Ireland’s expanding RS Classes are in acceleration mode as they build towards the Irish & UK RS 400 Nats at Royal North of Ireland YC at Cultra on Belfast Lough from 25th to 29th August, and the all-classes RS Southerns within the Royal Cork Yacht Club Dinghyfest on the weekend of 14th to 15th September.
The west coast came into the developing programme over the extended weekend of August 9th to 11th, when Galway turned its attention from the horses of the annual Galway Races to the prospect of riding white horses on the seas off Galway Bay SC. But on the first day, the RS 200s were frustrated in some of their hopes, for the winds were easterly, and with the big breeze arriving over the land and showers passing through, the sea was flat but the wind was very variable in strength and direction.
The course was set up with a windward mark and a leeward gate. The strong and shifting winds gave the sailors plenty to think about, particularly on the downwind legs, with a variety of strategies being employed to maximise the effectiveness of the large asymmetric spinnakers.
Despite the challenges, the day saw four races successfully completed, with Conor and Jack Galligan from Greystones leading the field, having taken two of them. Friday evening saw the arrival of the RS400 and RS Feva fleets ahead of their Westerns, but there was disappointment on Saturday morning as high westerly winds whipped the sea into a frenzy of short, sharp breakers. It was white horses in profusion and then some. But after an inspection of the race area, Safety Officer Mox Henderson concluded that the sea state would make race management impractical, and racing had to be postponed for the day.
It was all change as brighter conditions dawned on Sunday. The wind came around to the North, the sea calmed and the force 3 - 4 winds allowed the boats to reach quickly to the course. Four races were completed by Race Officers David Vinnell and Aoife Lyons for all three fleets, with the shifting winds again rewarding an appreciation of micro-meteorology. In the 200 fleet, Chris Bateman and Atlee Kohl from Monkstown Bay made the most of the conditions to finish the overall series ahead of the Galligans. Another Greystones boat, with Frank O'Rourke and Emma Hynes aboard, came in third.
In the 400 fleet, first place went to Barry McCartin and Andrew Penney from Cushendall and the Royal St. George, who won all four races. Chris and Niall Eames from Strangford Lough managed to take second place by just one point from Govan Berridge and David Coleman from Killaloe. In the Feva fleet, GBSC's Robert Donelly and Aly O'Sullivan held out to take top spot ahead of Ella Lyons and Veronica O'Dowd.
And now, Belfast Lough and Cork Harbour beckon for a crescendo of RS dinghy sport.