Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Irish OK Dinghy Class News & Regatta Results

The scoreline's impressive but it belies the fact that on the water the National Yacht Club's Finn Lynch is not getting things all his own way at Royal Cork Yacht Club's Laser National Championships. A string of wins came to an end in race six this morning when Tokyo 2020 rival Liam Glynn, the former Topper World Champion, took the gun but it was business as usual in races seven and eight as Lynch built a six–point advantage over the Ballyholme YC man. Royal Cork's own Nick Walsh is third but some 17–points off Glynn.

Although Johnny Durcan made the tough decision to sit out the Laser Radial Worlds in Medemblik, Holland after day two (he was lying thirteenth after the first day) the Cork helmsman, who is recovering from injury after a capsize in California, was in fact back in action at the Nationals today, on the third day of competition in the full rig division, and counted a 3,4,2 to be right up there with Olympic trialists, Lynch and Glynn. See the standard rig results here

Race officer Peter Crowley sailed the combined fleets in a westerly breeze outside Cork Harbour today.

Laser Nats 17 2923Sean Craig moves up to second overall in the 32-boat Radial fleet after eight races sailed Photo: Bob Bateman

Royal Cork's Luke McGrath stays top of the Radials and he has 20–point margin over Sean Craig, a recent Radial rig convert, who has moved into seconf place. The Royal St. George multi–champion is now four points clear of club mate Patrick Cahill on 36 points. Read the Radial results here.

In the 4.7 fleet, Jack Fahy also maintains his overall lead with a seven point cushion and in a show of strength for the Royal St. George Yacht Club, another George helmsman is second with Tom higgins counting 18–points. Third is Michael Carroll from Kinsale YC. 4.7 results are here.

Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109Laser Nats 17 3109

Published in Laser

The National Yacht Club's mens Laser dinghy ace, Finn Lynch was hit with a U Flag penalty today that keeps him 23rd of 25 at the end of the second day of World Cup Final racing in Santander, Spain. Royal Irish Yacht Club sailor Saskia Tidey, also from Dun Laoghaire, but now sailing for Team GB, leads the 49erFX fleet after six races sailed with partner Charlotte Dobson. Results are here.

Santander was baked in sunshine for the second day of World Cup racing as sailors looked to either capitalise on a great opening day, or play catch up after slow starts.

Conditions were near on perfect for the 260 sailors from 41 nations racing across the ten Olympic fleets and Open Kiteboarding. Not a cloud in the sky and 11-15 knots of breeze coming from the north east enabled a full on day of racing.

Saskia tidey SantanderTeam GB's Charlotte Dobson with Dun Laoghaire crew Saskia Tidey lead in Santander. Photo: Jesus Renedo/World Sailing

Sailors who had slow starts yesterday (6 June) used the day to make amends for any mistakes and climb the leaderboard. The overnight leaders, meanwhile, looked to maintain their focus and keep hold of the top spots.

Germany's Philipp Buhl was full of smiles ashore after racing following a consistent performance in the Men's One Person Dinghy, Laser.

Buhl grabbed a third and a fifth to move up into third place and fully in contention. As he de-rigged his Laser after racing, he was in a buoyant mood, "It was a really nice day,” he commented. "My results are good and the conditions are perfect. I cannot remember a time when I've ever come back with a big smile like today, lots of sunshine and waves made it perfect.”

The Laser fleet in Santander is full of leading competitors. Two-time World Champion Nick Thompson (GBR), Olympic medallists Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) and Pavlos Kontides (CYP) are just two of the leading lights.

Grabbing a spot at the front of the fleet is no easy task as Buhl continued, "Races like today are always hard because you must hike and everything is quite exhausting. There are a few leading guys here and you must stick and fight for the metres to come first, second or third.”

France's Jean Baptiste Bernaz holds on to his overnight lead after he picked up his second race win of the week and a third. Charlie Buckingham (USA) sits inbetween Bernaz and Buhl.

The day belonged to Evi van Acker (BEL) and Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) in the Women's One Person Dinghy, Laser Radial as they shared the top two places in both races.

Rindom snapped up the opening victory with van Acker following. The positions were reversed in the preceding race and the pair have moved to the top of the leaderboard. Van Acker, London 2012 bronze medallist, leads on four points and Rindom, Rio 2016 bronze medallist, follows on seven.

American World Cup winner Vasileia Karachaliou (GRE) follows in third.

Spain's Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco were on form in the Mixed Multihull, Nacra 17, winning two races and claiming a second. Echavarri and Pacheco know Santander very well and have spent many hours training and racing on the waters. So when the pair saw the forecast they knew what had to be done, "Today we could not afford any mistakes. The weather is very typical of Santander so it was an easy day to read the conditions.

"The key point today was to have a good start and have good speed. That is it.”

They dominated the first two races and were unlucky not to claim a third. Echvarri concluded, "In the third race we had some problems but we managed to recover from it and we almost took first place. There is still a long way to go but we are happy to know we are performing well. As I like to say, we're taking it step by step.”

Tom Phipps and Nicola Boniface (GBR) and Ruggero Tita and Caterina Marianna Banti (ITA) occupy the final podium spots after six races.

Defending World Cup Final Champion Oliver Bridge (GBR) found his form on the second day of competition, winning five out of six races in the blue fleet to leap into the podium positions. Sitting in third, he is two points off brother Guy. Nico Parlier (FRA) maintained his excellent form and snapped up five wins in the yellow fleet to extend his lead.

Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Hannah Mills sailing with Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) stole the show in the Women's Two Person Dinghy, 470. Mills, who has been sailing in the 49erFX recently, has made a temporary switch back to the 470 and had no trouble finding her feet on the second day of competition. The British pair claimed a pair of race wins and lead Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes van Veen (NED) who have not lost a regatta in 2017.

It's the early stages of the competition with six fleet races and a Medal Race to go so Zegers and van Veen will remain focused on continuing their run.

Olympic bronze medallists Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) were on fire in the men's fleet, winning both of their races. They advance to first overall and have put five points between themselves and David Bargehr and Lukas Mahr (AUT) who are second.

A pair of second place finishes was enough for Great Britain's Ed Wright to grab the lead in the Finn, the Heavyweight One Person Dinghy. He leads race four winner Zsombor Berecz (HUN) by three points. Anders Pedersen of Norway won the opening race of the day and occupies seventh.

In the Men's and Women's Windsurfer, RS:X, two sailors in both fleets dominated the day.

Kiran Badloe (NED) swept the field aside in the men's division, winning every single race to grab the overall lead, two points ahead of Shahar Zubari (ISR). Meanwhile, Patricia Freitas (BRA) snapped up a pair of wins and a third in the women's fleet. Her advantage stands at six points over China's Yunxiu Lu, winner of the American World Cup.

Lukasz Przybytek and Pawel Kolodzinski (POL) hold onto their advantage in the Men's Skiff, 49er. A steady string of races gives them a one point advantage over James Peters and Fynn Sterritt (GBR). Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell (GBR) were the standout racers in the 49er, grabbing a pair of race wins and a third to move into third spot overall, within sight of the leaders.

There is still very little separation in the 49erFX, Women's Skiff, with eight points splitting the top six. Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey (GBR) are in pole position following a 3-2-1 day.

Racing resumes at 12:00 local time on Thursday 8 June. The week of racing will culminate in the Live Medal Races on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 June.

Published in Tokyo 2020

The World Cup Final kicked off in Santander, Spain today (6 June) with one Irish Olympic sailing squad sailor in attendance. Finn Lynch of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire is 23rd from 25 of the world's top Laser sailors. Another Dun Laoghaire sailor, Saskia Tidey of the Royal Irish Yacht Club, who is now sailing for Team GB, took an opening race win and now lies sixth overall after three races in the Womens' 49erFX with Charlotte Dobson.

Check out the overall results here.

It's a common phrase in sailing, you cannot win on the opening day, but you could lose it. Therefore the 260 competitors from 41 nations racing across the ten Olympic and open kiteboarding fleets strived to put good results on the board and lay the foundation for the week ahead.

A 10-13 knot westerly breeze enabled sailors to complete all their races across a cloud covered Bay of Biscay and Santander Bay.

The top five teams in the Women's Skiff, 49erFX, are split by three points after a day where each of them put three 'keepers' on the board. Argentina's Victoria Travascio and Maria Branz occupy the first place followed by Great Britain's Kate Macgregor and Sophie Ainsworth and Brazil's Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze.

Singapore's Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low are tied with the Brazilians and for their first-time racing in Santander, came off the water with smiles on their faces. "It was a pretty good first race, we were easing into it,” said Low. Lim continued, "We got a good understanding of the race area from our first race and that helped with the rest of the day.”

The pair recently finished third at the Princesa Sofia Regatta in Palma de Mallorca, Spain and ninth at the French World Cup and they're enjoying their sailing together, "We have been competing together for two years. Cecilia is five years older than me, so I just finished youth and then we jumped into sailing together. It's been an awesome partnership,” explained Lim.

Low added, "We have been able to gel together and communicate very well. It's going very well.”

Although they're close to the podium after day one, the Singaporeans know there's nine fleet races remaining ahead of the Medal Race and their plan, for now, is simple, "We're looking into our processes and seeing how we can improve,” concluded Low.

In the Men's Skiff, 49er, Lukasz Przybytek and Pawel Kolodzinski (POL) are tied on five points with James Peters and Fynn Sterritt of Great Britain. Three races were held with wins going the way of the Polish pair, Jack Hawkins and Chris Thomas (GBR) as well as Argentinean brothers Yago and Klaus Lange.

Switzerland's Mateo Sanz was prepared for a final day Men's Windsurfer, RS:X, duel with Louis Giard (FRA) at the French leg of the World Cup Series to decide the honours. However, after failing to keep clear of a rival competitor ahead of the final day, Sanz received a disqualification and dropped completely out of contention.

Fast forward to the World Cup Final and Sanz has erased the French headache from his memories and knows what he must do to perform in Spain.

"I will try and avoid those situations,” he said through a smile, "I need to be more consistent. That is in the past and now I am focusing on this competition and trying to do my best.”

Sanz certainly brought his best on the opening day of racing. He finished second in the opening race, backed it up with a first and solidified it with a fourth, which he discards. He holds an early advantage over Thomas Goyard (FRA) but the Frenchman discards a 16th so will have to be cautious this week.

In the Women's Windsurfer fleet, Katy Spychakov (ISR) is first overall. Emma Wilson (GBR) and Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Peina Chen (CHN) follow.

Home nation favourite Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco (ESP) got better as the day went on in the Mixed Multihull, Nacra 17. A third, followed by a second and then a first puts them in control at the early stages of the event. John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR) and Tom Phipps and Nicola Boniface (GBR) trail the Spaniards by one point.

French World Cup winner Nico Parlier (FRA) was the form rider in the Foiling Formula Kite. Five races wins out of six in the yellow fleet hand him the overall lead. Guy Bridge (GBR) won three races in the blue fleet and is second overall.

Defending World Cup Final champion Oliver Bridge (GBR) is down in sixth place.

In the Two Person Dinghies, 470, Japan's Ryo Imamura and Jumpei Hokazono controlled the men's division, snatching up a 1-2. Four Japanese Men's 470 teams are racing in Santander, working as a team to make gains and improvements. Although Imamura and Hokazono lead, the remaining three crews will be piling on the pressure in the coming days.

The second win of the day in the men's fleet went to Italy's Giacomo Ferrari and Giulio Calabro. However, before racing started the Italians received a discretionary penalty as their boat did not weigh-in the specifications laid out in the class rules. They therefore received a 40% penalty to their days scores and are ninth overall.

Spain's Barbara Cornudella and Sara Lopez sailed consistently, picking up a third and a second in the Women's fleet. Silvia Mas and Patricia Cantero (ESP), Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Hannah Mills, sailing with Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) and pre-regatta favourites Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes van Veen (NED) follow, tied on seven points.

Great Britain's Ed Wright has the early lead in the Men's Heavyweight Dinghy, Finn, but the pack of racers behind him are all tight. Just ten points split the top eight. Henry Wetherell (GBR) and Alex Muscat (ESP) took the day's race wins.

Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) and Charlie Buckingham (USA) share the Men's One Person Dinghy, Laser, lead. Both racers were consistent on the opening day and are level on five points. The Frenchman recorded a race win and a fourth and the American picked up a 3-2 scorecard.

2016 Youth World Champion Dolores Moreira (URU) opened her Santander account with a fifth in the opening race but moved to the top of the Women's One Person Dinghy, Laser Radial, leaderboard after a bullet in the final race of the day.

Moreira is three points clear of Vasileia Karachaliou (GRE), gold medallist at the 2017 World Cup Series event in Miami, USA. The opening race win went the way of Evi van Acker (BEL) who is seventh overall.

The discard kicks in after three races in the Laser, Laser Radial, 470s and Finn so changes are to be expected after Wednesday's action.

Racing resumes at 12:00 local time on Wednesday 7 June. The week of racing will culminate in the Live Medal Races on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 June.

Published in Tokyo 2020

The National Yacht Club's Finn Lynch, who was Ireland's youngest ever Olympic helmsmen in Rio, has sailed in his first ever medal race at Delta Lloyd regatta, Holland yesterday. 

Lynch finished eighth in the medal race and tenth overall.

The Tokyo campaigner said he was happy with the week as a whole. 'I sailed very consistently and was rewarded for it! Looking forward to a few days off and then heading to Santander Spain to the World Cup Final!'.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Both Finn Lynch in the Laser and new Northern Ireland 49er combination Matt McGovern and Robbie Gilmore sit in the top ten of the Delta Lloyd Regatta Medemblik, Netherlands that started yesterday. Six Irish sailors into total are competing with great competition across seven classes so far. 

Many Olympic sailors raced their first event since Rio. There were also a number of sailors, training here in Medemblik, aiming for Tokyo 2020. The conditions on the water were great, with a nice breeze and plenty of sun.

Also competing from Ireland are Aisling Keller in the Laser Radials, and Cian Byrne and Patrick Crosbie in the 49ers. Results are here.

Focus for the Laser Radial sailors is mostly on the World Championships in Medemblik later this year. It was strong start from Britain's Alison Young, with two first places. It's also the first event back in the boat for gold Olympic medallist and Dutch favourite, Marit Bouwmeester but Ireland's Olympic silver medalist Annalise Murphy is not competing.

German 49er sailors try to stay calm
After the first day of racing we find Tim Fischer and Fabian Graf, team Germany, in the lead. "This event is more training for us. We're in the lead after the first day, which we didn't really expect. It has been a really good day after all. The next few days will probably be trickier. We just have to stay calm, sail well and get a good result to get into the medal race."

The competition in the 49erFX is very close. Croatian, Enia Nincevic, transferred from the 470 women to the 49erFX and is training with Igor Marenic, three time Olympian and gold medallist at the summer Olympics.

Published in Tokyo 2020

In the Laser Radial fleet Howth Yacht Club sailor Aoife Hopkins has placed 40th after the first day of the live medal races in Hyères, France writes Nathaniel Ogden. Showing a consistent mid-fleet performance throughout the week, Hopkins has placed ahead of fellow Irish sailor Aisling Keller of Lough Derg Yacht Club, who finished in 42nd today after a similarly consistent week in the middle of the pack. These are important results for the young Irish sailors in an early Olympic preparation event. As Aoife says, "I wasn't looking for a result at this regatta as its near my Leaving Cert but my process goal was to improve my starts. I've made massive progress on them and am getting a good start in most races now. So it's been successful all round."

The success story of the week came from the women's 49erFX fleet when RIYC sailor Saskia Tidey and helm Charlotte Dobson came in 3rd overall, winning a bronze medal in the 20 boat fleet. Having only sailed together for team GBR for 4 months, the young pair have proven to be major contenders in this year's Sailing World Cup, and will be ones to watch during the quadrennial leading up to Tokyo 2020, which will be Tidey's second Olympics in the 49erFX, but first crewing with Dobson.

NYC's Finn Lynch is sitting in 32nd place, out of 60 boats, in the men's Laser class after the first day of live medal racing at Hyères, as NE winds continued to hover around 10 knots.

Seven medals were confirmed today (Saturday) at Sailing's World Cup Series in Hyères, France.

In the first of two live Medal Race days, France's southern coast was blessed with glorious sunshine. Coupled with an 11-13 knot breeze from the west, the day was virtually perfect.

The skiffs, windsurfers, multihulls, foiling kiteboarders and the Para World Sailing 2.4 Norlin OD concluded racing.

As the Medal Races played out, there was also fighting for the top ten positions in the one person and two person dinghies ahead of Sunday's live final day of racing.

Spain's 49er team, Diego Botin and Iago Lopez, had the luxury of knowing that whatever happened in the Medal Race the gold medal was theirs. With an unassailable overnight lead, even with the double points on offer in the final race, they could not be beaten.

Reflecting on the impressive win, skipper Botin said, "It's been a really good week for us. We hope every time we come in to a Championship that we will be in with a chance at the end of the regatta and this time around we were really surprised that we were top with a day to spare.”

Digging deeper to find their secret to success, Botin confirmed a simple fact of sport, "It was a lot of things. But it really came down to yesterday when we sailed well and everyone else didn't.”

Holding on to silver was Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stu Bithell (GBR) who finished third in the Medal Race. The bronze medal went to Sweden's Carl Sylvan and Marcus Anjemark who just needed to stay ahead of nearest rivals Yago and Klaus Lange (ARG) which they did with ease as the Argentinean brothers fell to the back of the fleet finishing tenth.

In the 49erFX, Rio 2016 golden girls, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) have done it again as they claim another Medal Race and 2017 World Cup Series win. Backing up the gold they took in Miami, USA in Round One, the Brazilian girls were just too good for the fleet.

"We have nailed the year now with Miami and now Hyères,” said a smiling Grael, "but we have to keep our feet on the ground as we know there will be big competition ahead.”

One of those big competition's is the Final in Santander, Spain this coming June. So, could it be a clean sweep? "It would be awesome,” said Grael, "let's see what happens. The FX is a tough competition.”

Germany's Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz win silver and the new 2017 pairing of Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey (GBR) claim their first World Cup Series medal with a bronze.

Whatever Grael and Kunze can do, France's Louis Giard can do too. Just like the Brazilian FX sailors, the French windsurfer has also added the Hyères title to the Round One Miami gold.

Despite a nervy start, Giard has slowly but surely climbed the ladder to the top of the podium racing better and better throughout the regatta, as he explains, "It's another win for me after Miami. It wasn't an easy week of racing and I had to improve my level throughout the week. I did that so I am happy.”

One sailor in the Men's RS:X not happy is Mateo Sanz Lanz (SUI). While Giard started slow and gained confidence, Sanz Lanz seemingly did the opposite. With a tenth place finish in the double point Medal Race, Sanz Lanz missed out on the medals altogether allowing Piotr Myszka (POL) to take silver and Kiran Badloe (NED) to sneak in to take bronze.

Taking the Women's RS:X gold was Poland's Zofia Noceti-Klepacka. It has been a mixed bag of results from the Polish windsurfer, but in the end a string of high finishes throughout the week was enough to claim the title, "Today I enjoyed the racing. It was stable conditions and great planing. Compare that to yesterday when it was very hard.

"Overall though I have sailed consistent. If you think I haven't won a race but I have won gold. It was all about consistency.”

That consistency equated to a 23-point win over second placed Yunxiu Lu (CHN) who takes silver and a 32-point margin over third placed, and bronze medallist, Noga Geller (ISR).

If you are going to win a gold medal, you may as well win it with a first place in the Medal Race. That is what Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco (ESP) did in the Nacra 17.

For the Spanish team it seems that Hyères has been a collection of puzzle pieces fitting to make one golden picture, as Echavarri explains, "It's a good prize for a lot of things coming together. We are enjoying our sailing and have a solid base. We are putting everything we have learned in the last two years together and it is working well.”

French medal hopefuls Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet secured silver when they finished ahead of Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck (DEN). That meant the Danes had to settle for the bronze medal.

It would seem that the mechanical issue that kept Damien Seguin (FRA) out of day four action was well and truly fixed. The impressive Frenchman returned to action in style to claim all three bullets on offer and close out the 2.4 Norlin OD series.

Summing up the regatta Seguin said, "We had ten beautiful races, especially today with an east wind and big waves. I'm happy because I love this place.”

Seguin's love has increased even more with a 17-point gap back to nearest rival Antonio Squizzato (ITA) in second. Xavier Dagault (FRA) claimed the bronze medal with 30 points.

If Seguin loves Hyères, just imagine how Nico Parlier (FRA) feels. The Frenchman has won all but one race in the Formula Foiling Kiteboarding, including the final three Medal Races.

Despite the dominance, Parlier still felt it was closer than the results suggest, "It's been tough with really close racing. I've been really dialled in with my equipment though and had the wind I like so I am really happy with everything.”

Parlier's compatriot, training partner and friend, Axel Mazella (FRA), has always been one step behind, but still secured the silver with room to spare ahead of Monaco's Maxime Nocher.

Australia's Mat Belcher and Will Ryan will have a Hyères gold medal around their neck in the Men's 470 no matter where they finish in the final Medal Race. With two bullets from two races, they opened up a 24-point lead to second placed Carl-Fredrik Fock and Marcus Dackhammar (SWE).

In the Women's 470, Afrodite Zegers and Annaloes van Veen (NED) and Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler (SUI) have been neck and neck all week. Not anymore. The Dutch team took two bullets compared to a tenth and 11th from the Swiss. Zegers and van Veen now hold a 19-point advantage.

With a 1-2 finish on day five, Alican Kayner (TUR) remains top of the Finn fleet going in to Sunday's live Medal Race. Nicholas Heiner (NED) holds second and Ed Wright (GBR) third.

Six points separate the top two in the fight for Laser gold. Italy's Francesco Marrai is the current leader on 53 points from a 2-9 day, bettering second placed Cypriot Pavlos Kontides who scored a 2-11. Australia's Matt Wearn is in third.

Evi van Acker (BEL) has secured at least a silver medal ahead of the final Medal Race in the Laser Radial. Fighting the Belgian all the way will be second placed Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) who is 12 points behind.

Racing continues on Sunday 30 April at 12:05 local time as the final five Olympic classes race in the second and final day of Live Medal Races.

Published in Tokyo 2020

A blustery westerly breeze made for challenging conditions today at Hyères for Finn Lynch in the men's Laser fleet yesterday writes Nathaniel Ogden. A mixed set of results seem to be becoming a theme in this year's Sailing World Cup for the National Yacht Club sailor. Three strong finishes, coming in 7th, 10th and 13th from the 60–strong fleet, were again unfortunately overshadowed by some poorer finishes and a BFD. As racing continues today, and the live medal races begin, an overall mid fleet position will be an important result for Ireland's youngest ever Olympic sailor as he continues his Tokyo 2020 campaign. 

Aisling Keller slipped down the Laser Radial fleet slightly yesterday, coming in 35th overall as stronger westerly winds in the mid twenties dominated day four at Hyères. Producing another solid set of results during the day, coming in the mid-twenties in 3 races, the young Lough Derg sailors overall result was brought down slightly by two poorer finishes at the start of the day and a BFD in the final race (discarded), ending up 41st.

Howth Yacht Club’s Aoife Hopkins climbed the rankings after racing on day four, ending up in 41st position. Heavier conditions proved to deliver a mixed set of results for the young sailor, who is currently taking time out of studying for the Leaving Certificate to compete at Hyères. She ended the day with an outstanding 8th place finish in the final race and is in 39th place.

So overall, FInn lies 35th, Aoife 39th, Aisling 41st. The Lasers and Radials still have two races to sail today. Overall results to date are here

In the 49erfx, Irish interest lies with Royal Irish's Saskia Tidey and Charlotte Dobson who maintained their 3rd place medal position, as the wind picked up on day four of the Sailing World Cup in Hyères, as a westerly breeze of 22-27 knots, with gusts of 30-35 knots, settled in yesterday morning. The pair will go on to represent Britain in the 49erFX fleet today and Sunday in the live medal races. 

Sailors are always thrilled when they have a return of straight race victories. Then there are times when they are happy to come out in one piece, still within touching distance of the medals.

That was the case today at Sailing's World Cup Series in Hyères, France as chaos reigned in the Laser Radial fleet.

The competition in Hyères reached a critical stage on Friday with Medal Races imminent.

Overnight, the forecast for racing on Friday was not looking good and Hyères was expected to be on the receiving end of 30knots of breeze, gusting 35. The breeze was strong in the morning and sailing postponed as the conditions were not deemed safe enough to sail. As the day progressed the breeze decreased enabling all but one fleet, the 2.4 Norlin OD, to hit the water.

The Laser Radial saw a day of chaos but Evi van Acker (BEL) has been there and done it. Van Acker was beaming with a smile ashore after racing following a sixth and 13th place to take the lead.

Explaining the day van Acker said, "We waited a couple of hours because it was too windy, then we got out there and it wasn't windy at all. Then it was shifty. We were far out today between fighting winds coming from the left, then the right, so today you didn't know where you were.”

It was probably making sense of the chaos that brought the smile to van Acker's face, "When we were racing there were very big variations in wind and strength so you were winning, then in the middle.

"It was crazy, but I did ok.

"I had some pretty good results in some very tough conditions.”

Van Acker is 12 points clear of Tuula Tenkanen (FIN).

Overnight leader, Hungary's Maria Erdi, crept over the start line for her second black flag of the regatta and has fallen to ninth.

If van Acker was confused, then so was the young Hungarian, "I didn't push the line. I mean I didn't know what was happening at the start. Wind was shifting. People at the pin end. Wind turned. I just didn't know what was happening.”

Carrying two maximum scores in a one discard regatta effectively puts you out of the running, so what now for Erdi, "If I make the top ten I am happy. That was my goal before the regatta started and it's still my goal.”

Italy's Francesco Marrai took the shifty conditions in his stride with a bullet and fourth place to move him top above Cypriot Pavlos Kontides.

Great Britain's Nick Thompson is now tied with Kontides with an impressive second and third place. Those scores were impressive as second placed Kontides and fourth placed Matt Wearn (AUS) both had high scores on the day which they had to discard.

With another day of qualification racing before Sunday's live Medal Race, the top order in the fleet could yet again switch around as a competitive Laser fleet continue to battle.

It was a day of contrasts in the Men's and Women's 470. Blows were exchanged between the leaders in the women's and the men's saw some knock outs.

Still on the same points total, Afrodite Zegers and Annaloes van Veen (NED) and Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler (SUI) both notched up a bullet and second place to ensure that the Hyères title goes right down to the wire. With one more day of racing before the Medal Race, you wouldn't bet against these two going in to a double points decider neck and neck.

With a perfect two bullet day, Rio 2016 silver medallist's Mat Belcher and Will Ryan now have a 19-point buffer over second placed Carl -Fredrik Fock and Marcus Dackhammar (SWE).

Overnight leaders, Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis have dropped after a 21-22 day which they have to carry. They now sit on 54 compared to the Australians 14 and the reason was simple, "We had really bad starts today,” said a despondent Mantis, "We also missed the first shift and when you do both of those you are in trouble. It was such a bad day.”

The Greeks will have to recover their composure quickly and return to winning ways just to stay in contention for medals after an impressive opening three days of racing.

What a day Spain's Diego Botin and Iago Marra had in the 49er. Coming in the day the Spaniards were in medal contention. At the end of the day they had guaranteed themselves a gold medal. With a bullet, sixth and 11th, Botin and Marra have an unassailable 27 point lead ahead of the Medal Race.

Great Britain's Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stu Bithell and Sweden's Carl Sylvan and Marcus Anjemark are tied on 76 points and will fight it out with Yago and Klaus Lange, on 83 points, for silver and bronze.

Fast becoming a regular sentence in a 49erFX day review, Brazil's Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze are in first place. Looking to add yet another gold to their ever growing collection, the Rio 2016 Olympic champions hold pole position for a Hyères win with an eight point lead over nearest rivals Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz (GER).

There were some big climbers in the RS:X fleets shaking things up before Saturday's live Medal Race.

France's Louis Giard now sits top of the men's fleet after a 1-4-5 scoreline which gives him a one point advantage over the man who has occupied pole position all week, Switzerland's Mateo Sanz Lanz. The Swiss windsurfer could only card a 9-14-8 which are all scores he carries.

Winner of the first World Cup Series event in Miami, USA, Yunxiu Lu (CHN) was head and shoulders above the Women's RS:X fleet, claiming a bullet and two seconds. She leapfrogs several rivals into second. With a 19-point lead, Poland's Zofia Noceti-Klepacka remains top going into the double points Medal Race.

Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco (ESP) hold a seven-point advantage over their nearest rivals, France's Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet in the Nacra 17. The Spanish pair finished the qualifying series with a bullet which made up for a discarded tenth place in the previous race. Add to that a second place and it was enough to lift them above the French team who scored 11-2-5.

On day three, Turkey's Alican Kaynar thought the then leader Nicholas Heiner (NED) had sailed conservative to take the lead. Well Kaynar was anything but as he took two bullets to take top spot from the Dutch sailor's grasp.

Damien Seguin (FRA) remains on course to win a seventh Hyères title in the 2.4 Norlin OD. The Frenchman was somewhat lucky however, that the fleet only raced once as he was back onshore fixing a mechanical issue on his boat while his competitors were out racing. Spain's Rafa Andarias claimed the only bullet on offer to lift himself in to fourth position. Two races will bring the 2.4 Norlin OD fleet to a close on Saturday

French friends and rivals, Nicolas Parlier and Axel Mazella continue to lead the way in the Formula Foiling Kiteboarding. Parlier has the upper hand with five wins from six races which gives him a four-point lead over Mazella. It was day of mixed fortunes for Mazella, but still good enough to give him a 22-point cushion over third placed Toni Vodisek (SLO)

Racing continues on Saturday 29 April at 11:00 local time with the first day of Live Medal Races shown on the World Sailing YouTube Channel. Sunday 30 April will be the second day of Live Medal Races and will bring the penultimate event before the Santander Final to a close.

Live Medal Races will be shown on the World Sailing YouTube Channel on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 April, bringing the penultimate event before the Santander Final to a close.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Royal Irish Yacht Club's Saskia Tidey and Charlotte Dobson continued to deliver top results on day three at Hyeres, France today writes Nathaniel Ogden. The pair, competing for team GBR in the 49erFX fleet, are placing 3rd overall after a long day’s racing. The RIYC crew and her helm had a fantastic round–up, placing in the top 10 in every race (excluding an 11th place discard) and taking home two impressive first place finishes for the second day in a row.

Tidey and Dobson are going into the fourth day with hopes of maintaining their medal position, for the live medal races on Saturday & Sunday, and closing the gap between Germany’s Victoria Jurczok in 2nd, and Brazil’s Martine Soffiatti Grael, currently in 1st place.

A much better day for the National Yacht Club’s Finn Lynch saw him rise to 28th position in the men’s Laser fleet. Taking home a 7th and a 10th out of 6 races throughout the day, he was unlucky to have been given a Black Flag Disqualification in the final race. But with two top 10 finishes in the 60-strong fleet, he has shown how a new day can mean all the difference, as conditions continue to hover around 7-13 knots.

In the women’s Laser Radial fleet Aisling Keller continued to maintain her mid fleet position, finishing day 3 at Hyeres in 32nd overall. Lough Derg’s Aoife Hopkins is placing 44th as the second regatta of the 2017 World Cup Series reached its midpoint.

Nicholas Heiner's (NED) consistency in the Finn is equalling success at Sailing's World Cup Series in Hyères, France.

Out of the 534 racers from 52 nations, racing across the ten Olympic events, Foiling Formula Kiteboarding and 2.4 Norlin OD, Heiner has been one of the most reliable performers with a string of top five finishes to lead in the Finn.

Racing in a 7-13 knot breeze that took some time to fill in, the second regatta of the 2017 World Cup Series reached its mid-point and the battle to make Saturday and Sunday's live Medal Races is on.

In only his third Finn regatta, Heiner had another consistent day of racing to take the lead in a fleet packed full of experienced racers.

Although he's a fresh face in the Finn, the Dutchman is no stranger to competitive racing. He is a former Laser World Champion and used to racing in competitive fleets. Moving into a new boat can always be challenging for a sailor but Heiner has thrived in the Finn after making the crossover.

From Thursday's racing, he picked up a second and a fifth and made all the right calls on a challenging day. "The wind was coming in and falling out all the time, but when we finally started it really kicked in to around 12 knots. Close to the start though I made a quick call to change the sail from the light wind to the medium heavy and I think that paid off well for me.”

Heiner is staying conservative in his racing, ensuring he has good boat handling and technique amongst the experienced pack. The natural, talented fearless sailor that sailed his way to an emphatic Laser world title in 2014 is yet to come out in Heiner. But for now, he is happy with his progress, "At moments, I think I saw some pressure coming and maybe tacked a bit early when I could have taken more risks. The idea is to keep it really conservative and stay with the pack right now.”

Fabian Pic (FRA) and Ben Cornish (GBR) trail Heiner by nine points with Alican Kaynar (TUR) a further point back. There is plenty still to play for with four fleet races and Sunday's Medal Race to follow. Kaynar is targeting Heiner and will be aiming to climb up the leaderboard, "I think Nicholas extended his points lead today but we are still close. I just have to keep in contention and then attack in the last races.

"Today Nicholas sailed very conservatively I think and always caught the good shifts. He had good down winds today as well so he was always there at the front.”

Damien Seguin (FRA) continues on the path to glory in the 2.4 Norlin OD. The Rio 2016 and Athens 2004 Paralympic gold medallist has won all but one race this week and is firmly in control to win another title in Hyères. "I don't know how many times I have won here,” laughed Seguin, "but I have been sailing in Hyères for a long time. I think I was 21 when I first sailed a Tornado here.”

Seguin has won six titles in Hyères and is in line to make that seven. But with new sailors in the fleet, Seguin is preparing for the upcoming Para World Sailing Championships in Kiel, Germany.

"It's a smaller fleet but we have some new people which is great. One from Guatemala and two younger people, so it's great to have some new guys to race against.

"It's great practice for me for the Worlds. There aren't so many events in 2.4 so if I need to practice I prefer to do it against good competitors. And there are good competitors here.”

French sailors Xavier Dagault and Bruno Jourdren follow Seguin with four races remaining.

The sail of the day goes to Germany's Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz who took all three wins in the 49erFX. That perfect performance moves the German team up in to silver medal position. They will need to continue that winning form though if they are to overhaul Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) who are 10 points ahead.

Great Britain's Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stu Bithell edged ahead in the 49er with a 1-8-4. Those results give the Britons a slender two-point advantage over Spain's Diego Botin and Iago Lopez.

Rio 2016 silver medallists Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) have cut the gap at the top of the leaderboard to one point behind the Rio 2016 bronze medal winning Greeks, Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis who currently occupy top spot in the Men's 470. Mantis and Kagialis had to discard a 27th place before picking up a bullet in race two as they came under pressure from the Aussies who took a second and third for the day.

The Women's 470 leaders mimicked the men's with a discard in the first race and a bullet in the second. Dutch racers Afrodite Zegers and Annaloes van Veen discard their 16th and as a result are now tied on 15 points with Switzerland's Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler. Silvia Mas Depares and Patricia Cantero Reina (ESP) are three points back in third.

Swiss windsurfer Mateo Sanz Lanz remains top of the Men's RS:X despite slipping outside of the top five in a race for the first time. Thanks to his consistency so far in Hyères, Sanz Lanz could discard his 23rd place to hold a six-point lead over Israel's Shahar Zubari and a 20-point lead over France's Louis Giard.

Zofia Noceti-Klepacka (POL) leapfrogged overnight Women's RS:X leader Noga Geller (ISR), opening up a 10-point cushion to lead the fleet. Brazil's Patricia Freitas continues to climb the leaderboard and now sits in third with a day three score card which included a bullet, second and discarded 23rd.

In a day of catch up for the Laser fleet it was Australia's Matt Wearn who came out on top with a bullet, second and fourth place from three races. With the schedule back on track it will be Wearn's job to keep second placed Pavlos Kontides (CYP), third placed Francesco Marrai (ITA) and the rest of a strong dinghy fleet at bay.

Despite a black flag in the final race of the day, Hungary's Maria Erdi heads the Laser Radial fleet, but only just. The young Olympian will need to be careful there are no more slip ups if she wants to end the regatta with a medal. Waiting for any possible slip is Evi Van Acker (BEL) just one point behind in second.

Home support will be aimed toward the Nacra 17 fleet as Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet (FRA) are tied at the top with Spain's Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco on 23 points. Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck are in third on 28.

As the breeze died later on in the evening, the Kitesurfers were unable to hit the water but they will resume tomorrow for their finals.

Racing resumes at 11:00 local time on Friday 28 April. The forecast shows big breeze and the RS:X, 49er, Nacra 17 and Kitesurfers will be aiming to grab a spot in the Medal Race.

Live Medal Races will be shown on the World Sailing YouTube Channel on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 April, bringing the penultimate event before the Santander Final to a close.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Royal Irish Yacht Club's Saskia Tidey and helm Charlotte Dobson had an outstanding second day of racing at Hyères this afternoon, bagging two firsts and one second position out of six races (with one discard) in the 49erFX fleet writes Nathaniel Ogden. Finishing the day in second place overall, the pair are in a strong position going into day three, and with stronger winds forecast it will be interesting to see if they can maintain their impressive standing as conditions change!

Finn Lynch of the National Yacht Club had another mixed day in the men’s Laser class as light winds continued into day two at Hyères. A 13th place finish was sadly brought down by two disappointing results later in the day. Holding down a respectable 41st place overall at day’s end, the young NYC sailor will be looking forward to a change in conditions, forecast now to fill in on the third day of the Sailing World Cup.

Tokyo 2020 hopeful Aisling Keller from Lough Derg YC ended the day in 31st place overall following a solid set of mid fleet results in the women’s Laser Radial fleet. Two impressive results in the first and last races were unfortunately brought down by two poorer finishes in the 2nd and 3rd of the day for Aoife Hopkins of Howth Yacht Club. Currently taking time out from studying for the Leaving Certificate, the Dubliner finished up in 39th overall, as light winds prevailed.

If day one was about 'Laying down a marker' then day two is about settling down to the job at hand as the discard comes in to play for every fleet. A grey, overcast morning welcomed the sailors from the ten Olympic classes as well as Open Kiteboarding and the 2.4 Norlin OD, a Para World Sailing event, to the boat park with an expected morning breeze of 7-12 knots from the west.

Afrodite Zegers and Anneloes van Veen (NED) were unstoppable on day two of Sailing's World Cup Series in Hyères, France, winning both Women's 470 races in convincing style.

Out of the 534 competitors from 52 nations racing across ten Olympic events, Open Kiteboarding and 2.4 Norlin OD, the Dutch team were the standout performers.

Following a brief morning postponement due to a wait for the wind, the 470 fleets got out for a 12:30 start, sailing in a westerly 10-15 knot breeze.

Zegers and van Veen were unrelenting, sailing their way to two convincingly victories to leapfrog Switzerland's Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler into first place.

The Dutch duo are on a hot streak in the Women's 470, winning gold at the opening 2017 World Cup Series event in Miami, USA before securing the Trofeo Princesa Sofia title in March.

They were agonisingly close to claiming a medal at Rio 2016, missing out by a single point and as their rivals have gone onto new ventures or taken time out of the boat, Zegers and van Veen were quick to get straight back into action.

"We already knew we wanted to continue as a team,” explained van Veen. "It was an easy choice to carry on.

"Since the beginning of the year at the World Cup in Miami we have made a lot of improvements, we still know there is a lot of work to be done but we feel like great improvements have been made.”

Zegers and van Veen got off to a strong start in both of their races and when compared to their rivals they were simply faster as van Veen explained, "We had good boat speed in the first race and from there we just tried to defend the lead and stay in front of the fleet which we did well.

"In the second race, we had a really good start from the pin and got the lead straight from that. We just played the shifts then.”

A familiar battle is developing in the Men's 470 with Rio 2016 silver and bronze medallists separated by small margins. Greece's Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis were made to settle for bronze at Rio 2016, beaten to silver by Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS).

The tables have turned, for now, in Hyères as the Greek team hold the lead on five points to the Australia's seven. Both crews posted identical results on day two, recording a first and a third but the Greek team had a better opening day with a race win and a fifth to take the lead.

On the rivalry with the Australians, Kagialis said, "It is always nice to race against people like Mat and Will as they are top athletes. When the level is higher you try more and you push more so it's nice.

"It makes the sport better.

"Our goal is always to get a medal. You do your best in the regatta and if you are up there near the end you then get to choose which medal you can push for. It's still early though, we have three days of racing before we get to that point.”

An interesting battle is developing in the Nacra 17 as the top three continue to fight for supremacy.

Five points separate Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet (FRA), Fernando Echavarri and Tara Pacheco (ESP) and Lin Ea Cenholt and Christian Peter Lubeck (DEN). The trio shared the day's race wins and have put some points between themselves and fourth place.

"We had good starts and took the right side so it was a good day for us,” said Lubeck who had a steady day with a 1-(8)-2 scoreline. Ea Cenholt added, "We had an offshore tricky wind but we succeeded in what was important for us, to be at near the top of the fleet at the top mark.”

From a three-way fight to a three-way tie, Great Britain's Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stu Bithell, Argentina's Yago and Klaus Lange and Spain's Diego Botin and Iago Lopez are all locked on 16-points apiece in the 49er.

The trio scored a good set of 'keepers' on the second day, discarding their worst race which for all three was race one.

Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) had another consistent day to consolidate their lead. Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey (GBR) shone the brightest, however, winning a pair of races and claiming a fifth. As a result, they move into second place ahead of Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz (GER).

Six further races were conducted in the Foiling Formula Kiteboarding and the perfect records held by Axel Mazella (FRA) and Nicolas Parlier (FRA) were crushed in the opening race of the day. Mazella finished second in the blue fleet and Parlier third in yellow.

That was, however, just one blip on the record as they got back to winning ways immediately after, taking the remaining five victories in their respective fleets. They are tied on 10 points at the top with Maxime Nocher (MON) following nine points behind.

From two Finn races, a 5-4 from Ben Cornish (GBR) and a 4-2 from Nicholas Heiner (NED) sees the pair tied at the top on ten points. The day's race victories went the way of Jorge Zarif (BRA) who is 11th overall and the sixth placed Ed Wright (GBR).

Finland's Tuula Tenkanen is making her first competitive appearance back in the Laser Radial after finishing fifth at Rio 2016. Any cobwebs were blown off on the opening day as she won the opening race. A mid-fleet finish followed but Tenkanen was back on form on Wednesday, winning another race. She leads on ten points, two ahead of Belgium's Evi Van Acker. Maria Erdi (HUN) and Viktorija Andrulyte (LTU) are tied for third on 13 points.

Damien Seguin (FRA) and Xavier Dagault (FRA) shared the 2.4 Norlin OD race wins. Seguin, the Rio 2016 and Athens 2004 Paralympic gold medallist leads the 12-boat fleet on three points and is trailed by Dagault and Bruno Jourdren (FRA).

As the day progressed in Hyères, the breeze began to decrease meaning the Laser and RS:X fleets could only complete one race in a challenging, fickle afternoon session.

Shahar Zubari (ISR) took the men's race win and moves to second overall, one point behind Mateo Sanz Lanz (SUI) who consolidated first place with a third. Overnight Women's RS:X leader Noga Geller (ISR) remains in control following a third. Zofia Noceti-Klepacka (POL) pulled within one point of the Israeli with a second. The single race win went the way of Patricia Freitas (BRA).

Sam Meech (NZL) moved from 11th to fourth overall as he took the single Laser race win. Pavlos Kontides (CYP) retains his lead by discarding his 14th. Nick Thompson (GBR) follows and Francesco Marrai (ITA) is in third.

Racing continues Thursday 26 April at 11:00 local time. Live Medal Races will be shown on the World Sailing YouTube Channel on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 April, bringing the penultimate event before the Santander Final to a close.

Published in Tokyo 2020

A very special Golden Jubilee coming up in May provides links to an Irish Olympic Sailing Silver Medal, the Fireball World Championship, and the America’s Cup. W M Nixon finds the widest connections go even further than that to include a pioneering world voyage.

It was in May 1967 that the irrepressible Carmel Winkelmann oversaw the first results of a junior sailing initiative at the National Yacht Cub, her home club in Dun Laoghaire. It became a movement which went on which to have nationwide and worldwide ramifications, so much so that within Ireland we’re looking at an unbroken line in Irish sailing which is continued through the club which currently holds the title of ISA Training Centre of the Year, which for 2017 is Foynes Yacht Club on the Shannon Estuary.

That a successful club at the heart of the Atlantic seaboard can trace an almost magic thread back to something which happened at a club on Dublin Bay a long time ago is quite a story in itself. Particularly when the Atlantic seaboard club itself is imbued, as Foynes is, with the spirit of legendary circumnavigator Conor O’Brien. However, when the story is shaping up to continue with the Golden Jubilee as the latest chapter, it gives us an opportunity both to celebrate, and take stock of what it has all meant.

Annalise foynesFoynes Yacht Club, heirs to an Irish tradition of junior sail training which was first formalized by the National Yacht Club 50 years ago. At the Irish Sailing Awards ceremony when Foynes were announced as winners of the ISA Training Centre of the Year Award were (left to right) Simon McGibney (Foynes Senior Instructor), Sailor of the year and Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy of the National Yacht Club, Elaine O’Mahoney (Foynes Sailing Academy Manager), Pat Finucane (Sailing Academy Principal) and Conor Dillon (Instructor). In a club which is imbued with the spirit of world-girdling Foynes sailor Conor O’Brien, it’s particularly appropriate that Conor Dillon’s sailing CV includes winning the Two-Handed division in the Round Ireland Race, sailing with his father Derek Dillon on a 34-footer. Photo: Inpho
But business first. Anyone who has ever taken part in the Junior Training Programme at the National Yacht Club is hereby alerted – if you don’t know already – that on the evening and night of Saturday May 20th, there will be a very special celebration at the clubhouse. The organisers Carmel Winkelmann and Ann Kirwan are particularly keen to trace those who have moved away, but would find much nostalgic pleasure with the meeting of old friends by returning on this day of days. So if that applies to you, or you know anyone to whom it does, please make contact with the key club administrator whom everyone refers to as “Oonagh at the National”, the proper line of contact being [email protected], tel 01-280 5725.

nyc slipway 3Bright morning of Optimism. The National Yacht Club slipway in 1967, long before the days of an extensive front-of-club platform, with the new dinghies of the Optimist Class being launched out of the cramped boathouse under the club, and down a steep and often very crowded slipway

To grasp the significance of what is being celebrated, please try to visualize the National Yacht Club as it was fifty years ago. The building itself, standing directly in the harbour, has the air of a fishing lodge in the West of Ireland on its seaward side, and a hint of neo-classicism when seen from the town. But in the early 1960s it was very limited in its shoreside facilites for sailing dinghies. There was a boathouse entered through fine granite arches under the clubhouse itself, but to use it, masts needed to be lowered. It was served by a very steep and easily-crowded slip, while there was access to another slip on the east side of the cub which served a small area where dinghies could be stored. But while there was space for the established classes of Fireflies and some IDRA 14s, some room was also needed for the small tenders for larger yachts moored in the harbour, while the racing keelboats were served by club launches which might be substantial dinghies driven by vintage Seagull outboards.

The concept of a proper dinghy park was still only in its infancy, relatively speaking, for craft such as Dun Laoghaire’s Firefly and IDRA fleets which had been active since the late 1940s. Thus if anyone had a centreboard boat which could reasonably be expected to lie to moorings, she was obliged to do so, and the fleet of small craft lying off the club included the 17ft Mermaids and the 14ft Water Wags.

nyc slipway 3It could get very crowded on that steep slipway. Paddy Kirwan at the centre of a group making do with limited facilities

To compound the space problems afloat and ashore, during the 1960s the area in the southeast part of Dun Laoghaire Harbour off the National Yacht Club was the focal point for the cross-channel ferry berths. The railway-system serving Mailboat with its emphasis on foot passengers continued to use the Carlisle Pier to the west of the club, but the East Pier was known for a period as the Car Ferry Pier as a busy new roll-on roll-off terminal, which admittedly always had a temporary look about it, had been constructed there to accommodate the new trend in cross-channel travel.

Thus not only was anyone sailing a dinghy from shore at the National YC dong so out of decidedly limited facilities, but they immediately sailed into an area cluttered with a collection of moored boats of all shapes and sizes, and that in turn was set in an area which might have ferry ships berthed close by, or manoeuvring on either side.

john lavery5Learning curve. Gina Duffy and John Lavery on a close run in 1967. The latter has won many major championships, including the Fireball Worlds in 1995

The comparisons with today’s National Yacht Club with its spacious platform facing out over a much clearer harbour area, and beside it an installation of convenient berthing pontoons, could not be greater. But back in the 1960s, an equally important change was happening – there was a complete re-appraisal of what the most junior sailors really needed in boats and instruction to get the best from the sport.

For sure there were the Fireflies, but in terms of lower age limit they were really aimed at adolescents on the cusp of rapidly growing youth. The other available classes were even more adult-oriented. In fact, the underlying problem was that children going sailing were treated as miniature adults who would somehow pick up the skills of the game through a sort of osmosis, whereas for a crucial period of their lives they would have most benefitted from being treated as a different species, with different boats to meet their needs.

Yet even here, adult views dominated. The grown-ups thought that young people’s boats should at least look like small yachts. Thus a dinghy which was promoted for children by several clubs was the 11ft Yachting World Cartop Heron, which had originally been conceived as a DIY-build which could fit on the roof-rack of the average family car, and was designed with a gunter rig such that all its spars could be stowed within the boat.

It had some good ideas, and with a pretty sheer it fulfilled the adult expectation of what a miniature yacht should look like. But it was surprisingly heavy for its avowed rooftop requirement – you’d have needed a weight-trained family to get it on the car roof. And anyway, it was too large for really small kids who genuinely had the sailing bug.

slipway with ferry6The southeast corner of Dun Laoghaire Harbour was very different in 1967, with the East Pier re-designated as the Car Ferry Pier. Yet despite the limitations, the Optimist class quickly caught on after its introduction in 1967

So a revolutionary approach was needed, and it came thanks to one of the National YC’s international sailing stars, Johnny Hooper. He had achieved Ireland’s first Olympic Race win with Peter Gray in the Flying Dutchman in the 1960 Rome Olympics when the sailing was at Naples. But as an FD campaign towards the 1984 Olympics was prohibitively expensive with the venue in Japan, he returned to his first love of International 505 Racing, and it was at a big 505 championship in Scandinavia in 1965 or thereabouts that he first became aware of the game-changing possibilities of the Optimist for junior sailing.

Scandinavia being rightly renowned for the elegance of its yacht, it speaks volume for the versatility of the Florida-originating Optimist, the “simple little boxboat that sails surprisingly well”, that Scandinavia should lead the movement towards a world body for a boat which, whatever the traditionalists might think, the kids were clearly loving. Founded 1965, the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) had Viggo Jacobsen of Denmark as its first President with his wife Edith as Secretary, and in that same year Johnny Hooper set about introducing the idea of the Optimist to Ireland.

Now if some ordinary Joe had happened to by impressed by an Optimist at some foreign location, and had even brought one home to persuade his fellow sailors that they were looking at the future, the idea probably would have fallen very flat indeed.

But that’s not the Hooper way. Instead, from his highly respected position he quietly targeted fellow National Yacht Club members who were themselves active sailors, but also had children who would benefit from the Optimist experience, and in time a group emerged which was to include initially Johnny Hooper with his wife Bernie giving the longterm involvement, Peter Gray, Paddy & Barbara Kirwan , Don Douglas, Franz & Carmel Winkelmann, Michael McGrath, Arthur Lavery and several others, many of whom had reasonable DIY skills and could see the possibility of building an Optimist in the basement of their Dun Laoghaire homes without too much disruption of the household. By the Autumn of 1966, the project was under way.

paddy boyd7The first of the new fleet sails. Paddy Boyd (left) Ann Kirwan (centre) and Vivienne Lavery right) getting to know their boats

While Johnny Hooper had introduced the idea, he stood back from its continuing implementation, for the Hooper modus operandi was to give an idea enough strength to soon have wings of its own. That certainly happened in the National Yacht Club, for very quickly a manageably small committee was in being, and the formidable Carmel Winkelmann became its secretary. The NYC Junior Programme became her baby, and it always has since been seen as such, even though the number of people involved in administering the programme over the fifty years, as the NYC facilities have expanded and developed to meet the needs of a modern membership, will now run into the hundreds.

In fact, properly organized junior sailing with boats specifically designed for young people’s needs is now so central to Irish sailing that it takes a huge leap of the imagination to visualize the scene as the first small group of National Yacht Club Optimist Dinghies – most of them locally-built either by amateurs or professonals – began to emerge in May 1967 with numbers increasing as each weekend passed. New they may have been, but they reflected their era, with a public Blessing of the Boats outside the Brindley household as a new batch of boats appeared.

johnny smullen15 1Olympic sailor Johnny Hooper speaking at the Blessing of the Boats as a new batch of home-built Optimists awaits transfer to the National’s limited space.

ann kirwan9Dun Laoghaire was a different place in those days, with Water Wags and Mermaids expected to lie to mooring. Vivienne Lavery and Ann Kirwan testing their skills with the new Optimists – Ann’s boat (476) was one of the few professionally-built in the first batch of Optimists, she was created by the legendary Skee Gray
But though most young sailors in theory had his or her own boat, before anything approaching full fleet numbers was approached they’d a habit of letting anyone sail some boat or other in the early stages, so much so that although Ann Kirwan was part of it from a very early stage, she admits that even she can’t claim total accuracy when identifying the helm of a known boat.

bray regatta10Going abroad......the new Dun Laoghaire Optimists make their debut at Bray Regatta: Paul, Adam and Lucy Winkelmann with Paddy Kirwan putting in his renowned act as a South American Air Marshall at Bray Sailing Club.

This habit of inter-changing sailors became even more marked in that first year when the early class discovered that the most useful base for their day-time sailing was the little-used Irish Lights service barge moored in the western part of the harbour. Over there, NYC Optimist sailors found much clearer sailing water, and they were well away from the comings and goings of the two cross-channel ferries off their home club, not to mention excessive parental control. In effect, the barge became their day-time base, and they ate their packed lunches aboard it while deciding who would take which boat for the first stage of the afternoon’s sailing. Fifty years down the line, we might well wonder if the Commissioners of Irish Lights are aware of the key role their humble barge played in launching Ireland’s Junior Training Programme.....

david ryan11Vivienne Lavery and David Ryan getting away from the slip.

Once launched in its viable form in 1967, there was no stopping it, and the names which have emerged just from the National’s junior programme alone (for virtually all clubs now have one) take us over an extraordinary range, and up to the heights of Olympic participation, the winning of major world dinghy championships and associations with the America’s Cup.

It’s Johnny Smullen who provides the latter. The California-based Johnny Smullen in San Diego is now of world stature in anything to do with yacht and boat-building or indeed in marine construction generally, and his talent has been recognized at the highest level as he has worked on major projects for the very demanding Dennis Conner, aka Mr America’s Cup.

Johnny will have inherited his feeling for classics from his father Cass, a great sailor who was such an enthusiast for the Dublin Bay 21s in their original rather spectacular gaff-rigged form that when the class contemplated changing to a more easily-handled and convenient Bermudan rig in 1963, Cass claimed that he could easily rig a gaff-rigged DB 21 in 15 minutes flat. And that included setting the jackyard topsail to perfection. So he brought a DB 21 close into the clubhouse (as you could in those days), and in front of a drink-sipping crowd of observers on the verandah, he did the job within 15 minutes. But they still went ahead and converted to Bermudan rig.

Son Johnny meanwhile was enlisted in the NYC Junior Programme as soon as he reached he lower age limit, and when the 40th Anniversary was being celebrated back in 2007, he sent on his memoirs which well capture the flavour of it all:

San Diego, 17th May 2007

The way I saw it.

I am eight years old and my parents are wondering what to do with me for the summer, it went something like this: “Get him out from under our feet”. I was equally happy to stay at home and play in the back garden, invent stuff and dream up ways to frighten my sisters. Chasing them with worms was a good one.

I was enrolled in the adventure of my life.

At first I was lead to believe it was going to be a fun thing with the opportunity to meet new people and friends, maybe making me more sociable as I was quiet child in a world of my own. I bought into this and showed up for the first day. It was great, lots of people all different shapes and sizes, so there we were all sitting around playing with stuff and one-upping on how my father is better than yours, especially at snooker. The chatter fell silent when along came this very tall white-haired lady with an incredibly loud voice. It was at this point I became suspicious as I had just watched Paths of Glory and A Bridge Too Far, I had seen how the enemy rounded up people and put them in trucks and brought to places, unfriendly places.....

We arrived at Sandycove harbour where we were lined up on the pier. I though this was it, we were then forced to line up at the steps and walk down into the freezing water fully clothed and flail around, there were guards (instructors we were led to believe) everywhere, and just to make sure the torture was effective they made us hold our heads under water for 30 minutes, well 30 seconds, but it felt like minutes. Then we were all forced to walk back to the NYC where our fate was to be determined. Freezing and scared, I was cursing my family and wondering what I had done to them.

johnny smullen15 1He survived.....eventually Johnny Smullen became a keen Mirror dinghy sailor, but he was pessimistic enough to call his boat Splinter

We arrived back at Camp NYC and were lined up and made to wear large cumbersome protective coats, some were yellow, purple, some orange, I guessed they were labelling us, something to do with our religion. Some of these jackets had large protective collars probably to help protect us from the beatings to come, I thought. Our names were branded onto the “Life Jackets” as I started to call them, knowing they would play a key role in our protection.

We were divided into groups and lead away by the guards into this large damp room with arches and a dank smell of cotton, hemp and mould. This was where we were to remain for all the rainy days to be brain-washed, they started by teaching us knots. I was convinced this was going to be how to tie the very knot that would be the doom of us, I compared it to carrying the cross of Calvary. I decided then to be really bad at it in the hopes that one of my knots would slip open and I could dash to my freedom. We also had to jump up, and hand-over-hand along the light blue steel beam that ran across the dark room, this was to make our arms really strong, they had a plan for strong arms – I will tell you about that a little later.

Food consisted of a march up to Wimpeys for a spice burger and chips all drowned in vinegar to disguise the taste, if there was good behaviour we got to go to the Miami Café. The day was long (except Thursdays when we had to get out early) and after a week in Boot Camp we were all tired and weary. What had I done to my family to deserve this?

The second week came along and we were introduced to the ships, rather large wooden craft resembling a landing craft with the flat bow (I was always looking for the hinges). This is where the strong arms came into. We were grouped into six per team, and the guards waited until low tide when we had to carry the ship down a rickety wooden slip (there’s a reason for calling it a slip). Upon its surface there were large wooden rollers but we were forbidden to use those rollers, and to make sure they filed a fat spot on the rollers, deeming them useless. We picked up the incredible heavy boat, all six of us, one on each corner holding a knee, and two in the middle by the oar locks. Later I was to learn the place to be was up at the bow (by the door), it was lightest. I was adapting to this cruel camp. As we descended down to the icy water again fully clothed, we came across a bright green pungent slime. I had what I thought were special sailing shoes, but as soon as I touched the slime I was down. Down hard. The guards started yelling, I knew I had to get up quickly....remember Calvary!....We reached the bottom and stopped, the guards yelled again and made us wade right into the icy deep, still fully clothed. With the landing craft now floating, we had to master manoeuvring, the craft were lined up alongside the slippy slip, that’s the reason they call it a..................

I stepped on the gunwhale. Now at this point I did not understand the physics like I do today, and when you apply a load to any point of the gunwhale of a flat-bottomed craft two things will happen (once only). The opposing gunwhale will come up as you travel down, and because I am as tall as the craft is wide, somewhere in the middle he two surfaces will meet, your face and the opposing gunwhale. After the initial shock, the second shock comes from the icy cold water. Then I found out what the large collar was for as the guards hauled me out of the abyss semi-conscious. Once inside the craft, we were grouped into two and handed oars. Let the games begin.....

After a week of rowing and shipping oars and coming alongside we were all adapting well to boating, there’s nothing to it. Just as we are enjoying ourselves, we are reminded that this is a work camp with launch and retrieval exercise twice a day. The launch and retrieval is carefully timed at 6 and 12 hours intervals to make sure it was low tide and we’d the longest slimiest walk up the rickety slips, observed closely by the guards from the window of the snooker room glaring down at us. Boating is turning out to be challenging but fun, and the new friends are all pitching together to eventually plan an assault on the guards to free ourselves.

The third week came along and there were large wooden poles with white canvas and a stick with notches cut out of it, why on earth did they have to make it harder? It was perfectly simple with the clean decks and oars and oar locks, now the boats are so heavy with this rig up, my bow lifting position is not that smart as we carry down the slip with the sail pressed hard against my face. After countless days of theory brainwashing in the damp room, we have to pass a few tests to prove worthy to sail, if called upon, out to the US Aircraft Carrier John F Kennedy anchored out in Dublin Bay. The first test was to take the stick with the notches and stretch out the canvas and hook onto a rope loop, without falling over this was harder than carrying the feckin’ boat, the second was to line up two pins while hanging over the transom full of chips and spice burgers. If it had hair....

Most of us mastered that task after a few tries, and it wasn’t long before we were sailing out to the sterns of the ferry Hibernia or Cambria, whichever was in port at the time. This went on for a few weeks and as we settled into the routine it got easier as we went on.

During the time in the damp boathouse, usually when it was blowing dogs off chains outside and while I was trying to get the batteries out of the loudhailer, I noticed a beautiful varnished clinker planked boat, it was almost new, and a very wise man was looking after it. This Man was tough as the rivets holding it together and knew everything about the seas. I knew if I paid attention he would help get me through the summer, he did and he is almost responsible for what I do today. Thank you Jack!

The discipline of Boot Camp had turned us into great sailors, great card players, snooker players....it wasn’t until the third stage we found flagons. But not on the night of May 17th 1975, I was at home doing my homework that night....

Ah.....the memories, I hope I have stirred a few, it was the most wonderful time of my life and I wish I was there to get drunk with all of you and play cards till the wee hours, but meanwhile thanks

To Carmel, thank you very much; I always have my lifejacket.

To Jack Brennan, I am always thinking of you up there, and thanks for teaching me how to tie my shoelaces.

To all the instructors Paul, Ann, Jimmy, I never believed the story of the rabbit and the tree, but thanks anyway

And to all my dear family and friends

Lots of love, Johnny Smullen

PS It was me that stuck the coke bottle in the cannon at the front of the club....

johnny smullen15 1Johnny Smullen and Dennis Conner inspect the hull of the 1925-built Cotton Blossom

johnny smullen15 1Cotton Blossom II after restoration by Johnny Smullen

Inspired by Jack Brennan and other master craftsmen, Johnny has gone on to become a shipwright of such skill from his base in San Diego, California, that he in turn inspires others, one of his most famous projects being the complete restoration of the 49ft Q Class sloop Cotton Blossom II of 1925 vintage.

When a complete restoration is contemplated, Johnny doesn’t mess about. The word is that when he and Dennis turned up to finalise the deal on Cotton Blossom and bring her back to San Diego, they found the previous owners sorry enough to see her go, and rather proud of the style in which they’d maintained her. But after they’d gone to sort the details with the new owner, they went to take a last look at the boat. It’s said they found that Johnny had already delivered his opinion on the existing rig by cutting the shrouds and stays at the deck with bolt-croppers, and cutting the old mast off at deck level with a chainsaw.

Maybe that’s an apocryphal Johnny Smullen from taking delivery of another boat. Yet when you see Cotton Blossom in her restored form, it’s clear what Johnny says should indeed be Holy Writ. This is a project of world standard. But what’s even more remarkable is that despite everything the Sailing Boot Camp at the NYC might have inflicted on him all those year ago, Johnny’s love of boats and sailing is such that he has his own personal sweet classic, the lovely 36ft International One Design Altair. She’s sailed as often as possible, and though he can’t make it back to Dun Laoghaire next month for the Golden Jubilee as there’s very major project under way, Altair will be racing with the San Diego classics under the National Yacht Club burgee.

johnny smullen15 1Johnny Smullen’s own pet boat Altair reveals his abiding love of sailing.
John Lavery’s father Arthur was another of those pioneering Optimist dads back in the late 1960s, and John and his sister Vivienne were both in that first batch of trainee sailors. He ended up winning championships in more classes then you could quickly count, but the peak of it all came in September 1995 when he and David O’Brien of this parish won the Fireball Worlds in Dublin Bay.

In fact, the graduates from 50 years of a junior training programme at the National YC can be found in successful positions in many boat classes in many places, but it is the club’s outgoing attitude to those who wish to learn to sail which deservedly provided its most outstanding success. A long time ago a Mrs MacAleavey, a widow with no sailing connections, was looking for a club which would make her increasingly boat-mad daughter Cathy – who had recently bought a clapped-out 420 – feel encouraged in any way to learn to sail. Despite the fact that it was still in process of recovering from a fire in the clubhouse, the NYC showed itself the most welcoming along the Dun Laoghaire waterfront, so much so that Mrs McAleavey felt sufficiently encouraged to buy her daughter a new 420, and that in turn led on eventually to Cathy representing Ireland in the women’s 470 in the 1988 Olympics.

The three children she had with husband Con Murphy went on to get their introduction to sailing through the National YC’s junior programme, and daughter Annalise emerged with the talent and the burning ambition which resulted in a heart-breaking fourth at the 2012 Olympics in the Women’s Laser Radial when a medal had seemid almost certainly within her grasp. But memories of that were entirely laid to rest with the Silver Medal in the 2016 Olympics Rio after a difficult final race in which the lone sailor seemed to stay as cool as you please, while the nation at home watched with bated breath.

annalise murphy16The medal-winning moment as Annalise Murphy crosses the finish line in Rio to win Silver.

That it was ultimately a very personal achievement is something respected by her club, and they claim to have done nothing more than provide the first steps on the pathway, and a general spirit of encouragement. But nevertheless the success is all of a piece with the Golden Jubilee which will be celebrated on May 20th, and Carmel Winkelmann continues in her mission of providing a background of training for young sailors of all types, whether they aim only to be a competitive club sailor, or whether they aim for the ultimate heights.

Thus one of her projects in recent years was to find real support for young Finn Lynch, who had reached that difficult stage of being a top junior sailor, yet still had to find his feet as an adult. Thanks to support raised by Carmel, he became Ireland’s representative in the Men’s Lasers at Rio despite going through the final stages of the selection with a training injury recovery problem which may have had an adverse effect on his performance in as the youngest sailor in Rio, aged just 20.

Whether or not he would have been better off not being in Rio at all is neither here nor there. When you’re 20, four years can seem an appallingly long time. The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 must have seeemed aeons away for a young sailor who had shown many flashes of real talent. It was better for him to be in Rio while learning a lot, rather than kicking his heels in frustration in some dead end. And when he needed material help to see through the campaign, it was Carmel Winkelmann who was there to make to ensure that support was available. That will be something else for celebration on May 20th.

carmel winkelmann17Carmel Winkelmann and Finn Lynch at the National Yacht Club, June 2016. Photo W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon
Page 1 of 9

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

DBSC
nyc sidebutton flag

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

chmarine sidebutton
viking sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating