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Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race is Sailing's Call of the West

1st June 2013
Dingle port
Dingle is everyone's dream port – everyone sailing into the place thinks they are the first people ever to discover it properly, and the first to truly appreciate its unique qualities. Photo: W M Nixon
Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race is Sailing's Call of the West

#D2D –  The Round Ireland Race of 1992, like all stagings of the classic circuit, was one of mixed memories. It started in sunshine with a fair wind which carried us all the way to the Fastnet. But that wind stayed very determinedly between north and northeast, so we knew there'd be windward work round the Kerry coast.

In fact, we were on the wind until Mayo. Then it drew eventually from the southwest and there was the usual scamper across Donegal Bay and around Tory Island. Then the breeze was all over the place down the Irish Sea until we were sitting nicely, breeze off the land, aroma of the Wicklow countryside to be savoured and all that, finish line nicely in sight......and suddenly we were in a flat spot which lasted just long enough to turn a close class win into second in class by 17 minutes.

So all we really remember of the race of '92 is that sweetness of the summer evening made sour by the breeze turning off. It takes a real effort to remember that, three day earlier, we'd actually been having a right pasting off the Kerry coast. For sure, we'd known we'd have headwinds past the Blaskets. But the forecast had missed out on a deepening low to the east. So much so, in fact, that the Irish Sailing Association subsequently launched an informal enquiry into why the severe rise in the wind strength had gone largely unanticipated, as there were wholesale retirals, with much damage.

With hindsight, of course, it was there to be seen - we just didn't want to see it. We may have approached the Fastnet on a reach in sunshine. But there was a harshness to the evening, and any God's amount of warning clouds at a high level, to tell us that this wasn't going to be a straightforward bit of windward work on a summer's night. And even on a gentle summer's night, the Atlantic off Kerry can be a rumbly place. So when it came in a real stinker between north and northeast, it was boat-breaking stuff, with several ports in West Cork and Kerry acquiring their quota of retirals.

South Pacific? No, just Dingle as it can be when, as was happening in this case, most of the rest of Ireland was in heavy rain. Photo: W M Nixon

One such was the Sigma 41 Koala (Peter Cullen and Martin Crotty), which split her mainsail and did well to get to Dingle. As they put themselves together again and breathed in that Dingle air with its unmistakable sense of being in the far west and everything well with the world, they got to thinking how it would just be perfect if the race had just been to Dingle, instead of battering all the way round Ireland simply to end up back where they started from.

That's what it is with Dingle. It's one of those places that everybody thinks they're really the first ever to discover properly and understand and appreciate. It is unique, there's no doubt of that. But when you sail in there and get enveloped in its hospitable warmth, you soon think it's uniquely unique. So naturally the crew of Koala got to thinking about a sort of Round Ireland Lite, a race from the east coast finishing at Dingle.


It took Dingle to show just how effective a combined fishing/sailing port can be. It's a favoured destination for cruising boats, yet it continues to have an impressive tally of fish landings. Photo: W M Nixon

It would have been a grand thing to talk about in the convenient first stop at Flahive's before moving on to one of the excellent Dingle restaurants. And for most crews, that would have been the end of it. But the crew of Koala were made of sterner stuff. They sailed home eventually, and they just wouldn't let go of the idea of a biennial race to Dingle alternating with the round Ireland. If they were going to do it, 'twas best 'twere done soonest. So 20 years ago, in 1993, Martin Crotty on behalf of the National YC organised the first 280 mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, Peter Cullen with his jelly bean manufacturing company put up the sponsorship, and one of the best events in the Irish sailing calendar became an instant success.

It's on again next Friday, June 7th, the 11th D2D, starting before the weekend to facilitate the boats using it to get to the ICRA Nationals in Tralee Bay from June 13th. And there's an excellent line-up, an interesting balance of 22 good boats which – considering the times we live in – is a fine turnout, particularly when we look at the calibre of the boats involved.

Fond memories of the great Denis Doyle and his enthusiasm for every offshore race going are evoked by the Cork presence of Anthony and Peter O'Leary's Ker 39 Antix, briskly back to Ireland from the RORC Vice Commodore's campaigning in the English Channel series in order to race to Kerry, and make the lineup in Tralee Bay.

Anthony O'Leary (Royal Cork) and Peter O'Leary (Baltimore SC) will be racing the busy Antix in the biennial D2D next Friday. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Antix has been in the frame if not on the podium in this year's RORC racing, so her presence sets a benchmark. Defending champion in the D2D is the Galway Reflex 38, curently sailing as Discover Ireland/The Gathering. She didn't exactly cover herself in glory at last weekend's Scottish series, but then she'd all the disadvantage of being the highest rated boat in IRC 2, which made her an easy target, and the offshore scene seems to suit her better.

Certainly the Dingle Race is important to Aodhan Fitzgerald's crew as a Fastnet qualifier. With the absence of any seriously large biggy to challenge the course record set by Mick Cotter's 77ft Whisper two races ago, there's a possibility that Antix and Discover Ireland will be battling for line honours, though that is an outcome which could well be upturned by the presence of boats like the Farr 42 Wow (George Sisk RIYC), and the three Beneteau First 44.7s - Adelie (Peter Hall NYC), Legally Blonde (Cathal Drohan & Paul Egan RStGYC), and White Tiger (Anthony O'Brien, Kinsale).

Mick Cotter's 77ft Whisper almost broke the 24-hour barrier for the record for the Dingle Race in the race of 2009. Photo: David O'Brien

Although the Irish Sea's champion J/109 Sgrech (Stephen Tudor) won't be involved, there are four of these useful all-rounders taking part, and Liam Shanahan's Ruth from the National YC was showing promising speed in the Scottish Series.

And a seriously interesting entry from further down the size scale is Paul O'Higgins' Corby 33 Rockabill V from Dun Laoghaire, which has an enviable racing record. The Corby 33 is more than sparse enough for most folk for a night or two at sea. Add in the increasing demands of the seaways as you get further west, and you have a challenging proposition which nevertheless could serve up a race win if conditions fall the right way. The smart money might just be on Rockabill V.

Paul O'Higgins' Corby 33 Rockabill V offers only the most austere comfort for offshore sailing, but in the right conditions her proven racing record might find itself augmented by the Dingle title.

National YC/Skellig Hotel Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2013 Entry List

Boat NameSail noModelSun DivisionNameSurnameClubIRC TCC
Antix IRL 3939 Ker 39 Racing Anthony / Peter O'Leary BSC/ RCYC 1.136
Joker II IRL 1206 J109 Racing John Maybury RIYC 1.017
Blue Eyes IRL 9849 Elan 340 2-handed Colm Buckley HYC 0.983
Lisador IRL 1295 Dehler 36 Racing Henry Hogg Garrykennedy SC 0.958
Ruth IRL 1383 J109 Racing Liam Shanahan NYC 1.02
Jedi IRL 8088 J109 Racing Andrew Sarrath RIYC 1018
Spindrift IRL 1503 HR34 Cruising David Kelly Waterford SC 0.938
Polished Manx GER8666 Sigma 33 Racing Kuba Szymanski DBYC 0.898
Discover Ireland IRL 7386 Reflex 38 Racing Adhan Fitzgerald GBSC 1.055
Black jack IRL 1988 Pocock 38 2-handed Peter/ Darren Coad/Nicholson WHSC 0.934
Conundrum IRL 3503 Hanse Cruising Michael Pomeroy RStGYC 0.968
Amazing Grace IRL1966 Oyster 37 Racing Brian O'Sullivan TBSC 0.931
Rockabill V IRL 3307 Corby 33 Racing Paul O'Higgins NYC/IRIYC 1.041
Aquelina IRL 1281 J-122 Racing James S Tyrrell ASC 1.084
Chancer IRL 1583 Elan 40 Racing Brian Carroll 1.027
White Tiger IRL 4470 Beneteau First 44.7 Racing Anthony O'Brien KYC 1.113
Mojito GBR9047R J109 Racing Peter Dunlop CHPwllheli SC 1.014
Ocean Tango GBR6848T Dehler34 2-Handed Robert Floate DMYC/ WSC 0.928
Legally Blonde IRL 3175 Beneteau First 44.7 Racing Cathal/Paul Drohan/Egan RStGYC 0.952
Lulla Belle IRL 3607 Beneteau First 36.7 2-Handed Liam/Brian Coyne/Flahive NYC 1.001
Wow IRL 4208 Farr42 Racing George Sisk RIYC 1.144
Adelie IRL 9631 Beneteau First 44.7 Racing Peter Hall NYC 1.003


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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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