Almost €3000 raised for RNLI at another successful Downings Windsurfing Event
Over a hundred sailors turned out for another weekend of top class wind conditions for the annual Downings Windsurfing Event.
Conditions in Sheephaven Bay on Saturday morning were perfect and looked good for a day of competitive sailing in Round 3 of the Irish Slalom Series event. Wind speeds of 20 knots were recorded and the fight was on for the title of Irish Champion.
Racing got underway with the novice fleet of around 30 sailors who completed a challenging slalom course in the safe and sheltered Sheephaven Bay. Guidance, support and encouragement was on hand from a team of experienced Gartan staff and many enthusiastic volunteers. Entrants ranged from nine year olds Jessica Hood from Newtownstewart and John Fletcher from Belfast to the oldest competitor in the senior age group aged over 70 years.
The Novice fleet managed a total of 10 races over the weekend with some challenging conditions including surf and gusting winds. Overall winner of the Novice fleet was Sophie Fletcher and Victoria Backus for the ladies.
The Silver fleet coped well with the same challenging conditions sailing beyond the harbour on the Saturday, on Sunday race director Ciaran O Brien made the decision to bring the fleet within the bay for a slightly more sheltered downwind slalom course. This fleet sailed a total of 10 races with Peter Stewart winning the fleet prize.
The Gold Fleet of over 50 entrants competed in a technical and gruelling six mile downwind slalom course across Sheephaven Bay. With inconsistent wind conditions the course presented a challenge for all competitors, sailors at the forefront of the Irish Windsurfing league demonstrated their skills both technically and physically to compete with the best windsurfers in Ireland.
For the spectators on the beach this was a colourful spectacle of sails and boards sailing majestically across the waves of Sheephaven Bay. Fighting throughout the weekend for the top position were Pearse Geaney from Cork and local based sailor Maurice Owens.
Atmosphere on the beach and in the water was friendly with many personal challenges taking place within each fleet of racers.
The local branch of the RNLI had organised a buffet and entertainment in the Downings Bay Hotel on Saturday night for sailors and their families, this was another successful event and a great opportunity to catch up after the days racing.
Following the two final Master Blaster events where every fleet launched from the beach, with guest appearance from Batman, there were lots of fabulous prizes to be distributed.
Organiser Nick Fletcher commented “ we like to encourage all our young, novice and up coming wind surfers so we try to ensure there is a prize for everyone in the novice fleet” younger entrants who were unable to compete due to strong wind conditions got party bags to encourage them to return next year.
The Downings Windsurfing Club would sincerely like to thank all the local businesses who sponsored, donated their services and helped with all the organising throughout the weekend. With special thanks to sponsors Jurys Inns, Boardwise and Tushingham. Nick Fletcher thanked all the competitors for taking the time to enter, travel the long journeys and compete to make this another fun and successful year. A special thank you as always to the Mulroy Sea and Cliff Rescue whose reassuring presence was in the water all weekend.
Gold fleet Overall winner
1st grand master Chris Loughridge
U17 girl Lucy Backus
U14 Paddy Fletcher