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Bobby Driscoll from Royal North Wins Topper 5.3 Northern Ireland Championships

9th August 2021
Gerry Bell's Committee boat surrounded by Toppers at the NI Championships
Gerry Bell's Committee boat surrounded by Toppers at the NI Championships Credit: Fiona Boyd

It was worth the wait for Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough to stage a full-on Topper Northern Ireland Championships over the past weekend.

Sixty-nine young sailors came from the length and breadth of Ireland; from Royal Cork and Waterford in the south and Galway in the West, and even from the south of England to compete within this exciting two-day event. There was racing for two divisions, the 4.2 fleet and the 5.3 Toppers in what turned out to be, weather-wise, completely contrasting conditions on each day. And many of the fleet were first-time competitors.

Winning the 4.2 fleet was Callum Pollard from County Antrim Yacht Club in Whitehead on the north shore of Belfast Lough and Bobby Driscoll, (son of Ireland's 1996 Olympian competitor) in a 5.3 from Royal North, Ballyholme and Strangford Lough Yacht Club, was the overall winner.

The lack of a steady breeze on the Saturday forced Race Officer Commodore Aidan Pounder to postpone racing but he managed to get two completed. The next day had completely different conditions with a strong and eventually rain-laden westerly giving some hair-raising racing in a breaking sea, among sailors most of whom seemed to be able to cope with anything. But the rain has no friends among the Race Committee and having postponed the fifth race due to bad visibility when it cleared, they ironically had to abandon it due to increased winds.

Bobby Driscoll (47521) and Daniel PalmerBobby Driscoll (47521) and Daniel Palmer

In the 54 strong 5.3 fleet, Driscoll and Daniel Palmer from BYC, both Juniors, showed consistency throughout the racing and ended on equal nett points, with the tie split in Driscoll's favour. Driscoll counted two firsts and a second and Palmer the same. Driscoll also won the prize for Ist Junior Male. In the third slot was Liam Duggan from Royal Cork and he also took the prize for 1st Youth Male. In the same fleet fourth-placed Julie O'Neill, also from Royal Cork, took home the prize for 1st Youth Female and Ciara McMahon from Howth and National lifted the prize for 1st Junior Female.

In the 15 strong 4.2 fleet Callum Pollard counted a first and two seconds to finish three points ahead of Tom Driscoll of Royal North and Ballyholme, with Tyler Playfair of Carrickfergus SC third with the same score.

Bobby Driscoll, Topper NI ChampionBobby Driscoll, Topper NI Champion

Callum Pollard  Topper 4.2 NI ChampionCallum Pollard, Topper 4.2 NI Champion

Ballyholme Commodore Aidan Pounder was delighted with the success of the event: "With the pandemic forcing the cancellation of the ITCA GBR Nationals this year, Ballyholme Yacht Club (BYC) approached Topper Ireland about hosting an event as restrictions eased.  Over the last few weeks, members of BYC have been very busy putting together 'The Topper Northern Ireland Championships' and were hopeful of a good turnout, given the problems Covid-19 has presented in hosting events. On Saturday we had 69 Toppers take to the water in Belfast Lough for Race 1, a makeup of 15 sailors in the 4.2 class and 54 sailors in the 5.3 class. From a BYC perspective in the competitor make up, BYC Cadets accounted for 10 in the 4.2 fleet and 24 in the 5.3 fleet, a truly fantastic figure and testament to the success of our Cadet programme driven by David Nelson and Colin Robinson. For a lot of these cadets, it was their first event, and they had everything to contend with, from very light wind on Saturday to 22 kts of breeze on the Sunday.

All the competitor sailors did remarkably well with the conditions. I was absolutely delighted to see so many Cadets from both the South and North competing, clearly demonstrating how strong our Cadet sailing is on the island of Ireland, and the great support the families have shown to sailing. I very much hope that it won't be long before we see a return to European and World events in our great sailing waters in Northern Ireland".

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Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down.

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At a Glance - Topper Championship Dates in Ireland 2021

2nd-4th July Irish Nationals at Strangford Lough Yacht Club

24-30 July 2021, Topper World Championships at Royal Cork Yacht Club

2nd-6th August 2021 UK Topper Nationals Ballyholme Yacht Club

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