Alex Barry from Monsktown Bay Sailing Club has taken the 2016 All Ireland Sailing Championship from Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy in a hard fought Championship raced in National 18 in Royal Cork YC. Sutton Dinghy Clubs Alan Henry & Simon Revill representing the IDRA 14 Class took part, and despite finishing ahead of reigning Champion Anthony O’Leary after an extended tussle finished 9th of the 16, narrowly missing out on a place in the Finals on Sunday. This is their report which first appeared on the IDRA 14 website. Well done guys. Sounds like a great experience on those new National 18’S.

All Ireland Sailing Championships – Race Report

2016-Helmsmans-National 18'The event format is 16 teams in 2 flights of 8 boats, 3 races, top 3 from each flight go through to the 4 race final. 8th place from each flight goes home. 4 to 7th from each flight sail two more races in the repêchage with the top 2 finishers making the final. Simple.

This year it was sailed in National 18s. This is a historic class which has seen several redesigns through the years, the most recent, the ‘Ultra’, being just 18 months old. The 18 is a big, freshly modernised, three man dinghy with one wire man, carbon mast and boom, new modern hull design and square top mainsail. They have fun written all over them. Unfortunately the event dictates windward leewards with no spinnakers… What would Father Jack say?

We had a short 20 minute practise sail on Friday. First impressions were good, very responsive steering, lots of power in the rig and she really comes alive downwind (albeit without the kite). A lot bigger than a 14 with the main difficulties being that extra couple of steps needed to get from one side to the other and a tiller extension that is so long it needs to be swung out over the stern in the tacks. A double main sheet also needed to be contended with but the National 18 is certainly a dinghy and likes being sailed flat.

The draw for the flights was Saturday morning and it was clear that we were up against it. There’s no easy routes to the final but amongst others we had a strong Cork contingent in the two O’Learys, both former All Ireland Champions, and the two Barrys, one of whom is the current National 18 Champion. Racing got underway in a fairly stiff breeze which saw a few crews going swimming. We got off to a great start in the first race and were in 3rd for the first lap. Some frustrating unforced errors on the second beat, a couple of bad tacks and a broach when trying to duck a starboard boat, meant we slipped back two places and had to settle for 5th. The second race seemed to settle the order with the Cork four leading the pack and with Anthony O’Leary defending that bunch we just couldn’t find a way past. The last race was much the same but we managed to skip past O’Leary on the last beat to claim a 4th. 5th overall in our flight meant we would have to fight it out in the repêchage for the final two places.

Sunday morning was a different story, flat calm and sunny, we were towed out to the race course to bob around waiting for the wind to fill in. A 12-15 knot breeze eventually turned up which meant perfect racing conditions. We decided that we needed to go big or go home so we opted to start at the committee boat and tack out into the stronger tide on the first beat. We executed that plan nicely but no one followed us out that side (always stick with the fleet). We tacked back and nearing the mark a shift left meant that those who had gone left were now reaching into the mark while we weren’t making it and had to watch the fleet blast across our bow. From last we managed to catch two boats and get back to 6th. We were more conservative in the second race and reached the windward mark at the same time as almost everyone else. However we were on starboard and managed to avoid the pile up of some brave port tackers and rounded in close 4th (I think – it all got pretty hectic at this stage). We then managed to get up to 2nd at the next windward mark which we held down the run and to the finish.

So with a 6th and a 2nd we came 3rd in the repêchage and didn’t make the final. That gave us a respectable 9th place overall. We could have done better, we had good boat speed but without time in the boat it was a big ask and mistakes at this level are punished heavily. On balance a great event, sailed in super boats in great conditions. Big thanks to Royal Cork Yacht Club and to the National 18s for giving us a warm welcome and letting us loose in their very fine brand new boats. If you find yourself down in Cork I recommend asking for a spin – they are more than happy to show them off!

Full results HERE