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The final results of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 show that Kenneth Rumball with the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi has won in IRC 3B, where third place has been taken by ISORA’s J/109 Mojito. And RORC Commodore Michael Boyd has been second in IRC 2 with the First 44.7 Lisa.

Clearly, the Irish contingent in this great classic have had a successful time of it despite some extraordinary fluctuations of fortune. But how are such twists of fate to be explained? The Rolex Fastnet Race of modern times can be analysed by the latest technology in so many different ways that, even with the best computers, it can sometimes take much longer to deduce what precisely happened than it took in real time out at sea. So perhaps if we just select a few salient facts, we might be able to get a better overall picture. W M Nixon gives it a try.

If the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 had finished at the Fastnet Rock itself, with the fleet adjourning into Baltimore and Schull to have a party or three, there would have been much for the builders of the successful JPK range to celebrate. And several crews with strong Irish connections would have been quite right in partying to beat the band as well.

nikata at fastnet2Glad morning again….the biggest boat in the race, the JV 115 Nikata (Tom Brewer) rounds the Fastnet Rock at 7 o’clock on Tuesday morning. Photo Rolex

For after an increasingly rugged windward slug the whole way from the start, the overall leader at the Rock was 2013’s winner, the French JPK 10.10 Night & Day, whose achievement was further heightened by the fact that she was being sailed two-handed by father-and-son crew Pascal and Alexis Loison.

And second overall was another seasoned French campaigner, Noel Racine with his JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew. But it’s when we get to third slot that Irish eyes light up, as it was comfortably held by our own Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan. She was all of 11 minutes ahead of yet another French boat, Giles Fournier’s J/133 Pintia, which was fourth overall at the Fastnet.

But close behind in sixth overall was the classic S&S 41 Winsome (Harry Hiejst) helmed by Laura Dillon, Irish Champion Helm in 1996. Winsome had experienced her ups and downs since the start, but when it comes to grown-up windward work, there are still very few boats that can do it like the best 1972 Sparkman & Stephens design, and Winsome had been making hay since Land’s End, marching her way up through the fleet.

However, before we move on to see how these leaders-at-the-Rock finally ended in the rankings in Plymouth, casting an eye further down the Fastnet times continues to be rewarding, as we find that the hot ISORA J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox) was lying 9th overall as she made the turn on Wednesday morning at 7 o’clock, and Kenneth Rumball in command of the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi was only a quarter of an hour later, correcting into 11th overall, which put him one place ahead of our RORC Commodore Michael Boyd in the First 44.7 Lisa.

jedi fastnet3Cheerful times aboard Jedi after rounding the Fastnet, where she’d been placed 11th overall of the entire 312-strong IRC fleet. Photo INSS

nikata volvo65s4Nikata at the start with three of the Volvo 65s. The new Volvo boats had a very close Fastnet Race, with Dongfeng winning by 54 seconds from Mapfre. And they’re being kept busy – on Thursday they raced away from Plymouth, bound for St Malo and Lisbon

Yet of the boats which are now figuring at the top twelve of the overall leaderboard in Plymouth, only Pintia, Lisa and the Grand Soleil 43 Codiam were in the top twelve at the rock. The JNA 39 Lann Ael 2 (Didier Gaudoux), which seemed to come out of nowhere at the finish to snatch the overall lead from Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer, was only 29th at the Fastnet Rock.

As for Privateer, she was well back, in 40th. Yet the way the winds, weather and tides developed for the final 247 miles from Fastnet to finish meant the placings continued to be shaken up until the very end, and it looked for long enough as though Privateer has the big prize until Lann Ael 2 came out of the dark in the small hours of Thursday morning, and took it.

lann ael5The JDA 39 Lann Ael making knots on the way to Plymouth

lann ael6The look of a winner. Lann Ael was not showing up on the Race Tracker for some tehnical reason, but she was very definitely right there, zooming past the Isles of Scilly on her way to the overall win

This means that for the third time in a row, the overall Rolex Fastnet Race winner is French. There’s no doubt about it, but La belle France is on a roll on the offshore scene these days, for if they aren’t themselves actually sailing the winning French-built boats, the chances are they were the designers and builders.

This is an impression which is reinforced by going into the class details, and particularly among the smaller boats. In IRC 3 it’s French-produced boats dominant, with two JPK 10.80s – Dream Pearls and Timeline - separated by just two minutes on corrected time, with Timeline having finished first, but losing through a higher rating.

It’s not until we got down to 9th place in IRC 3 that we break the French stream, and even here the 9th placed Irish J/109 Jedi – which wins IRC 3B - may have been designed in America by the Johnstone team, but I’ve a feeling she was built in France.

The placing means that Jedi got through Mojito in the sometimes wild romp back from the Rock, but all around them positions were changing, and the solid Sparkman & Stephens veterans such as Pomeroy Swan and Winsome, which had shown so well on the dead beat, were losing time all the way while the loghter boats were surfing.

However, while the two overall leaders at the Fastnet, Night & Day and Foggy Dew, slipped down the overall rankings, they maintained their class leads in IRC 4, and let it be noted that Poweroy Swan wasn’t entirely out of the hunt, as she is 4th in IRC 4. But Winsome slipped back to 12th in class.

It’s ironic that of the two former Champion Helms of Ireland whom we know to have been doing the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017, one of them – Laura Dillon – was in a boat which went superbly to windward but wasn’t so competitive downwind, while the other. Nin O’Leary, was in a boat which seemed woeful to windward, but was fastest of the lot as soon as she bore off at the rock.

hugo boss at fastnet7Hugo Boss finally reaches the Fastnet Rock at 3.0pm on Tuesday. Within minutes, she was speeding downwind, up on her foils and making 22 knots
Quite why Nin’s co-skippered IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss was just so poor to windward, even by comparison with other IMOCA 60s, is something for further study. But she’s very much a boat for the wide open spaces, and the relatively short 247 miles from the Fastnet to Plymouth wasn’t nearly long enough for her foils to pick her up properly, and let the big black boat really go like the wind.

It was clearly a race of horses for courses, and while it might be going too far to describe Hugo Boss as a one trick pony, in a complex race like this there were some superb all-round boats which gave a master-class in successfully dealing with a wide variety of conditions and finishing with a mileage which suggested that some other boats were sailing a different race entirely.

malizia racing8The Yacht Club de Monaco’s IMOCA 60 Malizia placed third in class

To re-phrase the great Damon Runyon, the race may not always be to those who sail the shortest distance, but that’s the way the smart money bets. However, the smart money isn’t always completely right. The Fastnet Race course is somewhere between 603 and 608 miles (those pesky Traffic Separation Zones must have changed the classic distance), and it’s of interest to note that the boat which was recorded as sailing the fewest miles, the Italian Mylius 15E25 Ars Una which placed 11th overall, got round in just 655 miles.

pintia start9The French J/133 Pintia (Gilles Fournier) at the start. One of the most consistent boats in the fleet, she was well placed overall at the Fastnet, and went on to win Class 2 while placing fourth overall at the finish

But Winsome, back in 75th overall after being so handsomely placed at the rock, got round in only 656 miles. She pointed higher than most other boats, and made the right tactical choices on the open water outward bound windward leg. But coming back on the fast run, her classic hull shape militated against her no matter how neat a course they sailed.

The detailed results are here

As for the winner Lann Ael 2, she sailed 662 miles, but for the Fastnet-Plymouth stages she had conditions which clearly suited her perfectly, while the Cookson 50 Privateer sailed all of 687 miles, but she sailed them so well she retained second overall. And the great pioneer, the pathfinder in the lead on the water and testing condtions for all those astern, was George David’s Rambler 88. She may have taken line honours in convincing style, but she sailed an astonishing 730 miles to do so, and slipped back to 65th overall when the basic sums were done.

These sums will be re-worked for a long time yet, for this was one very special Rolex Fastnet Race. Our own Michael Boyd captured it so perfectly in his role as Commodore RORC, shortly after he had finished to take second in class, that it’s worth re-running the vid we posted last night, for he did us proud.

Read all of Afloat.ie's 2017 Fastnet Race coverage here 

Published in W M Nixon

Irish National Sailing School's Kenny Rumball, normally found at the sharp end of Ireland's dinghy, one design and offshore fleets, will jump ship this Summer to play his part in a Viking invasion of Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

The August 20th event, as part of Dun Laoghaire Harbour's 200th anniversary celebrations, will see Viking Longships, as seen in the historical drama TV Show Vikings, assemble at the East Pier.

The event is free and open to the public.

The Irish National Sailing School's connection with the TV drama is well documented on Afloat.ie. The Dun Laoghaire school provides marine technical support for the show.

Published in INSS

The powerboat business in Ireland seems to be getting busier so the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School are appealing for more powerboat instructors. School Principal Kenneth Rumball says the Dun Laoghaire–based school is also looking for some full time admin staff to help in the office. 

The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School has an ever-expanding powerboat market and requires enthusiastic instructors to help deliver these courses from our main base in Dun Laoghaire however we also deliver courses in other locations on request. We have a unique opportunity this year for those persons who may be interested in teaching powerboating.

 

The INSAPS is offering to cover the cost of training for powerboat instructors and then give these instructors the chance to teach on our busy courses that run year round in our state of the art RIBs as seen in many of our promotional videos. Previous instructing experience is not necessary however previous powerboat experience is required.

As our powerboat and other courses continue to grow, we are also looking for a charismatic enthusiastic office administrator to join our busy bookings and enquiries team. Applicants should have a keen interest in sailing. Instructing experience is not necessary for this position however computer literacy and willingness to help in sales is required.

If you are interested in teaching powerboat courses this year or joining our busy office team, do not hesitate to contact [email protected] for more information.

Published in Jobs

When we remember that Arthur Rumball was one of the definitive backroom boys of the Irish maritime world, it is remarkable and heart-warming to reflect on just how many lives he influenced for the better, and how many young people – aspiring sailors and would-be boatbuilders alike – he helped guide towards sailing and career fulfillment.

In his professional life, his work lives on in Viking Marine, while he was the main force in keeping the Irish National Sailing School’s fleet operational. In any size of business operation functioning within the challenges and restraints of the Irish market and our sometimes decidedly quirky sailing world, that would have been a demanding task. But these days the INSS fleet numbers 250 vessels in all, ranging from tiny dinghies up to 1720s and three fully-fledged offshore yachts. Yet in each case, Arthur could be relied on to assess exactly the right level of maintenance and finish required to keep the boat at the optimum level for the task for which it was required, and he did it with a minimum of fuss utilising sometimes very basic facilities.

He was the younger brother of INSS’s founding father Alistair Rumball by seven years, but as there were only the two siblings in this Malahide sailing family, inevitably they shared many experiences, although their sailing careers were to diverge during the period when the age gap seemed at its widest.

INSS Squib keelboat Dun LaoghaireThe Arthur Rumball technique well-demonstrated in some of the INSS’s Squibs which he has specially adapted to be the robust workhorses for introducing thousands of people to sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

However, after Alistair began operations with the Irish National Sailing School with a sailing dinghy or two launching from the public slip in the Coal Harbour in Dun Laoghaire in 1974, Arthur helped now and again on a part-time basis, but by 1980 he was working with Alistair full-time with the INSS and their retail outlet Viking Marine.

Much and all as the brothers had enjoyed an idyllic Malahide childhood, as they both had business training they readily accepted that the greater density of population and affluence meant that any commercial sailing school, with its supporting shop, would have to be Dun Laoghaire-based. Over the years they have introduced thousands of people to sailing in a friendly, non-fussy way which nevertheless turned out hundreds of competent sailors, and reached a new height in 2016 when the INSS’s Reflex 38 Lynx – skippered by Alistair’s son Kenneth - was the top school boat in the Volvo Round Ireland Race, placing 10th overall in a very competitive fleet of 63 boats.

INSS Dinghy fleet Dun Laoghaire The remarkable variety of the INSS training fleet is well shown in just a few of its dinghies crowded together ashore in Dun Laoghaire Photo: W M Nixon

floating dinghy park INSSSpace is so limited along the Dun Laoghaire waterfront that Arthur Rumball had to introduce a floating dinghy park for some of its boats. Photo: W M Nixon

But that was only the peak of an astonishingly varied range of activities, all of which were supported by the ready availability of a fleet of boats whose maintenance Arthur oversaw and took an active involvement in working with. Indeed, there were few in the Irish boat-building and repair business who could rival Arthur’s breadth of experience and ability. His determinedly can-do approach – a Rumball family characteristic – was as inspiring ashore as his colleagues efforts afloat were in developing a practical “get-on-with-it” attitude to boats among those who benefitted from the INSS experience.

Despite his busy life around boats, Arthur had other interests and a very complete home life with Amanda and their three children, now all in their twenties. When it became known some time ago that he was battling gallantly with cancer, the thoughts of many worldwide were with him. And a shared hope was raised when it was known that the cancer had been cleared, even though a long struggle lay ahead for his weakened body to re-build itself.

Until a week ago, the outlook was promising, but then his condition suddenly deteriorated, and on Sunday, Arthur Rumball slipped quietly from among us all too soon at the age of 55. Our heartfelt condolences are with his family at this great loss which we share with his many friends, whose feelings have been best expressed both by Nick Bendon and his team in CH Marine, and by former colleague and pupil Rory Kelleher in Seattle.

From CH Marine, the message was: “From those early pioneering days of Dublin Boat Shows and Viking Marine, we always enjoyed his friendship and support, and while not wanting to use the word “legendary” too lightly, Arthur was that in our eyes, and a larger-than-life figure in the marine industry. This is the passing of a whole era, and we will miss him very much”.

Rory Kelleher spoke from the heart in a message to Alistair Rumball: “Please understand that he lives on in me, by the skills that he taught me. He is – as you are – one of the stones in the foundation of my life. And for that I am very grateful”.

WMN

INSS Lynx round Ireland raceA long way from a sailing dinghy or two being launched from the public slip in Dun Laoghaire in 1974 ……the Irish National Sailing School’s Reflex 38 Lynx at the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016, in which she was winning sailing school boat, and tenth overall in a fleet of 63

Published in News Update

Ever wanted to rent a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) for a blast on Dublin Bay? Here's your chance. The Irish National Sailing School's 4.5m RIBTECs fitted with Yamaha 40hp engines are ideal for trips around the capital's waters. Included in the price of a three hour charter at €115 is a full tank of fuel. 

The operating area for these boats is Dublin Bay, south of the shipping lane and as far East as Dalkey Island. The minimum qualification required to rent the boat is a National Powerboat Certificate (Level 2).

For more details on the offer check out the listing on Afloat's Marketplace here.

Published in RIBs

The Irish National Sailing School is offering new after schools learn to sail programmes for children of all ages. There are two new programmes available, an after schools club for children of all ages and our all new Wednesday afternoon’s transition year programme to allow children to tackle new challenges during transition year.

The after school club is specifically aimed for primary school children in the South Dublin locality as a facility to cater for supervised homework with the added bonus of a number of land and water activities. These activities include launch trips to feed the seals, some sailing if time allows or some on the water fun in our new water park. The INSS are also able to offer a collection service from local schools. 

The Transition Year/Second Level programme is designed to help students make the transition from dinghy sailing to be competent on both racing and cruising yachts. With LYNX its highly successful racing yacht and Beaufort Venture, its dedicated cruising yacht the INSS says it is perfectly suited to both ends of the yachting spectrum. The programme will cover navigation, practical sailing skills on both yachts, use of VHF radio and can also include the National Powerboat Certificate course.

Of particular interest to many children and yacht owners alike will be the opportunity for children to undertake the keelboat and yacht racing module which will teach children all the skills, tricks and knowledge to be competent crews and helms on racing yachts and keelboats, This training will take place on 1720 keelboats and its offshore racing yacht LYNX.

The programme is modular in format allowing students to undertake different sections as they please. The programme in the perfect solution for young students to gain work towards obtaining the Gaisce President’s award. The programme will conclude with a weekend long passage on-board one of its yachts lasting from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening, again this is in keeping with the requirements of the Silver Gaisce Award. The destination of the trip will be up to the students, who will use their new found skills to plan and execute the voyage, all under the guidance of one of its Cruising Instructors.

Further information on the INSS website here

Published in How To Sail

It was a glorious day in Dun Laoghaire. I could see young sailors clustered on boats around a pontoon. The sound of their enjoyment at being afloat drifted across the water. I was there because Alistair Rumball, who set up the Irish National Sailing School forty-four years ago, had talked to me about his concept of sail training when we met at the annual meeting of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association in Limerick.
I made a presentation there, urging clubs to improve access to the sport. While acknowledging my opinions and encouragement of the development of the ‘Try Sailing’ project by the Irish Sailing Association and expressing the hope that it would be successful in widening participation, I noted that Alistair had another approach, which he suggested I should “come and see.”

He told me that his school “had small beginnings but was now “the largest sail training provider in Ireland” and has provided training for 80,000 since it was established.

The Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School is based on the West Pier in Dun Laoghaire, to where it moved from its original base on the main street of Dun Laoghaire in 1991.
“We introduced more people to the water than any other organisation and pioneered low-cost course fees, which showed that sailing need not be an expensive sport.”

Following our chat in Limerick I was curious about the contrast between Alistair Rumball’s operation and the ISA Junior and adult courses offered through clubs and its ‘Try Sailing’ project and ‘Crew Point’.

Alistair Rumball was forthright to me in saying he had differences with the ISA about aspects of what it does. He made it clear to me that his operation has a commercial approach and its success is dependent upon the services which it provides and for which people were obviously prepared to pay and appreciated what was provided. INSS courses include junior, adult, schools, colleges, corporate sailing and race training.

It has a team of full-time instructors led by Alistair’s son, Kenneth, who is Manager and Chief Instructor. His sailing record includes offshore campaigns, the Fastnet, Sydney–Hobart and Rolex Middle Sea. I met him when I called to the INSS where, during our interview, he put emphasis on the enjoyment of sailing: “Use the boat to enjoy it. A fine balance between competition and enjoyment makes the sport enjoyable. Focussing too much on competition can be a barrier to enjoyment. The most important approach is to enjoy going sailing,” were amongst the points he made.
Listen to Kenneth Rumball on the Podcast below.

Read also: Dun Laoghaire Sailing's Cage Rattled By Malahide Boating Dynamo

Published in Island Nation

Last Sunday, Dun Laoghaire's Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School held its 2016 Open Day in association with Irish Sailing Association's 'Try Sailing' programme.

50 new people to the sport experienced the thrill of sailing onboard a 1720 sportsboat while 64 people enjoyed kayaking and Paddle-Boarding. Check out the video below:

 

Published in How To Sail

The Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School has been active this winter in anticipation of a busy summer season writes Principal Kenneth Rumball. Through various acquisitions the following additions to the INSS fleet have been made, 13 sit–on Kayaks, five double Kayaks, three rescue boats, 14 Laser Pico Training dinghies, 12 Topper dinghies, two topaz dinghies, three Topper Vibe dinghies, 10 Optimist dinghies and the purchase of another 6.5m fast RIB for our busy powerboat courses.

We have recognised a growing demand at the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School and we are being proactive in our purchase of equipment ahead of what we hope will be a busier than ever season! Our latest additions show our commitment to continue to be the leading Sailing & Powerboat Training centre in Ireland catering for everybody from the novice power-boater or sailor in dinghies and yachts to a seasoned racer looking to upskill or the experienced power-boater looking to take his skill to the next level. With the current fleet size of sailing and powerboats in the INS&PS standing at over 200 boats, we certainly have the capacity to get everybody on the water.

Our new fleet of course requires more instructors and for this we have been busy training staff not only to fulfil the demands of the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School but also of the country of Ireland. The Easter break was particularly busy with an ISA Dinghy Instructor Course run before the Easter weekend with 8 attendees and then after the Easter weekend we ran an RYA Dinghy Instructor Course with 18 attendees. We also ran possibly the first RYA Cruising Instructor Course to be held in Ireland over the break, training instructors to the level required to teach up to Day Skipper Practical level on the new ISA and RYA Cruising schemes. Not forgetting the other ISA Dinghy Instructor Courses, RYA Powerboat Instructor Courses that have already been run this year.

Here is a quote from one of our newest dinghy instructors;
“I'm just after completing my dinghy instructor course in the INSS and am so excited now to be able to pass on my skills to younger sailors and adults alike! The course was tiring at times but we all learnt so much and really enjoyed ourselves. It really was a fantastic week and year of training.” - Clodagh Quinn

Now that we have the extra boats and staff in place, we are gearing up for what we hope will be a busy and enjoyable summer.

Published in Sailing Schools

The Irish Cruiser-Racer Association (ICRA) is a unique organisation. “Run by sailors for sailors”, it is nevertheless a very land-centric administrative body whose only manifestation afloat as a group with its own identity is seen at the organisation of the annual ICRA Nationals. And the sense of it relating purely to the island of Ireland is accentuated by the fact that much of its work is essentially back-office activity, dealing with handicaps and all the other paraphernalia involved in providing the nation’s numerous and very diverse cruiser-racer fleet with meaningful racing. W M Nixon went to last Saturday’s ICRA Conference to get a flavour of what ICRA does, and came away both impressed and stimulated.

Sweeping along southwestward towards Limerick on our wonderful motorway system, while one’s body stays firmly on the dual carriageway, the mind can wander into any pathways it wishes. So we got to thinking that, in this age of increasing numbers of administrators trained to third level degrees in the running of not-for-profit organisations, it’s a bit odd to find a very successfully central organisation which is apparently run – and well run at that - on a Corinthian basis “by sailors for sailors”.

Surely in today’s climate, which favours key bodies such as this being run by highly-trained specialists on at least a semi-professional basis, a seemingly amorphous organisation which is “run by sailors for sailors” is verging on a clear case of the asylum being taken over by the lunatics?

We’d soon see. Meanwhile, why on earth hold an annual conference in Limerick? With Ireland’s population distribution changing so rapidly, skewing both towards the large urban centres and particularly towards the east coast and Dublin, surely anyone organising a national conference would find it attendee-friendly to look at the latest map of population weighting. As it happens, I’m not sure that such a map exists, but we’d like to think that with today’s computers it is possible to construct a map where, after due calculation, you could pinpoint to the exact centre of Ireland’s total population distribution.

So you set out heading for Limerick at an unfeasibly early hour thinking that maybe a central location such as pretty Portlaoise or tidy Trim would probably be Ireland’s central point in relation to population distribution. But after some smooth time on the road with the sense of the wonderful west coast coming ever nearer, you begin to wonder why ICRA didn’t make a proper job of it, and take us to Dingle where we can breathe that wonderful Atlantic air and think great thoughts of sailing the high seas.

Dis-a-Ray at Tarbert.2
Far from the pressures of the cities of the east and south coasts, Dis-a-Ray is moored in the peaceful surroundings of Tarbert, where the south shore of the Shannon Estuary has already become part of the Kingdom of Kerry. Photo: W M Nixon

As it is, though the Dubs may think of Limerick as being on the western seaboard, it’s actually remarkably central when you draw lines across Ireland between all the best sailing locations. And as we knew that the position of Commodore of ICRA was going to pass on Saturday from Nobby Reilly of Howth (the Dingle of the East Coast) to Simon McGibney, Limerick was just about spot on in terms of equal travel time. For although the new Commodore has Foynes YC on the Shannon Estuary as his home club, his Dehler 101 Dis-a-ray is actually moored at his home at Tarbert which is further west down the Estuary, so much so that Tarbert is in the Kingdom of Kerry.

We arrived in to find a virtually full house distributed around a room-circling table such as they use for international diplomatic conferences to make peace with rogue states, with the layout being planned so that everyone can be an equal participant. It was grand for those of us who had arrived in the nick of time to get a seat, as we’d the fully-equipped table in front of us (did anybody else find it the devil’s own job to open the rather good but tightly-wrapped little sucky sweets which are essential to a talking shop?), but being Ireland several people arrived late, the show was already on the road, and they’d to find a seat as best they could.

All of which meant that there was a bigger turnout than expected, which is good news for ICRA. And for those of us comfortably ensconced, it made for a fascinating throughput of information by a long list of speakers, even though the layout meant that networking was restricted to the one hour lunch break if - like many people - you were relying on the 3.30-3.45pm wrap-up to facilitate returning to Dublin or Cork or wherever for a completely different event that night.

From the beginning, the dominant theme was on how we get more people into sailing, and everyone blithely talked as though we’re offering Joe Public a warm and sunny Croatian sailing product right here in Ireland, cheerfully ignoring the fact the last two summers have been plain lousy in terms of good weather.

Certainly the sailing was great for the enthusiast, but can you imagine a newcomer to the rough and ready sailing world wondering where on earth the attraction of it all was to be found as they were blown and bashed around at what we thought of as the utterly wonderful ICRA Nationals at Kinsale in June, or took in the all-too-typical variety of Irish summer weather at the hugely successful Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in Dublin Bay in July?

Yet there is a fresh demand out there, and two of the morning’s speakers, Alistair Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire and Des McWilliam of McWilliam Sailmakers in Crosshaven, gave excellent talks on encouraging it, with Alistair showing us how his programme of moving beginners through dinghies and on into the school/club’s1720s, then became an inevitable progression into gaining experience and instruction on the school’s Prima 38 Lynx.

Alistair Rumball3.jpgThe mover and shaker. Alistair Rumball’s Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire is first port of call for many newcomers to sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

“Lynx has been a greater success than we could have ever dreamed of” he said. “She has been so booked out with people keen to learn about sailing a cruiser-racer that we haven’t been able to get as much actual racing with ISORA and so forth as we’d like. But for 2016, she’s being taken out of our Dun Laoghaire setup for long enough to be organised for a proper shot at the Volvo Round Ireland”.

Lynx sailing4
The double life of a Prima 38. The INSS’s Lynx in full racing mode in Dublin Bay (above), while below she is seen in early training mode as she takes a crew of beginners in cruiser-racing out for some formative experiences

Lynx sailing5

As of last weekend in Limerick, there were just two crew places left aboard Lynx for this year’s Volvo Round Ireland on June 18th, and they’ve probably been snapped up by now. But the Rumball presentation underlined the fact that there are people out there who are mad keen to get into cruiser-racing, and it was up to ICRA to guide its members as to how best to tap into these wannabee sailors, instead of bleating all the time about how hard it is to find crew.

Des McWilliam leapt into the same theme, and gave us a crash course in how to make crewing on your boat more attractive to strangers. Admittedly the experience of seven years of acute economic recession have understandably made those who have kept boats in racing commission more than a little stressed. But if they want to reap the benefits of having struggled to stay in the boat-owning stream, then they have to make their cruiser-racers pleasanter to sail on, and more effective racing machines.

The McWilliam message was blunt in the extreme. “As a sailmaker in Ireland, each year I will race actively at many venues on upwards of 40 boats, both evenings and weekends. I will experience many different management and sailing styles. At the end of the year looking back, I usually realise that there might be only ten to a dozen boats out of that total of forty to which I would gladly and freely return for the good sport, the efficient sailing, the successful racing, the camaraderie – the fun. The rest of them are just work, involving duty visits. Please remember this when you are setting up the running of your boat, and trying to encourage people to sail with you.”

Des McWilliam and Rory Staunton6
Des McWilliam of Crosshaven and Rory Staunton of Mayo. Des provided the meeting with some telling home truths about how attractive (or not) cruiser-racers throughout Ireland can be to sail on, while Rory Staunton led the charge in wondering why ORC and IRC cannot be amalgamated, and then went on to outline a new trailerable 33-footer he and an international group of friends are developing to make the incomparable west of Ireland a more accessible sailing area

We earned our lunch by going through an intensive session with Dobbs Davis of the Offshore Racing Congress, who had come to the conference with Zoran Grubisa to promote their measurement rule, which is used worldwide anywhere that IRC is not dominant, and in some key events such as the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, they are used in tandem, though IRC is currently the more-used system in that classic event.

It says everything about how Irish sailing punches way above its weight that these two guys thought it worth their while to come among us and evangelise for their system in a country which has a more-than-friendly relationship with the IRC and the people who run it. But it was fascinating stuff, making an input which added real spice to the day.

Davis is Chairman of the ORC’s Promotion & Development Committee, while Grubisa heads the Rating Officers Committee, and they run a system which is now the ISAF-approved rating method for the ISAF Offshore Worlds, which this year will be staged in Copenhagen in July, which as it happens is more or less the same time as the Royal Cork YC will be staging the new European IRC Championship in Volvo Cork Week at Crosshaven.

So the presence of the evangelists from the ORC at the ICRA conference could have opened up a right can of worms, but fair play to Dobbs Davis, he gave such an enthusiastic and lucid explanation of the completely transparent way in which ORC function that, for the time being at least, one’s instinctive loyalty to IRC was suspended out of intellectual curiosity.

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Leading Offshore Racing Congress officers Zoran Grubisa (left) and Dobbs Davis were in Limerick to evangelise for the ORC Rating system

While IRC still has one or two hidden elements – the “Black Box” factor – with the transparency of ORC, you can always see how different inputs are effecting the final figure. One-design sailors may find all this utterly yawn-making, but as Davis pointed out, although there are so many successful cruiser-racer One-Design classes in America that ORC has yet to gain significant traction there despite being first set up in the US forty years ago, elsewhere in the world more and more people are coming to ORC as they enjoy watching boat innovation and performance analysis interacting to make their sailing more interesting and the results indicative of pure sailing ability.

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The approachability of the ORC system was presented as one of its advantages

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The slice of the cake worldwide for the different rating systems

But as we all know, where IRC and OCR are run side-by-side, despite the IRC’s hidden elements the two outcomes are often very similar. And in Ireland where we have a soft spot for the old S&3 34s which set world alight in 1969-73, the fact that the veteran though beautifully restored S&S 34 Quikpoint Azzura was overall winner of the Rolex-Sydney Hobart Race under OCR, after so nearly doing it on IRC, caused a bit of heart-searching. But nevertheless Rory Staunton from Mayo SC spoke for many when he demanded to know why IRC and ORC couldn’t get together and resolve their small differences for the general benefit of the offshore racing fraternity. Dobbs Davis said his door was always open, but that began to feel a bit too reminiscent of the current efforts to form a government, so we were glad enough to take a break for lunch and then return to the rating topic, but from an entirely different point of view

The inevitable expense in maximizing your boat’s performance potential under either IRC or ORC made the sheer economy of ICRA’s Progressive ECHO system seem immediately attractive, and the lead-in the afternoon session by SCORA Commodore Ronan Enright even more apposite. Because the fact is, you could run the Progressive ECHO Handicap System without even knowing what a boat looks like, let alone having her dimensions measured do the last millimtre.

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Donal O’Sullivan of Dublin Bay SC, and Ronan Enright, Commodore SCORA, discussing sailing administration matters during the lunch break at Limerick. Enright went on to give an illuminating presentation about developments in Progressive ECHO Photo: W M Nixon

In the absence of ICRA’s ECHO supremo Denis Kiely - unavoidably absent for family reasons – Ronan Enright gave a quietly telling performance. It’s fascinating that though ECHO started life as the East Coast Handicap Organisation back around 1971-72, it’s now a nationwide service overseen by ICRA, and its most active area of development is in the cauldron of concentrated cruiser-racing which you find when the activities of Cork Habour and Kinsale are combined.

Basically, Progressive ECHO depends on the results of the most recent race, after which, if certain criteria have been fulfilled, the results are automatically re-computed to give boats a new rating based the supposition that they had all finished dead level on handicapped time. My own most recent experience of racing with it when it is being enthusiastically applied was in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, which was a perfect test-bed for the system, as it was a compact series with the same fleet throughout.

The result is a series-long level of commitment by boats and crews who, under a more brutal system, would have seen their interest and enthusiasm flag after Day Two or even earlier. So really the message is: If we’re trying to get people to enjoy sailing and particularly to enjoy racing which is what the non-involved most easily comprehend, then Progressive ECHO is doing more to get bums on boats than anything else in Irish sailing, for believe me you have never seen anything quite so heart-warming as the response of a crew who, under One-Design or fixed handicap systems, had not been at the races at all, yet suddenly under Progressive ECHO they find they’ve recorded a win.

Which was all good news but perhaps the most interesting revelation of all from Ronan Enright was that the top IRC racers around Cork are now taking a closer interest in their Progressive ECHO showing than there are in their IRC results. For under IRC, they know they’ll be in the top six, but each post-race adjustment of Progressive ECHO gives them a very clear message about just how well or not they were really doing on the day.

Tom MacSweeney of this parish then hosted a forum which basically came down to how sailing can present a more friendly and accessible response to people who might be vaguely interested, and could be potential sailing enthusiasts. This involved him drawing on his training as a critical journalist, for as he admitted, when he first turned up with his first sailing boat – a Ruffian 23 – in Crosshaven, everyone from Denis Doyle downwards immediately made him welcome. But we can all think of non-assertive characters who are great sailors, yet if they hadn’t been in sailing families in the first place, they might not have taken up the sport at all owing to the sometime apparently closed nature of “yachting”.

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We learned that very little of an Achill yawl is showing above the water after she capsizes. This is how they look in proper order

Allied to Des McWilliam’s incisive look at boats which you like to be aboard, and boats which you definitely don’t, and it all provided food for thought, as too did John Leech of Irish Water Safety with his no-nonsense presentation about a mature approach both to safety, and to being rescued. In an interesting mix of images, he showed us a photo of what happens to an Achill yawl when it capsizes. The result is an awful lot of rather waterlogged traditional boat under the surface, and only a little bit showing with the crew perched on top. As Des McWilliam was probably the only other person present with any idea of what an Schill yawl in full health looks like, the least we can do here is show you a photo of them in good sailing order. Meanwhile, John Leech concluded by saying that when you call out the ASR helicopters, think rather of how you can prevent your mast – if it’s still standing – from interfering with the rescue. Don’t for heaven’s sake use up emotional energy thinking about how much it all costs. They’re on standby all the time, and you the taxpayer have paid for them in the first place.

We concluded with Rory Staunton seeking interest and opinions for the new 33ft trailerable One-Design. While we all hope to get down to Clew Bay to sail the prototype this summer, could I suggest that one of the most exciting projects on the Irish cruiser-racer horizon is WIORA Week 2017 in the Aran Islands. So when they’ve finally got around to fixing a date, maybe the promoters of the new 33-footers could arrange to have a flotilla of them in Kilronan in 2017 to give the class a rocket-assisted launching.

Meanwhile this year’s WIORA West Coast Championship is under the auspices of the Royal Western of Ireland Yacht Club at Kilrush from June 29th to July 2nd. There’s so much extraordinary history in being able to write that simple bit of information that I reckon we’ll have to give it a complete blog in the future.

As for the ICRA Nationals, they’re at Howth from June 10th to 12th with both IRC and Progressive ECHO being used, while Volvo Cork Week comes up in July after the Volvo Round Ireland race has been tidied away in late June.

Although last Saturday’s Limerick gathering was essentially a wide-ranging conference, it was also the changeover to the new Commodore, with Simon McGibney taking on the mantle from the energetic and enthusiastic Nobby Reilly whose own boat, the Mills 36 Crazy Horse, was seen in virtually every event, and looked like heading for the win in Class at the ICRA Nats in Kinsale last June until new big winds swept George Sisk’s WOW to the fore. During Nobby’s busy time in the top office, ICRA’s activities and its reach steadily expand, while thanks to the persuasive efforts of Anthony O’Leary, a Commodore’s Cup team was assembled which regained the trophy in 2014.

mcdonald reilly12Ross MacDonald and ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes in July 2014 after Ireland had won the Commodore’s Cup. At the ICRA Conference in Limerick last weekend, McDonald won a special award for his season’s results in 2015 with his X332 Equinox, while Nobby Reilly stood down after his successful years as Commodore, handing over the helm to Simon McGibney.

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New ICRA Commodore Simom McGibney presents the “Boat of the Year” trophy to George Sisk of the Royal Irish Yacht Club, skipper of the Farr 42 WOW.

Work is going on behind the scenes to provide a strong defence this summer, but Anthony O’Leary wasn’t in Limerick to tell us about it, as he was away on his annual participation in America in the Viper 640 Championship, which just wouldn’t be the same if O’Leary wasn’t taking part - so much so that last year, he wasn’t present when his name came up as “Sailor of the Year” in Dublin, for he was away then too, Viper racing in the sun.

But other top sailors were there to round out the conference with the annual awards such as special performances by the likes of Dave Cullen with Checkmate XV and Ross Macdonald with Equinox and, while the ICRA Boat of the Year presentation, with warm acclamation, went to George Sisk of WOW, who not only admitted that his well-tested craft usually races with a crew of average age 53, but if he himself didn’t happen to be on board, the average age came down considerably………..And in case you think becoming ICRA Boat of the Year is all about glamour racing in sunshine, we close with a photo of WOW and the JPK 950 Alchimiste crawling towards the starting line for the Dun Laoghaire to Dingke race on the sort of damply windless evening that most folk would much prefer to spend comfortably at home.

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It isn’t always glamour and warm sunshine and pleasant breezes. 2015 ICRA Boat of the Year WOW on a damp and windless evening approaching the start of the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race with the JPK 960 Alchimiste.

Read also: ORC Interest From Ireland at the ICRA Conference

Published in W M Nixon
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