15th & 16th of November
Belfast Waterworks MBC at Lough Money
Two days of sunshine and superb racing in top suit conditions saw young English skipper Josh King from Windrush taking the overall title of Ulster IOM Champion for 2014.
Josh was closely followed by current World Champion Rob Walsh, representing Fleetwood and Scotland, and in third was Aberdeen’s Steve Taylor.
This is the third year the Ulster clubs have hosted their annual IOM Championship, and this year saw the event growing further in stature with the inclusion of 6 high-calibre English entrants in addition to top skippers from Scotland and Southern Ireland attending.
The wind blew down the Lough at 6-10knots from a reasonably steady South Easterly direction throughout the day with the control area being the newly tarmaced pathway along the Lough’s western bank. This meant the yachts were never too far away from the shore on any point of sailing - a real plus for both competitors and spectators.
Racing got under way around 10.15hrs with current One Metre World Champion Rob Walsh stamping his early authority, scoring a first and second in the first two races.
Races three and four saw Ireland’s Jeff Kay post a couple of bullets, but as the morning progressed Jeff lacked consistency and that is where Fleetwood’s Rob Walsh and Windrush’s Josh King began to show their quality with both skippers rarely scoring outside of the top four in the first half dozen races.
Lunch time came and a really good spread of sandwiches with tasty vegetable soup followed by fruit cake and tea or coffee was provided on site by Down Residential Project. Thanks to Anthony and his team for a really cracking alfresco lunch!
In the early afternoon another inconsistent mover was the MYA Chairman Derek Priestly also representing Fleetwood. Derek scored a couple of good firsts and seconds but as the day wore on he also put down some high scores, as did Lincoln’s Dave Burke.
At this point the Irish skippers were struggling to make any impression on the leader board such was the fleet’s pace, although Howth’s Stephen Kay sailing his new Britpop did manage an impressive win in race 5 along with a third and three further very respectable forth places on day one.
The race management team set windward leeward courses for both days and the general consensus was the beats were different almost every time with very subtle shifts in the wind patterns, but if you got away with speed at the start and managed to get onto port tack early to take full advantage of the first shift you were half way to getting a decent result. Starts were hotly contested with quite a proportion of the fleet pushing their luck and several general recalls were necessary.
Downwinds were occasionally patchy in pressure as the breeze rolled and here places could be lost or gained.
Racing resumed after lunch with a tad more breeze. Josh King posted a couple of first and a second putting pressure on Rob, and as the day wore on it was turning into a real battle between these two.
An incident just before the weather mark in race 12 which involved Scotland’s Ian Dundas but did not affect him, went on for two lengths of the course and the handbags were out. Robbie finally doing a turn but the incident not solved. Race over, out came the plastic boats on the pathway and plenty more handbags, until they both finally agreed to disagree - all in good spirits. This typified the tone of the event with racing incidents sorted on the water in a self policing fleet, and that wee incident provided huge amusement with banter aplenty for the rest of us!
Meanwhile Aberdeen’s Steve Taylor was putting together some fine performances with his wooden Corbie design, posting several seconds and a first. Gosport’s Alex Corey was not having the best of days, chancing his arm on more than one occasion on the start line, but he did manage to get away cleanly and gain a win in race 11.
Fellow Gosport Skipper Nigel Brown again was also inconsistent on the day, but he too managed a first in race 16.
Brikenhead’s Mick Chamberlain improved as the day went on, and at the end of the day was in fourth position behind Josh, Rob and Steve.
Another night for enjoying the social element of the event, this time at Paddy’s Barn with food and drink a plenty and great hospitality, and an early return to the Lough with a bit more breeze along with a few sore heads.
Still a good top suit breeze but for Day Two but it had switched 180 degrees.
The racing would only be until 1pm to allow competitors time to pack up, have the prize giving and prepare for the long journey home. For those more local or a later ferry to catch a most a welcomed lunch awaited them back at Paddy’s Barn after proceedings.
Rob had a bit of catching up to do and it was not going to be easy, but he did post two early bullets with Josh not far behind. Mick Chamberlain found good form and for a change he was the most consistent of the rest of the fleet not being out of the top three for the last three races.
Mick put it down to the three pints of Guinness the night before, the first time he has ever tasted the Irish stout and is now hooked. Its how it’s poured Mick!
Of the Northern and Southern Irish competitors and aside from Jeff Kay’s early good form on day one, Northern Ireland’s Richard Rowan and Southern Ireland’s Gilbert Louis started getting to grips with the fleet’s level of performance and began to steadily climb up the score board as the day unfolded.
Richard posted a fine win in Race 19, with Gilbert posting a win in the final race of the event. Both skippers were racing new boats and found learning to get the best out of their steeds in such a hot fleet no easy task.
Last year’s Ulster champion, and although never out of the top ten, Aberdeen’s Ian Dundas was having a quiet event by his normal standards, but he did manage a fine win and in race 17 followed by a second in 19.
The racing duly finished with Josh on top and Rob second, Steve Taylor was third and Mick Chamberlin’s late Guinness fuelled rush gaining him fourth.
Scotland’s impressive collective results tally ensured they retained their grip on the Anglo-Celtic Challenge Cup for the second successive year with England finishing second, Northern Ireland third and Southern Ireland holding up the rear.
What also impressed at the event was the number of home built ‘woodies’ – 7 out of an 18 boat fleet. This embodies the very spirit of the International One Metre Class of affordable building, and Steve Taylor’s Corbie did manage a great 3rd OA, showing it is possible to build a competitive wooden boat fast enough to compete at top level.
Event sponsors Nigel and Sue Brown of Cat Sails presented the prizes as well as having a nice bottle of whisky presented to them for sponsoring the event. Thanks also go to Sue for her superb sets of photos documenting the racing:
Thanks were also expressed by the fleet to race management team of Pat Johnston, Bill Scott and Brian O‘Neill for the two days of competitive racing And finally a big thanks also to N.I.’s Department of Culture and Leisure for granting permission to host the event at this fantastic venue. On the evidence of the weekend’s racing radio sailing in Northern Ireland is very much on the up.
(Video footage – Courtesy Bob Wells)