Four Irish going for Optimist European Championships gold

James McCann and Clare Gorman top home performers in Dún Laoghaire

Belgium’s Lander Bultynck competing in the Optimist European Championships on Dublin Bay yesterday. Photograph: David O’Brien

Belgium’s Lander Bultynck competing in the Optimist European Championships on Dublin Bay yesterday. Photograph: David O’Brien

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 01:00

One boy and three girls from an Irish team of 14 have qualified for tomorrow’s gold fleet racing in Dún Laoghaire.

Royal Cork’s James McCann and the National Yacht Club’s Clare Gorman made the cut as the top home performers after a full programme of six qualifying races in testing conditions on Dublin Bay yesterday afternoon.

Rebounded

In spite of dropping from an opening day’s tenth to 26th on Tuesday, McCann rebounded with a fifth in race five to conclude the six-race opening series in 13th place, one spot behind defending champion, Poland’s Tytus Butowski.

Tacking in phase with the offshore wind shifts proved a winning move as Dublin Bay once again offered championship breezes from 240-degrees but veering as far right as 320.

Four Irish boys make the silver fleet: Jamie McMahon, Loghlen Rickard and Peter Fagan, all from Dublin, as well as Harry Bell from Co Down.

Winds speeds from five right up to 26 knots by the end of the day were also recorded, making for tricky sailing.

Bay local Gorman counted an important eighth place in race five, negotiating 30-degree wind shifts and a misbehaving 101-boat fleet. It moved the 13-year-old into 24th overall, eight places up from 32nd on Tuesday, to secure her gold fleet place. Also qualifying for gold are fellow Dubliners Alix Buckley of Skerries and Gemma McDowell of Malahide.

In the overall standings, French sailor Enzo Balanger tops the leader board with results of 1, 1, 3, 3, 1, totalling 9 points. Fourteen points behind is Pablo Lujan of Spain, with Tuesday’s leader Swedish lake sailor Kasper Nordenram third.

After another first place, Iset Segura from the Catalan club of Arenys de Mar remains at the head of the girls fleet, followed by Ebru Bolat of Romania and Brazilian Olivia Belda.

Under new class rules, the Dublin Bay event marks the first time the European championship fleet has been separated into gold, silver and bronze, which has drawn debate in U16 sailing circles.

The blustery conditions not only tested the 254-competitors but Royal St George race management too. From a scheduled 10 starts, race officer David Lovegrove’s team ended up starting double that number to get the 44-nation fleet away.

Black flag rule

While the bigger boys’ fleet was reasonably well behaved it was the girls who caused Lovegrove to resort again to the “sudden death” black flag rule. It took over an hour and a half to complete a 10-minute start sequence. Ultimately, 16 were disqualified after the start-line melee.

The first finals races start this morning.

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