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Lough Ree's Caolan "The Hat" Croasdell & Fiona Drayne win Irish Mirror Nats at Sligo

17th August 2020
"The Hat" in his hot glass boat…Caolan Croasdell and Fiona Drayne (Lough Ree YC) on their way to winning the Mirror Nats, with Chloe & Fionn Murphy (also Lough Ree and fourth overall) close aboard, and the black-hulled Blue Away (David Evans & Jack Draper, Sligo YC, 5th overall) chasing them both "The Hat" in his hot glass boat…Caolan Croasdell and Fiona Drayne (Lough Ree YC) on their way to winning the Mirror Nats, with Chloe & Fionn Murphy (also Lough Ree and fourth overall) close aboard, and the black-hulled Blue Away (David Evans & Jack Draper, Sligo YC, 5th overall) chasing them both Photo: Con Murphy

With the Mirror Worlds 2021 scheduled for Sligo YC at Rosses Point, there was an extra edge to the weekend's two-day Mirror Nationals 2020 on the race area under the unmistakable profile of Ben Bulben. And though the fleet size of 25 boats reflected the current constraining effects of the national pandemic situation, it was a quality lineup throughout, with every sail number above 60,000 mark, and most of them topping 70.000.

That said, classic wooden Mirrors kept up their end of the show very well, but the overall winner – Caolan Croasdell's The Priest, no. 70696 from Lough Ree YC – was very much state-of-the-art minimum-weight GRP hull. But for those thinking of heading the same way, the word is that in this evergreen class, the demand for similar boats is currently outstripping the available supply.

With light to very light airs mostly from the east and southeast forecast, it wasn't looking too hopeful as Race Officer Con Murphy – making a proper expedition of it with the famous Murphy-Mac Aleavey camper-van as his personal base in the Northwest – set up the first race in a light sou'easter on the Saturday morning. But he was properly impressed by how these vintage versatile boats come very much to life as the wind pushes above 5 knots, and they got in two good contests on the Saturday before it fell flat with Races 4 & 5 going west through loss of wind.

Mirror dinghy racing in Sligo BayA chance to enjoy the view – Saturday afternoon's calm put paid to Race 3 & 4 but offered every opportunity to admire the view of Ben Bulben. Photo: Con Murphy

The fleet came from just three Mirror strongholds – Sligo itself, Lough Ree Yacht Club, and Blessington Lake in West Wicklow – and it was Sarah White and Cathal Langan of the host club who won the first race from Lough Ree's Conor Paul and Leo O'Doherty, with Croasdell – crewed by Fiona Drayne – putting down a marker with a useful third.

The Lough Ree determination was then clearly made as Croasdell and Drayne won Saturday's other race before the wind shut down to afford the crews time to enjoy the view. Second this time had gone to previous winner White and Langan, while a new duo came into the frame with Sligo's Isaac Marsden and Ronan O'Connor in third.

Sunday brought a more lively easterly wind, 8 to 10 knots and sometimes even better, with four races being put through in crisp style. New names came to the fore at the front of the frame in Race 5 (third race completed) with the win taken by Caroline & Lucy Coulter (Sligo) of the Bronze fleet, but Golds were there too with Croasdell second, and Sligo's David Evans and Jack Draper third.

Mirror dinghy racing in Sligo BayWhat a difference a day makes – the Mirrors proved that a breeze of 8 – 10 knots plus is all they need for really good racing. Photo: Con Murphy

The Coulter crew were on a roll, bringing joy to Bronze level sailors everywhere, as they also won the fourth contest - in fact, it was Sligo all the way for the first five places, second going to Sarah White and Cathal Mangan, while Jessica and Mark Greer were third, while the best of the Lough Ree squad were Chloe & Fionn Murphy at sixth, with Croasdell taking the 8th for what he hoped would be his discard.

It was. Although Race 7 (5th completed) saw the Greers from Sligo improve on their previous third to take the win, with second being the Murphys and third Evan & Draper, Croasdell was back in the hunt with a useful fourth, and thus everything hung on the final race and the relative positions of Caolan "The Hat" Croasdale for Lough Ree and Sarah White for Sligo.

"The Hat" was soon firmly in place. He managed a first while somehow Sarah White and Cathal Langan found themselves back in sixth, second in the final race going to the Murphys while Evans and Draper were third.

Thus the overall picture was still close enough, with Croasdell and Drayne just two points clear of White and Langan, while Caroline & Lucy Coulter struck a mighty blow for Bronzers with third overall, just six points further down the line.

Mirror dinghy racing in Sligo Bay Wood versus glass – Chloe Murphy and Caolan Croasdell drawing the battle lines.

In the overall picture, it was Lough Ree or Sligo all way down to tenth place, where Blessington's Max Cully and Lucas Flynn with no. 70026 (called Womaniser for reasons best known to themselves) put down a marker for the hill folk of Leinster.

Irish Mirror Nationals 2020 Results:

1st The Priest (Caolan Croasdell & Fiona Drayne, Lough Ree YC) 3,1,2,(8),4,1:19pts; 2nd A Close Shave (Sarah White & Cathal Mangan, Sligo YC) 1,2,4,2, (6),6:21pts; 3rd 70837 (Caroline & Lucy Coulter, SYC) 4, (26 OCS), 1,1,5,10:27pts; 4th Red Hot (Chloe & Fionn Murphy, LRYC, (7),5,7,6,2,2, 29pts; 5th Blue Away (David Evans & Jack Draper, SYC) 11,(26 dsq),3,4,3,3, 30pts

With it all done and dusted, the Race Officer's Command HQ wagon headed for the hills. "Staycation" is very much the theme for serial race officer Con Murphy as he fitted the Sligo Mirrors Nationals into two weeks vacation with a spot of lateral thinking about how best to use the Murphy–Mac Aleavey camper-van while still slotting in Race Officering duties.

Thus's final Mirror Nats 2020 de-briefing was received at a reasonable hour this morning from a choice and secret spot in the Curlew Mountains. We could smell the coffee and hear the very rural bird-song. A neat and peaceful contrast to brisk and salty Rosses Point.

the foothills of the Curlew MountainsRace Officer De-compression Centre – among the foothills of the Curlew Mountains.

Published in Mirror
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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