Over 100 sailors competed across 4 days for the Irish Laser Nationals at Ballyholme Yacht Club from 22nd to 25th August 2019.
Nine races were completed in the first 3 days of the championship in moderate to fresh southerly breezes which swung back and forwards each day to keep competitors on their toes. The Race Management team led by PRO Sheila Lewis from County Antrim kept races moving each day as swiftly as possible aided by separate finishing boat which allowed the Standard and 4.7 fleets to get away as soon as they were finished and not have to wait on the Radials who as always were prone to a few general recalls despite the Uniform flag in operation for most of the four days. The final day saw lots of sunshine and eventually a sea breeze filled in but too late to get all fleets away before the time limit.
Sailors came from far and wide across Ireland with a few visitors from England and Wales in preparation for the Laser Radial Youth European Championship which Ballyholme Yacht Club will host in July 2020. Most of the events this summer have been in relatively light winds so Day 1 especially was spent by many brushing up on their hiking and surfing techniques and discovering muscles they’d forgotten about for a while. Noticeably the first day also saw a number of broken masts following downwind capsizes in the shifting breeze. One visiting Radial sailor Arthur Farley from the Isle of Wight blew a number of race leads with death rolls on the runs although still had a smile on his face at the end of the event: “This year is about learning to sail in shifting breezes and learning the venue before next years Europeans - I am more used to chasing tides around the Isle of Wight, and the performance here was more important than the eventual result.” The strongest wind was actually to be found on Race 7 at the start of Day 3 but by then most of the fleets were breeze veterans, even if their legs were aching.
Wallace wins Standard Division
Ronan Wallace of Wexford Boat Club showed the way home to the rest of the Laser Standard fleet in 8 of the 9 races. Darragh O’Sullivan managed to get in front on Race 9 and spoil the perfect score. Fionn Conway was always close as well with Master Nick Walsh and Conor Simms both trying to get in on the action but getting passed by the finish line. Ballyholme Yacht Club’s Grand Master Charlie Taylor was 5th with Mark Mackey 3rd Master.
RCYC's Crosbie Wins 4.7 Battle
The 4.7 fleet saw tight racing between Royal Corks’s Michael Crosbie, England’s Luke Anstey and the Nationals Conor Gorman. Michael won Day 1 while Conor had Day 2 and Luke chased hard on Day 3 to have equal points with Michael but only one point in front of Conor. Michael’s three race wins across the championship put him in lead position going into the final day where he remained when the racing was cancelled. First girl was Ellen Barbour from County Antrim YC followed by Eva Briggs of RNIYC and Sophie Kilmartin from Malahide YC. Silver fleet was won by Kei Walker with Ollie Haig 2nd and Oisín Hughes 3rd.
O’Suilleabhain Takes Radial Title
With the 2020 Europeans in view, the Radial fleet was always going to be about bragging rights before next years youth championship. A number of UK Radial squad travelled over following their own championships in Largs 2 weeks ago where Dan McGaughey came 1st Youth and 2nd overall. Unfortunately, things didn’t go all his way back at home despite being best boat on Days 1 and 3. Instead, Kinsale’s Michael O’Suilleabhain and the visiting Kai Wolgram from Llyn Brenig fought out the two top positions with a win in Race 9 squeezing Michael back into the lead by just 1 point. Tom Higgins came 3rd with 2 race wins under his belt with notable performances from Tralee Bay’s Paddy Cunnane and Gurnard SC’s Arthur Farley who won or lead races at times. Unfortunately, Michael and Kai didn’t get to fight it out on the final day giving Ireland the win in both the UK and Irish Laser Radial Nationals. Clare Gorman was first lady followed by Paddy’s sister Ellie Cunnane and Suzanne Flannigan.
Royal Cork YC won the team prize (pictured below) with Nick Walsh, Michael Crosbie and Rob Keal in notable positions
The Mayor of North Down and Borough Council Alderman Bill Keery thanked the many visitors for travelling to Bangor and encouraging to spend more time here highlighting the many attractions and events on especially with the August Open House Festival (this writer is heading to see The Specials at Bangor seafront after the close of play tonight). With the Laser Ulster’s and Radial Youth Europeans planned for Ballyholme next summer, many will be spending a fortnight training and racing and hopefully relaxing in North Down in July 2020.
Overall results from the 2019 Irish Laser Nationals can be viewed here