In stark contrast to the blustery conditions of Day One of the IOM Championship, day two started with light and very shifty conditions.
That steep terrain directly above the Western shore of the venue did in fact come strongly into play.
A moderate westerly breeze one would normally expect to be sailed on No.2 Rig was prevented from reaching the Lough by this unusual topography, causing a dilution of its strength, swirling it around then finally allowing it to settle over the race area from a South Easterly direction.
Such large variations in both direction and pressure made it very challenging for both Race Team and Competitors and only after significant alterations to the layout of the course could racing got underway with a single fleet of 14 boats.
Steve Taylor from Aberdeen, sailing his Britpop put in a notably strong performance in the first races of the morning session with 3 wins, but both the Ulster and Irish skippers were also beginning to fare much better in these lighter, yet difficult No 1 Rig conditions. Team Captain Richard Rowan sailing his Topiko, lead Ulster's recovery, scoring 3 wins along with several top 3 finishes; his work ashore in helping team mates refine their boat tuning for the challenging conditions also paid dividends.
Overnight leader Ali Law from Peterhead was not getting the consistently good results like he did on the first day, having been called OCS in several races. Local East Down skipper Brian O'Neill sailing his Stealth added to the Ulster team's tally by taking advantage of splitting from the fleet at the leeward gate, then twice recovering the lead and holding off the dominant Britpops in Race 10's final beat to take a deserved win.
Irish Team Captain Gilbert Louis sailing his V6, continued their recovery with several top 5 finishes throughout the course of the day. This performance was topped by a great win in Race 13 where he got off the start line in clean air and expertly covered the fleet to secure a well-earned bullet, further contributing to the Irish team's tally.
The Scottish team however, determined not to give up the advantage they gained on the first day, were fighting hard as big gains and losses could be made around the course, even in the last few meters before the finish line.
Ian Dundas remained consistent throughout the day, and with a string of great results, lead his fellow Scottish skippers in defending and consolidating Day One's advantage.
Over the course of the 17-race Championships Ian scored no fewer than 3 firsts, 7 seconds and 4 third places, never dropping out of the top six over the whole event to clinch the overall title of 2013 Ulster Champion. A mightily impressive set of results by anyone's standards.
There were many great individual battles within each of the races, but perhaps most heartening was to see IOM newcomer and ex-Marblehead skipper, Neil Suitor of Lough Erne, starting to get to grips with his borrowed boat and finishing a very credible 9th overall. One to watch for the future.
Despite the initial concerns during Day 2 the wind held steady enough to set fair courses and it held through till mid-afternoon allowing 9 races to be completed, one more than on the previous day.
Saturday brought its drama with very gusty conditions, requiring many skippers to hastily affect repairs just to stay on the water racing, surviving the early conditions of Day One.
Sunday brought a day of intense concentration, sometimes tempered with frustration in the fluky conditions. Hard fought places often vanished as the fickle breeze left them only to fill in and help boats behind, causing either glee or great disappointment.
But on both days the battle-hardened and more experienced skippers skills shone through in what proved to be a very challenging event for all competitors.
1. Ian Dundas 29 points
2. Steve Taylor 35 points
3. Ali Law 35 points
4. Richard Rowan 40 points
5. Pat Johnston 64 points
6. Richard Ennos 78 points
Celtic Cup Results:
1. Scottish Team 77 points
2. Irish Team 107 points
3. Ulster Team 154 points
Competitors retired to Paddy's Barn for Prize giving and a well-earned meal.
Thanks went to overall Event Sponsors Cat Sails, to Race Team Wayne Lavery, Bill Scott & John Darcy.
Thanks also went to the Department of Culture and Leisure for granting us permission to use the venue to host the event.
A final word of thanks went to the Shore Team sisters, Ashleen O'Neill, Jackie McKeown and Joleen McKinney for organising, cooking and delivering a much welcomed on site hot lunch of Irish broth, with sandwiches,
followed by tea or coffee and homemade fruit cake. Well done the girls!
IOM Ulster Championships Prizes:
1st overall - The Noel Pantry Trophy, along with a Top Suit of Cat Sails
2nd overall - A Cat Sails Rig Bag
3rd overall - A Cat Sails Boat Bag
The Celtic Challenge Cup was awarded to the winning team, along with a 400th anniversary bottle of Bushmills from the distillery to celebrate their win.
For the furthest Travelled team:
A bottle of champagne was also awarded to the furthest travelled competitors - skippers from the North East of Scotland, with Team Captain Ali Law of Peterhead being the farthest travelled skipper and making a round trip of a whopping 680miles! Ali also reported on his Facebook page that he arrived safely home at 0300hrs on the morning after the event, and even managed to make it into work at 0700hrs.
Those North Eastern skippers - tough competitors and even tougher men!
The success of this inaugural Celtic Challenge and the friendships that have been built will ensure that it becomes a fixture on the Annual Scottish/Irish IOM Racing Calendar, with Scotland ready to host the 2014 event.
Report by Ian Dundas/Brian O'Neill.