Fifty-five Lasers took to the water this past weekend on Lough Derg for the Laser Connaught Championships, hosted by Lough Derg Yacht Club. Understandably, the atmosphere and excitement around the club was palpable following the fantastic achievement of Aisling Keller in qualifying Ireland in the Laser Radial for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics during the week.
Sailors were greeted to a 5-6 knot South Westerly on the Saturday in warm, slightly overcast conditions. RO, Liam Maloney and his able team had made the wise decision to run four races on the Saturday as Sunday was forecast for even lighter winds. Laser Standards were off first, with Tom Keal (RCYC) showing a clean set of heels to lead around the course from start to finish. Unfortunately, the breeze shifted 90 degrees and died away to a whisper by the time the remainder of the fleet reached the gybe mark making it a paddle race to the shortened course finish line for the rest of the Standards. Aaron Rogers (RSC) and Fionn Conway (KSC) finished second and third respectively.
After a short delay, the weather gods thankfully decided to play ball for the second race and offered up a lovely 10-13 knot South Westerly, albeit in shifty conditions. Keal, a recent Standard convert from the Radial, again showed super boat handling ability to steal first place from Conway, followed by Rogers, also a recent Standard convert, in third. These three sailors mixed it up for the remainder of the day, albeit with one disruption to proceedings when Gavan Murphy (RSGYC) stole a second on the line from Keal. Rogers grabbed another first and Conway won his first race of the day in race four, leaving just one point between first, second and third going into the Sunday.
In the ever-competitive 4.7 fleet, Kitty Flanigan (RSGYC) won the first race, followed by Conor Gorman (NYC) and Hugh O’Connor (NYC) in second and third respectively. Michael Crosbie (RCYC), Tim Norwood (RIYC) and Gorman ran affairs for the remainder of the day with Crosbie grabbing two seconds and a first, Norwood (two firsts and a fifth) and Gorman (fourth, third and second). Jack O’Sullivan (KYC) caused an upset to the above proceedings in race two with a hard-fought third place.
In the Radials, twenty-six entries was lower than usual, with some away at the British Nationals and a few more in Kingston, Canada for the Radial Youth Worlds. Doubtless, the Radial fleet will be back up well over 40 for the Nationals in Ballyholme (Aug 22-25) especially as this is the venue for the 2020 Radial Youth Europeans. Out on Lough Derg, racing was as close as ever but the home club’s Jack Fahey stormed into an overnight lead with three first’s and a second. This was despite a lower-key sailing season for Fahey, what with that pesky Leaving Cert getting in the way! Paddy Cunnane from Fenit took the other win and was basically snapping at Fahey’s heels all day, along with the speedy Rob Keal of RCYC. Paddy’s younger sister, Ellie, was the best of the rest on Saturday and seems to be improving rapidly this season. Thankfully Paddy at 6 foot 2 and almost 80kgs has an escape route into the Standard rigs next year, before Ellie starts beating him consistently! There was great racing throughout the fleet with a couple of Masters having their moments in the sun, none more so than LDYC ex-Commodore John Leech who had one great race right up at the front in his mustard coloured boat, sail number 82242. That’s a 1980 hull by the way - and that tells you all you need to know about the longevity of Laser hulls. But wait! Poor John came ashore to find he’d been black-flagged.
On Sunday, sailors were greeted to a light Westerly 3-4 knot breeze. The race committee duly postponed proceedings for a half-hour while the breeze flip-flopped before settling down, albeit for a short while. Standards were off first with a similar outcome to Saturday with Rogers taking the win in the first race, followed by Conway in second and Keal in third. The sixth and final race was postponed while the breeze shifted 180 degrees and the race course was relocated. A tightly compact fleet reached the weather mark within just a few boat lengths of each other making the downwind a tight affair. Keal, Rogers and Conway once again showed off their superior boat handling ability to claim first, second and third respectively which was the final placed outcome of the Standard results, following count-back. Standard Masters results were Gavan Murphy (RSGYC - fourth overall and first master), Alex Fernie (GBSC - sixth overall and second master) and Conor Roche (RIYC - seventh overall and third master).
In the Radials on Sunday, the same top three were up-front again, but Ellie Cunnane posted a super 2nd in the opener. Erin Mcllwaine from Newcastle YC showed the long trip from Newcastle YC up North was well worth it, with two really solid 4th places. Like many, Erin is now lucky enough to combine Laser with 29er sailing and it looks like all-round skill levels get enhanced. A 1st and 2nd were easily enough for Local Hero Fahey to wrap up the title but Rob Keal’s closing race win edged the unlucky Paddy Cunnane into 3rd on the dreaded tie-break! In the Radial Masters (who again travelled in good numbers) reaction-time to Derg’s ever-changing conditions was definitely slower than with the youths but, for the record, the 1-2-3 was Sean Craig (6th overall), Marco Sorgassi (10th overall) and Shirley Gilmore (12th overall) – all three being members of the RStGYC and it’s burgeoning Dun Laoghaire Masters fleet.
In the 4.7 fleet, Crosbie continued on in the same rich vein of form as the Saturday with two first-place results. Norwood also showed fantastic consistency with two third-place results, while Gorman also bagged another second in race five. O’Connor again managed to upset proceedings in race six with a second-place result. Overall 4.7 results were Crosbie, Norwood and Gorman in first, second and third respectively with Flanagan taking first girl and fourth overall.
Report by Sean Craig & Gavan Murphy