Fantastic Flying 15s

Fantastic Flying 15s

4 July 2018

STEVE Goacher, from England, became a grand master of the Flying Fifteen class at the Championship of the British Isles, held at Whiterock last week.

The event doubled up as the Irish Northern Championships and the Windermere veteran took both titles.

Goacher, who is no stranger to Strangford Lough, appeared on BBC national and local news during the week, explaining how the lack of wind was not denting the enjoyment of the 100 sailors who had travelled to compete in the event.

Goacher is now a World, European, British and Irish champion, making him a grand master of one of the most competitive classes on the water, but it could all have turned out quite differently. 

For three days the sailors crisped on the balcony of Strangford Lough Yacht Club, whistling for wind and a sea breeze which never came.

The organising committee built in contingency after contingency to try to get a championship series out of the week, but if there is no wind, there is no sailing.

Instead the competitors were treated to tours of the lough in motor boats, to some kayaking and many swam at least twice a day. Others had brought bicycles, some of the fitter types even got as far as Murlough, Coney Island and Killough. 

On the final day though, they awoke to a gentle flapping of their tents as the breeze finally filled in. 8am all 50 boats were heading for the start line, and by 1.30pm three brilliant races had been sailed in perfect conditions. 

The English crews, many of whom are professional sailors, were on top form. The first race was won by Greg Wells and Andrew Jameson, from Hayling Island, ahead of Goacher and Tim Harper. The top Irish crew, Dave Gorman and Chris Doorley from the National Yacht Club, who had a great event, were third.

The wind increased moderately for race two, with Brian Matthews from Dublin marshalling the course with the steadiest of hands.

Goacher led from the start, with Nigel and Gavin Tullet second and former world champions Ian Pinnell and Paul Busby third.

There was just time for one more race before the cut off point to allow sailors to get ashore and de-rigged in time for the ferry.

It proved to be the most fiercely contested as the wind built a fraction and the sun kissed the building waves. Again Goacher and Harper prevailed, with David Tabb and ‘Chewey’ second and Greg Wells and Andrew Jameson third. 

Goacher and Harper took the event convincingly from Wells and Jameson, with Ian Pinnell and Paul Busby third.

The Irish pair of Dave Gorman and Chris Doorley were next, although fellow Dublin Bay sailors Ian Matthews and Keith Poole would have finished third but for a disqualification for a minor instruction infringement.They sailed incredibly well all day and wore their disappointment with characteristic cheerfulness.

Of the local boats, Roger Chamberlain and Charlie Horder from the host club made it into the top ten. Roger was also a primary organiser of the event. Rory and Andy Martin, from SLYC, were 12th and Andy McCleery and Colin Dougan from Killyleagh were 14th.

Oliver and Sean Curran took a trophy for their seniority in the fleet over many years, and fellow Strangford pair Gerry Reilly and Jane McMeekin had to contend with a disqualification in what would otherwise have been a great regatta for them. Peter and Orla Lawson from Portaferry finished 33rd.

No event can run without sponsors. John McCann of Willowbrook Foods not only stumped up the cash, but he made a comeback after 25 years as a landlubber. John returned to the side tank of a Flying Fifteen, and he wasn’t too shabby. His love of these boats was clear as he presented over 60 trophies and said a few words at the prize giving.

The event was also supported by Ards Borough Council, Finnebrogue Artisan, Copeland’s Gin, Hyde Sails and Goacher Sails brought Gale Force Ale.

Finally, a word about the Victor Trophy, introduced to the event and donated by Victor Boston. This work of intricate craftsmanship will be awarded every three years to anyone who has made significant contribution to Flying Fifteen sailing in Ireland. It is a scaled model of Victor’s own boat, which is now in Kinsale. The first name on the trophy will, deservedly, be that of Brian McKee, who has been a constant, if quiet source of encouragement for young Flying Fifteeners for years.

He brings people into the class, trains them, gets them tuned up and is then delighted for them when they, occasionally, manage to get to the finish line in front of him. He’s built boats, and his generosity with his time is unrivalled. He has also won just about every event in these islands, including World Championship races.

Brian even loaned his quicker boat to John McCann for his comeback. To mark Brian’s outstanding contribution to the class, he was awarded the Victor Trophy.