Waszps and Olympians create a buzz at the 2021 Irish Sailing All Ireland Championships
The Irish Sailing All Ireland Championships are back ! Previously known as the “Helmsman’s Championship”, the event has run every year since 1947 until 2020’s historic pause due to the COVID pandemic. One of the most unusual regattas in the world, the competitors represent sixteen of the thirty nine Irish Sailing affiliated classes (or types of boat) and compete to find sailing’s “champion of champions”. Despite coming from a wide range of one design classes, they race against each other in a boat that is often unknown to many. 2021’s chosen boat is the National 18.
Familiar names competing include Charlie Cullen – the youngest competitor at just 19 and a first nomination for the Waszp class; JP Mccaldin who will race his wife Carolyn; Olympians Ger Owens with Ross Killian; Philip Doran with brother Simon; Michael O’Connor with his winning crew from previous years, Davy Taylor; Hammy Baker, RYA Northern Ireland’s Performance Director and Irish eSailing Nations Cup competitor. There’s a strong representation this year from the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire with five of their members competing. Wild cards include Irish Sailing Academy member Tom Higgins sailing with his brother Jack, and Robert O’Leary from the 1720 class who sails with his brother Peter. This year’s National 18 champion Ewen Barry is one to watch as he will compete in a boat more familiar to him than others.
Hosted this year by the Royal Cork YC on 2 & 3 October, each competitor has been nominated as a result of their achievements and rankings for the year. Once chosen, each competitor then selects one crew member. As the National 18 needs a third crew, the third member of the team is nominated by the class. Racing will consist of two “flights” or heats. The top three from each flight go straight into the final. The remaining competitors who placed 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th compete in a 2-race qualifier or “repêchage”, and the top two then enter the Final also. The Final race therefore has eight teams competing.
It is sobering to notice that the 2021 competitor list contains no women helms. It is a common factor across all sports that girls tend to drop out of competitive sport during their teenage years and we can see this clearly in the different ratio of male to female competitors on the Junior and Senior All Ireland competitor lists. Irish Sailing are very aware of the disparity, and are working hard to encourage girls and women to stay in sailing and maintain their positions of leadership on and off the water. Alongside the annual Women at the Helm regatta, three new mentorship, leadership and training initiatives for women have just launched. Irish Sailing believes that the consistent highlighting, support and encouragement of women’s involvement in our sports will start to pay dividends, with more women involved in class competition, which will then have a trickle down to the All Irelands. Read more about the new mentorship, leadership and training initiatives here: https://www.sailing.ie/News/id/4603/taking-the-helm-comes-in-many-forms.
The full list of competitors can be found on the Irish Sailing website, and you can follow results too: https://www.sailing.ie/Racing/All-Ireland-Sailing-Championships
Photos: David Branigan Oceansport