For those who didn’t make it to Belmullet for the weekend here's Cormac de Roiste's take of what happened over the 3 days. This year was relatively incident free… compared to the gear breaking carnage of last year. Only 3 masts, 2 sails, 1 dislocated finger, 1 sprained ankle and a badly injured arse were lost to the conditions.
First thing in the morning the wave competitors were all sitting in their vans watching what more than 60 knots of wind looks like. It was the first time I’ve been to a competition where the comp was delayed because of too much wind! Picture Pozo with lashing’s of rain, temps of around 10 degrees and logo high walls of white water crashing into the beach. Around lunch time Cathal Usher from ‘All Play’ was the first to brave the conditions and as soon as it was confirmed he’d survived in one piece the comp was on. Over the course of the day the conditions went from cross on to cross shore and the waves just got cleaner and cleaner. Similarly the sailing just got better and better as the day went on.
With a full forecast of good wind ahead over the next three days, it was decided to run a full round of 16 heats, this gave everyone a chance to fight their way back through the ranks if they had an unlucky first heat. This made for a spectacular first round with competitors going all out, trying and crashing big backloops and occasional over rotated forwards, every wave was ended with either a big aerial, taka or Goiter.
The two stand out moves were Morgan’s massive aerial into the pit and despite the wave closing in around him he seems to be dragged in the waterstart position for about 50 yards before the wave dissipated. The second was Danny Kealy’s close call on the rocks. The wind died in the evening, he was the furthest out and started drifting downwind away from the beach. He somehow got enough wind to waterstart and drift in but got washed onto the rocks by a head high wave. Surviving all gear intact with a little help from everyone around.
Unfortunately light and tide was against us and the comp ended with 5 heats to be completed first thing on Sunday morning.
Sunday was a gentler day with winds a more moderate 28 - 30 knots and started with 3 foot waves. The silver fleet followed by the ladies were the first out on the water. Both tore up the easy conditions (compared to what they were out in yesterday) with the silver fleet sailing 3 full rounds with Chris Cartin coming first, Mark Grennon and Gareth Nihill scoring a 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively in each round.
The Ladies sailed 2 rounds with Laoise Ní Dhúda getting two 1st’s and Clodagh Ní Bric and Emma McGroarty battling for second an third. Both scoring a second and third place each.
The gold fleet finished the last 5 heats of previous day’s round. The conditions were much easier, cross offshore winds and gradually building swell and occasionally sun meant with no breaks we finished the first round very quickly. The first final of the event was had Oisin Van Gelderen (Surfdock /JP/Neilpryde) in first place going for long wave rides and big high scoring back loops, Jimmy Viller in second also scored some long high scoring wave rides and forward loops. Dan Gardner (Simmerstyle/Moo Customs) came third and Finn Mullen (Severne/Starboard) fourth place only had a point in between them both. The scores were quickly added up and re-seeded for a second round when it became obvious that Oisin had already gained enough points to take the overall Irish Championship.
Competition being competition, a disappointed Finn came back with a vengeance during the second round of single elimination and by 3:30 we were already into the second final of the competition this time two new faces had battled through the ranks, a young Ronan McGuire (Simmerstyle) and new comer Chris Cassidy (Severne). Finn sailing hard, getting the highest scoring waves, big backloops and forwards easily outsailed everyone else, with Oisin in second uncharacteristically failing to find a good ramp for jumps, but his good wave scores getting him through. Chris came in third getting a nice table top and 2 good waves and Ronan in forth with 2 solid wave scores.
Monday brought on a new beach and new conditions at the start the conditions were looking iffy however with the help of a new wind speed meter supplied by Alan from Surfdock, Finn decided to be guinea pig. When he disappeared in between the sets we all realised that the waves were not small…..just far away! And the comp was on again. The conditions just got better and better with just waves counting for points all day.
Due to the shorter day and in order to get another full round of heats in, the decision was made to run a single elimination round. This let to some surprising knockouts including overall 2008 Irish Champ Oisin who’d already won the first round getting knocked out early. Both the Silver and Ladies fleets braved the cold, with Chris Cartin and Mark Grennon battling it out swapping places as the heats went on. The Ladies took advantage of a sudden gap in the sets to get out the back quickly and scoring a head high set wave each. Laoise 1st, Emma 2nd and Clodagh 3rd.
In the final rounds we had competitors each tearing it up on set waves all at the same time, one behind the other making judging all the more difficult. In the final heat of the third round were Finn Mullen, Ronan McGuire, Chris Cassidy and Mark Kileen. The bigger set’s of the day now arriving Finn was in his element, but this did not mean that it was in any way an easy heat for him. He was challenged by Chris who had already scored a 5th and a 3rd in the previous rounds despite this being his first time in Belmullet. Ronan’s recent sponsorship by SimmerStyle sails seems to be paying off and Mark who’s only just back on the water after breaking his jaw while training in Maui were also in their element as they had already both seen off some heavy weight sailors in their previous heats that day while fighting their way back up the ladder after struggling during the previous two rounds. The waves came big and fast, with each competitor catching three or four logo high set waves each. In the end it was Finn who catching the wave of the day with 3 big gouges and an aerial thrown in, then catching the reform on the way who came out first, with Ronan in second, Chris in third and Mark in third.
After the final, with the wind still blowing the loser’s final was run, Dan Gardner, Morgan McGuire, Jeff Cochrane and Jimmy Villier all still sailing hard, Jeff in particular was sailing hard, going much deeper than everyone else…to his demise as a logo high wave closed in around him completely closing in around him taking him out of it. Jimmy had been sailing extremely well all weekend with a top 10 finish in each round as well as Dan G, who managed to sail 3 full rounds and all without snapping a board, those new Moo Customs must be good! Morgan also going very deep and getting very long rides. However it was Dan G who won the heat giving his a fifth place in this round and Morgan coming 6th, with Jeff in 7th and Jimmy in 8th place. But as luck would have it as soon as the red flag went up and the final horn blew the biggest set of the day arrived too late for the heat as the lads were not on it.
But as they say all good things come to an end overall we managed to run 3 full round of the Gold fleet, 7 rounds of Sliver fleet and 5 round of Ladies competitions.
Finn Mullen (Starboard and Severne) took home first prize for the Belmullet Gold fleet,
Chris Cartin was first in the Silver fleet (Sponsoring by himself!)
Laoise Ní Dhúda (UISCE, and a borrowed demo Starboard Evil Twin) coming first in the ladies.
Everyone was exhausted and very cold, apparently the temp dropped to 7 degrees on Monday. However even for me running around the beach making sure the right people were on the water at the right time the event was great fun.
With the result of the Belmullet event decided the overall results for the year were a mirror of 2007 with Oisin taking the 2008 title with three events wins to the defending champion Finn’s two! The overall rankings are as follows:
1 Oisin van Gelderen
2 Finn Mullen
3 Morgan McGuire
4 Jeff Cochrane
4 Chris Cassidy
6 Ronan McGuire
6 Daniel Gardner
8 Dan Kealy
9 Nathan Regan
10 Jimmy Villiers
1 Chris Cartin
2 Mark Grennan
3 Gareth Nihill
4 Alex Hart
1 Laoise Ní Dhúda
2 Emma McGroarty
3 Clodagh Ní Bric
4 Ailbhe McDermott
Thanks to Head Judge Mark Hosegood, Marcus, Darragh, Gareth and Cathal, all the UISCE crew, all the sponsors and the competitors. It was a brilliant event and I can’t wait to run it again.
For more photo’s go to http://www.patrickkavanagh.ieor
Martin Flemmings website: http://picasaweb.google.com/martingfleming/WaveFinalOct2526272008ColaisteUISCEBelmullet#