August 6th and 7th saw the J24 fleet make their way back to Lough Ree Yacht Club, the second oldest yacht club in the world, for the J24 Westerns. With 10 boats, 50 competitors and strong winds the two day event was going to be one to be remembered. Boats travelled from Howth, Dun Laoghaire, Sligo and Lough Derg in Tipperary to take part. Lough Ree made sure to looked after all 50 competitors after their journeys when they fired up the BBQ to feed the hungry sailors after rigging. As light faded the crews made their way up to the Club House and settled in to renew old acquaintances and to discuss the challenges of the next two days on the lake.
The Provisional Race Officer Vincent Rafter and his team worked hard to fit in 4 races on Saturday, conscious that the conditions might deteriorate to a point where racing might be abandoned on Sunday. With Southerly winds reaching speeds of 22 knots and gust of 26 knots all boats prepared for a hard day of sailing. Winds from this direction allow short sharp wave action to develop on the lake and this affects the racers strategy. With all sailors enthusiastic to get racing one boat seemed too eager as they picked the committee boat end of the line to start only to get too close and pull the committee boats anchor with them calling for a general recall. With the J’s reaching top speeds on the spinnaker runs the next 3 races went off without any major incidents. With day one over it proved that once again the under 25 team were unstoppable with them finishing with 4 points. The racing on Saturday was followed by a J24 Class Dinner for all competitors and the race committee. The diners were entertained by the classical Duet of Ellen Godley on cello and Eva Barry on violin. Their mix of classical and traditional music soothed the frayed nerves of some very fatigued sailors.
On Sunday only one could be held due to deteriorating conditions. Gusts of 35 knots were being recorded and out of the 10 boats only 7 were brave enough to face these challenging conditions. With jib being the choice for all boats the up-wind legs were that bit easier to handle when the strong gusts hit. On the downwind leg all boats headed dead downwind as working the angles would not have any benefit. With each gybe the boats made there was always the fear of a broach. It wasn’t too long when one boat gybed getting caught by a gust and went into a fast broach. With the helmsman needing to be hauled back into the boat with a hand jury it was clear to see this race was not for the faint hearted. With the fear of structural damage to the boats and potentially injury to crew the second race was cancelled and all headed back to shore for de-rigging and prize giving.
With five races held and with one discard allowed it was clear to see who came out on top as the winner. With an outstanding performance of 5 firsts on the water the team on board Kilcullen Irelands Eye won the J24 Western Championships. Javelin a local boat which made its appearance back into the fleet after a long absence came in 2nd place with a total of 10 points. Flor O’ Driscoll from Dun Laoghaire and his team on Hard on Port were not far behind with a total of 13 points which put them in 3rd place. After all prizes were handed out the J24 fleet said goodbye to Lough Ree Yacht Club for now and all boats were on the road home to their respective home towns by 4pm.
The next J24 event is to be held in Dun Laoghaire on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of September. With a promise of 13+ boats taking part it is set to be a event not to be missed by sailors and an excellent way to finish off the J24 2016 season.
The J24 association of Ireland would also like to extend their thanks to Waterways Ireland for their Sponsorship of this event.
Event Report by Ciara Ryan
Event Photos by Karl Ellieffe