Crews rule in a riveting return to Ballyholme


Report from the East Coast Championship, won by Rory and Andrew Martin
By Saturday evening, Ballyholme boat-park looked like a rivet exchange. Charlie was offering barely intelligible advice, Roger was watching his drill bits shatter and Keith’s lazy tongs were going like the bellows of a button accordion. The Dunmore lads were kicking the tyre on their jockey wheel, the Donegal team were replacing a tiller extension, and Alan was pacing around distributing nuts, bolts and engineering advice.

Ian remained relentlessly cheerful, despite possessing a crew who would have been better slipping into speedos and spec savers than a wetsuit. Mr Poole had earlier failed to collide with his toe-straps. The sponsor, Bosun Bob, was quids-in, Brian Willis Marine was peeling off the bows of many boats, and schoolgirls had been blown out of playgrounds.
It’s been a while since a weekend brought quite such a wrecking session, and it didn’t end there. Many top boats would feature a DNF by the end of the weekend, some a DNC. Ben managed a DFQ but for what, remains unclear. Dave and the President blew a block, Roger and the Rocket Scientist nearly lost a mast, while Lee and Andy’s departure from the course was also premature, but it’s unclear what the cause of that was. We can rest assured that it must have been something relatively serious though. Orla and Kieron’s Lethal Weapon got in a flap with missing batons, and there was a fair bit of groaning and cracking as joints were clicked back, and paws examined for weeping rope wounds.
Anyone who ever believed Flying Fifteen sailing is more about a helm than a crew, needs their head read. Up front it’s wetter, harder, heavier and hikier, and in winds like the weekend, actions at the pointy bit probably count for more than 70% of the results. We have to confess, some of it is about physique, whether that’s fitness of fatness is of little consequence. If you’ve got it and can get it out over the side, you’ll have a happy helm.
The sailing though, was great. The Ballyholmers know their bay – the beats were long but not tedious and we were treated to triangles in which the reaches were perfectly pitched. Mac and Doug, as usual, mastered the tighter angles, but were robbed of their usual heavy weather race wins. Other big-wind experts like Brian McKee had a great first day, as did Roger and Charlie with new cloth on show. Ian and Keith were in contention, and Sponsor Brian Willis with John McPeake sailed a strong few races. Dave and the President had a race win to lead overnight. The Martin brothers took the other two races, and then smashed and bashed their way ashore just in time to make the chandlery for repairs.
Day two was even windier, which gave the President – ever the opportunist, a chance to angle for a cancellation. The breeze abated though, and the fleet went out to battle again. The runs were pretty rolly polly, with some decent puffs. The Martin brothers got a few lucky breaks and pinched both races in a depleted fleet, as casualties of kit failure limped ashore. But it’s an ill-wind that blows no good, and at least they were treated to some good old jokes from Jimmy McKee, a Fifteen stalwart and organiser of the event.

See also the report

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