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Irish Flying Fifteen Nationals at National Yacht Club - Preview

by Cormac Bradley 27 Sep 2018 09:47 BST 28-30 September 2018
Flying Fifteen in Dublin Bay © Cormac Bradley

On the eve of the Deloitte sponsored Flying Fifteen Championship of Ireland, hosted by the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, the following preview of the runners and riders, in what will double up as the third leg of a selection process for the host fleet of the 2019 World Championships which are scheduled for late summer 2019 at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, may provide an interesting read. A healthy entry of Fifteens is signed up for the three days of racing which start tomorrow afternoon, Friday 28th September.

In order to review the status of the fleet, this article will go back to 12 months ago and the 2017 National Championship in Whitehead, Co. Antrim where the title was won comfortably by Steve Goacher & Alan Green (4021), by a margin of 8 points, with the pecking order behind them being Andy McCleery & Colin Dougan (4037), Andy & Rory Martin (3974), Brian McKee & Ian Smith and, closing out the top five, Lee Statham & Andrew Paul (3896). So while the Dun Laoghaire fleet may boast significant fleet numbers, three of the top five at the National Championship of Ireland from 12 months ago came from outside Dun Laoghaire and half of the winning crew was also not resident in the borough even if he is a popular and regular visitor to these parts. The fifth placed crew came from a club which has only two boats – Waterford Harbour Sailing Club! However, it should be noted that as the last day of the 2017 Championship was a breezy one, a significant number of boats decided not to race and this did influence the final finishing order. But, the suggested advantage of sailing in the large and competitive fleet in Dun Laoghaire on Thursday evening s and Saturdays was not translating to significant results on the regatta circuit.

At the first election event of the 2018 season, in Ballyholme, two of the top three in the final pecking order were again outside the Dun Laoghaire fraternity with Dave Gorman & Chris Doorly finishing second to the Martin brothers and ahead of McCleery & Dougan. Messrs Gorman & Doorly were leading overnight in Ballyholme but that was due to an unfortunate breakage for the Martin brothers in one race on Saturday – a situation that was attested to in the report on Afloat on the Saturday evening.

Since the Ballyholme event there have been two significant regattas that may give a "heads-up" to the National Championship of Ireland – The Flying Fifteen British Isles Championships & Northerns in Whiterock, Strangford Lough, the second 2019 selection event for the Irish fleet and the European Championships in Lake Garda. But the results at both events are nominally skewed for reasons unique to each event.

In Strangford an event that was due to run from Wednesday to Saturday was devoid of any meaningful wind for three days and the regatta was shoe-horned into a three race series on the Saturday morning. That meant a "no-discard regatta", doubly hard on indiscretions on the water.

Dave Gorman & Chris Doorly were the best of the Irish in 4th place, with a score-line of 3, 6, 13 to finish fourth overall, with the winners, Steve Goacher & Tim Harper accumulating 4 points. Second of the Irish in 10th overall and a scorecard of 17, 22, 11 were Roger Chamberlain & Charlie Horder (3962), with Irish boats finishing 11th and 12th overall, Jeff Harrison & Rory Hickland (3648) (11, 12, 29) from Lough Neagh followed by the Martin brothers (7, 40, 9) respectively. McCleery & Dougan were 14th, with Neil and Colin & Margaret Casey 15th. Despite carrying a 50-point penalty for a DSQ, Ian Mathews & Keith Poole (3864) were 20th as their other scores were 7th & 8th and the DSQ was a good result on the water.

Thus, after two selection events the FFAI posted the following "provisional" status of the selection process. The emphasis on provisional by the author is not to challenge the validity of the document but simply to afford it the status given to it by the Association.

Provisional Ranking – Selection Series World Championships 2019*:

PosHelm & CrewEast Coast ChampionshipNorthern ChampionshipPts
1Dave Gorman & Chris Doorly495099
2Andy & Rory Martin504797
3Andy McCleery & Colin Dougan484694
4Roger Chamberlain & Charlie Horder424991
5Ian Mathews & Keith Poole444387
7Stewart Harrison & Tim Sheard394483
8Jeff Harrison & Rory Hickland334881
10Lee Statham & Andrew Paul384280

*As posted to the Dun Laoghaire What's App Flying Fifteen Group.

The highlighted boxes indicate those who are in qualifying places as of early July and again are a provisional declaration by the Association.

Lake Garda is mid-September is the final regatta indicator that will be referenced in this preview and saw six Irish boats in a 35-boat fleet made up of British, Irish and a solitary Hong Kong entry, at least in terms of sail number declarations. Of the highlighted names in the table above, only one regular pairing was in Garda, Ian Mathews & Keith Poole who scored a race win (4th race of 10) and finished 14th overall, with a big points gap behind the winners, Hamish Mackay & Andrew Lawson of GBR who were tied overall with Steve Goacher (that name again!) & Tim Harper on 29 points! Other notable results from the Irish contingent were a 2nd (Race 6) and 18th overall for Alan Green & Ben Mulligan (3970) and a 4th in the same race for Niall Meagher & Nicki Matthews (3938), in 23rd overall.

So that's the regatta form and on that basis it is difficult to see where a winner for the National Championship of Ireland will come from. It might just be that from a Dun Laoghaire only perspective, the likely candidates for a regatta win might be limited to the pairings of Dave Gorman & Chris Doorly and Ian Mathews & Keith Poole. From a northern perspective, and without knowing the entries, the speculation will be on the Martin brothers, McCleery &Dougan and Chamberlain & Hodder.

However, that is to discount the other significant factors in the Dublin Bay sailing scene of the past two years – the additional competitiveness that the introduction of Fireball combinations and a number of new boats into Dun Laoghaire that have "upped the ante" in the local racing scene. In terms of Fireball personnel sailing in the class, we have Neil Colin and Margaret Casey (3655), winners of the Thursday Series overall (and each individual series) in 2017, Cormac Bradley, sailing with FF stalwart Ben Mulligan (3688) who took the Saturday Series and DBSC's Best One –Design performance in 2017, Alistair Court, sailing with Conor O'Leary (Laser/Squib) (3753) who looks to be heading towards the DBSC winners' circle for 2018, Frank Miller & Ed Butler (3845), Louise McKenna & Hermine O'Keefe (3697) who have all scored single digit results at the top end of the fleet racing in DBSC on Thursdays and Saturdays. This injection of new competition has enhanced the racing for other DL stalwarts of the class, among them the likes of Dave Mulvin & Ronan Bierne (4028), who have been side-lined recently by medical recuperation, Niall Coleman & Mick Quinn (4008), who recently scored a double win on a DBSC Saturday and Ken Dumpleton (3955) who has on occasion been crewed by another Fireball connection, Glen Fisher, and was winning a Saturday race two weeks ago. Colin & Casey have upgraded from 3655 to 4028 and were getting to grips with it on a challenging Sunday last week (16th). A number of former Fireball crews have also been making guest appearances for the fleet during the summer of 2018.

The DL fleet also boasts new boats in Tom Murphy's 4057, only three off the highest sail number world-wide I have seen in regatta reports thus far and two other new boats (to the fleet) with numbers in the 4040 – 50 age-group.

From Dunmore East, Statham & Paul and Charlie Boland & Robb McConnell (3682) won't be making a trip to Dun Laoghaire just to make up numbers and another boat that will have particular aspirations for a low scoring series will be Gavin Doyle & Dave Sweeney (3707).

Which leaves only one obvious candidate not yet specifically referenced in this piece for overall honours – Dun Laoghaire's Alan Green? Alan, by way of his enormous racing pedigree, attracts high calibre helmsmen to steer him round the course and the speculation this time is that Mr Apthorp will be the helm for the National Yacht Club hosted regatta. So time to make a declaration for the regatta!

Based on the combinations of current form, local knowledge and reputation, the suggestion is to look to the following in no particular order; Apthorp & Green, Gorman & Doorly, Mathews & Poole, Martin & Martin, McCleery & Dougan, but there are a large number of combinations who will need a good result to move up the pecking order for the 2019 Worlds, so expect to see good results shared across a wide group of entrants.

No offence is intended to those not specifically mentioned and this article is just an educated guess. We all know the vagaries of Mother Nature and that racing/sailing is by its very nature, unpredictable. Hope you have a great regatta!

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