The 29er Northerns was raced in Strangford Lough Yacht Club last weekend as part of the 30th RYA NI Youth Sailing Championships as Afloat reported earlier. It was the final event of the '29er triple crowns'. Nine teams competed: 3 all boys, 5 mixed and an all girls crew. The standard of the fleet has progressed at a stellar pace allowing a competitive regatta with many changes of leads.
Saturday started with a lot of wind which rapidly decreased to deliver 3 races in medium conditions. The high number of laps on offer allowed many close battles at marks and the sailors had to be solid on their boat handling to maintain or gain positions.
Elysia O'Leary and Chris Bateman showed skills and speed taking the first race win ahead of Triple crowns leaders Lola and Atlee Kohl. The second race saw the return of ISAFs YW Rian McDonnell-Geraghty and Nathan Van Steenberge to winning affairs with O'Leary-Bateman hot on their heels. The final race of the day saw an increase in wind strength and provided some drama.
"The standard of the fleet has progressed at a stellar pace allowing a competitive regatta with many changes of leads"
The leaders of the fleet did not see a lap had been added on the Race committee boat. The Kohl's siblings, on the other hand, had no hesitation and went on for the extra lap with McDonnell-Van Steenberge right on their transom... Realising their error, 4 boats restarted in hot pursuit. The battle at the front became a 3 way gybing battle with Charlie Cullen and Ben Hogan managing to make the junction with the two leaders. McDonnell-Van Steenberge managed to jump the Kohl's to take the win whilst Cullen-Hogan final attempt to get back to the lead ended up in a capsize just boat lengths from the finish allowing Kohl-Crosbie, the McIlwain siblings and Rickard-Goodbody to slip pass.
Day 2's forecast was good with a southerly due to head west by midday. The proceedings were a bit slow but the fleet eventually started race 4 in a medium southerly. Early leaders Cullen-Hogan were overtaken by McDonnell-Van Steenberge. The two boys were not seen again scoring their third race win of the event. The Kohl's siblings had to work their way up the fleet and secured yet another 2nd. The next race started in a dropping breeze and the expected right shift came mid race.
The race officer decided it was just that bit too much and the race was abandoned, which set the scene for a final race drama. The equation was simple enough yet required good sailing skills and clear knowledge of the rules. Having added the points, the Kohl's sibling were starting the final race with a guaranteed 2nd overall and a low discard. On the other hand, McDonnell-Van Steenberge were clear leaders yet discarding a high points first race. The Kohl's made their intentions clear in the first beat taking control of the boys windward side and started to sail them off the course in a very skilled and determined fashion. When the pair eventually made it to the windward, The boys had been put into last position with a monumental task in hand to save their event win.
The opportunity came to overtake their tormentor at the leeward of the initial lap when a 420 allowed a split between the two boats. They certainly took their chance and started to look at the fleet ahead with 3 boats still within reach. At the end of the second lap, they managed to overtake 2 boats which was just about enough to reclaim their lead. It was very tense as they held 6th to the finish which meant the countback went to their favour for the Northerns title. Lola and Atlee Kohl settle for 2nd but secured
the Triple crowns overalls. Completing the podium were Elysia O'Leary and Chris Bateman.
The second year of existence of the 29er class in Ireland has seen major progress in the level of skills and the next challenge is now to grow the numbers of partnerships attending open events... In the mean time, everyone is preparing a solid winter of training to develop further their skills... Bring on 2020!