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Investwise and CH Marine Irish Laser Masters National Championships at Howth Yacht Club

by Shirley Gilmore and Ross O'Leary 16 May 20:33 BST

Last weekend saw the running of the increasingly popular Investwise and CH Marine sponsored Irish Laser Masters National Championships, which took place at Howth Yacht Club, a stunning setting for the event. The event has been running since 1982, where the first Nationals was held in Dunmore East. Most notable this year was the significant increase in the Radial Fleet.

The fleet of 40 boats, split between Radial and Standard Rigs competed. All sailors in the Masters Fleet are 35 years of age or older. The Radials consisted of all visitors bar one as the host club has no real Master Radial fleet yet. However, with local adult Radial fleets on the increase up and down the country, next year should see in excess of twenty Radials at this event.

The fleet was greeted by superb Howth weather; sunshine, blue skies, breeze and even some white horses. The race course was set up promptly and racing was under way as scheduled- the radials being particularly well behaved on each start line! There was great racing throughout the fleet on both days in the varying conditions.

Remember the fable about the Hare and the Tortoise.... Well that was the story of first race in the Standard Fleet! The Hare was the whole fleet of Laser Sheep who missed the last mark and the Tortoise was one experienced Joe Cull Laser Grandmaster who probably recorded one of the biggest winning margins, before the rest of the Laser sheep realised their mistake! Grandmaster trophy sealed by 70 year old Joe Cull in one move!

Racing was extremely tight in the Standard Rig fleet with up to 8 boats overlapped at leeward marks vying for the lead. After three races in mixed and testing conditions on the first day, Nick Walsh [Cork] lead the fleet. The very competitive on the water racing had three different race winners and six Laser masters still within reach of the title, at the end of day one.

In the Radial Fleet, three different race winners on Saturday set the scene for competitive racing with Darrell Reamsbottom and Conor Clancy taking race wins after Sean Craig took the opener. Difficult conditions ensued as the breeze eased throughout the day leaving an unpleasant chop. Judy O'Beirne laid down a marker for the keenly contested Ladies award with a good fifth in race 3. Peter Hassett performed well this weekend with all top four results and might have been second except for some pilot error in race 2!

Back on shore the social side kicked off in good spirits. After all, the Masters is much more than just sailing! Some thirsty sailors gathered for an Investwise sponsored Hope beer drinks reception and racing debrief given by Ronan Wallace. Onboard trackers were used, showcasing our gains and losses (even one capsize!) with much slagging between the Standard rigs and Radials, but especially highlighting Standard Rigs missing the black mark in race 1! This was followed by a delicious meal in the magnificent setting of HYC dining room with the rugby on a large screen.

Sunday provided more wind than expected, with 15-20kts on the race course, enough to cause a few aches and pains by the evening! Here the Radial rig really came into its own! Two good hard races and Sean Craig and Marco Sorgassi had a ding-dong up-front before Craig pulled away in each. Craig only had a two point margin from Reamsbottom on three best results going into the final race and was keeping a very close eye on him, especially with that local knowledge. Sean Flanagan had a better second day showing the Grand Masters (Over 55s) can still do it! Philip Doherty from Cork came through well in the stronger conditions also.

Craig retained his title from 2018 showing his superior speed in true style with a very tight finish for second, third and fourth with Reamsbottom next, then Sorgassi, just edging out the unlucky Clancy. In the Ladies, Judy O'Beirne took the laurels showing her Frostbiting and recent training have paid off. Flanagan took first Grand Master.

In the Standard Rig, great consistency paid for David Quinn [Howth] as he sealed the title, counting three seconds and a third, in some very close racing. With positions changing nearly every leg in the final two races he used his local knowledge and showed great ability along with experience to come out on top. Nick Walsh settled for second and Dan O'Connell [Dun Laoghaire] hiked his way into third overall.

Let's just say the unnamed 'Lead Hare' continued his form (he got the two bullets in the last two races!) and used his local knowledge to sail onto the sand bank on the way back home.... At least most of the sheep learned and didn't follow this time...

Thanks to the excellent Race Officer, Harry Gallagher and his team of mark layers, Jim McMahon who ran launching and recovery on the slipway, the sponsors, Investwise and CH Marine, and finally to Dave Quinn for organising a superb event with great attention to detail.

Footnote: Irish Laser Masters is probably one of the fastest growing fleets that provides a great standard of racing for all levels and abilities from 35 years upwards. Family friendly it is a great way to get on the water, try to stay fit and enjoy your sailing with this very sociable bunch... most sailing clubs have a local fleet and the ILA are providing training support if you want to grow the fleet in your area for all ages and abilities...more information from

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