Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Ballyholme ILCA Sailors Bill O’Hara and Conrad Simpson Competing in NZ and Australia

23rd January 2024
Bill O'Hara racing as a Great Grand Master, finished eighth in the New Zealand National Laser championships in Napier
Bill O'Hara racing as a Great Grand Master, finished eighth in the New Zealand National Laser championships in Napier

Bill O’Hara and Conrad Simpson from Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough are used to travelling far and wide to race their Lasers and in Bill’s case, to officiate at world events, but at the moment, they are both on the other side of the world having competed in the New Zealand National Laser championships in Napier, a seaport on the east coast of the North Island and in February will race at the World ILCA 7/Laser championships in Adelaide, the capital city in South Australia.

They were part of the 26-strong ILCA 7 Masters (Open) fleet. Bill, racing as a Great Grand Master, finished a very respectable 8th, counting a third and fourth on the last day, making all his training pay off. He is an Olympic sailor, international race official and former RYA Northern Ireland Youth Performance Manager. Bill was awarded the OBE in 2021 (Order of the British Empire) for services to sailing.

Conrad (Grand Master) finished in 20th place, with his best place, 11th in the fourth race. Last year he finished 11th in the 23-strong ILCA 7 fleet in the Irish National Championships at Howth and 8th of 16 at Tralee Bay SC the previous year.

Both sailors have a long association with Ballyholme Yacht Club; Bill has been instrumental in the 70s in growing the Laser class at the club. He was Afloat Sailor of the Month in December 2022

Conrad, too, has been a member of the Bangor club for a long time. He was Reserve Finn competitor to Bill at the 1988 Seoul Olympics but now sails a Laser regularly.

The next stop is Adelaide from February 2-10 for the Laser World Championships. 

2024 Olympic Trial

There are several Irish names on the entry list, including Finn Lynch, who ranked 12th in the ILCA World Rankings and also Ewan McMahon, who will compete in an Irish Olympic trial against Lynch for the Irish ILCA7 berth in Paris.

As regular Afloat readers will recall, back in November, McMahon launched his Green Rebel 'Independent' Paris Olympic bid after his contract concluded with Irish Sailing.

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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About the ILCA/Laser Dinghy

The ILCA, formerly known as the Laser, is the most produced boat in the world, with 220,000 units built since 1971.

It's easy to see why the single-handed dinghy has won the title of the most widely distributed boat of all time.

The Laser is a one-design dinghy, the hulls being identical but three rigs that can be used according to the size and weight of the sailor.

The class is international, with sailors from 120 countries. The boat has also been an Olympic class since 1996, being both the men's and women's singlehanded dinghy.

Three rigs are recognised by the International Laser Class Association (ILCA):

  • ILCA 4: sail of 4.70m2
  • ILCA 6: sail of 5.76 m2
  • ILCA 7: sail of 7.06 m2