International talent to the fore at Optimist Nationals
The club is awash with colour this week as the Optimist National Championships dominates all corners and sections of the clubhouse, the hardstanding and even the marina! This year's championships sees the largest ever entry list and with an additional eleven nations joining the Irish sailors for a full week that includes practice days, opening ceremony, 4 scheduled days of racing and lots of peripheral activities including barbecue, disco, movie night, surf & turf dinner and entertainment throughout.
185 young sailors and their families are in Howth for the week and you'll notice the club at its busiest on most days. Ireland's (and Howth's) recent international successes in this class have undoubtedly been a catalyst in the additional international entry which includes the US Optimist Sailing Team who have been soaking up the atmosphere in the locality all week. The high quality entry reflects the impressive recent international results of Howth's own sailors including Rocco Wright who finished 10th at the Optimist Worlds in Antigua last month - the best ever result from an Irish sailor at 'the Worlds'.
The conditions for the first race on Thursday morning were perfect and buoyed by the brief from HYC's International Race Officer David Lovegrove, the Senior, Junior and Regatta Fleets dashed out and decorated the race area between Aqua Restaurant on Howth's West Pier and Velvet Strand in front of the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links. In the first races of the Senior Fleet, Rocco Wright stamped his intention early with a win and a third place - placing himself just ahead of close rival James Dwyer Matthews from Cork. But it was 13-year-old US sailor Freddie Parkin who demonstrated top form with an early 2,1 and topped the fleet and stayed top despite a big wind-shift during the 3rd race, when Rocco and James had to settle for 25th and 17th places respectively and allowing Howth's Johnny Flynn to move into 3rd place with erstwhile rival and fellow local Luke Turvey moving to 5th.
HYC had lesser success at the top of the Junior Fleet leaderboard after their 3 races, but our sailors lead the Irish challenge with William Walsh, Cillian Twomey and Des Turvey in 9th, 10th and 11 places and behind a strong overseas challenge from the American and British sailors. 11-year-old Nathan Pine from Lakewood Yacht Club in Texas scored a 2,1,2 and must be the favourite to top the Junior Fleet, even after just one day's racing.
HYC's ambition for this event doesn't seem to be limited to the Optimist leaderboard nor the larger than normal (34) entries in the 'Regatta Fleet' and organiser Darren Wright and his team are intent on providing a championships that leaves a lasting 'Howth' impression on all sailors and their families this week with an extensive programme of racing, hospitality and entertainment that would appear to raise the bar considerably for an Optimist Nationals.
Racing continues through until Sunday and members are invited to come to the club and enjoy the atmosphere over the next few days. A live reporting service for the championships is broadcast on the @HYC_Events Twitter feed with updates from the Senior and Junior races. Full details of the event and schedules are posted on irishoptimistnationals.com and results are available here.