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It’s probably more than a little sacrilegious to suggest that, as some of the rituals of a global religion are built around The Last Supper, then it’s not at all unreasonable for the world’s oldest One-Design sailing class to have its rituals built around The First Picnic writes W M Nixon.

But the thought springs irresistibly to mind on seeing the first image of the Dublin Bay Water Wags settling into their new home for the week, southern Brittany’s incomparable inland sea of the Morbihan, currently en fete with a fleet of 1400 craft of all sizes for the biennial Festival of Sail which has been getting under way today.

The Dublin Bay Water Wags make up just 1% of the fleet, with fourteen boats present. But that’s not bad going for a class founded in 1887. Admittedly the boats now in France are of a type introduced to the class in 1900, yet that still makes them older than most other boats present, though not the two Howth 17s Leila and Aura of 1898 vintage, there in France with four other newer boats of their class

It was when the two Irish classes finally met up today that the Water Wags were found having a picnic. Not a very organized one admittedly, and definitely not Glyndeburne style, as it was little more than a lunch stop at a handy beach.

water wags in france2
The First Picnic. Midsummer’s Day 1887, and the Water Wags (of the original 13ft type) are gathering at Dalkey Island. Photo courtesy Water Wags

Nevertheless it sparked thoughts of The First Picnic, which was held on Dalkey Island on Midsummer’s Day, June 21st 1887, when the Water Wags were in their first year, and were sailing the little double-ended 13ft dinghies that were the basis of the class for their first dozen years.

It was combined with a “cruise” from what was then Kingstown Harbour to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. And as the photos from Alfred & Vincent Delany’s excellent history of the Water Wag class reveal, Victorian picnics were not something to be undertaken lightly. This is Serious Fun in a tradition which the class have continued ever since. So they’ll probably be very offended by any thought that this photo just in from the Morbihan suggests for even a nano-second that they’re having a picnic.

water wags in france3These are Serious Picnic People – the Water Wag Class members and guests on Dalkey island, June 21st 1887. Photo courtesy Water Wags

Published in Water Wag

Over the next few days fourteen Water Wags will head by ferry to France to participate in one of the greatest classic boat regattas in Europe. As Afloat.ie reported previously, one thousand four hundred and forty two traditional workboats and recreational boats will head to Brittany from Britain, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Spain, and Japan.

Among the 19 yachts of the Irish contingent travelling to the celebration of traditional yachting are:

Waterwags: 9, Marie Louise (1927), 17, Coquette (1909), 31, Polly (1984), 32, Skee (1985), 33, Eva (1986), 34, Chloe (1991), 38, Swift (2001), 40, Swallow (2003), 41, Molllie (2005), 44, Scallywag (2009), 45, Mariposa (2015).

Howth 17 ft: Aura (1898), Deilginis (1905), Eileen (1908), Gladys (1907), Leila (1898), Silvermoon (1898).

Others: Anna Panna, a Mcmillan gaff cutter. Sylvana, Moody 46 and possibly the only boat which will sail to the event instead of being trailed.

What a celebration of Irish craftmanship it will be.

Published in Water Wag

Yesterday evening the Water Wags raced for the Buckingham Cup & Wigham Trophy with handicaps applied at the start, resulting in some boats starting five and a half minutes ahead of others. The handicaps were allocated on the basis of average finishing places in the three championship races held to date. At the time when the first boats started, there was almost no wind in that part of the harbour, and the course was laid for the expected wind from the east, and there was much congestion and dirty wind in the starting line area. The start guns sounded at approximately one minute intervals, but due to lack of wind many boats failed to start on their allocated times.

At the first mark, Paul & Anne Smith in Sara led from Ben McCormack in Marcia and Nandor with Brian Mc Bride and Stuart McBean sailing in 5 knots of wind. These three managed to escape the wallowing at the start area, and built up a huge lead. On the downwind legs, there was much effective blanketing in the following fleet caused by spinnakers of the following boats.
On the final beat, a large black cloud was building up over Dublin City. Eventually, the wind caused by this cloud revealed itself as a strong southerly wind of about 12 knots which hit some of the fleet with such a surprise, that a few boats nearly capsized.

At the finish the order was:

1st – 30, Sara, Paul & Anne Smith.
2nd - 45, Mariposa.
Cathy MacAleavey & Con Murphy
3rd.-33, Eva,
Orla Fitzgerald & Katie Tingle.
4th. 38, Swift, Guy & Jackie Kilroy
5th. - 44, Scallywag. Dan O’Connor & David Williams
6th. -15, Moosmie, David MacFarland.
7th. - Skee, Jonathan & Carol O’Rourke.
8th. - 31, Polly. Richard Mossop and Henry Rooke.
9th. – 46, Mademoiselle.
10th. –37, Marcia.
11th- 36, Little Tern.
12th. – 41, Mollie.
13th. -42, Tortoise,
14th. – 16, Penelope.
15th. - 18, Good Hope.
16th. -3, Pansy,
17th. – 4, Vela.
18th. – 40, Swallow.
19th. -43, Freddie.
20th. -47, Peggy.
21st. -20, Badger.
22nd. –26, Nandor.
23rd. -17, Coquette,
24th. -10, Sprite,
25th. - 34, Chloe,.
26th. -6, Mary Kate

Published in Water Wag

The last time the Alfred Mylne-designed Dublin Bay 24s raced together in their home waters was Saturday, September 25th 2004 writes W M Nixon. Since then, the class has been through various traumas as projects for a group rebuild/restoration in France fell victim to the financial crisis.

However, the boats were kept in store, and two years ago a complete re-build programme for one of them, Periwinkle, was put into action at Skol ar Mor, the pioneering boat-building school in South Brittany run by Mike Newmeyer.

dublin bay 24 yacht 2Sailing aboard the restored Periwinkle. The quality of the bronze fittings on the mast matches the high standard of the restoration. Photo Brian Mathews

Perwiwinkle has turned all heads any time she goes sailing, but there’s no doubt she’d make most impression in an active class setting. As it is, for this year’s Morbihan Festival of Classic and Traditional Boats in the last full week of May, she’ll be sharing the waters of that noted inland sea with boats from home, as twelve Dublin Bay Water Wags and eight Howth Seventeens are being trailed, ferried, and trailed again to take part in one of the greatest gathering of character boats in the world.

water wags2Water Wags in festive mode for their 125th Anniversary in 2012 at Dun Laoghaire Harbour mouth. In ten days time, 12 of them will be in France en route to the Morbihan Festival

But while the Water Wags and the Howth Seventeen will be sailing in the enormous fleet, Periwinkle will be on static display afloat, alongside the Skol ar Mor booth at the boat show in the port of Vannes at the head of the Morbihan, though there is a possibility that renowned designer Francois Vivier will take her out for a sail. Happily, though, she’ll soon definitely be sailing – and she’ll be sailing to Dublin Bay.

Owners Chris Craig and David Espey are determined to get her back in time for the Classics Division in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from 6th to 9th July, and will be sailing her up from Brittany with a target time of 1st July pencilled-in for arrival in Greystones. Their hope is that former DB24 sailors will then join them to sail on to Dun Laoghaire on Sunday July 2nd.

Dublin Bay 24 yacht 3Class racing act. The Dublin Bay 24s in action at the Dun Laoghaire Woodenboat Regatta 1997. Photo: W M Nixon

As for the rest of the DB24 fleet, their elegant yet tired hulls are finding new purpose in boat-building schools. In September, Adastra will go to Albaola Scholl in San Sebastian in northern Spain, Zephyra is being shipped across the Atlantic for the Apprentice Shop in Maine, and Arandora is to be completed in Les Atelier de L’Enfer in Douarnenez in Brittany. Mike Newmeyer is working on a plan for Euphanzel, and various proposals are being discussed regarding the future of Harmony and Fenestra.

It has been – and still is - a long and difficult journey. But the arrival of Periwinkle in Dublin Bay will surely be a very significant step

Published in Historic Boats

It wasn't only last night's Dublin Bay keelboats that were having a lively start to 2017 after the spell of north–easterlies. The DBSC Water Wags also had a pretty lively sail on Wednesday with 22 Wags out in force.

Tim Pearson’s Little Tern capsized and was the only non finisher, it was the second race of a mini series within the overall racing series.

After two races Moosmie - David McFarlane and Ciara Bourke are leading the pack with 2 wins for the Newsom Memorial Cup, Eva with Katie Tingle and Dermot O’Flynn leading Divsion 1B for the Hilposteiner Tankard. Chloe with Kate O’Leary and Hugh Delap are leading Division 2 for the Phyllis Cup.

 

Published in Water Wag

Three weeks hence from this morning, on Saturday May 19th, an unlikely convoy of vehicles with a very special collection of unique vintage boats and people will emerge in Cherbourg from Irish Ferries’ ship just in from Rosslare writes W M Nixon. Meanwhile, well to the west in northern Brittany, a similarly rare group with antique boats of a different type will have disembarked in Roscoff from the Brittany Ferries vessel from Cork. By that night, if all goes according to plan, both groups – people and boats alike - will be united a long way away, in the little port of Arradon on the shores of the Morbihan, the island-studded inland sea at the heart of its own Department, the most southerly part of Brittany.

map MorbhianA sailing paradise. In detail, there are sixty islands in the Morbihan. The Irish crews in the Water Wags and Howth 17s will be based at Arradon on the north shore.

The Irish classic boats and those who sail them will have arrived to immerse themselves in the fleet of more than 1,300 other unusual craft in a very French celebration of sailing and pride in individualistic boat ownership. It’s a wonderfully complex biennial celebration which uses the magic waters of the Morbihan, where sea and land completely intertwine in the midst of the sweetest countryside with enchanting village ports, to provide a unique playground for boats of all types and sizes.

russian shtandard3The replica of Peter the Great’s 1703-built Shtandard will be one of the largest vessels at the Morbihan.

At the time of writing, they’re expected to range in size from the extraordinary Russian re-creation of Peter the Great’s huge warship of 1703, the Shtandart, right down to a selection of the sometimes decidedly unusual yet effective little craft which emanate from the creative minds to be found in Francois Vivier’s design office. In between, we’ve everything from the America’s Cup 12 Metre France through a comprehensive selection of traditional sailing fishing boats and classic yacht from several maritime nations, and on through a goodly fleet of other traditional craft with a strong representation of the Bantry Boats, until at the lower end of the size scale, we find some little boats which are very odd indeed, owner-designed craft which can best be categorized somewhere on the scale which ranges from Rather Quirky to Utterly Bonkers.

bantry boats4Bantry Boats racing in France. Based on the ship’s boat left behind in Bantry Bay after the failed invasion of 1796, the Bantry boat was stored for more than a hundred years at Bantry House before being moved to the National Museum. Under an iniative inspired by Hal Sisk, they are now the basis of a lively fleet on both sides of the Atlantic, and will be a feature of the Morbihan Week.

water wags5They’re in better heart than ever. The Water Wags at a recent “training weekend” at Killenure on Lough Ree. Next month they will be making their second visit to the biennial Morbihan Week in southern Brittany.

In the midst of the huge fleet, there’ll be twelve Water Wags and six Howth 17s from Ireland. Small and all as they are by comparison with some of the enormous traditional fishing craft and Tall Ships taking part, they will be accorded honoured status partly on account of age. The Water Wags of 1887 origin, with the present class a re-worked larger design from 1900, introduced the One-Design concept. And as the Howth 17s are of 1898 origin, they are accorded the special honour of being the world’s oldest one design keelboat class still sailing as originally designed.

howth seventeens6Howth 17s in full cry. They will be making their first visit to the Morbihan festival, but their newest sister-ship is being built nearby at Skol ar Mor.

Further to all that, both classes bring international status through coming from Ireland, and few have come further, even if the little Irish boats are sensibly using the ferries. But we will also see Irish Sea representation with boats which have sailed there, with the beautifully restored classic Laurent Giles-designed Carbineer 46 Sylvana voyaging from Northern Ireland, while the irrepressible Joe Pennington from the Isle of Man is entered with his restored 1895-built 36ft Manx longliner Master Frank, which might find it interesting to have a spot of competition with the comparable French-based Essex smack Unity of Lynn.

However, for the little Irish boats, it’s a formidable logistical challenge. The Water Wags - in which the Olympic Mother Cathy MacAleavey has been setting the racing pace of late, though David MacFarlane won on Wednesday – are in good hands as Carol O’Rourke is coordinating their arrangements. But anyway they’ve useful experience here, as seven of them travelled to the 2015 Semaine du Golfe du Morbihan, and eight came back. They returned with a new boat for Adam Winkelmann which had been built to the class’s ancient designs by Mike Newmeyer and his team at the inspirational boat-building school Skol ar Mor.

morbihan entrance13Eclectic fleet......the Morbihan Fesitval in 2015. Four of the Water Wags are just about visible left centre

water wags8The popular Dutch sail training ship Morgenster was a welcome visitor to the festival in 2015, and is seen here approaching the entrance to the Morbihan in company with a couple of Water Wags

Skol ar Mor – which is located near the entrance to the Morbihan – is currently building a new Howth 17 for Ian and Judith Malcolm, but she won’t be finished until July as her construction is timed to phase in with the school’s term periods. But in any case, the Malcolms are keen to make their debut for the Howth 17s at Morbihan with their 1898-vintage boat Aura, which they’ve owned, lovingly cared for and raced very regularly since 1980.

It’s not the first time the Howth 17s have travelled far from their ancestral home, in fact it’s not the first time they’ve been to France, as a trio went to the Brest Festival in 1972. But road travel technology for little old boats wasn’t so advanced 45 years ago, so it wasn’t until 1998 that another road migration was taken on, with seven of them going to Belfast Lough to celebrate their centenary at their birthplace at Carrickfergus. They sailed the 90 miles home.

Then in 2005 they’d a seriously major movement, when an incredible 15 managed to get to the Glandore Classics involving an efficiently-organised set of low loaders which could take the boats down to West Cork three or even four at a time.

The Howth 17s are nothing if not individualistic, so the regimentation essential to the success of this expedition was exhausting for them. It took a while for the normal busy season of racing (usually they’ve sixty races a year) to resume once they’d got home. So since then, they’ve been building up a group of owners within the class who have proper road trailers, and that was the means used to get seven boats to Belfast Lough for last year’s 150th Anniversaries of Carrickfergus Sailing Club and Royal Ulster Yacht Club, together with the celebration of the yacht and boat-building achievement of the John Hilditch yard at Carrickfergus.

looe lugger9The opportunity to compare different rigs and boat types at the Morbihan is unrivalled. This is the Looe Lugger Our Boys of Plymouth..........

twelve metre france10......and this is the former America’s Cup 12 Metre France
But there’s a heck of a difference between taking just part of a morning to road-trail mostly on motorways from Howth to Bangor, and trailing your boat from Dublin to the Morbihan via the Rosslare-Cherbourg ferry. The Water Wags know they can do it, but for the much heavier Howth 17s and their interesting selection of four-wheel-drive towing vehicles, they’re facing a total haul of 540 kilometres, 348 of them in France.

Naturally, there are those who’ll say that boats of this vintage should live pampered lives. But the Howth 17s are nothing if not adventurous, and Irish Ferries have been so much taken with all this that four of the boats and their towing vehicles are travelling the ferries there and back for free, so between them the six travelling equipes have only had to divvy up for two boats’ cost.

Nevertheless as two of the boats – Aura and Roddy Cooper’s Leila - are from the original 1898 Hilditch-built five, they’re moving a uniquely precious cargo on a project very far removed from their origins. So far removed, in fact, that I can’t help but imagine John Hilditch urging on his men on a Monday morning early in the Spring of 1898 with the inspiring words: “C’mon, lads, we have to build these new Howth boats strong and true, for in 119 years time their owners will want to trail them the 217 miles from Cherbourg to Vannes on some sort of road cart.”

hilditch boatyard11Change of scene. The Howth 17s were built in Carrickfergus in 1898 in Hilditch’s Boatyard in those black sheds on the waterfront at the head of the harbour in an industrial town.......
morbihan entrance13....but next month they’ll be sailing in these agreeable surroundings in the heart of the Morbihan

Quite. Either way, it will be an exhausting journey, but it’s the sort of project which re-energises those involved as it moves along, and once they’ve got to the Morbihan, the Water Wag and Howth 17s sailors will find themelves among kindred spirits. It’s something they need from time to time. Only the other day I was asked to reveal to a non-sailor what the Water Wags are all about in 2017, and found it very challenging. For how can you explain the inexplicable?

Around the Morbihan, there’ll be no need to explain. Yet even in France supposedly among members of the same nautical religion, the Howth 17s and the Water Wags will find themselves slightly at odds with the crew of some other boat types, as the essence of both the Irish classes is that they race a lot, so much so that both classes are healthier than ever. But that is not always to the taste of all those who simply love old boats for themselves, and find that keeping them in good order and sailing them in non-competitive style on various expeditions within the ambit of the Semaine du Golfe du Morbihan is all that is required.

But the Morbihan has so much to offer that there’s something for everyone, and for smaller racing boats that want racing, there’ll be racing available. As for others who simply like sport in sailing challenging bits of sea, the tides in the Morbihan whoosh in and out through the narrow entrance with such vigour that many treat it like a nautical ski slope.

morbihan entrance13The manageable liveliness of the tide-riven waters in the Morbihan entrance is integral to the way the event is staged.......

beach time14......but for balance, sheltered beach time is expected

This is markedly unlike the attitude at the entrance to Strangford Lough. There, the tide-race on the bar is admittedly on a bigger scale, but it’s regarded as something to be avoided. At the Morbihan by contrast, there are small boat sailors who’ll spend their whole day crawling in the eddies against the tide, and then returning with it in the middle of the full exuberant burst of the rip.

For those with more leisurely tastes, there are all sorts of waterside establishments where lunch can go on for ever, but be very sure to have secured your table by 12:30pm. And as for visiting other boats, that too can go on for ever.

two sinagots15The sinagot is the indigenous traditional fishing boat of the Morbihan

Certainly there are some with which the Howth folk should link up. A noted presence will be the McGruer 8 Metre Cruiser/Racer Orana of 1959 vintage. For many years she was based in Howth under Johnny Pearson’s ownership, and she had her moments, including winning the 1966 RORC Beaumaris-Cork Race overall. She was the first yacht I ever did the Lambay Race aboard, and when you do your first Lambay Race with the likes of Johnny Pearson, Bob Fannin and Brendan Murray, you learn an awful lot about what living in Howth is going to involve, and you even learn a little about racing round Lambay.

orana found16The 1959 McGruer-designed 8 Metre Cruiser-Racer Orana was Howth-based for many years, and was overall winner of the 1966 RORC Beaumaris-Cork Race. After being under the radar for decades, she has re-emerged in French ownership as a participant at Morbihan Week 2017

Orana had been off the radar for decades, but now she has re-emerged, spic and span in French ownership and ready to strut her stuff in the Morbihan in three weeks time when she’ll be part of a mind-blowing feet. In fact, so diverse is the fleet, that while most of it will be the challenge of recognising what’s going past, some are worth seeking out directly, and one such is surely the famous Pen Duick, Eric Tabarly’s original boat, a Fife-designed 15-tonner which started life in 1898 at Carrigaloe on Cork Harbour.

Originally, she was given the unlovely name of Yum, and her owner, one Adolphus Fowler of the Royal Munster YC, was evidently feeling prosperous, for at the same time he had the Carrigaloe yard built him the Cork Harbour One Design Jap.

Both boats still sail the sea, but mercifully Yum soon received a pleasanter name as she was quickly sold, and she is now immortalised as Pen Duick, the eternal beauty brought back to life by Eric Tabarly to be an extraordinary link between William Fife of Scotland, Cork Harbour in Ireland, and all that is best in French sailing in Brittany.

In a league like this, the little boats from Ireland will need to do something special to fulfill their role. But I think that the poster that the Howth 17s commissioned from local artist Carol O’Mara for display on the various sites around the Morbihan is definitely a step in the right direction. There’ll be so many messages flying around from all sources that something which says what it wants to say so well, so simply, and so directly will make the most impact.

Published in W M Nixon

Dun Laoghaire endured strong northerly winds for several days over the past week, so, there was a fear that many Water Wag owners would give the first race a miss. However, on 26th April, eighteen Water Wags competed in the first race for The Newsom Memorial Cup including Rio Olympic Silver medalist Annalise Murphy.

The wind was still coming from the north, blowing at about 7 knots, so, the race committee under Tom Hudson, laid a windward-leeward course with the windward mark located in the harbour mouth. At the start, only the Water Wags in the front line had enough wind to power away. As the fleet split with most boats heading towards the west, Cathy MacAleavey’s Mariposa new Water Wag, only launched last week led the fleet. At the windward mark the order was Mariposa, Moosmie and Pansy which had taken the eastern side of the course. On the offwind leg, there was much blanketing from the fleet behind, and there was an even split between boats taking each of the leeward gate marks.

By the second windward mark David MacFarlane’s Moosmie was in the lead, with the Kilroys in Swift in second and Mariposa in third place. This order remained until the end of the third beat, at which time the wind had dropped to 4 knots, and the race committee decided to shorted the race. David and Patricia Corcoran in Peggy in 7th place were top competitors racing for The Hilpotsteiner Tankard in Division IB, with Fergus Cullen and Alice Walshe in Penelope one place behind.

Leading boat of Division 2 racing for the Phyllis Cup was Freddie sailed by Bairbre Stewart with new crew, Benno MacCormack who helped her to finish high up the fleet. Second in Division 2 was mother and daughter team of Kate and Amy O’Leary in Chloe. Next Wednesday the Water Wags will compete in the second leg of a series of three matches.

1st – 15, Moosmie, David MacFarland.
2nd - 38, Swift, Guy and Jackie Kilroy.
3rd. - 45, Mariposa, Cathy MacAleavey and Con Murphy
4th. - 41, Mollie, Annalise Murphy.
5th 42, Tortoise, William Prentice.
6th. 3, Pansy, Vincent Delany and Niamh Hooper.
7th. 47, Peggy, David and Patricia Corcoran.
8th. 16, Penelope,
9th. 43, Freddie
10th. 8, Barbara
11th. 34, Chloe
12th. 30, Sara
13th. 46, Mademoiselle
14th. 33, Eva
15th. 40, Swallow
16th, 44, Scallywag
17th. 10, Sprite
18th 31. Polly.

Published in Water Wag

These days Dermot O’Flynn, Director of Training in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, does much of his sailing in a classic Water Wag dinghy in Dun Laoghaire and Dublin Bay. But he is a man of wide-ranging nautical experiences and interests, and he has a gem of a story to share with us here:

In life you get some opportunities to do the right thing, and for me this was one of them. In January 2014 my father Dermot O’Flynn, past President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, died suddenly at the wonderful age of 94. A father, a great surgeon, and a yachtsman who enjoyed any opportunity to be out and about near or on the sea, he left me many happy memories. And he also left me an Olympic Gold Sailing Medal from the 1948 London Olympic Games (understandably known as the Austerity Olympics) which was won by Jim Weekes, who had crewed on the winning American 6 Metre Llanoria.

She was designed by Sparkman & Stephens, and owned by Herman Whiton, who was a member of Seawanhaka Yacht Club on Long Island, New York. On the crew registration for the 1948 Olympics, Jim was listed as James Weekes and the rest of the crew from Seawanhaka Yacht Club were Herman Whiton, Alfred Loomis (who was one of the leading sailing journalists of his day), Michael Mooney & James Smith.

llan oria1aThe veteran but beautifully restored Llanoria, European 6 Metre Classic Champion 2016

The 6 Metres were the largest and most prestigious of the yachts competing in the 1948 London Olympics, which also included Dragons, Swallows, Stars and the 12ft Firefly dinghy. The famous Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom won his first Gold Medal that year sailing a Firefly dinghy, so Jim and the crew were in good company.

My father was gifted the Medal in 1981 by James Weekes’ wife Kay, who had a been a long term patient and friend of my father. In the accompanying letter she wrote:

“This token comes with my deep affection, no other man deserves it better other than the one who won it, there are no sailors in my family, hand it down to one of yours when the time comes”

My father made the decision to hand down the medal to me probably because I survived the Fastnet Race in 1979 in a 30ft racing yacht, sailed across the Atlantic in 35-foot Camper & Nicholson sloop in 1981, managed a second overall in The Middle Sea Race, and loved sailing all types of boats whether they be dinghies, IRC racing machines, or classic cruising yachts. Yet after putting the medal under lock and key for a while, I came to the decision that the medal did not belong to me or my family, but should be returned to Seawanhaka YC, and so my journey started. Very quickly I discovered that there was only one living relative, named Townsend Weekes, who was also – surprise surprise….- a member of Seawanhaka YC, and he was delighted to hear the medal would be coming home.

llan oria2Dermot O’Flynn helming Llanoria on Lake Lucerne, July 2016
Townsend informed me that Jim was originally from Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. He had three siblings, and the family have a long history with Oyster Bay, dating back to 1653 when Francis Weekes settled there. Jim’s grandfather was one of the earliest members of Seawanhaka Yacht Club, and both his brother Arthur and brother in-law Porter were Commodores of this yacht club.

Jimmy - as the family called him - was a terrific athlete who loved sailing and was the best rifle shot of his three brothers. Like his brothers, he had a distinguished career in the American Navy in World War 2, becoming an Executive Officer on a battle cruiser in the Pacific.

Nobody can remember how Jimmy got selected to sail on Llanoria for the Olympics in 1948 but obviously Herman Whiton liked the ‘cut of his jib’, and the Gold Medal sealed the success of their mutual respect.

James Weekes married Kay in 1962, and they moved to Dublin as they wished to live in Ireland, but sadly Jim died suddenly in 1977 at the age of 65. Kay and James had no family, however Kay had family from her first marriage, and they and other Weekes relatives in America had always wondered what happened to the gold medal, so they were intrigued – to say the least - to hear where it had ended up.

Having discovered the background to Jim Weekes, naturally my attention was drawn to the great Llanoria US 83, and what might have happened to her. My journey started by accident when I was delivering an Alden 54 called Tara from St Petersburg to Stockholm via the Finish Archipelago. We happened to spend two wonderful nights on the marina of Helsinki Yacht Club and the club has a half model of Llanoria, plus a photo of her winning the Seawanhaka Cup, for Llanoria had also won the 6 Metre Class in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki – she is the only yacht to have won two Olympic Gold Medals.

My next port of call was the famous yacht designers Sparkman & Stephens in New York. They very kindly went through their records and found a line drawing of the yacht designed by Olin Stephens which they sent to me, however at that time they had no record of Llanoria’s present location.

But I kept digging for more information, and finally got in touch with Matt Cockburn, secretary of the Puget Sound 6 Metre Association in America’s Pacific Northwest, who gave me the great good news that Llanoria had been totally refurbished by her current owner Peter Hofmann, whose family had purchased her in 1980, and that she had just won the 6 Metre 2015 World Championships (Classic Division) at La Trinite Sur Mer on France’s Biscay coast, helmed by Eric Jespersen.

llan oria3Reception at the Seawanhaka Yacht Club on Sunday October 2nd to hand over the James Weekes Memorial Trophy

I then contacted Peter Hofmann who was fascinated by the story of the Medal, and he kindly agreed to me joining him and the crew of Llanoria for a sail as they prepared for the 6 Metre European Championships on Lake Lucerne in July 2016. What a joy it was to sail with a crew who knew their yacht so well, and to watch them tune the rig, adjust the sheets, move the mast and create the perfect sail shape for 6 Metre sailing in 8-10 knots of breeze.

Now it was time to move on to the next stage of the Gold Medal’s journey home. In memory of James Weekes I agreed with the Seawanhaka Yacht Club Commodore, Vice Commodore and Committee, through a Deed of Gift, to present the Medal to the Club as ‘The James Weekes Olympic Gold Memorial Trophy’

The trophy represents the coast line of Torbay on England’s south coast, venue of the 1948 Sailing Olympiad, in Irish Silver, with the Gold Medal suspended in the centre of the 1948’s 6 Metre racing area. It is placed on a piece of Irish Bog Oak which is more than 800 years old, chosen for the very personal reason that on the day my father died, his parish priest said to me on hearing the sad news: “Dermot, a great oak has fallen”

At the beginning of October, it gave me and my family great pleasure to present this Memorial Trophy to Seawanhaka Yacht Club, and l look forward over my lifetime to hearing about the sailors who win this trophy, and their successes both on and off the race course.

llan oria4The James Weekes Olympic Gold Medal Memorial Trophy honours many cherished memories 68 years down the line since the Torbay Olympics.

Published in Olympic

It was the Royal Irish Yacht Club Regatta. Unlike other classes the Water Wags compete in the regatta on Wednesday evening. At quarter to six, there was not a breath of wind on the harbour. Tom Hudson and his crew on the committee boat went out anyway, and laid a course.
Air temperature was in the high teens and the sun was out. It was a good evening for a sail.
Twenty-one Water Wags launched. The tide in the harbour was ebbing-. The unstable wind was offshore from the south-west.
By starting time at 18.45hrs., the breeze had picked up to at least 6 knots. For the first start the Little Tern and others were premature starters, and a general recall was enacted.
At the second start there was a definite bias at the pin end of the line, so that is where Mollie was stationed to get away cleanly. But it wasn’t to be, as there was a pile up caused by several Water Wags shooting the RIB located at the pin mark. The Water Wags starting 12 boat-lengths back along the line were able to start at speed, to clear the bunch up at the pin mark and streak away. It appeared that the closer one went to shore that the wind lost pressure, so several tacked onto port. Vincent Delany and Hilary Williams in the 110 year old Pansy managed to cross the starboard tackers who started nearer to the committee boat. At the windward mark the order was: Pansy, Gavotte, Mademoiselle and Moosmie.
On the off-wind leg the wind went slack, so good spinnaker handling was important. At the end of the second beat the order had changed to: Pansy, Gavotte, Moosmie and Little Tern.
The wind collapsed completely on the second run, and when gusts appeared, the directions was not predictable. At the finish at the end of four beats and three runs, the order was:

  • 1. Pansy, Delany and Williams. RStGYC
  • 2. Little Tern, Tim & Marcus Pearson. RStGYC
  • 3. Swift, Guy & Jackie Kilroy, RIYC
  • 4. Gavotte, Frank Guy & Owen McNally.RStGYC
  • 5. Skee, Jonathan & Carol O’Rourke.
  • 6. Mademoiselle, Adam Winkleman & Doug Smith.
  • 7. Moosmie, David McFarlane
  • 8. Penelope, Fergus Cullen & Alice Walsh.
  • 9. Vela, Philip Mayne & Brian Bond.
  • 10. Good Hope, Hal Sisk & Sue Westrup.
  • 11. Coquette, Seymour Cresswell & Mary Aspied.
  • 12. Nandor, Brian McBride & Stuart McBean.
  • 13. Mollie, Cathy MacAleavey & Finn Murphy.
  • 14. Peggy, David Corcoran.
  • 15. Polly, Richard Mossop & Henry Rooke.
  • 16. Eva, Orla Fitzgerald & Dermot O’Flynn.
  • 17. Ethna, Bill Nolan.
  • 18. Freddie, Bairbre Stuart.
  • 19. Mary Kate, Ian McGowan.
  • 20. Chloe, Ben McCormack.
  • 21. Eros, Gavin Johnson.
Published in Racing

Leading French maritime heritage publication Chasse–Marée features Dublin Water Wag sailor and builder Cathy MacAleavey on its lastest front cover. In a full length feature article, the magazine features the history of the world's first dinghy ('le premier monotype') that has its origins at Shankill beach in Co. Dublin from 1886. Olympian MacAleavey, who recently exhibited a new build of the 13–foot craft at the RDS is photographed on the front cover at Jimmy Furey's workshop on the river Shannon at Roscomon.

Built in Mountplunkett, Roscommon over the past 18 months by Jimmy Furey and Cathy Mac Aleavey, Wag No. 45 has been named Mariposa (Spanish for butterfly) and was launched during the annual Waterwag Club Shannon regatta held at Lecarrow on Blackbrink Bay, Lough Ree on September last. This season, Mariposa joined the growing number of Waterwags being raced in Dun Laoghaire.

The over 100–year–old class is one of the most active dinghy classes racing in Dun Laoghaire, regularly attracting 20 and 30–boat fleets. Last season, another brand new boat, No.46 was launched and sailed at Dun Laoghaire.

 Read more by WM Nixon: Ireland's Invisible Boat Builders

Published in Historic Boats
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