NI sailors launch their summer season with gusto

31 Sailors form the North made the trip to Howth Yacht Club for the Investwise Irish Youth Nationals. Racing for youth fleets took place over four days Thursday 13th April – Sunday 16th with Junior fleets starting on the Friday.
21 Apr 23
Charlotte Eadie, Zoe Whitford, Bobby Driscoll and Tom Coulter who competed in the Irish Youth Nationals

The Irish Youth Nationals is a landmark event in any Irish Sailors journey and after a winter of training our Northern competitors were ready to mix it up in a fleet full of top-class talent, featuring medallists from Youth Euros and Worlds. 

Racing for the youth classes got underway on Thursday with fresh breeze giving Antrim Sailors Tom Coulter a chance to stretch his legs and build upon his recent win at the Munsters two weeks earlier. Posting a 1, 2, he went ashore with the overnight lead over Local hero Rocco Wright with a 1, 4.  
Other NI sailors achieving top ten performances were Lewis Thompson BYC, Bobby Driscoll BYC/RNIYC, Daniel Palmer BYC, Charlotte Eadie BYC and Charlie O’Malley BYC. 

A real buzz developed on day two with the arrival of the Junior Classes, with the colourful Topper class taking to the water. Three race courses certainly made quite the spectacle for the locals and supporters ashore. However, with the absence of wind, coach boats and rescue crew began the toe chains to escort the sailors to the race area, where after further bobbing around the race committee manged to get three races in for the juniors and four for the youth fleets. 

Northern Topper sailors have always been strong performers but following a great performance in 2022 from Bobby in the full rig and Callum, it was open for new sailors to stake their claim at the top spots. Would it be Northern boats or would some of the Irish contenders step it up. Interesting it was again a Driscoll to take the first race wins as Tom showed whatever big brother can do he can do better… Many notable results from other NI Sailors saw Hugo Boyd achieve his best result yet with a second in the first race along side a second top ten result in race three. Ballyholme club mates Kate Brow, Emily McAfee and Cormac Byrne also punched in top ten scores, with Cormac taking the win in the final race of the day. Certainly a promising start for Team NI.

Podium Results from the four races in the youth classes for Tom, Lewis and Daniel kept hopes high for success in the ILCA 6 Class but Black Flag disqualification for Bobby and Daniel reminded everyone you only get one discard in this event so you better not use it to soon.

Light wind greeted the fleets again on day three, however, it wasn’t long until the skies darkened and the breeze began to build and cooler temperatures created challenging conditions for many of the sailors.Winter training and fitness would start to play a factor in who had it in them to keep pushing. After saving a few races and just hanging in the day before Tom C relished the breeze and again showed great speed to get himself back in contention after scoring a 2, 2, 1. 

Over on the Topper course, line bias and a right sided course put pressure on the starts with the majority of the fleet rafting up around the committee boat. At times hard to watch form the coach boat but again some NI sailors managed to get away clean and Emily, Cormac and Tom were again among the podium places in the two races. Emily being the first female of the class to clinch a race win of the event. Cormac unfortunately punched in his discard in the final race due to breakage, being the closest support boat to his position we nipped in to ensure we had a fix for the next race, with  former Topper World Champ Liam Glynn doctoring a repair. Keep spares in your life jacket and make sure you have a plan to fix any eventuality guys! 
Much to relief of most the next race never did come as the fleets made for the shelter of the harbour with several competitors requiring a toe after such an exhausting day. 

The final day was a challenge for race management teams and in the end a one race affair.  A heap of black flags for NI sailors including Tom Coulter and Lewis Thompson saw hopes of overall victory slip away, some would say with a little controversy, however due to our sailors level of consistency these DSQs could be discarded and respectable score lines maintained. Tom rounded of the Podium in 3rd after fighting hard all week against stiff competition. Lewis achieved one of his best results to date in 5th overall,  Zoe Whitford EABC was first Female in 7th overall with 6 first female results in 6 of the 10 races. Charlotte Eadie was 2nd Female and showed potential at times despite a series of Black Flags across the event. Bobby D also scoring a top 10 result in 8th Overall.

Tom Coulter sailing his Ilca 6 at the Irish Youth Nationals

“Overall, I was happy with my performance. My recent win at the Munster Championships in Baltimore was a great confidence boost going into the Nationals. I have worked hard over the winter to improve my fitness and boat handling, particularly in lighter winds. I now feel able to achieve  consistency in the full range of conditions.”
Tom Coulter, EABC/PYC  – ILCA 6 3rd Overall 

Taking seven of the top ten spots in the race of the day our Topper sailors rounded off a fantastic weekend. Cormac ticked of another 2nd while Chloe Craig CSC manged to make the top five for the first time to show there is some depth in the squad also. 

In the end despite posting his worst score of the event Tom Driscoll came out on top to win his first Big Topper Event as Irish Sailing Junior National Champion. Closely followed by the ever-consistent Cormac Byrne. I am sure a friendly rivalry may be developing here in a year which features a home games so to speak as the Topper World Championships are hosted in Cork. Emily Macafee was 2nd Female and 5th overall, showing she can be a force to be reckoned with when the breeze is up. 

Outside of our regular classed in the Topper and ILCA classes we had several sailors competing in the Optimist and 29er fleets. Matthew Holden BYC and George Doig EABC enjoyed the big fleet racing in the highly competitive Optimist. While the new and growing Ballyholme 29er fleet had two boats representing with the mixed pairing of Hannah Dadley-Young & Toby Hughes and Joseph Robinson & Henry Nelson taking 7th and 9th respectively.

“Youth Pathways can ebb and flow over the years as key clubs and/or individuals come and go. I am delighted with the current form of our youth classes in Topper’s and ILCA’s. It is a testament to the Performance Pathway Coaches and work of a number of our Northern Clubs and coacjes, not to mention the ever supportive parents and supporters that keep the momentum going.”

“We cannot rest on these results however and must ensure the grassroots of out sport continue to support young sailors interest and passion for the sport. With our single handed pathway in good health it will allow us to develop further the double handed pathways and widen the skills base and future opportunities for our sailors.”                                                                                                Andrew Baker – RYANI Performance Manger