The Irish Mirror sailing season starts in less than two weeks with the first weekend of the Winter Training Programme. The winter training is held, as in previous years in Lough Ree YC, and is run over four weekend sessions between January to April. The quality of the training is only ever as good as the quality of the coaches and with Graeme Grant and Scott Flanagan the class says its 'very fortunate to have an outstanding team'.
This year’s World Championships are been held in nearby Cornwall. A good number of our sailors have already indicated that they plan to take part. We aim to use our winter training program to give them the best possible preparation. However, the winter training is aimed at all sailors, to help them improve as sailors and to get the most out of their boats. This is as relevant for club racing and the regional events as it is for the World Championships.
Most double handed dinghy sailing fleets have had a difficult time attracting numbers in recent years. The extra complexity of the rigging of a boat flying two extra sails as well as problem of finding and working with another crew member appears to put many off. These problems should be viewed against the learning of new skills that are as relevant in a dinghy as they are in a yacht, and the fun had when shared with another sailor.
The cost isn’t even particularly prohibitive when it comes to Mirrors. It’s possible to get a well cared for ten year old boat and be very competitive, even win, says Gail McAllister of the class association.
The first callout came from the Irish Coast Guard shortly 2pm on Tuesday afternoon (16 August) to reports of a 35ft steel cruiser, with six onboard, aground between Athlone Lock and Clonmacnoise.
Later that afternoon, the crew was again called to assist a man aboard a 25ft sailing yacht aground near Barley Harbour on Lough Ree.
In both cases, the recovery was straightforward and no injury to crew or damage to vessels was incurred.
On Saturday (20 August), the lifeboat crew received three calls to assist vessels in difficulty amid very wet conditions with strong winds.
The first call came shortly before noon to assist three people on board a 33ft motor cruiser that had run aground at Bantry Bay on Lough Ree.
Shortly after 3pm, the lifeboat was again called to assist two people who had rowed a lake boat from Gailey Bay campsite to Quaker Island, but were then unable to row off the island due to the strong onshore breeze.
This was a particularly difficult recovery for the lifeboat crew. After trying several methods to tow the lake boat from the shore, a crew member was put ashore in the difficult conditions to push the lake boat off the shore while the lifeboat at anchor, pulled the tow line.
Eventually, the lake boat and its crew were recovered and the two casualties were brought on board the lifeboat, where they were given life jackets and wrapped in a blanket for warmth.
The lifeboat departed the scene with the lake boat on tow shortly after 5pm and proceeded towards Portrunny, the nearest harbour, where the boat and its rowers were delivered safely ashore.
Also on Saturday afternoon, the coastguard received a call for assistance from a motor cruiser with gear box failure south of Athlone Lock.
As the lifeboat was underway to Quaker Island at the time, Athlone Sub-Aqua Club in Athlone town were requested to assist the motor cruiser south of the lock.
On Sunday evening (21 August), the lifeboat was again requested by the coastguard, this time to assist a boat aground on Lough Ree.
The weather was significantly calmer than on Saturday and the recovery went smoothly, with no damage to the grounded vessel and no injury to its crew.
Commenting on Sunday evening, Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat operations manager Damien Delaney said,
"Our volunteer lifeboat crew have had a very busy few days," said Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat operations manager Damien Delaney after the Sunday evening callout. "We would urge everyone using Lough Ree to ensure they are familiar with the area and to take heed of any weather warnings issued by Met Éireann.
"Grounded vessels are not unusual but with any callout there are a number of factors that should be considered such as the wind direction, the weather conditions and the ability of crew and vessel to navigate these.
"It’s always a good idea for visitors to seek local advice before embarking on a journey on the lake, and to notify someone ashore of the intended departure time, destination and expected return time.
"Make sure you have a suitable means of calling for help and that you have the proper clothing and a lifejacket. You never know when you will need to call for help."
Three Howth K25 teams took to the waters at Lough Ree on Saturday (6 August), where Team Ireland's Eye Kilkullen led after four races.
Johnny Bravo also scored two thirds and a fourth to place them well for fourth overall on conclusion of racing yesterday (Sunday 7 August).
All are welcome on the day to meet the crew, tour the station, see the lifeboat and join in the fun with face painting, colouring, games, goodies and lots more.
The Lough Ree crew's most recent callout was on Wednesday 25 May, when they assisted eight people on a 48ft motor cruiser that ran aground on a shoal north of Inch Turk.
With no one in any immediate danger and no sign of damage to the boat, the lifeboat crew set up a towline and moved the vessel into safe water, where the engine was started and the steering was checked for damage.
Under their own power, the group of holiday-makers then proceeded towards Hodson Bay. Weather conditions at the time were described as bright with a northerly Force 2 gentle breeze and calm waters.
Speaking following the callout, Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat operations manager Damien Delaney said: "Our lifeboat crew responded swiftly and were happy to assist and bring the vessel into safe water."
With nine wins in ten races, Rory Fitzpatrick of the National Yacht Club is the undisputed king of the Irish Moth Tour 2016 following the weekend's Moth Inland Championships held on the inner lakes of Lough Ree.
Although Fitzpatrick, who finished on eight points after two discards, showed a clean pair of heels to the rest of the nine–boat fleet, Royal Cork's David Kenefick did well to take second on 21 points from Rio selected Annalise Murphy who finished five points behind in third overall.
Winner Rory Fitzpatrick in flying form on Lough Ree and below Annalise Murphy, both of the National Yacht Club. Photos: Courtesy Con Murphy
Full results are downloadable below.
The event was staged at the Wineport lodge hotel and the Moths were joined on the course by a ten boat Water Wag fleet (below) that featured a coaching session from UK sailing coach Mark Rhodes.
Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has launched a report on a scientific survey of adult fish stocks in Lough Ree. The report details the findings of a fish stock assessment of the lake undertaken in 2014 to establish the status quo of all fish stocks, with particular reference to the brown trout population.
The assessment was the first time such a large scale extensive survey was undertaken on the lake. As part of the survey, brown trout genetic samples were collected and will feed into the greater Mid Shannon Brown Trout Genetics Study, currently underway in a partnership project between IFI and Queen’s University Belfast. The survey also provided valuable ecological information in relation to the status of invasive species such as zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) and the Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea).
The survey, which was carried out over a two-week period in spring 2014, recorded eight fish species and a number of coarse fish hybrids. Roach were the dominant species with good numbers of roach/bream hybrids also noted. Other fish species present were perch, bream, pike, brown trout, rudd, pollan and tench. Pollan are a listed protected fish species on Annex V of the EU Habitats Directive and Lough Ree is only one of five lakes throughout the country that they are found in.
Dr Cathal Gallagher, Head of Research and Development at Inland Fisheries Ireland, said: “During the Lough Ree survey, eight fish species and a number of coarse fish hybrids were recorded. Almost 52 per cent of all fish noted during the survey were roach, 21 per cent roach/bream hybrids and 16 per cent were perch with significantly smaller numbers of bream, pike, trout, rudd and pollan making up the balance. The information provided from this survey will prove very useful in the context of conserving, managing and protecting such an important mixed stock fishery.”
Dr Ciaran Byrne, CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland, commented: “Currently Lough Ree can be regarded as one of Ireland’s premier mixed fisheries. Mixed, in this instance, is a reference to three different fish stocks – cyprinid, pike and trout stocks. The status of all of these fish populations is such that, presently, each of them can provide quality angling on a seasonal basis.”
The Lough Ree survey report is available here
Thankfully there were no injuries any of those on board across both vessels, but the RNLI has advised marine users in the area to use caution and heed advice around submerged rocks.
The first callout came after midday on Tuesday (29 March) to reports of a cruiser with 10 people onboard grounded at Mouse Ear Rock.
When on scene, a lifeboat crew member boarded the vessel and assessed it for damage. There was a strong vibration from the engine and it was suspected that there may be damage to the propeller.
The lifeboat crew took the vessel under tow to Portrunney were it could be checked over for damage. The lifeboat was back on service shortly after 2pm with everyone safely ashore.
The second callout came the next day (Wednesday 30 March) at 3.35pm and was again to a grounded vessel, this time at Iskeraulin Shoal, south of Quaker. There were six people onboard with no reports of injuries.
On arriving on scene at 4.06pm, the lifeboat crew again assessed if there was any damage to the cruiser.
When it was confirmed that everything was working they helped the vessel free of the rocks and monitored its progress by travelling alongside it for a time. Once satisfied there was no further difficultym they departed the scene and returned to the station.
Commenting on the callouts, Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat operations manager Damien Delaney said: "Our volunteer lifeboat crew had a busy 24 hours. We would urge everyone using Lough Ree to ensure they are familiar with the area and to take heed of any warnings for rocks.
"Grounded vessels are not unusual but with any callout there are a number of factors that should be considered, such as weather and the right equipment. Make sure you have a suitable means of calling for help and that you have the proper clothing and a lifejacket. You never know when you will need to call for help."
Lough Ree was among the busiest of Ireland's lifeboat stations in 2015, recording the highest number of people assisted, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
The cycle started and finished at The Bounty, Buccaneers Rugby Club in Athlone and travelled north through Ballymahon, crossing the Shannon at Lanesborough, where refreshments were available courtesy of the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Cyclists then completed the 85km lap of Lough Ree in somewhat wetter conditions, travelling south on the Roscommon side, via Kilteevan, crossing the Shannon again at Athlone Bridge and returning to The Bounty for the finish.
Hot drinks were available at The Bounty for the returning cyclists, who reported that the going was a little slow for the first section but picked up pace nicely from Lanesborough.
Many of the attending cyclists are members of cycling clubs, and enjoy this event as a warm-up for the upcoming competitive cycling season.
Lough Ree RNLI treasurer Vincent Rafter said: "The cycle was a great success again this year and is becoming a firm fixture on the cycling calendar, as well as drawing casual cyclists from the area. There is a nice camaraderie among participants of all ability, and good fun was had along the way."
In other news, Lough Ree RNLI is currently seeking volunteers to join the lifeboat crew and shore crew.
This is a great opportunity to make a difference in your community, meet new people and use your skills to support the RNLI.
Boating experience and knowledge of Lough Ree are preferred but not essential. All training and kit is provided.
If you are interested and have the time to commit to this role, please contact Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat operations manager Damien Delaney at 087 2437092 for further information. The closing date for expression of interest is Monday 21 March.
As it has for the past two years, the cycle will start and finish at The Bounty at Buccaneers Rugby Club in Athlone, and will travel north through Ballymahon, cross the Shannon at Lanesboro Bridge and complete the 85km lap of Lough Ree travelling south on the Roscommon side, via Kilteevan, to cross again at Athlone Bridge.
Lough Ree RNLI relies entirely on public donations to fund its operation, and the Lap of Lough Ree is an important fundraising event for the charity organisation.
Brendan Finnegan, Lough Ree RNLI fundraising committee chairman, said: "We run a variety of events throughout the year to raise funds and we are privileged to have a huge level of support in the community.
"The cycle has proved very popular since we first organised it two years ago and it is a pleasure to run events that participants can get actively involved in. We are hoping for a big turnout again this year."
Registration for the event will take place from 9am on Sunday 6 March at The Bounty, with the cycle starting at 10am. Snack packs will be provided to all entrants and refreshments will be provided midway, at Lanesborough and also at The Bounty afterwards on return. Subject to numbers interested, an extended route may be arranged for cyclists who enjoy a more challenging ride.
The fee for entry is €25 on the day, but early entry is €20 via the Facebook entry form.
The barge is moored below the old railway bridge in Athlone, where rising waters have covered the jetty, leaving the man on board surrounded by water and unable to safely reach the shore except by use of his tender dinghy.
The river was flowing fast at this location and the dinghy broke free. It was later retrieved downstream and tied up at a nearby location. However, the man on the barge was unable to reach it.
Lough Ree's lifeboat was paged at 2:35pm and made its way to the scene. Progress was hampered first at the motorway bridge, where the crew found the clearance greatly reduced, but they succeeded in passing through at low speed.
Progress towards the ‘White Bridge’ was slow because of the amount of debris in the water, and also because navigation markers were difficult to sight, being almost totally submerged.
Manoeuvring through the White Bridge required further care and skill, due to the speed of water flow and the narrowness of the navigable section of the bridge.
Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat helm Stan Bradbury said: "The river is moving very fast in Athlone at the moment, and contains debris of various sizes. Even shallow waters can be very dangerous under these conditions.
"We were glad to be of service in retrieving the tender and further securing the barge to its underwater moorings."
Flooding along the length of the Shannon remains a serious concern since heavy rains from December's winter storms saw the river breach its banks in a number of areas.