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A full programme of races for nine national titles at this year's ICRA National Championships was launched this week at the Royal Cork Yacht Club by Minister Simon Coveney. 

Admiral John Roche and ICRA Chairman Simon McGibney were also present as was newly elected ISA President Jack Roy. The national event will be held in the Crosshaven club from Friday June 9th to Sunday June 11th and will be officiated by international race officers Jack Roy, Alan Crosbie and Peter Crowley.

Minister Coveney spoke of his delight in seeing Crosshaven and Kinsale (Sovereigns Cup) hosting major sailing events this summer and he wished both clubs every success. He encouraged all sailors to partake in the regattas and keep the sport at the forefront of the international sailing calendar which in turn will bring visitors from overseas and other Irish ports to the local area.

Royal Cork YC Launch ICRA Nationals 27th March 2017ICRA Champs launched – Royal Cork Admiral John Roche with Minister Coveney, ISA President Jack Roy, Event Chairman Paul Tingle and ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney. Photo: Bob Bateman

Royal Cork Admiral John Roche thanked event chairman Paul Tingle and his committee for running the event on behalf of the club and wished them every support and success. 

Entry to the ICRA National Championships is now available on-line (royalcork.com and cruiserracing.ie) with a very reasonable entry fee of €150 per boat.

Published in ICRA

The International Rating Certificate (IRC) global rating rule is used for hundreds of events in 40 countries. In UK waters IRC competition is fierce both for the National Championship, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and for regional championships which range from Scotland to the Channel Islands.

Two new IRC Championships have been added for 2017: an Inland Championship on Lake Windermere and an Autumn Championship organised by Hamble River SC – both add an extra challenge to an existing winter series. In addition to regional events there are championships for Small Boats and Double Handed crews.

Winners of each Championship will also win a special prize package from IRC sponsors Spinlock.

The 2017 GBR IRC Championships are:

Solent (May-October)
Scottish (May)
Sussex (June)
Channel Islands (June)
National (June)
East Coast (July)
Welsh National (August)
South West (August)
Southern (September)
Small Boat (September)
Double Handed (September)
Autumn (September)
Inland (November-March)

Published in RORC

Ireland will be the base for the Nigel Biggs Checkmate XVIII Half Ton campagin this season with a programme that includes the ICRA Nationals, Sovereigns Cup, Dun Laoghaire Regatta and the Half Ton Cup in Kinsale.

In a previous Irish campaign, Biggs was the overall winner of the 2013 'Boat of the Week' at a massive Dun Laoghaire Regatta edition with seven straight wins in class two.

Biggs's 'new' Half–Tonner that is currently very much a work in progress (see photo above) is the old Emiliano Zapata, ex Dick Dastardly, ex French Beret, ex Concorde from 1985. As with his previous two successful half–tonners (Harmony and Checkmate XV) she has been 'breathed on' by Wicklow yacht designer Mark Mills with a revised sailplan and keel. All the work is being undertaken at his team base near Bangor in North Wales and he anticipates launching early May.

Having campaigned his C&C 30 in the US in the US last year, (debuting in Dun Laoghaire in 2015) Biggs say his 12–year–old daughter had been nagging him to get a boat over this side of the Atlantic so she could sail with him more often. 'What father could refuse such a request?' he told Afloat.ie

Checkmate XVIII boat will be sailed by his usual team, some of whom have sailed together for over 20 years and some of whom have only joined over the last couple of years ( Dun Laoghaire's Adam Hyland and Cian Guilfoyle) plus his daughter, of course.

Published in ICRA

Class Two is certainly heating up and expanding this year writes Dave Cullen, Skipper of championship winning half–tonner Checkmate XV. The quality of the fleet must make it one of the most competitive with boats ranging from €15k to €150k all in with a fighting chance of the podium.

At the bottom of the rating band, Sigma 33s make up the numbers and the top end is dominated by J97s and Elan 333s.

Such are the numbers that a number of boats might find themselves unhappy participants in Class One which happened in Sovereigns Cup two years ago.

The fleet is diverse and includes a sizeable X302 fleet from Howth YC including the stalwart podium winner DUX, Maximus and Viking to name but a few.

J97 Lambay RulesStephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules is at the top of the Class Two Rating Band Photo: Afloat.ie

Half Tonner CortegadaCork's George Radley adds his latest 'half' Half Tonner Cortegada to the Class Two fleet this season. Photo: Bob Bateman

checkmate half ton champion1David Cullen's Checkmate from Howth Yacht Club is the 2015 Half Ton champion

Harmony Half tonnerPopular Half tonner Harmony from Howth (Jonny Swan) is on the Class Two circuit Photo: Bob Bateman

Half tonner Big pictureAnother quality Half tonner campaign from HYC, The Big Picture (Michael and Richard Evans). Photo: Afloat.ie

The Half Ton class is formidable and apart from the locals of Checkmate XV, Harmony, King One and The Big Picture, visiting boats planning on basing campaigns here include Nigel Biggs latest Checkmate XVIII ex Dick Dastardly, Paul Wayte from Swansea's HB31 Headhunter and the highly optimised Miss Whiplash returns to Dublin owned by Paul Pullen visiting from Swansea. Demolition from Falmouth is also likely to appear. George Radley adds his latest 'half' Cortegada to the pile of quality competitors.

X302 DuxThe X302 fleet from Howth YC includes stalwart DUX Photo: Afloat.ie

Throw in DB1s, J80s, Corby 25 & 26s and the start line really shapes up with a sharp competitive fleet.

It's easy to predict the half tonners as dominating with light to medium conditions suit them for sure. The same applies with the Corbys. Throw in an extra few knots and the X302s pick up their heels as do the Sigma 33s which are never too far behind. Movistar Blue and Lambay Rules like a breeze too so the field is really wide open.

Sigma 33The Sigma 33 class, formerly a stand alone one design class, have joined DBSC Cruisers Two division this year, boosting numbers on Dublin Bay to 19 Photo: Afloat.ie

Biggs CheckmateCheckmate XVIII – the old Emiliano Zapata, ex Dick Dastardly, ex French Beret, ex Concorde from 1985 is undergoing a refit in North Wales, launching early May

On Dublin Bay, there will be a reported 19 boats in this year's DBSC Cruisers two fleet boosted by eight Sigma 33s who join the division. 

As to predictions, any of the boats in the class can win but need to arrive on the line in good shape and well prepared. Rub your hand over the bum of any of the Class leaders and you will see the efforts put in as the best winning ingredient for race wins is boat speed.

I think a prediction is futile without a weather forecast so I would say for lighter traditional Dublin summer conditions, any of the half tonners or the Corby 25 will feature in a windward–leeward race, Lambay Rules (J97) prefers a reach round the cans races whilst a well sailed Sigma 33 has a real chance if they can stop the mighty Dux in breezy conditions.

Having answered the question like a politician would, if it was predictable none of us would bother, so place your bets and see how it fared out in October. I'll put a tenner on Biggsy though!

Dave Cullen of Howth Yacht Club is Skipper of Half–Tonner Checkmate XV and won the 2015 Half Ton Classics Cup with a race to spare

Published in ICRA

On the other hand, ICRA could equally mean 'Ireland’s Cool Runnings Assembly'. In the week in which the Travelling Community was granted Ethnic Minority Status, W M Nixon finds himself among two groups which might be equally deserving of such recognition.

You know how it is as we swing into Spring and its embarrassment of Saturday choices. There it was, Saturday 4th March coming up on the busy agenda, and the inevitable dilemma. Should we be in Cowes for the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Yachting Historians in the Squadron castle? Or was appearance mandatory at the Irish Cruiser Racing Association’s day-long Annual Conference in Limerick, followed by a mysterious awards ceremony that night in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire?

The old Learjet being no longer airworthy, it was a case of staying on the Irish island rather than that of Wight, and trusting that our car-of-a-certain-age-of-a-Swedish-brand-which-is–no-longer-manufactured would be up to the rigours of the M7. For the fact that trains go only to railway stations rather than your actual destination made the car the only option for a trans-island logistical challenge in very limited time.

icra conference 2The ICRA Annual Conference has become a staple of the early Spring programme
I know some people do double journeys like this five days a week as part of their working lives, and take it for granted. However, as one who rates long-distance commuting right up there with wind farms as one of the crazier things about modern life, it’s quite an effort to get the body there and back again, and the soul takes even longer.

What on earth can it all be for? But then you step into the Conference Centre in the Castletroy Park Hotel with everyone – most of them acquaintances and many old friends - sat in companionable comfort around a mega-table as though we’re negotiating peace in Syria. And it’s like stepping into a judiciously-drawn bath of the perfect temperature. For these are kindred spirits, upwards of seventy of them from all parts of Ireland, and we’re going to talk about boats and sailing matters all day. Bliss.

For an outsider, though, I can see that this must seem like a separate species talking in their own language. The thought of Travellers rattling away in Shelta at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair springs to mind. So yes indeed, let’s give ICRA enthusiasts Ethnic Minority Status. After all, like Travellers, ICRA people’s special enthusiasm in life is to pack themselves into crowded damp spaces and try to move around and possibly get somewhere else at least as soon as the others. And when they do get there in any significant numbers, it disturbs the peace of the neighbourhood and creates nervousness in parents with daughters of a certain age, fearful that they might be attracted to the nomadic life.

Simon McGibney 3Simon McGibney leads ICRA with energetic enthusiasm

But enough of such dreaming, there was serious business to be done. And with people of the calibre of ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney of Foynes YC and ICRA number-cruncher Denis Kiely of Kinsale as joint MCs, the pace was impressive.

Simon is the leaping-about man, making his points here, there and everywhere, and when he reckons he isn’t everywhere enough, his fellow Foynes yottie and sailing instructor Elaine O’Mahoney dances in to give assistance.

Denis by contrast is Buddha-like. He sits in the one place with a commanding view of everyone, and orchestrates proceedings and Q&A sessions with a natural authority which makes you think he should be right there in Geneva or wherever it is, bringing order and peace to the Middle East.

Denis kiely 4Denis Kiely gave us all an object lesson in how to orchestrate a conference and handle Q&A sessions

For people for whom sociable business conferences are a regular part of life, I presume all this is all run-of-the-mill. But I’m the single spy who works alone in a rat’s nest of an office with a clutter of material within arms reach when it’s not available on the proper-size screen which rules my life, so experiencing human interaction at this level is bracing, to say the least.

And the ICRA annual gathering is such a clearcut focal point for a certain type of sailing enthusiast that it attracts international attention. Last year, we had Dobbs Davis and Zoran Grubisa of the Offshore Racing Congress promoting their measurement rule. As one had travelled from America while the other had come from Croatia to spread the message, I suppose the fact that the man from the International Rating Certificate office had only come over from Lymington to talk to ICRA wasn’t such a big deal. But Mike Urwin is such an obliging bloke, and an entertaining speaker with it, that we can’t help but nurture a secret hope that the possible discussions under the aegis of the RORC about amalgamating the two systems go on for ever, for their success might deprive us of entertaining speakers….

Mike Urwin RORC IRC 5Mike Urwin made the case for IRC in engaging style

IRC 6What the IRC does

IRC rating 7The prospects for IRC. Ireland is going to be the test-bed for the internationalization of the online service.

I’d an insight into the special role Mike fills in the international offshore racer community one summer’s evening a year or two back, when I’d an email from a guy on quayside in the Mediterranean where he’d found himself looking at the Ron Holland-designed Irish Mist II of 1975 vintage, and that very special boat had a Se Vende notice. She was built in Cork for Archie O’Leary to come out as a distinctly potent machine around 40ft long, and our man on the quay guessed that he might have a worthwhile performer for the Committee International Mediterannee (CIM) vintage IOR class, if only he could be sure that an IOR Rating for Irish Mist II from the 1970s could be given full provenance.

When you get such a message outside of what used to be called working hours, time was when you’d put off dealing with it until the next morning. But I simply fired off an email to Anthony O’Leary whom I knew to be doing Cowes Week in Antix at the time, and from the midst of some après sailing pub came the message: “Mother of God, does this guy think I carry a filing cabinet around with me? And anyway, in the 1970s I’d better things to do than look after the paperwork”.

But then half an hour later from another pub came the message “Rob Jacob says we should signal Mike Urwin, will let you know”. And believe it or not, before the night was out, we had the word that Mike had been able to access an IOR Rating Certificate for 1978 for Irish Mist II, and all was well with the world.

Cape youth keelboat 8Nobby Reilly is convinced young Irish sailors will be looking to boats like the new Mark Mills-designed Cape 31. Old salts will know the original Cape One Designs of 1956 provided the hull shape for the famous Black Soo.
As to matters in Limerick, the conference got off to an energetic start with former Commodore Nobby Reilly of Howth analyzing what the new generation seeks in cruiser-racers to guide us into a theme of the day, the ever-present need to make the world aware that cruiser-racing – whether inshore or offshore - can be great sport. And the tinkering with your boat to maximize your rating is not a drawback - on the contrary, it’s part of the technical interest of the sport in its broadest sense. On top of that, there’s funding available from ICRA for clubs which want to develop cruiser-racing as part of their local programme, and there’s a wide range of support material which will raise the ICRA presence in your area and prove mutually beneficial.

Corporate sailing 12A case study of corporate promotion was presented…..

Corporate sailing 12….and we got the follow-up too
Particularly interesting was the presentation from Colin Moorehead with useful interjections from Denis Kiely about how the Training Grant scheme and the promotion with the ISA of the Try Sailing project in the context of Colin’s own club, the Royal Cork, had been so successful that at Afloat's and the ISA's National Sailing Awards at the end of January, Colin was singled out for an award himself.

Simon McGibney then took over for an energetic outline of the working of the Crewpoint scheme, to let people know that the most important thing – as in so many areas of life – is simply to turn up, ICRA and other volunteers will take it from there, and you’ll get your introduction to sailing.

Corporate sailing 12Simply turn up – the ICRA, ISA and Club volunteers will take it from there

Corporate sailing 12Need we say more?

icra con13All that ICRA ask is that you clearly display their banner and don’t just leave it in a cupboard, and you report back to them on the progress of the programme

Sensibly refreshed by lunch, we found any tendency to a post-prandial zizz completely blown away by Maurice the Prof O’Connell’s presentation on Embarr’s world championship win. It was riveting stuff, with the effort involved generally – and not just the superhuman dedication to achieving maximum fitness and optimum crew weight – giving a vivid illustration of the utter diversity of our sport, which takes in everything from gentle sailing in a local classic class to the Worlds of specialist boats like the Melges 24.

Melges Embarr 17A mountain to climb – the target set for Conor Clarke’s Embarr

Melges Embarr 17The programme to get there…

Melges Embarr 17And the team that did it

It’s easy to complain that the existence of more than 150 recognised World Championships in sailing dilutes the impact of the sport. But the truth is that this diversity is central to the whole picture, and sailing benefits by so many valid prizes being available for the wide range of One Design classes.

And that’s before we moved on to Mike Urwin’s presentation on the added level of diversity which is dealt with through the IRC. Of particular interest in Ireland was his assertion that “protecting the existing fleet” is at the core of the IRC’s functioning, for the fact is many of us are optimising and actively racing boats which would be older than those found elsewhere.

Melges Embarr 17We have a result…..Embarr on her way to winning the Worlds, November 2016

We do so through a crowded programme of events. ICRA tries as far as possible to take the mission to as many clubs as possible, thus it prefers to maintain the independence of its National Championship, rather than subsuming it into some larger regatta. So special attention was paid to Paul Tingle of Royal Cork, as he is organising the ICRA Nats there on from June 9th to 11th. It’s a time when the activity levels are soaring throughout sailing, but the lure of the Nationals carry their own appeal against what might be seen as rival events.

Certainly regular readers of Afloat.ie will be well aware of the energetic levels of discussion as to how the annual sailing programme might be better structured. But if you insist on amalgamating events and championships, you reduce the significance of the prizes involved. Not everyone aims to win a World championship, but it’s encouraging to any crew to finish with their name up in lights just now and again. So in tandem with the continuation of a crowded programme, the development of ICRA’s Progressive ECHO performance handicap system is another important part of this significant organisation’s contribution to Irish sailing.

As ever, the conference ended on the highlight of ICRA “Boat of the Year”. On Afloat.ie in the week from Monday February 27th until the conference itself on Saturday March 4th, we ran an online poll which had a very gratifying response. But as with other awards, it was done in the knowledge that such polls are only advisory, as judges have a job to do to keep populism under control.

Thus in the Afloat.ie poll. Jonny Swann’s Half Tonner Harmony from Howth topped the votes at 949 (39.9%) while John Maybury’s J/109 Joker 2 from the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire logged 831 votes to come in at 35%. Yet it was Joker 2 which became Boat of the Year 2016, and rightly so, but maybe somebody should have come up with an award for Boat Which Most Stylishly Survived A Port Tack Mark Rounding Event During A Major Championship Trophy for Harmony…

Taking the road home for that night’s awards event at the Royal Irish, the thought processes were at first dominated by ideas put forward by Peter Ryan the chairman of ISORA, and John Hughes who has now taken on the mantle in Wicklow of running the Round Ireland Race, as I’d been sitting with the two of them during the Conference.

Both as ever were bubbling with ideas, but John particularly has one which will be of interest, as on the same day as he starts the next Round Ireland Race in June 2018, he will start a much shorter co-event, from Wicklow to Cork Harbour, with the Royal Cork at Crosshaven hosting the finish.

Round Ireland yacht race 18George David’s Rambler 88 finding her way through a motley fleet at the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016. What would it be like if the start of the classic Round Ireland Race in June 2018 was combined with its proposed new shorter sister, the Wicklow to Cork Race? Photo: W M Nixon

The debate was whether or not he should start the shorter race before or after the main event, but it was somewhere in the midst of zooming through a rainshower in Laois that I realized he should start them together. Boats would be invited to enter both races (at the full entry fee, of course) and then as they’re slugging to windward off Cork Harbour on Sunday night and in the small hours of Monday morning, when some sad and seasick crewman says he or she wishes they were racing to Cork Harbour, the kindly and generous owner-skipper can say: “We are!”, he then throws a right into Cork Harbur, but they still have a result…..

It was all a suitably daft scenario to get oneself in the right frame of mind for dinner through an evening and night in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, an establishment of which a notably acerbic observer of Irish sailing has remarked: “Irish sailing is divided into those who get the Royal Irish, and those who don’t, and that’s all there is to it”.

Royal Irish yacht club 19“You either get it, or you don’t…..” The Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, with the Fife-desgned 70ft Hallowe’en, line honours winner in the 1926 Fastnet race, berthed alongside. Photo: W M Nixon

Definitely a case for Ethnic Minority Status here too, one might think. But anyone who reckons this unique establishment is above the hurly burly of every day competition afloat would already have been put right by being in Limerick, and realizing that both Conor Clarke’s Embarr and John Maybury’s Joker 2 are part of the Royal Irish fleet. Nevetheless I’d received an invitation that could be interpreted ever which way, so the best thing was to hide oneself in a table of very good friends among whom the classic boat ownership included two Water Wags, three Howth Seventeens, and an indeterminate number of Dublin Bay 21s, two of which may have changed hands during the course of the evening.

Next door to us was the much larger and more boisterous assembly of George Sisk’s crew apparently - as since revealed in Afloat.ie - deciding they were by no means past it yet, and working towards supporting their skipper in a decision for a new Class Zero boat. The evening drew on, and then with classic laid-back RIYC style, Rear Commodore (Sailing) Patsy Burke oversaw the awards which saw the following honours:

Boat of the Year: Jim McCann & Paul Cadden (Peridot)

Cruiser of the Year: Des Cummins & Storme Delaney (joint winners)

Best International: Saskia Tidey and Andrea Brewster (49erFX)

Best IRC: Colin Byrne (Bon Exemple)

Best Cruiser-racer ECHO: George Sisk, WOW

Traveller Award: Paul Smith & Pat Mangan (Jill)

Best One Design Result: Ger Dempsey & Chris Nolan (Venue’s World)

Best White Sail Result: David Clarke (Fortitudine)

Contribution to Sailing: Henry Leonard

Most improved boat: Derek Butler (Borraine)

Best Big Boat Performance: Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager)

Volunter of the Year (House): Winifred McCourt

Volunteer of Year (Sailing): Tim Carpenter & Kevin Leonard (joint winners)

Most improved Adult Sailors: Katherine Sheehan & Tony Barlow

Somewhere in the midst of it, your reporter received an award for scribbling, And as you’ll note the intrepid Enda O’Coineen was honoured for his astonishing achievements against the odds during 2016 in his Open 60 Kilcullen Voyager, for it was a cruel swipe of fate that his mast should come crashing down on January 1st 2017.

Thus your reporter was left looking like a stunned mullet, as for some reason I’d got it into my head that there was a literary dimension to it all, and the reason I’d been invited was to honour Enda O’Coineen’s best contribution to Irish sailing in 2016. We highlighted it here on Christmas Eve. But it’s well worth looking at again:

Published in W M Nixon

Crew number limits or crew weight limits at this year's ICRA National Championships are under review following discussion at last weekend's ICRA Conference in Limerick where it was shown different regattas deal with crew weight limits in different ways. 

The focus of conversation, under guest speaker Mike Urwin of the RORC, was the disposal of crew limits at events such as the ICRA National Championships.

The 2017 ICRA Notice of Race states 'IRC Rule 22.4 will be deleted'. This rule says: “The Crew Number printed on each boat’s certificate shall not be exceeded or the crew weight shall not exceed 85kg multiplied by the Crew Number printed on the certificate.”

As the rule does not apply at the ICRAs, boats have an option to take less crew on a light wind day and stack the rail in breeze.  

Quest Quarter tonnerThe Quarter tonner Quest in light air mode for the 2016 ICRA Championships at Howth. Photo: Afloat.ie

 Traditionally, fun regattas like Calves Week, did not have crew limits, so that late crew members could be recruited from the quayside and children could also be accommodated as required.

The move to delete the limit rule followed significant consultation with sailors and ICRA surveys found overwhelming support for its withdrawal.

However, the meeting heard that for 'serious regattas', such as a national championships, not having a crew limit can lead to advantages to those who bring a large crew pool to an event, thus upping overall costs of participation.

Some delegates believed championships should stick to the IRC certificate crew limit or maybe the 'cert plus one'. Others thought a stipulation in the Sailing Instructions requiring the same crew numbers in every race would be helpful.

The ICRA Executive is to review the comments made on the day, and a decision on the situation for the Royal Cork championships in June will be made 'sooner than later', ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney told Afloat.ie.

'ICRA have taken on board comments and will review the discussions before any final decision is made' 

 Should there be crew limits? Have your say in our reader poll below.

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Published in ICRA

With just over six weeks to the Sherry Fitzgerald sponsored Dublin Bay Sailing Club season the stand–out class of the year looks like Cruisers One where a 20–boat fleet has 13 J/109s among its number. It's an impressive result that bodes well for a very competitive season but in the neighbouring big boat class should something be done to assist falling numbers in Cruisers Zero?

A story this week on Afloat.ie shows George Sisk's Wow from the Royal Irish Yacht Club is on the market. With only four other entries presently in DBSC Cruisers Zero is it now time to dispense with a Cruisers Zero class on Dublin Bay and rearrange the bands to take some lower–rated Cruisers One boats back into Cruisers Two?

Such a scenario is unlikely with the news that Sisk's WOW will be campaigned fully this season and a new Sisk forty footer is in the wings. In fact, there is also the possibility that Cruisers Zero could reach six boats this season with another new boat – yet to be announced – coming into the Bay. 

There is also talk of DBSC moving the Cruisers One band lower to move some Cruisers One boats into Cruisers Zero but is that the answer?

Cruisers Zero was never that particularly strong in Dublin Bay and generally came about to ensure they got decent length races as the Cruisers One boats were considerably slower. However with the ever increasing speed of Cruisers One boats the gap in elapsed time between Cruisers Zero and Cruisers One has been reducing considerably.

WOW Farr 42Cruisers Zero Farr 42 Wow is for sale but will be replaced with a similar sized boat Photo: Afloat.ie

Cruisers One, spearheaded by the J109 designs, is clearly the strongest class in DBSC and likely in the country. Since the J109 class moved to non–overlapping jibs and consistently updated their sail wardrobes with the latest in sail technologies, they have been getting quicker and quicker.

Joker 2 J109ICRA Boat of the Year, Joker 2, a J109 from the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie

Three of the last four ICRA championships in Cruisers One have been won by J109’s including the last two years (Joker II) and the 2016 ICRA Boat of the Year is also a J109 (Joker II). A J109 also was a class winner in the Round Ireland race 2016 (Storm). The J109 class has pushed others in Cruisers One to up their game and now we see both the Archambault 35s Gringo and Adrenalin becoming much more competitive, along with the XP33 Bon Exemple that has gone through many changes over the last few year (symmetric to Asymmetric and back again, lowering their rating). Add to this Paul O'Higgins mighty Rockabill VI, the JPK 10.80, and Cruisers One is the strongest it has ever been.

Rockabill VI JPK10.80Paul O'Higgins mighty Rockabill VI, the JPK 10.80 design will be unstoppable in heavy airs. Photo: Afloat.ie

At the start of last season Tim Goodbody brought in the J109 White Mischief and two further J109’s have entered the fleet in the last six months, Andrew Algeo's Juggerknot and Andrew Craig's Chimeara. All three are seasoned campaigners and will surely drive the fleet further.

White Mischief J109Recent arrival – Tim Goodbody's White Mischief J109 was immediately competitive Photo: Afloat.ie

Gringo A35The A35 Gringo has a flatter stern and quick dead downwind. Photo: Afloat.ie

So who will be on the DBSC podiums this year in Cruisers One and also Cruisers One at ICRAs? With 13 J109’s competing surely the podium will be stacked with these 15–year–old designs? They are extremely competitive in lighter airs and can hold their own when the breeze gets up. Their only weakness is running in stronger winds where the lighter, and flatter sterned modern designs, like the A 35’s and XP 33’s can pull their poles back and go straight downwind, whereas the asymmetric J109’s have to do higher angles.

Bon Exemple XP33XP33 Bon Exemple – different spinnaker configurations. Photo: Afloat.ie

If, however, the winds stay stronger for a whole series, like ICRA's 2015, it will be very hard to beat Rockabill VI. This boat is extremely powerful and will go upwind and downwind much faster than the rest of the fleet in a breeze, even taking into account her higher handicap. However it appears she has a weakness in light airs and one day of these conditions in a series might be a problem for her.

Three in a Row for Joker II at ICRAs?

Among the J109’s the top performer from 2016, John Maybury's Joker 2 is going for three in a row at ICRA's having won in 2015 and 2016. She will not have it all her own way however as Tim Goodbody's White Mischief and Pat Kelly's Storm are always very competitive. The newly arrived Chimeara and Juggerknot might also have something to say. The A35 Gringo has shown a lot of form as has Bon Exemple. At ICRAs you will also likely be seeing the A35 Fools Gold of Rob O'Connell in contention as he has done in the last two events.

Packed Season

2017 is set to be a very interesting year for this ever strengthening class with 3 large events in Ireland for them to battle it out. The ICRA Championships in Cork Harbour in June, ten days later, Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale, and a few weeks after that Dun Laoghaire Regatta Some may also venture to Tarbert in Late May, Calves Week in Early August and Abersoch week in Late August. There are plenty of good events available and some great racing ahead. Allied to all of this a great regular racing scene in Cruisers One in the DBSC series.

Published in DBSC

Afloat.ie’s W M Nixon may have received the Royal Irish YC’s “Maritime Journalist of the Year” Award on Saturday night for his “ability to make even the most advanced and complex sailing issues understandable and of interest not only to ordinary sailors, but to non-sailors too”, but he reckons the blog for this coming weekend will pose one of his biggest challenges ever, as he will be trying to explain what goes on in the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Association Conference.

Having attended last Saturday’s capacity gathering in Limerick, it was clear that while in some localities and some areas of interest, sailing appears to be in decline, the popularity of national Irish Cruiser-Racer Conferences is greater than ever.

And as for the irresistible attraction of an historic and distinguished yacht club handing out its Oscars……well, the RIYC could teach Hollywood a thing or two. Despite a packed-out dining room, it was all smoothly done after a very fine and convivial dinner with efficiency and humour, combined with a palpable sense of community. Nixon promises us he’ll try to do justice to it and ICRA on Saturday, but admits that having apparently spent the weekend zapping back and forth across Ireland, he is still waiting for his soul to catch up with his body. 

Additonal reporting from ICRA: Declining fleets and youth engagement nationwide led to a wide-ranging discussion that started the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) conference in Limerick.

More than 70 sailors from all corners of Ireland were in attendance to hear proposed solutions from the ICRA leadership that received an enthusiastic reception.

Joker II J109 J109 Joker II. Photo: Afloat.ie

John Maybury’s J109 Joker 2 from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire was announced as the ICRA Boat of the Year following a successful 2016 season that included the IRC national championship title and victory for the Irish Defence Forces team in the Beaufort Cup as part of Volvo Cork Week.

Addressing the twin problems of falling fleet numbers and poor youth participation, ICRA’s Denis Kiely led a broad discussion that found similar stories from clubs and organisers around the coast.

In spite of the problems being experienced by the majority of clubs, ICRA is actively delivering solutions aimed at helping some of the issues. Several programmes were outlined at the conference including:

Crew Point – a physical and online scheme to link sailors and boats;
Cruiser Training Grant – applicants can receive €1,000 supporting grant;
Training Curriculum for Cruiser Racing – in development.

There were also calls for more investment, particularly in club fleets of small keelboats, professional coaching and recruitment, better collaboration between neighbouring clubs and a clearer pathway into keelboats for dinghy sailors and varsity teams.

“We’ve got to get our act together, we’ve got huge potential!” commented former ICRA Commodore Norbert Reilly. Clubs should be in contact with local schools and improve collaboration to get more people into the sport.

In other modules at the ICRA Conference, Paul Tingle of the Royal Cork YC outlined plans for the annual ICRA National Championships to be held over three days at Crosshaven from 9th of 11th June 2017. Free berthing, coastal courses, space for camper vans and assistance to deliver boats to Kinsale for the Sovereigns Regatta are among many features for the championships.

Published in ICRA

John Maybury's Joker II was named 'Boat of the Year' this afternoon at the ICRA Conference in Limerick.

The judges followed the lead given to them by Afloat.ie readers this week in an online poll where Joker II featured prominently.

Announcing the winner from a shortlist of 12 boats, previewed by Afloat.ie here, the Dublin J109 that competes in both offshore and inshore disciplines was marked out for its consistent performance at the ICRA National Championships in Howth.

Maybury, of the Royal Irish Yacht Club, recorded a back-to-back win in the ICRA Nats – the only boat to do so in 2015–2016 – and under the skippering of Commandant Barry Byrne, she was the first winner of the new inter-forces Beaufort Cup including winning its Fastnet Race. Same boat, but completely different crews – Joker 2 made a special claim for top boat of the year.

Joker 2 J109The J109 Joker II will be seeking three titles in a row at this year's ICRA National Championships in June. Photo: Aflloat.ie

Maybury's crew, it has been revealed, are aiming for three in a row at this year's National Championships at Royal Cork Yacht Club in June.

The trophy was accepted this afternoon by one of Maybury's crew, Mark Mansfield, the four time Olympian from Royal Cork Yacht Club.

ICRA conferenceICRA Commodore Simon McGibney addresses 70 delegates at today's ICRA conference in Limerick

Published in ICRA

The significance of the RORC decision to merge the Commodore's Cup with the IRC Europeans in 2018 has extra meaning for Ireland given at least half of the Irish fleet will not be eligible to race due to a ratings band change. 

RORC has set a lower rating limit of 1.000 so that means, for example, first and second overall at the 2016 Europeans (Irish boats, Anchor Challenge and Harmony) will not be able to compete in 2018.

It is a vastly different situation to that which existed for the inaugural Euros at Cork Week 2016 and also this year's event in Marseilles. The 2017 event has a minimum limit of .900 allowing them this year.

Details of the 2018 event were published by Afloat.ie yesterday here.

Ireland's fleet has a lot of sub 1.000 boats, but particularly the growing Quarter and Half Ton classes.

Two of the strongest classes at the ICRA championships are class 2 and class 3 and effectively IRC organisers (UNCL and RORC) are not giving them a place at their own European championships.

No doubt this is something that will be addressed tomorrow at the ICRA conference in Limerick where RORC will be in attendance and can give an explanation.

'It appears RORC are trying to resurrect the dying Commodores Cup by attaching it to the IRC Europeans, and in so doing is telling smaller, often less wealthy owners, that they are now not interested in them, a leading Irish IRC racer told Afloat.ie'.

A change to a lower limit that at least includes the Half tonners would be to Ireland's advantage.

Published in RORC
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