David Jones and Mark Hogan win RS400 Irish nationals at Greystones SC

A total of 30 RS400s flocked to the classic wave sailing venue of Greystones Sailing Club for the Irish national championship, held for three days over 14-16 October, sailed alongside an RS200 event. On the eve of the championship, before the fleet had even thought about setting afloat, they were treated to typical Irish hospitality by the locals.

With many a sore head, the fleet set sail on Friday morning in a solid Force 4-5 with large rolling waves – classic RS400 downwind conditions. Once race officer Arky Wainwright had finally managed to get the committee boat to hold anchor in the large waves, racing got underway.

The first start was recalled, with Matt and Chris Bailey (AKA the Brother Grimm) breaking their main halyard, then capsizing to fix it and drifting up-tide through the start area as the race was being restarted. Early speedsters were Greg O’Brien/Pete Rowley and Bill/Linda Handley, but it was Paul Hilliar/Toby Ashton that worked the waves best to lead the fleet. Down the first run, Dave Jones/Mark Hogan pulled through to second place but never got quite close enough and Hilliar/Ashton had the Ginster factor to pull away and win. Jones held second and O’Brien/Riley third.

The second race got away with Jones/Hogan winning the favoured starboard end of the start line but the Grimms made up for lost mainsail time and stormed up the first beat to round just behind Hilliar/Ashton, with Jones/Hogan in third. Jones blasted downwind in awesome wave riding conditions and battled the whole race with the Grimms having the edge upwind and Jones downwind, but never caught Hilliar, with Jones and the Grimms close behind.

For race three, O’Brien and Rowley popped out of the pack again to lead at the first mark, with the rest of the fleet close behind. Downwind in the huge waves, Hilliar/Ashton managed to sneak past and fight off O’Brien to win the race, with Jones/Hogan recovering from a dodgy first beat to finish third.

At the end of day one, fat was clearly fast for some with Hilliar/Ashton tipping in at 26 stone, but proving that the RS400 can accommodate a wide range of crew weights, Jones/Hogan were a comfortable second despite their 22 stone combined weight in the windy conditions.

Saturday started with an 18 knot/big waves forecast, but unfortunately only got the waves as the fleet were held ashore until the wind filled in. When the race got underway, it was with a very strong tide pushing the fleet upwind in 6-8 knots. The fleet bunched at the top mark, with Chris Hogan/Elaine Marsh Showing early pace, but as the fleet split downwind, Jones/Hogan (jr) found some pace down the centre of the run and took the lead from Hogan (snr)/Marsh and Bill and Linda Handley. The leading bunch got away and these positions were maintained except that Hilliar/Ashton snuck past the Handleys on the final run to take third.

Saturday’s second race got away in less tide and it was again O’Brien/Rowley who initially led. However, their lead was not to last long as when the fleet again split, a gust down the left side buried O’Brien and shot the Handley’s into a comfortable lead, followed by Ffion Haf Jones/John Jones. Coming to the end of the second lap, the Handleys had maintained their lead but soon after Jones/Hogan and Hilliar/Ashton shot past upwind in the light wind/big wave conditions. Over the next two laps an epic battle ensued between the leading two, with Hilliar/Ashton taking and then losing the lead down the final run, but Jones/Hogan held their nerve best to take another bullet and prove themselves masters of the light winds.

Going into Sunday’s racing with one discard applying, Hilliar/Ashton held a slender 1 point advantage over Jones/Hogan, with Hogan (Snr)/Marsh a further 9 points behind and still in with a chance. Two races were scheduled and after a postponement to allow the wind to fill in, the first race got away first time in 8-10 knots and a strong tide under the fleet.

Jones/Hogan got away to a flyer at the port end and soon crossed to be clear ahead as the fleet arrived at the windward mark. Hilliar/Ashton got clear of the pack but there was no catching Jones/Hogan who sped off. Mark Reddington/Jane Sutor sailed a great race but fell victim to a charging Hogan/Marsh, who snuck into third at the final mark rounding.

Going into the final race of the event, the top two could not have been closer, with Hilliar/Ashton’s 1,1,1,3,2,2 exactly matching Jones/Hogan’s 2,2,3,1,1,1 thus putting Jones in the driving seat. Whoever beat the other with a counting result would win the championship. Would there be a match race-style start or would the leaders leave it to chance?

With the tension mounting, the race got underway with slightly less tide and 8 knots breeze. Jones/Hogan again took the lead up the first beat, with the Grimms rounding on their transom and Hilliar/Ashton in third. A long run against the tide initially saw Jones/Hogan stretch their lead until a late wind shift put Hilliar/Ashton into the lead with Andy Long/Louise Asman finding wind on the left to take second. These three rounded the final windward mark well clear of the fleet but within 20 metres of each other and all gybed quickly out to the left. As Jones/Hogan closed up and started to take Hilliar/Ashton’s wind, a gybing battle ensued and with less than 200 metres to the final mark Jones/Hogan just got their noses in front and just held on to record a famous victory in one of the closest finishes ever seen.

This left Dave Jones/Mark Hogan with the win by a single point from Paul Hilliar/Toby Ashton, with Chris Hogan/Elaine Marsh sailing a consistent series to take third overall.

Overall Results

1 962 David Jones and Mark Hogan 8pts

2 1121 Paul Hilliar and Toby Ashton 9 pts

3 1082 Chris Hogan and Elaine Marsh 22 pts

4 1126 Greg O’Brien and Pete Rowley 30 pts

5 1007 Mark Greaves and Woosey 37 pts

6 748 Andy Long and Lou Asman 38 pts

7 1274 Bill Handley and Lynda 45 pts

8 1276 Mark Reddington and Jane Sutor 55 pts

9 1205 Chris and Matt Bailey 59 pts

10 549 Ffion Haf and Jones John Jones 60 pts

11 1140 Simon Herriott and Seamus Gilshinan 66 pts

12 892 Roy Van Maanen and Derek McConnell 68 pts

13 1275 Paul Lewis and Sam Parker 71 pts

14 586 Mark and Anne Usher 76 pts

15 1188 Demo Dave and Buzz 77 pts

16 1001 Greg Bell and Ruan O’ Tiarnaigh 78 pts

17 1172 Alex and Jen Morrison 89 pts

18 481 Dave Bell and Corin Westley 101 pts

19 545 Robert Galligan and Shane Mitchell 109 pts

20 581 Richard Moran and Nina Huet 112 pts

21 857 Fiachra Etchingham and Colm Maguire 116 pts

22 828 Gerry Cannon and Roger 116 pts pts

23 1136 James Gargan and Lorcan Moran 121 pts