A total of 182 sailors in 91 boats from seven nations are competing on Lough Derg this week in the Mirror Worlds 2013, which are being run out of Lough Derg Yacht Club at Dromineer.
Sailors have travelled from Britain, Australia, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Sweden as well as parts of Ireland to compete in this sailing championship; the first ever to be held on inland waterways.
The Mirror World Sailing Championships 2013, in association with IPB Insurance and Waterways Ireland, was officially launched by Simon Coveney, Minister for the Marine.
To demonstrate his support for the fleet and to fulfill a long held ambition, Minister Coveney, a former Mirror sailor, went afloat helming 96, a Shannon One Design. Sailing with him were Lt Commander John Leech, CEO Irish Water Safety and Rear Commodore LDYC, and his wife Adair. The 96 followed the Mirror fleet outside their course for the practice race. However, persistent thunderstorms forced the practice race to be abandoned and all sailors returned to shore.
The inclement weather did not dim the celebratory spirit of the occasion, and the Nations Parade through Dromineer Village, led by the Thomas MacDonagh Pipe Band, the hoisting of the national flags and ‘mixing of the waters’ from all competing countries, went ahead as planned.
In his opening address, Minister Coveney drew applause and laughter when he joked that visitors were given a “great Irish welcome by being sent out in the rain for a walk”.
He congratulated the commodore, Denis Hassey, his committee, and the chairman of the event organising committee,Ian Roberts and his team, for their efforts in bringing such a prestigious event to “a non-coastal venue” at Lough Derg Yacht Club.
Minister Coveney praised the Mirror dinghy as the “best boat in which to learn to sail”, a dinghy, he noted, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year. His concluding remarks were to the sailors, counselling them that to “wear your nation’s jersey is very special”.
His hope was that sailors would leave the championships having made friends and “remembering Ireland for all the right reasons”.
Mr Hassey welcomed Minister Coveney, Celia May, president of the International Mirror Association; Brid Hickey, president of the Irish Mirror Association and Niamh McCutcheon, president of the Irish Sailing Association, Mayor of North Tipperary Ger Darcy, local politicians, visitors, sailors and their families.
He commented on the great range in the ages of sailors, noting that a grandparent and grandchild were competing together.
Mr Hassey thanked Ian Roberts and Lucy Sanders for their immense hard work preparing for the event in the months preceding the Championship.
He advised sailors to have fun, to respect the lake and their fellow competitors.
Australian Celia May greeted the assembly in Irish. She said she was delighted that the 15th World Championships was being held at Lough Derg Yacht Club and praised the organizers for their commitment to the class and to the sport.
Mayor Darcy said that he was honoured, that his first duty as the newly elected Mayor of North Tipperary County Council, was to speak at the opening ceremony of the Mirror World Championships.
He congratulated the club on its excellent track record in hosting large events, applauded the club’s efforts in bringing so many to sailing through their schools programme, some of which have since gone on to represent the clun at National and International level.
He said he was particularly pleased that not only was the event showcasing the excellence of the yacht club, but also the beauty of the surrounding locality.
Meanwhile, despite wind, rain and testing conditions, the first two races of the championships went off well on Monday. The Philippines led in the first race, with Great Britain in second and third place. Local sailors Alfie Wisdom and Sam Warren were the first Irish boat, lying fifth in the first race.
In the second race, an Irish boat, helmed by Douglas Elmes from the Royal Cork Yacht Club, with local crew Scott Levie, came first, with South Africa in second and the Philippines in third.