#modelboats – Despite an uneasy weather forecast and torrential rain during the week model boat skippers heading for the Ulster IOM championships just couldn't complain about the weekend as we had light wind, a good few sunny spells and no rain at all writes Gilbert Louis.
With this in mind we had more skippers than last year's Ulster's championships. They came from the Republic, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England, 18 in total.
Saturday saw the whole fleet of 18 boats sailing together. Despite talks of splitting into 2 fleets the decision was made to keep us all in one fleet which has one key advantage. We get twice as many race and time on the water and this is part of sailing.
The format was sets of 3 races pretty much back to back with only a few minutes for skippers to make adjustments if needed between the races, to tune their boats to the conditions. Or giving an opportunity for quick fixes in case of brakeage.
Then a longer break before the next set of 3 races. This format allowed us to spend great time on the water and get the most of the day sailing not watching others sail. Everyone enjoyed it.
Sure it also made for spectacular starts ! 18 boats on the starting line is not something we're used to so you have to be on the first line or you get spat out at the back very quickly after the start. This is excellent training for us as we don't have that experience in Ireland but that's what they do at international levels so a good exposure for us.
The trick is to be amongst the front line of boats in the last few seconds before the start. You need to make your space and defend it. Not easy when you're in your boat, even more difficult when you have your boat in a swarm of other boats all looking to have the perfect start.
The start and first beat to the weather mark will dictate pretty much 70-80% of your race result. It is so much easier to control the fleet from the front then try to sail through it to get there. Particularly when there is very little difference in boat speed. It is too easy when you're behind to say my boat is not as fast as the other at the front but actually I found that my boat speed particularly on the Sunday was very similar to them. So the difference is elsewhere: a good start, clean air, going on the right side, staying clear of contacts and good tacks. Yes the difference will show in making mistake on any of these and at the end when you add all the boat lengths you lost in a bad tack, going the wrong side or worth a bad start and I don't even count getting cought up with other boats, penalties and these add up to several boat lengths and places between you and the first boat.
Jeff Kay from HYC who's our most experienced skipper having competed at several European and World championships was able to use that experience and get great starts and was "fighting" for top 5 places on regular basis.
There were 5 of us coming from the Republic: Jeff and his brother Stephen Kay, both racing the now very popular and successful Britpop designed by Brad Gibson. Then Des and myself sailing a XP designed by Frank Russell, and Oscar, a new addition to our fleet who came to compete for his first ever IOM regatta with my trusty V6 designed by Ian Vickers.
The intensity of the races back to back took its toll on Jeff's back and he had to sit a a number of races despite really good performance on the water.
Stephen did well up until his electric issue started. He got very irregular results due to a random receiver problem which got worse and forced him to abandon the event. A real pity as he also had the pace.
Des struggled on the saturday with his XP, trying to find a good tuning for the light wind conditions and his work paid out as he was right in the fight on day 2.
Gilbert was trying his brand new XP which only touched the water once before for the floatation test so it was very much unknown whether that design could match the reputable speed of the Britpop. Race after race Gilbert fixed a number of teething problems which improved reliability and upwind performance but an alignment problem of the gooseneck forcing the main boom upwards as the sheets were eased, spilling the wind out meant that he coudn't gain places on the downwind legs but was rather loosing some.
On day 2 and a fixed gooseneck Gilbert managed to bring the pace of the boat closer to the best. But the starts were still a problem which coudn't be fixed in tuning. Yet race after race he was working his way up to the front of the fleet and finished on a high as he managed a stunning start of the last race and after good tactical decision led at the weather mark and managed to keep no 46 britpop at bay to lead to the finish. So the XP has potential, more time sailing in different conditions will give us more information on this new design.
Bottom line we still have work to do in Ireland to match the Scots and English but we're making progress which is encouraging. A great meal at Paddy's barn pub put an end to this great event before people left to get their ferry back.
Supporting this event is our repeat sponsor Catsails so thank you Nigel and Sue for your on going support.
Brian O'Neill planned and organised this event with the support of Bill, Ali and others making this year's event another great success.
Next is the Winter Series in Howth Yacht Club that starts shortly.