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The Annual Conference of the Irish Cruiser Racer Association (ICRA), an absorbing all-day affair in Limerick this Saturday (March 4th), has an intriguing agenda writes W M Nixon. But for many sailors from all over Ireland and the other side of the Irish Sea, the high point of it all will be the announcement of the ICRA “Boat of the Year” selected by the ICRA judges.

We revive memories of the great year of 2016 by running our own informal poll - just click as you wish on this alphabetic list at the bottom of this story to see whose achievements rise up the ranking. We can only say that that the wealth of choice speaks highly of the great good health and re-growing popularity of “waterborne truck racing”

anchor challenge1QUARTER TONNER Anchor Challenge – Paul Gibbons from Royal Cork Yacht Club. Photo: Bob Bateman

Anchor Challenge: Paul Gibbon’s classic Quarter Tonner from Crosshaven was good on enthusiasm, and good on performance, her top line being the overall win in the IRC Europeans at Crosshaven in July, which he plans to defend at Marseilles this summer.

antixKER39 Antix – Anthony O'Leary from Royal Cork Yacht Club. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Antix: Anthony O’Leary’s Fast Forty+ may not have had her most successful season ever in 2016, but many crews would give their eye teeth to have a record as good, topped with the Class O win in the IRC Europeans in Cork Harbour in July.

BAM Sunfast 3600SUNFAST 3600 BAM! - Conor Fogerty from Howth Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie

Bam!: With the complexities of the RORC Caribbean 2017 still fresh upon us, we realize just how good was Conor Fogerty’s Class win in 2016 in this demanding maze of a race around the islands with his Sunfast 3600 Bam!. And on top of that, it was all just part of an extraordinary season with thousands and thousands of miles of sailing and racing

Checkmate Davd CullenHALF TONNER Checkmate XV – David Cullen from Howth Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie

Checkmate XV: David Cullen’s beautifully-presented classic Half Tonner Checkmate XV found form to rocket to the top in the ICRA Nats at his home port of Howth in June in a very convincing style. Dave also skippered the J/109 Storm to a class win in the Volvo Round Ireland as Euro Carparks, but maybe that should count as a success for the Kelly family’s Storm, which also won the J/109 Nationals

Cartoon Quarter tonnerQUARTER TONNER Cartoon – Ken Lawless & Sybil McCormack  from the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie

Cartoon V: Ken Lawless & Sybil McCormack (RIYC) with their characterful Quarter Tonner came sweeping through the IRC Nationals to win their class in style.

dark angel yachtDUBOIS 37 Dark Angel – Tony Ackland from Swansea. Photo: Bob Bateman

Dark Angel: Tony Ackland from Swansea turned all heads with his handsome boat which in a previous life was well known in both Cork Harbour and Galway. There’s more than just looks to the Angel – she won IRC 1 in the Europeans at Crosshaven.

Harmony yachtHALF TONNER Harmony – Jonny Swan from Howth Yacht Club. Photo: Bob Bateman

Harmony: Jonny Swan’s wooden-built classic Half Tonner Harmony benefitted from an under-deck laminated fore-and-aft girder installed by Dougal McMahon of Belmont in County Offaly literally to provide a bit of backbone, and it worked a treat. In many victories, Harmony won IRC 3 in the Europeans at Cork.

Irelands Eye Kilcullen j24J24 Ireland's Eye Kilcullen – HYC under-25s from Howth Yacht Club

Ireland’s Eye Kilcullen: The HYC nippers – aka the under-25s – in the club-backed J/24 showed there’s still life in this classic Johnstone design. In open events they took second place in Class 4 at Cork Week and the IRC Europeans, they also took third overall in the J/24 Under 25 Europeans. And in the class in Ireland they won the Nationals (7 wins in 7 races), the Northerns, the Southerns, and the Westerns.

Jump JuiceKER36 Jump Juice - Conor Phelan from Royal Cork Yacht Club. Photo: Bob Bateman

Jump Juice: Like good wine, Conor Phelan’s Ker 36 from Cork improves with age. They won the RORC Easter Challenge in ferocious weather in the Solent overall, and they won Class O in convincing style at the ICRA Nats in June.

Joker 2 J109J109 Joker 2 - John Maybury from the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie

Joker 2: If you wanted a demonstration of the J/109’s all round ability, John Maybury’s Joker 2 provided it in 2016. She recorded a back-to-back win in the ICRA Nats – the only boat to do so in 2015-2016 – and under the skippering of Commandant Barry Byrne, she was the first winner of the new inter-forces Beaufort Cup including winning its Fastnet Race. Same boat, but completely different crews – Joker 2 makes a special claim for top boat of the year

OctopussE E BoatE–BOAT OctopussE - Pat O’Neill from Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club. Photo: Afloat.ie

OctopussE: The Julian Everitt-designed E Boat is a blast from the past, a miniature offshore racer in which the vertical keel can be retracted completely into the hull. The fleet at Clontarf deserve every credit for their multiple use, including club racing and canal cruising. But it is Pat O’Neill who carries it all through with competition in the ICRA Nats, and he won IRC 4.

Rockabill Paul O Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill – Paul O'Higgins  from the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie

Rockabill VI: It takes courage to start racing in a boat with a massive international success record like the JPK 10.80, but Paul O’Higgins was game for the challenge when he took Rockabill VI fresh out of the wrappings to do the Volvo Round Ireland Race in June, and came within an ace of a class win. He then re-surfaced for the IRC Europeans at Cork in July – and won IRC 2.

Who is Your ICRA Boat of Year 2016?
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Published in ICRA

GAS Calves Week 2016 started today with a final fleet of 73 cruisers in 6 fleets presenting for the racing arranged once again by Principal Race Officer Neil Prendiville and team. With an increased UK presence and new boats travelling from harbours around the Irish coast, the four–day Regatta, already an established event on many cruisers' annual calendar, has extended its reach.

After the heavy rain of the previous day, the conditions and visibility had improved considerably. Despite this, a number of the lead boats had to rely on GPS to locate the pre-positioned windward mark to the south of Long Island in the middle of Roaringwater Bay. The fleets started outside Copper Point and sent on a long windward beat and then around the Calf Islands once, twice or three times. Given the light wind conditions, varying between 6 and 14 knots, and between W and WNW as the race proceeded, a heavy swell and the flooding tide, tactical positioning counted heavily for those in a position to feature in the places. Honours were spread fairly evenly between clubs sending representatives.

Paul O'Higgins (RIYC) in his new JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI secured honours in both Class 0/1 IRC and ECHO in these difficult conditions, ahead of two Royal Cork boats, True Penance (Darrer/Garvey) in IRC and Altair (Dorgan/Losty) in ECHO. RCYC however swept honours in Class 2, with J80 Rioja (Baxter/Dillon) winning ECHO honours ahead of Galway Bay's Rob Allen on Smile, but losing out to fellow Crosshaven skipper Frank Desmond on his Sunfast 32, Bad Company.

RCYC also took IRC honours in Class 3 with the Lane/Enright partnership on J24 YouGottaWanna, edging out Tralee Bay's Boojum, the Sigma 33 of David Buckley. Local boats featured in the ECHO contest, with the Quinlan consortium on Quinsea (SHSC) winning the honours ahead of John Molloy's Holland 25, Manzanita. In Class 4 IRC, local boat, Sadler 32 Raffles (Tom Kirby/Sean Norris) was ahead of Kinsale Yacht Club Saoirse with Richard Hanley. In ECHO, however, Kirby and Norris had to settle for second place behind local rivals, O Buckley on Tete a Tete (SHSC).

In the hotly contested Whitesail categories, the conditions suited Bob Rendell's XC45 Samatom (HYC) ahead of Sean O'Riordan's YDream (KYC) in IRC. Brian Heffernan on Aisling (RCYC) took ECHO honours ahead of Dublin based Philip Smith on Just Jasmine (RIYC). In Whitesail 2, which is ECHO only, Kinsale Yacht Club shared the honours with Stephen Lysaght's Reavra ahead of John O'Regan on Main 4.

Published in Calves Week

Day 4 1800 An intriguing Round Ireland Race tussle has been taking place this afternoon and evening along Ireland’s most easterly coastline where County Down bulges out towards both Galloway in Scotland and the Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea writes W M Nixon.

Four boats – three Irish, one French – have been trying to trade places in the southwest to south winds as they dodged the north-going ebb tide across the mouth of Belfast Lough, and then rock-hop on down the outer coastline of the Ards Peninsula and beyond to where – well south of the entrance to Strangford Lough – the bulge comes to a sudden stop at St John’s Point with its very conspicuous lighthouse.

st johns point

Sentinel of the East Coast – St John’s Point in County Down with the Mountains of Mourne beyond

There are of course many more than just four boats in the area as the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 continues on its way. And far to the north, there are other boats which have been hung up in the strongest tides in the Rathlin Island area, and they probably deserve a report to themselves. But really, all they’ll want to do is get on with it again as the tide finally turns again in their favour around 1900hrs.

At this stage of the race, however, followers of the fleet have identified these four particularly interesting crews and boats of broadly comparable size still racing. And in these final stages of the biggest Round Ireland Race ever, it’s fascinating for race addicts to see how they play their hands as the game draws to a close.

The four boats, with their IRC ratings in brackets, are Paul O’Higgins new JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (1.046), Dave Cullen’s J/109 Euro Car Parks (1.016), Patrice Carpentier’s Sunfast 3200 GROUPE 5 (0.995), and Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules (0.971).

In terms of distance from the finish they’re widely spread, as Rockabill is 58 miles from Wicklow, Euro Car Parks is 67, Groupe 5 is at 80 miles, and the smallest one, Lambay Rules, is 102. Thus it must hardly seem a race at all to anyone accustomed to the One-Design scene. But believe me, there’s a ding-dong going on out there, and from now to the finish at Wicklow some time tomorrow, it’s neck-and-neck on the figures, even if they’re barely in sight of each other.

Currently in the overall placings, allowing for the fact that both Rambler 88 (George David) and Teasing Machine (Eric de Turckheim) are well finished in first and second and secure in their placings, this Battle of the Bulge has GROUPE 5 in third overall, Euro Car parks is fourth, Lambay Rules is sixth, and Rockabill VI is seventh.

Out in a race of her own well to the south is the fourth-placed boat, Michael Boyd’s much larger First 44.7 Lisa. But although Lisa has been milling her way at a fine pace towards the finish line all through the afternoon, at a position 7 miles east of the Baily on Dublin Bay she is about to run out of favourable tide with 22 miles still to sail to the finish. And though the M2 weather-buoy ten miles to the eastward is still showing 12 knots of good southerly breeze, inevitably Lisa’s crew are going to have a difficult evening of it with a foul tide and winds all over the place off Wicklow itself.

Lambay_rules_J97_round_ireland_yacht

By contrast, the smallest boat in our select group, Stephen Quinn’s Lambay Rules (pictured above), is off the southeast corner of Belfast Lough, and the new flood tide which is going to hinder Lisa in St George’s Channel will be a favourable tide for Lambay Rules. It will give her a mighty push through the remainder of the North Channel and out into the Irish Sea, where her three closest rivals are already working on tactical decisions which will stay with them for the remainder of the race.

Leader of the pack Rockabill VI is close-hauled on port well off Carlingford Lough, hanging in very well with Chris and Patanne Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, which is tough on Aurelia but good news for Rockabill. Next in line is Euro Car Parks, which hugged the coast more on the leg from South Rock Light to St John’s Point, but is now striking out in open water in some style, though on the 1800hrs fix, Rockabill is shown as slightly faster.

Early in the afternoon. Patrice Carpentier on the two-handed GROUPE 5 became disenchanted with staying with the rest of the fleet as they held close along the shore from the South Rock to St John’s. So he took what now looks like a flyer on starboard, but it may have been a good one, as he’s back on port and making a useful 6.2 knots.

GROUPE 5’s low rating puts her very much in the frame, as too does the even lower rating of Lambay Rules which is currently off Ballywalter showing only 4.9 knots over the ground, as the tide has still to turn. It’s very much Game On for a long night. We’ll take up the story again with our next report in the morning.

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

Published in Round Ireland