Last weekend (11/12th June) saw the Optimist Ulster Championships return to Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club after a three year gap. With over 100 hundred boats and most of the competitors travelling from Southern Ireland, North Down Tourism support to the event couldn’t have been more apt.
The competing sailors are aged between 8 and 14 so they obviously can’t get to the venue without the support of parents. The sailors, all with at least one parent in tow, arrived at the Cultra club on Friday evening.
A full fleet of support boats crewed by parents, coaches and supporters were launched ready for the weekend’s competition. While many watched the racing on the water, others took the opportunity to walk the North Down coastal path, or sample the shopping and tourist facilities in the area.
The Optimist Dinghy Class
The International Optimist dinghy is the most competitive class of dinghy for Junior sailors. Sailed throughout the world, the single-handed boat produces many of the world’s future sailing champions. In fact, in the next few weeks, 18 of the top sailors at this event are going off to represent Ireland at an International event in Germany and then to Portugal where the European Championships will be held. The Ulster Championships are regarded as a preparation event for these teams.
One sailor, 14 year old Sophie Brown from Tralee, will travel to New Zealand later in the year to take part in the World Championships where over 250 sailors are expected to compete.
So, how did the sailing go?
The weather, always so critical in sailing events, did its usual trick of throwing everything possible at the sailors and organisers. Saturday was a day of light airs and sunshine. With light fickle winds dropping away to nothing, the Featherweights in the fleet were delighted and preformed well.
Sunday was a different day entirely and with winds of 18 knots gusting 22, the heavier sailors came into their own. All in all, something for everyone!
Three races “started” on Saturday.
Race 1 in the Junior Fleet was won by Ronan Cournane (Royal Cork Yacht Club) followed closely by Colin O’Sullivan (Malahide Yacht Club). Race 2 was started in light winds but on the second beat the sailors made little progress against the tide. As the wind disappeared only 10 sailors managed to finish, the rest being “timed out”. The third race of the day was yet another “light airs” affair. Again the promising breeze fizzled out and Royal North’s very experienced Race Officer, Nigel Kearney, raised the abandonment flag. The sailors went ashore for the day to enjoy the hospitalities of Royal North’s recently refurbished clubhouse.
In the Senior Fleet Races 1 and 2 were won by “experienced” sailor Peter McCann (he is only 13) from Royal Cork Yacht Club. Like the Juniors, their Race 3 was also abandoned and the tired sailors sailed back to a fantastic welcome and great meal provided by Royal North. A difficult day for all, both Race Committee and sailors alike worked hard as the wind shifted, built up, dropped away, and built up again.
On Saturday evening Irish Optimist President, Fred Campbell from Royal North presented the Irish Team sailors with their iconic Green Life Jackets and team gear and wished them all luck in their respective International events.
Three races “completed” on Sunday.
Sunday morning came and the promised wind which had the heavier sailors in a jubilant mood started to build steadily.
Race 1 was won by Sean Donnelly from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire with Races 2 and 3 being won by fellow Dun Laoghaire sailor Adam Hyland (Royal St George Yacht Club). Adam was unfortunate to have incurred a “timed out” and a “black flag” penalty in Saturday’s racing. These “expensive” scores pulled him down the results allowing Royal Cork sailor, Peter McCann who sailed steadily on both days to secure the overall Senior Championship.
In the Junior Fleet, Race 1 was won by Rebecca O’ Shaughnessy (Royal Cork) with Niamh Henry (Royal St George) winning Race 2 while strong wind expert Issy Delamer won Race 2 making Sunday an all girl affair in the Junior Fleet. However, the girls’ excellent performances in the stronger breeze did not prevent Royal Cork sailor Ronan Cournane repeating his brother Daire’s success the previous year and securing the Junior Championship.
Congratulations to Peter McCann who is the Ulster Senior Regional Champion.
Congratulations also to Ronan Cournane who is the Ulster Junior Regional Championship.
At a prize giving ceremony following the event, Royal North Commodore, Mike Vaughan welcomed all the visitors and referred to the long association between the club and the Irish Optimist Association. Irish Optimist Vice President Des Flood from Howth Yacht Club thanked the Royal North Yacht Club and its volunteers who worked tirelessly all weekend to make the event the resounding success that it was!
Full results can be found on the Irish Optimist website at www.iodai.com