The Optimist Ulster Championships returned 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 eight and fourteen 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.
Saturday was a day of light airs and sunshine. With winds of 5knots dropping away to nothing. The Featherweights in the fleet were delighted and preformed well.
Sunday was a different day entirely with winds of 18knots gusting 22 and the heavier sailors came into their own. Just like bag of dolly mixtures - all in all something for everyone!
Race one in the junior fleet was won by Ronan Cournane followed closely by Colin O’Sullivan. Race two was started in five knots but on the second beat the sailors made little progress against the strong tide as the wind disappeared.
Eventually 10 sailors finished but the rest of the fleet were timed out indeed at times the sailors appeared to be going backwards! The third race of the day was again started in five knots which once more dissipated and as the sailors stayed in one spot and chanted 'Abandon' the PRO eventually decided to call it a day.
In the senior fleet race one and two were won by experienced sailor Peter McCann as this form returned. By race three frustrations were showing and the seniors pushed the boundaries of the rules as they desperately tried to get to the windward mark in one knot of wind against a strong tide.
The race was abandoned and the tired sailors sailed back to a fantastic welcome and great meal provided by Royal North. It was a frustrating day for all both race committee and sailors alike as the wind shifted build up dropped away and built up again.
On Saturday evening Fred Campbell presented sailors who have made this years teams with their green life jackets and team gear and wished them luck in the events they will attend.
Sunday morning came and the promised wind which had the heavier sailors in a jubilant mood started to build steadily. A number of black flags had been handed out in the senior fleet the previous day these were carried over to this race this meant a number of sailors stayed ashore and looked on as the rest of the fleet launched.
Race one was won by Sean Donnelly with races two and three won by fellow dunlaoighre sailor Adam Hyland. In the junior fleet race one was won by Rebecca O’ Shaughnessy with Niamh Henry winning race two while strong wind expert Issy Delamer won race three making Sunday an all girl affair in the junior fleet.
Regatta Fleet - As the last two windy events have made regatta fleet sailing difficult the coaches used the opportunity of a light wind forecast on Saturday to launch the sailors early ahead of the main fleet.
To date very little racing has been done in the Regatta fleet but Saturday changed that and four races were completed in the light airs. Sunday brought windy weather and two races were completed. This racing experience is necessary to equip the sailors with the skills they will need when they move to the main fleet.
IODAI Team - Optimist Ulster Championship - Mark Whitaker
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