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22 May 2004, 07:00 am
Tense Stand-off Between Ireland and USA Expected at Laser II Europeans
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Laser II European Championship

Preparations are now in the final stages for the Laser II European Championships to be held in Skerries Sailing Club, north of Dublin, Ireland, in August this year.
Up to 100 boats and 200 competitors are anticipated making this one of the largest International Regattas ever to be held in the club.

The Laser 2 is a demanding, sporty dinghy sailed by two people and popular in many countries and this event is made more exciting by the fact that Ireland holds the Laser 2 World Championship crown. Noel Butler, of the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, and Skerries' own Stephen Campion, dramatically plucked the title in Holland last August. This feat also earned them the 2004 Sailors of the Year Award which was recently presented to them in Dublin by Princess Anne. Campion will be competing in Skerries and is expected to meet a determined challenge by last August's runners-up.

Skerries boasts one of the best and most scenic sailing areas in Ireland and possibly Europe. The race area is located 2 miles north of the Harbour in an area where tidal conditions are evenly spread. Skerries Sailing Club has a long standing relationship with international competition. The club hosted the GP14 World Championships in 1997 and the Fireball European Championship in 1999. It is not hard to see why such a great and historic sailing area has been chosen for the upcoming event.

Skerries is located just 20 minutes from Dublin Airport and approximately 40 minutes from Dublin port. There is also a regular train and bus service from Dublin city centre.

History of Skerries Sailing Club
The first recorded yacht race took place in Skerries in 1857. It then took a further 70 odd years before the first committee was elected at a meeting in the local library. Many of this first committee's descendants are still the back bone of Skerries Sailing Club. In those days there was a fleet of 6 boats which raced for prize money raised from a sweepstake of entrants. The first trophy was the Tower Cup. It is still presented annually to the winner of one of the Round the Island races. The first annual regatta took place in 1934. For this event the first prize was a cup and second and third prize were oars and an anchor respectively. For the first few years there was no clubhouse and notices were posted on the weigh house on the pier. This building now houses a small sweet shop. In October 1935 the first club dinner took place at four shillings per head. In 1941 the first Mermaid arrived in Skerries. Its name was Minx and it carried sail number 8.

In its first season it won the East Coast Championship, a precursor for many of the championship wins to come from the club. 1944 saw the first permanent home for Skerries sailing club. The building on the seafront is now a restaurant. More Mermaids appeared in Skerries and also six National 18's. The first major regatta that the club hosted was the Cock of the North in 1956. It was a National 18's event and was won by a visitor from Twickenham England. In 1972 a spacious new clubhouse was built.

Since its foundation Skerries members have represented Ireland in numerous international events including the Olympics, the BT Global Challenge and the Whitbread Race in addition to numerous world championships. Now the club has its own Laser II World Champion and Irish Sailor of the Year. So what better place to host the Laser II European Championships?

Large entry Expected
It is hoped that entry for the competition will be between seventy and one hundred boats. Entries are expected from England, Italy, German, the Netherlands, The USA, Canada and Mexico. The competitors from outside Continental Europe are expected to use the charter boats provided by the racing organisers. Competitors from England and the Netherlands are traveling to the event through Dublin Port with the kind support received from Stena Line Ireland.

With the venue being only 40 minutes from the port it is the quickest and most cost effective way to reach the championships.

Sailors to Watch
Competitors from Ireland will represent approximately 20 of the 32 counties, with entrants from as far south as Crookhaven, Co Cork and as far North as Letterkenny Co Donegal. Skerries will have an eight boat strong team represented in the Regatta. Last year in the World Championships in Hoorn, Holland there were 12 boats from Ireland with 2 in the top 10, including Noel Bulter DMYC, and Stephen Campion SSC, who took the crown for Ireland.

This season Butler is concentrating on the Fireball circuit and Stephen Campion has begun a campaign with Andy Boyle also from Skerries.

Is it to be the World Champion's season or is it the turn of some of the young pretenders?

Among the Irish to watch for are the new partnership of Conor Byrne and Paul Ruddy, both from SSC. These guys had a great start to there campaign with a 2nd in the Northern Championships. They had wins in all the races on day one of that championship. Byrne had previously come 16th in the 2003 World Championships.

Michael Ennis and Gavin Doig came 11th in the World Championship in 2003, and won the aforementioned Northern Champions. Ennis and Doig have been sailing with each other for 5 year's now. Is it their time?

From England there is a real opportunity for Nigel Skudder and Keith Hills to regain their European crown which they won in 2002 in Lake Como, Italy. These guys are the Mr. Consistent as racing goes. They won no races in the 2002 European Championship and took the crown convincingly.

They were 3rd in the Worlds last year losing out to a tactical dual between defending World champions Kevin Teborek and Ryan Donahue from the USA, and soon to be World Champions Butler and Campion from Ireland.

Also from England is another great duo, Graeme Bristow and Brian Mobbs who have won the UK National title 3 times over the last 4 years. They have yet to step up to an International title having come so close in the 2002

European Championships in Lake Como
The Netherlands offers the strong partnership of Robert Jansen and Aletta Luchtenborg who have shown great international promise. They won the Dutch National title last year for the first time. Stealing the crown from the previous invincible Joke Krijgsman. Robert and Aletta came 7th in the World Championship last year which won them the Budworth Bell. This Prize is given to the best ranked sailor from the home nation in an international competition. The Bell is presented by Budworth sailing club in England where some of the best Laser II sailors in the world hail from.

Are the Yanks Coming?
But the big question on everyone's mind on the circuit is: will Teborek and Donahue come back from the United States to continue the duel that Butler and Campion finished so convincingly last year on the waters of the Istelmeer, Holland? Their intention in August 2003 was to come to Ireland to compete in the European Championship Open. Can these guys swallow their America pride and come back to Europe to race again. Watch this space.

The European Championship runs in Skerries between the 8th and 13th August. Warm up competitions will commence in June with the Southern Championships, which will be hosted by Monkstown Sailing Club Co Cork, and the Eastern Championships hosted by Skerries Sailing Club in July. It is an ideal opportunity for the Europeans committee to tweak the final arrangement to what promised to be the best international regatta held in Ireland this season.
Seamus Moore
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