There were a dozen entries for the event, including two relative new comers to the fleet, SCORPIO JUNIOR and JUMPIN JIVE- both from Lough Derg. Two local boats JEB and DJANGO (formally JIBBERISH) along with six from Howth and two from Lough Erne made up the fleet.
The forecast was for challenging conditions over two days including 20 kts of wind from the WSW with occasional gusts of 25 knots! Due to the impending World Championships to be held in Howth, skippers were understandably reluctant to put their boat in harms way. A meeting of all skippers was held on the Saturday morning to put racing to the vote. All agreed that it was worth the risk to go on the water!! (Editor's note- who can blame them, better than driving a desk at work!?).
The PRO for the event, John Banham, and their on the water team had their work cut out for them. The high winds made anchoring the Committee Boat a bit of a challenge considering that his team was all female. Mark-laying was also difficult with both the windward mark and the pin end dragging. John managed to get three races in despite the blustery conditions.
The racing (all windward leeward with 2 legs) started in 11 to 16 knots. The testing conditions brought out the best in the fleet with the J/24 showing why it’s still so popular. Any crew brave enough to fly a spinnaker were rewarded with blistering downwind speeds and an exhilarating ride which didn’t always end well. Yes, indeed, there were some spectacular broaches with some waving their keels at those upwind of them!
Day two, Sunday, was cancelled following an early morning scouting mission up the lake by two helms – Andrew Mannion and Martin Darrer. They reported an increase in wind pressure combined with a change in wind direction to North West resulting in a larger swell on the lake. Therefore the three races on Saturday constituted the event.
The defending National Champion JP McCaldin had a poor start to the event on Saturday with an OCS in the first race. This was followed by a 6th and a 3rd giving a total of 13 points and 6th place overall.
The Under 25 team sailing from Kilcullen and helmed by local sailor Cillian Dickson, were out to prove a point and pushed hard through out the day. Their persistence paid off with bullet in the first race followed by a 2nd and a 5th giving a total of 8 which secured second place overall.
Experience won the day however with Flor et al on board HARD ON PORT scoring a 2nd, a 3rd and a 2nd giving a total of 7 points and the event.
The silver fleet trophy went to Brendan Gallagher on board JUVENESCENCE followed in 2nd place by GOSSIP, helmed by Peter Barron.
The food provided by Georgina and her team at LRYC on Saturday evening was well received. While they dined, the frayed nerves of the 60 competitors were soothed by the “Ree Duet” who played both classical and traditional melodies. Thanks must go to Andrew Mannion and his shore crew. Launching and hauling out went like clockwork.
The event was a success despite the cancellation of the second day. The facilities at Lough Ree lend them selves to events like this and the club looks forward to hosting the J/24 fleet again soon! For more J/24 Western Championship sailing information