As expected, some of the cream of Irish sailing turned up for the first day of the Bangor Fuels RS400 Irish National Championshps which is the third and final stage of the RS400 Eurocup writes Mark Mackey. A scan down the entry list reveals current Olympians – James Espey (Laser) and Ryan Seaton (49er) standing in as skippers for others, Artemis Open 60 and World Record holder Michael "Chunky" Ferguson against solo Figaro sailor David Kenefick, previous ISA youth champions Robbie Gilmore and Chris Eames home from college, and Fireball champion Barry McCartin amongst many others.
We sometimes overuse the term "champagne sailing" at Ballyholme Yacht Club due to the great events we have hosted over recent years but this was the common theme of conversation from the smiling faces as they returned after three "very tight races" today - at least in the "middle to back end" of the fleet. A wrong gybe was said to cost 10 places at an event last year, today it could cost 20 places in surfing waves with sunshine and 10-15 knots of breeze.
Race Officer Robin Gray got the racing off like clockwork with windward-leeward courses being the preferred course of the RS400's today. Just as expected was the first of 4 general recalls with boats pushing both ends of the line. The black flag tamed everyone to a degree until the last of the 3 races when 5 boats just had to try too hard.
Pedigree shows and local boat and multi Irish National champion (although not in RS400's) Gareth Flannigan with David Fletcher lead the Irish charge after day 1 with scores of 3,4,2 but it was the Derbyshire pairing of Michael Sims and Richard Brown from Carsington Sailing Club who revelled best in the conditions with 3 bullets and lead after Day 1 with a 6 point advantage already. A quick look at Sailracer shows Sims and Brown as both UK National RS400 Champions and Gul Inland Champions in the last 12 months. Current RS400 Irish National champions Alex Barry and Richard Leonard from Monkstown Bay and Royal Cork lie 3rd with 2,7,4.
Two more days racing look set with similar conditions tomorrow followed by a bit more breeze on Sunday. The RS200 and RS Feva fleets will also join the RS400's for a "regional championships" starting at midday tomorrow.
The RS400 Irish National Championships are sponsored by Bangor Fuels and supported by Ards and North Down Tourism. More information about visiting Bangor can be found at http://www.visitardsandnorthdown.com/.
RS400 Irish National Championships
1. Michael Sims and Richard Brown, Carsington Sailing Club, 1,1,1
2. Gareth Flannigan and David Fletcher, Ballyholme Yacht Club, 3,4,2
3. Alex Barry and Richard Leonard, Monkstown Bay/ Royal Cork YC 2,7,4