Report by Chris Scott.
JP McCaldin and his Lough Erne Yacht Club crew were victorious at last weekend’s J24 Western Championships hosted by Lough Ree Yacht Club.
A 13 strong fleet defied the aftermath of Hurricane Lorenzo to return Lough Ree for a re-run of the event which was originally blown out in mid-April. The easterly breeze on day one ranged between 10-15 knots with increasingly persistent rain, although the conditions did not dampen the competition with closely fought racing throughout the fleet.
Principal Race Officer David Dickson and team performed with textbook efficiency to deliver four high-quality races in typically shifty lake conditions which ensured there were plenty of snakes and ladders to contend with.
The Gold Fleet became a shoot out between Il Riccio helmed by JP McCaldin from Lough Erne Yacht Club and local boat Headcase helmed by Cillian Dickson. Il Riccio revelled in the shifty conditions to return three bullets, however, a fourth place in Race Three allowed the consistent performance of reigning Irish National Champions Headcase to finish the day within one point of the lead.
A strong performance by Diarmuid O’Donovan’s Yahtzee was marred by retirement in Race Four, however, it remained enough to lead the Silver Fleet overnight and stay in contention for the overall podium places with Mark Usher in Jumpin’ Jive and Flor O’Driscoll in Hard on Port.
A fine dinner provided by Lough Ree Yacht Club and numerous hot whiskies revived cold competitors ashore – at least until the next morning.
Day two provided a spectacular autumnal morning with lighter breeze from the west. A prompt start from David Dickson ensured two tight races to close out the event. The clinical Il Riccio crew only required one race to secure overall victory, a further bullet enough to win with a race to spare from Headcase. Il Riccio had successfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on several previous occasions during the year so this victory in the season finale was greatly welcomed by the crew. The evergreen Flor O’Driscoll and crew completed the Gold Fleet podium placings in third.
The lighter breeze saw new competitors enter the fray with Fergus Kelliher from Tralee Bay SC on Jibe securing their best individual result with a second in Race Five with newly installed Class President Mark Usher’s Jumpin’ Jive narrowly missing on a race win in Race Six.
Diarmuid O’Donovan’s Yachtzee completed a successful weekend for Lough Erne crews by securing Silver Fleet honours with a narrow victory over Conor Haughton’s Jade from Wicklow Sailing Club. Dave Lane’s YaGottaWanna from Royal Cork Yacht Club completed the Silver Fleet podium.
Lough Ree Yacht Club delivered an excellent event with special mention at the prize giving reserved for J24 stalwart and event organiser Finbar Ryan. The J24 Irish fleet now enter the winter period following an excellent season of racing including a record-breaking entry for the National Championships and a different winner in each of the four events demonstrating the competitiveness within the fleet. 2020 will see the prestigious J24 World Championships hosted in Poole, Dorset, therefore, the Irish circuit will be full of well-primed crews preparing for the challenge.
Away from Lough Ree, Colm O’Flaherty from Sligo Yacht Club represented the fleet at the hotly contested All Ireland Sailing Championship in Dun Laoghaire. The Rosses Point helm won the repechage before finishing 7th overall.