BRIAN McKee and Stephen Martin deservedly walked away with the major honours at the West of Ireland Flying Fifteen Championships at a blustery Carrickfergus over the weekend September 15-16, writes Marcus Crichton.
The Strangford Lough Yacht Club duo, who have been knocking on the door all season, held off a late charge on Sunday afternoon by Killyleagh pair Andrew McCleery and Colin Dougan, to take the title by a single point.
The turnout of 19 boats, including 11 in the Classic fleet, was slightly disappointing, but race officer Ken Atkinson and his team set excellent sausage/triangle/sausage courses and the races were turned around with minimal delay.
The wind was slightly up and down for three races on Saturday, but conditions freshened on Sunday when the fleet had to contend with 30+mph gusts.
McKee and Martin got off to a great start by winning the opening race on Saturday morning, with Peter Lawson and Jo Lawson a close second. The Portaferry brother-and-sister team were in front at one stage, and would go on lead every race only to get edged out close to the finish line.
Shane McCarthy and Jeremy Rodgers, also from Portaferry, won the second race on Saturday from McCleery and Dougan, who finished the day on a high by squeezing home to take the final race.
At the end of the first day McKee/Martin and McCleery/Dougan were tied on six points each, with Lawson/Bridges third on nine points.
McKee and Martin came out of the blocks with a bang to win the opening race on Sunday morning, when there was little to separate the first five boats. Lawson and Bridges were second and McCleery and Dougan third.
The final race brought helter skelter off-wind sailing, particularly on a tight two-sail reach and the final run when the wind had shifted round. McCleery and Dougan revelled in the conditions to take the win, but McKee and Martin finished second and that was enough to give them the championship.
The Silver fleet was won by Marcus Crichton and Roy Scott, from Strangford Sailing Club, who finished fifth overall. Jeff Harrison and Steve Ferres, from Lough Neagh SC, won the Bronze fleet, and the Classic fleet honours went to Brian Willis and Nigel Sloan, from County Antrim YC.