The last round of the Irish Slalom series took place the 6th and 7th of September in Silver Strand, Galway. With over 56 competitors, plenty of spectators and 20 knots of wind, they could do a great competition with 10 intense races.
Here you have the full report from the event:
Silver Strand, Co. Galway was the location for the fifth and final round of the 2008 Irish Slalom Series. Over 54 competitors from all corners of Ireland made the journey west, to Galway\'s most popular windsurfing location. Weather forecasts throughout the week, predicted a strong off shore breeze. With the last opportunity to battle for the national titles, some exciting racing was guaranteed.
Preparations for the first day began at 6.30am on Saturday morning. Local farmer Marty Concannon kindly provided event organisers with access to the field adjoining the beach. This ensured competitors had plenty of room for rigging and also allowed the now common Event HQ truck to take up position. After legging it home for a quick breakfast, the Irish Slalom Series Crew were back on the beach erecting flags and preparing the marks for the days action. It wasn\'t long before vehicles of all shapes and sizes, laden with windsurfing kit, were making there way down the hill onto the promenade. Event registration commenced at 9am. 47 of Ireland\'s top windsurfers signed up for the gold fleet. While 8 of the country\'s most promising junior sailors were eager to get on the water. Race and safety briefing were scheduled for 10.30am and the field quickly began to disappear under a blanket of colourful sails. A rapidly moving boat attracted the attention of competitors assembling on the promenade to check out the wind. Within minutes an impressive seven metre ex Camel Trophy rib was moored on the beach. The boat\'s owner, James Kane, kindly gave up his weekend, to take position as the committee boat. Gartan OEC\'s, Ciaran O\'Boyle sacrificed a weekends racing and took charge as Race Officer.
With a freshening North Westerly breeze it was time to do battle on the water. The race crew set a figure of eight course about 500 metres out into Galway Bay. Each of the gold fleet competitors was required to complete two laps of the half a mile leg course. As the first green flag of the day was lowered into the start boat, Cork\'s Pearse Geaney took the lead coming into the first mark. Pearse was closely followed by Hannes Louet, Fintan Day and Nick Fletcher. The father and son duo of Pete and Matthew McNutt were also off to a blistering start to the mornings racing. The top results for race two and three changed very little. After the top few sailors, an exciting battle was ongoing between Barry Whitelaw, Ralph Ferguson, Neil Sandes and Aidan Breslin. Young guns Joseph Fletcher and Ben McNutt secured some excellent results in the initial races. One of Ireland\'s top wave sailors Morgan Maguire demonstrated that skill would always outshine equipment. He secured consistent top ten results on a fifteen-year-old Bic Vivace and a borrowed rig. The expression on his face, captured by the event photographers, led the organisers to believe that he will be a regular on the 2009 results sheet.
The freshening off shore breeze had now settled a little at 20 knots. The smooth running of three races, led the race committee to decide to keep competitors on the water for a further two races. A quick call on the radio back to the chef, and the lunch was put on hold. "Looks good from hear, keep it going, over" and within seconds the three-minute flag was up for race 4. With 3 perfect starts under his belt, race 4 displayed just how easy it is to break the starting line. Pushing everything to the limit, Pearse hit the start line of race 4 just 1 second early. This allowed Hannes and Fintan to take up the top two positions. Further down in the fleet, local sailors Sean Dillane, Paul Death, Nathan Regan, Fionntan O\'Hara, James Mullingan and James Lang all put in noticeable performances.
While the Gold Fleet sailed out in Galway Bay the novice fleet took the water. The fleet consisted of some of the most promising talent in the country. In the U-8 fleet John Fletcher confirmed that it will not be long, before he will make his presence felt in the gold fleet. Sarah Bonner took the honour in the first of fives races. Hot on her heels, where the Fletcher sisters, Rebecca, Sophie and Toraigh. Conor Fletcher also sailed very well. Ten novice races were completed next to the promenade. The talent of the young competitors amazed the spectators. After a two-hour session on the water, both fleets made their way back to land for some much needed food and fluids. Competitors were rewarded for their mornings work with freshly cooked pasta, kindly supplied for the event by Magnetti Italian Foods. Galway Water also supported the event, supplying competitors with plenty of fluids. Through the afternoon break the race committee and event organisers discussed the latest weather forecast available. It was clear that Sunday would not produce sufficient winds for ranked racing. With that information, it was decided to pack in as many races as possible for the afternoon session.
At 2.45pm competitors crossed the start line and began race 6. Once again Pearse displayed why he was leading the National Championships. Despite this Fintan, Hannes, Pete and Matt gave him a good run for his money. However it was in race 8 when the parents back on the beach had a great reason to be proud. U17 sailors made there presence felt when Matthew McNutt and Joseph Fletcher secured 3rd and 4th places. Other Downings Team members were also getting closer to several other national titles. Amy McBride (U17 Lady) was consistently beating many of the male contingents. Ailbhe McDermott (Lady) and Sue Honan (G-Master Lady) were keeping the lads on their toes.
As a now spectator filled beach looked on in amazement of the competitors speed and skill, 2008 newcomer to the racing scene, Barry Whitelaw exceeded his own expectations and secured several top ten finishes. Dylan Boyce, Luke McBride and Eamonn Kelly continued to display their rapidly increasing skills. While the Men\'s fleet was hotly contested the Masters fleet was getting even more competitive. Hannes Louet consistently finished in the top 3 throughout the day, while Nick Fletcher and Pete McNutt battled it out for the remaining podium positions.
Chris Fletcher managed to hold off John Killeen to secure the top position in the Grand Master category. Much to the delight of the fleet, the tenth and final race of the day got underway just before 5pm. Less than ten minutes later, Irelands latest National Champion was back on land. Pearse Geaney finished the day with no fewer than eight firsts, ensuring the perpetual trophy would be heading south for the first time in over ten years. U17 champion Matthew Mc Nutt closely followed Pearse back to the event site.
Exhausted competitors managed to haul they equipment back up the beach with some requiring assistance to ascend the promenade steps from the event marshals. Twelve hours after the initial invasion of the Slalom Series crew, Silver strand was returned to its peaceful state. It was not long again before the 54 strong fleet gathered, this time for dinner in Salthill. After an impressive feed, the start of day two was delayed for one hour, allowing people to catch up on some sleep. Some decided to forgo the extra hour and discuss the days racing over a beer.
True to the Irelands meteorologists, the wind failed to make an appearance on Sunday. Despite this, all entrants took to the water to compete in a marathon race held just off the promenade. It was not long before the car park was packed again with spectators. As the competitors continued to clock up laps, the aroma of fresh pasta signalled the end of racing for the 2008 season. Prizewinners in each category were rewarded with some excellent windsurfing prizes. The provision of prizes was kindly assisted by Rusheen Bay Windsurfing and Tushingham sails. After the Galway prizes were awarded, the 2008 Irish Slalom Series Champion, Pearse Geaney, was presented with the now 26-year-old perpetual trophy.
A big thank you to all who travelled west, to partake in some great racing. A special note also to Maurice Owens, who kindly missed out on his first event in years, to ensure that those travelling to the All-Ireland hurling finals, could get a spin on the Luas. We missed you!
To conclude the Galway event was a great success. Event organisers Danny Mulryan and Alessia Stocca were delighted with the weekend. The event would not have been possible without the generous support of the following companies: Magnetti Italian Foods, Ciboodle, Galway Water, Logstrup, Tushingham Sails, Gartan OEC and Rusheen Bay Windsurfing. Thanks also to everyone who helped out throughout the weekend!
The Race result you can check here on the ladder on the left. The Overall Series Result you can check it here.