Ship shape for Topper hopefuls at Ballyholme
The 2016 Rooster International Topper World Sailing Championships got under way on Belfast Lough yesterday with 197 competitors taking to the waters on the opening day of the event.
It’s the first time in the Championship’s history that this has happened with all 197 sailors casting off from Ballyholme Yacht Club at Bangor, making this the second largest Topper World Championships ever staged.
The event benefited from some kind weather conditions as the wind dropped to the perfect speed, allowing the day to go as planned without any hindrances.
In the morning the wind speed was sitting at 15 knots, however by the time the sailing was due to get underway, it had dropped to just 10 knots.
For the day itself those were the ideal conditions — the wind was strong enough to pose threats to some sailors while, for lighter competitors, it was slow enough to ensure they weren’t up against it.
The boats took the water at around half past 11, which allowed racing to begin on time at 12.25pm, much to the delight of the event organisers.
These Championships are a potential stepping stone for young sailors who wish to represent their country at the highest level in the future.
The Topper is an Olympic Youth Pathway class in both Britain and Ireland, with many sailors who started out in Toppers soon to race in Rio 2016.
With teams travelling from locations across the world, including Australia, Japan, Thailand and Macau, there is a wide range of international talent on display.
For the first time ever Ireland have the largest number of competitors in their squad for what is considered to be a home Championships for them, with Great Britain a close second.
There are only two classes on display at this week’s event, which ends on Friday, the 5.3 m2 sail and the 4.2 m2 sail.
The 5.3 class has been split into three fleets of just over 50 boats each due to the vast number of competitors at the event, while the 4.2 class has just one fleet of 40.
There were some excellent results for local hopefuls after the first day’s racing at Ballyholme with Great Britain and Ireland occupying the top three spots in the 4.2 class.
England’s Sam Copper and Ireland’s Sophie Crosbie are tied at the top of the standings after some closely fought racing on day one, with Scotland’s Harris Cartwright sitting just behind them in solo third.
In the 5.3 class another Englishman, Curtis McKay, is in second, trailing Thailand’s Max Yuang-Ngam in first, but ahead of Rabbit Su from China, who is in third.
The Chief Operating Officer of the Royal Yacht Association of Northern Ireland, Richard Honeyford, spoke of his delight at how smoothly the first day ran in Bangor.
“It has been a great day at Ballyholme Yacht Club with the Topper Worlds getting off to a fantastic start,” he said.
“It is excellent to have a competition of this scale on our doorstep and it is inspiring to see the wide range of competitors and spectators from so many countries.”
Elsewhere, Killyleagh Yacht Club hosted the first day of the Skiffie World Championships, where Dundrum had the most success of any local club.
They finished second in the final of the Ladies Over-60s class, which was won by Scottish club Broughty Ferry, with their Mixed Open B team coming fourth in their final.
Strangford’s Mixed Open B side were a place behind them in fifth, with another Scottish club, Cockenzie, taking top spot.
There were 10 races in all held at Killyleagh, with Dundrum and Strangford progressing to both of the afternoon’s finals, with Killyleagh’s own team joining them in the Mixed Open B decider.
Dundrum were narrowly edged out in the Ladies Over-60s final, with Broughty Ferry finishing just three seconds ahead of them, with Strangford a minute and a half off the pace in eighth.
Neither, however, could keep up with runaway winners Cockenzie in the Mixed Open B final with Dundrum finishing 17 seconds behind the winners, with Strangford a place behind, 26 seconds off first place.