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Northern Ireland RS Aero Sailor Hammy Baker Wins National Championships on Dublin Bay

20th September 2021
Tight Racing in the 18-boat RS Aero dinghy Championships on Dublin Bay
Racing in the 18-boat RS Aero Championships on Dublin Bay Credit: Afloat

Hammy Baker of Strangford Lough has won the RS Aero National Championships on an imposing score of three first places with a discard of a sixth. The RS Aero Nationals sponsored by Irish National Marine Services were held on Saturday and Sunday at the Irish National Sailing Club in Dun Laoghaire.

It was a repeat of Baker's unstoppable performance in July when he won the RS Aero Easterns at the Royal St. George Yacht Club

The event welcomed 18 RS Aeros with a stellar lineup of top-class competitors and those newer to the class looking to learn and bring on their racing. All sailors choose to compete in the seven rigs. Class President Brendan Foley was delighted "With 18 of the 30 Aeros in Ireland competing here today, the Aero class has arrived – there are few other classes where so many past champions in other classes are sailing together, and so many new people are starting their racing journey, all in a friendly, sharing environment".

On the water, Baker was pushed hard by Howth's Paul McMahon, who opened the series on the Saturday with a win in frustratingly light and fickle winds. Only just for McMahon, as Roy Van Maanen, who had been leading, started to sail an extra lap – letting McMahon in, who in his excitement roll gybed so hard he fell out of his boat. A quick re-righting was enough to get McMahon across the line in first. Noel Butler of the National Yacht Club was second, and Sean Craig, back to try his hand at Aeros, got into the third spot. So light was the wind after race one that Race Officer Michael Conway of Wexford decided to abandon and send the fleet home after two hours of waiting for race two.

Thankfully, Sunday brought the much-awaited breeze gusting at times into the low twenties. A clear 1,2,3 emerged in these conditions, with Hammy, Paul and Daragh Sheridan (HYC) consistently in the top 3. Hard hiking, playing the shifts and sound waves technique downwind were the order of the day and while the first three places were secured, a massive battle was going on for fourth between Brendan Foley of the Royal St George, Noel Butler and Robert Howe (ex UK Laser ace) now sailing from Monkstown Bay Sailing Club. All three boats finished on 14 points, with the tie-break falling in favour of Butler in 4th, Foley in 5th and Howe in 6th. Howe's clubmate Emmet O'Sullivan was fast in serious condition. He put in a very credible 9th with another Monkstown Bay sailor Robbie Sullivan swopping his RS 400 for a blast in the Aero coming home in 11th.

Joan Sheffield Captain INSC, Hammy Baker - National Champion, Kenneth Rumball RS Agent ROI and sponsorJoan Sheffield Captain INSC, Hammy Baker - National Champion, Kenneth Rumball RS Agent ROI and sponsor

Sarah ‘Skinny’ Dwyer (left) Sarah ‘Skinny’ Dwyer (left) - First Lady RS Aero sailor

In this brilliant one-design fleet, places traded faster than bitcoin, with a missed shift or bad tack resulting in areas lost or gained. Debutant competitors from Greystones Sailing Club Conor Galligan (10th) and Adam Leddy (12th) loved their introduction into the Aero class and put in a strong performance in a field stacked with champions. The first Master was Sean Craig of the Royal St George in 7th place who just edged Van Maanen of Greystones and George in 8th place and second Master. Emmet O'Sullivan was the third Master.

13th was lucky for some with Sarah 'Skinny' Dwyer battling her 7 rig around the course to win the first Lady prize. Normally a 5 rig sailor, completing all 4 races in a 7 was a great achievement and Skinny along with many of the competitors, as their legs were aching, dreamed of the forthcoming 6 rig. Demand for the 6 rig coming soon from RS is expected to be high with many sailors moving up from the 5 and down from the 7. The 6 is equivalent to the ILCA 6 is tipped to be the boat of choice for many sailors in Ireland.

Race management legend Robin Gray was first Grand Master in 14th with club mate from Ballyholme Christina Cunningham coming home in 15th place, who like skinny is normally a 5 sailor but stuck it out to get her 7 around the track. John Phelan of HYC, Mick Mc Cambridge of NYC and Keith Maxwell of EDYC certainly equipped themselves well in the very challenging conditions on the Sunday. Protest Committee Chair Gordon Davies was sad to not meet any of the competitors as there were no protests.

Joan Sheffield, Captain of the host Irish National Sailing Club presented the prizes in beautiful sunshine overlooking Dublin bay from their stunning outdoor roof deck. There was great buzz and everyone is looking for the next event at Greystones on 23/24th of October

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