One of the competitors in action at the European Sand Yacht Championships at Bettystown. Photo: Carels Photography.
The European Sand Yacht Championships came to the island of Ireland for the first time in almost 35 years on Monday when racing commenced on the expansive strand between Bettystown and Laytown.
It’s got the speed of sailing, and all the action of formula one, but you can get involved or just watch from the sideline without the risk of getting wet! It also brings a host of people from far and wide.
The action is continuing until Friday 15th and the event has attracted over 2500 bed nights to the area. Such is the unique nature of the event and it’s appeal worldwide, competitors and their support are travelling from as far as Long Beach California and Santiago, Chile.
Sand yachts are divided into different classes, from smaller ‘mini yachts’ that are agile and in some cases stowable in the boot of your car, to larger, faster yachts like the international monotype class Standart, of which 46 will compete during the week of festivities. Four classes of yacht will compete in total, making for a jam-packed week of excitement on Meath’s Gold Coast.
Not only is the event a historical first for the Republic of Ireland, but it brings an ethos of inclusivity with disabled friendly sand yachts, competitor’s ages ranging from 16 to 70 (20% of which are female) and over 110 competitors from 16 countries represented including SB20 sailing champion Graeme Grant who also an exponent the sport.
Ireland winning the honour of hosting the 2017 European Championships is in no small part thanks to the efforts of local man Alan Watson who has been working tirelessly for more than two years to realise the dream.
Alan is the first Irish President of FISLY, the International Land and Sandyachting Federation, and governing body of the sport. He is also the current chairman of the Irish Power Kite and Sandyachting Association (IPKSA), who are hosting the championships.
“Ireland has so much to offer the international scene in this sport as with any sport, and we’re proud to bring such a fun, diverse and open event to our shores”, said Mr. Watson.
During the championships themselves Ireland is represented by not one but two father and son teams; Vincent Clarke and son Owen from Dublin are part of the Irish Standart Team - Vincent first represented Ireland at the sandyachting Europeans in the late 80’s, while Patrick Letters and son Martin from Ballymena are on the Irish Miniyacht Team and are both seasoned European land sailing event participants.
Indeed the IPKSA fosters an ethos of promoting a safe family friendly and social environment which respects the needs and requirements of it’s members and beach users, and frequently hosts open events for people to come and have an experience with sand yachting. We can be proud that Ireland is so well represented in a sport that brings so many people together, and for the first time that will happen on an international scale, at a beach on our fair isle.
Here's a video of some of the action from Day 1.