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National Yacht Club's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race is Clarion Call for Ireland's 2021 Sailing Season

5th June 2021
While Paul O'Higgins' JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) – the defending champion in next week's NYC Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – is clearly fond of a good breeze of wind, her experienced crew have shown they can stay ahead in lighter airs
While Paul O'Higgins' JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) – the defending champion in next week's NYC Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – is clearly fond of a good breeze of wind, her experienced crew have shown they can stay ahead in lighter airs Credit: Afloat/David O'Brien

Way back whenever, as each wave of COVID seemed to sweep over its predecessor with a power worthy of Aileens herself, the incurable optimists among Ireland's sailors continued to hope that by some miracle we'd have reached a stage on June 9th 2021 where the sanctioned re-birth of proper sailing could be signalled by one of our steadfast pillar events, the NYC's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race.

And so it has come to pass. But as the Iron Duke would have put it, it has been a damned close-run thing. For with devilish cunning, the powers-that-be have designated Monday, June 7th as the earliest date when such happenings become permissible. And this is devilish cunning because landbound folk will have had two days of their Bank Holiday Weekend still restricted, whereas the offshore sailing brigade will have two clear days to get themselves and their boats into the right frame of mind for racing the 280 miles to Dingle.

Destination Dingle. Europe's most westerly marina may be in a setting very different from highly-urbanised Dun Laoghaire, but the biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race has formed strong links between the two townships since 1993Destination Dingle. Europe's most westerly marina may be in a setting very different from highly-urbanised Dun Laoghaire, but the biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race has formed strong links between the two townships since 1993

Even at that, continuing cross-channel restrictions mean that Welsh entries are out. But numbers have been kept up to 39 boats with input from the north. Thus while many pundits would have been content in the circumstances with a limited fleet, instead we're looking at a cracking lineup with an astonishing range of clubs represented – everywhere from Cockle Island Boat Club in the north on Belfast Lough, right round to Tralee Bay Sailing Club and Foynes YC in the west, the list as of yesterday (Friday) evening being:

Dun Laoghaire Dingle 2021 Race Fleet

  • A Plus Archambault 31 IRL 977 Skipper: Mick Flynn NYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 0.978
  • Alpaca X-Yachts X-34 IRL35221 Skipper: Paul and Deirdre Tingle Royal Cork Yacht Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 0.994
  • Andante Yamaha 36  IRL 375 Skipper: Keith Miller Kilmore Quay B C Class: IRC Racing Rating: 0.947
  • Aquelina J-112E irl1507 Skipper: James Tyrrell Arklow Sailing Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.06
  • Artful Dodger J109 IRL1713 Skipper: Finbarr O'Regan Kinsale YC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.006
  • Aurelia J122 IRL 35950 Skipper: Patanne & Chris Power Smith RSGYC RORC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.075
  • Blackjack Pocock 38 IRL 1988 Skipper: Peter Coad Waterford Harbour Sailing Club Class: IRC Double Handed Rating: 0.917
  • Blaoga Dufour 45e IRL 1704 Skipper: Emmet Sheridan Howth YC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.074
  • Blue Oyster Oyster 37 IRL3852 Skipper: David Coleman RCYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 0.932
  • Cambrinus Bavaria 46 GBR5702T Skipper: Robert Marchant WHSC Class: IRC Cruiser Rating: 1.021
  • Cavatina Granada 38 IRL3861 Skipper: Ian Hickey Royal Cork Yacht Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 0.928
  • Cinnamon Girl SUNFAST 3300 IRL 1627 Skipper: Cian McCarthy Kinsale YC Class: Double handed Racing Rating: 1.026
  • ConQuestador Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 490 IRL4900 Skipper: Barry Cunningham Royal Irish Yacht Club Class: IRC Cruiser Rating: 1.079
  • Desert Star Irish Offshore Sailing Jeanneau Sunfast 37 IRL 1397 Skipper: Ronan O Siochru RORC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 0.953
  • Elantic Elan IRL 4001 Skipper: Clarke Allen Arklow Sailing Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.017
  • Excession X Yacht IMX 38 IRL1880 Skipper: John Harrington RUYC, BYC, SDC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.014
  • Freya Xp50 IRL 5077 Skipper: Conor Doyle Kinsale YC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.185
  • Gambit Sigma 38 GBR3800C Skipper: Joe Kiernan Foynes Yacht Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 0.968
  • Game Changer Beneteau 40.7 GBR704R Skipper: Shaun Douglas BYC / CIBC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.042
  • Hot Cookie Jeanneau Sunfast 3600 GBR7536R Skipper: John O'Gorman NYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.036
  • Humdinger Jeanneau 1357 Skipper: John Conlon Arklow Class: IRC Racing Rating: 0.98
  • Indian J109 IRL1543 Skipper: Simon Knowles Howth YC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.006
  • Juggerknot II J/99 IRL 3990 Skipper: Andrew Algeo RIYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.011
  • JustTina Grand Soleil IRL 1586 Skipper: Johnny Treanor NYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.019
  • Meridian Salona 45 IRL 4076 Skipper: Thomas Roche Kinsale Yacht Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.094
  • More Mischief First 310 IRL966 Skipper: Grzegorz Kalinecki ISA Class: IRC Double Handed Rating: 0.911
  • Mynx Swan 46 IRL 8882 Skipper: Kenneth Cunnane Tralee Bay Sailing Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.064
  • Nieulargo Grand Soleil 40 B&C IRL 2129 Skipper: Denis & Annamarie Murphy Royal Cork Yacht Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.023
  • Outrajeous J109 IRL19109 Skipper: John Murphy Howth Yacht Club & WHSC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.005
  • Prima Forte Beneteau IRL4240 Skipper: Sean Lemass NYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.078
  • Raw Figaro 3 IRL1610 Skipper: Conor Fogerty HYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.115
  • Rockabill VI JPK 10.80 IRL 10800 Skipper: Paul O'Higgins RIYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.05
  • Samatom XC45 GBR1345R Skipper: ROBERT RENDELL Howth Yacht Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.074
  • Searcher SUNFAST 3600 GBR 2729 R Skipper: Pete Smyth National Yacht Club Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.041
  • Springer Sigma33 OOD IRL 4464 Skipper: Ian Bowring RStGYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 0.915
  • Suaimhneas Etap 32S IRL1871 Skipper: Angus Lee Kilmore Quay Class: IRC Double Handed Rating: 0.926
  • Tsunami First 40.7 IRL4007 Skipper: Vincent Farrell NYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.051
  • WOW X-Yachts Xp44 IRLl4419 Skipper: George Sisk RIYC Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.124
  • YOYO Jeanneau Sunfast 3600 3618 Skipper: Brendan Coghlan Royal St George Class: IRC Racing Rating: 1.036

The little natural harbour of Groomsport on the south shore of Belfast Lough is sheltered by Cockle Island which gives its name to Cockle Island Boat Club, home base of the First 40.7 Game Changer (Shaun Douglas), an entry in next week's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle RaceThe little natural harbour of Groomsport on the south shore of Belfast Lough is sheltered by Cockle Island which gives its name to Cockle Island Boat Club, home base of the First 40.7 Game Changer (Shaun Douglas), an entry in next week's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 

In all, 19 clubs are involved as listed with entries, and when we add in crewmembers who'll have been recruited from other centres through networks such as the Irish Cruiser Racing Association and the Ancient Brotherhood of the Waterfront, there must be few clubs in Ireland which won't have a representative in the fleet heading out from Dun Laoghaire next Wednesday at 2.0pm.

In official terms, as you'd expect it's the heavy-hitting clubs that send forth the most numerous representation, with the hosting National YC putting out five boats, as does Howth in what seems to be a post-COVID resurgence of offshore enthusiasm in the Fingal club, a throwback to the distant days when HYC once provided two out of the three boats for the Irish Admiral's Cup team, and regularly topped the ISORA Championships.

Howth gets moving: Robert Rendell's new Samatom – entered for the race to Dingle - is a Grand Soleil 44Howth gets moving: Robert Rendell's new Samatom – entered for the race to Dingle - is a Grand Soleil 44

Next in line numerically are Royal Cork and Royal Irish with four boats apiece, the former's flotilla including last year's superstar, the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo, while the RIYC foursome includes the defending champion, Paul O'Higgins' JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI. She kept her hand in by retaining the ISORA championship in its truncated from last year, and if she can keep the Dingle title next week, it will be an unprecedented three in a row – the "threepeat" - for this particular challenge.

The pent-up enthusiasm for getting some real offshore racing is indicated by there being only four entries for the two-handed division, despite two-handed racing having been very much on trend before our spiky friend arrived from the Orient. Skippers aspiring to be fully-crewed have had no trouble filling the places, but meanwhile, the lonesome four include the lowest-rated and smallest boat in the fleet, Grzegorz Kalinecki's First 310 More Mischief from Dun Laoghaire, which chimes in at 0.911. Next up is Peter Coad's comfortable Pocock 38 Blackjack from Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East, rating on 0.917, then there's Angus Lee's Etap 32S Suaimhneas from Kilmore Quay, rating 0.926, while effectively in a different league is Cian McCarthy's Sun Fast 3300 Cinnamon Girl from Kinsale, stratospherically rated at 1.026.

The smallest boat in the fleet, and the lowest-rated too, Grzegorz Kalinecki's First 310 is Dun Laoghaire-based. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienThe smallest boat in the fleet, and the lowest-rated too, Grzegorz Kalinecki's First 310 is Dun Laoghaire-based. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

Two noted sometime double-handers who are pooling resources with a full crew are Andrew Algeo (RIYC) and Kenneth Rumball of RL Sailing aboard the former's J/99 Juggerknot II, as logistics and quarantine made it impossible to think of getting the latter's Figaro 3 on station - in fact, we won't see a Figaro 3 making a two-handed bash at the Dingle challenge, as Conor Fogerty of Howth will be racing his Raw fully-crewed.

After the brisk breezes of recent days, the signs are that a strengthening high pressure system will be hovering over and around Ireland for much of the race – as of yesterday (Friday) evening, the Met Eireann set of forecasts indicate it building from 1026 to 1039 for the duration. Inevitably this means a slow race – prudent crews might think of extra vittles to keep them up to performance – but encouragement can be drawn from other forecasts showing a better breeze – albeit sou'westerly – while the latter part of next week has the Jetstream clear to the northwest of Ireland running southwest to northeast, so the outlook is very good for summery conditions.

The crew of Andrew Algeo's J/99 Juggerknot 2 will include Kenneth Rumball of RL Sailing. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienThe crew of Andrew Algeo's J/99 Juggerknot 2 will include Kenneth Rumball of RL Sailing. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

It's reckoned light airs are something of a challenge for the defending champion Rockabill VI, yet that said, JPK 10.80s have plenty of light air victories in their CVs, as has Rockabill herself. But they may have to try that bit harder to keep ahead of the notably swift J/109 Outrajeous (Johnny Murphy & Richard Colwell) which did her reputation as a good all-rounder no harm at all with a win in the breezy ISORA training race in mid-May, when another fancied runner, Chris & Patanne Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia (RStGYC), was also flexing her racing muscles.

(Above) The J/109 Outrajeous (Richard Colwell & Johnny Murphy) is a noted light weather performer but also performed well in breeze in the first training run of the 2021 ISORA season (below)J109 Outrajeous

Meanwhile up north Shaun Douglas's First 40.7 Game Changer had recorded a light airs win in the pop-up Belfast Lough to Strangford Lough race, and while First 40.7s have been around for some time now, they set a decent spread of sail, and can give a good account of themselves in light airs.

Skippers and crews on the smallest lowest-rated boats like to think that very light airs and flat calms favour them, as the whole fleet is sitting stopped and the time is piling up to their advantage. But such mirror-like conditions occur only very rarely, and often it's the case that the big boats get clean away while the fleet still has breeze, and they continue to stay in breeze and get ever further ahead while the smaller boat stay stuck, their pain aggravated by suffering disproportionately from adverse tides.

Xp44 WOW (George Sisk, RIYC)Xp44 WOW (George Sisk, RIYC) - one of the fleet's top ratings at 1.124

In this Dingle jaunt, the biggest boat is Conor Doyle’s Xp50 Freya from Kinsale, the highest-rated at 1.185, while the smaller Xp44 WOW (George Sisk, RIYC) may be lower rated at 1.124, still quite a lot of numbers to be carrying. It is perfectly possible to visualise a scenario where these two boats – along with other biggies like Robert Rendell's new Grand Soleil 44 Samatom – will get themselves clear ahead in a separate group and keep piling on the lead in increasingly different conditions from the rest of the fleet.

Conor Doyle's Xp50 Freya from Kinsale will be the largest boat racing to Dingle. Photo: Robert Bateman   Conor Doyle's Xp50 Freya from Kinsale will be the largest boat racing to Dingle. Photo: Robert Bateman  

Yet we then remember that this is exactly what happened with Anthony O'Leary and the red Ker 39 Antix in 2015's race, such that he was out of sight in every sense of the word south of Galley Head. But then the wind left him for long enough to enable the front runners in the rest of the fleet to close up, and while Antix retained line honours, it wasn't by enough of a margin to retain a handicap lead which had previously seemed unassailable.

Nevertheless, in order to encourage the smaller craft, Race Chairman Adam Winkelmann has announced two new trophies, and one of them is for competition among all boats rating under 1.000, of which there are nine in all, including Ian Hickey's eternally-successful Cavatina from Cork.

Ian Hickey's successful Granada 38 Cavatina from Cork will be a favourite for the new trophy for boats rating 1.00 or lessIan Hickey's successful Granada 38 Cavatina from Cork will be a favourite for the new trophy for boats rating 1.00 or less

Then too, while the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was founded in 1993 as being something of a biennial fun alternative to the rather grown-up and serious Round Ireland Race, there's no doubt that over the years it has – for some at least – become a very serious contest, a trend which is more evident in this year of all years, so the second new trophy is for the winner of a Corinthian Division.

There is also additional focus on top helms under the age of 25, with Cian Jones of Cork doing driving duties on the RIYC's Patrick Burke's First 40 Prima Forte to put her head-to-head with fellow RCYC ace female sailors, the Murphy sisters Molly and Mia on Nieulargo.

Patrick Burke's First 40 Prima FortePatrick Burke's First 40 Prima Forte

At a more senior level, the Open Division will include other serious sailors, and as ever it is sailmakers who'll be expected to make much of the pace, a fancied entrant being Pete Smyth's new Sun Fast 3600 Searcher from the National YC, his crew including the Prof from North Sails, together with Nicky Smyth, Tim Greenwood, Ross Deasy, Mikey Brown and Dave Cotter – a formidable lineup.

This will provide all the makings of a real ding-dong, as Searcher's sister-ship Hot Cookie (John O'Gorman, NYC) has the impressive talents of Mark Mansfield on board to add to the strength and provide an intriguing duel-within-a-race.

Pete Smyth's Sun Fast 3600 Searcher (National YC) is fresh out of the box, and fancied to be in the frame in the race to DinglePete Smyth's Sun Fast 3600 Searcher (National YC) is fresh out of the box, and fancied to be in the frame in the race to Dingle

Searcher's sister-ship Hot Cookie (John O'Gorman, NYC) has Olympian Mark Mansfield on boardSearcher's sister-ship Hot Cookie (John O'Gorman, NYC) has Olympian Mark Mansfield on board

Yet as ever, Paul O'Higgins' Rockabill will have a crew made up of the cream of Dun Laoghaire's seasoned talent, hugely experienced people who now know the boat intimately, so the slightest sneeze by the opposition will see the titleholder taking full advantage.

It has to be said that after the frustrations and crises of the past 18 months, we still need to pinch ourselves from time to time to be completely sure that we really are writing this morning about a real race – and a classic at that – actually taking place in just four days time.

Race Chairman Adam Winkelmann is himself a veteran of five Dun Laoghaire to Dingle RacesRace Chairman Adam Winkelmann is himself a veteran of five Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Races

But such is the case, and all power to Adam Winkelmann (who has raced to Dingle five times) and his team for keeping the faith. However, he tells us that it hasn't been a case of hanging in there all alone. On the contrary, as the National Emergence-from-Pandemic Plans became clarified, the amount of encouragement he and his committee quietly received from all sides was extremely heartening in keeping this very important show on the road, and good luck to all involved in it, in whatever capacity.

WM Nixon

About The Author

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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