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Newtownards Sailing Club hosted Round Three of the Irish Slalom Series 2011. An unbelievable setting only matched by the welcome from locals and club members will make this one of the most memorable events of the year….oh and the windsurfing was fantastic! 

Forecasts for the weekend showed low to zero winds on the Saturday but a steady 20 knots all day Sunday! An amazing response from sailors on both sides of the boarder saw 35 sailors turn up to compete across a Gold and Silver Fleet for the two days. Registration commenced at 9am Saturday morning. Solely due to Lawrence Baalham in the club house bar and a poor forecast some sailors were quicker to registration than others. With such a poor forecast the day was saved by Gary and Jackie Pope who made their speed boat available for wake-boarding, knee boarding and general all-round crack. Gary didn’t get off the water till 7pm! Stand up paddle boards were made available by the club and everyone got on the water! 

Day 2 was a completely different story. Ciaran Cunningham (OD) set one of the most challenging and long ‘down-wind slalom’ courses witnessed by the series. 20 knot winds complimented with strong gusts saw people up early, rigs set and Sunday saw the arrival of a few new and old friends for registration. It’s amazing how far people will travel on a good forecast. 

Fantastic conditions similar to Day 2 in Kerry saw Gold and Silver fleeter take to the water. Back to back racing commenced at 11am. It was a spectacular view to see so many sailors counting down the flags from the race OD and planing over the start line as the hooter went! This event summed up everything great about Irish Windsurfing. It had it all – wind, rain and sun! Conditions were fantastic with the more technical racers gaining an advantage in some of the gusts. Rigs were being changed, conditions assessed on a race by race basis! 

The Silver Fleet racers continued to impress and carry on the good form from Kerry. A huge improvement in board speed saw Kevin McGuinness win every race and the Silver fleet overall! Promotion could be on the cards soon! First Lady and second overall in the Silver Fleet was Eilis Ni Dhuil. Some fantastic racing in tough conditions saw her pip Paul Green to Second Place. David Corkrill impressed at his first event and was well able for the tough conditions and gybe marks! Gene O’Hare won ‘most pimped out van’ for the weekend with a seriously thought out racking system! Robert Polak has been at each event this year and is showing the progress that could see him competing in the Gold Fleet next year! 

The most interesting finding from the weekend was the starting decision made by the entire Silver Fleet. Ciaran Cunningham (OD) was questioning the starting performance of the Silver Fleet – ‘why are none of ye trying to get over the line first’? He was informed the fleet decided to count themselves down from the beach and start together. An initially startled OD admitted ‘probably not a bad idea’. Once over the line though the competitive edge was seen from shore. 

The usual competitive edge was seen in the Gold fleet with Ireland’s best slalom racers on show. Hannes Louet was seen changing down to an 8 metre Gaastra which sent everyone running for their seven metres. Hannes usual sail of choice is a 10 metre to put it in context. 

Hannes Louet staved off a lot of close competition to take 1st Place overall. A deserved win, for some great consistent racing. There was a world class display of slalom racing near the top of the fleet with Cormac O’Brien and Chris Lockridge out performing most. One of the closest battles fought out over the day was ‘El President’ Gareth Nihill with Steven Williams. Some neck and neck exits made things very interesting. 

The Downings Crew arrived in style as usual with their pilot John Boyce all the way from Donegal. Ben McNutt had a few outstanding results crossing the line for one race in 5th Place. At 17 years of age he was competing and beating windsurfers who are at it for 25 years! One to watch…. In total eight extremely long races were ran back to back with a brief interlude for lunch. 

This was a weekend of extremes. Newtownards Sailing Club organised a band for Saturday night playing everything from Country to Blue Grass. From zero wind on Saturday to solid racing condition on Sunday. Great entertainment and food to some of the worst un-rehearsed jokes by Maurice Owens (YouTube links to follow). 

Luckily enough his Bodhran playing made up for it. Maurice was being referred to as the ‘Cooler’ all day Sunday as bar takings plummeted after each joke. One of Ireland’s top ranking sailors made a good decision to sleep through most of it – no names! 

This was a fantastic weekend, well organised and extremely welcoming. Paddy Lyner deserves a lot of credit for inviting the ISS up and for organising everything. We are extremely grateful to Paddy’s mum, wife and her team for feeding nearly 40 people over two days with the best stew, soups and treats possible. We are always treated well at ISS events but this went beyond the expected! 

Our events wouldn’t attract such numbers if it wasn’t for our sponsors and we would like to thank Jurys Inn (won by Kevin McGuinnes) who sponsor a weekend away, Boards Magazine for its annual subscription (won by Paul Green) and Cloudmaster.ie (Cormac O’Brien) for his GPS tracking of races. A big thank you to Newtownards Sailing Club. We’ll be back!  

All results and photos are available on www.irishslalom.ie and information on Round 4 in Downings (23rd / 24th July) is also available…..roll on! 

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