Topper Irish Nationals 2nd - 4th July 2016
This summer I was really pleased to have been selected to compete as one of ten sailors in the British team for the Topper Irish nationals in Cork. This was the first event I’ve travelled to without my family. Dad took me to Cheiveley services on the M4 on Wednesday 29th June to load my boat onto the enormous team trailer (almost twice my height!!), and to meet up with the rest of the team before saying “bye” and going off with the other nine sailors, our two coaches - Natalie Lloyd and Duncan West - and our house parent for the week, Rob Kemp, in two British Sailing Team mini busses to Fishguard to catch the ferry.
After the overnight crossing to Rosslare and a three hour drive, we arrived at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the venue for the week. We had a quick breakfast and were straight into our first mammoth task – getting the boats off the trailer without dropping any! :-? Fortunately, we managed this without any major issues. We just about had time to catch our breath before going straight into pre-event training, to familiarise ourselves with the waters. On Thursday we trained in the first of the two planned race areas, with one inside Cork Harbour. We were greeted wonderfully by the Irish with around 15knts of wind and some great waves to play with downwind.
On Friday, for our second day of training, we had to figure out the conditions in the second race area, just outside the harbour. We got down to the club and set about rigging our boats in a rather blustery 25knts but once we got out into the bay all hell was unleashed and we were greeted with big steep chop to battle through - a very tiring day!
Saturday was the first day of racing and we were met with a warm welcome from the Irish and a steady 12knt wind. We completed all three scheduled races in the harbour race area with a gently dropping wind. I found it challenging because I just couldn’t work out what was really working best, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that I’d finished the day 5th overall. When racing finished, after a tow in from our coaches, our team was greeted ashore by Rob who had made us his now legendary fish finger butties and milkshakes to refuel. All I needed now was to work out how to make the best of the conditions and build upon my results over the following two race days.
Sunday morning and we arrived bright and early at the yacht club ready for racing, only to find that there was no wind! After waiting around for a few hours we heard that a sea breeze of around 10knts was rolling in. The race committee decided that, to allow the most time racing, we would sail much closer to the club, nearer to the entrance of the harbour. After a tricky three races with big course bias I had posted a 13th, a 2nd and a 1st, which moved me up to 2nd overall when the first discard of the event kicked in. After 3 races the Race Officer decided to keep us out and get a 4th race in so that we only had complete two races on the last day. Unfortunately for me this last one was a bit of a shocker and I slipped from the top three all the way back to tenth and had to count it due to my 13th earlier in the day. After another tow in, and more of Rob's magic fish finger sandwiches, when I checked the results I was relieved to see that I had only dropped to 3rd overall. This meant I was still in with a shot of winning.
On the last day it was an early start so we got down to the club in plenty of time, eager to get launched. We were in the same race area as day 1 and had incredible conditions with 15-20knt wind and waves. Once I was out and had got my head around the tide and pressure differences on the racecourse, I could see that the left was going to be good throughout the two planned races due to the convergence and building tide on the left. With this in mind, on the first race I found myself in a nice position after the start and it was all about the boat speed over to the left. By the windward mark I was leading. Downwind it was a real challenge to try and keep the bow of the boat out of the water when surfing the waves, but I felt confident in being able to steer around the waves and sheet the main to accelerate with my 6mm Polilite® mainsheet which ran easily through the blocks. After a second lap of closely watching my opposition I managed to win the penultimate race and after the second discard discovered that I was first with a four point lead over Jack Fahy in second – all I had to do was hold on…
In the final race I had another good start. I punched out ahead of the fleet and for the whole race just made sure that Jack couldn’t get past me. At the end of the race I crossed the finish line in 1st and secured the overall victory!
The week couldn’t really have been any better for me. A week off school sailing, a chance to travel as part of the British Sailing team and my first championship win. I’d like to thank the Irish for being so welcoming to the British team, as well as ITCA Ireland for organising the event and the RYA for funding the British team and giving us such a great opportunity. Of course thanks must also go to Rooster for great kit to suit all of the conditions I faced and put me in the best possible position to make the most of the opportunity.