SAILING: Impressive sight on Belfast Lough as World Toppers descend

The World Toppers race start at Ballyholme Yacht Club
The World Toppers race start at Ballyholme Yacht Club

The opening day’s racing on Monday of the Rooster International Topper World Championships 2016, held on the waters of Belfast Lough and hosted by Ballyholme Yacht Club produced an impressive spectacle.

For the first time all 197 boats took to the water at once, following two days of registration and boat measurement. The competition will run from today until the 29th of July.

There are two classes of boats at the competition, the 5.3 square metres sail and the 4.2 square metres sail.

With around 160 entrants in the class, there are three fleets of the 5.2 sail boats, and in the 4.2 class just one fleet with around 40 entrants.

RYANI’s Chief Operating Officer, Richard Honeyford, said: “It has been a great day at BYC with the Topper Worlds getting off to a fantastic start.

“It is excellent to have a competition of this scale on our doorstep and it is inspiring to see the wide range of competitors and and spectators from so many countries.

“If anyone would like to give sailing a go, RYANI would be more than happy to help advise on how to get involved.”

The wind speed is a big factor for the sailors. Yesterday it was around 15 knots when the racing started but dropped to 10 knots which is relatively low and provided a challenge for some sailors but will have benefited some of the lighter competitors.

The provisional results for the first day in 4.2 class in 1st was Max Yuang-Ngam from Thailand, in 2nd was Cutis McKay from Great Britian and in 3rd Rabbit Su from China.

In the 5.3 class leading after the second race, equal on points was Sam Copper from Great Britain and Sophie Crosbie Ireland. Third place Harris Cartwright from Great Britain.

A team of Chinese sailors arrived in Northern Ireland to train in the local conditions a week before they competed in the Worlds.

The team from China is 32 members strong and the largest team from outside Europe attending the competition.

Sailing has been on the rise recently in China and this is their largest entry to date into the annual world championships.

Last year they sent three sailors and were so impressed by the competition that they have increased investment in the class with the ultimate aim of hosting the competition in China in the near future.

For some of the young sailors the Topper will be a stepping stone onto the Olympic class boats and possible selection to represent their country at the highest level.

The Topper is an Olympic Youth Pathway class in both Britain and Ireland, with many sailors who started out in Toppers soon to race in Rio 2016.

This pathway which has proven so successful, is something they may try to replicate in China and across the rest of the world.

As part of a joint effort between the International Topper Class Association (ITCA) and the Chinese Yachting Association develop Topper racing in China, Dave Cockerill, ITCA Vice President, has spent four weeks in China this year to train Chinese sailors and coaches.

He described his time in China as a “fascinating, tough but exciting experience”

A total of 46 new Toppers arrived two weeks ago for the use of sailors travelling from outside the British Isles for the event.

The Chinese team were the first of many teams to arrive for the competition.

Sailing in the event are competitors from 10 different countries from across four continents - meaning over 200 competitors are in Northern Ireland.

This is the second largest Topper World Championships ever.

Other countries that are represented are Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, France, Thailand, South Africa, Japan, Turkey and Macau.