The Irish Cruising Club celebrated the completion of its successful 90th year at its Annual General Meeting in the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire last night and saw a significant change of the watch with Stanton Adair of Belfast Lough retiring after his three-year tenure as Commodore. His successor is David Beattie of Lough Ree, who may live on the shores of one of the great Shannon lakes, but he has strong sailing links with Dublin Bay and the open sea.
Having started his seafaring career as a youthful trainee with the Asgard programme, he has since sailed and voyaged the waters of Europe extensively in command of his vessel Reespray, an interesting steel-built take on the design of Joshua Slocum’s pioneering world-girdling 36ft Spray, which went round solo in 1895-1898. While cruising Reespray, David Beattie’s involvement with the complexities of running the truly all-Ireland ICC has increased steadily to bring him into the demanding role of Commodore.
Demanding it may be, but it is a challenge which Stanton Adair relished and with the enthusiastic support of his wife Pat he has been an encouraging presence at ICC events afloat and ashore throughout Ireland and in ICC Cruise-in-Company ventures overseas. Then in winter, he and Pat very ably represented the Club on the international stage at official events of sister clubs and associations which have been linked with the ICC since its modest but inspirational foundation at a gathering of five Irish cruising yachts at Glengarriff in West Cork in July 1929.
The highlight of Stanton Adair’s Commodoreship would be difficult to pinpoint in the cascade of achievement during the last three years, but it certainly put activity onto a new level in 2017 when 60 boats gathered in Galicia in northwest Spain for a Cruise-in-Company organised in style by Peter Haden, whose home port is Ballyaughan on Galway Bay.
Among those taking part in the Spanish venture were Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan from Courtmacsherry in West Cork. Their able Warrior 40 Coire Uisge is usually a much more familiar sight on remote parts of the Irish coast as they pursue their role as Honorary Editors of the ICC’s invaluable Sailing Directions. But even out in Spain they couldn’t take a complete holiday and made detailed and very useful surveys of a couple of tricky channels which until then had been only partially surveyed by established guides.
Since then, Coire Uisge has been active back in Irish waters (she has been awarded the Round Ireland Cup for 2019), and with the busy use of drone photography, her crew have been able to accelerate the process of researching detailed anchorages and channels, such that the new 15th Edition of the already excellent ICC Sailing Directions for the South & West Coasts of Ireland has just been published.
As much of this work is done voluntarily, the income from the sale of the Directions helps to swell the ICC coffers, and the Club puts this to good use by funding bursaries in sail training. This is something which has been going on for some years now, but last night it seemed particularly appropriate, for not only is incoming Commodore David Beattie a seasoned sailor who honed his voyaging skills when young in Ireland’s Asgard Sail Training Programme, but so too is the skipper who was awarded the Club’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup.
This has gone for the second time in four years to Daragh Nagle, who originally hails from Portmarnock, but has long since been based in Victoria on Vancouver Island in Western Canada, where he and Cathy venture into the Pacific with their Moody 376 Chantey V. She’s a sensibly-sized boat of 1987 vintage which rounded out extensive ocean cruising in Hawaii to take the Faulkner Cup in 2016, and has done it again with a fascinating cruise to Alaska in 2019.
Adjudicating between high-achiever logs of widely disparate type is – as 2019’s judge John Clementson of Strangford Lough puts it – “like comparing an apple with an orange. Each has its best bits, but they are quite unlike each other”.
By being another of the ICC’s double-jobbers – for he also runs the Club’s website – John Clementson is no stranger to daunting tasks, and he set himself the target of reading each of more than two dozen submitted logs at least four times, which gives you some idea of the standards this unique Club sets itself.
All the awarded logs and many others appeared in timely fashion at year’s end in the ICC Annual, which is edited by several-times-award-winner Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan. Except that, during this arduous production process in late 2019, she wasn’t in Dungarvan - she was at sea bound eventually for the Canaries in the 64ft gaff cutter Annabel J which she and her husband Andrew Wilkes cruise extensively, often with just the two of them on board.
They personify a remarkable aspect of some contemporary cruising folk who are at the top of their game. They are so completely au fait with modern communications technology that they can create a hard copy 200-page profusely-illustrated professional-standard book while living aboard and sailing along across seaways wide and narrow. Yet they do that sailing in a boat which is basically rigged out authentically in a labour-intensive style which was at its height much more than a hundred years ago.
Yet while a comparison of Annabel J with Michael Holland’s Celtic Spirit displayed earlier gives some idea of the variety of craft within the ICC fleet, the members are united in their shared affection for an organisation which at times seems the only good deed in an otherwise wicked world. Regular followers of Afloat.ie will have received some idea of this mood in last weekend’s early taster of the ICC awards, as it was new member Frank O’Beirne’s account of his cruise to the Hebrides with the 1963 classic Nicolson 36 Samphire.
For that, he received the Perry Greer Bowl for the best first log by a new member. But it was only when he and his shipmates first brought Samphire into Dun Laoghaire from her longtime sojourn on the Solent that they really found he had struck gold, for Samphire was an ICC treasure. Having originally been built for then ICC Honorary Secretary Peter Morck of the Royal St George YC all of 57 years ago, she was to go on to provide the first taste of seafaring for several current though now rather senior Dun Laoghaire-based ICC members. Yet when Frank and his mates made their very sensible purchase of a beautifully-restored boat, they’d no idea at all of her historic links with their adopted home port.
Thus the sense of being one big family is irresistible, albeit a family of some widely disparate types. For while some members live for sociability and regular Cruises-in-Company and Meets such as several leading Cork members organized in Glengarriff on July 13th 2019 to mark the exact 90th anniversary of the Club’s foundation (Seamus O’Connor received the Waterford Harbour Cup for that successful celebration), there’s no doubting others prefer the wide-open spaces and maybe the lure of the Arctic to seek nature in the raw and sailing fulfilment.
Chantey V’s voyage to the awe-inspiring coast of Alaska was undoubtedly on those lines, as too was the venture awarded the Strangford Cup, which is for an alternative best cruise and was put up many years ago by an adjudicator faced with two magnificent voyages of equal merit. Thus it was just the job for the deservedly famous voyage to Greenland from Limerick by the restored 56ft Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage.
It was a venture in which several ICC members were involved, but it was Paddy Barry who was aboard for the entire cruise, and his account of it is vintage Barry material, as he has his own entertaining writing style, and unlike some log-keepers, he does tell you something about the people and places visited outside of the actual boat on which the cruise is taking place, while revealing that, for convenience, at times Ilen sailed under some unusual sail combinations
As for interacting with people ashore, it is a fact that some of the most entertaining logs centre around things going wrong. Your dyed-in-the-wool cruising person aspires to everything running so smoothly that all goes according to plan. This may be very satisfying for them, but it can lead to minimal interaction with people along the way. We are reminded of the noted Victorian explorer who, on being greeted by a female admirer who gushed: “You must have had hundreds of adventures!”, he coldly replied: “Madam, I would regard having adventures as evidence of incompetence”.
Be that as it may, there’s an endearingly frank account by Daria Blackwell (awarded the Wild Goose Cup) of Clew Bay in Mayo about the problems encountered with her husband Alex as they brought their Bowman 57 Aleria back to Ireland from northwest Spain.
Aleria is a lot of boat for two people to handle, yet they’ve done remarkable cruises with her. But in July 2019 in crossing the Bay of Biscay homeward bound, the wheels came off – or at least came loose – when they lost auxiliary engine power through what turned out to be a disintegrated flexible coupling.
In the days when many vessels were still sail-powered, you could cruise in reasonable safety without an engine, and that great offshore racer Denis Doyle of Cork somehow did without an engine in his Robert Clark-designed and Crosshaven-built 47ft Moonduster from 1965 until 1978. But in these days of ever-busier shipping lanes needing to be avoided, being without an engine leaves you like a sitting duck in calm, and Aleria experienced much calm and scary moments in struggling to get to Ireland under sail only.
Yet they did it, they got to Crosshaven, and in getting things sorted it meant they met up with interesting local characters, something shared by anyone who has arrived into somewhere other than their home port aboard a boat with problems. In Crosshaven, their experience was classic after they’d been docked at the boatyard marina in exemplary style:
“Within minutes,” recounts Daria, “a man arrived driving full speed down the docks on a snazzy motor scooter and screeched to a halt at our doorstep. It was Hugh, the mechanic. Within minutes, he had the problem diagnosed, a plan of action in place, and instructions on how to proceed. Hugh explained his pricing system to us:
* Normal price if owner stays off the boat
* Double the price if owner stays on the boat
* Triple the price if owner insists on helping
We booked into the B&B for the duration….and (having been well entertained by local ICC members) were on our way to the west coast within a week”.
The variety of craft featured in the ICC awards is remarkable. Some years ago, Cork member Stephen Hyde took a long sabbatical from his work as an architect to make a three-year cruise round the world in his Oyster 56 cutter A Lady. But more recently, he has been focusing on the 29ft 1896-built Scottish Loch Fyne type gaff cutter Cruachan, with which at least two generations of his family have been linked since 1963.
After a restoration job by Liam Hegarty in Oldcourt near Baltimore, Cruachan is in fine fettle, and she proved it in mixed weather in 2019 with an anti-clockwise round Ireland cruise which included an extensive visit to Scotland (they got to Inverness) and her birthplace at Ardrishaig on the Crinan Canal to meet descendants of the original builders, a fascinating cruise of many aspects which deservedly is awarded both the Glengarriff Trophy for a special cruise in Irish Waters, and the Fingal Cup for the log which the adjudicator most enjoyed.
Scotland as usual featured significantly in many logs, including Frank O’Beirne’s account of the 57-year-old Samphire’s cruise to the Inner Hebrides which won the Perry Greer Bowl for best first log, while the Wybrants Cup for cruising Scotland went to global circumnavigator Fergus Quinlan of Bell Harbour in County Clare with his 12m steel own-build cutter Pylades finding her way to all sorts of offbeat places including the remote Fair Isle between Orkney and Shetland.
Quick visits to the Mediterranean were achieved by both Jim Houston and Peter Fernie, with the former bringing back a magic image of local sails at Cesenatico on Italy’s Adriatic coast, while the latter secured a memorable night-time image of the mighty bridge at Istanbul which is named in honour of Selim the Grim, the severe Ottoman Sultan in 1512-1520.
They certainly don’t mess around with calling a spade a spade in remembering their rulers around the Mediterranean. Last autumn there was much attention on Malizia, the Monaco-based IMOCA 60 which transported climate activist Greta Thunberg to New York. As you might guess, the word “Malizia” has its roots in “malice”, and Malizia or “The Cunning One” was the first Grimaldi to rule Monaco a very long time ago, well before Selim the Grim was making everyone’s life a misery.
In home waters, it’s clear that round Ireland cruises are more frequent than ever, whereas for a while as cheap flights made sunshine bases more attractive, they almost became a rarity. Maybe it’s global warming, or maybe the Med has simply become too crowded, or maybe Dublin Airport’s dense crowds and ludicrous walking distances have become too much, but round Ireland cruising is now all the rage.
Donal Walsh of Dungarvan (he’s Maire Breathnach’s brother) likes circling Ireland so much he did it three times in 2019 with his very clever lifting keel Ovni 385 Lady Belle, taking in visits to Scotland while also exploring those places where the water gets very thin yet they’re enticing to visit if you can, such as Barrow Harbour close north of Tralee Bay. Lady Belle did that and more in such a busy and complete and competent season that Donal Walsh has been awarded the Rockabill Trophy for Seamanship.
Certainly sailing round Ireland can always be challenging in our wayward weather, and even more challenging is another cruising special, the passage to remote St Kilda well out in the Atlantic a hundred miles westward of the Scottish mainland.
Yet it’s a challenge which was seen off by Galway Bay’s Conor O’Byrne in exemplary style with his little Sadler 26 Calico Jack. He used the sensible model of going as fast as he could when the going was good to reach his ultimate objective of St Kilda, and then cruised back in more leisurely style with all the Hebrides at his disposal.
Admittedly he still had to make his way back past Malin Head and Bloody Foreland and the coast of Connacht to return to GBSC at Renville, but it was all done in such style that he swept the board for the Marie Trophy for the best cruise by a boat under 30ft, and had the Marie Trophy not been available, he would surely have been well in line for one of the major awards.
From another of the Atlantic seaboard home ports, Paul McSorley of Lough Swilly took part in the two-handed AZAB from Falmouth, and while his vintage Westerly Falcon 35 Viking Lord wasn’t among the silverware in either direction, by the time you add in the passages to and from Lough Swilly it becomes a major project, and he well deserves The Atlantic Trophy.
The ICC having been an increasingly significant part of the Irish sailing scene during the past 90 years, it interacts with growing relevance with other major organisations, and this was reflected last night in two awards, both to members.
The John B Kearney Cup for Services to Sailing went to Clayton Love Jnr, who fifty years ago brought the Royal Cork YC at Cobh and the more active Royal Munster YC at Crosshaven together to ensure that the Royal Cork YC would be in good health to celebrate its 250th Anniversary in 1969-70, which it duly did to such good effect that this year it celebrates its Tricentenary, for which the Irish Cruising Club is awarding it the seldom-allocated but very special Fastnet Trophy.
Clayton Love Jnr’s services to sailing do of course extend far beyond Cork Harbour, as in the early 1960s he played a key role in setting the Irish Dinghy Racing Association on the path which sees it today as Irish Sailing, the National Authority, and he was also on the founding committee of Coiste an Asgard whose achievements were reflected last night in both the new ICC Commodore in in the award of the Faulkner Cup.
Another major player in the organisation and improvement of Irish sailing is Brian Craig of Dun Laoghaire, whose enormous contribution to the healthy development of our sport was recognised last night by the ICC’s Eastern Committee which awarded him the Donegan Memorial Cup “for giving a lifetime to the sport of sailing in all its forms both on and off the water”. It’s a citation perhaps of admirable brevity, but it only gives a hint of what Brian Craig has achieved, almost invariably in quiet style and behind the scenes. And as for cruising, he’s no slouch at that either – he has taken his Dufour 455 which he co-owns with his wife Anne to Iceland and many interesting places in between.