RSGYC’s O’Connor the Champion of Champions

by Stephen Findlater

After a nip and tuck final series, Michael O’Connor emerged overall winner of this year’s Irish Sailing All Ireland Championships held at Dun Laoghaire.

The Irish Sailing All Ireland Championships are one of the oldest and most prestigious sailing events in the country.

Since 1947, sailors have competed to become the “champion of champions”. The Championships bring together 16 of Ireland’s top sailors who are nominated by their class (or type of boat).

They then all race against each other in one type of boat, chosen by the jury to become “champion of champions”.

O’Connor was nominated to the event as a multiple SB20 class champion and defeated 15 other major Irish sailors in the weekend series organised by the Irish Sailing Association (Irish Sailing), and hosted by the National Yacht Club.

O’Connor sails from the neighbouring Royal St George Yacht Club and competed in the weekend-long championship with crew Davy Taylor.

After a qualification round on Saturday, the final day’s racing was moved from Dublin Bay to the more sheltered Dun Laoghaire Harbour due to strong and gusting winds.

The four-race final round was a close fought affair over two hours which eventually saw O’Connor pitted against Robert Espey, the RS400 class nominee from Ballyholme.

However, the Dun Laoghaire sailor received a jury penalty turn and finished sixth while the Bangor helm had gear damage and was awarded average points for that race depending on the rest of the series.

The whole championship hinged on the final race with just under three points separating first and second places. O’Connor had recovered form after the opening final round race to deliver two race wins with Espey close behind.

Just under three points separated the pair going into the final race. O’Connor started poorly while Espey was heading for a second place; the standings looked set to be up-ended.

But O’Connor fought his way back up the fleet in the 20-minute race and took third place and the overall title with one point to spare.

While Espey and his Olympic veteran crew Stephen Milne were first runner-up, Shane McCarthy with Stephen Boyle of the GP14 class were in close contention in third place.

The Flying 15 class hosted the event with boats loaned by their owners and the class national champion David Gorman with Chris Doorly featured in the final series to place seventh overall.

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