Monday 19 March 2018

Sailing: Technology helps Van Gelderen hurtle to record

WM Nixon

Oisin van Gelderen of Skerries is the Irish Independent/ Sailor of the Month for September after his sensational windsurfer speed runs on the famous Marine Lake at West Kirby near Liverpool on September 15.

Zooming along in 30-35 knot breezes, and using the specialised GPS analytical systems which have been developed for this extremely advanced form of sailing, van Gelderen (40) recorded a fastest speed burst of 47.17 knots.

Although his average from his five best runs was down at 43.19 knots, it is still a new Irish record. The current unlimited world speed sailing record is 51.36 knots, established a year ago by Alain Thebault and his crew on the 60ft French trimaran Hydroptere, which skims across the water on hydrofoils once a basic speed (quite high in itself) is achieved.

Because of the hydrofoils, all hulls of the boat are clear of the water. And although the spray can fly across like a fusillade of bullets, you are travelling in luxury by comparison with a lone windsurfer battling the elements.

Going hyper-fast, water doesn't seem like water any more. It's more like concrete. Yet this kind of speed provides heaps of adrenalin, and then some. The sailing was so good that van Gelderen would have kept going on into the night, but the danger of crashing into the West Kirby walls in the dark was very real.

While the Hydroptere speeds were the result of crew and technical team joint efforts, and although van Gelderen was using the best technology, there is a personal element in his feat which no other form of sailing can match.

Too much wind is counter-productive in sailing, but too little or none at all is soul-destroying. Last weekend saw top sailors gathered for events as diverse as the All Ireland Helmsmans Championship at Crosshaven, the South Coast Offshore Racing Association series at Cobh, the second race of the Autumn League at Howth, the GP 14 Leinsters at Skerries, and the Flying Fifteen East Coasts at Carlingford. But after days of working hard and blowing itself hoarse for the equinoctial gales, the wind ceased.

At times like this, the frustrated race teams hope to fall back on the claim: "We got a result". But for the big one, the All Ireland at Royal Cork, it just wasn't on, though the juniors sailing further inshore completed their series with Philip Doran of Courtown beating Rory Lynch and Ross Vaughan.

The seniors had enough racing to produce the line-up for the final. The logistics shouldn't be too difficult, as four are from Royal Cork -- Anthony O'Leary, Neil Kenefick, Nicholas O'Leary and Nick Walsh. Ewen Barry is from Monkstown Bay, while of the other three, Garrett May is from Howth, while Niall Henry is Sligo and James Espey is from Ballyholme.

As for east coast racing, they managed results, with nearly 40 GP 14s at Skerries to see the Leinsters won by Shane McCarthy and Andy Davis, while 34 Flying Fifteens saw the East Coast championship at Carlingford SC won by Darren Martin and Simon Murray, the national title-holders.

Irish Independent

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