Seven young sailors were selected at the Optimist trials last April to represent Ireland at the Optimist Europeans in Crozon, Brittany writes Coach Thomas Chaix. The 2019 regatta had about 300 entries from 50 countries making it virtually a 'B Worlds'. We were pretty happy at the Western tip of mainland Europe keeping on the edge of the worst of the heat wave and despite challenging wind conditions, team Ireland enjoyed a good event and represented the IODAI and their clubs with pride.
After a day waiting for the wind (no racing), we completed a 5 races qualifying series over two days.
The first day delivered plenty of drama with a confusing finish in very light breezes for one of the girls fleet leading to a staggering number of girls scored DNF. Jessica Riordan (RstGYC) and Alanna Twomey (RCYC) fell foul of the situation putting early pressures on their series. Teammate Clementine Van Steenberge (NYC) made the most of the light breeze to secure two top 10 finishes (9-3). The boys found the light breeze challenging. The second racing day started with a medium 10-12 kts gradually building to 16-18 kts. Clementine maintained her good form (3-14-8) and Jessica showed great character putting a second blow behind her to deliver 2 superb races (BFD-8-4). Alanna had a tough task on the final race to deliver a solid race to secure selection in the gold fleet. She managed to squeeze in thanks to a gutsy final beat gaining places one by one to the finish... All 3 girls made it into the gold fleet which I believe was a first for team Ireland. In the boys fleet, Justin Lucas (RCYC) enjoyed the breeze and showed his master class in the conditions rounding up his qualifying series with a race win (2-12-1). He secured his spot in the boys gold fleet. Fiachra McDonnel Geraghty (NYC) eventually started to show his bow to the front but fell well short of gold. Johnny Flynn (HYC) was equally disappointed with a consistent yet insufficient series to secure Gold. Archie Daly (RstGYC) rounded up his qualifying series with his best race (18th) and settled with Bronze fleet.
We were looking good before the finals. The 5 races however delivered a challenge we found very difficult.
Despite a good forecast, the first day gave conditions many would have deemed unsuitable for racing with 2-5 kts, insane shifts and very different conditions and wind angles from left to right of the course. Clementine eventually scored her discard (UFD) whilst Alanna new attitude “I have nothing to lose” delivered her best race (14th). Justin saved his first race well (12th) before falling foul of a 50 degrees shift in the second. In Silver, Fiachra and Johnny sailed a solid first race (both top 10) before getting caught by the now infamous left shift in the second one. Archie had just one race.
The final day of the event remained light, but the conditions were definitely fairer and 3 races were sailed in 5-10 kts from the west. 13-year-old Clementine was certainly tired and somewhat tense but determined to give it her best. The first two races were challenging for the National YC sailor and the dream just became too far to reach. But she kept her concentration and her final effort was better allowing her to secure 14th overall (11th at the Europeans) which constitute the best finish by an Irish girl since the 90s. Alanna’s final race (13th) secured her 51st overall, just 2 ahead of teammate Jessica who alternated brilliant sailing with costly errors. The lighter breeze was not to Justin’s taste and despite showing some pride securing a 4th on the second race, there was a significant loss of points dropping him to 19th overall (16th at the Europeans). The man on form was Fiachra rounding up his event with a race win (2-10-1) and securing the most significant gain climbing back to 5th overall in Silver, overtaking Johnny in the process (9th overall in Silver). Archie had two solid 10th for his final day racing concluding his event 12th in the bronze fleet.
For the third time since the start of the Nation Cup some 15 years ago, Ireland secured top 10 nation. After last year's superb fourth, we are confirming Ireland as one of the best nations in Europe in 9th.
Bring on Estonia in 2020!