#cruiserracing – The three day ICRA Nationals begin next Friday (June 13th) at the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire. The entry of one hundred and eleven boats from all parts of Ireland will inevitably see the numbers emphasis on the large home fleet, but W M Nixon reckons this will make the visiting rock stars try even harder.
The Spirit 54 Soufriere would attract admiring attention in any fleet. And under Stephen O'Flaherty's enthusiastic ownership, she has frequently made the scene - often with racing success – in classic yacht events. Nevertheless, to take this long and shapely beauty into the cut and thrust of Ireland's top national cruiser-racer championship is a truly sporting gesture. But as a star in a James Bond movie, Soufriere is accustomed to mixing the rough with the smooth.
It was in Casino Royale (2006) that Soufriere made her debut on the Tinseltown stage, sailing serenely into Venice with Daniel Craig as 007 taking the helm from co-star Eva Green. But it's far from the sheltered waters of the Serenissima that Soufriere will be competing in six day's time, yet her crew and the hundreds of other sailors who are shaping up for the ICRA Nationals 2014 on Dublin Bay will be hoping for a happy mix of good weather and decent sailing breezes to put away some high quality sport.
With six days to go, forecasters are reluctant to firm up their opinions on the expected state of the fickle Irish weather, particularly as it operates in the peculiar climatic laboratory which is Dublin Bay. But the folk who put their faith in anticipated Polar Jetstream movements are encouraged by fairly clearcut suggestions that this indicator and activator of our meteorology may finally be moving northwards towards its proper summer position by next weekend. But whether or not it does so in time to significantly benefit the ICRA Nationals is currently a moot point.
Whatever, the most recent charts we've seen have been showing a marked tendency towards southwest to northwest winds six days hence. You might well think that would provide a steady breeze coming down the Liffey Valley and out across the bay for splendid sailing on relatively smooth water. But as dear old Dublin town heats up with the summer temperatures building towards Bloomsday on June 16th, all sorts of quirks can be introduced into the weather, with afternoon sea breezes with varying touches of east in them playing havoc across the underlying gradient.
As for the Jetstream, the least we can hope for is that it won't be lying across Ireland. Ideally, its underlying path will be swirling away northwards. But if it has settled down unseasonably far south to make life disagreeable in northwest Spain or even across France, then we might just get lucky, as Scotland was in 2012, when they'd superb weather while Ireland had an unpleasant summer with the Jetstream like a nasty girdle across Munster.
Either way, we can do nothing about it. But as last summer's late-forecast arrival of good weather in time for the four day Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta showed, "Here Comes Summer!" is sailing's greatest recruiting slogan. Fleet numbers soared in a last minute rush, and boats which had spent the early part of the season with a shortage of hands found themselves almost embarassed by the arrival on board of willing crewpersons seeking any escape from the heat of the city.
ICRA boats being an altogether more serious proposition than casual local classes, it's likely that the total is pretty well fixed at this stage. But for those who batter around the high seas in weather good and bad from season's start in April, they surely deserve a reward in good sailing after a mix of 2014 weather which, so far, could most kindly be described as "interesting".
The ICRA Nationals 2014 are being hosted by the Royal Irish YC from their wellnigh perfect location within Dun Laoghaire marina, where their fine neo-classical building of 1851 vintage (it's the world's oldest complete purpose-designed yacht club premises) is conveniently positioned beside totally sheltered modern waterfront facilities, yet within easy reach of the open sailing waters of Dublin Bay.
The Royal Irish YC's prime location and historic clubhouse within Dun Laoghaire Marina's sheltered water provides a perfect location for hosting major keelboat events. Photo: W M Nixon
The club in turn have brought in sponsorship for the ICRA Nats from Teng Tools, a company whose management have been long involved in offshore racing success, with Alan Crosbie of TT sailing in this event aboard the vintage Mills-designed Quarter Tonner Quest, a boat of contemporary relevance whose history includes association with such luminaries of Irish sailing as Marcus Hutchinson and Gordon Maguire.
Thanks to Dublin Bay's time-honoured tradition of enthusiastically racing boats which in most other sailing areas would be seen only as cruisers, the entry list includes the usual mix of modern performance craft from builders such as X Yachts of Denmark, J Boats of America, Elan of Slovenia, Beneteau and Jeanneau of France, and Hanse and Bavaria of Germany, and they'll be lining up with venerable cruisers such as the vintage Nich 31 Saki and others such as Soufriere for whom success is a bonus to be treasured in the simple pleasure of sailing a comfortable much-loved boat.
The Nich 31 Saki is regularly raced in Dublin Bay, and for the ICRA Nationals she'll be competing in Class 4 against the likes of First 211s and a Hunter Sonata. Photo: David O'Brien
For those who are looking for razor-sharp virtually boat-for-boat racing, Class 1 is surely the place to be, where the active fleet of Dublin Bay J/109s, rating around the 1.015 to 1.017 mark, find themselves head to head with last year's ICRA Nats star performer, Philip Byrne's XP 33 Bon Exemple from the host club, whose helming lineup includes current Irish Champion Ben Duncan.
However, inter-area rivalry is a great spur to success, and the pride of Fingal, Pat Kelly's J/109 Storm from Rush SC, has several years of ICRA success under her belt, including the Boat of the Year title. Another 'out of Bay' challenger in the J/109s is Ian Nagle's Jelly Baby from the Royal Cork, so it will be wall-to-wall J/109s in Division 1, a formidable prospect for one of the smallest boat in the class, Denis Hewitt and partners' Mills 30CR Raptor, whose personnel includes top ICRA mover and shaker Fintan Cairns.
The J/109 has proven an ideal size for Dublin Bay and Irish Sea racing. Photo: David O'Brien
Father and son team of Neil and George Kenefick from Crosshaven will be campaigning their Quarter Tonner Tiger as Nathan Kirwan Trust during the ICRA Nats. Photo: Bob Bateman
The Dun Laoghaire emphasis in the fleet is an added peformance incentive for any visitors, and great things are expected in Division 3 from the Kenefick family's hot Quarter Tonner Tiger from Cork, which races this series as Nathan Kirwan Trust with former champion helm George Kenefick on the helm. Another visitor which has been making waves in the Irish Sea this year is the Shannon Estuary-based Dehler 34 Big Deal (Derek Dillon, Foynes YC), which has been scoring success in ISORA racing as part of the buildup to participation in the Round Ireland Race in three weeks time. The Dehler 34 has been around since 1980 or so, but this well-engineered cruiser-racer has deservedly proven an enduring success in Irish waters.
Further down the size scale, there's an impressive turnout of Corby 25s racing against Big Deal in Division 2 where winning will be an impressive notch in the bedpost as the lineup includes Anthony Gore-Grimes' regularly successful X 302 Dux from Howth, while Division 3 sees the continuing friendly (well, fairly friendly) war between vintage Quarter Tonners and J/24s such as Flor O'Driscoll's Hard on Port.
Anthony Gore-Grimes' X 302 Dux has been a regular and successful participant in ICRA events for many years. Photo: Bob Bateman
As for the Corinthians sailing non-spinnaker in Divisions 5 & 6, Eastsiders are pinning their hopes on the two extra-keen Howth boats. David Sargent's Elan 33 Indulgence, and the veteran Club Shamrock Demelza aboard which Windsor Laudan and Steffi Ennis have turned white-sail racing into an art, and a very successful one at that.
Transparency is all. George Sisk and his seasoned crew aboard the Farr 42 WOW will be racing with the second-highest rating in the fleet. Photo: W M Nixon
Up among the biggies in Division 0, Soufriere at 54ft is longest of all, and the highest rated at 1.135, but close astern is George Sisk's Farr 42 WOW, which rates 1.124. This provides a challenge for her senior crew, though we're assured that WOW doesn't stand for "We Ould Wans". Quite. There's a good outside challenge here with Denise Phelan's potent Mills 36 Jump Juice from Cork, the XP38i Roxstar (Findlay & Anderson) from the Clyde, the Corby 40 Converting Machine (Dave Cummaford) from Pwllheli, the pride of Arklow which is the Tyrell family's J/122 Aquelina, ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly's Mills 36 Crazy Horse from Howth, and Lynx, Martin Breen's Reflex 38 which sails thousands of sea miles, many of them with racing success, for the honour of Galway Bay SC.
The Tyrrell family's J/122 Aquelina from Artklow is an active contender throughout the season. Photo: W M Nixon
The main man. Nobby Reilly of Howth, Commodore of ICRA, at the helm of his Mills 36 Crazy Horse. Photo: Bob Bateman
Martin Breen's Reflex 38 Lynx from Galway, seen here racing round Ireland, will be hoping to add ICRA success to her established offshore achievements.
Thus the lineup is what you'd expect of a sailing community emerging from several years of economic recession. There are few if any brand new boats, only a small group are travelling any significant distance to take part, and within the local fleet, as with the visitors, there's a marked emphasis on well-loved boats which have been with their owners for quite some time, but are continuing to give excellent value and great sport for the day that's in it.
And finally, if you don't believe a word about Soufriere being in a James Bond movie, here's the clip from Casino Royale. Soufriere was already being built when the request for her use in the film came through. But who could decline such a thing? It's even better than having a genuine Beken photograph of your boat.
Once upon a time, back in 1990, I sailed into Venice and motored right up the crowded Grand Canal as far as the Rialto Bridge with the late great Brian Hegarty on the Hallberg Rassy 42 ketch Safari of Howth. We'd a better time of it than poor old James Bond. We didn't have to waste time with the distraction of writing resignation letters on the laptop. For we were on our holliers, and believe me, arriving in Venice in the morning sunshine on a fine cruising yacht merits your full attention. It is one of life's great and magical experiences.
Meanwhile, back in Dublin Bay, first gun in ICRA Nats 2014 is at 1055hrs Friday June 13th, racing continues through Sunday May 15th, right hand side of the boat continues to be starboard, and the wind being on it usually confers right of way.
ICRA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 2014, 13th to 15th June 2014 ENTRIES (AS AT 6/6/14)
|Division||Sail No||Boat||Type of Boat||Club||IRC|
|0||IRL9852||Crazy Horse||Mills 36||HYC||1.084|
|0||IRL5718||Loose Change||IMX 40||RIYC||1.073|
|0||IRL1644||Lively Lady||First 44.7||RIYC||1.107|
|0||IRL2007||Jump Juice||Ker 37||RCYC||1.103|
|0||GBR6940R||Converting Machine||Corby 40||Pwllheli SC||1.095|
|0||GBR4041R||First Forty licks||First 40||East Down YC||1.080|
|0||GBR8038R||Roxstar||XP 38i||Clyde CC||1.077|
|1||EI1906||ZURI||Hanse 37||Carlingford SC||#N/A|
|1||IRL638||State O’ Chassis||Sigma 38||RIYC||#N/A|
|1||IRL3307||Rockabill V||Corby 33||RIYC||1.041|
|1||GBR8933R||Bon Exemple||XP 33||RIYC||1.016|
|1||IRL1129||Jump The Gun||J109||RIYC||1.014|
|1||GBR2620L||Fox in Sox||X 34||RIYC||1.003|
|1||IRL3471||Black Velvet||First 34.7||RIYC||1.001|
|2||IRL1310||After You Too||Beneteau 31.7||RStGYC||#N/A|
|2||GBR8747T||Movistar Bleu||Elan 333||Killyleagh YC||0.967|
|2||IRL7284||Red Rhum||Dehler DB1||RStGYC||0.967|
|2||IRL1188||Utopia||X 3/4 Ton||DL Marina||0.956|
|2||IRL8094||King One||Half Tonner||HYC||0.953|
|2||IRL6909||Extreme Reality||Beneteau 31.7||RIYC||0.952|
|2||IRL993||Prima Nocte||Beneteau 31.7||RIYC||0.950|
|2||IRL4170||SLACK ALICE||GK Westerly 34||WHSC||0.949|
|2||GBR66R||Checkmate XV||Humphreys Half Tonner||RStGYC||0.943|
|2||IRL5522||The Big Picture||Mg30||HYC||0.942|
|2||IRL3492||Big Deal||Dehler 34||Foynes YC||0.929|
|2||IRL521||Bendemeer||Beneteau First 325||RStGYC||0.925|
|3||GBR8148||Squawk||Sigma 33 ood||BYC/RUYC||#N/A|
|3||IRL4384||Django||J24||Lough Ree YC||#N/A|
|3||IRL5795||Black Sheep||Mustang 30||NYC||0.919|
|3||IRL4464||Springer||Sigma 33 ood||RStGYC||0.912|
|3||IRL4536||Elandra||Sigma 33||DL Marina||0.912|
|3||IRL4633||White Mischief||Sigma 33 ood||RIYC||0.911|
|3||IRL34218||Lady Rowena||Sadler 34||RStGYC||0.911|
|3||IRL999999||Nathan Kirwan Trust||1/4 ton||RCYC||0.907|
|3||IRL8188||Alliance II||Laser 28||HYC||0.896|
|3||IRL4533||Crazy Horse||J24||Sligo SC||0.887|
|3||IRL680||Euro Car Parks Kilcullen||J24||HYC||0.887|
|3||IRL4794||Hard on Port||J24||RStGYC||0.887|
|3||IRL9508||Huggy Bear||Impala 28ood||NYC||0.884|
|4||IRL1208||Capilano||Beneteau First 211||RIYC||#N/A|
|4||IRL2121||Chinook||Beneteau First 211||RIYC||#N/A|
|4||IRL2111||Syzrgy||Beneteau First 211||RStGYC||#N/A|
|4||IRL1689||Chouskikou||First 28||DL Marina||0.870|
|4||8245N||Asterix||Hunter Sonata||DL Marina||0.823|
|Non-spinnaker Corinthian Cup|
|5||IRL607||Effex II||First 35||RIYC||#N/A|
|5||IRL532||Orna||Grand Soleil 40||NYC||1.021|
|5||IRL3506||Just Jasmin||Bavaria Match 35||RIYC/DMYC||0.995|
|5||IRL1357||Humdinger||Sunfast 37||Carlingford SC||0.972|
|5||IRL1333||White Lotus||Elan 333||DL Marina||0.957|
|5||IRL3400||Brazen Hussy||Dufour 34||HYC||0.950|
|5||IRL5687||To Infinity and Beyond||Dehler 37 CR||RStGYC||0.949|
|6||IRL1217||The Great Escape||Bavaria 33||RIYC||#N/A|
|6||IRL1309||Syledis in blue||Beneteau oceanis clipper 323 LK||Bray SC||#N/A|
|6||IRL5013||Sweet Martini||She 31||RStGYC||#N/A|
|6||IRL966||More Mischief||Beneteau First 310||DL Marina||#N/A|
|6||IRL2860||Pure Magic||Feeling 286 Special||Bray SC||#N/A|
|6||IRL1166||Edenpark||Jeanneau Sun Odyssey||RIYC||0.977|
|6||IRL5643||Calypso||Beneteau Oceanis 361||RStGYC||0.928|
A PDF version of this entry list (with owners names) is available to download below