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Rays of sunshine in Irish summer

5th September 2008
Rays of sunshine in Irish summer

SOUNDINGS – September/October 2008
Total beauty is as rare in boats as anything else. And so too, in 2008, were classic summer evenings. Yet this past season, Soundings managed the combination of beautiful boats with sublime summer evenings on two memorable occasions, and the recollections will colour the year’s memories long after the rains are over and gone.  

It was back in June that the Club of the Year 2008 award was presented jointly to Lough Ree YC and the Shannon One Design Association at the former’s clubhouse at Ballyglass, north of Athlone. The day had been cold and wet. But slowly the sky cleared, there were glimpses of sunshine, the sailing area in front of the club came to life with kids out in Oppies, and within the superb yet friendly clubhouse, the place buzzed with bonhomie.

 

Harmon Murtagh – who is himself a national treasure – gave a brilliant outline of Lough Ree’s sailing history. The club can trace its roots back to 1770. As for the Shannon One Designs, they have evolved from sailing versions of the classic Irish lake boat – a masterpiece in its own right – with the class beginning with a meeting of folk from all the lakes in Athlone in 1922.

There happened to be a Civil War going on in Ireland at the time, and the SODs race with such vigour that you could be forgiven for thinking this is the continuation of civil war by other means. Yet their competitiveness creates superb boats to this 18ft clinker-built design which is ever-young – their current Chairman, Stephen O’Driscoll, is but a slip of a lad. And the latest elegant creation from master craftsman Jimmy Furey from Leecarrow in Roscommon was in pride of place in front of the club, gorgeous in her varnish work, glowing in the evening sun.

The occasion was perfectly concluded with Eileen Browne, Commodore of LRYC, who spoke from the heart (see page 18) about the meaning of clubs and voluntary effort. The need for a sense of community may be central to civilized life. But you don’t aspire to a sense of community. Rather, it is a by-product of shared enthusiasm and group and individual efforts to get things done.

That evening on Lough Ree was enough to be going on with, but a few weeks later we found ourselves on Dublin Bay for more perfection. Again it had rained and blown stink in the morning, but somehow it was all bundled away. A warm breeze settled in from the sou’west, the air was crystal-clear, and Hallowe’en stepped gracefully across the blue water.

This 70ft Fife masterpiece of 1926 established a Fastnet course record which was only beaten by two much larger boats before Ted Turner finally toppled it in 1971 with the 12-metre American Eagle. But her great history aside, Hallowe’en  is such a beauty that no matter which way you look at her, she looks lovely, and her Dublin Bay syndicate were bringing her south after she’d starred at the Fife 150th Regatta in the Clyde.

However, it was the pontoon at the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire which provided the perfect showcase for this work of art, as did Dublin Bay on that unexpected evening of summer sweetness. So although the weather statistics may indeed demonstrate that 2008 has been a poor summer, Soundings found a classic summer on Lough Ree in June, and aboard Hallowe’en out on the Bay in July. And when the rain returned, we were glad to see it, for our bit of land was parched.

Published in Editors Blog
Afloat.ie Team

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