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Dun Laoghaire Regatta Focuses The Sailing Mind on Gems Old & New

13th July 2015
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Three hundred and eighty-four years of clubbing between them. Jim Horan (left) Commodore of the Royal Irish YC which was founded in 1831, with Derek Matthews, Commodore of the Royal Dee YC of 1815. The RDYC yesterday celebrated its Bicentenary at a reception in the National YC at the conclusion of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015, where the RDYC Bicentenary Trophy was won by the J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC).

#dlregatta – Dun Laoghaire certainly felt like a major focal point of international sailing as Sunday afternoon's awards ceremony swung into action at the National Yacht Club to mark the conclusion of what is surely the most successful Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta yet staged writes W M Nixon. And for those who were willing to do a bit of truffling underneath the waves of conviviality, there were gems old and new waiting to be revealed.

Thus it seemed only right and proper that a party should be thrown in the National YC before the prize-giving itself, in order to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Royal Dee Yacht Club. The Royal Dee may have been founded in 1815 in the Dee Estuary which divides northeast Wales from England, while its members may tend to see Chester as their home town. But in their two hundred years they've never had a clubhouse, and these days they do most of their sailing from Northwest Wales and in the Irish Sea. So where better to have a 200th birthday bash than across channel in Dublin Bay, where they've more waterfront clubhouses than they know what to do with....?

Certainly it resulted in an impressive turnout of Commodores from other venerable nautical organisations to congratulate current RDYC Commodore Derek Matthews, including Jim Horan of the Royal Irish (founded 1831), Justin McKenna Royal St George YC (1838), Barry MacNeany Royal Alfred YC (1857 & 1870) and Larry Power of the co-hosting National YC (1870).

Further to emphasize the centrality of the event and the location, the ancient clubs of the west of Ireland were well represented by the ISA's Galway board-member Pierce Purcell, whose links are almost bewildering in their variety. His father (also Pierce) was Commodore of the National YC from 1946 to 1949, he himself is a former Commodore of Galway Bay SC, and he brought fraternal greetings from the Royal Western of Ireland YC, which was founded in Kilrush in 1828.

ov21.jpgLarry Power, Commodore of the National YC with Pierce Purcell from Galway, a former Commodore of Galway Bay SC whose father was a Commodore of the National YC in 1946-49.

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Peter Ryan, Chairman of ISORA (left) with Derek Matthews, Commodore Royal Dee YC, and Larry Power NYC.

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Callum Edge (Vice Commodore RDYC), Peter Ryan (Chairman ISORA), Justin McKenna (Commodore RStGYC), Derek Matthews (Commodore RDYC), Barry MacNeany (Commodore RAYC), Jim Horan (Commodore RIYC) and Charlie Jones (Rear Commodore, RDYC)

It was one of the newer organisations on the scene, the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, which brought all this together thanks to its enthusiastic Chairman Peter Ryan, himself a former NYC Commodore. With a bit of tuning, the ISORA programme for 2015 could be shaped around a classic Irish Sea event – the time-honoured cross-channel Lyver Trophy Race – combined with the racing in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in order to provide a multi-race series including inshore and offshore sailing to produce a winner of the RDYC Bicentenary Trophy.

It sounds simple enough, but it provided quite a logistical challenge for boats and crews, and some detailed analyses by the number crunchers. But in the end the popular winner was the J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox) which races out of Pwllheli, and has already been up in lights this season with her second overall to the Shanahan family's sister-ship Ruth in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race in June.

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Mojito, winner of the Royal Dee YC Bicentenary Trophy. Photo: David O'Brien

Another gem revealed at the RDYC party was the newly-found RKYC Silver Trophy, which was first competed for in Dun Laoghaire on July 9th 1845, and is a fine work of classic Dublin silverware originally created in 1806. It was the ever-alert antennae of the Royal St George YC's Richard Hooper which spotted that this piece was up for auction at one of Mealy's famous sales in Kilkenny, and now it is home again in the RStGYC (the successor to the Royal Kingstown Yacht Club), and has become a perpetual trophy newly allocated to the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

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The newly-found RKYC trophy of July 1845, now re-awa4ded to the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta

The RKYC Trophy may be pre-dated by Sligo YC's Ladies Cup of 1822, and the Royal Cork YC's Regatta Cup of 1825, but it is the oldest trophy now up for racing on Dublin Bay, and is a good six years senior to the America's Cup itself. With such historical scope, its biennial allocation is going to be a visionary business as the idea is its awardee will exemplify the historical spirit of racing in Dublin Bay. In its new guise, it has been given a splendid start by going to the restored 1951-vintage Uffa Fox-designed, Jack Tyrell-built Huff of Arklow (Cremyll Keelboats of Plymouth), which delighted all with her superb restoration and enthusiastic crew, and zoomed right up to top place on the final podium in Class 3 ECHO thanks to the very positive policy of ECHO adjustment as the regatta progressed. Huff's scoreline was 11, 12,1,1,9,2, with her ECHO during the six races ringing the changes through 0.930, 0.856, 0.702, 0.751, 0.797, and 0.824. This put her equal first on 24 points with the X-302 Viking (Kevin Darmody & Mark Patterson, HYC) and the Corby 25 Fusion (Richard Colwell & Ronan Cobbe, HYC), but the old Huff beat the two much newer Howth boats for the top prize on countback. And of course, in addition she was clearly Flying Thirty World Champion 2015.

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Huff of Arkow, first winner of the 19th Century RKYC Cup in its new 21st Century role. Photo: W M Nixon

Amidst all this marking of Bicentenaries, a Centenary may seem modest enough, but anyone who has ever maintained a wooden boat knows well that reaching the big hundred can take quite a bit of doing, yet Ian Malcolm of Howth had already achieved this in 1998 with his Howth 17 Aura.

Then a couple of years ago, while continuing to keep Aura and race her keenly, he and his wife Judith took on the additional challenge of the Dublin Bay Water Wag Barbara. This classic 14ft clinker dinghy was built "as recently" as 1915. But with her Centenary approaching in 2015, she was clearly in need of some serious remedial work, and around New Year, Ian concluded that it was beyond his own considerable DIY talents, so he took her down to master-boatbuilder Dougal MacMahon in County Offaly.

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The Centenarian Water Wag Barbara at the end of December 2014, when it was realized that a professional was needed to bring her back to good shape. With Ian Malcolm (right) are Patricia O'Connell and Alan Renwick, who are on the team restoring the 37ft 1897 Belfast Lough OD Tern, which was built nine months before Ian Malcolm's Howth 17 Aura at the same yard, Hilditch of Carrickfergus.

The necessary work meant that Barbara was barely out of the building shop when the Water Wags went to the Morbihan Festival in May, and there were teething problems with the new centreplate case. But gradually things were sorted despite the demands of having to campaign Aura at Howth on alternate evenings, and when the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015 got under way with the Water Wags ahead of everyone else by having their first two races last Wednesday evening, Barbara was in fine form and truly race ready for the first time in years.

In fact, "fine form" scarcely does it justice. They were flying. Their only real challenger was former Olympian Cathy MacAleavey racing Mollie. With a good turnout of Water Wags, Barbara's scoreline was six wins and a second, while her two discards were both seconds. That was pretty good. But then one of the highlights of yesterday's Awards Ceremony was the announcement that the sprightly centenarian Barbara was "Dinghy of the Week" in a fleet which included nine different dinghy classes. Only a hundred years to become an overnight success........

ov9.jpgA long way from being "Dinghy of the Week" in Dublin Bay in July – the Centenarian Water Wag Barbara with Dougal MacMahon at Belmont in County Offaly during restoration work in April. Photo: Ian Malcolm

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