Belfast Telegraph

Gunnar Larson weathers storm to stay top

By Ali Gordon

Windy conditions proved troublesome for some of the world's best sailors yesterday at the F18 World Championships in Ballyholme, but that didn't stop Dutchmen Gunnar Larson and Ferdinand Van West holding onto the top spot for another day.

After two races were cancelled on Monday due to adverse weather conditions, yesterday's event was bursting with excitement as competitors were also competing in those races missed on the previous day.

"It went very well, we had four races today which was a big improvement. It's been pretty busy and the wind came up too so there was a bit of carnage towards the end," said Ballyholme Yacht Club's Rear Commodore, Mark Mackey.

Clinching second place along with Brett Goodall, Australian Glenn Ashby said: "There was a relatively high sort of breeze at the end of the day as it reached about 15-20 knots in the race, so it was quite difficult and there was some really fast racing."

The talented sailor, who was part of the Emirates Team New Zealand in last summer's America's Cup in San Francisco, has won 14 World Championships across three classes, including seven in the A Class catamaran.

"We're sitting second overall but there's still 10 races to go so anything can happen but hopefully we'll stay in the top few," said Ashby.

But the 36-year-old will have to beat stiff opposition in the form of race leader Larson, third placed Americans Taylor Reiss and Matthew Whitehead and Germans Helge and Christian Sach in fourth position.

Praising the quality of the top competitors, notably Ashby, Mackey said: "He's (Ashby) only just stepped back into this kind of boat and he's already doing well."

With 57 entries, competition is fierce with Grant Piggott currently ranked the best of the British in 10th position, Andrew Gallagher and Michael Gunning from Ballyholme Yacht Club leading for the Irish team in 30th place, while Adrian Allen and Barry Swanston are 34th.

"They're (local sailors) doing alright but the guys at the top are real professionals so it's very difficult," said Mackey.

Despite admitting that he is a "little bit" confident, Ashby knows that today's race will prove tough.

"It is a big day. It's going to be pretty windy so everyone will have their work cut out," he said.

In between racing, the multihull specialist has had a little time to experience the warm hospitality of locals and revealed that he would love to come back to Northern Ireland "as a bit of a tourist".

Ashby said: "It's been absolutely awesome; I've had a great time here. I'd not been to Northern Ireland before but my wife had been years ago and she told me I had to go some time.

"I'd love to come back again – the people at Ballyholme have made us feel welcome and I've met some lovely people."

Belfast Telegraph


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