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The ISA SailFleet J80 Fleet Racing Championship took place last weekend, in glorious sunshine and a small amount wind on a very glassy Galway Bay.

Sixteen local teams took part from Galway Bay Sailing Club including two teams from NUI Galway, with eight teams racing on each day. Such was the demand to sail in this event which uses the Irish Sailing Association's J80 fleet of eight one-design sailboats, that the event format was changed to a two day event to accommodate 16 team entries rather than the original eight.

The benefit of the one-design J80s is that each boat is identical with exactly the same handicap and first across the line takes the honours unlike handicap racing where some calculation is required to determine a winner.

Our Regional Race Officer and Club Commodore David Vinnell aided by his experienced race committee Anne Donohue and Cepta Ryan and course layers Mox Henderson, Robbie & Dara did a wonderful job in getting in the maximum five races on each day considering that the was no wind at times and avoiding sunburn became a greater focus for the fleet at one point.

Eventually the racing started and Training Centre Manager Thomas Mills team with his team of instructors set the early pace reaching the windward mark in first place, unfortunately there was a wind shift on the downward leg and Optique with Lemonnier & Crew who had started badly took the more favoured right hand side of the course leading for a few minutes, before being overtaken by experienced 420 sailor Gerry Drudy on Jybernian who took first place in race 1, leaving Optique in second place.

The next four race were run off in quick succession and NUI Galway with Ben Scallan, David Fitzgerald, Mark Armstrong & Ruaidhri de Faoite rapidly emerged as the boat to beat as they won the last four races on the day. After Midnight helmed by Eoghan McGregor finished in second place.

Sunday's racing was sailed in even lighter conditions than Saturday, where the wind dropped completely and the first race was abandoned with Westsails helmed by Tom Murphy being tantalisingly close to the line before the time limit was reached. The wind filled in eventually and the next race was started in 6-7 kts of wind which got the fleet speedily off the line, Glenn Cahill with his Joie de Vie Team continuing their winning habit being Class I winners in WIORA 2010 taking two first places and two second places to emerge as overall winners on the day. 

The winners of each days racing will no go forward to race in the GBSC J80 West Coast Championship on Saturday 9th April against six nominated teams from Clubs on the West Coast. Such will the competition be I expect that spectator boats may be required and a little on the water marshalling required.

Two events take place on the J80s this coming weekend, with Junior Sailing from County Galway Schools taking place on Saturday 2nd April and an Irish Sports Council Women on the Water initiative taking place on Sunday. For details contact Astrid Comerford by e-mailing pro@gbsc.ie

Galway Bay Sailing Club having invested in bringing the J80 fleet to Galway is committed to using the fleet to the maximum by running sessions for as many groups as possible.

A two handed Championship on J80s has been scheduled for Sunday 10th April, with high quality entries including former round Ireland two handed champions Yannick Lemonnier, Paul O'Rian Figaro Sailor and several other experienced offshore racers, contact westsails@gmail.com.

GBSC would like to thank Galway Harbour Company and Galway Ocean Sports Club for their help, assistance and accommodation in running this event.

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