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Huge success for inaugural Bangor Town Regatta

by Mark Mackley 8 Jul 2018 21:33 BST 5-8 July 2018

Over 500 sailors and 100 keelboats and dinghies relished in the champagne conditions served up in Belfast Lough by joint host yacht clubs Royal Ulster and Ballyholme in the first Bangor Town Regatta.

The new event is already booked again in the calendar for late June/early July 2020 and the success of this weekend's racing can only grow the numbers of competitors for a format that is already working well in the Scottish Series and Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

The pick of the racing could be said to have been in Class 2's IRC fleet comprising mainly of the RC35 class but there was close racing across the board and many of the classes weren't finalised until the very last race.

Class 1 saw just four entries from Scotland and Hong Kong against the pride of Strangford Lough. Jamie McWilliam's mainly ex pat crew in Signal 8 were hard worked with relatively short windward leeward courses to contend with and ended up second to Jonathan Anderson's Elgran Senior from Clyde Cruising Club

The RC35 Class saw Pat Kelly's J109 Storm surge forwards from Day 1 when they has two bullets. Apart from an OCS in Race 4 alongside 4 other boats, Storm continued to set the pace until the final morning when an unusual poor last two races saw Debbie Aitken's First 36.7 Animal from RNCYC squeeze past by one point to win the overall trophy followed by Storm and then John Stamp's Corby 33 Jacob VII in third. The mix of makes of boat shows the success of this class with tight arcing throughout the weekend.

Class 3 was more of a local (almost Larne) family affair with Rory Fekkes' FN'GR8 sailing out of Carrickfergus SC mixing it up with Peter Doig and his crew in their J92 from East Antrim YC. Other Belfast Lough competitor's Steve Atkinson's Bad and John Minnis' Final Call kept them honest.

The Quarter Tonners in Class 4 decided to race as IRC handicaps for Bangor Town Regatta causing much consternation before the event when some boats found that they suddenly gave others much more time than they expected. One benefit was Garth and Miles Lindsay's Jonathan Star who won the class by 5 points. Alan Morrison and John Simms Starflash showed great speed when the wind freshened especially on Day 1 whilst David Milne's Manzanita came third enjoying the flatter waters of Day 2 and 3.

Class 5 - NHC Unrestricted - saw a large mix of boats from Pure 6, a custom sportsboat, to a Sun Odyssey 42. Four Sigmas made up much of the racing led by Miss Behavin who won the British/ Class Championship at the same venue 2 years ago. Recent Irish champion Squawk tried to make it a battle winning the first two races on a breezy Day 1 which also saw Miss Behavin's genoa tack eye shear off at the end of the first race and a DNC in Race 2.

Such is the camaraderie amongst the Sigma family that Squawk's owner Paul Prentice took the Miss Behavin part to a friendly stainless steel welder 30 miles away to get the part fixed in time for Day 2. The intricacies of the NHC handicap system saw Micheal and Chris Johnston's Impulse beat Squawk for second place whilst Pure 6 enjoyed the lighter flatter conditions of the final day to win both races and take third place on countback.

NHC Restricted in Class 8 saw the smallest keelboat Shara from Donaghadee SC against some of the largest in Jo and Doug Rennie's Oceanis 43 and Roger and Suzie Clegg's Sigma 38 Ocean Tramp. The latter lead for most of the series and if they had been 1 second faster on Race 8, could have been overall winner. Instead they shared 5.5 points on the penultimate race with Gerry and John Bell and Bryan Lawther's MerryJack, allowing the smaller Sigma 33 of Terry Fair to also come equal with them, this time on overall points but take the overall win on countback.

The Waverley class also competed on Saturday and Sunday around the RUYC buoys with 6 of the historic class in action. Martin and Victoria Dews won in Merrilies from Michael Stephens in Waverley and Jimmy McKee in Nigel.

Bangor Town Regatta also hosted the Irish RS400 and RS200 National Championships with 18 RS200's and 26 RS400's hosted at Ballyholme over Friday to Sunday. The RS200 class was controversially won by Julian Bradley and Helen Cafferata from Royal Cork's Adam Power and Jack Young. Julian and Helen now sail out of Wembley SC and although Julian is from Northern Ireland, they didn't qualify for the Irish Championships due to their RS membership giving the win to the Cork duo. County Antrim's Jocelyn Hill came third with new crew Jenny Lewis.

In the RS400 class there was some very close racing with Paul McMahon from Howth leading until the last race with Sue Monson as crew. Sue is a regular Ballyholme visitor and RYANI and ISA coach as well as sister of navigator Rosco Monson who just completed the Volvo Round the World Race aboard Team AkzoNobel. Unfortunately it didn't help them navigate the final race when a 5th place saw them equal on points with regular RS400 winners Alex Barry and Richard Leonard who then claimed the Irish National title again on countback. Carrickfergus's Chris Penney and Jessica Rutherford came third. The RS400 class now has a large number of very competitive sailors with ex Olympians, Figaro sailors and Round Britain record holders amongst it and "pleasantly" surprised to see how strong the Irish fleet has become over the last few years with more regular competition.

Of course the aim of Bangor Town Regatta has also to see the festival of keelboat and dinghy racing return to Bangor with great social evenings every night at both clubs and lots of friendships renewed with the influx from Scotland, Ireland and Hong Kong. Jo Rennie also entertained a party of Italians aboard "Three Sheets" who come from Andora YC which "twinned" with Ballyholme Yacht Club in recent years. The final evening saw the bars run out of rum, ice and glasses - always a great sign of success.

The prize giving was hosted this afternoon quickly after racing and thanks given to the hard work of Event Chair Jim Coffey and his race management teams from both clubs. Lots of organisation has gone into the inaugural event and lessons learnt for the next version - all competitors were asked for their views into how to grow it and encourage their fellow sailors along.

Also thanked was Principal Race Officer Robin Gray home fresh from his involvement in the Volvo Ocean Race, and Race Officers Angela Gilmore from Killyleagh YC and Tom Rusbridge who came all the way from Birmingham to run the RS200 and RS400 course.

Of course events cannot run without sponsors and Bangor Town Regatta benefited with generous support from Damian Fusco and his group of companies including Fusco Cars, Bangor Fuels and Wolseys bar, Schweppes 1783, Quay Marinas, and BJ Marine. many thanks were given by Jim Coffey to all.

With music from the Swing Sisters in full sunshine on the front lawn of Royal Ulster, the crews all said their goodbyes and will now look forward to the return of Bangor Town Regatta in 2020.