McCarlie and Barbour net wins at Irish Topper National event

One of the Tall Ships appears on the horizon as competitors take part in the Irish Topper National Championships at County Antrim Yacht Club, Whitehead. INLT 28-943-CON
One of the Tall Ships appears on the horizon as competitors take part in the Irish Topper National Championships at County Antrim Yacht Club, Whitehead. INLT 28-943-CON

Whitehead hosted its largest sailing event in over 50 years at the weekend - the Irish Topper National Championships.

County Antrim Yacht Club (CAYC) welcomed 77 boats from all over the UK and Ireland, including the RYA GBR, ISA and RYA NI squads, with sailors arriving up to a week before the event for training in the bay.

Despite some issues with fog, three races were completed on Friday’s opening day, but competitors and race ommittee members were met with more testing conditions on Saturday. Variable wind conditions, large sea and strong tides meant the young under-17 sailors had their work cut out.

By the end of Race 5 a clear lead was emerging from young Irish sailor Geoff Power who was performing well. Race 6 was taken by CAYC’s Ellen McCarlie (inset), using all her local knowledge to gain the upper hand and take a convincing lead in the last race of the day.

The GBR squad were occupying a considerable amount of top ten places, giving local sailors a real test.

The Red Arrows flew over the bay on Sunday before CAYC’s Ellen Barbour took first in Race 9, ensuring her win in the 4.2 class prize.

As competitors made their way to shore, the Tall Ships, which were leaving Belfast began to come into view.

The three-day event concluded with sponsors Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van NI and Stena Line handing over the bespoke trophies by Blacksmith Artisan Aaron Leach of Islandmagee.

All hands were on deck with more than 100 volunteers assisting in organising accommodation, access, food, parking, security and safety, ahead of, and during the event.