The Optimist Ulster Championships took place at the weekend on the 26th and 27th of June at Ballyholme Yacht Club on the North East of Belfast Lough.
Patrick Crosbie took the Senior title with a solid performance on 12 points, in an event that was to have it’s own share of drama coupled with a nail biting conclusion, when, even down to the last race, any one of a number of sailors were still in contention.
Daire Cournane of RCYC/KYC won his fourth provincial Junior title this season. It is understood that, subject to verification, he may be the first Junior sailor to have achieved this marvellous feat of winning all four provincial titles in the one season. He won the Ulster title with an extraordinary 6 bullets and in the process discarded a 1st.
Finally, after three events of light winds, we had an event at which there could be no complaints and the heavier sailors rubbed their hands with glee as the wind increased during the day from 15 knots to 22 knots and gusted even higher at times.
In the Junior fleet’s first race, Daire Cournane made it look so easy when winning from Fergus Flood (HYC) and Robert Dickson (HYC). The two Howth sailors were to fight bravely all through the day and the next day, but nothing they could do was going to break Daire’s firm hold on the series.
Richard Thompson showed his liking for the windy conditions with an 8th finish and Rebecca O’Shaughnessy had a great 12th place finish.
In the Senior fleet, Peter McCann had a very impressive race in the conditions to take first followed by Patrick Crosbie 2nd, Sèafra Guilfoyle 3rd, Eoin Leyden 5th, Harry Whitaker 7th, John Durcan 9th and Philip Brownlow 10th. Not a bad showing with 7 RCYC sailors in the top ten finishers.
In the Junior fleet business resumed as normal with Daire Cournane taking the honours. He was followed this time by his brother Ronan with a fantastic 4th place. Rebecca O’Shaughnessy had her sail of the event, finishing in a marvellous 9th place.
In the Senior fleet, Philip Brownlow put in a marvellous performance to finish in 1st place and behind him came, John Durcan 2nd, Sèafra Guilfoyle 4th, Patrick Crosbie 5th, Peter McCann 6th, Eoin Leyden 8th, and Sophie Browne 9th .
No changes to the pattern here with Daire Cournane in 1st. He was followed by Jamie Tingle who was to have the first of his strong results of the remainder of the event, when he finished in 6th place. Claire O’Sullivan had a very creditable 13th finish while Matthew Kehoe 25th and Richard McGinley 26th were to have two of their best results of the event.
In the Senior fleet Sèafra Guilfoyle took the lead and led the way around the course, on the final run, with less than thirty metres to the last mark, disaster struck as he gybed on top of a wave losing his balance and ultimately, the series, in the one moment, as he capsized. Philip Brownlow who had been chasing closely, whizzed past to take 1st, followed by Patrick Crosbie 2nd, John Durcan 3rd, Peter McCann 7th, Sophie Browne 9th and the hapless Sèafra finally finishing in 11th position.
Racing was then over for the day and it was a happy bunch of sailors who headed for home having had a great days racing in the splendid sunshine on Belfast Lough.
Conditions were similar to the previous day, with the wind rising as the day went on.
Daire Cournane was once again the victor in the Junior race. His usual two partners Fergus Flood (HYC) and Richard Dickson (HYC) were to finish 2nd and 3rd respectively, a finish sequence that was to continue for the next two races.
Jamie Tingle, revelling in the conditions got a great 5th place, Richard Thompson in the Silver fleet was seizing the day and had a massive 6th place finish followed by Ronan Cournane in 9th place. James McCann was to pull off a remarkable 18th place which given his age (Oppy 10) and size in the wind and wave conditions, was nothing short of miraculous.
In the Senior fleet, Sèafra Guilfoyle hell bent on making up for his mistake of the previous day, took off like a scalded cat. He made no error this time and came in 1st with Peter McCann 2nd, Patrick Crosbie 3rd, Harry Whitaker 5th, Eoin Lyden 7th, Sophie Browne 8th and Jil McGinley who was finally coming into her own, in 10th place.
Daire Cournane was the winner again. The rapidly improving Jamie Tingle had a fantastic 4th place and Anna Kelly (RCYC/BBSC) had a great 12th place finish.
In the Senior fleet, naughty things were going on and the OD had to raise a black flag. Both Patrick Crosbie and Sèafra Guilfoyle fell foul and were out of the fifth race. Peter McCann was unable to start because of a slight technical difficulty with his gear.
When the race started, John Durcan very determinedly took over pole position and then did not relinquish, sailing in fine style into 1st place, followed by Sophie Browne in 2nd and a now back to form Jil McGinley in 5th place.
Daire Cournane took the Junior Leinster title with his amazing sixth win in a row.
Jamie Tingle finished strongly in 8th position and Rebecca O’Shaughnessy finished her regatta strongly in 12th place.
In the Senior race, it was all still to play for, and without the necessity of a black flag the race got under way. However, as the fleet sailed up the first beat there was a huge wind shift and then a squall hit the race area, hitting the sailors and spectators with torrential rain and consequential reduced visibility. Notwithstanding the fact that the Juniors were still racing, the Senior race was abandoned much to the relief of at least two of the sailors who had been heading towards Scotland !
The event was over and Patrick Crosbie was the popular Senior winner.
The RCYC overall impact on the top of the Senior Gold fleet overall was;
1st Patrick Crosbie
2nd John Durcan
4th Peter McCann
5th Sèafra Guilfoyle
6th Philip Brownlow
7th Sophie Browne
9th Eoin Lyden
12th Harry Whitaker
15th Jil McGinley
25th Eva Donworth
28th Louise Shanahan
In Senior Silver Maeve O’Sullivan bravely carried the flag as sole RCYC silver and finished in a worthy 34th place overall
In the Junior Fleet in Gold the RCYC had:
1st Daire Cournane
7th Jamie Tingle
10th Ronan Cournane
In the Junior Silver, Richard Thompson stole the show with a great performance on the water giving him the honour of 1st Junior Silver.
The Junior Silver fleet performances were as follows:
1st Richard Thompson.
4th Rebecca O’Shaughnessy
6th Anna Kelly
9th Claire O’Sullivan
20th Matthew Kehoe
21st James McCann
At this event RCYC had no sailors in the regatta fleet, which was won by Gemma McDowell of Malahide Yacht Club.
Once again all our sailors were exemplary both on and off the water, “except” when later in the day, in the Ballyholme Clubhouse, they cheered loudly for each goal that Germany scored against England in the World Cup. That was however, hardly a yellow card offence !