standard fleet taking two more bullets to secure the overall title ahead of Johnny Durcan (Royal Cork YC/BSC) and Paul McMahon (Howth YC) in third. As was expected there were a large number of Masters in attendance with 24 competing in the standard fleet and 11 in the radial fleet. First master in the standards was Roger O’Gorman followed by Daragh Kelleher (Skerries SC) on 14 nett points each and third master was Ronan Kenneally from Monkstown Bay Sailing Club.

Radials Clean Sweep for Royal St. George Yacht Club

Tom Higgins (Royal St George YC) took the win in Radials Race 3 with Jack Fahy winning the fourth. It was great to see new faces to the class enjoying the Spring sailing conditions in Baltimore Harbour. Geoff Power (Waterford Harbour SC) secured 4th overall on his first outing but Royal St George club mates of Jack Fahy, Tom Higgins and Peter Fagan made a clean sweep with first, second and third overall. The First Master was Thomas Chaix in 5th overall and Clare Gorman (National YC) took the First Lady prize in 6th.

It was the first time a silver fleet was introduced to the Championships and in the radials Darrell Reamsbottom (Howth YC) took third, James McCann (Royal Cork YC) took second and Maeve Leonard (Royal Cork YC/Baltimore SC) took first.

The wind moved to the left throughout the day and the fourth race was conducted in a south westerly breeze. The wind stayed light all day and the 4.7 competitors enjoyed the conditions with Atlee Kohl finding his feet after a rocky start securing a first and second leaving him as the winner of the fleet with a 4 point margin. Jack O’Sullivan (Royal Cork YC/Kinsale YC) was second and Alana Coakley finished her day with a win securing third overall/first lady beating out Keelin Greene (Hayling Island SC/Baltimore SC) who were on joint points. Prizes were awarded in Silver Fleet with James Moran (Mayo Sailing Club) taking third, Natasha Hemeryck (National YC) taking second and Dawson Kohl making it a “Kohl double” in the 4.7 fleet securing first. Full results can be found here.

A special thanks to Baltimore Sailing Club for launching the 50ft “Inishceim” and “Kingfisher” to act as Committee and Finish boat respectively. No easy feat at the end of March!. David O’Brien was ably assisted by fellow Race Officer Richard Leonard and a team from the Club who got the four races completed as they had promised at the beginning of the day. The finish boat team was led by Tom Hegarty and results ashore were kept in check by Charlie Bolger. Safety Officer Sheila O’Sullivan ensured the smooth running of the event afloat and Mary O’Neill was a stalwart in her role in the Clubhouse. None of these events happen without a lot of preparation and organisation locally – thank you to all the team in Baltimore for making all the sailors and their families so welcome. As President Aidan Staunton said in his closing address “we look forward to returning next year”.

Published in Laser
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There’ll be three race courses, five classes, three evening talks, and 32 counties represented at next month's Volvo Irish Sailing Youth Pathway National Championships taking place 5th – 8th April 2018 in Dun Laoghaire, jointly hosted by the Royal St George Yacht Club and the National Yacht Club.

As well as great racing on the water, and good fun at the club ashore. The evening talks as well as the races are open to all young sailors who sail in the five Irish Sailing Youth Pathway Classes (Laser Radial, Laser 4.7, 420, Topper and Optimist). This is Ireland’s largest Youth regatta and Irish Sailing’s primary talent spotting event of the year for the Academy and Junior classes.

Importantly it’s also one of the few chances in the year when family and friends who are sail in different classes can all sail together at one regatta venue, competing on different courses but on the same waters, giving a brilliant opportunity for shared experiences, learning and fun.

Up to six places on the Irish Sailing Laser 4.7 Squad: Up to six sailors will be chosen at the Irish Sailing Youth Pathway Nationals to join the Irish Sailing Laser 4.7 Squad. The squad will provide training to help young sailors transition in the Laser 4.7 class. It will also aim to prepare and support the squad for the Laser 4.7 World Championship to be held in Gdynia, Poland in July. The squad coach and programme will be announced following the event. Entry to the Laser 4.7 Worlds is independent of Irish Sailing squad selection through the International Laser Class Association.

The four days of racing in Dublin Bay will decide the six places on the 420 European team who will travel to Sisimbra, Portugal in July to compete in the 420 Junior (U18) European Championships. 

Irish Sailing Laser Radial & 420 Academy: The Irish Sailing Youth Pathway Nationals is an indicator event (amongst other factors including domestic and international events) for the Irish Sailing Youth Academy. The Academy undergoes a review biannually following the Youth Pathway Nationals and in the autumn each year.

IODAI Irish Optimist Trials: The Optimist trials fleet will take to the water to compete for coveted team spots at the 2018 international regattas. Places for the World Championships in Cyprus, the European Championships in the Netherlands, and the international development team events in both Poland and France are all up for grabs.

Topper class: The Topper World Championships take place in China this year with a strong Irish team travelling to the regatta this year. The Pathway Nationals will provide a good indicator of form as the sailors test themselves against the best in the country as they head into the spring period of their season.

A lineup of evening speakers – open to all: At 5.30pm each evening there will be a talk and Q&A session at the nominated club with speakers who have a deep knowledge of racing. The talks are open to all sailors and parents.

• Thursday 5th – Saturday 7th April, Ross Killian & Sean Evans. Each evening Ross and Sean, the Irish Sailing Performance Coaches will give video analysis and coaching tips from the day’s racing
• Friday 6th April, James O’Callaghan Irish Sailing High Performance Director will talk through the Olympic and Performance Pathway
• Saturday 7th April, Jessie Barr, Sport psychologist currently working at the Sport Ireland Institute. Jessie is a four-time 400m relay Olympian. She has worked with a number of the Laser and 420 Academy sailors.

Published in ISA

Bouncing back after what he termed the 'disappointment' of January's World Cup top half result in Miami, the National Yacht Club's Laser ace, Finn Lynch was on the podium at Andalusian Week in the Bay of Cadiz this week. 

After six races sailed, Ireland's youngest ever Olympic Games helmsman was ten points behind Poland's Filip Ciszkiewicz in the 36-boat fleet. Results are here.

This Bronze from Cadiz follows' Lynch's silver at Gran Canaria Olympic Week won in December, a feat for which he picked up an Afloat Sailor of the Month award. 

Lynch's rival for the single Tokyo Laser berth in 2020, Liam Glynn, of Ballyholme, was 14th overall. 

Published in Tokyo 2020
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A westerly wind of ten knots brought Monkstown Bay Sailing Club's Laser League to a conclusion on Saturday writes Bob Bateman.

Kinsale's Darragh O'Sullivan, who did not contest the final races of the series, was very much in evidence at the prizegiving to lift the coveted 'Yard of Ale' trophy that has been fought over 18 races in Cork Harbour.

Chris Bateman was second overall and first Junior. Ronan Kenneally was first Master and third overall.

Full results below

Monkstown Bay Laser League Results

Published in Laser

Craftinsure Ltd will be supporting the 2018 Laser Munster Championships taking place over the Easter Weekend at Baltimore, Co. Cork.

The Laser partnership builds upon close links already well established with IODAI and the Optimist Class in Ireland by the insurer. 

'We continue to see a steady growth in the number of Lasers we cover, both in Ireland and the UK, and it’s great to see young Optimist sailors we’ve insured progressing to the Irish Laser fleet', said Craftinsure’s Rod Daniel.

Baltimore Sailing Club are currently in negotiations regarding title sponsorship of the event, a spokesperson told Afloat.ie

The Irish Laser calendar has been confirmed for 2018 here.

Published in Laser
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Another three race wins at the Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Laser League in Cork Harbour on Saturday means Kinsale Yacht Club's Darragh O'Sullivan has it all sewn up before the final race and he'll claim the traditional 'Yard of Ale' first prize next weekend writes Bob Bateman.

A bitingly cold, and gusty north-west wind and a strong ebb tide greeted a somewhat depleted fleet that saw local Chris Bateman maintained second place. Third overall is Ronan Kenneally.

Results below after 15 races. 

monkstown laser league results

 

Published in Laser

Three different competitors got the winning gun in today's short sharp races at Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Laser Frostbite Series in Cork Harbour but Darragh O'Sullivan is still holding the overall lead writes Bob Bateman.

Chris Bateman is three points behind in second overall with John Durcan just a point further behind.

It was mild day, if a bit overcast, with a ten–knot west–south–west breeze greeting the competitors for the fourth day of racing with Alan Feehily doing the honours as PRO.

Racing continues next week.

Photo gallery below

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Above and two photos below: Charles Dwyer is sixth overall

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Chris Bateman is three points off the lead

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Arthur O'Connor is 12th overall

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Above and two photos below: Johnny Durcan is third overall

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Above and below Cian Byrne is fourth overall

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Last year's league winner Ronan Kenneally is fifth overall

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Rob Howe lies ninth

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Tight mark roundings in the Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy leagueMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Luke McGrathMonkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11O'Sullivan leads Howe into a weather mark

Monkstown Bay Laser dinghy sailing11Overall results after 12 races so far

Published in Laser

We’re living longer than ever. But as the years advance, are most of us really living, really alive? Or are we merely existing, and allowing our diminishing physical abilities and shrinking mental interests to be dictated by out-of-date concepts about expected lifespans and the appropriate behaviour for each age group? W M Nixon snuffles around a tricky topic.

Sean Craig of Dun Laoghaire, Helmsman Champion 1993, a successful veteran of several classes new and old, and now a notably-fit 50-something whose main international sailing outlet is the Laser Masters, has been adding extra impetus to the age-and-sailing conversation.

It was our story about the great Gordon Ingate winning the 2018 Australian Dragon Championship at the fine age of 92 which got this discussion going. It has to be confessed that particular story was put together in the first place because I’d been on the lookout for some good reason to re-use one of my favourite photos, of Ingate’s handsome Robert Clark-designed Caprice of Huon cutting through Cowes Roads in magic style, when he won everything of significance in Cowes Week 1965, and the RORC Channel Race overall as well.

caprice of huon cowes2Caprice of Huon cutting her way to total success at Cowes Week 1965. At the time, her owner-skipper Gordon Ingate was already 40, yet in 2018 at 92, he’s still winning races.

It’s a wonderful photo – there’s an entire universe, a complete era, all in that one image if you take the time to examine it in detail. But then, in pinged an email from Don Street in Glandore about how he’s still racing Dragons at the age of 87, and Ingate’s success at 92 was confirmation that the Glandore Dragons can expect to be racing Don and his very veteran Gypsy for at least another five years yet, with no quarter given or expected.

This got a discussion going in various social media circles around the Glandore Dragons, and made everyone realize yet again that chronological age is a very blunt instrument, and of doubtful value in assessing how old a person actually is. But although we were living on the mantra of “Sailing - A Sport for Life” for some time, it was a slogan of mixed value when set against the fact that nowadays the trendy way for some people to live by is to have “Sailing: A Sport for This Weekend” on one occasion, and then the following weekend it might be hill-walking.

don street3Don Street in Glandore, where he continues to race Dragons at 87

For such people, “A Sport for Life” has something of the prison sentence about it. But for those of us for whom the entire paraphernalia of sailing - and particularly the boats themselves – is what it’s all about, it’s difficult to relate to the hyper-casual approach, for in reality for us, boats and sailing are not seen as providing a sport for life – rather, they’re a way of life which we adjust with the passing years.

Either way, the fact that they give us an absorbing interest keeps the years at bay. Yet events of the past year have thrown our generally held notions about age and sailing into some further confusion, even though it’s quite some time since America’s Cup legend Dennis Conner opined that 45 is the prime age for a world-class helmsman. That led some top youth-oriented field athletes to deride the very idea that sailing was a sport at all – on the contrary, said they, it should be seen as a vehicle and technical activity.

dennis conner4Dennis Conner after winning back the America’s Cup from Australia in 1987. Aged 45 at the time, he reckoned he was only reaching his prime as a helmsman.

But within sailing, we in turn also have our age prejudices at the lower end of the spectrum. After the storm-hammered Sydney-Hobart Race of 1998 saw the loss of five lives, new regulations were introduced, and one of them was that there was to be a lower age limit of 18 for participation. Old salts would have reckoned that’s about right. When all’s said and done, they argued, you need maturity and the experience and stamina it provides to be a useful crew-member on a fully competitive offshore racer, and there are the legal obligations for minors to be considered too.

Yet here in Europe we don’t seem to be so strict. After all, the 16-year-old New Zealand-born Dutch girl, Laura Dekker, completed a solo round the world voyage in her 38ft ketch Guppy in 2012, and she was 14 when she started in 2010. It may well be that in sailing along the coastlines of some countries, she was contravening their regulations about both minimum age and sailing single-handed, but she did it so quickly that she’d gone beyond the horizon before the authorities could do anything effective to stop her, though they’d tried. And as for a minimum age for events like the Fastnet, I’ve a feeling there may have been competitors as young as 12 completing the race as crew.

laura dekker5Laura Dekker of The Netherlands on completion of her round the world voyage in 2012 at the age of 16

laura dekker guppy6Laura Dekker’s global circumnavigating ketch Guppy was a Jeanneau Gin Fizz 38

Here in Ireland we have our own offshore wunderkind in Lorcan Tighe of Dun Laoghaire. He still isn’t old enough to race the Sydney-Hobart, but at 16 he did the Volvo Round Ireland of 2016 with the Irish National Sailing School’s Reflex 38 Lynx, and not as a trainee - he was bow-man - while in 2017 he did the Rolex Fastnet Race in the INSS’s class-winning J/109 Jedi as a senior crewman/instructor, aged just 17.

lorcan tighe7Lorcan Tighe of Dun Laoghaire – already a veteran of the Round Ireland Race and the Fastnet Race (in which he got a class win), at 17 he is still too young to qualify for the Sydney-Hobart.

On Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard, the junior pace offshore has been set by schoolboy Conor Dillon of Foynes Yacht Club, racing several campaigns with his father Derek on their Dehler 34 The Big Deal. They won the two-handed division in the 2014 Round Ireland Race, and their scorecard also includes the Fastnet and the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Races. It’s remarkable youthful experience which has been put to further good use with Conor becoming a leading instructor in the sailing academy at Foynes.

derek and conor dillonSchoolboy Conor Dillon of Foynes at the helm of the Deher 34 The Big Deal which he campaigns in major events with his father Derek (left) - their successes have included winning the Two-Handed Division in the 2014 Round Ireland Race

Old-fashioned notions about the need for the experience of the years were further knocked on the head in the Mini-Transat in November. The Mini-Transat does have some quite senior sailors, though at 30 years our own Tom Dolan, who finished 6th overall, was maybe slightly above average age. But all notions of the ideal age for the Mini-Transat – one of the toughest events of all – were blown out the window when it was won, and won well, by Erwan Le Draoulec, aged just 20.

Some of us will find that a bit spooky. After all, here he is, just 20, and already he’s won the Mini-Transat – what on earth does he do next? In fact, the lad himself has made one ambition clear – he wants to sail the Atlantic again, but this time “properly”, taking time to enjoy the voyage and savour the experience, rather than tear across it like a demented bat out of hell, pushing a tiny and permanently wet boat to the absolute limits.

erwan le draoulec8Erwan le Draoulec – at 20, the overall winner of the Mini-Transat 2017

But when a 20-year-old expresses a hope like that, it reminds us of just how very alive sailing makes us feel, and reinforces the notion that if only more young people could find an interest in boats and sailing, or something comparable, then the world would be a better place. So it’s good news that the Sail Training Ireland programme in 2017 attracted numbers which harked back to the Asgard II heydays, and that in turn is encouraging to those promoting sailing as an interest for young people throughout Ireland.

But why should it just be young people? Partly it’s because the Powers-that-Be can easily identify the cohort they’re aiming for. It simplifies things, the same way as - in the final analysis - the only way that sailing can really impinge on the national consciousness is when it’s an Olympic sport.

Yet those who are involved along the waterfront and afloat in bringing sailing to young people know that there are significant numbers of people of more mature years who would dearly like to be introduced to sailing if they could only be encouraged into it in the right way.

One who is well aware of this is Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick. When they were unveiling their new flotilla of Limerick-built CityOne sailing dinghies designed by the late Theo Rye a couple of years ago, as the CityOnes and the re-created gandelows made their way out onto the Shannon in the heart of the city, it was clear that some of these young sailors were no longer in the first flush of youth.

The response to a comment about this was classic Gary MacMahon: “You have to understand that Sailing is a Sport for the Youth of All Ages. That’s all there is to it”.

cityones limerick9The CityOne dinghies racing in the Shannon at Limerick. Photo: Gary MacMahon

This pithy reply came to mind when Sean Craig sent his eloquent follow-up to the Gordon Ingate story, as Sean – with that 1993 Helmsmans Championship and other titles under his belt - is now of sufficient years to qualify for the Laser Masters, and this has given him an entirely new perspective on the limiting effects of age, or rather the lack of them if you have a positive attitude.

After all, most of us remember that when the great Denis Doyle did his last Fastnet Race with Moonduster at the age of 81 in 2001, he was asked why he kept going, and he responded with a twinkle that he couldn’t think of anything else to be doing when August in an odd-numbered year came round. He was gone from among us within months, but he left inspiring memories.

denis doyle10Denis Doyle, who campaigned his final Fastnet Race aged 81 – “Sure, what else would I be doing?”

As too did the legendary Norman Wilkinson, who simply kept on successfully racing his veteran Howth 17s until, shortly before his death, he raced his last one at the age of 82 in 1998. And he very appropriately won, for it was the Class’s Centenary Race.

Equally, Sean Craig has been inspired and sometimes astonished by the ages of some of the Laser Masters, and he has fired in some eloquently-expressed and heartfelt thoughts which capture a viewpoint so well it had us having a friendly discussion on the possibilities of changing places for a month. I’d be the high-powered bond trader, Sean would become the harassed hack…….

sean craig and salver11Sean Craig with the historic Helmsmans Championship Silver Salver in 1993, when he won it racing GP 14s at East Antrim Boat Club in Larne. Those were the days: the sponsorship by Church & General Insurance included a 1,500 punts grant towards the new champion’s sailing travel expenses in 1994.

We can be reasonably sure that one half of that job exchange would quickly wreck the global economy. But as for communications in Irish sailing, they’d run along just fine, as these thoughts from Sean Craig reveal:

“The catalyst was your enjoyable piece about Gordon Ingate. I’ve always been inspired by guys like this who stay so competitive into their later years. The great Alf Delaney was something of a hero of mine down at the Royal St George YC, all the more so because he was still dinghy sailing so late in life. Thankfully it’s more of a trend generally now, in Ireland as well as globally. One thinks of Curly Morris, still ultra-competitive in his GP 14 well into his 70s, with two plastic hips and one plastic knee, or is it the other way round? And in Dun Laoghaire, Louis Smyth can still be seen blitzing around Dublin Bay in his Fireball, now into his 80s. Amazing!

denis osullivan13Denis O’Sullivan of Monkstown Bay: into his 80s, still racing Lasers - and still partying. Photo: Facebook 

And amazing too is Ireland’s own Denis O’Sullivan of Monkstown Bay SC, and also sometimes Caribbean based, well into his 80s and still blasting away with the Laser Masters. I’m aware of this for I now sail Lasers. I’m a very late convert to Single-handers and feel like I’m learning out all over again. But it’s great fun, great exercise and, crucially, big fleets whether you’re club racing, doing an Irish circuit event, or competing overseas.

I kind of knew the Laser was bit of a cult internationally, hardly surprising, given the numbers. My new boat this year is Sail Number 213,000 +. But I had no idea just how old some Laser racers are in some countries. For example, I competed at my first Laser Master Worlds in Split last September. It was a huge fleet at 350 boats but I would like to refer you to the results for “Radial Great Grand Master & 75+”, in this results link (scroll down) ; here

denis osullivan13Denis O’Sullivan’s racing his Laser in last September’s World Masters in Croatia. Photo: Sean Craig

There you will see that no less than SEVENTEEN of the sailors in the 65 year old plus category were in fact over 75. To see these guys competing, socializing and handling such a physical boat as the Laser is, to me at least, very inspiring. Here’s an example of one of these guys, Peter Seidenberg, with a “Sailing World” profile here 

Perhaps you’ve heard about Peter, one of the finest examples of what the International Laser Class Association has decided to call “Legends” rather than Over 75 or 75-85, like the other Masters ten year brackets. There’s another guy I met in Croatia, in his late 60s, from the US who has his own website devoted to all things Laser Masters http://www.impropercourse.com/ This is Doug Peckover, another fabulous sailor but who only has sight in one eye (effectively) and he religiously writes up each Master Worlds he attends, for the website. You can read “About us” and “Worlds Diaries” for the last 21 World Championships.

Of course the rest of the story here is that Ireland hosts the 2018 Laser Master World Championships in Dun Laoghaire in September. We are expecting up to 400 boats (split evenly between Full Rigs and Radials) from 50 countries. I am open to correction, but I wonder is this the largest One-Design regatta ever held in Ireland, including even the largest gatherings of Optimists?

laser masters croatia14The “Irish & associated” squad at the Laser Masters Worlds in Croatia last September included (left to right) Niall Peelo, Paul Keane, Kevin Currier, Nick Walsh, Denis O’Sullivan, Ed Rice and Theo Lyttle, with Sean Craig in foreground

A personal hobby-horse of mine is that we should embrace and encourage these “silver racers”. Yet many simply take the glass half empty approach of harping on about lack of younger sailors. Of course that’s true, but that’s another debate. What we can see is, just as the MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) are taking to their road bikes in their thousands, certain Irish dinghy classes are featuring great numbers in their 40s, 50s and 60s like never before.

I remember giving up dinghies 20 years ago to proceed through J/24s, Flying Fifteens and SB20s because I was told (and was persuaded erroneously) that at 30, I was too old for dinghies……. The times they are a-changing.”

Published in W M Nixon
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