Thursday 26 April 2018

Worlds at Schull can provide global boon for team racing


WM Nixon

After last week and the world focusing gratefully on Baltimore's rescue crews' saving of the crew of Rambler 100, international attention stays in West Cork. But it moves inshore and across to Schull, where the week-long International Sailing Federation's Team Racing Worlds start tomorrow.

Defending champions USA have a squad of superstars. Every member of their six-strong No 1 team has won at least two of the triple crown trophies, their top teamster being Pete Levesque, who has been in five winning sides in the Hinman Trophy (the US Team Nationals), twice in the British championship -- the Wilson Trophy -- and twice in the biennial Worlds.

The 20 teams involved (12 in the Open, and eight in the Youths) being drawn from Australia, Japan, USA, Thailand, UK, Italy, Spain and Ireland.

With the Australian sailing season only just getting under way, their team has been in Schull for several days already, acclimatising to local conditions and the boats to be used, the TR 362.

These new dinghies have been developed by David Harte of West Cork to be a sort of sailing dodgem car -- you try to avoid collisions, but if shunts do occur, it won't be the end of the world. The boats are moulded in Midleton, while sails are made in Goleen, and ace boat builder Mark McCarthy is on hand for repairs if the sailing becomes too much of a contact sport.

Harte is playing a central role, as he is the main man on the waterfront with the Fastnet Marine and Outdoor Education Centre at the harbourside Schull Community College. Local experience in hosting specialised dinghy sailing events has been built up over many years with the popular Fastnet International Schools Regatta.

Enthusiasm generated by the schools competition on their doorstep has borne fruit in Schull Community College, and one of the leading contenders in the junior competition is the Schull team of Conor Miller, Oisin O'Driscoll, Jay Stacey, Ellen O'Regan, Katie Moynihan and Kasper Snashall. They won the British International Schools team event in 2010 and were runners-up this year, and have also taken this year's Irish title.

Today's team racing developed from a shared enthusiasm between clubs in Dun Laoghaire and West Kirby in northwest England. The idea that you can aspire to function as a team with boats helping their team-mates by getting in the way of the opposition (within the rules, of course), is an acquired taste, and enthusiasm for it has fluctuated.

But it's of note that in countries relatively new to sailing, team racing gets a ready response. So it could well be that in the good old classic sailing Mecca of Schull, we are seeing the future.

Irish Independent

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