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Round Ireland Sailors Need to Look to the Future

5th December 2009
 Round Ireland Sailors Need to Look to the Future


The best way to safeguard the future is to invent it and by introducing satellite tracker technology, Wicklow Sailing Club brought internet access to the last Round Ireland race and they plan the same again next June 20th too. Out went arbitrary reporting positions relayed by Coast Guard and in came precise tracking on computer screens for the five day voyage of the 40 boat fleet in 2008.

Its impact was most apparent in the exciting closing stages of that race. Pundits tracked Irish sea duels between Cavatina, Ireland West and McCarthy to predict the overall prize with some certainty.

The investment in this technology has been a quantum leap forward for race organisers and has been widely acknowledged as such.

Wicklow Sailing Club say its website attracted 57,000 hits over the five days of the 2008 race. It puts the club on the map but in a wider context it's also a boost for the campaign, encouraging more interest in offshore sailing at a time when it is in decline.

But such innovation should not end there. The Club is involved in recruiting a sponsor and they have already promised to look at other changes. forum has been leading this charge here.

In the context of energising the race in difficult economic times, the club could also consider wider changes, including the course itself.

In a replay of recent races, the last 100 miles of the 2008 voyage have seen a dramatic change in fortune for one time backmarkers.

Slower boats were the winners again in 2008 (listen to winner Adohan Fitzgerald's podcast here) and the high speed mid week endeavours of that race were relegated in the handicap stakes at least.

This continued march of the slow boats has prompted calls for an examination of the course to see if there is another way of staging Ireland's premier offshore race.

Essentially, statistics from 1986 to 2008 show the race is won and lost between Rathlin island and South rock; and last times closing stage of the 15th edition proved no different. (See Navigating Round Ireland).

Because the race effectively restarts as boats can be caught in a tidal gate after some six hundred miles of fair sailing, it has been suggested that the option of sending the fleet north about on a flood tide should at least be examined.

Another option is to allow competitors sail in either direction after the start passing through a gate east of the Wicklow line.

As those stepping ashore in Wicklow testified last time – though brutal at times – the Round Ireland is the perfect offshore race course and it needs to be sold around the world as such.

From this weeks launch in Wicklow it is obvious that the Irish sailing community is behind Wicklow and assist it in promoting this 704-mile offshore race as an icon of Ireland's summer sport.

Your comments on the Round Ireland Race forum thread are welcome here.

More Round Ireland 2010 posts here: 

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