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It has been confirmed that the next edition of the America’s Cup will see defenders New Zealand organise the racing in monohulls, after three stagings of the world’s oldest international sporting challenge in multihulls writes W M Nixon.

This will come as no surprise to those who were at the extraordinary Dun Laoghaire gathering twelve days ago when the 130-year Dublin Bay Water Wags celebrated their first race with more than thirty boats.

They partied in the Royal Irish Yacht Club with the crew and supporters of the Alex Thomson/Nin O’Leary IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss. It was a busy multi-agenda night, with the air well filled with stories old and new.

But as reported in Sailing on Saturday on September 2nd, one noted Dublin-based heavy hitter in the international sailing scene at the party was able to disclose that, with the support of top European America’s Cup interests, the America’s Cup next time round - in which Italian team Luna Rossa are the Challengers of Record – will be raced in monohulls.

The word was that they’d be skinny 73ft hulls with enormous keels, aboard which sailors will be seen to be people rather than robots. And it seems it’s all happening. But with the Mini Transat, the Volvo World Race, and the Rolex Middle Sea Race starting to come up the programme listings, there’s time enough before anyone starts losing any sleep over the next America’s Cup...

Published in America's Cup

The long months of preparation are almost at an end as seven of Britain's most talented and ambitious young sailors take on the world. The hand-picked team, including Neil Hunter, 22 year old from Scotland, who raced with Ben Ainslie in Land Rover BAR's America's Cup bid, will represent Britain in the Red Bull Youth America's Cup (RBYAC) starting on Monday 12th June on Bermuda's Great Sound.

They will step out onto the main stage – the same course used for the America's Cup racing currently underway in Bermuda – for two days of racing against five other youth teams, all comprising of sailors aged 19-24. The top four teams will go forward to the finals, scheduled right before the last weekend of racing for the 35th America's Cup.

The teams will race the foiling, wingsail AC45F used throughout the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series 2015 and 2016, and the Land Rover BAR Academy have looked strong in the practice racing so far. They continue to benefit from the mentorship and experience of the senior team, who completed their campaign for the 35th America's Cup on Thursday.

Inspired by four time Olympic gold medallist and 34th America's Cup winner, Ben Ainslie, the mission of the Land Rover BAR Academy is to find and support talented young British sailors. It's run by America's Cup Challenger Land Rover BAR, and supported by Land Rover.

The goal is to create a career pathway for British sailors into the America's Cup, and build a British team to win the RBYAC. The Land Rover BAR Academy have already competed in the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series™, coming fifth in the professional stadium racing series, supported and mentored by the Land Rover BAR Senior Sailing team.

The spectacular sailing on Bermuda's Great Sound promises to be a wonderful showcase for these talented young sailors and a great inspiration to those that want to follow them.

Rob Bunce, Land Rover BAR Academy Skipper: "We're looking forward to getting on the start line, it's going to be really exciting racing. It will be really cool on that first real race with all those boats - it's going to be epic!

"At the moment we are expecting the conditions to be a mixture of light and strong winds. We enjoy the breeze more than the light winds, but the conditions in Bermuda change so quickly, anything could happen.

"The Red Bull Youth America's Cup differs to the Extreme Sailing Series in that the course will be bigger, the boats are bigger and faster and a bit harder to sail I think there will be more of a boat handling focus and that's an area that we pride ourselves on. It's also going to be important to get off the start line well, just like the ESS."

Annabel Vose, Strategist: "It's a really cool opportunity to race on the same race course as the America's Cup and be a part of that atmosphere. It's going be really exciting having eight boats on the race course, which is more than any America's Cup World Series event so it's going to be really intense and a great spectacle as we hopefully reach some high speeds. It's definitely a new challenge for all of us; no-one has raced in these boats before so we're looking forward to getting stuck in on Monday."

Youth America's Cup Squad:

Skipper, Rob Bunce - Southampton
Helm, Chris Taylor - Buckinghamshire
Strategist, Annabel Vose - Southampton
Main Trimmer, Elliot Hanson - Macclesfield
Jib Trimmer, Sam Batten - Southampton
Jib Trimmer / Float, Adam Kay - Southampton
Bow, Neil Hunter - Isle of Arran, Scotland

Dates for the diary:
May 29th – June 3rd 2017: Pool A team training
June 5th – June 10th : Pool B team training
June 12th – June 13th : Qualifier 1 racing *
June 15th - June 16th : Qualifier 2 racing *
June 20th – June 21st : Red Bull Youth America's Cup Final Series *

* all race events include a third day of scheduled racing, held in reserve should any issues prevent racing being completed on scheduled dates

Published in America's Cup

Sir Ben Ainslie and Land Rover BAR's quest to win the 35th America's Cup came to an early end on Thursday in Bermuda when Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand sealed the British team's fate by reaching the five wins needed against Land Rover BAR to progress to the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals.

In the other Semi-Finals, Nathan Outteridge and Artemis Racing mounted an almighty comeback against their Japanese rivals, Dean Barker's SoftBank Team Japan, winning three races on the trot to take the score in their Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs Semi-Finals to 4-3, meaning they will race again on Friday to decide the second Finalist.

For Ainslie and his team, they were ultimately beaten by Emirates Team New Zealand twice on Thursday, sealing their fate 5-2 and leaving them heading back to Britain without the America's Cup they were so determined to take home.

For Burling and his crew, the incredible efforts the team made from Tuesday to Thursday to repair the boat that was so badly damaged in Tuesday's pitchpole were repaid handsomely, putting themselves into the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals as the first team to reach that stage.

Turning his attention to the potential opponent in the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs Final, Burling admitted he does not have a preference between Artemis Racing or SoftBank Team Japan.

In stark contrast to Tuesday's poor performance, Nathan Outteridge and his team looked assured throughout the race, maintaining a slender lead over the pursuing SoftBank Team Japan.

While Dean Barker sailed an almost faultless race, Artemis Racing did not make the mistake the Japanese team would have been hoping for and Nathan Outteridge steered his team home with a 28 second victory, levelling the scores at 3-3 ahead of the teams' third and final battle of the day.

Race results

Semi-Final 1 Race 5: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Land Rover BAR by 31 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 5: Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 39 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 6: Land Rover BAR beat Emirates Team New Zealand 20 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 6: Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 28 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 7: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Land Rover BAR by 46 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 7:Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 1 minute and 46 seconds

Published in America's Cup

An epic day of racing unfolded on the Great Sound in Bermuda for the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Playoff Semi-finals as Land Rover BAR faced off against Emirates Team New Zealand. The first race got underway after a slight delay waiting for the wind to drop below the 24 knots average limit. Emirates Team New Zealand only just made the start after damage sustained to their wing after docking out. It was panning out to be a full on day with both teams sailing at the limits hitting speeds in excess of 45 knots.

The British team won the start and led Emirates Team New Zealand for five of the nine leg race, before getting low on oil which enabled Emirates Team New Zealand to take the lead, as Sailing Team Manager Jono Macbeth explained:

"These boats are so physical up until now we have been racing a five or six leg course, today was a nine legger. It is unbelieveable how much energy is required to get around these courses, unfortunately for us we got low on oil at a critical time, so our manouvres weren't as crisp as they have could been".

In the second race Ben Ainslie and his British team again won the start, before Emirates Team New Zealand suffered a dramatic capsize on the first reach, with the race subsequently being awarded to Land Rover BAR.

Ben Ainslie, Skipper and Team Principal: "The most important thing is that everyone is okay on Emirates Team New Zealand after their capsize. I think all four teams out there showed great seamanship to deal with these boats in these conditions. It was absolutely full on. We look forward to seeing them back on the race course."

"It was unbelievable racing in gusts up to 27-28 knots. Certainly, in thirty years of racing boats, it was the most full-on, exhilarating moment I've ever had. It was incredible out there.

"I liken it to skiing on ice. No holds barred; if you start to slow up and play it safe that's when it is worse. When you sail these boats fast it is very rewarding, but in conditions like today sometimes it is not possible. Days like today it is the ultimate team sport."

"Hopefully we will be back out on the water tomorrow and it's all to play for."

The current forecast for tomorrow is predicting stronger winds than today. The team are getting ready for another epic day of racing.

Current scoreboard

Semi Final 1
Land Rover BAR - 1
Emirates Team New Zealand - 3

Semi Final 2
Softbank Team Japan - 3
Artemis Racing - 1

Wednesday's schedule:
Race 5: NZ vs GBR
Race 5: Sweden vs Japan
Race 6: GBR vs NZ
Race 6: Japan vs Sweden

The semi-finals are first - to - five.

Published in America's Cup

There was to be no redemption for Artemis Racing at the start of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers Round Robin 2 stage, as they fell to a second defeat in as many days to Emirates Team New Zealand.

Yesterday, in what was the the most thrilling and contentious day of racing in the 35th America’s Cup so far, the Swedish team were denied a victory over their Kiwi rivals following a dramatic late penalty in the final race of the day in Round Robin 1.

Picking up where the competition left off, day four started with a mouth-watering rematch between the two nations as the Swedish team looked for revenge for their loss in Round Robin 1.

The Swedes looked odds on to achieve just that in the early stages of the race as they led from the start, building up a 20 seconds lead following a big nosedive from Emirates Team New Zealand in the lead up to gate 2.

However, the Kiwis, helmed by Peter Burling, recovered spectacularly from the set-back, chasing down the Swede and cutting their lead to just three seconds at gate 3 before wiping out the lead altogether at gate 5.

As the teams crossed paths in close proximity heading into the gate, it was Emirates Team New Zealand who emerged in front as they headed for the final turn before the race for the finish line.

With Artemis Racing in hot pursuit, they were handed a late penalty, forcing them to fall further behind their rivals and all but ending the contest. From that point, Emirates Team New Zealand coasted to the finish line and won by one minute and 31 seconds over the Swedish team.

The triumph saw Emirates Team New Zealand secure their fifth victory out of six races in the qualifying stages, equalling ORACLE TEAM USA’s point tally in the standings ahead of the American team’s race against Groupama Team France in race 2.

However, the Kiwis were not level in the standings for long, as Jimmy Spithill’s ORACLE TEAM USA restored their point advantage with a comfortable and impressive victory over Franck Cammas’ team.

Having successfully hooked the French boat in the pre-start and crossing the start line seven seconds in front, ORACLE TEAM USA set about building their lead in the early stages of the race.

Groupama Team France’s task was made even harder following a penalty for crossing the boundary mark on leg two, forcing them even further behind the American team who raced well clear.

However, the Americans did not have it all their own way. Late in the race Tactician Tom Slingsby reported over the team radio that “We have an issue”, leading to Kyle Langford having to make running repairs to their boat’s wingsail on leg five.

However, despite the issue, ORACLE TEAM USA continued to sail smoothly, meaning there was to be no late drama or shock and the Defenders of the ‘Auld Mug’ finished the race one minute and 56 seconds ahead of their opponents.

Meanwhile, Land Rover BAR secured a much needed victory in the final race of the afternoon (race 3) as they overcame Artemis Racing with a 30 second advantage at the finish line.

Having won just one race in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers Robin 1, also over Artemis Racing, the pressure was on Sir Ben Ainslie and his team heading into the encounter.

However, that pressure was not evident out on the water as the British team made a better start than their Swedish rivals, who were also racing for the second time on the day.

In a much improved performance over the previous two days, Land Rover BAR, who hit the highest speed of the competition so far, recording a top speed just over 43 knots, maintained a comfortable advantage throughout the race as they kept the Swedes at bay.

Despite a slight touch down by the British team at mark 4, they recovered quickly to ease over the finish line 30 seconds ahead of Nathan Outteridge’s team to seal a much needed victory. That win moves Land Rover BAR onto four points in the standings, and more importantly, two points clear of bottom-placed Groupama team France.

Published in America's Cup

The first day of racing at the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers started with extraordinary drama as Land Rover BAR defied all the sceptics and the pundits that had written the team off. They beat the pre-regatta in-form boat, Sweden's Artemis Racing in the opening contest. It was a wire-to-wire victory for the British challenger, with the lead yo-yoing from ten to twenty seconds, but Land Rover BAR were never threatened after taking control at Mark One.

No sooner had the adrenaline ebbed, then the team were back into the fray with a race against SoftBank Japan. On the final line-up towards the start line, SoftBank Team Japan's skipper, Dean Barker moved into an overlapping position on the leeward side of Land Rover BAR, a move that resulted in a dramatic clash as the two boats came together, the hull of Land Rover BAR being punctured by the pedestal on the Japanese team. The penalty went against Land Rover BAR, who continued racing nursing the damaged boat around the course, with SoftBank Team Japan taking the win. The foiling conditions helped keep Land Rover BAR afloat, at the end of the race the team foiled into Bermuda's Historic Dockyard to a waiting crane, with the whole team furiously bailing to keep R1 afloat.

A long night now awaits the shore team to try and fix the damage and get back onto the race course for the second day of racing in the Qualifying round of the 35th America's Cup.

At the end of the first day's racing, Land Rover BAR are joint leaders with Oracle Team USA on three points, with Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and SoftBank Team Japan all on one point.

Team wor​k saved ​R1 from ​sinking ​after co​llision ​with Sof​tBank Te​am Japan

Thoughts on the racing:

Ben Ainslie, Skipper and Team Principal: "The boat is pretty badly damaged, with a sizeable hole in the port hull. It was a great effort by the team to get the boat around the course in the state that it was in. We were better off foiling with the hull out of the water, and we tried to keep the boat on the foils right into the harbor.

"We were lucky we did, by the time we got to the dock she was on her way down. It was all hands to the pumps and bailing. It's been about 30 years since I was bailing out Optimist dinghies, and it wasn't something I was expecting to do.

"The collision was unfortunate, we had a sideways slip just as Dean came in and got the leeward overlap. No one wants that, certainly in our position as we picked up a penalty and the damage. Thankfully, the most important thing is that no one got hurt.

"It's now down to the shore team to work their magic and fix the damage and try to get us back out for racing tomorrow. They are great guys, they've got us through some pretty rough patches in the past and hopefully they can do it again.

"With regards to the rest of the day, we had a fantastic race against Artemis Racing. Going into this competition, I think a lot of seasoned observers had written us off, saying that we didn't have a chance. We came out today when it counts and beat a really, really good team. So I can be proud of our team, and where we have come from and the potential we have to move forwards, this is hugely positive for the team."

Richy O'Farrell, Shore Team Lead: "We had a coming together with Japan in the pre-start, it looks like we had a bit of a side-slip and landed on top of them. So they punctured our hull from underneath, and we have done quite a lot of damage to the hull. Over the next hour or so we'll make a plan as to what we are going to do to fix it, and see how long it is going to take us. It's quite a lot of damage. A long night ahead, I'd say.

Published in America's Cup

The America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA), and America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM), have announced that the strong winds in Bermuda has meant day one of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers and the Official Opening Ceremony of the 35th America’s Cup has had to be postponed.

Forecasts indicate that winds may gust over 30 knots during the afternoon and evening, so with the safety of the sailors and spectators as the key priority, ACEA and ACRM have decided to postpone Friday’s events. Saturday 27th May and the days following are all forecast to have significantly improved weather conditions, so the four races scheduled to take place on Friday 26th May will now be added to the race schedules for the subsequent days.

The Official Opening Ceremony of the 35th America’s Cup will now take place on Saturday 27th May, starting at 8.30pm, following the three time Grammy award winning entertainer Wyclef Jean’s performance on the Main Stage in the America’s Cup Village at 5.15pm. The America’s Cup Village will close at 9.30pm. Gates open at 11.30am on Saturday, with racing due to take place between 2pm and 5pm.

Sir Russell Coutts, CEO of the ACEA, said, “We are obviously disappointed that the strong winds mean we have had to postpone day one of the 35th America’s Cup. This is clearly a decision we have not taken lightly and appreciate the inconvenience caused to the sellout crowd. Our primary concern however, is always safety for everyone involved in the America’s Cup. We are adding an hour to the race window on both Saturday and Sunday to run extra races with the aim of getting back on schedule. There are still tickets available at the weekend, although not in all categories, so we are hoping Friday’s ticket holders will still get the chance to enjoy what should be an incredible opening weekend.”

Published in America's Cup

Despite some interruptions from either too much or too little wind, the regular club sailing programme for 2017 is now fully under way, and this weekend is additionally so well filled with major regional and national events that you could be forgiven for thinking it’s high summer already. W M Nixon tries to make sense of it all.

How on earth is anyone expected to fully understand, let alone explain, a global activity which today sees the extraordinary 1,500 boat Festival of Sail in the Morbihan in France putting in its final races and fleet manoeuvres, before everyone joins in the end-of-show Parade of Sail tomorrow?

Yet at the same time, across the Atlantic in Bermuda, the first moves in the 35th edition of the America’s Cup, arguably the world’s oldest international sporting contest as it goes back to 1851, are getting under way, involving sailing machines for which the word “boat” seems somewhat inappropriate.

americas cup2It’s difficult to think of them as anything other than “sailing machines,” but America’s Cup rules reckon they are boats
morbihan fleet3Some of the huge fleet at the current Morbihan festival. In their midst is the bisquine-rigged La Cancalaise from Cancale. In the days of piracy, smuggling and privateering in the English Channel, it was reckoned that any vessel setting this demanding high-performance rig was up to no good, and therefore a legitimate target for government ships

Then too, the world sailing community is still digesting the revelation that future generations of boats in the Volvo World Race, which now rivals the America’s Cup for international attention, will be in effect IMOCA 60s with mega-foils.

And in addition to that, at each in-harbour stopover, the world-girdling Volvo Ocean Race crews will be expected to do a series of races in smaller but very potent multi-hulls which will thrill spectators with their closeness to the watching crowds and to each other, with hair’s breadth misses – and ideally the occasional not-too-serious shunt - a central part of the action.

All these major international events then have to be fitted around the reality that, like it or not, sailing is one of those minority sports that need the Olympics more than the Olympics need sailing. In other words, we have to keep the decks clear of other major international fixtures to give total attention when the next sailing Olympiad at Tokyo comes along in 2020.

For those who would snort in derision at such a suggestion, do tell us what you were doing (if you can remember) while the rest of Ireland held its breath and watched as Annalise Murphy was sailing towards her Silver Medal on August 16th 2016?

Nevertheless, having taken all that into account, the reality is that the top end of sailing is reaching ever-higher peaks of performance in everything, and inevitably using boats and equipment of unimaginable expense. So except for the Morbihan event - whose ethos is found in going the other way, with total democratic involvement for everyone - how on earth can ordinary sailors relate to what the participants in the America’s Cup and the Volvo World Race are experiencing?

Let’s be honest. We can only do so - if at all - with some mighty leaps of the imagination. The result is that many of us are going back to the knitting. We’re going back to trusted events, and staying with sailing boats which may not be in the first flush of youth, but at least they mean something to us.

We know that with them, we can find racing which bears some relation to everyday life rather than the other-world dreamscape which is the America’s Cup or the Volvo World Race.

Over the next two weekends in Ireland, this racing of familiar boats will move up a couple of gears, as this weekend is the Bank Holiday in the North, and in a week’s time the extra day off is in the Republic. So keen sailors who see their programme on an all-Ireland basis somehow manage to convince themselves that we have two all-island Bank Holidays on the trot.

claddagh festival4Galway hookers gather at the Claddagh, while above them is the Galway City Museum, currently staging a Marine Science Exhibition.

Thus the ongoing Claddagh Festival with all varieties of Galway Hookers on show in the City of the Tribes is also managing to welcome Viking longships which have been brought overland from their home port of Ardglass in County Down. And at least the northerners have the proper claim that, for them, Monday is a free day to get their boats home again.

That equally applies to northern visitors to the Woodenboat Festival in Baltimore, which got going last night and should have good weather from midday onwards today, and through tomorrow’s colourful programme. Nevertheless for those with a day job to think about, the long haul home on Sunday night can become very long indeed.

baltimore aerial5Baltimore in West Cork - the perfect location for a friendly Woodenboat Festival

baltimore woodenboat festival6It’s not quite racing, but when a Galway hooker (left) finds competition at Baltimore Woodenboat Festival with a traditional West Cork boat, there’s certainly an added edge to the sailing. Photo Sheena Jolley

Both these events are traditional annual festivals in which racing plays only a small – if any – part. But even in competitive sailing, all the signs are that people are returning to beef up the numbers and competition in events which served them well in the past, yet had slipped in the popularity ratings owing to a change in behavioural patterns (the modern family is an extremely demanding taskmaster), and the ill-effects of the economic recession.

Everyone has been heartened by the new strength of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (to which we’ll return in a minute), but today the top of the agenda is the Scottish Series, getting up to speed at the lovely little port of Tarbert on Loch Fyne. Of course, numbers are nothing like the eventually unmanageable crowd of boats which became a feature of this series about twenty years ago. But nevertheless there’s a tidy fleet at Tarbert, and a strong Irish contingent are in with more than shout of bringing home the big prize.

tarbert loch fyne7Packing them in – the Scottish Series fleet in Tarbert

hunters racing8The Hunter 707 fleet provided some of the best racing at last year’s Scottish Series

seaword wins9Dara O’Malley (second left) and his winning crew on Seaword, which made him Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for May 2016. Photo: Marc Turner

Last year it was one of the diaspora, Dara O’Malley originally from Westport but now sailing on the Firth of Forth with his Hunter 707 Seaword, who was tops. While he may be Scottish-based, he was home among us in January to receive his Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” Award for May 2016 at the National Sailing Awards in the RDS.

He is defending this weekend, and another former overall winner is the irrepressible Rob McConnell from Dunmore East. With an almost entirely Waterford Harbour SC crew, Rob’s A35 Fool’s Gold is reportedly in particular good trim this year, so definitely a boat to watch.

Other strong performers from Ireland over in Tarbert include the Kelly family from Rush with their J/109 Storm, and that highly individualistic helmsman renowned for pulling rabbits out of the hat, Johnny Swan with his classic Half Tonner Harmony from Howth. Strangford Lough is sending the notably steady perfomer Jay Colville with his successful First 40 Forty Licks, while all the way from Cork Harbour is the First 36.7 Altair (K Dorgan & J Losty) of Cove Sailing Club, recalling the enthusiasm of a high order which used to be a feature of the O’Leary family’s years with the Corby 36 Antix from Crosshaven, an overall winner in Scotland on more than one occasion.

fools gold scotland10They might do it again......Rob McConnell (fourth left) and his mostly Dunmore East crew after winning the Scottish Series in 2015 on the Archambault 35 Fool’s Gold. Photo: Marc Turner

The continuing growth of the J/109s, which have needed ten years to become an overnight success in Ireland, is shown by the additional presence in Scotland of two of Storm’s sister-ships from home, Andrew Craig’s Chimaera and John & Brian Hall’s Something Else, while a smaller manifestation of the J Boat range’s ubiquitous nature is the participation of Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules from Howth.

It’s an interesting crew setup, as Lambay Rules’ core team, including Stephen Quinn himself, have been seen racing in the elegance of Stephen O’Flaherty’s Spirit 54 Soufriere, whose claims to fame include a role in a James Bond movie. Despite the obvious differences between the two boats, the key personnel – including Stephen O’Flaherty – moved aboard the little Lambay Rules for last year’s Volvo Round Ireland Race, and despite being one of the smallest boats in the fleet (in fact, I think she was the smallest), at several stages they were leading their class, but not alas at the finish.

Their determined involvement in Scotland says much for their continuing zest in the game, but meanwhile back home the presence of so many significant boats over in Scotland has done little to diminish numbers for this morning’s ISORA Race from Dun Laoghaire to Arklow, which will see 28 starters.

PHOTO HERE
isora starters11The lineup for today’s ISORA-Dun Laoghaire Race
Very senior ISORA contenders have a feeling that they must have raced to Arklow before, but maybe they’re confusing it with ISORA races which took in the Arklow Lightvessel as a mark of the course, and it’s undoubtedly a very long time since a lightship was on the Arklow Bank.

Certainly ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan says that this is the first time an ISORA Race has finished in Arklow, where the local sailing club has been expanding in a healthy style, while on the bigger canvas, the Tyrrell family with their succession of ever-larger and successful craft in the J Boat range – all called Aquelina – has done much to have Arklow SC punching way above its weight on the national offshore racing scene.

The Tyrrells were too far ahead of the curve when they got their first Aquelina, a J/109, shortly after the new marque was introduced. Their hopes of getting a semi-One-Design J/109 class going didn’t take off. But today, racing their current J/122E Aquelina back to their home port, they’ll ruefully observe that there are at least five J/109s racing with them, a goodly number when we remember that three of the Dublin class are in Scotland, and several others are staying in Dun Laoghaire to do today’s Dublin Bay SC race.

j109s on dublin bay12It has taken them ten years to become an overnight success, but the J/109s are now a very significant presence in Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie

However, one of the latest J/09s to join the Greater Dublin class is Indian, owned by Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles of Howth. They won the two-handed class in the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race in the smaller Elan Blue Eyes, but this race to Arklow is their first serious offshore challenge in the J/109. It will be a proper test, as the J/109 contingent includes Peter Dunlop’s Mojito and Stephen Tudor’s Sgrech, both from Pwllheli and respectively first and second of the J/109s in the Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire race a fortnight ago.

But the boat for everyone to beat is Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, whose remarkable all-round ability was demonstrated with the overall win in the increasingly breezy Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire Race of May 13th. These JPK 10.80s are superb performers across a wide range of conditions, and the simple fact of knowing they have such a good boat under them is an added encouragement for Paul O’Higgins and his crew of all the talents.

The highly technical approach of racing a boat like Rockabill VI is a whole world away from the intimate world of wooden boat adherents getting together in Baltimore, or the historical, cultural and music-laden gathering of the traditional craft and their visiting Vikings in Galway. But that’s the way it is in the very wide world of boats and sailing. In the end, we’re all members of the same exceptionally diverse sailing community.

Rockabill paul o higgins13The boat to beat – Paul O’Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI is a superb all-rounder

Published in W M Nixon

#AmericasCup - Team Oracle USA have their work cut out for them after their second capsize in as many months during training for the America's Cup in Bermuda this week.

Sail-World has the full report on the latest incident, which occurred when the team’s AC50 catamaran went into a roll at high speed after a foiling gybe.

The team confirmed no injuries to the crew and only limited damage to the vessel in the capsize this past Wednesday 10 May.

But it can’t be good for morale among the defending Auld Mug holders, coming so soon after capsize trouble a month previously.

No other AC50 has capsized in preparation for the qualifiers later this month – including Land Rover BAR, which is skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie, the man who turned around Oracle’s fortunes for their shock victory in 2013.

Published in America's Cup

The 35th staging of international races for the 176-year-old America’s Cup is rising rapidly up the agenda. The opening jousts for challengers begin on 26th May 2017 at the first-time-selected venue of Bermuda, and the cup series itself starts there on 17th June. It’s time to focus on the sailing paradise of Bermuda, and particularly its role in changing the shape of sails in mainstream sailing. W M Nixon takes a typically skewed look at what it all might mean.

The irony of it is that, long before the rig was popularly accepted, it was the sailors of Bermuda who were credited with the invention of the jib-headed triangular shape for mainsails. This dominated yacht design for nearly a century. Yet in 2017, as the inevitably trend-setting America’s Cup finally comes to Bermuda for the first time, it will be raced by sailing machines – the word “boats” seems inadequate – which are setting what looks very like an extremely modern variation of the classic gaff rig.

For what are today’s state-of-the-art square-headed mainsails other than an attempt to get as much sail area as possible within the limits set by the height of the mast and the length of the boom? And what rig was based on the same premise? Exactly. The gaff rig, and its very useful cousin, the sprit rig.

Americas Cup defenders Oracle 2Is this or is this not gaff rig? America’s Cup defenders Oracle in action off San Francisco

Lemsteraak Schollevaer 3David Beattie’s Dutch Lemsteraak Schollevaer, sailing here on Lough Ree, indicates that classic Dutch yachts tended towards shortening their gaff booms to such an extent that for a period they were almost Bermudan rigged. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet at a certain stage, as the pioneering Dutch yachtsmen moved from the sprit rig to the gaff rig, the gaff booms became so short that the sailing world was very close to having jib-headed mainsails. But boats setting bisquine rig or something very similar showed what could be done with topsails, and longer gaff booms with topsails above them became the norm.

In due course, the logic of having lighter masts, and mainsail and topsail one and the same with no booms between them, became inescapable. Yet because so many people, relatively speaking, had by this time taken up sailing, the arguments about which rig, gaff or Bermudan, was superior soon became ludicrously heated.

Prince of Wales cutter Britannia 4The Prince of Wales cutter Britannia in Dun Laoghaire in 1893, newly-built and on passage from the Clyde to the Solent, showing how a racing gaff rig could be shortened down for sea-going passages in heavy weather, with the topmast safely housed and a loose-footed gaff-headed trisail set instead of the full mainsail.

Traditionalists argued that while Bermudan rig might be just about acceptable for inshore racing in sheltered water, anyone going cruising or racing offshore needed the rugged gaff rig with its compact mast, possibly heightened by a topmast which could he lowered and housed against the forward side of the mainmast when at sea and conditions deteriorated.

And then there were and still are the uber-traditionalists who argue that if gaff rig had been good enough for their fathers and forefathers before them, then it was good enough for them, and you don’t have to go any further than Howth, Connemara or Falmouth to find them in their droves.

A new factor entered the equation with the development of the heritage industry, which concluded that that the loss of familiarity with handling the formerly-universal gaff rig was a real cultural threat. So in 1963 the Old Gaffers Association came into being at much the same time as the Classic Yacht Movement was starting to gain traction, and thus the preservation of gaff rig was being upheld from both ends of the wealthy to barely-getting-by spectrum.

Falmouth Working Boats racing 5Where gaff rig is the norm – Falmouth Working Boats racing. Under ancient legislation, it is only permissible to dredge for oysters in Falmouth Harbour under sail, and the working boat with adjustable performance has developed as a result.

It was all great fun if you didn’t take it took seriously, but in its day, some people took it very seriously indeed and a few still do, so we’ll give the pot a very good stir by revealing that it was Irish sailors who played a key role in making Bermudan rig mainstream.

Our header image reveals that Bermudan rig in a quite sophistcated form was not unknown from 1834 onwards. But nevertheless even in crack yachts like Belfast linen magnate John Mulholland’s schooner Egeria of 1865 vintage, and John Jameson of Dublin’s cutter Irex designed by Alexander Richardson in 1884, the relatively crude gaff topsails being set still showed how closely they were descended from lug rigs which in turn had evolved from trying to get simple squaresails to set closer to the wind.

schooner egeria3John Mulholland’s 99ft schooner Egeria of 1865 vintage set topsails which were developments of lug sails

John Jameson Irex 1884 7John Jameson’s Irex of 1884 originally set a topsail which looked very out-of-date just ten years later

But by the late 1880s, topsails were becoming more clearly jib headed, and for a while they used a combination of short mainmast, a short topmast, and a topsail yard to provide their height, which could resulted in a distinctly stunted look when on a dead run, as is seen in the Scottish ironmaster Peter Donaldson’s all-conquering 70ft 40-rater Isolde, designed and built by Fife in 1895.

Isolde yacht 1895 8Fast boat, dumpy rig? Peter Donaldson’s successful Isolde of 1895 looked to have a very low-slung rig when she squared off on the run

It is the famous photo of the new Belfast Lough 25ft One Designs at their start in the RUYC Regatta in July 1898 - their second season – which best shows how gaff rig had developed in the decade since Irex was the boat to beat. The BLOD 25’s have topsails which use long yard to sit as flush as possible with the mast. As the luff length of the topsail was actually longer than the luff length of the mainsail, and as it is luff length which does most of the work in making to windward, getting the topsail and mainsail to set as one was vital in achieving best performance.

Belfast Lough 25ft OD 9Serious topsails. With a luff length longer than the luff length of the mainsail, the Belfast Lough 25ft ODs had to get the set of their topsails just right.

In fact, as I learned in my days of racing a Howth 17, fractions of an inch in the location of the topyard halyard and jackyard outhaul on their respective yards made all the difference between having a very effective topsail, and having a heap of rubbish aloft which was only holding you back if the wind freshened on the final leg. You were getting there if, when setting the sails, you could look aloft and see the newly-hoisted topsail set as flat as a board, with even tensions to every corner. This meant that you could ease the mainsail peak halyard just a smidgin to transfer some of the load directly to the topsail, thereby making mainsail and topsail in effect into one sail which happened to have a couple of bits of wood in the middle.

However, despite the favourable impact made by boats such as Isolde and the BLOD 25s, larger yachts tended increasingly to revert to long topmasts in order to make their topsails more effective, and in the most enthusiastic cases, the mastman would be despatched aloft to lace the luff of the topsail to the topmast and the mast itself. This certainly achieved an efficient set for the sail, but was unseamanlike in the extreme, as it totally obviated the topsail’s supposed benefit of being able to reduce sail area aloft in only a few minutes.

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until 1912 that designer Charles E Nicholson was allowed by an owner to do away with the cumbersome, eddy-inducing topmast altogether, simply by extending the mainmast in the lightest possible section in a 12 Metre.

Naturally the critics expected the new unfeasibly tall masts to break under the load of the topsails, and some of them did just that. But those tall continuous masts that stayed aloft tended to win races, and so the Marconi mast was here to stay. They were nicknamed “Marconi” masts in acknowledgement of the high aerials required by Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), whose mother was a Jameson and whose first radio report of a sporting event was the Royal St George YC Regatta of 1904 in Dublin Bay.

It was only two years after the first Marconi sailing mast appeared in a yacht that the first international racing yacht took the next logical step of making the topsail and mainsail into one, and that yacht was newly-commissioned in 1914 from Fife of Fairlie by an Irish yachtsman, Arthur F Sharman Crawford, Commodore of the Royal Munster Yacht Club on Cork Harbour.

Arthur F Sharman Crawford 10Man of many talents and interests – Arthur F Sharman Crawford contributed much to his adopted home of Cork
There’s a book to be written about Arthur F Sharman Crawford (1862-1943), for there’s no way that even a dozen blogs could explain how the Dublin-born English-educated younger son of a northern family with extensive land-holdings in County Down – particularly on the shores of Belfast Lough – came to be the Managing Director of Beamish & Crawford’s brewery in Cork. There, he joined the management team at the age of 28 in 1890, and guided it as Managing Director through some of its most successful periods, and also skillfully negotiated the difficulties of World War 1, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War in a total period from 1914 to 1923, while at the same time being a great benefactor to his adopted city, particularly in the area of technical education, but also in the broader cultural and artistic sphere.

Yet this was no unduly serious do-gooding workaholic. On the contrary, Arthur Sharman Crawford (the family preferred their double surname without a hyphen) was sports mad. A keen yachtsman who was an early owner in the Cork Harbour One Designs of 1896, he was elected Commodore of the Royal Munster YC when it was still at Monkstown in 1898. When it moved to Crosshaven in 1923, as he lived at Lota Lodge in Glanmire north of the harbour, he transferred his full allegiances to the more conveniently located Royal Cork at Cobh where he was already Vice Admiral, and in 1925 he became Admiral and served in that post until 1935.

He also rode to hounds every winter with ferocious enthusiasm, being Joint Master of Cork’s United Hunt for four years. And in later life he played a central role in the establishment of Cork Golf Club, where he served as an actively and frequently-playing President for many years. But in his prime, sailing was his main sport, and he spread his wings far beyond Cork Harbour, for he campaigned on the international scene with a Fife 12 Metre called Ierne, and as a member of many yacht clubs throughout Ireland and Britain, he was a frequent guest helm at regattas, with particularly close associations with the Royal Ulster YC on Belfast Lough.

There, his older brother Robert was Vice Commodore and chaired the committee which oversaw the five challenges for the America’s Cup by Thomas Lipton, the first in 1899 and the last in 1930. The advice of the widely-experienced Arthur was regularly sought by this committee. Yet in other areas of life, there was a parting of the ways between the two brothers. In a time of political restlessness, the northern-based Robert Sharman Crawford was uncompromisingly unionist, and became an active leader in the Ulster Volunteer Force from 1912 onwards. But in the different mood of Cork, the southern-based younger brother had a more accommodating attitude towards Home Rule, reflected in the fact that he continued to play a public role in Cork life, and all his branch of the family were at their deaths buried in the family plot on Little Island in Cork Harbour rather than in the ancestral family lands at Crawfordsburn in County Down.

Beamish Crawford Counting House 11The distinctive Beamish & Crawford Counting House in Cork was built in 1918 during Arthur Sharman Crawford’s long period as Managing Director of the brewery

There was a very pointed irony in the brothers’ relationship, for even as the brewery in Cork prospered under Arthur’s stewardship, the inherited income from the Crawford estates in the north was shrinking thanks to longterm effects of the activities of Michael Davitt’s Land League and the resultant Gladstone-inspired Land Acts of 1896. The dividends from Cork became an increasingly important part of Robert Sharman Crawford’s income to maintain his opulent lifestyle as a leading yachtsman and as Lord of the Manor of the new loughside Crawfordsburn House, built in the late 1890s to the designs of Vincent Craig. He was the architect brother of Northern Ireland’s future first Prime Minister James Craig (another sailing enthusiast), and his considerable architectural talents were at the same time being deployed for the design of the new Royal Ulster Yacht Club building, which opened in April 1899.

By 1912 and the public declaration of the Ulster Covenant with Robert Sharman Crawford a leading signatory, the fact is that his way of life was largely supported by Beamish & Crawford dividends. It seems only ironic in hindsight – at the time, everyone on all sides though they were doing the right thing. It is only in looking back from the distant and safe viewpoint of 2017 that we realise how curious it was that 104 years ago in 1913, when Colonel Robert Sharman Crawford put his own-funded brigade of the Ulster Volunteer Force through their parades, manoeuvres and exercises on the lawns and fields of Crawfordsburn House, it was all being largely paid for by the continued devotion of the Beamish stout drinkers of Munster.

Yet in that dreamlike pre-World War I era, such activities still seemed slightly theatrical and unreal, and normal life went on at an even more determinedly enthusiastic pace than ever. Having finally agreed a Measurement Rule with the defenders, early in 1914 Thomas Lipton’s latest America’s Cup Challenger, the Charles E Nicholson-designed Shamrock IV, was nearing completion in the south of England. And in the Fife yard in Fairlie in Scotland, a new William Fife designed yacht with an experimental rig was under construction for Arthur Sharman Crawford.

For although Lipton’s technically advanced Shamrock IV carried a very sophisticated gaff rig, it was a gaff rig nevertheless. Thus Arthur Sharman Crawford’s new boat was more important in terms of overall technological development. A more manageable 8 Metre after several successful but demanding years with the 12 Metre Ierne, the new Ierne II was the first yacht to the International Rule of 1907 to set a Bermudan rig.

8 Metre Ierne II 12Arthur Sharman Crawford’s 8 Metre Ierne II in 1914, when she was the first International Rule yacht with Bermudan rig.

Why is she almost totally forgotten in Ireland? Well, Arthur Sharman Crawford led a sort of sailing double life, or even treble life. At home in Cork Harbour, his sailing was local, often using local boats. On Dublin Bay and particularly in Belfast Lough, he was associated with the Lipton camp. But on the Clyde or in the Solent, he was the international or even supra-national yachtsman Arthur Sharman Crawford, challenging the top talents at a rarefied level which was remote from the more localized approach of Cork Harbour or Belfast Lough, and at a tasteful remove from the razzmatazz of Lipton’s America’s Cup challenges.

So when Ierne II appeared fresh out of the wrappers to surprise everyone in the Solent in July 1914, she had never been anywhere near either Belfast Lough or Cork Harbour. It was in the Solent that she made her debut, and for a few very encouraging weeks, while she was undoubtedly a very different creature to sail than a gaff-rigged boat, she was out-performing them all to windward.

It’s intriguing to reflect that when Ierne II was being admired as the hottest new boat in Cowes in late July 1914, briefly in the same harbour at the same time we would have seen Erskine & Molly Childers’ Asgard and Conor O’Brien’s Kelpie pretending to be leisurely cruisers going gently about their business, when in fact they were bound for the Ruytigen Lightvessel to collect their cargoes of Mauser rifles.

Within a couple of weeks, everyone’s plans were in disarray with the outbreak of World War I. All the key figures in the Asgard/Kelpie adventure quickly found themselves positions with the Allied Forces. As for Arthur Sharman Crawford, at the age of 52 this was not an immediate consideration, but his plans for a new programme of fresh excitement for a keen yachtsman past what was then considered the prime of life simply evaporated. Cowes Week 1914 was cancelled completely, and Ierne II was denied the stage which would have provided the setting to enable her to claim her rightful place in sailing history.

restored 8 Metre Ierne II 13The restored 8 Metre Ierne II is a vivid reminder of Arthur Sharman Crawford’s pioneering instincts.

Indeed, it was only when noted Yorkshire sailor Hew Jones spotted her laid up in Portugal in 2005 and set about a restoration on Humberside that the whole astonishing story was revealed. When World War II ended in 1918, anyone running a business in Cork amidst Ireland’s growing troubles had other things on his mind, and Arthur Sharman Crawford put Ierne II – laid up since the beginning of August 2014 – on the market. She was eventually bought by Norwegians who wanted a boat for the 8 Metre Class in he 1920 Olympic games in Belgium, and they struck gold in every way, as Ierne II won the Gold Medal.

The top racing sailors were increasingly convinced that Bermudan rig would be where it was at, but in the post war recession, progress was slow. Nevertheless, it was another Irish owner who led the way in the south of England. Elizabeth Workman was the widow of one of the founders of the Workman Clark shipyard in Belfast, and as they at least had done well out of the war, she had the resources to re-commission her 112ft gaff cutter Nyria, designed by Charles E Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson in 1906.

Nyria was Solent-based, and following the success of Ierne II and other newly-Bermuda rigged smaller boats in the 1920 Olympics, Elizabeth Workman took the mighty step of getting Charles Nicholson to kit out Nyria with Bermudan rig for the 1921 season, making this the first internationally recognized “big yacht” to do so.

Nyria 14Nyria, owned by Elizabeth Workman of Belfast, in 1921 became the first “big yacht” to be kitted with Bermudan rig
The corner towards Bermudan rig was being turned, and yet another impulse came from Ireland , this time with the commissioning of the world’s first Bermudan-rigged One Design class. The lively Belfast Lough sailing scene of 1914 had been largely destroyed in the trenches of the Somme by the time peace returned in 1918. In an exchange of letters in 1919, some of the more senior members of the Royal Ulster wrote about the need for a new class of boat “which could be sailed by a man and his daughters”. Far from being a gesture for women’s rights, this was simply a sad admission that so many young sailing men would never return from Flanders fields and northern France that it would be 1925 where anything approaching normal manpower levels in sailing would be regained, and so in 1921 the Alfred Mylne-designed Bermudan-rigged 29ft River class made their appearance on Befast Lough. They have never known any rig other than Bermudan, and they continue racing today, though now based on Strangford Lough.

River Class 15The River Class, seen here racing in Befast Lough in 1921, were the world’s first Bermudan-rigged One Designs.

River Class Strangford Lough 16The River Class as they are today in Strangford Lough after 96 years of setting Bermudan rig
Thereafter, the move towards Bermuda rig was inexorable and seemingly irreversible, even though sailors as experienced as Billy Mooney of Dublin were ordering the gaff rigged ketch 42ft Aideen to be built by Tyrell’s of Arklow in 1934, and he sailed her so well that he won his class in the 1947 Fastnet Race.

But others were more restless. Since 1898 the gaff-rigged Howth 17s had been sporting their jackyard topsails at their home port north of Dublin, and in 1907 the Dublin Bay Sailing Club adopted the same design, and proprietorially re-designated them as the Dublin Bay 17s. Not only that, but in 1936 a young and competitively successful Dun Laoghaire owner, Terry Roche, decided he would lead the way by converting his DBSC 17 Eileen to Bermudan rig. Despite the fact that she now carried lee helm as he would also have had to move the mast aft to make the new rig balance, he doggedly sailed her to Holyhead and back to prove that all was well. But nobody followed his lead, and after this rather expensive experiment, Eileen reverted to gaff rig and successful racing the following year, and the only lasting memorial of this project is the quaint photo of the Dun Laoghaire waterfront in 1936, a classic image worthy of Cartier-Bresson, with the Water Wags racing off the Royal Irish YC beyond, while in the left of the photo is Eileen sailing under Bermudan rig using mainsail only, which probably balanced quite nicely.

waterfront Dun Laoghaire1936 17A quirky photo worthy of Henri Cartier-Bresson. The waterfront at Dun Laoghaire in the summer of 1936, with the Water Wags beyond racing off the Royal Irish YC, and on the left Terry Roche’s Howth/Dublin Bay 17 Eileen in her brief but expensive flirtation with Bermudan rig.Photo courtesy Hilary Keatinge-Roche

Howth 17s Dun Laoghaire 18Howth 17s at Dun Laoghaire again, but this time rigged as nature intended, complete with jackyard topsails. Photo VDLR
Yet other classes such as the Belfast Lough Island class yawls changed to Bermudan rig in the 1930s, but in Dublin Bay the honour of the gaff rig was stubbornly carried until 1963 by the Dublin Bay 21s, when after sixty years of gaff they converted to Bermudan rig which gave have them another 23 years of active racing life.

Typically of everyone being out of step except Dublin Bay, 1963 was also the very year in which the Old Gaffers Association was founded simply to preserve gaff rig. Ironically, gaff rig is now more visible than ever, albeit above plastic hulls. After all, there are more than a thousand gaff-rigged Cornish Shrimpers sailing the sea.

Dublin Bay 21 19Dublin Bay 21 in full gaff rig glory

Dublin Bay 21 20It is 1963, the Old Gaffers Association has just been formed, yet in Dun Laoghaire in 1963 the Dublin Bay 21s make their debut rigged like this……..

So is it coming full circle? Maybe. After all, when the America’s Cup multi-hulls start strutting their stuff on Great Sound in Bermuda, they’ll be setting square-headed mainsails which are gaff rig in any sensible definition. And all that where Bermuda rig as we knew it for so long originated more than 183 years ago……

Ben Ainslie Americas Cup boats 21When gaffers meet….one of Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup boats making knots towards another old gaffer

But the real test is on Cork Harbour. The reversion to gaff rig came centre stage there last year when the new Ultra National 18s decided the only way to make their otherwise state-of-the-art boats truly sexy was to give them trendy square-topped mainsails.

And if by any chance the spirit of Arthur Sharman Crawford still sails about Cork Harbour, the place he came to love so well, I’ve no doubt he’ll be doing it aboard a ghostly Ierne XXX under a spectral square-topped mainsail, occasionally waxing nostalgic about the old days when he sailed Ierne II with a quaint three-sided mainsail.

National 18s Ultras 22Being fashionable. In 2016, the National 18s Ultras in Cork Harbour reverted to “gaff rig”.

Published in W M Nixon
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