SLYC has a variety of Keelboat racing at the Club, whether that's in the Classic Yachts of the River, Glen or Waverley class, or the more modern Cruiser Racers. Club racing is on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday's. The different classes that race at the Club are below.
The River Class is the oldest class racing anywhere on Strangford Lough. Designed by legendary naval architect Alfred Mylne, the 29 foot Rivers can trace their origins back to 1919 when Belfast lough sailors were looking for a simple and elegant one design class to race in. Twelve boats were built and racing first took place in 1921 on Belfast lough but gradually the fleet moved to Strangford Lough where Viscount Bangor and Lord and Lady Londonderry of Mount Stewart were based. The latter had a boat each and were known on occasion to collide in the heat of battle!
The fleet has an active racing and social calendar throughout the season, with plenty of close racing guaranteed with the one design policy (the class only purchases sails en masse so that there is never an arms race for acquiring fresh canvas). Easily sailed with a crew of 3 or 4 these graceful boats handle beautifully and will be around for many years to come.
The Glen Class has been ever present at SLYC for over 50 years. Built by the Glen boat yard in Bangor, the Glens are sleek racing sloops crewed by 3 or 4 people. Racing is competitive, with an average turnout on race days of at least 10 boats. Off the water the Glen Class prides itself on being welcoming to newcomers and having a very active social scene. Each year the class competes against the Glens of Dublin bay in a team racing event, a tradition which is always the season’s highlight.
Over the course of the sailing season the Glen’s organise a number of social events from picnics to cruises. The Narrows Series is also well attended.
In 2021 a number of the Waverley Class arrived at SLYC and we hope that in 2022 up to 8 boats could be racing regularly. The Waverleys commenced racing in the summer of 1903 off Whitehead.
They were designed by John Wylie who was a member of County Antrim Yacht Club and had a class rule that the boats should take their names from the characters in Sir Walter Scotts Waverley novels.
At just 18 feet and with a sail area of about 200sq feet plus a small spinnaker, these beautiful little keel boats are perfect miniatures of the yachts of that time.
They are a very welcome addition to the two other classic classes at SLYC.
The RS Elite is a 3 person keelboat with a conventional spinnaker, and its graceful lines make it look suspiciously like an America’s Cup yacht. With a no – hiking rule, a carbon mast and light sheet loads, there is no advantage of having 3 gorillas sail the boat: this makes it an ideal boat for all age groups. Racing is tight, making it a very tactical and enjoyable racing boat.
SLYC currently has 5 Elites, and has plans to add more boats to the start line. Due to their one design nature and high build quality an older boat is equally competitive as the newer ones (a multi British Championship winner sails in an older boat), and with a second hand Elite costing from around £8,000 and up it certainly is great value for money.
The cruiser racer section of the club has been growing in recent years, with yachts ranging in size from quarter tonners to 44ft yachts – and everything in between! Racing takes place on a Thursday and Saturday during the season, with boats regularly competing at regatta’s around the lough. Some of the more competitive cruisers take part in the Narrows series and even the Peel race to the Isle of Man. All racing is carried out under the NHC handicap system. Those who are short crewed or lacking experience can race “white sail”, where no spinnakers are used – which makes spillage of G&T a lot less likely! Newcomers always welcome to come out to give sailing a try.
A fast two man planing keel boat designed by Uffa Fox, Flying Fifteens have been raced at SLYC for over 50 years, with members Max and Peter Brown building the first boat, “Witch of Nendrum”. The club has hosted numerous British National championships, most recently in 2000, and continues to host Irish championship events. Boasting multiple British and Irish champions, the club has a proud tradition of top class racing at the club level and its members regularly compete on the national, European and world stages. The boat itself is powerful but well balanced, and when the conditions are right they leave the rest of the classes in their wake. Those interested in having a sail in a Flying Fifteen are welcome to get in touch via the club secretary and the members will be happy to work something out.
SLYC has Ireland’s largest Sonata fleet, with up to 10 boats racing on a Thursday and Saturday throughout the season. The Sonata is a one design 23ft keel boat designed by David Thomas, and has regular class starts at national events such as Cowes Week. The boat is very easy to sail with 3-4 crew, but can be take a while to learn how to sail fast. Second hand boats can range from £3,000 – £5,000, with large fleets present in Scotland (Edinburgh), England (Lake District, Sunderland, Essex, Poole, Solent) and Wales (Abersoch). SLYC has hosted several successful UK National Championship events, and some of our own fleet have travelled to England and Scotland for events. The fleet has a high concentration of Irish Sonata champions, but caters for all abilities.