The forecast for Coleraine yacht Club’s 24 Hour Yacht Race did not give much encouragement to the organisers early in the week but as the weekend approached things looked a little more reasonable.
The race had attracted entries from all over the Provence including two boats from The Seaboard Sailing School, which is part of Killyleagh Outbound Education Centre.
Friday night saw the arrival of some teams for scrutineering and after this was achieved and tents erected they were entertained to live music in CYC clubhouse, where a large crowd of members had also gathered to greet the visitors.
Prior to the start of the race at 2pm on the Saturday the Coleraine Yacht Club Commodore hosted a lunch in the clubhouse attended by the Mayor of Coleraine, Cllr David Harding, as well as the event sponsors from River Ridge Recycling, Autoline Insurance and Greers Volvo.
Alan Simpson from BBC Radio Ulster officially started the race by firing the ancient cannon and as the start flag dropped all boats hit the line except the Royal North RS 400. The crew had experienced some trouble in rigging the boat and started five minutes behind the rest of the fleet. Considering they had the quickest boat in the fleet they could well have expected to catch the rest in a few laps of this very long race.
The Laser Radial of Ballyholme Yacht Club helmed by Brian Bibby a veteran of this race, was first to the front closely followed by another Laser Radial of Coleraine Yacht Club skippered by Bruce McFarlane.
The other Coleraine Laser helmed by John Lynn was third.
Two junior teams took fourth and fifth places the Feva of Coleraine Yacht Club Juniors helmed by Constantine Arnsheit being the first of these. Seaboard Sea School boats filled sixth and seventh places.
Wind was blowing at 15 Knots as the boats completed there first couple of hours. This wind force is ideal but gusts of 24 knots made the sailing difficult.
The large crowd watching the race retired to the clubhouse as rain arrived from the west.
As the sailors and safety boat crews battled with the deteriorating conditions they were hardly encouraged by the sound of the disco an revelling non sailors emanating from the clubhouse.
The RS Feva of Royal North worked its way through the fleet to gain third place at 10pm but lost out to the Laser 4.7 of Coleraine Yacht Club at 9.30pm.
The weather, which had been increasing during the afternoon, turned considerably worse at 10pm resulting in the Race Officer Alistair Hunter calling in the junior crews before darkness fell.
This proved to be a correct decision as by 11pm the wind had risen to 21 knots with gusts to 28 knots. This wind force is close to the top when sailing in waters where manoeuvrability is restricted by the proximity of the river banks.
A close eye was being kept on the deteriorating situation as gusts of 33 knots were experienced at the bottom of the course.
When the safety boat at the northern end of the course reported really heavy winds the Race Officer decided to suspend sailing and the flags S over H were raised with four sound signals bringing all boats back to the slipway.
A declaration was made to reassess the situation at 5am, but when 5am arrived the postponement continued.
At 7.30am the conditions having further deteriorated the Race Officer decided to abandon racing. This is never a popular decision but all crews realised that sailing in these conditions was dangerous and could result in damage to boats and crew.
The prize giving was brought forward to 11am.
Alan Simpson returned to the club for the presentation. After he had distributed the prizes Vice Commodore Paul Leighton made a presentation to The Commodore Ivan Campbell having discovered that it was his birthday.
To run such a race takes months of planning and it was most disappointing for the race committee that the race had to be cut short but such are the vagaries of Irish weather.
In presenting the prizes Alan commented on the enthusiasm of the Coleraine members which had helped grow the club to its present day prominence.
1st Holme Again Ballyholme; 2nd The Glory Boys Coleraine A; 3rd The Clampits Coleraine B; 4th Royal North
unior Results - 1st Killyleagh; 2nd Coleraine
Ladies Prize - Fast Ladies Coleraine Yacht Club
Wooden Spoon - A Days Craic B Jamie Gilmore