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World’s Oldest Keelboat One-Design Class to Stage Annual Championship in Ireland

10th August 2017
The Howth 17 Oonagh leading her sister-ship Deilginis, which will be defending the class’s championship title this weekend. Oonagh is owned by Peter Courtney, whose family have been involved with the class since 1907 The Howth 17 Oonagh leading her sister-ship Deilginis, which will be defending the class’s championship title this weekend. Oonagh is owned by Peter Courtney, whose family have been involved with the class since 1907

With the world’s newest One-Design Keelboat class, the Volvo 65, currently celebrating its hugely successful debut in the Fastnet Race 2017, it’s more than appropriate that the world’s oldest keelboat OD, the 1898-vintage Howth Seventeen, should be staging its Annual Championship, starting tomorrow (Friday evening, August 11th) at Howth Yacht Club northeast of Dublin, where the class first raced on May 4th 1898 writes W M Nixon.

All five of the original boats which sailed in that maiden race 119 years ago are still with the class, and in fact two of them, Aura (Ian Malcolm) and Leila (Roddy Cooper) were respectively second and third overall in the 2016 Championship.

It was quite an achievement, as the class has expanded over the years, and the defending champion this weekend is the Massey syndicate’s Deiliginis, one of the “new” boats, as she was built in 1907. There have been other additions since, and just recently, as reported in Afloat.ie, class numbers rose to 21 with the arrival of the new Orla, constructed in France for Ian and Judith Malcolm by the boat-building school Skol ar Mor.

howth seventeen2The new French-built Howth 17 Orla will be making her championship debut on Friday evening. Photo: W M Nixon

Although 21 boats are in existence, there’s always one or two resting or undergoing restoration. So the turnout this weekend will be 17 boats, with every last one of them determined to beat the new boat Orla, which will be sailed by Ian Malcolm. His other boat, the 119 year old Aura, will be raced by Puppeteer ace Scorie Walls, who has shown herself capable of winning in just about every type of boat, thus the needle between Aura and Orla will be a wonder to behold.

The championship is in a very civilized format, with the topsail-less Club race from a pier start on Friday evening, and then four races back-to-back on Saturday from the Committee Boat, with topsails in use if conditions suit. Ideally, the five races completed by Saturday evening will constitute the championship, but Sunday is kept in reserve, and has been needed a couple of times in the past.

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