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Irish Sailing 2013 Review – Ups & Downs & Sideways Too

15th November 2013
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2.4 class in the Disabled Sailing Worlds at Kinsale in August. One of three classes racing, the 2.4s mustered a fleet of 45 boats, and the winner was Bijlard Guus of The Netherlands. Photo: Bob Bateman
Irish Sailing 2013 Review – Ups & Downs & Sideways Too

In this Irish Sailing review of 2013, W M Nixon looks back on a year of the unexpected. There were reversals of fortune where some top sailors had seemed set for success, but new stars emerged to provide hope for the future. And perhaps best of all, after a gruesome start, the weather relented at mid-summer to provide one of the best sailing seasons in years.

Thanks to the diaspora of Irish sailing talent with the Paddy presence continually increasing in Australia, these days we effectively have a year-round sailing season, and major southern hemisphere events like the Sydney-Hobart are seen as an associated part of the year's events at home.

Thus New Year's Day has the useful distraction of a leisurely perusal of the results from Hobart, and January 1st 2013 was most satisfactory. Gordon Maguire may not have repeated his overall win of the 2011 race with Stephen Ainsworth's superb 63ft Loki, but he was tops of his class, comfortably out-sailing every boat of comparable size, and his second overall to Bob Oatley's hundred footer Wild Oats XI (which had also established a new course record) meant that the Irish skipper was confirmed as clear overall winner of the Australian Offshore Championship 2012-2013, a very satisfactory conclusion to the five year Ainsworth-Maguire partnership

Back home meantime, winter was tightening its grip, and even the hyper-keen Fireballs frost-biting in Dun Laoghaire found their turnouts occasionally down to single figures, though the Lasers in Howth in their 38th winter season found numbers holding up well, with prizes well spread among several Leinster clubs. The growing turnout including sailors whose fathers – and possibly even grandfathers – had sailed in that first Laser league way back in 1974. Ronan Cull won the Standards, Aoife Hopkins the Radials, and Daragh Sheridan won the Grand Masters.

But for most sailing folk, January and February are for hibernation with just the occasional emergence to honour some notable achievement from the previous season, and better still several previous seasons. So it was a very special AGM of the Irish Cruising Club in February in Dun Laoghaire when Fergus & Kay Quinlan of Bell Harbour on Galway Bay took the premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup which dates back to 1931, for the third year in a row for their exemplary global circumnavigation in the 12 metre cutter Pylades, which Fergus built himself in steel.

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The homemade success – Fergus and Kay Quinlan's 12m van de Stadt-designed Pylades

Winter showed little sign of easing in Ireland in March, but the sailing in the Caribbean area was at its best, and at the Star Class 86th Bacardi Cup series in Miami, Cork's Peter O'Leary was right in the hunt for a podium place in the fleet of 63 boats. But having to carry a 27th after he'd discarded a 36th meant he finished 8th overall, despite his scorecard including a 1st, 2nd and 6th.

So it was a junior brother of the O'Leary clan of Crosshaven, young Rob, who was most in the sailing headlines in March, as he stood down from sailing in the Universities Team Racing Championship over the St Patrick's Weekend in mid-March at Tralee Bay SC in order to put all his efforts into organising this Firefly racing in Kerry for 28 teams which included international input.

Rob O'Leary was trebly rewarded for his altruism, for in a weekend when the rest of Ireland was suffering snow and storms, somehow Tralee Bay had its own very sailable micro-climate. And the crowded programme was handsomely completed, with the organiser having the satisfaction of seeing his own squad from University of Limerick, captained by Ross Murray, emerge as champions.

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Ross Murray captained the winning University of Limerick team in the Irish Universities team Racing Championship at Tralee Bay over the St Patrick's Weekend in mid-March.

Then in the following month O'Leary had his chance at the helm, and he took it in style to make Limerick the winners of the Student Yachting Worlds Selection Trials, raced over four Saturdays in April in the SailFleet J/80s at Howth. University College Dublin having won the SYW in October 2012 by a huge margin, they'd a place as of right in the 2013 Worlds, thus Limerick were in theory poised to make the Irish 2013 challenge even more formidable. But as we shall see, the ephemeral nature of college sailing personnel meant that April 2013 was really when Irish college sailing was at its peak for the year.

There was no easy optimism about the new season during May, as a bitterly cold Spring hampered sailing enthusiasm. However, the big winds which often came with the low temperatures suited Olympian Annalise Murphy racing at the Delta Lloyd Spa Regatta in the Netherlands, and she won Gold in style. But those rugged conditions were daunting for others, particularly among the dedicated contingent sailing to the Scottish Series in wintry headwinds. Conditions relented during the event itself, but Irish boats missed out on the frame, though Liam Shanahan's J/109 Ruth, largely crewed by junior instructors from the National YC, was well in contention.

Summer arrived suddenly at the end of May, just in time to provide 24 boats of the Cruising Association of Ireland with idyllic conditions for a Cruise-in-Company to North Wales. Back home in Dublin Bay, that first Bank Holiday Weekend of June had fine weather for the visit of the Old Gaffers Association, celebrating their Golden Jubilee with a rolling Round Britain Cruise which came far enough west to take in Dublin and Belfast.

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The Old Gaffers Race in Dublin Bay. This is Dutch skipper Rik Janssen's own-built steel Galway Hooker Cine Mara developing full power. Photo: Barry O'Loughlin

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Sean Walsh of the Dublin Bay OGA won the Golden Jubilee Race Series in the bay with his Heard 28 Tir na nOg by taking third in the Leinster Plate, and then winning the Asgard Trophy. Photo: Barry O'Loughlin

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Dickie Gomes' 101-year-old Ringsend-built 36ft yawl Ainmara from Strangford Lough on her way to winning the Leinster Plate race staged by Poolbeg Y & BC of Ringsend. It was the first time Ainmara had been back to Ringsend in 90 years. Photo: Barry O'Loughlin

It was Dublin Bay – thanks in part to the involvement of the 115-year-old Howth 17s – which provided more gaff rigged boats than anywhere else except the final Golden Jubilee assembly in the Solent in mid-August, and with Dublin Bay's racing tradition, they'd sport afloat, ashore, and in the River Liffey. DBOGA stalwart Sean Walsh with his Heard 28 Tir na nOg got the best overall result by winning the concluding race for the Asgard Trophy, and taking third in the opening race for the Leinster Plate, where the winner was Dickie Gomes's 101 year old 36ft yawl Ainmara from Strangford Lough, celebrating her return to her birthplace of Ringsend after an absence of 90 years.

The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race got going on Friday June 7th with a good fleet of 22 boats, and for much of the race it looked as though RORC flag officer Anthony O'Leary of Crosshaven was going to take both line honours and the handicap win with his Ker 39 Antix. But a parking lot for the leaders in Dingle Bay saw results being inverted to provide an exuberantly celebrated victory for Tralee Bay's Brian O'Sullivan with his veteran Oyster 37 Amazing Grace.

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Brian O'Sullivan's vintage Oyster 37 Amazing Grace racing in the ICRA Nationals in Tralee Bay after winning the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race overall. Photo: Bob Bateman

It was ironic that Tralee benefited from this brief calm off Dingle, for the middle weekend of June saw a distinct and savage kink in the weather with some very rugged conditions for the ICRA Nationals at Tralee Bay itself. That said, when the sailing was good, it was very good indeed, and with the ICRA event moving on seamlessly from the WIORA championship, a good turnout saw some excellent sport with the new Xp33 Bon Exemple helmed by Colin Byrne of Dun Laoghaire proving best of the visitors, while the veteran Dehler Optima 101 Dis-a-Ray (Ray McGibney, Foynes YC) put in an excellent performance across the two championships combined to maintain the honour of the Atlantic seaboard.

The uneven conditions in June as the summer of 2013 slowly settled into place had also provided brisk conditions at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta at the former Olympic venue at Weymouth, and the Irish squad revelled in it, with northern duo Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern developing the promise shown at the Olympics 2012 to take Gold in the 49er, while Annalise Murphy took Bronze.

That spell of foul weather at mid-June also made things difficult for an Irish Cruising Club rally to the Isles of Scilly, but despite very unfavourable conditions crossing the Celtic Sea, 14 boats out of an intended 19 reached those enchanted isles, and the programme was largely completed. There was still plenty of breeze about when the large multihulls from France in the Routes des Princes arrived in Dun Laoghaire, but even so normal DBSC Saturday afternoon racing was busily under way when the big multis called off their racing after spectators were treated to the first of the MOD 70s' two capsizes in 2013. It was a publicist's dream, having something as spectacular as this happening on a Saturday afternoon in a natural ampitheatre like Dublin Bay, but it wasn't much fun for the crewman who sustained a badly fractured pelvis which resulted in a summer spent unexpectedly in Tallaght Hospital. And as for the jolly boaters of DBSC, they just carried on racing.

It took some time for the weather to renew its promise of early June, so there was still plenty of breeze about when a new event made its debut, RIOTI on Lough Ree on Thursday June 27th. There has been talk for years of an alternative to the biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow, but 2013 was when it finally happened. Lough Ree is as near the middle of Ireland as you can get, it's eminently suitable to race round, so the first Round Ireland On The Inside Race was staged by assorted eccentrics in some style, with Pat Mahon's Folkboat Ventus (Lough Ree YC) winning the cruisers, while Frank Browne of Portlaw in County Waterford won the Shannon One Designs, and Ian Malcolm of Howth led the Water Wags in an event which deserves to become a classic, and maybe even an annual one.

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Pat Mahon's Folkboat Ventus (Lough Ree YC) won the cruiser class in the new RIOTI Photo: W M Nixon

Down on the south coast, meanwhile Commodore Cameron Good and his members opened their much improved clubhouse for Kinsale YC nicely in time for the Sovereigns Cup at the end of June, which saw a welcome return of wall-to-wall summer weather and glorious racing for crews many of whom were still licking their wounds from the rugged racing on Tralee Bay. But though it was basically an IRC and ECHO racing festival, it was the gallant veterans of the 1720 Sportsboat class who stole the limelight, with Olympian Peter O'Leary turning in a stellar performance with Spiced Beef to win the overall prize.

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Superb racing in the Sovereigns Cup Photo: Bob Bateman

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"They haven't gone away you know...." In fact, far from fading away, the Cork 1720s produced the winner of the Sovereign's Cup. Photo: Bob Bateman

July found the summer settling itself in comfortably over Ireland, and entries for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta accelerated as the dates approached and people realised that this "ultimate suburban sailfest" offered a very convenient opportunity to make hay while the sun shone. Which it did, and big time too, for the entire event. Though some of the 400 or so competing boats (120 of them visiting) might have enjoyed more breeze, skilled race officers used the special effects provided by tides and sea breezes to complete a busy programme for an astonishing total of 13 classes, with Nigel Biggs' classic Rob Humphreys Half Tonner Checkmate XV being best overall with a clean sheet to prepare her for victory in the World Half Ton Classics in France in September.

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The vintage Half Tonner Checkmate XV (Nigel Biggs) was top scorer in the huge fleet in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in July, and then went on to win the Half Ton Classic Worlds. Photo: Aidan Tarbett

VDLR 2013 – OVERALL RESULTS.
IRC CLASS 0 1. Grand Cru II (J McGarry) 2. Zephyr (S Cowie) 3. Dark Angel (A Ackland)
IRC CLASS 1 Bon Exemple (X Yachts GB) 2. Now or Never 3 (N Sandford) 3. Rockabill V (P O'Higgins)
IRC CLASS 2 1. Checkmate XV (N Biggs) 2. Scenario Encore (S&J Fitton) 3. Tribal (L Burke)
IRC CLASS 3 1. Quest (Cunningham & Skerritt) 2. Kilcullen Euro Car Parks (Howth YC K25 Team) 3. Nyah (S Hyde)
J109 1. Joker II (J Maybury) 2. Storm II (P Kelly) 3. Jalapeno (Barrington/ Burke/ Phillips)
SIGMA 33 1. White Mischief (T Goodbody) 2. Leaky Roof (A Harper/ E&K Robertson) 3. Rupert (R&P Lovegrove)
BENETEAU 31.7 1. Levana (J Mitton) 2. Prospect (C Johnston) 3. Levante (M Leahy/ J Power)
IRC Coastal 1. Aquelina (S&J Tyrell) 2. Wow (G Sisk) 3. Mermaid IV (S Fitzpatrick)
NON-SPINNAKER 1 1. Bite the Bullet ( C Bermingham) 2. White Lotus (P Tully) 3. Orna (P Dilworth)
NON- SPINNAKER 2 1. Demelza (S Ennis) 2. Vespucci (S&K O'Regan) 3. Nauti-Gal (J&J Crawford)
Ruffian 23 1. Diane 2 (A Claffey/ C Helme) 2. Ruff Nuff (D Mitchell) 3. Bandit (Kirwan/ Cullen/ Brown)
Shipman 1. Curaglas (J Masterson) 2. Gusto (C Heath/ G Mills) 3. Whiterock (H Robinson)
SB20 1. Should Be? (M O'Connor) 2. BomChickaWahWah (J O' Driscoll) 3. Seriously Bonkers 3 (M Cuppage/ P Lee)
RS ELITE 1. Storm (J Gunning/ S Polly/ D Kelso) 2. Momentary Laps... (J Patterson) 3. Toucan (G&M Vaughan)
BENETEAU FIRST 21 1. Chinook (A Bradley/ P Morgan) 2. Yikes (J Conway) 3. Carna (S Spence)
DRAGON 1. Phantom (P Bowring/ D Williams) 2. Jaguar (M Byrne) 3. Diva (R&R Johnson/ R Goodbody)
Flying Fifteen 1. The Gruffalo (I Matthews) 2. Melliffluence (B Mulligan) 3. The Big Bow Wow (N Meagher/ N Matthews)
GLEN 1. Glenluce (R&D O'Connor) 2. Glendun (B Denham) 3. Glenariff (A Lee)
HOWTH 17 1. Isobel (B&C Turvey) 2. Oona (P Courtney) 3. Pauline (S O' Doherty/ E Ryan)
Fireball 1. Let's Get Messy (B Byrne) 2. Tipsey McStagger (C&J Clancy) 3. Goodness Gracious (L McKenna/ F Rowan)
IDRA 14 1. Starfish (A Carr/ D Kilroy) 2. Delos ii (P O'Neill) 3. Slipstream (J Ascoop/ H Keenan)
MERMAID 1. Tiller Girl (J O'Rourke) 2. Jill (P Smith/ P Mangan) 3. Endeavour (R Bannon)
SQUIB 1. Why not (D Jago) 2. Iola (F Whelan) 3. Perfection (J Fleming)
WATER WAG 1. Mollie (C MacAleavey) 2. Swift (G Kilroy) 3. Pansy (V Delaney)
Sail Fleet J80 Bay Challenge 1. More Mischief (E Doyle) 2. Katie (T Dunne/ F Fahy/ C McGuinness/ D Grace) 3. Xerxes (D O'Neill)
PY 1. IRL 171 426 (F Devlin) 2. IRL Return of the Milky Bar Kid (H Sheehy) 3. UG (R O'Leary)

After this fabulous saltwater festival of racing, the July focus turned to classic boats and then fresh water, with first the Glandore Classics in West Cork, and then the month rounded out with the Mirror Worlds on Lough Derg. The diversity at Glandore was as evident as ever, with the lovely Fife ODs from the Menai Straits making a remarkable impact, but it's in no way a down-grading of the other boats to state that the runaway star of the show was the centenarian Jolie Brise. The famous French-designed and built pilot cutter won the first Fastnet Race in 1925, and she and her crew from Dauntsey's School made a special point of coming to Glandore so that they could have a properly emotional rounding of the famous rock.

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The Centenarian pilot cutter Jolie Brise, winner of the first Fastnet Race in 1925, rounds the Fastnet Rock in commemoration during the Glandore Classic Boat Regatta 2013. Photo: Brian Carlin

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Fabulous sport in an interesting selection of Irish weather – the Mirror Worlds in Lough Derg. Photo: Gerardine Wisdom

As for the Mirror Worlds 2013, what can we say? Everything you've heard about this great event is true. It did indeed muster an international fleet of 93 boats. The hospitality was undoubtedly laid back yet certainly superb. The sailing was Irish sailing at its very best, with Lough Derg in a lively mood. It did indeed go right down to the wire, with the young South African siblings crew of Ryan and Michaela Robinson winning from Ridgely Ballardes and Rommel Chavez from the Philippines. And yes, they did manage to get a senior government minister to perform the official opening ceremony. They pulled off this coup by discovering that Minister for Agriculture and the Marine Simon Coveney harboured a secret ambition to sail a Shannon One Design. The word was he'd do anything, even opening a sailing event on a Sunday evening at some considerable distance from his constituency, just to achieve this. Sailing a Shannon OD at Dromineer on Lough Derg? No problem. The Minister got his SOD sail. The event got its gala opening. And the racing was brilliant.

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Government minister Simon Coveney achieves his dram of a sail in a Shannon One Design. Photo: Gerardine Wisdom

August is traditional the month for sailing elsewhere. The 81-year-old 17ft Mermaids erupted from their East Coast and Shannon Estuary strongholds upon Galway Bay Sailing Club at the start of August for their week long championship, and it was encouraging that one of the youngest teams – Skerries SC's Mark Boylan crewd by Niall Collins and Aileen Boylan – emerged as winners from a fiercely contested series, with Jim Carthy of Rush second, Paul Smith of RIYC third, and Jonathan O'Rourke (NYC) fourth.

Despite the fact that Dun Laoghaire had two helms in the top four, and the excellent turnout and great Mermaid sport at VDLR when Jonathan O'Rourke had won, the word is that Mermaid turnouts in Dun Laoghaire's regular racing have become so sparse that DBSC won't be providing them with a class in 2014. Perhaps with so much energy being focussed on the Water Wags, glossy Dun Laoghaire only has enough enthusiasm for one traditional clinker-built class.

Meanwhile at other places beyond the seas, August had its time-honoured international biennial festival of the sea, when boats have long since been turned away from a rapidly-filled entry list. 350 of them went off from Cowes in the Fastnet Race on Sunday August 11th, with a goodly Irish contingent among them. But it was very much of the year of the French, with father-and-son crew of Pascal and Alexis Loison on the JPK 1010 Night and Day making history as the first overall winners racing in the two-handed division.

Best of the Irish to win the Gull Salver was Martin Breen's Reflex 38 from Galway Bay SC, which sailed as Discover Ireland under the command of Aodhan Fitzgerald. It tells us everything about how completely international the Fastnet has become by noting that the Galway boat, while 18th overall, was actually fourth overall among boats from Britain and Ireland.

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The Galway-based Reflex 38 Discover Ireland was top Irish boat in the Fastnet.

While traditional August regattas proceeded apace at venues on every Irish coast, as the month rolled on the preparations were finalised for major international events in Kinsale, Crosshaven, Dun Laoghaire and Howth. With his election in November 2012 as President of the International Disabled Sailing Association at the ISAF Conference in Dun Laoghaire, John Twomey of Kinsale was soon at work knowing that he could count on his home port to provide the special support for staging the IFDS Worlds, putting in place a programme which came to brilliant fruition in ideal weather

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Summertime off Kinsale – racing for the Skud class in the IFDS Worlds 2013. Photo: Bob Bateman

In a good year for global events in Ireland, it was one of the most truly international. The Skud class saw Britain's Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell win from Italy's Marco Gualandris and Marta Zanetti, while Canada's John McRoberts was third. In the 2.4s, the winner was the Netherlands' Bijlard Guus, with Germany's Helko Kroger second, France's Damien Sequin third and Australia's Matt Bugg fourth in the numerically strongest fleet – forty-five 2.4s sailing out on the blue Kinsale sea. And in the Sonar, where in times past John Twomey has himself been among the medals, the winner was France's Bruno Jourden with The Netherlands' Udo Hessels second and Australia's Colin Harrison third, while John Twomey was best of the Irish at ninth – crewed by Anthony Hegarty and Ian Costelloe – in a fleet of 18 boats.

Round on the east coast at Howth, a lengthy buildup to the BMW J/24 Worlds 2013 had seen some locals take on board the suggestion that a very reasonably priced second hand market means these iconic little sloops could be acquired for a small layout. And then with elbow grease and sailing determination, you could be in the hunt at world level in a class which prides itself on its economical approach to top class sport.

Well, as the fleet gathered, it soon became obvious that some nations' versions of "economical approach" is another nation's notion of stratospheric expenditure. Ironically, however, in view of who is currently at the top of Europe's economic tree and who is towards the bottom, the impoverished Irish found themselves most at one with the German contingent. Germany will be hosting the J/24 Worlds in a couple of years times, so three young German crews turned up with their boats in Howth to test the water. And far from renting luxury waterfront houses as accommodation for the duration of the championship, all they wanted was somewhere to pitch their old bell tents.

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The J/24 Worlds 2013 at Howth – who would think this photo was taken less than ten miles from Dublin city centre? Photo: David Branigan

The word from J/24 International is that Irish race officers are held in high regard, and David Lovegrove's performance at Howth through an extraordinary variety of weather further reinforced this view. Despite losing one day completely to calms, he put through the full programme, the racing was marvellous, and the US crews were in top form, though at least the winner, Tim Healy of Newport RI, was clearly an American of Irish descent. Defending champion Mauricio Santa Cruz of Brazil was second, while another US helm, Travis Odenbach from Rochester NY was third, having fallen from the grace of overall lead on the final day. And with the last race won by Germany's Tobias Feuerherd, who knows but success for the worlds in 2015 in Germany may already be a-building for the home team.

As for other classes in late August and early September, it was the ever-young Laser all the way in both Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay. The Vodafone Laser Nationals at the Royal Cork from August 22nd to 26th produced a very healthy spread of results in the Standard Rig division, with Chris Penney of East Antrim winning from Alan Ruigrok of Rush, while Russian visitor Maxim Nikolaev was third and Philip Doran of Courtown took fourth.

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Gold Medallist. Annalise Murphy is borne ashore after her mighty win.

The Laser parade then moved on to Dublin Bay, and shifted up several gears to become the Europeans hosted by the National YC. While the Men's Standard Class was limited to 120 boats, with all the different divisions afloat the fleet total was pushing towards the 340 mark, an exercise in logistics which is almost beyond comprehension. Fortunately, some good Irish results brought clarity, with Annalise Murphy triumphing to win Gold in the Women's Radials, while 17-year-old Finn Lynch won Gold in the Under 21s, Silver in the Europeans, and Bronze in the Men's Radials.

This youthful achievement in September was boosted at the end of the month in Germany on Lake Constance, where the Irish Team in the European Under-23 Match Race Final was skippered by Philip Bendon of Baltimore to the Gold Medal. His crew were James Bendon, Christopher Tiernan and Bruno van Dyke, and their good showing kept British skipper Mark Lees back in second, while the Italian crew took the bronze.

Moving into October, Irish prospects for the Student Yachting Worlds were beginning to look a bit flaky. The French hosts had greatly tightened the format, moving the event to the no-nonsense venue of Pornic in Brittany, and down-sizing the boats to J/80s. Theoretically this should have favoured the two-pronged Irish campaign, as the SailFleet J/80s were readily available for intense training, but the economic realities of discerning post-college career paths poutweoighed the attractions of endless sailing opportunities, and by August it was clear that University of Limerick would not be availing of their right to be the Irish challengers, while defenders University College Dublin had seen changes in personnel such that they had little enough in the way of crew battle-hardened by previous SYWs.

Nevertheless the UCD crew, with Philip Doran as helm, gave it their best shot, while Dublin City University, as runners-up in the selection trials, took over the Limerick place at short notice and under skipper Ryan Scott, they assembled a crew entirely from the junior membership of Howth YC. Out of fifteen teams, with the French very much in control to win overall with Switzerland second and the US third, the Irish had to be happy with 8th and 9th, while the "Howth nippers" drew some additionl concolation from the news that clubmate Laura Dillon had skippered the winning team in the British Women's Open Match Racing Championship.

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Ben Duncan on his way to winning the all-Ireland. Photo: Aidan Tarbett

October saw select keelboat classes descend on Lough Derg for their traditional Autumn Regatta at Dromineer, and further lustre added to the achievements of Irish SB20 champion Ben Duncan, who had a runaway win in a class which has revived itself in Ireland with a bootstraps operation during 2013. He then went on to win the Helmsmans Championshjp raced in the SailFleet J/80s in Howth at the end of October. The weather was going haywire with the buildup to the St Jude's Day storm, so it reflects all credit on both participants and the race management team that a full programme was put through in just one day, with a break in the middle to allow a vicious little front to go through. In fact, the race officer worked the weather window so well that all the photos seem to show glorious perfect sunny sailing. Seafra Guilfoyle of Royal Cork was runner up, with FF Champion Ian Mathews of the National third.

The Autumn saw the focus shifting towards the Mediterranean, and it brought success for Cork's David Kenefick in the Figaro Solo Circus. After various ups and down throughout the season in Atlantic waters, the Mediterranean Autumn programme saw it go down to the wire for the coveted Rookie of the Year title, and the final races saw everything go Kenefick's way to be the first Irish winner.

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David Kenefick was Rookie of the Year in the 2013 Figaro Solo programme.

In recent years there has been Irish success in the Middle Sea Race out of Malta in late October-early November in the two-handed division, but for 2013's race a couple of the leading Irish two-handed teams threw in their lot with the fully-crewed Maltese-owned J/122 Otra Vez. It was a shrewd career move. They won Class 4, and placed 11th overall in a fleet of 97 boats. Next best of Irish interest was Dermot Cronin's First 40.7 Encore from Malahide, which finished exactly at mid-fleet.

Into November, and interest moves even further southward and even warmer, with the 360-mile Duba to Muscat Race. Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners, overall winner of the first RORC Caribbean 600 Race in 2009, and overall winner (as Ger O'Rourke's Chieftain) of the 2007 Fastnet, goes into the Muscat race as favourite, and doesn't disappoint, with a new course record too.

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Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners on her way to comprehensive victory in the Dubai-Muscat Race. Photo: Tim Wright

And meanwhile out in Australia, a new Dubai-built 60ft Ichi Ban for legendary owner Matt Allen is emerging in preparation for the Sydney-Hobart 2013, starting December 26th. Among the team involved in this ultimate racing machine is Gordon Maguire. Which seems to be where we came in...

For more on 2013's Irish sailing highlights read Afloat's Sailor of the Month Awards

 

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WM Nixon

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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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