Round 1 of the Irish Speed Sailing Championships got off to a flying start this weekend up in Belmullet, Co.Mayo. Records were set to be broken by the get go... Although not all of which were on the water!! John Kenny (aka JK) was in fighting form, ready to defend his National Speed Title from the prying hands of Ireland’s speed-surfers which included former Irish Speed Record holders Steve Flanagan and Oisin Van Gelderan. He even managed to set a record drive time for Dublin to Belmullet, we won’t mention time’s or speeds, however let’s just say it set the pace for the weekend!!
We were greeted to what can only be described as incredible weather on Saturday morning, the sun shining, crystal clear turquoise water, white sandy beach and wind... Plenty of it!! We had an early briefing to discuss the setup for the day and with GPS’s strapped to our arms, we were off. The morning started with a falling tide which meant equipment choice had to be spot on, the 5 minute walk to the water’s edge while carrying your gear in 22-28knot winds was enough to put you off having to run back up for another board or sail. Jonathan Woods (Woodsie) was first to the water to test the conditions, proving that you don’t need new gear to be fast, was clocking 30+ knot speeds on a F2 Sputnik 280 and Gaastra Nitro 6.3m. The event also saw the return of Alistair Nichol to the competition scene after injury back in March, although his first run down the speed course saw a repeat of the wipeout that had put him off the water for the past few weeks. Thankfully this time around there were no injuries and he managed to get a few runs under his belt.
JK showed true to form why he is the reigning champ with some powerful sailing through the messy chop that was scattered across the course, clocking speeds in excess of 36knots (41mph/66kmh). He was first to realize that perhaps a bigger board to his iSonic 87 might handle the chop better and decided to bring out his faithful “Big Blue" Starboard Futura 122, this gave him better control, but amazingly he was still able to clock some incredibly fast 33/34knot plus speeds!!
Steve Flanagan, newly appointed event coordinator for the Irish Speed Sailing series, took the roll of race director and photographer managing to snap well over 1,000 photos of the action before hitting the water to compete himself. The conditions and choppy water proved tricky for him too with a massive wipe-out on his first run, this didn’t stop him from mounting his challenge to JK and Woodsie and he soon discovered he was more at home out in the bigger sea outside the bay and managed to be the only sailor to clock his fastest speeds on Port tack out in the bigger swells!
Oisin and Mikey Clancy, who had been out wave sailing for the morning, joined in the fun for the afternoon, borrowing and robbing gear where possible to get out and clock up some speeds. Oisin braved the conditions with a specialist speed board while Mikey borrowed Steve’s slalom gear. Mikey who had only tried slalom equipment once before looked right at home blasting across the bay (we’ll make a speed/slalom sailor out of him yet!!). With a rising tide, the two were able to sail up to another beach further up the bay in search of flatter water. The competitive nature in everyone meant we all ended up sailing right into the evening to try and get that one last quick run in.
The forecast for Sunday looked as though the wind would be good in the afternoon, so the morning was spent discussing newly discovered aches and pains from the day before. By lunchtime the wind looked to be filling in with 18-20knots at the water’s edge, so everyone started rigging. Keith Gorman was first to take to the water after driving up from Dublin that morning, however the wind started to drop and those of us that had been out the previous day decided to wait to see if it would pick up again. Keith, determined to get a counting result, came back to the beach and re-rigged some bigger equipment to take to the water again. By 4 o’clock we decided to call it a day, we headed to a local hotel for a bite to eat and prize giving before the drive home.
All in all it was a great weekend with some very competitive racing. Special thanks has to go to Cormac and the crew from UISCE (www.UISCE.ie) who were extremely welcoming and helpful over the weekend, with recommendations on locations for racing in the different conditions that the forecast had planned for us as well as providing lunch to us hungry windsurfers on the beach.
The new model for Speed events for the 2009 season worked well for us this weekend where we base the event at the location with the most favorable conditions rather than setting a specific location and hoping the wind will come through. The next scheduled event is not till October however we will look to introduce some additional events to the calendar over the coming months as well as our year long GPS ladder on GPS-Speedsurfing.com that will also count towards the overall Speed Championship.
Our new website will be available soon (www.irishspeedsailing.com) with information on the events and speed locations around the country. Keep an eye out for notices and safari style weekends away based on good forecasts. Next weekend is the Fleadh Sheoil in Malahide in Dublin where they will be hosting the Speed King and Queen of the Estuary, make sure to come along and give it a try. Many of the speed and slalom sailors will be on hand to give help and tips on rigging and stance as well as speed sailing in general. For more info on this please visit www.windsurffestival.ie
Results for Round 1 of the Irish Speed Sailing Championships, based on fastest GPS 250m run are as follows:
Pos Name 250m Max GPS
1 John Kenny 34.742 36.073
2 Steve Flanagan 31.745 32.936
3 Oisin Van G 30.945 31.821
4 Jonathan Woods 29.543 32.140
5 Mikey Clancy 27.825 29.617
6 Alastair Nichol 23.572 29.127
7 Keith Gorman 23.152 24.920
Speeds shown in Knots