Round 1 of the National Racing Championships will be hard to beat!

The racing fraternity of the Irish windsurfing world headed to Belmullet, Co

Mayo, on 17/18 May for Round 1 of the National Racing Championships (NRC) series.

They were treated to a weekend of welcome, organisation and fair weather that

will make this first round of the series hard to equal.

The organisers, the "UISCE" college, well known as a venue for teaching

the Irish language (and water sports) to schoolchildren, provided excellent

accommodation, organisation, hospitality and racing for the weekend - Ciaran

O Murchu and his team even arranged a weekend of good wind! Coming so soon after

hosting their hugely successful Windsurfing Festival on the May Bank Holiday

weekend, the UISCE venue has truly made its mark in the Irish windsurfing world.

(See www.uisce.ie)

With Greg Day agreeing to fill the role of Officer of the Day, a keen windsurfer

and well known for keeping events moving, the stage was set for a top class

weekend of Course and Slalom racing. The turnout was low, unfortunately, but

the hard core "elite" of the Gold Fleet all made the trip and the

racing was probably the most competitive seen in recent years.

Saturday morning kicked off on the button at 10am. Four Course races were completed

back to back. The first race ran with about 10 knots, which seemed to disappear

in spots around the course. It wasn't long before the wind started to kick in.

Many of the sailors got caught out and missed the start of Race 3 while they

made the trip back to beach to change down from 12.0 metre sails. Last year's

Racing Champion, Maurice Owens, did not have it all his own way and the lead

was shared by many of the tightly bunched fleet - Pearse Geaney (back from retirement),

Fintan Day (lovely new pink sails!), Danny Mulryan, Joe Gallagher and Andrew

Faulkner. Joe Galeckas, originally from Lithuania and working in Dublin, also

performed well on the coarse circuits. A seasoned Mistral One Design sailor

on his first outing on a formula board, it was clear that Joe will be a force

to be reckoned with throughout the series. With some very tired looking bodies

after four back-to-back races, the fleet headed ashore to UISCE for lunch.

As the wind had picked up all morning, it was decided to change to Slalom after

lunch. Three quick 3-Lap figure-of-eight races were completed. These saw the

debut of the new Starboard Hypersonic, which was one of the fastest boards in

the lighter wind range. The top three positions were shared between Owens, Geaney,

Mulryan and Day. Just as everyone had got the hang of the Slalom gear again,

the wind dropped. Back to Course racing and after two more back-to-back races

the tired fleet headed for the well-earned showers.

An excellent meal on Saturday night was included in the "package"

provided by UISCE, followed by a bus trip to Teach John Joes for some refreshments

to wash it all down. Several wave sailors also availed of UISCE's hospitality

and took advantage of the awesome wave sailing conditions that were just 5 minutes

away on the "open" side of the headland. This made for some excellent

"craic", and only the slightest exaggeration in the story telling

stakes, in the most convivial of atmospheres.

Sunday morning started on the button again. One Course race was completed but

with the wind picking up, Greg Day opted for five hotly contested Slalom races

before closing down for late lunch and pack-up for home. Owens, on the more

traditional slalom board, was awesome in the strong winds, winning four of the

five races and leaving absolutely no doubt as to the overall winner for the

weekend.

The next NRC event has been transferred to Antrim Sailing Club on 21st and

22nd June. A big welcome is planned, in particular for non-Formula board sailors.

Any sail, any board can be used in the Fun Fleet and with Slalom and Coarse

races again planned, there will be the opportunity for any windsurfer, with

any equipment, to enjoy the windsurfing and the atmosphere and make some new

windsurfing friends.

Results

Overall

1st Maurice Owens

2nd Pearse Geaney

3rd Danny Mulryan

4th Fintan Day

Youth

1st Joe Gallagher (Joe, 17, in his second season on a Formula board, gave the

fleet a bit of a fright winning the first race of the event.)

Ladies

1st Aoife Reid (An excellent performance, the youngest competitor, at her first

senior racing event, Aoife fared well in the very windy conditions.)

Masters

1st Brian Kelly

2nd Rob Mulholland

3rd Sean Flanagan

Full results of all races are on the IWA website, www.windsurfing.ie.