IWA Wave - Achill

Round 2 of the Irish Windsurfing Association Wave Championships was held in Achill Island, over the weekend of the 5-6th September 2009.  In between the heats, Galway based Patrick Kavanagh took note of the proceedings for us.  Fill us in there Pat...
Once again, Achill came through on expectations and delivered a solid result which saw a huge rise in competition standards and big names put under serious pressure. Saturday hosted two full rounds of competition with organisers opting to start with a double elimination on account of the good forecast and closing the day with a zippy single elimination.
On Friday afternoon, a light cross-shore wind and a small swell gave competitors the opportunity to acclimatise to Achill’s unique conditions and watching from the beach you could tell the event was going to see some impressive sailing. Never before has the level of windsurfing in Ireland been so high; big back loops, super stalled forwards and some really impressive waveriding showed that everyone had been working hard over the past few months. With Saturdays forecast set to deliver a strong cross-on wind, organisers decided on an early start.

Day one of competition kicked off with an exciting ladder of heats in the double elimination. Squeezing in two jumps and three waves while staying upwind was a real challenge with many sailors getting caught in the lighter winds further down the beach. The less than perfect waves meant milking the whitewater was the best bet to secure points and anyone who found a suitable ramp in the peaky waves was lucky to get their jumps in. With two repechage windows in the round, every sailor got a good chance to showcase their abilities and no one wasted the opportunity…the even mix of talent throughout the heats gave a fighting chance to anyone who worked hard throughout their heats.
Standouts to note came in the form of Chris Cassidy who sailed hard and really tore apart the small waves during his heats and Dave Garvey who’s consistent wave selection saw him contend hotly for a place in the final. Despite aggressive competition from Dan Gardner in the form of huge stalled forwards, super smooth backloops and a unique mix of frontside to backside smacks, the experience and choreography of Oisin Van Gelderen’s repertoire earned him a place in the final, joined by Finn Mullen who’s consistent jumping and long, long waverides stood to him against tough competition. Jeff Cochrane booked his slot in the final by proving once again that he is the ultimate waveriding machine, with super late cutbacks and supreme wave selection and finally Alex Dugan’s one handed cutbacks and inventive style on the wave put him up against three of the most accomplished competitors in the country.

The ten minute final saw some of the best sailing of the whole round with each sailor fighting to prove their worth. Jeff fought hard with a mix of creative waveriding and a big tabletop but couldn’t match Oisin whose speed and timing let him clock up wave after wave throughout the heat, polished off with cleanly landed array of jumps securing him a third place finish in the first round. Finn came through with great jumping ability, leaving the judges with plenty of jumps to choose from and earned a second place finish. First place deservedly went to Alex Dugan who stayed on form even after sailing three heats back to back! His new-school, fluid style and hard work gave him his first ever IWA round win.
With the day seemingly drawing to a close, organisers and judges made the decision to capitalise on the conditions and run a single elimination. Within minutes the heats were drawn up and the round kicked off. The heats were shortened to eight minutes and the fleet battled through the round despite being worn out from a tough day of contest.
Katie McAnena flew the Bigsurf flag and represented herself well in the single elimination with a 6th place finish against a predominantly male fleet. Her training in Maui and West Oz stood to her as she tore through on-shore waves in true down-the-line fashion; her timing and wave knowledge making her a force to be reckoned with for any of the guys in the fleet. Landing a sweet forward loop in the heat of competition, Katie is set to dominate the Ladies scene!

Nathan Regan, primarily a freestyler, proved his worth in waves and has to be commended for earning a place in the final, especially in the cut-throat nature of a single elimination. Finn cruised through his heats to his second final of the day and was, again, joined by Oisin, meaning the battle for the overall top spot was now on the cards. Chris Cassidy put in a solid effort which found him a place in the final with his powerful wavesailing style. The single elimination final was sailed in difficult conditions and in the dying wind, the finalists had to make the most out of their bigger gear in the small waves. Nathan managed to fend off the attack of Chris Cassidy to claim 3rd place. From the beach it looked like a bit of a jump-off between Finn and Oisin and in the end, the action packed final had to go Finn for his stunning back loops and slashy waveriding.
Sunday greeted us with rain and light wind, bolt on-shore. By 10 o’clock, the call was made to abandon competition with a forecast for on-shore winds to continue for the day, but with two rounds completed and a solid result obtained, Achill proved once again to be a worthy stop-off for the IWA wave tour.  With a final tally of results, Finn Mullen emerged victorious followed closely by Oisin in second and Alex in third. Katie took the top spot in the Ladies with the 1st Junior going to single elimination finalist Nathan Regan and Liam Wade finishing top of the silver fleet.

Ruth and Gareth once again pulled a blinder with great help from the judges, Cathal Usher, Dan Keegan and Gregor McGuckin, who made good calls throughout both rounds and made the right decisions at the right time in a truly professional fashion. And of course, the most important part of any event - the crew: Dave McNeill, Ciara O’Connor and Max Bley, well done and thank you!  Also, big thanks to Portwest and Blackfield Clothing for supporting the event and our sport.  Roll on Wave 3 in Cork...
Patrick Kavanagh, IR 44
Photos courtesy of: Katie, Oisin & Pat K.
Round 2 of the Irish Windsurfing Association (IWA) Wave events competition, is taking place this weekend in beautiful Achill Island, off the coast of Mayo, on Irelands West coast.

Cork man Wesley Packham, in action at Belmullet at a previous wave comp
The event is being run by Gareth Allen at Windwise, who has a reputation for putting on some great events at his local spot.  All the big names in Irish wave sailing are confirmed to be in attendance, except for young Mikey Clancy (Starboard, MFC), who has been whisked off to warmer climates to take part in the Reunion Wave Classic.
Keep an eye out for our bigsurf.ie team rider Katie McAnena IR636 (MauiSails, RRD), pictured below, as she begins her competitive season in the waves here in Ireland!