Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

'La Solitaire Optimist' Kept Sailors On Their Toes at Royal Cork's National Training Week

6th November 2023
The start of 'La Solitaire Optimist' at Royal Cork's National Optimist Training Week
The start of 'La Solitaire Optimist' at Royal Cork's National Optimist Training Week

We were promised a storm! The only storm that materialised was the arrival of 130 Optimist sailors and their families in Crosshaven for the Annual National Training Week, as Afloat reports here.

After two days of training, dodging big gusts and learning new skills, the younger and less experienced sailors were presented with a fun, action-packed and unusual event: " La Solitaire Optimist".The event was composed of four legs across Cork harbour, and in a total Figaro-style event, the young skippers had to deal with crazy tides in the Owenabue River, windless doldrums behind Currabinny hill, gusty conditions when approaching the east side of Ringaskiddy.

54 young skippers took part (of which 17 were sailing in the regatta fleet and 37 from the development squad 2023-2024). To keep all the sailors on their toes, the regatta fleet sailors were given a two-minute head start on each leg with the development sailors hot on the chase.

'La Solitaire Optimist' course in Cork Harbour'La Solitaire Optimist' course in Cork Harbour

Leg 1: with the tide down the River

The 17-strong regatta fleet sailors left the startline set in front of the club pushed by the dropping tide in a tight pack, followed two minutes later by another tight bunch. No clear early leads materialised, but the first casualty in the regatta was number 13 who went too close to shore and ended up stuck. And the fleets eventually amalgamated by Currabiny Pier in windless doldrums. With the finish line further North and the wind further right, the kids had two strategies: trying to cut short but risking staying stuck under Currabinny Hill for longer, or going East first with the tide and catching an upwind stretch back to the finish. The second solution proved a bit more effective, and the key was to start the upwind stretch before being carried too far by the strong current.

Development squad Ruairi Slattery (IRL1206 LDYC) found the perfect lane out of the channel, closely followed by clubmate Jess Tottenham (IRL600)...The battle for third was fierce, and it was eventually super fast regatta fleet sailor Andrew Weir (IRL1646) who picked the honours, followed by the rest of the fleet.

Leg 2: Not so straight line towards Ringaskiddy

Here they went again! Two strategies materialised quickly, with a few sailors opting to go high to the west, first led by regatta fleet sailor Sarah McNamara (AHO82) and the majority putting the bow down in the breeze led by 8-year-old Jojo Dion (IRL1407) and Oscar Rowan (IRL1391).

Eventually, both strategies were delivered with a late surge by Ellie Tottenham (IRL1191) from the East taking the win. A minute later the battle between Jojo and Oscar went to the eight years old when Oscar capsized in a rushed tack. He quickly recovered and sailed his "submarine" across the finish, salvaging 7th on the line. The ever-consistent Andrew Weir made good gains to secure yet another 3rd, taking the lead overall.

Leg 3: sweet and short in the Curlane Bank

The third leg was the shortest, leading the fleet back on the bank. The strongest regatta fleet sailors were not to be caught. At the second turning mark after a short upwind just south of the Loughbeg wind turbine, the race delivered a close battle between Oscar yet again, Andrew and 8-year-old Ben Chaix (IRL1576). Ben got squeezed out at the turning point, touching the mark and taking a penalty turn pushing him into a battle for 3rd with Jojo Dion. The development squad was finding it challenging to catch these 4.

Andrew eventually managed to edge out Oscar on the reach finish with Jojo scoring yet another top 3.

After the leg, Andrew Weir had secured a firm lead over the rest of the field with the consistent Ben Chaix a distant second just a mere point ahead of Ruairi Slattery. But leg 4 was certainly to be the most challenging yet so with no legs discarded it was going to be a tough challenge.

Leg 4: River madness

The sailors started in a lovely northwesterly before rapidly falling in the Currabinny Doldrums. Most sailors attempted to cut short to try to reach the breeze just windward of the pier, but with the strong tide still against them they just could not make ground.

The Optimist Solitaire fleets eventually amalgamated by Currabiny Pier in windless doldrumsThe Optimist Solitaire fleets eventually amalgamated by Currabiny Pier in windless doldrums

Oscar Rowan was an early leader in a further south position where the doldrums were narrower but it was to be two sailors who went further south right by Crosshaven shores who eventually caught the breeze first. IRL1495 Fergus Mcnamara who had capsized off the startline took advantage of the error of the fleet ahead and IRL1521 Cian Farrell were the first two into the river breeze battling the strong current yet making ground. A small group of sailors finally noticed and made their way south instead of fighting the current. Notable absentees from this change of heart were Andrew and Ruairi which opened a small opportunity for Ben to deliver a little holdup on the 11th hour.

IRL1521 Cian Farrell was one of the first Optimists into the river in the Cork Harbour Solitaire raceIRL1521 Cian Farrell was one of the first Optimists into the river in the Cork Harbour Solitaire Race

Cian eventually took the lead and made it to the finish, securing the win for leg 4. Fergus was second, with Oscar scoring a second podium finish.

Andrew Weir has a stellar catch-up in the river to climb back to 7th, even overtaking Ben (9th) and securing the overall win of the first "la solitaire Optimist".

The regatta fleet sailors secured a 1-2-3 to the delight of lead coach Sarah Fogarty. The top Development squad sailor was Ruairi Slattery in 4th. The kids had a great day out in Cork Harbour. It was fun, unusual, exciting, and challenging and we can't wait for the second edition in 2024. Perpetual trophy offers?

'La Solitaire Optimist' Results

La Solitaire Optimist Results

Thomas Chaix

About The Author

Thomas Chaix

Email The Author

Thomas Chaix is Head Coach at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. He currently sails the 49er dinghy (for fun) but raced the Laser for 25 years and has been a member of French and Irish teams


We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven't put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full-time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button