The Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club served up another truly fantastic RS Elite Championship on Belfast Lough from 22-25 August, sponsored by Brewin Dolphin. With top Elite Class sailors from Ireland, Scotland and England as well as two Irish Olympians and a touch of glamour added by ex Miss Northern Ireland, Tiffany Brien (fresh from a season competing in a 49er FX) it was always going to be tense racing with light winds forecast throughout the event. Place changing to the finish in every race meant there was never a chance to relax in the evenly matched one-design fleet.
Jono, Lyn and David Brown in Aeolus were on top of their game in these conditions and put together a remarkably consistent series that sees them take the trophy to the Royal Burnham YC for the third time. A thirty degree right hand shift on the first beat of Race 1 favoured them and dropped several other top teams to the back of the fleet, making their first victory look lucky, but there was nothing lucky about their follow up results. A 5th place was Aeolus’ lowest result meaning victory was theirs with a day to spare – truly impressive given the vagaries of the breeze in several races.
Behind the Brown’s a serious battle for second place developed between local boat Kin, sailed by Tiffany, Simon and Jack Brien and the Royal Lymington YC based team of Martin & Amanda Wadhams sailing with Michael Browne on Kiss. Kin was more erratic with scores including several race wins but also a couple in double figures, whereas Kiss won only one race but discarded a 6th. Going into the final race the pair were tied on points, safe for second or third, so a gripping battle all around the track ensued with the lead changing many times. After splitting gybes at the final leeward gate Kin managed to tack ahead of Kiss on the finish line to snatch second overall by a length.
Fourth place overall went to another Irish boat Storm from the Royal Ulster YC, sailed by Stephen Polly, David Kelso and John Gunning despite their two OCS results which they managed to drop from the ten race, two discard series. New to the Class this year, they are clearly a force for the future. One of the biggest cheers at the prize giving was reserved for past champion Shaun McClean in Elixir sailing with his son Donald and Kevan Gibb from the Royal Forth YC, who finished fifth overall including winning race 7.
Title sponsors for this Championship, Brewin Dolphin, have a long association with sailing and made this event possible, including the excellent social program with typical Irish craic that tested the stamina of many sailors off the water as well as on it. Regional Director Hal Catherwood commented “Brewin Dolphin has been delighted to support such a high profile sailing event in Northern Ireland. It’s fantastic to see world class sailors come together and battle it out on Belfast Lough.” The RS Elite Class hopes this will be the first regatta of many alongside Brewin Dolphin.
Associate sponsor Charles Hurst, purveyors of some fine motor cars, added even more glamour with an Aston, Bentley and F-Type parked on the club lawn. We’ll never forget event director Gerry Reid’s face when someone faked a scratch on the Bentley with a strand of duct tape!
Next year the RS Elite Class will return to the Royal Burnham YC for its Nationals, followed by the Royal Yacht Squadron for the Southern Areas and then Cowes Week – a tempting three week schedule of awesome one-design racing and great socials with the band of friends that now make up the Class.
Overall results – top six
1st – Aeolus – Jono, Lyn & David Brown -14pts
2nd – Kin – Tiffany, Simon & Jack Brien – 26pts
3rd – Kiss – Martin & Amanda Wadhams & Michael Browne – 27pts
4th – Storm – Stephen Polly, David Kelso, John Gunning – 39pts
5th – Elixir – Shaun & Donald McClean & Kevan Gibb – 43pts
6th – Sea Breezes – John McDowell, Trevor D’Arcy & T McMillan – 53pts