Over 20 RS400 made the trip for the past weekend’s Inland Championships hosted by Blessington Sailing Club. Nestled to the west of the Wicklow Mountains the sailing club boasts a sandy beach, plenty of room for onsite camping and with a big BBQ planned it provided the perfect getaway for the weekend.
Racing on a reservoir with light winds forecast, flat water and high land, this event was going to be a mental test for competitors in what is normally a fast, physical class and could see some interesting results.
Race one got underway and it soon became clear just how challenging the tactics would be, shifts in the wind could have you laying the windward mark from the start line or headers that almost tacked the boat before the helms even had a chance to react.
Leading the way to the first mark was Strangford lough’s Hammy Baker with Barry McCartin in hot pursuit, though it wasn’t long before the changeable weather saw the chasing pack who had all gybed early to meet a new breeze coming from the other side of the run closing the gap. With only one lap completed the race was shortened with Barry taking the win closely followed by Simon Hutchinson and Chris Penny in third.
With weather holding race two managed to complete the scheduled number of laps and Barry started to show signs he was the man to beat by again taking the honours, John Downey second with serial RS400 event winner Robert Espey showing his face to complete the top three.
Two races in and where competitors might normally have started to figure out their strategies for the venue, here nothing was certain. Just as when you think you have the upper hand heading left you could look over your shoulder to see the guys to the right in a gust going twice your speed, but fear not as you receive a header to tack on that now has you pointing to the windward mark back in control… thank god there is no current to consider on a reservoir or it could become anyone’s guess what to do next.
Baker made the best of things playing the shifts up the middle of the beat to again lead at mark one, a lead he finally held onto until the finish taking the final race of the day. The battle for second saw some drama when a confusion on the number of laps to be sailed saw some competitors heading around the right gate mark for another round. Tom Purdon was unfortunate by losing out on a sure top three to fall to 18th and Espey even failed to finish. McCartin had to settle for second to round off a very impressive days performance on 4 points.
After a head-scratching day on the water everyone headed ashore to convert the sailing club into a festival scene with tents, boats and BBQ’s strewn over the lawn.
Blessington Sailing clubs members and volunteers put on a fantastic spread for dinner, burgers, sausages and every side imaginable kept everyone happy.
Next came the cultural experiences, Cushendall’s Paul McLaughlin and Barry started coaching a few into the finer points on how to swing a hurl before most settle into beers and campfires. The ‘Rock the Boat’ bonfire party carried on into the early hours of Sunday morning and could become an annual occurrence.
Sunday dawned with an albeit light but more promising breeze than the previous day and glorious sunshine that may have added to a few sore heads from the night before.
A two-lap race course nearly twice the length of races 1 - 3 really opened the game up with big separation now possible in such fluky conditions it could be a day for snakes and ladders for any who dared to hit the corners. Chris Penny and Hammy found a lucky lane of breeze in the middle of the course to lead and holding the breeze extended down the run. Positions were changing rapidly and nothing was a sure thing, boats were tacking almost constantly trying to take what they could from the shifting breeze and escape the clutches of nearby rivals. Penny managed to take charge of the match race developing at the front to overtake and hold off Baker to finish first and second respectively. Emmet Ryan took third and after discarding his DSQ from day one was now back in the hunt. Ever-present McCartin was keeping constancy with a fourth.
Race 5 saw McCartin and Penny secure the top two spots overall with a race to spare by keeping their discard intact and scoring first and second. Espey added a third to a consistent score to maintain his claim for the podium.
As we heading into the final race, with points as they stood Barry could no longer be beaten and Chris was guaranteed 2nd leaving 3rd as the final spot still up for grabs. A left shift in the final seconds before the start meant most of the fleet tacked almost as soon as the gun went giving those towards the pin-end and early advantage. This left shift lasted most of the beat and again Baker lead around the first mark but despite already having the event in the bag McCartin was still pushing hard and right on his transom with Espey rounding in third. As the fleet continued to navigate its way around the fluky racecourse the wind started to drop and large holes began to appear which had to be avoided at all cost, good luck predicting where they would be. With one final downwind to the finish McCartian led from Espey who gybed early ahead of Baker who carried on straight. Now with the separation it seemed luck would decide the order at the finish. With the little breeze that was left Baker just manage to get to it first taking the win with Barry second, Bob third and Chis forth to show the two top boats overall with impressive constancy for the conditions.
Right on schedule the dying breeze dropped out as the fleet slowly limped ashore with the baking sun and previous nights festivities now starting signs of tiredness across most competitors who were ready for the Burger King pitstop on the drive home.
1st - Barry McCartin & Andrew Penny
2nd - Chris Penny & Jess Rutherford
3rd - Hammy Baker & Liam Glynn
Emmet Ryan top southern boat in 5th.
Download full results below