By Declan Sheridan
Sligo Yacht Club was a hive of activity last weekend with boats from all over Ireland travelling to Rosses Point for the Irish GP14 Class Autumn Open and Youth Championship of Ireland. Sligo Yacht Club has become synonymous with this event.
Niall Henry and Tim Corcoran deserve great credit for the effort they put in organising the championship.
Paddy O'Connor of SYC returned to defend his Autumn Open title, against the likes Ger Owens, who represented Ireland in the Olympics.
For the Youths, Dan Gill of Sutton Dinghy Club returned to also try to defend his title. The event is very busy for the club both on and off the water, with veteran Race Officer, Gus Henry having to fit a total of eight races into the two days.
On Saturday, it was planned to run two races for the Autumn Open, at which point the crews were swapped over for the Youths Championship.
Although cold, Saturday morning presented the fleet of 34 boats with a brisk south-easterly 15 knot breeze. The first race was scheduled for an 11:00am start, and the fleet congregated around Seamus Maye's catamaran, which was used as an exceelent platform and committe boat.
The first start resulted in a general recall as there were too many boats eager to start. Once away three boats were all vying for the lead, with Tim Corcoran, Ger Owens and Curly Morris from Antrim fighting hard for the win. In the end, after two laps, and a windward-leeward leg, Ger Owens, crewed by Curly's daughter, Melanie were victorious.
The second race was held immediately after the first. The wind held steady in both direction and strength. This time around the boats vying for the win were Tim Corcoran, Niall Henry and John McGuinness of Moville Boat Club. Tim Corcoran took line honours in this race and with the win an over night lead in the Autumn Open.
Soon afterwards the 21 boat Youth fleet gathered for their first two races. The youths were sailing the same course as the Autumn Open was sailed on with an Olympic, two laps and a "sausage". The top three boats home were SYCs Joe McLoughlin fending off the challenge of Eanna Lawlor from Sutton Dinghy Club with local girl Beth Armstrong showing strongly for third place.
Not been given any time for a rest, it was straight into race two for the youths. This time Andrew Brady of SYC was having a great fight with Eanna Lawlor, only losing out near the end to finish a close second. Beth Armstrong again filling the third spot. So over night, Eanna Lawlor was leading with Joe McLoughlin and Beth Armstrong hot on his heels.
Sunday morning saw the boats out on the water for an early start. Luckily the south easterly wind although blowing harder did not have the same cold bite to it. This time, racing was scheduled to begin with the final two races for the youths.
As time was short to be able to fit in a total of four races, and prizegiving before the boats were to be packed and brought back home, Gus decided to raise the dreaded black flag on the four minute warning. This put manners on the sailors and all made a good start. Three boats pulled clear with Eanna Lawlor, Dan Gill also from Sutton, and Peter Fallon from Lough Foyle Yacht Club all sailing hard for the win. In the end Eanna Lawlor took the win and with it an unassailable lead on the GP14 Youth Championship of Ireland.Second place went to Peter Fallon with Dan settling for third.
As he had already tied up the title, Eanna was too eager to start the fourth and final race falling foul of the dreaded black flag rule and instant disqualification. Hw wasnt the only one as Gareth Gallagher from Moville also got the instant disqualification.
Very soon afterwards with the wind steadily increasing to 25 knots the more senior sailors came out for their final two races. UNfortunately, over night leader Tim Corcoran was carrying an injury and wasnt able to sail.Race Officer Gus Henry used the black flag again.
Graham Elwes from Blessington decided to try his luck at a slightly early start but he also got the instant disqualification of a black flag. Local commodore Niall Henry was at the front of a small group who held a big lead, but was closely followed by Keith Louden from Lough Foyle Yacht Club, and Paddy O'Connor who was clearly enjoying the increased winds of day two.
As the wind increased, it was decided not to have the fleet sail the sausage and the boats finished in that order, which handed a tenuous lead in the Autumn Open to a consistent Niall Henry. With the wind gusting up to 27 knots the Race Officer had a difficult decision as to whether to sail the final race or send everyone ashore.
The decision was made to sail the race, and this time Paddy O'Connor wanted to relinquish his title in the finest way possible when he held a big lead, which was shortened a lot but he ended the race series with a win. He had to fight off a very fast Keith Louden, with Graham Elwes coming home third. Niall Henry was in fourth place and with it he and crew Ossian Geraghty won the GP14 Autumn Open 2012.
Prizegiving was held in the club a short while afterwards.
GP14 Autumn Open 2012 Niall Henry and Ossina Geraghty of SYC
Silver fleet prize Dan Gill and Hugh Gill of Sutton Dinghy Club
Bronze fleet prize Joe McLoughlin and Andrew Brady of Sligo Yacht Club
GP14 Youth Champion of Ireland 2012 Eanna Lawlor of Sutton Dinghy Club
U23 prize Eanna Lawlor of Sutton Dinghy Club
U18 prize Dan Gill of Sutton Dinghy Club
U16 prize David Johnston of Sutton Dinghy Club