The four biggest two-handed youth classes will be competing in their respective regional championships at next month’s inaugural event in Athlone, developed as an alternative to the usual focus on single-handed boats.
The Mirror Western Championship, RS Feva Inland Championship, 420 Connacht Championship and 29er Triple Crown will all be decided at Ireland’s largest youth double-handed regatta — and one that Lough Ree YC promises to be ‘an extravaganza of spinnaker-flying racing’.
The Double Ree concept has developed as an alternative to the usual post-Optimist paths of the Topper and Laser 4.7, says Lough Ree Yacht Club Commodore Garrett Leech.
Double-handed dinghies make an apt choice for many younger sailors, who may not be comfortable helming a larger vessel or may not enjoy sailing alone, among other reasons.
Double-handers like the Mirror also encourage the development of more rounded skill sets, Leech says.
“At Lough Ree Yacht Club, nearly all kids, even those who sail Optimist on the circuit, will also learn to sail in a double-handed dinghy, be this a Mirror or Feva, even Shannon One Designs.”
Getting younger sailors interested in two-handed sailing has also arrested a decline in classes that may be overlooked by those more focused on the high-performance pathway.
With various two-handed classes to move into, the question for Lough Ree was which to embrace.
“Some of our kids started to want more speed and excitement so have moved into 420s,” Leech says. “We sat and watched the development of the 29er fleet here in Ireland, and debated about the introduction of yet another class and what impact it might have on double-handed sailing nationally.
“We soon came to the conclusion that we should embrace all of these racing fleets — and hope that there would be no more introduced anytime soon.”
Leech gives credit to his Vice Commodore John McGonigle for developing the Double Ree concept, with input from Gail MacAllister of Irish Sailing.
“We hark back to days of old — when we hear about Dinghy Week in Dun Laoghaire from some of our older members, when there were huge numbers of dinghies competing in Dublin Bay.”
“So we are setting out to create an event that will pull all competitive double-handers to one location. We hope that that the various fleets will come to appreciate the merits of each other’s fleets.”
Holistically, the Double Ree event is also about “pulling families together in a fun environment”. But Leech is clear that attracting competitive youth sailors is a key goal.
Camping and mooring facilities are available at the Athlone venue, with a barbecue to welcome competitors and their families on Friday 20 July, as well as a club dinner on the Saturday evening.