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Irish Flying Fifteen Southern Championships at Waterford Harbour Sailing Club

by Cormac Bradley 15 Aug 13:51 BST
New champions, Ronan (L) and Niall O'Brien (R) - Irish Flying Fifteen Southern Championships at Waterford Harbour © Niall Meagher

Thirteen Flying Fifteens contested their Southern Championships in the sunny South-East in the company of sixteen 420s when Waterford Harbour Sailing Club hosted both fleets over this past weekend.

The host club had three boats on the water and the balance of the fleet was made up of three boats from Northern Ireland, representing Portaferry Sailing Club, Strangford Lough Yacht Club and County Antrim Yacht Club. The National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire had six representatives and Connemara Flying Fifteens had a sole representative.

At the regatta briefing on Saturday morning, Race Officer Michael Conway from Wexford Tennis and Boat Club (hope I have got that right) made his intentions very clear. Despite the limp flags at the clubhouse, he was determined to start on time (11:55) and made it clear that there would be very little leeway with respect to errant starts. After one General Recall there would be a "U-flag" start and thereafter a "Black-Flag" start for all races after a General Recall. We knew who was boss!

Michael's optimism was rewarded when after launching we found there was breeze on the course. Maybe not a huge amount but enough to get racing in. Indeed, it was relatively steady in direction, approx. 100 degrees and while there would be no sustained hiking out there was enough wind across the course to make racing fair.

Note that I refer to the wind distribution being "fair", the tide or more correctly, the current, was another matter altogether. To paraphrase John Ford, "You can pick any side of the beat you want, so long as it's left". In the first race of the day, Ben Mulligan & Cormac Bradley (4081) pioneered a course to the weather mark on the right-hand side of the beat, having decided that there was better wind on that side. For the majority of that beat, it looked the way to go.

Until the boats that went left tacked onto port to sail to the mark. The distance between the lone boat on the right and the incoming boats on the left evaporated quite quickly and in the end Mulligan & Bradley did well to round in the top five. Leading the charge form the left were the "Boys from the West" Niall and Ronan O'Brien sailing their new charge 4092, recently bought from Nigel Biggs. Also prominent were Peter Kennedy & Peter Chamberlain (3920) and Niall Meagher & Keith Poole (3938), despite their banter the night before as to who was the "form horse" for the regatta. Last year's Northern Champions, Stuart Harrison & Connor Brennan (3892) also signalled their intentions for the weekend by rounding in the lead bunch.

Down the spinnaker leg of the Windward-Leeward leg there was little place changing, 4092 having a handy lead throughout the race. While there was some place changing during the race, the next significant incident came with the signalling of a shortened course. Onshore there had been some debate about the mode of finishing and it was advised that on the last downwind leg of each race the leeward gate was not a mark of the course and boats were to sail straight to the finish. Neither of the home boats twigged that the first race was being shortened, not finished, as they made their way to the finish rather than the leeward gate.

Thus Lee Statham & Andy Paul (4070) and Charlies Boland & Peter Coad (3883) got letters rather than numbers for their efforts. The O'Briens led the fleet home followed by the two Peters, Meagher & Poole, Harrison & Brennan, with fellow northerners Bryan Willis & John McPeake (4074) taking fifth.

Having learned their lesson of the benefits of the currents, not the tides, the fleet restricted itself to the middle and left of the next race and it was only after the tide had turned by the time of the third race that anyone was tempted by the right-hand side of the course... and paid a heavy penalty for doing so.

Harrison & Brennan upped the ante in Race 2 by taking the win by a comfortable margin. Statham & Paul recovered quickly from their faux pas of the first race to record a second place with Peter Murphy & Ciara Mulvey (3774) scoring a third. The O'Briens (2) and Peters (2) would use this race as their discard, scoring a fourth and a sixth respectively, while fifth place went to Tom Murphy & Carel la Roux (4057).

By Race 3, the wind was starting to fade a little (a relative term) and some of us thought that a change in the tide might make a scouting trip to the right-hand side of the beat a worthwhile venture! Oh! the vanity of it all! The pioneers of this reckless adventure were ultimately rewarded with 9th and 11th place finishes respectively.

At the front to the fleet could be found the O'Briens, the Peters, Meagher & Poole, Boland & Coad and Harrison & Brennan. And this is the order in which they finished, though it wasn't always the order in which they sailed. If my recall is right, Harrison & Brennan led for a large part of this race and may indeed have been leading at the last weather mark, but I may have to take that under advisement.

Thus, on Saturday evening, with three races in the bag, the situation was as follows; The O'Briens led with 6 points, followed by the two Peters and Harrison & Brennan tied on 10 points, the Peters ahead by way of a second in the last race of the day versus Harrison's fifth. Meagher & Poole were fourth on 13 points with Peter Murphy & Ciara Mulvey closing out the top five with 18 points. "Home towners" Lee Statham and Andy Paul had a "Countdown day" ending up with five consonants and a vowel on their score sheet and only one number, admittedly a 2!

Sunday dawned as hot as Saturday and a sense that there wasn't quite as much breeze as there had been on the previous day. Again, the RO got the fleet afloat, anxious presumably to make sure he could get racing under way promptly if breeze arrived. It took quite a while and even then, came from the opposite direction to what had been forecast, from a southerly/south-westerly quarter rather than the northerly that XCWeather had suggested.

The first race of the day was a single-lap and in contrast to the previous day the current on the course was probably more evenly spread across the course, at least that was the decision for Mulligan & Bradley as they worked their way right up the shortish beat. It seemed to pay as they rounded the mark in good company with the two Peters, the O'Briens and Harrison & Brennan.

However, there was diversity of thought on the run and the two Peters and Mulligan & Bradley went left while the majority stayed right. The two left side boats were slightly more favoured with breeze and ultimately the angle of the line, with the limit mark much closer to them than the committee boat for the others. The first two boats crossed the finish line overlapped, with Kennedy & Chamberlain ahead. Third went to the O'Briens, fourth to Harrison & Brennan and fifth to Murphy & Mulvey.

The final race of the day saw the majority of the fleet working the middle and left of the course with a sole practitioner on the right-hand side for the latter half of the beats. It was enough to keep Mulligan & Bradley in the frame for the first lap and on rounding the weather mark for the second time they had moved up to second behind the O'Briens.

However, on the last run, Peter Kennedy and Stuart Harrison worked the inshore side of the run and Harrison got ahead of Mulligan to finish behind the O'Briens and Statham & Paul. Kennedy & Chamberlain finished fifth.

Thus, after a sojourn out to the west at the end of May where four DL-based boats were regally hosted by the Flying Fifteen Connemara Fleet, they have their first Provincial Flying Fifteen Champions in Niall and Ronan O'Brien. When we met them, they were sailing 3621, which they sailed again in Whitehead. They appeared in Dunmore East with 4092 and have won a debut regatta in their new boat! It doesn't get much better than that. It was a hugely popular win and well deserved.

The Bronze Fleet prize went to John O'Sullivan & Pat Kiersey, while the Silver Fleet prize went to Peter Murphy & Ciara Mulvey.

The next Flying Fifteen regatta is the National Championship hosted over the first Friday/Saturday/Sunday of September 2/3/4th. We hope to see a big turnout for that event.

We also offer best wishes to those Flying Fifteen sailors who will be contesting the Fireball Worlds which start on Thursday coming with the Irish Nationals and Pre-Worlds (two days). The Worlds themselves start on Sunday 21st.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoCrewClubR1R2R3R4R5Pts
14092Niall O'Brien & Ronan O'BrienConnemara Flying Fifteen Fleet141316
23920Peter Kennedy & Peter ChamberlainStrangford Lough Yacht Club2621510
33892Stuart Harrison & Connor BrennanPortaferry Sailing Club4154312
43938Niall Meagher & Keith PooleNational Yacht Club3736919
54081Ben Mulligan & Cormac BradleyNational Yacht Club61292421
63774Peter Murphy & Ciara MulveyNational Yacht Club8375722
74074Bryan Willis & John McPeakeCounty Antrim Yacht Club59610626
83883Charlie Boland & Peter CoadWaterford Harbour Sailing ClubDNF8481030
94070Lee Statham & Andy PaulWaterford Harbour Sailing ClubDNF2OCSOCS232
103762John O'Sullivan & Pat KierseyNational Yacht Club710871132
114057Tom Murphy & Carel la RouxNational Yacht Club9511OCS833
123837Conor & Peter CroninWaterford Harbour Sailing Club11111091341
133960Mick Quinn & Mary‑Jane MulliganNational Yacht Club101312111245

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