With just over a week to go until the start of the J/24 National Championships on Ireland's second-biggest lake, the entry has hit 30 with at least another three boats promised to enter writes JP McCaldin
This is the largest entry ever, surpassing the 29 at the Royal St George in 1999, and almost triple the entry of the last time the event headed North in 2014.
The class can claim fairly to be an all-Ireland class with entries from Kerry to Derry, Cork to Carrickfergus, Malahide to Mullaghmore, Dublin, Foynes, Athlone, Sligo and many points in between. The largest entry is from the host club who have mustered 8 boats with a 9th chartered to Royal Cork’s U25 team. The event boasts at least 5 under 25 teams and at least four past Irish champions.
No team has dominated 2019 with the two completed events so far this season both coming down to the last race and going to different winners. Team McCormack in Stouche, Foynes YC, took the Southerns in May in Fenit by a single point and fresh from their victory in the Mermaid nationals are among the favourites. The Easterns in Howth in June again came down to the last race with Fergus Kelliher and team on Jibe, Tralee Bay SC, taking their first event win in the J24. Local team and 2017 champions El Riccio have been the bridesmaid on both occasions can they go one better on home waters? Multiple Irish champion Cillian Dixon the Howth u25 team graduate and his team on Headcase are sure to be in the mix, as will the Ushers from Greystones who were victorious on the last visit to the Erne in September 2018. No preview of runners and riders would be complete without a mention of Flor O'Driscoll and his Hard on Port team who are even more successful in winning in Ulster than his beloved Munster rugby team.
With the fleet split into gold, silver and bronze fleets after day 1 there will be something to race for, for everyone throughout the fleet. The winner automatically qualifies for the worlds in Poole in 2020 with extra qualification points available for the runners up. Pure one design racing will be enforced with a day of measurement prior to the event, several crew are rumoured to have been on diets to make the 400kg crew weight limit. To ensure on fair sailing on the water umpiring will be provided by Gordon Davies and Derek Bothwell, the classes adopted race officer, and his team will provide championship standard races.
With generous sponsorship from North Sails, Fermanagh and Omagh council, Ropelocker.ie, Sport NI and Experience Enniskillen, the entry has been kept to a minimum, and great prizes guaranteed throughout the fleet.