Sunday 23rd December was the final day of the RS400 Frostie Series at the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club and it bulged with excitement as there was barely a cigarette paper between the top two boats never mind the rest of the baying pack who were having their own personal battles.
The previous weekend’s racing was canned due to no wind so after 18 races, Bob Espey & Richie McCullough were only two points ahead of Barry MacCartin & Andrew Penney and they were both clear ahead of last year’s winners Paul McLaughlin and Owen McKinley. Whoever won the day was going to go home with the Trophy.
Racing had been brought forward an hour to squeeze in our Christmas Dinner & prize giving after racing. As we arrived in the boatyard the breeze wasn’t looking promising as spinnakers hung limply but slowly but surely they started to flap and so it was game on! We had a light westerly to play with enough to race that didn’t half bend about all afternoon. Twenty boats turned up to the start line and it was a slow drag race up to the first mark. Chris Penney & Jess Rutherford were very quick out of the blocks followed by Barry and Andrew. The first downwind leg was a test as a few boats decided to gybe off to the left but the wind bent so much that the boats that stayed on the right lay line and soaked deep were able to make the right-hand gate mark in one. This paid off for Bob Espey and Richie McCullough as they were in 5th and managed to race past the leaders. For the second uphill battle, Bob & Richie managed to sit on top of Barry & Andrew so that Oli Loughead & Tiff Brien, Robert Hastings & Rory Higgins and Stephen McLernon & Ryan Wilson came into the mix. Bob & Richie kept hold of the lead until the bitter end closely followed by Chris & Jess in 2nd and Barry & Andrew recovering to 3rd.
Onto race two and before it had even started the whole bay was entertained by a discussion between Bob Espey and Barry Mac. At this point this correspondent and crew were too busy working out how to start a race without being thirty seconds late to hear, but others say it was down to who they thought were the best celebrity dancers on Strictly Come Dancing! You would think they would pick a better time to discuss such things but after a slight mark repositioning the race got underway. This time Chris & Jess lead from start to finish with Paul McLaughlin & Owen McKinley waking/sobering up and getting 2nd and Sam Pickering and Sharon Doherty in 3rd. Barry & Andrew took 4th. Bob & Richie had a hard time as they had a collision with Stephen & Ryan which resulted in turns for them which meant they slid down the result sheet to 8th. This left it pretty much all square for the final race and for the trophy.
The start whistle was blown and then a second which meant there were boats over the line. Four boats went back to the start which included Bob Espey & Richie McCullough to regrettably find out later it wasn't them at all wasting valuable time. This time Barry “consistent” Mac & Andrew managed to get out into the lead and extended throughout to take the race win followed by Chris & Jess (who then discovered they were the OCS boat) so Sam Pickering & Sharon Doherty took second and Hammy Baker & Stevie Kane took third. Sadly for Bob & Richie, they were unable to recover enough coming seventh in end. A testament to the very tough fleet as this combo have picked up most trophies around the country.
So what did that mean for the final results? Paul McLaughlin & Owen McKinley from Cushendall took third, Bob Espey & Richie McCullough from Ballyholme took second and the Winners of the Trophy were Barry Mac from Cushendall and Andrew Penney from Carrickfergus.
At the prizegiving, the majority of fleet stayed and our Race Officer Gerry Reid thanked all the competitors who took part in the event. This includes many whom travel from far and wide to compete in what can only be described as the best two-person dinghy racing in Ireland at present. In total, the fleet for event boasted 26 boats and the numbers keep growing. The Vaughan cousins have just purchased a fresh ship to join the party as has Sam Rutherford (Jess’s brother) become a proud owner of an RS400 after it was delivered to him by Santa and there are more in the pipeline. Gerry also thanked volunteers who go to make the series happen, from rescue crews, mark layers, committee boat helpers and to Jack Anderson who compiles the results. They turn up each week to let us sailors have fun and it is greatly appreciated. Lastly, he thanked Bosun Bob’s Chandlery, the RS agent who provided the sponsorship and all the trophies. Gerry too was presented with a bottle of whiskey for all his well earned hard work.
Onto next year and the fleet are getting a short winter break before racing starts off again at RNIYC for the RS400 Winter Series Part Deux which starts Sunday 24rd February for eight weeks. Shortly after this, the fleet will be heading to the Easterns at Greystones over 27th & 28th April for the first of the Irish Travellers Series. The main event this season will be the combined UK & Irish RS400 National Championships which are happening at RNIYC from 25th-29th August 2019.