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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

The Royal Ocean Racing Club is inviting applications from suitable candidates for the post of Racing Manager to direct a small but energetic race management team based in Cowes.

The RORC is an international members' club with clubhouses in London and Cowes. It has a very busy race programme organising up to 20 races per season in the UK and abroad. RORC's signature event is the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race which has over 300 boats taking part and the RORC Season Points Championship is a much-coveted series of offshore races running at regular intervals from February to November. RORC also runs a series of inshore events including the RORC Easter Challenge, Vice Admirals Cup, IRC National Championships and Commodores' Cup. Recent expansions of the annual programme include European and World championships

The successful candidate will have first-hand experience of yacht and keelboat racing both inshore and offshore and a network of contacts within the professional yacht racing community. A proven record of managing people, projects and budgets is essential plus good communication and interpersonal skills. An understanding of commercial sponsorship and experience in marketing and communications would be valuable to the role.

The role will involve travelling to events within Europe, America and the Caribbean and weekend work for which time off in lieu will be given.

Salary is negotiable according to experience but a range of benefits include a pension scheme, life and travel insurance and 25 days' annual leave. An annual performance bonus may be awarded.

A full job description can be sent upon application. Closing date for applications is Thursday 1st June 2017.

Send covering letter and CV's by post to:
Royal Ocean Racing Club
20 St James' Place
London SW1A 1NN

Published in RORC

The Royal Ocean Racing Club's offshore racing season continues this weekend with the 4th race of the RORC Season's Points Championship. Over 80 yachts are expected to take part with the vast majority of the crews made up of passionate Corinthian sailors with their own set of goals.

Designed to last 24-36 hours, the De Guingand Bowl Race starts and finishes in the Solent and is a flexi-course allowing the Royal Ocean Racing Club to design a bespoke course.

"Without the constraint of finishing the race in a totally different location, we concentrate on the weather and tidal conditions to decide the course," explains RORC Racing Manager, Nick Elliott. "We try to get all of the fleet to finish the first beat in the same tidal vector, so as to avoid a tidal gate early in the race.”

In IRC Zero, Daniel Hardy's Ker 46 Lady Mariposa is the fastest yacht rated under the IRC rating system. However, several yachts in IRC One could challenge Lady Mariposa for Line Honours including Alan Hannon's RP45 Katsu, Edward Broadway's Ker 40 Hooligan VII, and Tor McLaren's MAT 1180 Gallivanter.

In IRC Two, Richard Neocleous' Ocean 55 Julia returns after its debut in last season's championship. The crew come from Hertfordshire and 18 year old Louie Neocleous will skipper Julia as he did last year.

“2016 was a great opportunity to put the team together and we all learnt a huge amount throughout the season.” commented Louie. “This year we are back to race much more competitively, we have a permanent race crew of 8. The remaining 6 crew are all friends, the boat's mate, Simon Jackson and I have crossed the Atlantic together and built a great relationship for the races. Last year, we were just beginners in terms of racing, our best result was 25th out of 86 boats in the Cervantes Trophy. This year, we hope to achieve better results on a consistent basis.”

In IRC Three, Trevor Sainty and Simon Forbes Jelenko is one of many J/109s that will be racing with the RORC this season. The crew have been together for about ten years and did their first Rolex Fastnet with Jelenko in 2015. The De Guingand Bowl Race is part of the teams programme for another crack at the Rolex Fastnet.

“All amateurs and we are all friends, most of the time.” smiled Trevor. “I am a veterinary surgeon working with horses, Simon works in the City, and the rest of the group are from the South of England and London, working in banking and IT. Our aim is to be top J/109 this season and improve our Fastnet finishing position by winning it of course. This will be my eighth consecutive Fastnet and last! - I said that last time.”

In IRC Four Dave Cooper & Paul England will be racing their Dehler 38 Longue Pierre. This will be their first RORC race this season, as part of their 2017 RORC Season’s Points Championship campaign.

“2017 is the 10th anniversary of us having won the great bowl overall.” commented Dave Cooper. This race will continue our rivalry with the Swan Xara. In 2016, we finished on equal points in JOG and the rivalry continues in both JOG and RORC this year. Longue Pierre is approaching her 30th birthday and has spent all of the last 30 years RORC racing.”

The 2017 De Guingand Bowl Race will start from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line, Cowes on Saturday 13th May

Published in RORC

August's Rolex Fastnet Race remains on track for a record-sized fleet. Currently 390 boats are entered: 338 competing for the main IRC handicap prize; the remainder racing for their own trophies in the Class40, IMOCA 60, Volvo Ocean 65 and Multihull grand prix classes.

This line-up makes the race the world's largest offshore race in terms of competitor numbers. Its entries are the most diverse, ranging from maxi-multihulls to the world's fastest monohulls, including those that compete in the fully crewed and singlehanded round the world races, to the racer cruisers and cruiser racers that form the majority of the IRC classes.

The fleet is also the most international. At the present tally, boats from 25 nations will be heading west down the Solent from Cowes on start day, Sunday 6th August.

As expected, the largest entry is from the UK with 58% of the fleet, but this means that 42%, or a whopping 164 boats, will have come from overseas.

France has dominated Rolex Fastnet Race results in both the IRC and non-IRC fleets in recent years and once again is back with a vengeance with the second largest entry, representing 13% of the fleet, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland with 7, 5 and 4% respectively.

Several teams will be making the journey from the furthest corners of the globe especially for the Rolex Fastnet Race. One of the most impressive efforts is from the Australian trio. This includes Finnish former Whitbread Round the World Race skipper Ludde Ingvall with his heavily remodelled Rolex Sydney Hobart Race line honours-winning maxi, CQS (ex-Nicorette). In her latest incarnation, this boat has been lengthened to 100ft and is futuristic-looking with a low volume reverse sheer bow, deck wings to increase her shroud base and a Dynamic Stability Systems lateral foil arrangement.

Also from down under, Rupert Henry's Judel-Vrolijk 62, Chinese Whisper will be back on familiar waters: She was previously Sir Peter Ogden's all-black 62ft Mini Maxi, Jethou. She is joined one of the most famous 'classic' maxis, Kialoa II, the elegant 73ft aluminium S&S design, enthusiastically raced by American Jim Kilroy from 1963-1973, when she won both the Transpac and Sydney Hobart races. She is now campaigned by Patrick Broughton.

As usual there are strong entries from the USA led by George David's Rambler 88 and Privateer, Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50 competing a decade on from when Ger O'Rourke's sistership, Chieftain, won overall.

This year's race has its largest ever Asian entry with boats coming from Korea, Japan and China.

In the Class40, Japan's Hiroshi Kitada returns to the UK with his Pogo40 S3, Kiho, having competed in the Transat bakerly and Quebec-St Malo races last year.

From China is Ark323, skippered by Li Yun. This Botin & Carkeek-designed TP52 (ex-Sled/Warpath), in 2015 became mainland China's first entry with an all-Chinese crew in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. The boat is now making the long haul to the UK to compete in another of the internationally renowned 'classic 600 milers'.

Korea's first entry in the Rolex Fastnet Race comes in the form of the GP42 Sonic. Campaigned by Andrew Rho, Sonic has been one of the most competitive teams in Korea's burgeoning big boat racing scene.

Russia is becoming an increasingly major player in international yacht racing and will be fielding at least three entries including Pjotr Lezhnin Racing in the Class40, while in the IRC fleet is Sergei Zhedik's Sunfast 3600 Voyager and Igor Rytov's JPK 10.80 Bogatyr. Rytov competed in the last Rolex Fastnet Race as a crewman and, according to the Bogatyr team's Ivan Sharapov "he thought there was room for improvement, so he is doing it again on his own terms with a crew he's selected." Rytov acquired a JPK 10.80 following the victory of Géry Trentesaux's sistership Courrier Du Leon, in the last Rolex Fastnet Race.

Following on from its MOD70 entry in previous years, Oman Sail returns to the Rolex Fastnet Race this time in the Class40 fleet. Once again the crew will be led by French round the world sailor Sidney Gavignet who is spending this season coaching up top Omani sailor Fahad al Hasni in shorthanded offshore racing.

From the eastern Mediterranean, the race has a Turkish entry in Yigit Eroglu's First 35 F35 Express, while following the successful debut with Team Israel in last year's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, Omer Brand is returning with another Israeli crew, this time aboard Richard Loftus' Swan 65 and long serving competitor, Desperado. Brand and his crew will have to get used to some ancient Desperado traditions such as the black tie dinner at the Fastnet Rock not to mention the team's pet gorilla, Joe Powder.

"It is brilliant to see such a diverse fleet with huge international representation," says RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen."The Rolex Fastnet race is recognised worldwide as one of the most challenging 600 mile offshore races. It combines the tidal challenges of the Channel, with headlands to negotiate on the English South Coast, with open ocean racing in the Celtic Sea going to and from that iconic landmark, the Fastnet lighthouse off southern Ireland. Add to these navigational challenges typically unpredictable English weather which tests the seamanship and stamina of all the crew. This is why serious offshore sailors from all over the world want to take part."

Published in Fastnet

Over 500 yachts are taking part in the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship. Over 5000 sailors from all over the world will race in the biggest offshore sailing competition in the world. While this year the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race is the showcase event, there are fourteen testing races that make up the championship, and every race has its own coveted prize for the overall winner and for class honours. For 2019 a second Irish race is hoping to be added to the series.

The 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship destinations include the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Virgin Gorda, plus the Spanish island of Lanzarote. There are seven European destinations: Belgium, France, Great Britain, Guernsey, Ireland, Malta, and the Netherlands. Five races are to count for Class Honours and the highest total score will designate the winner Overall racing under IRC.

RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd from Dublin's Royal Irish Yacht Club will be racing Lisa, in IRC One. Owned by Suzi and Nick Jones, the British Bénéteau 47.7 was last year's overall winner with Michael Boyd taking part in a number of races, including the Round Ireland, with the team.

"The RORC Season Points Championship is seriously difficult to win especially in a Rolex Fastnet year when there are many boats and the competition is tough. This year, I have chartered Nick and Suzi Jones’ Lisa and we have put a squad together to take up the challenge and it is going to be hard to win again.” commented Michael Boyd. “This will also be my last season as Commodore of the RORC and I wish to pass on the honour with the club in good health. One of my key goals is to increase the activities of the club internationally. Over a third of our club members are from overseas and we have yachts racing under the club's IRC rating rule all over the world. The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of the great races to win but to win any of the RORC races throughout the championship will a moment to savour.”

Cervantes Trophy Race
Start: 29th April, 2017
Course: Squadron Line, Cowes – Le Havre
Distance: 110-160 miles (Channel Marks may be included).

The first European race of the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship will be the Cervantes Trophy Race, 100 yachts are expected to start from the Yacht Squadron Line.

Dutch Grand Master, Piet Vroon is back, as skipper of Ker 51, Tonnerre 4, taking another tilt at the championship in IRC Zero. In IRC One, Alan Hannon's RP45, last year's Best Overseas Yacht will be racing. In IRC Two, Michael Boyd's Lisa is the highest rated boat, and sees Gilles Fournier's French J/133 Pintia as one of the teams to beat.

“The Cervantes Trophy is our first race of the season and we will discover how good the competition is.” Commented Gilles Fournier. “We aim to do well in our class, as for the overall, luck is always an important factor. The Rolex Fastnet is attracting a big fleet, so winning our class as we did the last two years will not be easy.”

In IRC Three, a huge variety of yachts will be competing from elegant Swans to lightweight JPKs. With such a diversity in the fleet, the weather will play a crucial part in favouring races for displacement yachts such as Ben Morris's Swan 55 yawl, Lulotte and light weight flyers like Richard Palmer's JPK 10.10 Jangada. The armed forces will do battle in J/109s, the Royal Armoured Corps’ Ajax and the Royal Navy Sailing Association's Jolly Jack Tar are bound to have a close conflict.

Frers 45, Scaramouche will be sailed by the Greig City Academy, to kick off their Rolex Fastnet campaign The school from Harringay, London will become the first State School to enter the Rolex Fastnet Race, if they complete their qualification requirements. Four Sixth Formers have received their RYA Day Skipper qualification and the rest of the crew will be selected after taking their RYA Day Skipper Course. Half of the crew must now race 300 miles to qualify and there are First Aid and Offshore Special Regs Requirements.

Gregg School pupil, Shabazz Patterson, is excited about the chance to race in the Rolex Fastnet:
“It’s a big challenge for us. You have to be alert all the time on deck, everything can be still with no other boats in sight and then there will be a sudden change in the direction of the wind and it all becomes very intense as you tack to change course. We’ll be working in shifts over the four days. You think you won’t sleep between shifts, especially if it’s choppy, but as soon as you get into the berth you fall asleep because you’re just so physically tired.”

Seven Class40s will be racing to Le Havre, including RORC Transatlantic Race winners, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron in Campagne de France. (Arthur Daniels/RORC)
IRC Four is expected to be the largest class racing for the Cervantes Trophy, last year's class winner Noel Racine's French JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew has the highest rating in the class for the Cervantes Trophy. Previous Cervantes Trophy winner, Winsome skippered by Harry Heijst, will be hoping for suitable heavy weather to challenge the lighter displacement yachts. 20 teams will be racing in the gutsy IRC Two Handed Class with a fleet of seven short handed Class40s also entered, including RORC Transatlantic Race winners, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron in Campagne de France.

Speaking on behalf of the Société des Regates du Havre, Christophe La Chevre promises a warm welcome in Le Havre for the finishing teams. “All competing sailors will be very welcome with free dockage for 24 hours. The club will stay open all night on Saturday. I recommend booking a table for Sunday lunch (+33 235 412100 email: [email protected]). The restaurant has a very beautiful view. It is also the 500th birthday of Le Havre City, so there are many things to explore.”

Published in RORC

Time was when the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was promoted as a handy way to position your little old cruiser in West Kerry to be nicely placed to make her way in gentle hops back to her home port on the south or east coast, ambling in leisurely stages along one of the finest cruising grounds in the world writes W M Nixon.

It was envisaged primarily as a sort of enlarged club race, the club setting the tone being the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. There, enthusiastic members and Dingle race plotters Martin Crotty, Peter Cullen and Brian Barry added a further attraction when promoting the first race, as it drew nearer in 1993, by suggesting that real dyed-in-the wool cruising types might find the race of interest if they were thinking of continuing with a clockwise cruise on round Ireland.

dingle harbour 2Dingle Harbour makes for an attractive destination...

dingle marina3…while its marina is enticing for cruisers and racers alike

Lovely idea. But so far as I know – though it’s very much hoped that I’ll be rapidly informed otherwise – it is this goggle-eyed wordsmith focused on his ancient computer screen who is still the only cruiser-racer skipper who has completed the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, and then cruised on round Ireland.

We did it in handy stages, leaving the boat in Dingle for ten days after the race was completed to return home to the word-production coalface, then going on to leave her on a mooring we’d laid at Arbear at the head of Clifden Bay after we’d cruised the Aran Islands and Connemara in detail, followed by another return home for the manufacture of merchandisable verbiage. Then the third stage was home to Howth round the top, with Donegal doing its best to rival Kerry for dramatic scenery.

However, that was all a very long time ago. In fact, it was so long ago it was the first time I’d sailed with a proper pair of Dubarry Shamrock Goretex boots. I’d previously had an experimental leaky pair from a different manufacturer with which I’d persisted for years, so I can still remember the sheer joy of dry warm feet whatever the weather after the genuine Dubarrys had been deployed.

But enough of such ramblings - even if it does serve to remind us of the way the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race has become a much-loved part of our sailing world. And as for the reason for people not cruising on round Ireland when being in Dingle leaves them so handily placed for continuing the circuit - the answer is simple. The fact is that the course of almost 300 miles has taken them as swiftly as possible past some of the most glorious cruising places in Ireland, and the only way the skipper can keep his shipmates plugging on is by swearing on all that is holy that they’ll cruise gently back the same way in a much more civilised style.

In such circumstances, you’re whistling against the wind in trying to sell the coast of Connacht as the more interesting way to get home. Yet from an early stage, even the notion of the Dingle dash as having a strong cruising orientation hasn’t really held up for a significant part of the entry. People go into it with every intention of winning, and the talk of conveniently positioning the boat for a spot of cruising in Kerry and West Cork has only been smoke and mirrors.

dingle yacht tracker4The Yellowbrick record of the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race in 2015. Sometimes the fleet has been even more widely spread than this

The pace was set from the off in 1993, when the winner was Richard Burrows’ Sigma 36 Black Pepper. In subsequent years, she was cruised to Greenland and other Godforsaken spots in the ownership of fellow Malahide sailor Peter Killen, so Black Pepper has a boat history which must make her the best-used Sigma 36 ever. Certainly for the Dingle dash of 1993, skipper Burrows shipped aboard the formidable talents of Peter Wilson and Robert Dix as the main occupants of the driving seat, and Black Pepper had a wellnigh perfect race.

That said, at the riotous prize-giving afterwards – the Dingle prize-giving is always riotous, just relax and enjoy it – Black Pepper’s skipper gave a wildly funny speech which he rounded out by presenting Robert Dix with the Golden Blanket Award. As to what was meant by that I haven’t a clue, so you’ll have to ask Dixie himself. But as he has been winning major awards of every kind since 1970 when he became the youngest ever Helmsmans Champion, the Golden Blanket goes well in his trophy cabinet.

With the first race off to such a humdinger inauguration, the vision of the founders had been justified. Well, perhaps “vision” is overstating it. At this week’s launching of the 2017 staging, which will be on June 14th, longtime organiser Martin Crotty revealed that the idea of the Dingle Race came about almost by misadventure.

martin crotty5The founding Dingle Race organiser Martin Crotty reminiscing about the early days in 1993 at this week’s reception in the National Yacht Club. Photo Michael Chester

peter cullen6Peter Cullen was another of the inspired group who first thought of the race in 1992. Photo: W M Nixon

He and fellow owner Peter Cullen had been doing the 1992 Round Ireland Race with their hefty Sigma 41 Koala, and in slugging up the west coast into a particularly unpleasant northerly (I remember that one too), their mainsail went into several pieces on the latitude of Loop Head, so they retired and ran back to Dingle, a place they didn’t know at all.

They got to know it very well indeed over the next day or two, and the hospitality the little West Kerry port meted out to them – with the Dingle Skellig Hotel more or less providing open house – soon got them thinking that a race there rather than sailing all the way round the Emerald Isle would be an interesting alternative in the years when the biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow was not being staged.

Such ideas seem marvellous over a pint or three as midnight draws on, then fade from the memory. But there was some special chemistry already at work between the can-do Dun Laoghaire sailors and the maritime-minded folk of Dingle. Perhaps it’s because both ports think they’re the hub of the universe…… Whatever the secret ingredient, by 1993 in Dingle Harbour, Master Brian Farrell was ready to welcome the fleet, a new marina was in the making, and Dingle was on the cusp of an entirely new era.

dingle town7Dingle in the far west of Kerry has formed strong links with Dun Laoghaire in Dublin Bay, yet the two places could not be more different.

As for the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, we knew it was fully part of the scheme of things by 1995, as Denis Doyle turned up to compete with Moonduster. Once that happens, you know your race has arrived, and “The Doyler and The Duster” were honoured participants for many years, encouraging some very substantial boats to subsequently take part, with new heights being reached in 2009 when Michael Cotter’s handsome 78ft Whisper brought a touch of global glamour and a new record, though she missed the magic 24 hours by 43 minutes and 45 seconds.

As each race succeeded its predecessor, a bonus emerged when it was acknowledged that the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle would count as a qualifier for the Fastnet Race, which would as usual be staged about eight weeks later. By this stage the race had so much going for it that it seemed impervious to setback, but like everything else in Irish life, it went through diminished times during the recessionary years.

denis doyle8When “The Doyler and The Duster” (Denis Doyle and Moonduster) became involved from 1995 onwards, the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race was made. This is a page from the August 199 Afloat magazine, with Moonduster much in evidence in the race report. The winner that year was Donal Morrissey’s GK34 Joggernaut from Galway, and in those days the start was in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

But then came 2015, and the numbers were back up, and then some. Having seen his pet project through times good and bad, Martin Crotty had indicated that this 12th Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race would be the last he would personally administer, but already a strong successor was being briefed in the person of Adam Winkelmann. And in the 2015 race he had a vintage familiarisation to observe how it all worked, though as his mother Carmel was for many years one of the time-keepers, he started from a position of inside knowledge.

Over the years, the Dingle Skellig Hotel, which showed such generosity to the sea-battered crew of Koala way back in 1992 – leading to the inception of the race – has stayed on board as co-sponsor, and everyone’s longterm faith in the event was born out in 2015’s race, which was a classic. Before it, the atmosphere around the National Yacht Club was pure carnival, and while the start may have been slow, the winds soon filled in from the north and the fleet scampered down the east coast.

Out in front, the line honours battle was between Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners from Dun Laoghaire and Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 40 Antix from Cork, and they went so well that for a while it looked like Antix might get the corrected time win. But holes in the wind at the Fastnet and beyond shook up the order, and by the finish it was glory day for J Boats, with the Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth (NYC) winning by 20 minutes from her Pwllheli-based sister-ship Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), the first foursome being very complete for the Johnstone brothers as the J/122 Aurelia was third and the J/109 Dear Prudence was fourth.

Antix dingle 2015Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 40 Antix crossing the finish line at Dingle in 2015

liam shanahan10Overall 2015 winner Liam Shanahan at the helm of his J/109 Ruth with Skellig Michael put astern, and crewman Kevin Daly trimming the main for the final stage up Dingle Bay to the finish.

dingle party llAfter a rugged race, there’s nothing like an al fresco party at Dingle

But in a fascinating contest, almost every boat was having her day at one stage or another, and for those who were doing the race as a Fastnet qualifier, it came up trumps. Irish Offshore Sailing’s 36ft Jeanneau Desert Star may have only been in the middle of the fleet in the Dingle results, but her crew were on a learning curve and on top form by the time they did the Fastnet Race, so much so that they won overall in the 33-boat fleet making up the Sailing Schools Division, a well-earned dream result for skipper Ronan O Siochru.

So Martin Crotty handed over a prestigious event in really good order to Adam Winkelmann after all the D2D business was done and dusted in 2015, and this week’s launching reception in the National Yacht Club for what is now the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was one of those gatherings which ticked so many boxes that we could get a month’s worth of Sailing on Saturdays out of it.

The heartwarming sense of continuity was palpable. Not only was Adam Winkelmann taking over the D2D from Martin Crotty, but in the host club, Ronan Beirne had been barely a wet week as the new Commodore in succession to Larry Power. To say that the speeches were in tune with the mood of the evening barely gets the flavour of it. It was a time for nostalgia, a time for relishing the present, and a time for keenly anticipating the future, with all aspects covered.

adam winkelmann12Adam Winkelmann, chair of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Dingle race Committee, reveals his hopes for 2017’s race and the races beyond. Photo: Michael Chester

It was Adam Winkelmann who summed it all up in a friendly presentation – he does it so painlessly that the word “speech” is way too pompous – effortlessly telling us about the new dynamic with the lineup with Volvo, the continued support from Dingle with the Dingle Skelligs Hotel joined by Crean Brewery – and the growing interest from the RORC with that club’s Janet Grosvenor – a very good friend to Irish offshore racing – planning to monitor the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2017 with a view to giving it greater recognition in the RORC’s 2019 programme.

dingle volvo adam13Graham Fitzgerald of the Dingle Skellig Hotel, Patricia Greene of Volvo Car Ireland, Adam Winkelmann, and Jerry O’Sullivan of Crean Brewery, Dingle. Photo Michael Chester

As it is, the 2017 race will start on the evening of Wednesday June 14th, which research among competitors has show is reckoned as the most user-friendly time for those fitting the race into work breaks, as it means you can definitely do a three day week, yet have every chance of making the clock-in at the workplace first thing Monday morning.

Thus the prize-giving will be on Saturday night, and it is being moved beck to the Dingle Skelligs’ sister establishment, Benners Hotel in the heart of town. As for the bigger picture, the timing also allows a useful gap before the Sovereigns Cup series starts at Kinsale on June 21sr, but while the start time will be tight for anyone who also plans to also do the ICRA Nationals at Crosshaven from Friday June 9th to Sunday June 11th, in times past we’d have reckoned that’s it a logistical challenge which is do-able, you just draw lots for the three guys who are going to take the boat to Dun Laoghaire as soon as the last race at Crosser is over.

As if that’s not enough of a challenge, Ric Morris has lately been airing a suggestion that it’s time to think seriously about an Irish National Offshore Championship based around the many events already in existence. He reckons that with the Round Ireland and the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle races alternating at the peak of this annual season-long series, we’d have an intriguing setup which has the potential to involve many boats – and he means many big time.

Certainly the imprimatur of the RORC on the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race would give it turbo power, making it a serious points accumulator apart from being a superb race in its own right. Truly it has moved on a long way from being a handy little club-oriented event best used to position your boat in Ireland’s finest cruising ground. But we shouldn’t be surprised, when we remember that the Fastnet Race itself started in a very modest way in 1925. It was so shunned by the sailing establishment that it couldn’t get a starting line at Cowes, and had to be sent eastward out of the Solent from the start line of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club at Ryde.

ronan beirne14Brian Farrell, Harbour Master of Dingle when the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle race was inaugurated in 1993, Ronan Beirne the newly-elected Commodore of the National Yacht Club, and Yannick Lemonnier, who will be racing a Minitransat 650 to Dingle. Photo Michael Chester

Presumably the RORC still sends the RVYC an annual Christmas card as a token of their appreciation of that display of faith way back in 1925, now that the hugely popular Fastnet Race is started from all the glory of the Royal Yacht Squadron line at Cowes.

And as for the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race in all its manifestations, while it has always been comfortably under the imprimatur of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, the developing positive attitude towards sailing at official levels in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown was underlined by the official presence at Tuesday’s gathering of Councillor Cormac Devlin, Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council.

But while the new turbo power of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was quietly in evidence at the party in the National YC this week, it was good to meet up with old friends from Dingle from the earliest days, particularly the former Harbour Master Brian Farrell whose enthusiasm for his job always went way beyond the call of duty.

There too were Brian Barry and Peter Cullen, both of whom did so much to put the show on the road and keep it there through times good and bad. But it was appropriate that also present was the one and only Yannick Lemonnier, who did the race in the two-handed division in 2015 (he was second to Howth’s Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles) but in 2017 will be doing it in a new special division which has been encouraged into the fray by the National’s Sailing Manager Olivier Prouveur.

Yes indeed – the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race will be providing a start for Mini 650 boats, and Yannick Lemonnier will be right in the thick of it all. They’ll get a separate prize and won’t be in the IRC Division, but it’s a new twist in a race which, in 2017, will also have a new old twist.

david thomas15David Thomas, MD of Volvo Car Ireland, with Emma O’Carroll, also of Volvo Car Ireland, and Darryl Hughes, owner-skipper of Maybird, the first gaff-rigged entrant in the Dingle Race. Photo Michael Chester

For no-one has any recollection of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race ever having a gaff-rigged entry in its 24 years. Yet the madly enthusiastic Darryl Hughes has entered his beautifully-restored 1937 Tyrrell-built 43ft gaff ketch Maybird. He knows he’ll be doing quite well to make it to Dingle in time for the prize giving. And then he’ll have to think of further schedules, as he is also entered for the Classics Division in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from July 9th to 12th. But in the National this week this week he was able to assure everyone that Maybird is already well n the way to being race ready. Sure hadn’t he and his mates scrubbed her and anti-fouled her – including a fresh boot-top – all on the one Spring tide at Poolbeg a couple of weeks ago? So the count-down is already well under way for the turbo-powered Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2017.

maybird scrub16Race preparation. Maybird gets completely re-antifouled and with a fresh boot-top a fortnight ago, all in one tide at Poolbeg

Published in W M Nixon

The National Yacht Club looks set to gain Royal Ocean Racing Club recognition for its mini–offshore Dun Laoghaire Dingle race as David O'Brien reports in the Irish Times Sailing Column this morning. 

The Dun Laoghaire Dingle application is well timed because RORC Commodore Michael Boyd says the London–based club is keen to encourage RORC racing across the UK, not just Channel races.

The June 14th race – first hosted by the NYC and County Kerry’s Dingle Sailing Club in 1993 – is working closely with Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) and the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) to develop the “mini-offshore” into an international race.

Incoming race chairman Adam Winkelmann is adding extra spice by adding a new title sponsor and recruiting a French Mini–Transat fleet.

RORC will assess this Volvo-sponsored edition of the race with a view to adding the race to its points series in 2019.

Read the full story in the Irish Times here and more on this year's D2D race here

Published in Dun Laoghaire Dingle

Maybe it’s because the weather has been unseasonably like home at times out in the Caribbean, but the Irish sailors spread through the RORC fleet have been in the racing frame through a wet cold front from the nor’west. For a while, it turned sunshine hopes upside down, but the Micks in the mix are on boats which have been showing mighty well since last’s night’s posting, when top navigator Ian Moore on Bella Mente was leading the fleet on IRC writes W M Nixon.

The first of the multi-hulls, Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD 70 Phaedo 3 with Damian Foxall on the strength, has already taken line honours in 33 hours. But further down the line, the pendulum of fortune has swung back and forth as monohull boats of hugely varying sizes take on the challenges of a real cat’s cradle of a course.

The vagaries of fortune are revealed by the fact that for some hours this morning Irish time, the overall leader was the superyacht Dannesskjold, whose crew include Tim Goodbody, Aine Hanevy, and Paul O’Donoghue, while the Kinsale-registered Lilla was third. But the most recent set of figures show that Dannesskjold has plunged to 32nd overall, while Lilla plunhed to 48th, and the best-placed Irish sailor is now Marcus Spillane, originally of Cork, now San Francisco-based, an ISA Board Member and representative on World Sailing.

He also presides over the 49er International Association and the Nacra 17 Association, but currently his focus is on getting the best performance out of the Swan 66 Bounty in the Caribbean 600, and they lie third overall, 20 minutes or so ahead of George David’s Rambler 88 in fourth, and 45 minutes ahead of Bella Mente in 5th. Yet while Phaedo may be well finished, but there’ll be many twists of failure and fortune before we get the final IRC placings.

Published in RORC

Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for October 2016, ace navigator Ian Moore originally from Carrickfergus, is once again calling the shots aboard Hap Fauth’s Maxi 72 Bella Mente. And they’re leading the fleet in the RORC Caribbean 600 by nearly an hour on corrected time as the first 24 hours of racing draws to a close with many islands still to be rounded, and a myriad of wind changes to be negotiated writes W M Nixon.

2016 was Moore’s dream year, as among other achievements he piloted the RP 63 Lucky to a runaway win in the Transatlantic Race in July, and then he transferred to Bella Mente for Cowes Week in August and showed he was equally adept at working the inshore Solent conditions to take just about every major prize. Came October, and he guided the Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino to the overall win in the Middle Sea Race.

Now he’s back at the screens aboard Bella Mente, and has clearly taken over where he left off, on top form. He would have been in there on Bella Mente’s start, which was a classic, calling for water right in under the cliffs as she forced the fleet - and particularly the 2016 winner Proteus – to allow her to tack onto port.

But this is one complex race, like sailing a course made from a bowl of spaghetti, so a lot of chips (if you’ll excuse a hyper-mixing of metaphors) have to fall the right way into the deep-fat fryer which is Caribbean racing, in order to stay ahead of a hungry fleet including the likes of George David’s Rambler 88.

Despite the sad sudden departure of Sean McCarter from the fray aboard the much-fancied Infiniti 46 Maverick after a crewman sustained a serious hand injury, Irish interest is strong throughout the fleet, and the one boat with an Irish sail number, Simon and Nancy DiPietro’s Kinsale YC-registered Briand 76 Lilla (a prize winner in past races), is tramping along in the top half of the fleet, well-placed for a boat which is really a cruiser-racer.

Lilla yachtLilla is flying the flag for Ireland, and doing mighty well for a boat with full cruising comfort.

Through the fleet we find such Irish luminaries as Tom McWilliam aboard Leopard, Gabrielle MacManus on Olympia’s Tigress, Wicklow’s David “Farmer” Ryan and WSC Commodorial spouse Jim Cummins on the First 40 Arthur Logic, Damian Foxall on Phaedo 3, Marcus Spillane on Bounty, Barry Hurley and James Murphy on Pata Negra, Maurice “Prof” O’Connell and Dwayne Lysaght on Louise, Timothy Goodbody, Aine Hanevy and Paul O’Donoghue on Danneskjold, Cian O’Carroll on Eleonara E, William Byrne and Chris Raymond on Spice, Mark Norman on Piccolo, Storme Delaney (I’m not making these names up) and Ciara Scott on Sunset, and James Carroll on Spice.

Between them all, we should have something to show for everyone’s efforts in a race which at its inauguration in 2009 was won overall by Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners of the Royal St George YC. This is a boat which in a previous incarnation was Ger O’Rourke’s Cheftain of the Royal Western of Ireland yacht Club, overall winner of the 2007 Fastnet. Our 2017 squad have a lot to live up to.

Published in RORC

Sean McCarter, the Derry Clipper World race sailor who is part of the Infniti 46 Maverick crew has retired from the RORC Caribbean 600 following an injury to a crewman this morning. 

A statement from the boat an hour ago said: "Maverick diverted to Nevis to drop Steve Taylor off at the hospital after suffering an injury to his right hand. As soon as the incident occurred the team retired from the race and made best speed to Nevis. Piers has gone with Steve to the hospital in Nevis. The rest of the team are safe and well. We are on a mooring outside of Charlestown Nevis and will clear customs tomorrow morning. Our thoughts are with Steve. His next of kin have been notified."

McCarter, who has his eye on a Vendee Globe 2020 campaign, was part of the British Maverick crew skippered by Oliver Cotterell.

The latest news from the race tracker is that Ireland's former Green Dragon VOR entry is second overall and while Round Ireland Multhull record holder Phaedo 3 is first multihull they are behind last year's record pace. 

An array of Irish sailors are on different boats at this week's event and are lead by County Kerry's Damian Foxall as they compete in the ninth edition of the regatta that  started in magnificent conditions with the largest ever offshore fleet assembled in the Caribbean enjoying sparkling conditions. A south–easterly breeze, occasionally gusting up to 15 knots and a relatively calm sea state provided conditions for the perfect start with some close battles on the water yesterday.

Unlike 2016, when two Irish boats were racing, namely; Conor Fogerty's BAM from Howth Yacht Club and the Royal St. George's Lee Overlay Partners Cookson 50 skippered by Adrian Lee this year the sole Kinsale cruiser, Lilla, bears Irish sail numbers.

Navigator Ian Moore originally from Carrickfergus, is once again calling the shots aboard Hap Fauth’s Maxi 72 Bella Mente. David Ryan and Jim Cummins of Wicklow Sailing Club are on UK yacht First 40 Arthur Logic. Maurice 'Prof' O'Connell from the Royal St. George YC is racing and Royal Irish Yacht Club member Storme Delaney, who completed the ARC Rally in December, is also in action. For more Irish sailors on the race please read our update here.

RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dublin was hoping to compete on Giles Redpath's Pata Negra, but due to business commitments had to watch the start from ashore this year. "It was almost as nerve racking to be up at Fort Charlotte as on the water, and of course we are all hurlers from the ditch telling them to get closer to the cliffs. It was a fascinating start from an amazing and historic vantage point to see these wonderful boats take off. Everything went very smoothly, which is a great tribute to our professional race management team and our volunteers. This was quite an emotional moment for me and we will of course be wishing them all well for the next few days and a safe return."

The MOD70 battle for multihull line honours has already kicked off. Lloyd Thornburg's Phaedo3 pulled away (with Foxall onboard) from Giovanni Soldini's Maserati at the upwind start but as the two cracked sheets at Green Island, Maserati deployed their foil and took up the lead. Two hours into the race, the two flying trimarans were approaching the Barbuda mark touching 18 knots of boat speed.

George David's Rambler 88 got away to a terrific start and leads the monohull fleet on the water by almost three miles on approach to Barbuda. However, three hours into the race and after IRC time correction, George Sakellaris' Proteus is estimated to be leading overall with Hap Fauth's Bella Mente second and Rambler 88 third.

IRC Canting Keel and IRC Zero produced a thrilling start. Lionel Pean's French Volvo 70 SFS II came charging in on port, baring away behind the two Maxi72s to take a commanding position on the favoured left side of the course.

The Class40 Division are enjoying incredibly close racing. Peter Harding's Ph-orty leads, Catherine Pourre's Earendil and Halvard Mabire's Campagne de France are both within one mile. The pack of Class40s have the magnificent sight of the 182ft twin-masted schooner Adela ahead of them. Cressida Robinson reporting from Carl Wilcox's Nisida: "We have had everything from 15 knots gusting up to 30 and spotted a water spout on the way to Barbuda."

Published in RORC
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