It may only be 280 miles or so in length. But the D2D19 – which starts on Wednesday June 12th – will as ever be punching way above its weight with its complexities of strategy and tactics in early dealings with tides, the sheer varieties of the coastlines you have to race along, and the fact that while the final stage may be along one of the most magnificent seaboards in Europe, you’re now in the open Atlantic where the ocean-generated swell can acquire an extra dimension of confusion through the underlying backwash from the unforgiving cliffs.
By the finish, you’ll almost inevitably have sailed more than 300 miles - often by quite a substantial amount. So when you get the final impressive turning mark of Skellig Michael astern to head on into Dingle Bay and through the welcoming arms of Dingle’s fine natural harbour, you’ll know you’re within a few minutes reach of a convenient fully-facilitated port with its own specially Irish yet cosmopolitan flavour, and a palpable sense of reward for anyone who has sailed all the way from Dublin Bay.
This sense of achievement is reinforced by the way that Dun Laoghaire and Dingle both contrast and complement each other.
Dun Laoghaire is “Official Dublin comes to the Sea”. But Dingle is the independent spirit of the far southwest, and to some extent the essence of Kerry. Yet not totally so. For Dingle is so completely and utterly its own wonderfully entertaining and hospitable self that it defies categorization. Dingle is Dingle, that’s really all we need to know about it – and you have to experience it personally (and preferably at leisure) before trying to fully understand what being Dingle means.
The way that the race from Dun Laoghaire brings finishers into port with their senses heightened provides exactly the right mood to appreciate the hospitality Dingle has on offer. And the National Yacht Club’s Race Organisers – with Adam Winkelmann (himself a veteran of four D2D and six Round Ireland races) as Chairman, while Con Murphy is Race Director – are particularly keen to develop this vital aspect of the race’s continuing success.
They make the point that without the added local support of Dingle Skellig Hotel, Dingle Harbour & Marina, Dingle Crystal, Dick Mack’s Brewhouse, and Murphy’s Ice Cream – plus Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin and the Bretzel Bakery – then the overall package wouldn’t be so attractive for would-be challengers.
But they’re also emphasising the fact that Dingle itself continues to develop as a sailing centre in its own right, and they’re ensuring that young sailors coming up through Dingle Sailing Club’s Junior Programme are going to get a chance to take part in this remarkable race.
Their means of doing so are greatly increased by the astonishing variety of the 2019 fleet. At the moment, with just three-and-a-half weeks to go to the start, there’s a solid entry of 32 boats. But with the compressed nature of 2019’s early season fixtures and the inevitable element of last-minutism, it’s strongly reckoned they could be looking at 40 boats lining up for the start on Wednesday, June 12th immediately east of Dun Laoghaire’s East Pier and highly visible in Scotsman’s Bay.
Even as it is, the current line-up has to be one of the most comprehensive ever seen in any Irish offshore race, as it ranges from two Mini-Transat 6.50 mighty atoms – both from Connacht – right up to the stylish splendour of Dun Laoghaire owner-skipper Mick Cotter’s 94ft sloop Windfall.
Normally, Windfall is working assiduously for her living on the charter yacht circuit. But the D2D has enough unfinished personal business about it for Mick Cotter to give his Superyacht a break, and take her racing himself along the wayward coasts of his home island.
Back in 2009, he raced his previous biggie, the 78ft Whisper, in the D2D. But though their time still stands as the course record, it was 43 tantalising minutes outside the coveted 24 hours. You might think it no big deal to race a 285-mile course in a 78-footer within the 24 hours, but the Whisper experience shows just how cussed this course can be. Because you can be assured that Whisper was no woofer – later that season, she placed 5th overall and first of the Superyachts in the big-fleet 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race, a placing so good that many commentators latched onto it as one of that Fastnet’s most notable achievements.
Having a 94-footer moves the course record challenge onto a new plane, and this is serious stuff when the crew are dealing with sails of Windfall’s size, as this vid of her racing in the Loro Piana Regatta reveals.
Windfall’s crew will include a top young sailor from Dingle Sailing Club whose roles will include maintaining contact through various media channels to give people ashore - and particularly in Dingle - a flow of information on how the race is progressing, a mission which will be reinforced by having fellow Dingle sailors placed in various boats throughout the fleet, while Afloat.ie will be playing a key role in constant updates.
The fleet includes several previous winners, with the defending champion Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 1080 Rockabill VI (RIYC) - victor of a notably tough race in 2017 - lining up again, while the 2015 winner, the J/109 Ruth of the Shanahan family from the National YC, is also back in the hunt, this time with a third generation entry.
In addition to Dingle crewmen throughout the fleet, there’s a significant Dingle-based entrant in Kenneth Cunnane’s Swan 46 Mynx. Other western entries include father-and-son team of Derek and Conor Dillon of Foynes YC with their much-raced Dehler 34 Big Deal, while the two gallant Connacht Mini 6.5s are Blackshell Farm (Louis Mulloy of Mayo SC) and Port of Galway (Dan Mill & Yannick Lemonnier).
In recent Dingle races, the boat which has most frequently been there or thereabouts at the head of the fleet has been the J/109, and in all there are three of them currently entered for 2019, with Indian (Colm Buckley & Simon Knowles, Howth YC) and Jaydreamer (Paul Sutton, Holyhead SC) going along the sharpen things up for the Shanahans on Ruth.
As an interesting comparison, 2018 J/109 National Champion Andrew Algeo (RIYC) has thrown his hat into the ring with his new J/99 Juggerknot 2, while comparisons in another direction can be made the presence of James Tyrrell’s J/112E Aquelina from Arklow and sister-ship Cara (Frank Doyle, Royal Cork YC).
The South Coast challenge is strong, with Royal Cork also providing the Murphy family’s notably successful Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo, while Kinsale – with its own Sovereigns Cup series coming up at the end of the month – has a powerful presence with Conor Doyle’s Xp5 Freya, Thomas Roche’s Salona 42 Meridian, and Finnbarr O’Regan’s Elan 333 Artful Dodger.
Still on the south coast but well to the east, Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East is flexing its Dingle muscles with Peter Coad’s veteran Pocock 38 Blackjack, and the O’Donovans’ First 44.7 Black Magic (co-registered with Howth), while we have another of those tried and trusted First 44.7s from Dun Laoghaire in the form of Rodney and Keith Martin’s Lively Lady (RIYC).
The constantly updating entry list is available here
Whichever way you look at it, the newest boat of all is undoubtedly 2017 “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty of Howth’s foiling Beneteau Figaro 3. She’s so new that at the time of writing she has yet to go afloat, making her name of Raw all-too-appropriate. Her debut has been delayed for a couple of weeks by the glitch in the Figaro 3 production programme, caused by specialist energies having to be re-directed to sorting the mast and rigging problems in the new Solitaire Urgo Figaro fleet, tense enough as the 50th Anniversary Figaro itself gets underway from Nantes on June 2nd, and will be in Kinsale from June 6th to 9th.
Meanwhile, Conor Fogerty stays remarkably calm despite the narrowing window and the importance of taking part in the Dingle Race, for apart from the attraction of the challenge of the D2D in itself, it is also his qualifier for August’s Rolex Fastnet Race, where his entry has already been accepted. But then, when you’ve been an OSTAR winner, keeping calm while battling on is an integral part of the psychological makeup.