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Round Ireland Yacht Race From Wicklow is Getting A Real Buzz

23rd April 2016
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She flies…..current Round Ireland Record Holder Musandam-Oman will be on the line for the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race at Wicklow on June 18th – and this time Damian Foxall will be on board. She flies…..current Round Ireland Record Holder Musandam-Oman will be on the line for the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race at Wicklow on June 18th – and this time Damian Foxall will be on board.

In precisely eight weeks’ time from this morning, adrenalin levels around Wicklow Harbour on Saturday June 18th will be rising as the final countdown begins to the start of the 19th Round Ireland Race. With new sponsorship for Wicklow Sailing Club’s main event from Volvo Car Ireland, and an unprecedented level of international interest, this year’s staging of the biennial 704-mile RORC-supported classic looks like being one of the best ever in the definitive race’s already vibrant history. W M Nixon takes the pulse on the current state of play with one of Irish sailing’s core spectaculars.

The Antigua to Bermuda Sailing Record over an ocean sprint course of 935 miles would normally be of no more than tangential interest to Irish sailors. Indeed, as the very idea of it is only a relatively recent concept, it had barely started to figure as a handy challenge in the international sailing consciousness. But this morning it’s of particular interest in at least two constituencies – Irish sailing and big time multihull offshore racing - as Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD 70 trimaran Phaedo 3 has been taking on the AB challenge in recent days, having left Antigua at noon local time on Wednesday.

In fact, as you consume both the full Irish and this comment-conglomeration of a cool clear Spring Saturday morning, the new record may well be already set. For so far as is known, whatever time is set will be the record, and may remain so until there’s a new challenge race going off officially from Antigua to Bermuda, and that’s not scheduled until May 2017. It appears that heretofore, nobody seems to have been trying to get from Antigua to Bermuda in a true record time, even if any reasonable seaman would want to make the passage in as efficient a style as possible in a manner in which speed is compatible with safety.

Yesterday afternoon, Phaedo 3 was well to the west of the rhumb line as she curved around the course to try and keep herself in the best available wind pressure for the final 200 miles to Bermuda. But whatever inaugural record emerges from Phaedo 3’s Antigua to Bermuda sprint, the links to sailing round Ireland and the up-coming Volvo Round Ireland race seem to build on us from every side, as Phaedo is being skippered by Brian Thompson.

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Brian Thompson, round Ireland record holder 1993–2015, and skipper of the MOD 70 Phaedo 3 which is entered for the Volvo Round Ireland Race

He was of course the main man when Steve Fossett’s 60ft trimaran Lakota set a very enduring round Ireland record back in September 1993. And that record stood until May 2015, when it was finally bettered – though not by the expected large margin – by Sydney Gavignet’s MOD 70 Musandam-Oman.

So good was Lakota’s record that it was Gavignet’s fourth attempt at it when he finally toppled the Fossett/Thompson time. The irony here is that Gavignet had become obsessed by the round Ireland challenge through being introduced to it by our own international sailing superstar, Kerryman Damian Foxall. Yet despite being on the three previous attempts, Foxall was unavoidably absent when Musandam-Oman finally brought the time down, as the Irishman had been drafted in to put right a crewing weakness in a Volvo Ocean Race contender.

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Damian Foxall

But Foxall will be very much on the strength when Oman Sailing comes to the line for the Volvo Round Ireland start at Wicklow on Saturday June 18th. And the broad scenario is for an utterly heroic drama, as Brian Thompson will be there was well with Thornburg’s Phaedo 3, as too will be another MOD 70, the Ned Collier-Wakefield-skippered Concise 10 which Phaedo 3 pipped for line honours in the RORC Caribbean 600 at the end of February.

When the Volvo Round Ireland Race organising team of Theo Phelan and WSC Commodore Peter Shearer and their colleagues announced last year that multi-hulls would be encouraged to take part in 2016’s staging, it was considered a good idea. But you would have been thought wildly optimistic to suggest that three MOD 70s would throw their hats into the ring. But now, with that achieved, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility there could be even more, for with competition like this already indicating that they’re on the way, others will want to join. And the reality of the big multihulls’ fantastic speed is that the boats can get here from their heartlands in France in barely a day’s sailing if their managers are inclined to send them on a race round Ireland.

As for Irish sailing generally, it’s great value as we now have two Round Ireland Races for the price of one, for experience shows that with a significant multi-hull presence, they and the mono-hulls are only seriously competing with comparable craft.

But as it is, the mono-hull division is exciting in is own right. We knew that George David’s impressive Juan K-designed Rambler 88 was showing strong interest a long time ago. But sometimes it’s quite a step from showing interest to actually signing on the dotted line. But as of yesterday, with an impressive 39 boats signed up and many more “on the way”, Rambler 88 had for some time been very much on the strength, fully-signed-up as entry Number 25.

So it could well be that when push comes to shove, we’ll be looking at a star-studded fleet somewhere north of the 50 mark - the best for some years. As ever, the bulk of it will be made up of the usual diverse offshore racing fleet averaging around the 35-45ft mark, and it includes many talents.

Defending champion Richard Harris, the Scottish owner of the Sydney 36 Tanit, indicated some time ago that he wouldn’t be defending, as he made it fairly clear that his overall win in the 2014 Round Ireland by seven minutes from the Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth was his swan-song. But Tanit has been sold to an Isle of Man owner, and she has already been listed as an ISORA contender for 2016, so who knows, but she may be persuaded into an event which clearly suits her so well with the Volvo Round Ireland Race.

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The Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth, runner-up (by seven minutes) in the 2014 Round Ireland Race, and overall winner of the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race

As it is, today’s ISORA seasonal opener of a 50-miler from Dun Laoghaire down to the Arklow buoy and then back up to finish at Wicklow (it’s matched by another day race across on the Welsh coast), will see all sorts of enthusiasms being stirred. Volvo Round Ireland Race organiser Theo Phelan is a seasoned old ISORA hand – he did his ten years and more on the circuit with the Stuart Kinnear- organised partnership on the Humphreys Three-Quarter Tonner Scenario Encore – and if conditions are as good as promised by the met men, the post-race buzz in Wicklow should see a mild dose of round Ireland mania, with Theo there to manage it as he meets old friends and former competitors from the ISORA ranks.

But already the fleet in prospect is impressive, as it includes 1996 overall winner Michael Boyd, Commodore of the RORC and leading member of the RIYC, with the First 44.4 Lisa which he has chartered as a stand-in until his new JPK 10.80 is ready. It will make for mixed feelings, as the first JPK 10.80 ordered for Dun Laoghaire by Paul O’Higgins, who formerly campaigned the Corby 33 Rockabill V, is going to be race ready for the VRIR (for which she’s entered) by June 18th, and she’ll be very closely watched.

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Le Bateau du Jour – the JPK 10.80 showing what a good all-round performer she is, going at speed yet beautifully under control with her twin-rudder configuration.

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The First 36.7 Lula Belle, winner of the two-handed division and two fully-crewed classes in the Round Britain & Ireland 2014, will be raced round Ireland by Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive

Also in the hunt are 2014 Round Britain & Ireland Two-handed winners Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive of Wicklow SC with the First 36.7 Lula Bell. And fresh from his Class IV win in the RORC Caribbean 600 is Howth’s Conor Fogerty with his Jeannneau Sunfast 3600 BAM - he’ll have semi-direct competition as a smaller sister in the same style, Groupe5 entered from France (Patrice Carpentier) is a Sunfast 3200.

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Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 BAM from Howth on her way to a class win in the Caribbean 600 in February.

The new Inter Schools trophy has competition, as the winner in the 32-strong schools division in the 2015 Fastnet, Ronan O Siochru’s Sun Odyssey 36 Desert Star of Irish Offshore Sailing, will be going, as too will be the Reflex 38 Lynx of Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire, where Kenneth Rumball had his complete round Ireland crew together last weekend for intense training, and today we’ll see the results as Lynx takes on the ISORA fleet.

And the two Dun Laoghaire sailing schools will have outside competition in the Round Ireland, as Paul Jackson of LYC Sea School from across the Irish Sea has entered with the Jeanneau 40 Wild Spirit.

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The adrenalin time……the two Sun Odyssey 37s of Irish Offshore Sailing in Wicklow Harbour before the start of the Round Ireland in June 2014.

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Learning curve. The Irish National Sailing School’s Reflex 38 Lynx will be training towards the Volvo Round Ireland Race on June 18th with today’s inaugural ISORA Race, which starts in Dun Laoghaire and finishes in Wicklow

As for the eternal J/109, expect their already significant numbers to increase as the start time draws closer. But as it is, last year’s Dun Laoghaire to Dingle runner-up, the J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox) is already entered, after today’s race it is expected that the 2014 Round Ireland runners-up and 2015 Dingle Race winners, the Shanahans with Ruth, will also have signed on the line to race round Ireland again, and in the near future we expect to have it revealed just which J/109 it is that World Half Ton Classics Champion Peter Cullen of Howth has chartered to race round Ireland.

Meanwhile it can be confirmed that the winner of the two-Handed Division in the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, the Elan 340 Blue Eyes (Colm Buckley, Howth YC) is already signed up, and so too is the oldest boat ever to do the Round Ireland Race.

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Colm Buckley’s Elan 340 Blue Eyes (left) won the two-handed division in the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race.

This is one of the best-restored classics currently sailing in Irish waters, Darryl Hughes’ 1937 Tyrrell of Arklow-built 43ft gaff ketch Maybird, During the time since Darryl began to make Ireland the focus of his sailing four years ago (he’s a Yeats fan, and is believed to be the only person who regularly sails to the Yeats Summer School in late July each year in Sligo, where he lives aboard for the duration), he has cruised round Ireland at least twice, so racing round should be taken in Maybird’s stride, as she also did the Fastnet back in 2011.

It will be a matter of time. Maybe quite a lot of it. But she’s no slouch when conditions suit. And there’s form here too – her 1934-built sister-ship Aideen was raced to a class win in the 1947 Fastnet by her original owner, the great Billy Mooney, Commodore of the Irish Cruising Club at the time.

Maybird’s entry is made through Poolbeg Y&BC, which is her home base when she’s up in Dublin. She’s currently in Crosshaven in the final stages of re-fitting, but when she does do the Volvo Round Ireland Race in June, it’s hoped that her crew will include a signficant element from Arklow Sailing Club - it may even include people who can claim descent from the men who built Maybird eighty years ago.

So that’s how it’s shaping up for the Volvo Round Ireland race 2016. The current Round Ireland Record-holder Musandam-Oman and her fantastic sisters at one end . The eternal seventy-nine-year-old beauty Maybird at the other. And in between, an already fabulous fleet, with more to come. This is going to be a vintage year.

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She’ll be the oldest boat ever to sail the race. But when Darryl Hughes 79-year-old Arklow-built Maybird comes to the line for the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race on June 18th at Wicklow, her crew will know that since her restoration in 2009-2011, she has completed one Fastnet race and two round Ireland cruises.

Round Ireland 2016 Entries to date (April 22)

RIYR Entry No

Wufoo Entry ID

Boat Name

Entrant/Skipper

Boat Type

Sail No

TCC

Club

CLASS

1

2

XANADU

Simon Costain

X-50

GBR905R

1.149

RAFYC RORC

1

2

3

Mojito

Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox

J/109

GBR9047R

1.018

Pwllheli S.C.

3

3

4

Bam

Conor Fogerty

Sunfast 3600

IRL1471

1.047

Howth Yacht Club

2

4

5

GROUPE 5

Carpentier Patrice

SUN FAST 3200

FRA 38483

0.996

SN LA TRINITE SUR MER

4

5

6

LYNX

Irish National Sailing & Power 

Reflec 38

IRL 7386

1.049

Irish National Sailing Club

3

6

7

Aurelia

Chris & Patanne Power Smith

J122

IRL35950

1.077

Royal Saint George Yacht Club

2

7

8

Pyxis

Kirsteen Donaldson

X332

GBR5963T

0

RORC

4, 6

8

9

Polished Manx2

Kuba Szymanski

Beneteau First 40.7

GBR 7003 T

1.049

Douglas Bay Yacht Club

3, 6

9

10

Wild Spirit

Paul Jackson (LYC Sea School)

Jeanneau 40

GBR8799T

0.983

RORC, JOG

4

10

11

Quid non?

Nigel Philpott

Swan 40 (92)

GBR7384T

1.005

Royal Naval Sailing Association

6

11

12

Arthur Logic

Sailing Logic

Beneteau First 40

GBR 7408R

1.07

RORC

3

12

13

Pegasus of Nortumberland

Ross Hobson

Open50

GBR715R

12345

RORC

6

13

14

Maybird

Darryl Hughes

Gaff Ketch

GBR 644R

12345

Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club

5

14

15

Artemis Ocean Racing

Mikey Ferguson

IMOCA 60

GBR100

1.6

Royal Ulster Yacht Club.. RORC

CK

15

16

Heimatau

Tom McLuskie

Farrier F36

GBR708M

0

Port Edgar Yacht Club

MH

16

17

Lisa

Michael Boyd

First 44.7

GBR4947R

1.103

Royal Irish Yacht Club/Royal Ocean Racin 

1

17

18

Wakey Wakey

Roger Smith

J109

GBR5909R

1.015

Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club

3

18

19

Paul O'Higgins

Paul O'Higgins

JPK 10.80

IRL10800

1.045

RIYC

2

19

20

Arcsine

Kathy Claydon

Arcona 370

GBR8643T

1.01

Weymouth Sailing Club

6

20

21

TBA

David Cullen

J109

IRL1141

1.015

David Cullen

4

21

22

Thalia

Mick Flynn

Sigma 400

IRL733

1.06

DL Marina

2

22

23

Change of Course

Keith Gibbs

C & C 115

GBR9070R

1.031

Channel Sailing Club

3

23

24

Bellino

rob craige

Sunfast 3600

GBR 3657 L

1.039

rorc

3, 6

24

25

Rambler

George David

Juan K canting keel 

USA25555

1.827

New York Yacht Club

CK

25

26

Andante

Keith Miller

Yamaha 36 c

IRL375

0.947

Kilmoer Quay sailing Club

5

26

27

May Contain Nuts

Kevin Rolfe

Rogers Whitbread 30

GBR9030

1.014

Cardiff Bay Yacht Club

3

27

28

Sarabande

Rob Mably

Swan 47

GBR 1238

1.034

Royal Cornwall YC

3, 5

28

29

Fuji

Ari Känsäkoski

CLASS 40 CC40

GBR 38

1.223

RORC

1

29

30

Masai

Ben Korner

Class 40 Pogo S2

109

12345

Team Masai

1

30

31

Fulmar Fever

Robert Marchant

Westerly Fulmar

FR14 

0.858

Waterford Harbour Sailing Club

CK

31

32

Lula Belle

Liam Coyne & Brian Flahive

First 36.7

IRL 3607

0.998

WICKLOW SAILING CLUB

4, 6

32

33

Hissy Fit

Simon Baker

Dazcat 1495

GBR 788M

1.22

Saltash Saling Club

M

33

34

Cloud nine

Robert Jordan

Sigma 33

201

0.912

Holyhead sailing club

4

34

35

Port of Galway

Martin Breen and Nigel Moss

Dehler 37Cruising

IRL 5687

0.952

Galway Bay Sailing Club

4, 6

35

36

IOS Desert Star

Ronan O Siochru 

Jeanneau Sunfast 37

IRL 1397

0.968

Irish Offshore Sailing

4

0

37

Cancelled

Ronan O Siochru

Cancelled

Cancelled

Cancelled

Cancelled

Cancelled

36

38

KATSU

Alan Hannon

Reichel-Pugh

RP45

1.241

RORC

1

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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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