Royal North of Ireland welcomed the Squib fleet to the shores of Belfast Lough for the 2023 Irish National Championship on the weekend of 4/5/6 August sponsored by Rodgers and Browne Estate Agents.

2023 Champions.
139 Inshallah. David Eccles and Michael Wright

The strong fleet included many previous national champions, a very strong local contingent and travellers from Kinsale, Dunlaoghaire, Howth, Killyleagh. This was augmented by Ryan Seddon and Ieuan William who brought an international flavour having travelled froWales  to compete. The event proved to be a true test of skill, determination, and adaptability for all the participating sailors. With challenging weather conditions throughout the event, the championship was a display of seamanship and resilience.

PRO Sammy Lynus got the fleet under way in light conditions on Friday evening, but a dying breeze meant that not all the fleet finished the race within the time limit. The race was won by David Eccles & Michael Wright in Inshallah who established a lead at the end of the first run over early leader Vincent Delaney and Joe O’Byrne in Femme Fatale. After a tortuous final run the committee finished at the leeward gate and after a period of sustained battling against a stubborn tide it was Inshallah first but Femme Fatale in second, but who hit the finish mark and was forced to refinish losing a number of place to end up fifth. Second went to Killyleagh’s Steven Bridges and Colin Dougan in Firecracker and Crackers from Kinsale sailed by Sean and Paul Murphy getting third. Welsh visitors, Ryan Seddon and Ieuan William sailing Siadwel 4th and local duo Johnny Park and Bob Stinson in Gizmo in 5th. There was no time for another race and so the fleet repaired to the club for some food and deliberations about life and sailing.

Saturday dawned with an overcast sky, and the sailors faced a challenging day on the water. The weather gods were particularly demanding, with forecasted winds varying from fresh to frightening and gusts that tested the sailors’ control and tactical decision-making. The forecast lived up to expectations often with breezes blowing from the north north east combined with a chunky chop, the fleet took to the water for 4 races.

First race of the day saw Inshallah once again develop a lead to finish first, with Peter Wallace and Martin Weatherstone in Toy for the Boys taking second. Outlaw from Kinsale sailed by Ian Travers and Keith O’Riordan finished third with Volante Simon Watson and Gordy Withers in 4th and Femme Fatale once again finishing 5th.

Second race of the day and an intense battle at the front of the fleet had, Inshallah, Outlaw, Femme Fatale, Crackers, and Toys, joined by Prodigal sailed by Royal Norths Greg Bell and Max Kiliner, Quickstep with Royal Ulster’s Ruan O’Tiarnaigh and Royal North’s Ross Nolan in Quickstep, and Cork/Dublin’s Aidan O’Connell and Ben O’Donoghue in Ruby Blue all trading places on the 6 leg course. Inshallah finally managed to shake off the pack and climb free to take the gun with Prodigal second, Toys third, Crackers 4th and Quickstep 5th.

At this stage it was very much looking like a runaway event for up and coming local youth, Davy Eccles, a stalworth of the Squib fleet at RNIYC with 3 bullets in the bag.

The third race saw Quickstep establish a lead at the first mark and lead onto the next round, with Toys in second and Blue sailed by Gordy Patterson and Brian Kelly, (Royal North & Killyleagh) in third. Most notably was that Inshallah was in the doodoo having had a poor first beat. The severe rain showers were playing havoc with the wind direction and a sudden 50 degree shift on the second beat, which saw some sailors almost fall in to windward caused some significant changes, allowing Toys to get ahead of Quickstep and various gains and losses for others. At the gun it was Toys followed by Quickstep from Slipstream, sailed by Robert Marshall and Fiona Ward with Blue 4th and Femme Fatale 5th. Inshallah managed to fight their way through the fleet to finish 11th.

The last race of the day was again a breezy and choppy affair with a nasty lefty at the start see some boats not crossing on starboard and having to gybe and find a lane through the oncoming fleet. Two of these were Outlaw and Quickstep who despite this difficulty managed to get through the oncomers and depart the line on the lifted tack and go on to establish a first and third positions at the first mark. Second round the weather mark was RNIYC’s Terry Rowan and John Curtin sailing Dogwatch. Outlaw and Quickstep went on to finish first and second, Third on the water was the seemingly invincible Inshallah, but their day was to have a rather sour ending when they discovered that they were OCS and so their efforts were to no avail. Fourth on the water was Terry and John sailing Dogwatch who was bumped up to third. Fourth went to Prodigal and 5th Firecracker.

The overall scores on Saturday night were intriguing, with Davy Eccles & Michael Wright in Inshallah having discarded an OCS, but carrying 3 bullets and an 11th were leading on 14 points. The most consistent boat of the fleet was Quickstep, Ruan O’Tiarnaigh & Ross Nolan whose discard was 7th was lying in second counting 6, 5, 2,2 on 15 pts.

Third was Toys sailed by Peter Wallace and Martin Weatherstone on 18 pts but discarding a 16. with Firecracker and Prodigal, Femme Fatale and Volante all potentially in the hunt.

As Sunday approached the event was still all to play for and hopes were high for 2 thrilling races to determine the champions. However, Mother Nature had other plans. Heavy rain engulfed the racecourse, reducing visibility and creating unpredictable and shifty winds. The race committee diligently attempted to set a fair course, but the conditions deteriorated.

After a series of attempts to lay the course, the difficult decision was taken to abandon Sunday’s race. This called for the championship standings to be determined based on the results from the previous days making Davy and Mike in Inshallah the new Irish National Champions and lifting the cup for their first time! A very popular win within the fleet there was a resounding 3 cheers that echoed across the silky waters of Belfast lough as the fleet headed for the moorings and the crane. Second were Ruan and Ross, who despite not having sailed together for many years were delighted to be in the hunt and staying ahead of locals Peter and Martin.

It should also be noted that the Silver Fleet was won by local RNIYC boat, Second Chance sailed by Stephen Stewart and Kevin Thomas, just pipping Johnny Park and Bob Stinson in Gizmo and overseas visitors Ryan Seddon and Ieuan William in Siadwel.

The event would not have been possible without the continued support and sponsorship of the Squibs at Royal North from Rodgers and Browne, who played a significant role in organizing the regatta alongside the whole team at RNIYC ashore and Sammy’s team afloat and ensuring its success despite the challenging weather.

As the Squib Irish Nationals 2023 came to a close, the sailors now eagerly await the next regatta in Howth in early September, ready to face whatever challenges the Irish sea might throw their way.

Pos Sail Name Helm Crew R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 Pts
1 139 Inshallah David Eccles Michael Wright 1 1 1 11 (OCS) 14
2 820 Quickstep Ruan O’Tiarnaigh Ross Nolan ‑7 6 5 2 2 15
3 818 Toy for the boys Peter Wallace Martin Weatherstone 13 2 3 1 ‑16 19
4 149 Firecracker Steven Bridges Colin Dougan 2 ‑9 6 9 5 22
5 24 Femme Fatale Vincent Delaney Joe O’Byrne 5 5 7 5 ‑8 22
6 785 Outlaw Ian Travers Keith O’Riordan 14 3 (DSQ) 6 1 24
7 146 Prodigal Greg Bell Max Killiiner 12 8 2 ‑17 4 26
8 807 Volante Simon Watson Gordy Withers ‑10 4 10 8 6 28
9 793 Blue Gordon Patterson Brian Kelly 9 ‑11 9 4 10 32
10 25 Crackers Sean Murphy Paul Murphy 3 ‑17 4 14 12 33
11 35 Ruby Blue Aidan O’Connell Ben O’Donoghue 8 7 8 10 ‑11 33
12 503 Dogwatch Terry Rowan John Curtin (DNF) 15 16 12 3 46
13 701 Second Chance Stephen Stewart Kevin Thomas (DNF) 12 13 7 14 46
14 878 Siadwel Ryan Seddon Ieuan William 4 ‑19 17 18 9 48
15 746 Gizmo Johnny Park Bob Stinson 6 ‑16 14 13 15 48
16 102 Slipstream Robert Marshall Fiona Ward (DNF) DNS 11 3 13 50
17 89 Klipbok Mikey Carroll Michael Carroll (DNF) 18 12 16 7 53
18 794 Innishmara Simon Hutchinson Scott Killiner (DNF) 13 15 15 17 60
19 51 Mucky Duck Sorcha Ni Shuilleabhain Michael O’Sullivan (DNF) 10 18 20 19 67
20 799 Fat boat slim Marcus McEneaney Wyatt Wright 11 ‑20 19 19 18 67
21 838 Maximus Laura Killiner Sophie Killiner (DNF) 14 DNS DNS DNS 83
22 786 Conquest Trevor Lindsay John Wilkinson (DNF) RET DNS 21 20 87