Youth sailors from the Irish 29er fleet travelled to Gdynia, Poland to compete in the Zhik 29er World championships held last week, from Friday 26th to Saturday 3rd August writes Chris Bateman (17), a member of the Irish contingent that teamed up with the US Virgin Islands.
Two years ago, three Irish sailors competed in the 2017 29er World Championships in California. Since then our 29er fleet has grown steadily and to demonstrate that growth eight Irish sailors competed in this year's Worlds in Gdynia.
This year Ireland had great representation, with three full Irish teams competing. These teams were Harry Twomey and Harry Durcan (RCYC), Charlie Cullen and Ben Hogan (RStGYC), and Lola Kohl with Johnny Durcan (RCYC). Also competing, and sailing on a mixed Irish/US Virgin Island team were RCYC 29er sailors Sophie Crosbie, Dawson Kohl, Jonathan O’Shaughnessy, and Chris Bateman.
Gdynia is a beautiful place at this time of year, and the Irish competitors took no time in rigging their 29ers on the white sand beach opposite the city. With the event due to commence Saturday morning, boat preparation was finished a few days prior.
A light forecast was in store for the week, which held true for the first day of racing. The first gun was due for all fleets at 11 am but winds under five knots forced the sailors to stay ashore. A fickle breeze came in the afternoon, enough to send out the competitors. The light breeze suited the Irish, with every team doing well in their respective fleets. The race of the day went to Harry Twomey and Harry Durcan, scoring a sixth in race one.
Day two proved the forecast to be wrong, with grey clouds and 15 to 20-knot winds blowing across the beach. But warm water awaited and all 178 competitors launched in good time for the traditional 11 am start. There were thrills and spills, with a big chop and strong winds making the racing tough. The Irish sailors had two bullets, with Lola Kohl and Johnny Durcan winning the first race. Harry Twomey and Harry Durcan won the last race of the day.
The sun shone down on Gdynia beach for day three of racing. A cloudless sky allowed for a thermal wind to fill in, which gave the sailors a light wind day of racing. Steep chop made the races very tough. Massive wind shifts caused chaos on the course. Luckily the Irish sailors stayed fully focused, and remained conservative to hold high positions.
Launching on day four (Wednesday) was a quick process, but a lack of wind forced the race committee to send the sailors ashore to wait for wind. This meant that the main aim of the day was to search for shade and have some fun. Unfortunately, the wind level stayed too low and racing was abandoned for the day.
Day five dawned with the sun splitting the stones and a gentle 10-knot breeze blowing. Four races were scheduled, with the usual first gun at 11 am. The wind increased dramatically as the day went on, and by the last race of the day, a steady 18- 24-knot breeze was blowing. These heavy winds tested the Irish sailors to their limits. The races of the day went to two teams, Charlie Cullen and Ben Hogan, with a fifth and a third in the bronze fleet, and Lucy Klempen with Chris Bateman, scoring fifth in the final windy race in the silver fleet.
Day six, the final day of racing rolled around. Sunny conditions brightened the atmosphere on the beach. The points were still very close, and there was a lot to be lost and gained. A very light five-knot breeze blew on the course, making perfect sailing the only option for success. Two Irish teams sat in contention for a top 20 finish. Four difficult races were held, with both teams holding up well in the conditions.
Racing over, the closing ceremony officially ended the event on Saturday 3rd August. RCYC sailors Harry Twomey and Harry Durcan had a top-class performance, finishing in an astonishing ninth place out of 178 boats as Afloat previously reported here. Fellow Cork sailors Lola Kohl and Johnny Durcan finished in 16th place, having held on to a great top 20 result.
All of the team did great, proving that not only can you race competitively, but you can also have fun and make lifelong friends from other parts of the world. And with the rapid growth of the Irish 29er fleet, the fun will continue not just abroad, but on our home waters too.