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Skerries Ramps up for Mermaid National Championship

16th July 2017
 Mermaids line up for a start at the 2012 National Championships hosted by Skerries Sailing Cl Mermaids line up for a start at the 2012 National Championships hosted by Skerries Sailing Cl Photo: Michael O’Connor

Skerries Sailing Club looks back on its strong historical roots with the Dublin Bay Mermaid class in preparation for hosting this year’s National Championship writes Susan Roundtree

This year’s Dublin Bay Mermaid National Championship is being hosted by Skerries Sailing Club from the 5th to the 11th of August. Sailing starts with a practice race on Saturday the 5th and will continue with 6 days Championship racing over the following week from the 6th to the 11th. In total there will be 10 races for the Championship as well as one Crew’s Race.

Shore side activity will be in Skerries Sailing Club where sailors with their families and friends will be welcomed by Commodore Kieran Branagan and all the team involved with running the event. The event rules require the boats to be kept on moorings for the duration of the competition which will be a spectacular sight in the harbour during the week with ample opportunity for spectators and supporters to view racing. Mermaid Week is unique among dinghy fleets as it has a week-long National Championship with a vibrant social and entertainment calendar to match what is usually top-notch, highly-competitive racing. This year marks the 85th anniversary since this classic dinghy design was first presented to the Committee of Dublin Bay Sailing Club by yacht designer John Breslin Kearney.

Mermaids have a very long association with Skerries which has hosted the Championship on eleven previous occasions, for the first time in 1970 and most recently in 2012. This year, in light of the special anniversary and a resurgence of interest in the class, the club is really ramping up efforts to get as many boats as possible out on the race course and Mermaids from Rush, Dun Laoghaire and Foynes are all already confirmed to join Skerries boats. The news of two recently restored Mermaids in Clontarf (Ferga and Maeve) has been warmly welcomed by Mermaiders who hope to see these boats back out racing in Club and Championship events very soon!

The coveted Mermaid Perpetual Trophy will go to the overall winner in what is known as a very demanding and difficult title to win. It takes the form of the Little Mermaid of Copenhagen by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen and is cast in bronze, mounted on a wooden plinth which records all the Championship winners since 1953. The current holder is Sam Shiels of Skerries who won the Championship in Howth last year in his Mermaid Azeezy (no. 189). As it happens the 3 main class trophies all went to Skerries boats last year with Brian McNally, in Gentoo (no.186) winning the Daphne Trophy (silver fleet), and Shay O’Toole, in Dolphin (no.182), winning the Designer Trophy.

Sam Sheils the Mermaid TrophySam Shiels, the 2016 National Champion with the coveted Mermaid Perpetual Trophy. Photo: Ross Galbraith

The Mermaid Perpetual Trophy mentioned above was first presented to the class in 1952 by Norman Hodgson, a founding member of the Mermaid Sailing Association who was also Commodore of Skerries Sailing Club in 1952 and 1953. His own mermaid Rosalie (no. 81) was named after one of his daughters and was one of six boats (nos. 80 – 85) built in the first ever amateur boatbuilding class run by the City of Dublin VEC in what was then known as the Barkyard (later Redmond’s Coal Yard) on the South Strand in Skerries. The remarkable enthusiasm involved in this endeavour gave impetus to the growth of the Mermaid class. The Barkyard itself had originally been the location for the ‘tanning’ or ‘barking’ of the sails of traditional working boats in order to preserve them – the tannin being derived from the bark of the oak tree. The former drying sheds were used for the boat building classes. The names of those early boat builders are synonymous with the history of sailing in Skerries and include; Joe Acton. Kit & Joe Fox, Bobby Carey & Jim Dempsey, Ollie Murray, Matt & and Joe Boylan. Their instructor was Joe Murphy, a member of a well-known boat-building family in Ringsend.

After five years, the return of the National Championship event to Skerries Sailing Club is being warmly welcomed by local members and the community which is not surprising considering how strong its historical ties and links are to the class. This weekend the club will also be hosting its annual ‘Skerries Regatta’ across Saturday and Sunday (the 15th & 16th). Many Mermaids are expected to take part as it is an excellent practice opportunity in advance of the main event.

History credits: The Dublin Bay Mermaid – a history 1932-2000, Paul Smyth, 2001

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