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Once the ISORA fleet completes its fourth race to Arklow on Saturday, organisers have cooked up a novel and unique race five in the Averycrest sponsored series. Originally, it had been intended that ISORA would join with Howth Yacht Club in the Lambay Race but when the date of that race was brought forward it clashed with the ISORA race to finish in Dublin Port as part of the Dublin Port Riverfest. The solution was 'simple', according to ISORA's Peter Ryan, so they combined the two races into one event and will have two finishes!

There will be a special 'ISORA Class' in the HYC Lambay Race. Boats can enter both the ISORA Class of the Lambay Race and the ISORA Day Race. The start of both races will be provided by Howth YC and the course around Lambay will set by HYC.

The ISORA Class fleet will then proceed to the Lambay race finish off Howth where finish times will be recorded and prizes awarded. However, what is unique about this race is that the ISORA fleet will treat the finish line as a mark on the course and continue on the race toward the 'second finish' in Dublin Port.

The courses for both parts of this unique race will be circulated on the Thursday before the race.

This unique race will test the ability of the racing rules and the use of the YB trackers, but that is the challenge!

Published in ISORA

The interest and resulting entry for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle D2D Race has exceeded all our expectations, writes race organiser Adam Winkelmann.

We now have 39 confirmed entries and expect to have close to 45 boats on the start line on Wednesday June 14th. Janet Grosvenor from RORC will be here to observe the start on June 14th and race management procedures with a view to our ambition to be a RORC endorsed race in 2019. I think with these numbers we are on a good path to that. There is no doubt that the resurgence in ISORA has been a significant factor in the growth and composition of the racing class. By adding RORC in the future we can expect other boats to enter to qualify their crew for the Fastnet Race later in the same year.

We have had a very positive reaction from sailors to our revised schedule of a Wednesday evening start and a Prizegiving Party in Benners Hotel in Dingle on Saturday June 17th. We have included a time limit of 18.00hrs on Saturday in the Sailing Instructions to ensure that we can proceed with prizes later that evening. This facilitates the sailors crew planning for a return to Sovereigns Cup or to work on Monday! We will be giving each boat a crate of Crean’s Beer on arrival in Dingle. Many boats have also booked accommodation with our long term partner the Dingle Skelligs Hotel and no doubt much of the post race analysis will take place in the bar there.

We are looking forward greatly to the start from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire on June 14th at 19.00hrs (starting area in Scotsmans Bay) and encourage as many as want to come out either on the pier or in boats to wave the fleet off on its journey. Yellow Brick tracking of the race will be available so families and supporters can follow the race from start to finish. If the crews bring the trackers to the pub with them as happened last time you will even be able to locate them there!

UPDATE: Comment From Sgrech skipper Stephen Tudor:

Sgrech is committed to the 'D2D' classic offshore race and will be on the starting line on June 14th.
The race provides offshore challenges at 270 miles but also some of the most spectacular scenery from the start in Dublin Bay, southwards down the banks along the east coast of Ireland, Tuskar Rock Light with her South Hen and Chickens. Along the south coast to Fastnet and onwards into the Atlantic.
The next corner the Bull, The Cow and The Calf - spectacular and it does look like a bull.
Next the Great Skellig - truly magnificent but watch out for the Washerwoman Rock - she is vicious!
Then north east to Dingle, the welcome from Fungie the resident dolphin.
Then there is Dingle - a fantastic destination and the high street pubs worth a visit before a party and a gentle cruise home! - Classic join us.

ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan adds: After the Round Ireland Race, it is one of the best offshore races in these waters. After the race, nothing matches the craic in Dingle.

Class divisions breakdown as follows: 

11 Cruiser Class
3 Mini 650 Class
5 2 Handed Class
19 Racing Class

39 D2D entries to date are below: 

ACT Two

DuFour 425

IRL4250

Cruiser

AJ Wanderlust

Jeanneau 45.2 Sun Odyssey

IOM 8931 R

2-handed

aquelina

J-112E

IRL 1507

Racing

Aurelia

J Boats

IRL35950

Racing

Birmayne

Bruce Roberts

IRL 756

Cruiser

Cavatina

Granada 38

IRL3861

Racing

Elandra

SIgma 33

IRL 4536

Racing

EOS

X 362 SPORT

IRL 6695

Racing

Fulmar Fever

Westerly Fulmar

FR 14

Cruiser

Gemo

Mini 650 Dingo 1

FR 699

2-handed

Golden Fleece

Sigma 41

IRL51215

Cruiser

Harriet Marwood

Farrow & Chambers,   Collins 40 Tandem Keel

GBR3556L

Cruiser

Indian

J109

1543

2-handed

IOS Desert Star

Jeanneau

irl 1397

Racing

Jedi

J109

IRL 8088

Racing

Juggerknot

J/109

IRL 3660

Racing

Lady Rowena

Sadler

IRL34218

Cruiser

Lively Lady

Beneteau First 44.7

IRL1644

Racing

LOBSTER

Two Ton Dubois

IRL 7077

2-handed

Maybird

Shepherd design built by Jack Terrell in 1937

GBR 644R

Cruiser

Mojito

J/109

GBR0947R

Racing

Oystercatcher

Dufour

IRL 1177

Cruiser

Pamela

Discovery 55

IRL5503

Cruiser

Pipedreamer VI

Dufour 40

GBR 2271L

Cruiser

Platinum Blonde

Beneteau 35 First

IRL 3516

Racing

Port of Galway Black

Mini 6.50/ Proto

303

2-handed

Port of Galway Green

Mini Transat 6.5 Proto

IRL78

2-handed

Prima Luce

Beneteau First 35

IRL 3504

2-handed

Rockabill VI

JPK 10.80IRL

IRL 10800

Racing

Ruth

J/109

IRL 1383

Racing

Soufriere

Spirit 54

IRL 1974

2-handed

Spirit of Jacana

J133

IRL1335

Racing

Thalia

Sigma 400

IRL733

Racing

Thisbe

Nicholson 32

IRL 1530

Cruiser

Wakey Wakey

J109

GBR5909R

Racing

White Tiger

Beneteau First 44.7

IRL4470

Racing

Windshift

Sunfast 37

37737

Racing

WOW

Austral Yachts

IRL4208

Racing

 

Published in Dun Laoghaire Dingle

Saturday's fourth ISORA race of the season starts from Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin and finishes in Arklow, County Wicklow. The 60–mile race will be the first ISORA visit to Arklow for many years and Arklow Sailing Club, as previously reported by Afloat.ie, is preparing a warm welcome for the offshore fleet with over 32–boats expected for the 8am start off Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

The 'Sailing Instructions and Supplementary Information for Race 4' are attached below. 

The ISORA fleet has grown to 50 boats for the 2017 season with fixtures on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Published in ISORA

Paul O’Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI has won overall in a fast ISORA Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire Race today writes W M Nixon. After the 0800hr start, a blistering pace was set in a rising southwest to south wind which obligingly backed when the fleet were making their way from the M2 buoy at mid-Channel to leave the South Burford Buoy to starboard before streaking in to Dublin Bay to finish around 1600hrs, a good hour ahead of the most optimistic predictions.

Corrected times at the finish were very close, and a superb performance was put in by the two-handed crew of the Sunfast 3600 Bam!. Owner Conor Fogerty sailed with Robert Slator and such determination that Rockabill was only 2 minutes and 24 seconds ahead. Four minutes later on CT came the J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop), and seven minutes after that came sister-ship Sgrech (Stephen Tudor).

Rockabill VI yacht isoraPaul O’Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI has won overall in a fast ISORA Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire Race. Photo: Afloat.ie

A remarkable performance was put in by the big new Hanse 445 Pleione of Dee (Derek Matthews), which brings luxurious cruising style to Irish Sea offshore racing. She came across the Channel like a rocket, and placed 5th overall on IRC and first overall on ECHO, beating Brendan Couglan’s second-placed Jeanneau Sunfast 337 Windshift by three minutes.

Peter Ryan, ISORA Chairman adds: 
The first offshore race of the ISORA Avery Crest Offshore Championship 2017 took place on the 13th May. 32 boats from the entry list of 36 came to the start line in Holyhead.
The weather forecast was predicting southerly winds increasing fresh to strong later in the day. For the first offshore of the season, and to minimise the exposure of the fleet to the later conditions, the course was chosen to be from the start at Holyhead, taking the M2 weather buoy to port, South Burford to starboard and then to the finish. A distance of 59 miles.
The start at 08.00 was provided by Dawn Russell of Holyhead Sailing Club using the Pier lighthouse and the Clipperra buoy. Despite a huge natural bias on the line for the lighthouse end, boats appeared to be happy spread along the start line in the gusting winds.

Aurelia J122 yacht isoraChris Power Smith' Aurelia J122 was seventh on IRC Photo: Afloat.ie
Not only was wind going to be the issue for the fleet but a very strong north going tide at the start would push the fleet northwards, turning what should have been a tight spinnaker leg to M2 into a loose fetch. The fleet headed towards M2, some allowing the tide to push them north while others sailed tighter and remained on the rhumb line. Conditions for the first leg were averaging 20knots SSW.
Andrew Hall’s “Jackknife” lead the fleet to the M2, located half way across the Irish Sea. At rounding the mark, the fleet was well bunched, encouraging crews to maintain speed in the blustery conditions.
The leg to South Burford was a tight fetch. It was hoped that the turning tide would push the fleet southwards allowing boats to free up in the increasing winds and sea state. This did not happen until much later in the race – a favourable tide turns quickly, the unfavourable tide never appears to turn?
Conditions as the fleet approached South Burford had deteriorated. The winds had increased to 27 knots southerly will greater gusts. The sea state were particularly bad close to the Burford Bank with winds against tide. Once in Dublin Bay, calm was restored and the final 4 mile reach to the finish was a relief. Despite the wind backing to SE close to the finish, none of the battered crews attempted to launch spinnakers.
The finish line was between the pier heads in Dun Laoghaire and the constant procession of boats kept the Finishers, Grainne Ryan, Kathryn Meghen and Anita Begley busy. The trackers were also used to provide finish time and these worked well, providing instant provisional results on the YB Tracking app and ISORA website.

Harriet Marwood yacht isoraThe flared bow of Bryan Mullarkey's Collins TC, Harriet Marwood, is clear from this head–on photograph. The British entry was tenth on IRC Photo: Afloat.ie
“Jackknife” maintained the lead and took line honours after 7 hours and 34 minutes racing, just over one minute ahead of Neil Eatough’s “Forthy Shades”. Paul O’Higgins “Rockabill VI” took IRC Overall and Class 0, breaking the “J Boats monopoly” of the recent results. IRC Class 1 was won by Peter Dunlop’s “Mojito” pursued relentlessly through the race by Stephen Tudor’s “Sgrech” who took 2nd place IRC Class 1. IRC Class 2 and Silver Class was won by Charlene Howard’s “AJ Wanderlust”. The newly adopted “ISORA Progressive ECHO” worked fantastically well giving Derek Matthews “Pleione of Dee” ECHO Overall and Class 0. Of the 32 starters, 31 boats finished with Brian Hett’s “Oystercatcher” retiring soon after the start with gear trouble.
After the exhausting race many of the visiting boats tied up at the National Yacht Club and the usual “apres sail” commenced.
Despite not ideal conditions, the general opinion of the race was “tough but rewarding”.

JEDI INSS yacht isoraJEDI, the INSS J109 finished eighth under skipper Kenny Rumball. Photo: Afloat.ie

Mojito yacht isoraJ/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop) above was seven minutes ahead of sister-ship Sgrech (Stephen Tudor) (below) on corrected time. Photos: Afloat.ie

Sgrech yacht isora

BAM yacht isoraBam skipper Conor Fogerty sailed double-handed with Robert Slator and such determination that Rockabill was only 2 minutes and 24 seconds ahead Photo: Afloat.ie

Another Adventure yacht isoraDaragh Cafferkey's Greystones Sailing Club entry Another Adventure finished 16th on IRC

Platinum Blonde yacht isoraPaul Egan's Platinum Blonde, a First 35, finished 17th on IRC

Results are here

Published in ISORA

Howth Yacht Club's Conor Fogerty is the early IRC leader in this morning's ISORA race from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. Fogerty's two–handed Jeanneau Sun Fast leads from Welsh yacht Jackknife with Royal Irish Yacht Rockabill VI (Paul O'Higgins) third and 47nm still to race.

The 32–boat fleet for the Avery Crest sponsored race is as follows: M2 Weather Buoy (P), the South Burford (S) and a finish off Dun Laoghaire.

BAM ISORABAM leads across the Irish Sea in today's ISORA race

Leaders are currently expected into Dublin Bay around 5pm this evening. 

Read also WMN Nixon's race preview here

Published in ISORA

After the accelerating build-up to Olympic Medal success throughout the summer of 2016, there was hope in some sections of the Irish sailing community that the mood of 2017 might be different in pace. Tokyo 2020 still seemed very far away to everyone except the most dedicated Olympians. There appeared to be a feeling that 2017 should be the year for everyone else, and particularly for those who yearned for a less competitive enjoyment of boats and sailing. W M Nixon takes stock.

Once upon a time, we had seasons. Sailing wasn’t 12 months of the year, let alone 24/7. On the contrary, there were the rare old times of Opening Days and Closing Days (we’re talking annual sailing programmes here, not pubs), and Launching Suppers and Hauling Up Suppers and whatever, and not a sail to be seen at Christmas except for the rare oddball whose very rarity underlined the unusual nature of such a sight in the dead of winter.

But now we have wetsuits, and the effectively year-round programme at many sailing centres – in my own club at Howth, for instance, it has been continuous since April 1974 thanks to that Autumn’s introduction of the Frostbite series for the then new-fangled Lasers. And if you’re not actually out sailing yourself, there’s the means of keeping up with those who are, a classic case being the following of the tracker for this past week’s 500-mile Mini-en-Mai race by Tom Dolan, which had certain goggle-eyed adherents clicking-in at ungodly hours of the night to see how our man was doing.

It was a race being sailed at a flat-out pace and a level of concentration - despite a sleep-deprived physical and mental state – beyond the comprehension of most of the rest of us. Good luck to those who feel drawn to it personally, and can do it. But today, there’s an ISORA race from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire under way that is catering for all levels of involvement and commitment, and it has attracted a worthwhile starting line-up of 31 boats, encouraged by the welcoming efforts of ISORA Commodore Peter Ryan and his team.

holyhead harbour2Holyhead Harbour as sailing people know it – not as a utilitarian ferry port, but as a pleasant corner called Porth-y-Fellyn where there’s a sailing club, marina and boatyard

The word on the waterfront is that hyper-racers – people who expect three or four windward/leeward races per day at an intensely-run regatta – tend to dismiss this growing contemporary trend back towards classic Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association courses as sailing for people who can’t hack it in the frequent cut-and-thrust of artificial courses. But that’s to take a “one size fits all” attitude to sailing. If there’s one indisputable feature about our sometimes very odd sport, it’s the variety of the people involved in it – and that’s before you even consider the different type of boats.

On top of that, not only are there people who can get all their sailing enjoyment without needing to race at all, but there are grades of dedication in competition in sailing. This was particularly apparent a couple of years ago down at Dromineer on Lough Derg, when classes of Dragons, Flying Fifteens and Squibs descended on the place for the annual end-of-season Freshwater Challenge in October.

squibs dromineer3
Top Squibs from all over Ireland gearing themselves up for two days of intensive racing at Dromineer. But it emerged that for many of the local fleet, they weren’t into this sort of thing at all. Photo: Gareth Craig

There was an impressive fleet of top Squibs from all over Ireland out racing like fury on the lake. But there was also a substantial number of local Squibs that stayed in their berths. And it emerged that they hadn’t even entered the event in the first place. It seems that the Dromineer Squibs had been bought by people who saw them as handy and surprisingly comfortable little boats in which you could take the children, or more likely the grandchildren, out for a fun sail. And maybe you and a friend could do the occasional gentle summer’s evening club race for a bit of sociability. But the idea of committing to a frantic weekend of top competition was anathema.

Now while we’re not suggesting that the 31 boats which will be starting this morning in the ISORA Holyhead to Howth Race include a significant sector which are anti-competition, nevertheless there’s a distinctly relaxed atmosphere in some of the fleet in the knowledge that their abilities will be recognized by the use of Progressive ECHO handicap in tandem with the ruthless calculations of IRC.

The Number-Cruncher-in-Chief, Denis Kiely of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association, set to during the winter in his lair in Kinsale and ran the figures from all last year’s ISORA racing through his mincer to come up with an ECHO handicap (which is performance based) for boats of all kinds, and these figures were available to get things going this year.

inss cruiser racers4The Irish National Sailing School’s keelboat fleet includes (left to right) the Reflex 38 Lynx, the Elan Beaufort, and the J/109 Jedi which is doing today’s cross-channel race.
Thus we find that a boat like the Kenneth Rumball-skippered J/109 Jedi from the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire is racing today on an IRC of 1.010 while her ECHO is 1.075, but against that the majestic Nicholson 58 Rebellion (John Hughes) has an IRC of 1.056, but her ECHO is only 0.999.

With Progressive ECHO, it’s a flexible figure which encourages regular participation, for if you’ve had a bad day at the races, next time out you’ll find your Progressive ECHO has progressed even further southwards.

It all seems too gentle to be worth even thinking about by those whose every thought is competitive. But for those who enjoy settling down for a long haul at sea, with the opportunity to test boat and crew in the gentlest possible manner against other craft, it all has a certain appeal.

ISORA Race3 Entrants5The fleet in today’s race shows interesting comparisons between IRC and Progressive ECHO handicaps. Some have not made the line, including the veteran ketch Maybird, but a late addition not listed is the Sunfast 3600 Bam (Conor Fogerty)
And it will be interesting on several levels, for not only have we boats of a definite cruiser-orientation whose crews are going along because ISORA has gone out of its way to offer the alternative of a developing handicap system which might reward their efforts, but up at the sharp end of the fleet there’ll be some very interesting performance comparisons to be made between hot boats as they race in what looks likely to be quite brisk conditions.

forty shades6Given a chance, she’ll fly – Neal Eatough’s Forty Shades is an M-Tec Open 40.

The expectation is of a fresh to strong sou’westerly which mercifully will back during the day to free the fleet up to lay the course to Dublin Bay, in fact it might free them so much that one of the more interesting newcomers, Neal Eatough’s Open 40 M-Tec Forty Shades, could be across in half a day.

Another boat which will revel in a freeing breeze is Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam – the Howth skipper is doing it two-handed with clubmate Robert Slator, and he sees the forecast weather pattern as providing them with a real chance.

sunfast3600 bam7Conor Fogerty’s successful Sunfast 3600 Bam! – a class winner in the RORC Caribbean 600 2016 – is a late entry, and he’ll be doing the race two-handed with Robert Slator

Inevitably the smart money will be on Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, but with no less than six J/109s in the mix, there’ll always be at least one potent representative of this hot class ready to pounce if there’s the slightest let-up in the pace on the JPK 10.80.

One of these J/109s is of course Stephen Tudor’s defending ISORA Overall Champion Sgrech from Pwllheli, a boat which is the very personification of ISORA’s cross-channel community, as her regular crew includes ISORA Commodore Peter Ryan, who is also a former Commodore of the National YC.

Rockabill VI JPK10808Paul O'Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI is one of the favourites for IRC success. Photo Afloat.ie

As anyone who has ever sailed on one of the Pwllheli boats will know, there’s always a smattering of Welsh spoken among the crew. Aboard Sgrech, says Peter, they speak little else except when they want to curse and swear, when they’ll tell you – with solemn faces – that there are no swear words in Welsh.

“Somehow we understand each other,” says Peter, “but Welsh is so different – not just from English, but from Irish too – that you could sail regularly with them for 45 years and still know very little of this strange tongue that they talk away in all the time”.

Perhaps it’s the underlying camaraderie of the sea which enables the communicational oddity which is Sgrech to be so effective, but then too, the shared enthusiasm of Stephen Tudor and Peter Ryan is infectious, and sometimes it spreads to the entire fleet.

j109 sgrech9Sgrech at full chat. When you’re sailing like this and something goes wrong, then you really do know if there are no swear words in Welsh....

Thus the Commodore of ISORA expected a bit of a party in Holyhead Sailing Club last night notwithstanding the prospect of a windward slug first thing this morning (start was at 0800hrs today, there’s a tracker) and equally, with everyone energised by the day’s freeing wind (DV), he confidently anticipates an even more boisterous gathering in the National tonight.

national yacht club10Welcome home. The National Yacht Club will be the venue for tonight’s post-race party.

The ghost of the great John Illingworth, who did so much for the development of offshore racing in the 1940s, ’50s ’60s and ’70s, would approve, as he thought an offshore race without a good party beforehand and an even better one afterwards was not really a proper offshore race at all. That said, Illingworth’s most famous boat, Myth of Malham, was notorious for her paucity of cleats. When a newcomer to the crew demanded to know where he should cleat the headsails, an old hand told him they didn’t cleat the headsail sheets in the masthead cutter rig, as they trimmed the sails all the time....

myth of malham11Myth of Malham. John Illingworth’s double Fastnet Race overall winner was renowned for her shortage of cleats.

In today’s cross-channel dash, I’ve no doubt there’ll be many boats where sheets are cleated while crews settle down to enjoy the satisfaction of the boat trimmed reasonably well and making progress without the prospect of having to make a lot of irritating tacks before the finish. It’s different strokes for different folks.

Earlier this week I found myself studying a boat which is about as different from what your average ISORA racer expects in a boat as is humanly possible. This is Ian Lipinski’s 8.65 metres Griffon which took overall line honours in the 500-mile Mini-en-Mai at La Trinite at 0508hrs Irish time yesterday morning.

mini griffon12It would be a day’s work for a crew of five to race her- yet Ian Lipinski sails his odd-looking and demanding Proto, the 8.65 metres Griffon, single-handed and he wins too.

Griffon is the current pace-setter in the Proto section (prototypes in other words), and she’s a veritable floating laboratory for every development imaginable, including being at the forefront in the testing of foils. Obviously she’s also showing an aversion to that traditional notion of sweetly hollow waterlines forward, as exemplified by the schooner America. And if you dismiss her forward hull shape as being like a Dutch barge, next time you’re near an International Dragon, take a look at her forward waterlines – you might be surprised.

But the thing that really strikes me about Griffon is the number of tasks that the lone skipper has to perform all on his own to keep this machine at optimum performance. The sailplan alone is a 24/7 challenge, and rig optimization is part of it. Add in two daggerboards whose deployment offers multiple choices. Then you must never forget the ideal positioning of the canting keel in ever-changing circumstances. All that done, you still have to sail and navigate the boat. And if on top of all that you can find time to fire off visual and verbal communications with shore and sponsors, joy is unconfined....

Contrast that with the mood that might prevail aboard one of the heftier and more luxurious contenders in today’s Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire. The boat is nicely in trim, and it’s up to the helmsman to keep her there, and if it’s the autohelm as is now permitted, so be it. Alert as ever, the crew noticed a useful backing of the wind a while back, and sheets were adjusted accordingly and then cleated home. My word, but we’re racing keenly. And can that clock really be right? If so, it’s time for Nooners...

Published in W M Nixon

After next weekend's Holyhead– Dun Laoghaire Race, there is another buoyant turnout in prospect for ISORA (34 boats are already entered) for a new offshore race at the end of May. This particular offshore race on May 27th is unique as it will start and finish on the 'Irish side' – starting in Dun Laoghaire and finishing in a new port for ISORA, Arklow, in County Wicklow.

ISORA chief Peter Ryan says, 'We are looking forward to a great reception from Arklow Sailing Club'.

Published in ISORA

36 boats have entered the first ISORA offshore race to take place next Saturday. The offshore race will be approximately 60–miles, depending on the weather, starting in Holyhead and finishing in Dun Laoghaire. See attached ISORA entry list list below.

The fleet is a great cross section, from classic to high tech and from small to large, demonstrating the range of boats that are interested in racing offshore. The newly adopted “ISORA Progressive ECHO” will ensure a greater spread of prizes for the race with prizes for six classes and trophy for overall as well as the famous “Race Winners Jacket”, says ISORA's Peter Ryan. 

The gathering of such a large numbers of boats and their crew in Holyhead on the Friday evening and again hopefully at the NYC on Saturday evening will generate a great social atmosphere, adds Ryan.

After Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire, the ISORA fleet gather again for a new offshore race to Arklow on May 27th. Read more on that new race here.

Published in ISORA

The world of sailing has so many sectors of interest that it’s challenging keeping track of the general picture. But even when you’ve achieved that basic level of comprehension, you then discover that each sector has so many sub-sectors that it all slips back into confusion. Once upon a time, W M Nixon though he’d a handle on the world of offshore racing. Now, he’s not so sure.

It’s all Tom Dolan’s fault. Most of you will know Tom as the farmboy from Meath who is cutting a remarkable swathe through the world of French Minitransat racing. Last week his name was back up in lights yet again after taking third in a fleet of 52 Minitransat boats in the 300-mile Pornichet Selector, which had these mighty atoms pinging up and down along France’s Biscay coast, with our man being overall leader at two stages.

He’s our Meath man now rather than a Meath farmboy, as he turned 30 on April 27th just after the race had finished. But he still has total boyish enthusiasm for the whole business, allied to a dogged yet adult dedication which is at such a level that it puts him on a different planet from most of the rest of us.

The plan for today was a quick look at Tom and what he’s doing as part of a general overview of the gradual regeneration of offshore racing and its various new areas of rapid development. But the problem is that, once you’ve sensed Tom’s enthusiasm and grasped just how utterly off the wall is his way of life, it takes over the whole show. So we’ll allow it to do so after a quick overview of the general scene.

And where better than to start with a quote from another man from Meath? We’ll always cherish the headline from The Meath Chronicle, when news of a certain sailing event in 1996 percolated through to the editorial headquarters of that esteemed journal in Navan:

LOBINSTOWN MAN WINS ROUND IRELAND YACHT RACE. That’s what it said. Real fame at last. Those of us who have a vague idea of Lobinstown’s location up near Nobber would have guessed it to be in Louth or even Monaghan. But not so, it’s clear over the border, into the Royal County and Meath Chronicle territory, and the Lobinstown man was Michael Boyd, who’d just knocked off the overall win in the big one with his J/35 Big Ears.

michael boyd big ears2It’s 1996, and Michael Boyd’s J/35 Big Ears has just won Wicklow’s Round Ireland Race while her skipper (right) has become one of the earliest Afloat “Sailors of the Month”

For that, he was our “Sailor of the Month” in the inaugural year of the contest, when we began to learn that monthly achievements, clearly highlighted at the time, amount to a very useful quick-reference history of Irish sailing years later. For the record, back in 1996 Big Ears was skippered by Michael Boyd with Jamie Boag (then 25) on navigation, tactics and alternate watch leader, Patsy Burke was relief helm and bowman, Brian Mehigan was bowman, ship’s doctor and cook, trimming team were P J Kennedy, David McHugh, Tim Greenwood and Michael Moloney, and Niall Dowling of the RIYC prepared the boat for the race.

Michael Boyd’s “Sailor of the Month” write-up also told us he’d done the Sydney-Hobart in 1993, the Newport-Bermuda in 1994, and the Fastnet in 1995, so with the Round Ireland won in 1996, you’d think that might be mission accomplished. But things were only getting going, and twenty years later he was back again – after much offshore racing since including being a winning co-skipper in the Irish Commodore’s Cup Team of 2014 – to race as Commodore Royal Ocean Racing Club in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race, skippering the First 44.7 Lisa in which he was to finish third overall, and best Irish boat.

lisa round ireland 163The First 44.7 Lisa at the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016

theo michael boyd4Race organiser Theo Phelan around midnight in Wicklow with Michael Boyd when the latter had just finished the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 to place third overall.

Since then he has linked up with the JPK 10.80 Audrey for racing in Ireland, but he continues to make the scene with the core RORC programme in the English Channel with the First 44.7 Lisa, and last weekend he was one of a goodly fleet in the seasonal opener, the Cervantes Trophy from Cowes to Le Havre, with a very strong French contingent taking part.

0ne of them, the J/133 Pintia skippered by top French sailor Bruno Trouble, won overall from a fleet which reflected the fact that IRC continues to give very good racing for boats of all sizes, types and – in some cases – quite significant ages, as the J/133 dates from 2006, second by just 6 minutes was the Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan (Paul Kavanagh), third was Noel Racine’s regularly campaigned JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew, and fourth was the veteran Swan 55 yawl Lulotte (Ben Morris).

As for Lisa with Michael Boyd, she’d a good race, coming second to Pintia in Class 2, and ninth overall in a fleet of 84 starters. That looked like a pretty good turnout for the time of year, so Afloat.ie tracked down the Commodore of the RORC during the week to see did he share our feeling that there really is a new buzz to the offshore scene, and he responded with enthusiasm:

“Our sport seems to be in rude health these days, with much positive news to report. A Rolex Fastnet Race year always brings out many boats for the summer season. In last weekend’s Cervantes Race, RORC welcomed 84 starters, twice the 2016 figure, and 78 of them made it to Le Havre, more than four times last year’s number when a shocking squall had quite an impact.

Particularly gratifying are marked increases in women and young people taking part. And at home, the numbers are up for the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, and ISORA’s revival is a source of continuing joy. Long may it continue!”
-Michael Boyd, May 4th 2017

cervantes trophy5Last weekend’s RORC Cervantes Trophy Race from Cowes to le Havre attracted 84 starters – double the 2016 entry – and Lisa placed second in Class 2 and 9th overall. Photo RORC/Rick Tomlinson

In such a mood of goodwill, Afloat.ie didn’t delve too deeply into other interesting developments within the energetic RORC machine, where Dr Jason Smithwick – who has an impressive background in academia, the research industry, and international sailing administration - will be taking over the key role in administering the IRC. Nor indeed did we enquire further into last week’s rumour that our own Marcus Hutchinson is quietly working behind the scenes to bring about a rapprochement between the IRC and the ORC. Because the fact is, the season is upon us, and for the next three months, the business of racing is top of the agenda.

In the Irish Sea it has been at the top since April 22nd, when ISORA’s opening day saw season-starting coastal races on both sides of the Channel, with the Irish side doing best in turnout, 22 boats starting at Dun Laoghaire and finishing at Wicklow, with Andrew Algeo’s J/109 Juggerknot taking the honours.

It’s thanks to the dogged enthusiasm of people like Stephen Tudor in Pwllheli and Peter Ryan in Dun Laoghaire that ISORA has been kept going to be ready and waiting for the renewed interest in offshore racing. This new enthusiasm stems in part from a reaction against the pattern developing the major cruiser-racer regattas, where some race officers pride themselves on fitting in two or even three races in a day.

For those of the offshore racing frame of mind, one or two starts in a week is quite enough, thank you, and they like their races to take long enough to settle down and develop a character of their own. The feeling among such folk is that modern life ashore is often a case of trying to cram as many starts as possible into each day, and they only find genuine relaxation in an alternative challenge which is taken in a very different kind of time frame.

That – more or less – is the explanation given recently by someone who has succumbed to the charm of the modern ISORA programme, which has become so user-friendly that it even includes Howth’s Lambay Race on June 3rd. Admittedly it has a slightly lower points rating of 0.9, but with 35 miles to be sailed by the big boat classes, it is indeed a miniature offshore race, and one which at times give the taste of the sport at its best in terms of amateur enjoyment and a change from the hassles of shore life.

Thus although they’re both under the broad umbrella of offshore racing, there really could be no greater contrast than that between the sailing of your average ISORA enthusiast, and the sailing of Tom Dolan on the Minitransat circuit.

Growing up on a little farm beyond Kells in County Meath, one day Tom and his father got the notion of going sailing on the picturesque Lough Ramor just up the road, so they bought themselves a sailing boat of sorts in County Roscommon and – self-taught – they did indeed find that sailing had something for them.

lough ramor6A long way from Concarneau.....Tom Dolan first discovered sailing on Lough Ramor.

Even though the urge lay dormant in young Tom for his school years in Mullingar when Gaelic football and soccer took over his life, it was when he was 19 and at the outdoor activities education establishment Colaiste Dhulaigh, which is spread over four locations in Dublin and Malahide, that the sailing bug emerged again with an introduction to Glenans in Baltimore, and this time he was hooked for real.

Not only was he a natural sailor who was avid to learn more, but he proved to be a brilliant coach. There were others who realized that Tom Dolan was putting even more into sailing than he was taking out of it, and firm friendships were made, none firmer than that with Gerry Jones, who continues to live in Ireland where he has a busy working life. But he also acts as a voluntary agent for Tom, who in 2009 began to get involved in the sailing scene in France, and has steadily increased that involvement until he is now a leading figure in the Ministransat 650 programme.

It is by no means a gilded path he has chosen. Thirty million people in France may be closely interested in sailing, and they’ll take you to their Gallic hearts as you become part of their sailing scene. But the only sailing the Irish general public take much real interest in is the Olympics, and that’s when a medal may be in prospect. So an Irish rookie with very limited resources trying to get on the ladder in France – which is the only real ladder for high level offshore racing – has several mountains to climb.

But he knew what had to be done, and he knew how he could do it, for by this time he was being drawn into the 10-boat Minitransat community in Concarneau, which is well established as the CEMC (Centre d’Entrainement Mini de Concarneau). It sounds rather grand, but every cent has to be counted, and all involved are constantly looking for ways to increase income, maximise the boat’s performance, train and train again, and race.

cemc flotilla8Members of the CEMC group at Concarneau, Tom Dolan on left

cemc flotilla8The Minitransat 650s of CEMC at Concarneau – Tom Dolan’s Pogo 650 Mark 3 (new in 2016) is number 910

It’s worth it, as they have the great Gildas Mahe as coach, and last year every major race was won by one of the Concarneau group, including a victory for Tom himself. But getting to this level involved making a living doing deliveries and anything else involving high seas expertise, and using a borrowed Pogo 2 for his inaugural full season in 2015.

The Pogo 650 started life in 1995, and she’s now into Mark 3, one of the mainstays of the entire Minitransat scene. By 2015, the Mark 2 was off the pace, but Tom Dolan stuck at it to gain experience, and it was his father, with whom he’d shared those first sailing moments on Lough Ramor so many years ago, who made it possible to move on. For on his death in 2011, while the family farm was kept, he left Tom a modest legacy, and young Tom decided to blow the lot on getting involved with his own boat, and placed an order for the most basic available version of the Pogo 650 Mark 3.

work on pogo9Tom getting the keel bulb perfectly faired. Members of CEMC expect to do most of their boat work themselves

work on pogo10Commissioning the new 2016 boat – IRL 910 – basically involved Tom in fully equipping a bare shell.

He had much to do with installing electrics and equipment and just abut everything else from scratch before his new boat was ready to go racing in 2016, but it was well worth it, and by season’s end he was feted in the local press and internationally as “The Flying Irishman”. To keep the show on the road, he and his friend and fellow-skipper Francoise Jambou run their own 650 Training Centre which, with Tom’s brilliant coaching talents, provides a useful stream of income.

But as the sailing level escalates, so do the costs, and he’s very appreciative of sponsorship from home in the shape of Dubarry Ireland and Ding, while the strength of French interest in sailing generally is shown by support from Cellastab, Techniques Voiles, Renostye, Studio des Schizographes and of course his local pub, the Petite Bistro, where he’ll be celebrating the third place in the Pornichet Select 300 tonight, and maybe a toast to success in next Tuesday’s 500 miles race.

francois and tom11Tom Dolan (right) with sailing partner Francois Jambou celebrating victory with the new boat in a two-handed race.

tom and karen12Tom from Meath and Karen from Lyons in Montserrat, where he’d sailed on a delivery voyage

As for what it’s like being Concarneau-based on a year-round basis, even with the camaraderie and constant work and training of the CEMC, the winters can be long enough if you don’t line up a sunny delivery trip now and again. It was after one of these to the Caribbean and Montserrat that Tom met the significant other, Karen from Lyons, so now life back in Concarneau has a certain domesticity to it that was formerly lacking.

That said, domesticity is of a very rationed variety when you’re into sailing at this level, and Tom Dolan’s proposed programme for 2017 shows his level of commitment, and the continuing requirement for a solid sponsorship package, as the countdown to the Minitransat on October 1st at La Rochelle continues.

22nd April: Pornichet 350 Select (placed 3rd out of 52 boats)

May 9th Mini en Mai 500 miles
June 8th Trophee Marie-Agnes Peron
June 18th Mini Fastnet 600 miles (two-handed with Francois Jambou)
July 30th Transgascogne
October 1st Mini Transat (from La Rochelle)

Even as the programme is being implemented. Tom Dolan’s supporters behind the scenes are beavering away to put together a support package which will make the Mini-Transat a properly resourced challenge.

pornichet select13The contemporary French fleet of 52 actively-campaigned Mini 650s is an impressive sight on the starting line.

pornichet select15Getting clear and getting ahead – IRL 910 departs Pornichet

pornichet select15After being in the lead within five miles of the finish of the 300-mile Pornichet Select on April 26th, Tom Dolan in IRL 910 had to be content with third in the fleet of 52 at the finish.

And beyond that? Team Tom Dolan are very interested in the confirmation of a decision which is expected to come from the Mid-Year Meeting of the World Sailing Council which is currently under way in Singapore (from May 5th to May 9th). Before it is the final acceptance of an invitation from the International Olympic Council to World Sailing to propose Showcase Events to be held alongside the Sailing Olympiad 2020 in Tokyo to demonstrate the potential of both kiteboarding and offshore racing to be Olympic events.

For offshore racing, the proposal is already taking shape for a 9-12m totally One-Design boat, to be raced two-handed, the fleet for the Showcase Event at Tokyo being envisaged at 18 to 20 boats. It’s emphasized that this is only a showcase, it’s not real Olympics. But it could be a guide for the future, and we’ve no doubt that if such an event were to be held in 2020 beside the Olympics, the participants would regard it as very much for real.

It’s certainly of considerable interest to Tom Dolan and his team, for they’re very aware that you’re in a different league in Ireland when you’re trying to raise support for an Olympic campaign rather than something which is seen as more of a niche interest.

But quite what your traditional offshore racer, setting off in their favourite ISORA or RORC event, will think of the prospect of their beloved sport being sucked down into the Olympic maelstrom is something else altogether - a topic for another day

Published in W M Nixon

Royal Irish's Andrew Alego made an impressive ISORA debut yesterday in a tricky light wind race from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow. The new–to–the Bay, J109 Juggerknot port–tacked a 24–boat fleet in very light airs off the Dun Laoghaire startline.

In yet another impressve performance for the design, J109s took the top four places in the 25–miler. Second was Tim Goodbody's White Mischief also from the Royal Irish Yacht Club and third the Irish National Sailing School's Jedi skippered by Kenny Rumball. 

Light winds prevailed for much of the morning, so it was a slow race that ultimately meant only two–thirds of the Dun Laoghaire fleet finished off Wicklow Sailing Club yesterday afternoon. Eight boats were recorded as 'Did Not Finish'.

The fine turn out of 24 boats at Dun Laoghaire is a reversal of fortunes for the Dublin offshore sailing scene and follows similar lifts in numbers in 2015 and 16. 

ISORA StartWith under a minute to the start, the 23–boat was shy of the Dun Laoghaire line. Race winner Juggerknot is closest and preparing to flip onto port tack for the Burford buoy Photo: Afloat.ie

Back in 2007, the then ISORA Chairman John Rose gave notice to nine clubs on both sides of the Irish sea that November's agm would be the last citing a "lack of interest".

Juggerknot ISORANew ISORA entrant – Juggerknot from the Royal Irish Yacht Club

A decade later, thanks to efforts to rekindle the offshore fleet on both sides of the Irish Sea, yesterday's first race of the 2017 calendar amassed a buoyant fleet of 37 with 13 boats racing simultaneously from Pwllheli in North Wales. It is a satisfying result that ISORA Chief Peter Ryan says he is determined  to build on. 'This size fleet has not been seen in ISORA for many years' he told Afloat.ie

The first race of the Overall ISORA Avery Crest Offshore Championship 2017 was also the first race in the ISORA Viking Marine Coastal Series 2016 and the Royal Alfred Coastal Series 2016. The weather forecast for the race was for little or no wind leaving a very difficult task for the Sailing Committee to set the course.

This first race saw the appearance of some new boats to ISORA. Tim Goodbody’s J109, “White Mischief”, Jonathan Bourke’s J109, “Dear Prudence”, Larry Power’s First 31.7, “Kalamar”, Brian Hett’s Dufour 40, “Oystercatcher”, Andew Algeo’s J109 “ Juggerknot”, Robert Rendell’s XC45, “ Samaton” and Jim Schofield’s Nicholson 32, “Thisbe”. Paul Egan and Colm Buckley have returned to the ISORA fleet with new boats First 35, “Platinum Blonde” and J109, “Indian”. “Jedi” J109 has changed owners and has returned to ISORA with Kenneth Rumball.

With the forecast of 3-7 knots NW veering and decreasing 2-3 knots E and veering later to 3-7 knots S, setting a course that would get most boats finished was always going to be difficult. The Race Committee set the course shortly before the start to: Start in Dun laoghaire – South Burford (S) – North and Finish in Wicklow – a course of 22 miles.

The winds at the start were light north-easterly as the fleet of 24 boats headed off towards the first mark in the south going tide. Fluky winds and conditions at the start made it difficult for many of the boats to get fast off the start line. “Juggerknot” and “Lively Lady” led the fleet that turned out to be a beat or tight fetch to the first mark.

Shortly after rounding the first mark, the boats headed in a run down towards the finish with the south going tide. In the decreasing winds and strong tide rounding the South Burford proved to be difficult and split the fleet. The front bunch led by “Lively Lady” drifted towards Wicklow in the fickle winds.

The winds continued to decrease and shift making progress very slow. While the fleet never stopped, at time it was only the south going tide that provided progress for the fleet. The leading buch also included, “Tsunami”, “Platinum Blonde”, “Jedi”, “Aurelia”, White Mischief”, “Dear Prudence” and “Another Adventure”.

As the wind had veered to the south east and increased slightly at the same time as the tide was turning north, “Juggerknot” crossed the finish line first to take 1st in IRC Overall and Class 1 and 2nd in ISORA ECHO Overall and Class1. “Jedi” too 1st in ISORA ECHO while “Albireo” took Silver Class.

16 of the 24 boats finished and made their way into Wicklow harbour for the usual ISORA après sail get together at WSC, some in time to see the “Munster match”!! Crews gathered in the club and planned their next ISORA adventure.
As the race was tracked using the Avery Crest Trackers, the progress of the race can be re-played using the YB app or on the ISORA website.

The next race is the first offshore on the 13th May from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. It is hoped that there will be another large combined fleet taking part in preparation of the D2D race in June and the Fastnet race in August.

Full results here 

ISORA INSS JediThe INSS J109 Jedi, the only boat to set a gennaker from the Dun Laoghaire start was third in the race to Wicklow. Photo: Afloat.ie

Published in ISORA
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