Wednesday 29 March 2017

Sailing: Masterful Flannigan plots path to glory

WM Nixon

Gareth Flannigan of Ballyholme is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for April after rising through the 43-strong fleet at last weekend's busy East Coast SB3 Championship in Dublin Bay.

Mobility was the core concept for the 20ft SB3 as Laser International and designer Tony Castro brainstormed their way in 2002 towards a lifting-keel, easily-trailed performance, three-four-man boat which would capture the spirit of the original iconic Laser singlehanded dinghy.

The very competitive fleet seemed to emerge from every corner of Ireland on to the forecourt of the Royal St George YC for this, the class's first major event of the 2010 season. Expat Kiwi skipper Ben Duncan, who sails from Howth, was the overnight leader and seemed securely in place.

But through the second day, title-holder Flannigan of Belfast Lough implemented a strategy which saw Duncan's points lead eroded and then bested.

With a team which included Stephen Milne, who has recently launched himself on to the Olympic path with Cork's Peter O'Leary in the Olympic Star, Flannigan cannily kept tabs on Duncan while keeping himself in the frame.

His discard from Sunday's three races was a seventh, while Duncan went down the tubes with a 19th and 18th in the two final jousts, after starting the day with a useful second.

In fact, it was Adrian O'Connell of the host club who showed best overall on day two, but Flannigan moved into a convincing overall lead, finishing on 15 points to the 24 of Duncan and O'Connell's 26.

It was a virtuoso performance which makes him a worthy winner of the monthly award, and it means Stephen Milne is right in line for an Oscar for best supporting actor -- he has already been in the spotlight for his second place in the Olympic Stars in Miami with Peter O'Leary in February.

The mighty sailing machine which is the Royal St George in Dun Laoghaire, current Club of the Year, is in top gear with the same sponsors as the SB3 event, Mitsubishi Motors.

This holiday weekend sees them swing into action again with the Youth Championship, which anticipates more than 300 boats in seven classes using three separate race areas. Apart from being a significant event in its own right, it will be part of the countdown to the World Youth Championship here in 2012.

On the south coast, Kinsale will be busy with three days of racing for the South Coast Squib Championship, and the final race of the Spring Series, after a perfect sailing day last Sunday.

A 15-knot sou'wester with sunshine saw Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39 Antix getting into her stride to win both races ahead of Dave Dwyer's Mills 39 marinerscove.ie.

O'Leary has always been noted as someone who likes a bit of bite to the breeze, and this impressive display augurs well for this month's programme, which will include the Irish Championship in Dun Laoghaire from May 21-23 followed by the Scottish Championship in Loch Fyne the following weekend.

Irish Independent

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