The second RS event of season kicked off in 2019 at Strangford Lough YC in Co. Down to host the RS200 Eurocup over four days and RS200/400 Northern championships racing over the weekend. In the 200s this attracted numerous British visitors for racing on Irish shores to make it more interesting and bigger fleets to contend with. It started off a misty morning with not much breeze but shortly after midday it began to clear and the boats all launched. The 400s along with the impressive 200 fleet on the same Windward/Leeward course racing began beside ‘Dead Mans’ rock, hovering over the course with Strangford’s infamous low tide. The first start went off without a hitch highlighting the importance of clean air and matching up the patches of gusts and shifts. The sun also decided to come out to play resulting in one of the warmest days of year! However, On the second lap, the race committee made the call to abandon the race due to wind falling below an acceptable level of 3 knots and a significant wind shift causing an unfair advantage. No favouritism shown to the Strangford local Hammy Baker in his shiny refurbed boat who made a nice gain on the second beat to be in the lead at the time.
Shortly after the wind picked up a bit more and steady enough to race so once some course adjustments made the fleet jostled for position and got away. In this one again McCartin/Penney lead from Baker/Chimney and Team Purdon early on but on second beat Donnelly/McCaig came back into it finishing second in end to McCartin/Penney and first and Penney/Rutherford recovering to 3rd by final downwind. The 2nd race of the day and one general recall later for the 400s the racing got away once allowing bit more even bias to spread boats along line away from the prime position and shiny committee boat of line. The wind had picked up at this stage closer to 10-12knots at times allowing for flat hiking and at-or-close-to planing conditions downwind to make it fun. This start had an individual recall (with the offender making amends going back) and led by the mighty pairing of Stephen McL and Ryan Wilson at the top mark but were caught up by McLaughlin/McKinley and the dynamic duo of Peter Kennedy/Stephen Kane on the downwinds. By the second lap McLaughlin/McKinley got the win with Kennedy/Kane in 2nd surviving a late charge from McCartin/Penney in 3rd. The introduction of dark clouds and an ever-increasing flooding tide meant that big gains were made on boats committing to one side of the course so consistency was proving difficult.
There was no hanging about for the last race of the day with another busy committee end start. The leaders where mixed throughout the race with a big split on first downwind causing the fleet to almost reverse in order at one point but showing great skills McLaughlin/McKinley were once again in lead taking initiative to gybe off to better wind side to build an extending lead with O'Sullivan/McGlade in 2nd and Purdon/Purdon 3rd. On second lap the fleet got tighter once more with plenty place changes last downwind. McLaughlin/McKinley stayed ahead and Purdon/Purdon who got through to second on the last gybe to finish suddenly felt their rudder go right at finish which was very unfortunate. Penney/Rutherford came 3rd. The fleet retired a shore to a great social in the club and catering set up for a championship dinner as part of entry keeping everyone around which was great with music and good fun into the night as the fleets relaxed.
Day 2 woke up to the opposite scale of conditions and with high gusts coming through in the higher 20's region, the decision was made to race one fleet at a time on the course to minimise fleet overlap and potential collisions on a shorter Windward/Leeward course and also to ensure enough rescue cover. The 200s went first to the gaze of 400s from balcony as the sharp gusts caused a few early capsizes and breakages among many top boats retiring many of the fleet early. From this, the decision was made to call-off the 400s from further racing meaning results from Day 1 stood. This meant Barry McCartin/Andrew Penney won ahead of Paul McLaughlin/Owen McKinley and Chris Penney/Jess Rutherford finishing 3rd.
A final thanks here should be left to John McKelvie, the Club committee, Race team, marks, and the (busy) rescue/beach teams that made the event run so smoothly and professionally on all sides. Also, in particular, thank you to all the competitors who made the effort to travel and enjoy the lesser known spoils and toils of Strangford Lough! Many more events on the RS circuit to come with RS Inlands in Blessington 27/28July, RS Westerns in Galway 10/11 Aug, the biggest event of year RS400 UK/Irish Nationals in Royal North 25-29Aug and final one RS Southerns/Dinghyfest in Cork 14/15 Sept.