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Irish Nationals

The Helly Hansen RS400 Nationals and RS200 Southerns

Greystones Sailing Club

By David Rose

Photos by Alan Leddy and Monica Schaefer

More photos at:

I would like to thank Paddy Blackley and his team of GSC volunteers for their efforts in providing a superb event; you have two very grateful RS fleets.  Details matter and there was free tea and coffee, food for lunch on the water, scones for breakfast all provided by a generous club and its members who gave their time and personality to a wonderful event.  The rescue cover was busy and very friendly and thanks to all involved.  This event will last long in the memory for all the right reasons. 

The Irish RS fleets, like Greystones harbour itself, have continued to evolve and renew with the times.  Both are in rude health.  Some of the first RS400’s in Ireland sailed here and the club honour board has a dedicated section to the GSC members who have been club and national champions of the past.  Son of GSC Sean Cleary won the southern championship event the last time the RS400 show was in town, and his family were involved again this year, with Conor Clery pairing up with Katie Noonan in a 400.  Sean still sails a RS400 in the UK where he has settled, hopefully just for now.    The RS400 has been a national fleet for a few years now, with strongholds in Cork, Northern Ireland, Dublin Bay and many other locations including GSC.  2017 has been a strong year and 30 of the best boats on the island descended on the town well prepared for the national championship battle. 

Tom Rusbridge, our race officer, who flew in from West Sussex for the event and his team provided great courses and went about their job with minimum delays between races and notably few recalls required.  They really did not put a foot wrong in difficult conditions, including 70 degree wind shifts in races two and four of the 400 event. Saturday was very exciting and the wind added to the tidal theatre with gusts regularly over 30knots.  Legend has it that one yacht clocked 38 knots, but we only have picture evidence of 33 knots from the committee boat.  The committee looked as though they were competing hard with the conditions themselves.   The final day of our events had to be called off due to a very grim forecast.  The PRO felt that it was not worth risking people’s safety and the majority of competitors agreed.  These are high performance dinghies and while they are wonderful fun in breeze, they do provide a challenge to rescue cover and crews on very windy days.  The event was to provide plenty of drama, with massive wind shifts on day one and a tidal race that caught more than a few people out on lay lines and rounding’s.  The locals explaining shore side that the tide generally goes south here, unlike everywhere else on the east coast where the tide will go out to the south and in the north.

Gareth Flannigan and David Fletcher arrived battle hardened from the recent Laser Masters event in which Gareth took gold and David a very respectable 7th.  The team have always competed for RS silverware and this event was no different, with a superb opening day carding a 3, 1, 3, 2, putting them in second overnight by a point to Alex Barry and Grattan Roberts who also had one bullet day one but followed it up with two seconds.  Our welcome English visitors Jon Willars and Richard Brameld having won the opening race lay in third also carding two 4ths.  David Rose and Ian Hef had won race three, but were off the pace in the other races and lay in 7th overnight.  Locals Peter Bayly and Paddy Blackley had carded a very solid 6, 3, 11, 6 and were sitting in 5th behind Emmet and James Ryan from RstGYC.  John Downey and Sandy Rimmington had an unspectacular day but remained in contention with a 5, 5, 7, 7.

Grattan Roberts was drafted in by Alex Barry for this year’s RS400 nationals, and he had very big boots to fill.  Some sports people just thrive in situations like that, and at 19 Grattan has very little to prove having already won the National 18 National championships with Charles Dwyre in Cork this year.  Grattan’s father of the same name is a cork sailing legend was the helm of the swan 65 Desperado.  Grattan sails everything going, having grown up with the 420 academy scene.  Last year he sailed the RS400 with Johnny Durcan carding a 5th place overall.  He is a regular 1720 sailor and often sails on Cork’s Anchor Challenge in the Quarter Ton Scene.  Grattan is an Irish sailor who we can expect to be reading about for many years to come.

John Downey and Sandy Rimmington approached the windy Saturday with a swagger that was lacking in much of the fleet.  Sporting these new Rasher Rasher’s, they proved sublime on the day carding all results lower than day one.  Their impressive 3,1,3,1 results had them breathing down the neck of Gareth Flannigan and David Fletcher who took second overall on 21 points to John and Sandy’s 25.  Gareth and David have always been superb in the breeze and they carded 10, 4, 4, 4 which was solid on a day where most struggled.  So to our national champions, Alex Barry and Grattan Roberts, who continued on day two where they left off on day one with an absolutely dominant 1,2,1,2.  That was making it three bullets and three seconds in the series to card a stunning 11 points and overall victory.  Alex and Grattan had a habit of recovering quickly whenever they found themselves in the pack, a sign of great champions.  This is officially Alex’s second RS400 title, having been best Irish boat once before also and recorded a second another year.  So Alex is 1, 2, 2, 1 for national titles since joining the class, and has firmly established himself as legend.

A special thank you to Australians Paul and Bronwyn Ridgeway from Melbourne who made it to the northern hemisphere just to race RS400’s and to our English visitors Jon Willars and Richard Brameld who were fifth and Ben Williamson and Ed Wheldon who were tenth, please tell your friends we are a good bunch worth battling over here on the emerald isle.

The RS200 Class has had a fantastic year, and the fleet numbers are up in almost every event.  They had their national championships in Cork earlier in the season, where the fleet has taken hold.  As I mentioned earlier the second day of the event had to be called off due to a very bad forecast, however the fleet competed hard for honours on Saturday and there was something of a passing of the baton from Marty O’ Leary and Rachel Williamson bowing out of the class gracefully out of the results.  They have been a very dominant pair over the last few years and no doubt will be missed.  Frank and son Kevin O’Rourke sailing out of their native GSC stepped up and dominated with a whitewash.  Followed by RCYC’s Katie and brother Jamie Tingle who recorded a 2, 4, 2.  RCYC took third also with Cian Jones and Jonathan Sargeant.  There were 18 200’s and lots of new faces, the future is very bright for this class.



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