The Flying Fifteen Northern Championships took place in the picturesque village of Whitehead at the weekend, hosted by County Antrim Boat Yacht Club in their newly renovated clubhouse. Brian McKee and Ian Smyth (SLYC) emerged as worthy winners in varied and testing conditions.
23 crews descended on the town full of hope in what was the first event of the season. The forecast was for good wind on Saturday, with very strong winds from the SE due on Sunday.
The welcome and hospitality were great and very appreciated by those who travelled — indeed, when boats were arriving in the town they were usually meet by about 3 cars showing them the correct route to the club!
Race 1: Saturday morning we all arrived at the club to be greeted by a flat sea with no wind. Undeterred, we headed out and drifted around. Eventually the PRO decided to get a race started and off we went with an extremely light northerly wind, drifting into a tide, making slow progress.McCleery led the way by heading inshore, and had a good lead, followed by Peter Lawson and Joe Coughlan.
Halfway through the race, the little wind there was disappeared and the fleet was turned inside out with those at the back drifting up to the leaders. After flapping around for a while, a gentle breeze got the fleet to the finish (the race was shortened) with McKee winning from McCleery who just managed to keep second, with Peter Lawson who had done a ‘Lazarus job’ from the back getting third.
David Mulvin was fourth and Jay Burke fifth after getting their own private wind on the left on the downwind leg and getting water on most of the fleet at the last leeward mark!
Race 2: Again we waited for wind. At one stage the scene was reminiscent of Hawaii Five 0 as crews frantically paddled back to the start line (all of 100 meters!). Some were so keen that they kept paddling well after the gun — a bit naughty but they know who they are!
The pin end was favoured but those who started at the boat end got an extra puff of wind and at the weather mark Pat Thomson (EABC) led in his classic from Gerry Reilly.
Reilly took the lead downwind, the wind shifted slightly and the second beat was a fetch so it became a soldier’s race with very little changing of places — very disappointing that the weather mark was not moved. The race was shortened and won by Reilly with McKee second and Lawson third.
Race 3: Again calm, but the light breeze had moved slightly to the right. As the tide pushed the boats over the line there were two general recalls before the black flag was raised. Prior to the start, the two happiest men in the fleet after some great results, Joe and Pat, had an unfortunate crash and Joe had to head back to the shore.
The wind had filled in to a moderate breeze and the PRO shortened the race which was won by Gerry Reilly with McCleery second and McKee third. Malcom Crichton was fourth, with Trevor Kirkpatrick fifth in his classic.
A frustrating day for all concerned but the day was not over yet. On Saturday night the club put on great entertainment with wonderful food for a very reasonable price. Maybe other clubs should take note that it doesn’t need to be expensive!
Race 4: After overnight thunder storms, the air cleared and there was a nice building breeze from the south of about a force 4 as the fleet set out on Sunday. Joe & Liam had a very large patch on their boat and ventured out. The fleet got away at the first time of asking, with Willis and Gorman starting well at the pin.
After a short time on starboard, the fleet tacked onto port and McCleery and Reilly got lifted into the weather mark just ahead of Gorman and McKee. A brilliant two-sail reach on great waves ensued. McCleery stayed ahead and Gorman sailed masterfully on the waves under Reilly to move into second place.
That’s the way it stayed till the last beat when Gorman’s rig tension went and put him out of the race. McCleery took the gun, Reilly second, McKee third followed by Jay with Gorman limping over the line in fifth.
Race 5: All to play for … a number of boats could win the title, including, McCleery, Reilly and McKee and with the wind increasing and a big sea developing nothing was guaranteed. Jay & Ben led the way from McKee, with Reilly third and McCleery fourth.
The reaches were fast and furious, with many spectacular broaches including local man Gavin Pollard nearly going down with his boat after a particularly spectacular one. If things stayed this way, three boats would have been on 8 points!
Alas they didn’t – McKee moved into the lead and held it to take the title by one point, Jay was second in the race and McCleery just pipped Reilly on the line for third. So, overall McKee/Smyth (SLYC) were worthy winners in varied and testing conditions, Reilly/McCarthy (SSC) were second and McCleery/Dougan(KYC) were third.
Dave Mulvin won the silver fleet, Joe Coughlin the bronze and the classic fleet was won by locals Sheela & John Lewis from Bryan Willis and Trevor.
For our first regional championships, and most people’s first sail of the year, the competition in the fleet was as keen as ever. Brian McKee thanked the club for an enjoyable event, the sponsors, the PRO and his team, his fellow competitors and even his crew Ian Smyth.
A special word of thanks from FFAI President Ben Mulligan was for those who prepared the fantastic food and for the shore team that helped get us on and off the water. Those who didn’t travel missed an enjoyable and interesting event.
The next event is the Championships of Ireland, which will be held in Dun Laoghaire in June.