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Dublin Bay Sailing Club Re-Affirms Commitment As Mitsubishi Motors "Sailing Club of the Year"

21st August 2021
Two Commodores – Jonathan Nicholson (DBSC Commodore 2018-2020) and Ann Kirwan (DBSC Commodore 2020-2022) at this week's presentation of the Mitsubishi Motors
Two Commodores – Jonathan Nicholson (DBSC Commodore 2018-2020) and Ann Kirwan (DBSC Commodore 2020-2022) at this week's presentation of the Mitsubishi Motors "Sailing Club of the Year" Trophy.

Dublin Bay Sailing Club is the current Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year, and yesterday (Friday), their Commodore Ann Kirwan took over custodianship of the well-travelled ship's wheel trophy. It dates back to 1979 in a unique and informal contest that aims to assess how well clubs contribute to their larger communities in addition to gauging their success with their members afloat - whether in a racing, cruising or training capacity.

Normally the handing-over ceremony is the very height of close-knit conviviality. But in these strange pandemic times when prescribed social distancing is at variance with the instinctive sociability and camaraderie of sailing, everyone was on their best behaviour at a limited-numbers gathering in which the key players were Jonathan Nicholson – DBSC Commodore 2020 – Commodore Ann Kirwan, the DBSC Honorary Secretary Chris Moore, John Phillips of AIB Private Banking who are the lead sponsors of the DBSC programme, and Kelly Berkeley, Senior Marketing Executive with Mitsubishi Motors, the "Club of the Year" sponsors since 1986.

John Phillips of AIB Private Banking, lead sponsors of the DBSC programmeJohn Phillips of AIB Private Banking, lead sponsors of the DBSC programme

Kelly Berkeley of Mitsubishi Motors Photo: Frank BurgessKelly Berkeley of Mitsubishi Motors Photo: Frank Burgess

In its 42 years, the trophy has highlighted special achievements by clubs large and small all over the country. But in the special circumstances of 2020-21, with the spreading pandemic affecting or even completely preventing group activity of every kind, as the largest yacht racing organisation in Ireland (and one of the largest in the world), DBSC was in a very demanding position of natural leadership.

Yet it has taken on the challenge with quiet determination, and after a successful, if truncated season in 2020 in which all of the club's main trophies found a new winner despite the second lockdown being imposed in mid-September, in 2021, they have gradually upped the pace as new allowances were made, such that by early August the "ordinary" programme of mid-week evening racing was regularly catering for more than 200 boats of all shapes and sizes, from the Laser dinghies (the largest of the class in all Ireland) right up to the stately vessels in Cruisers Zero.

Dun Laoghaire Dinghy mix. In all, DBSC caters for more than 30 classes. Photo: DBSCDun Laoghaire Dinghy mix. In all, DBSC caters for more than 30 classes. Photo: DBSC

During this "Week of the Wheel", the numbers racing were just on the 200 mark for the very good reason that the bulk of the Lasers were heading for the Nationals in Cork. And in further illustration of DBSC's readiness to look outside its own waters for new competition, Ann Kirwan was recently returned from racing West Cork's Calves Week at Schull, where the highlight of her series was recording the overall ECHO win in the Fastnet Race (West Cork version) in the Ruffian 23 Orca II.

Dublin Bay sailing at its best – the stately contenders in Cruisers Zero step out in style. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienDublin Bay sailing at its best – the stately contenders in Cruisers Zero step out in style. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

DBSC's unrivalled range of classes is catered for through far-sighted programme management and racing organisational experience vested in an exceptional corps of skilled volunteers. It's not a situation which exists to such good effect in all other sailing centres, and it isn't something which has emerged overnight, for the gradual development and re-configuring of the club reflects the growth of Dun Laoghaire as the focal point of Dublin Bay sailing.

It started as an organisation for small boats sailed by slightly eccentric types in 1884, but as it intensified its programme of races, members of the established bricks-and-mortar waterfront clubs came to the realisation that - for proper development - their Dublin Bay sailing needed a focused and energetic overall administrative body.

Eccentric small boat beginnings – Dublin Bay SC in action in 1886Eccentric small boat beginnings – Dublin Bay SC in action in 1886

This was already being partially catered for by the Royal Alfred YC, founded in 1870. But the RAYC's speciality was the development of racing rules and the encouragement of amateur or Corinthian sailing, whereas DBSC was increasingly much more targeted on simply getting on with as much racing as possible. It succeeded in this so successfully so that by the 1890s it was in the pre-eminent racing organisation role to such an extent that Constance Fry, wife of the DBSC Commodore Richard Fry, was featured in a photographic series in the new magazine Yachting World as being a noted helmswoman, while DBSC was extending its portfolio by actively encouraging new racing classes.

Constance Fry, noted helmswoman in the early days of DBSC, as featured in Yachting World in 1894Constance Fry, noted helmswoman in the early days of DBSC, as featured in Yachting World in 1894

This has resulted in the intriguing situation in 2021 whereby the Royal Alfred YC has for several years been incorporated in DBSC, while the Dublin Bay 21 Class - which first sailed in 1903 - has been sailing again this year in re-born form thanks to Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra's determined restoration ideals and meanwhile, DBSC has a female commodore.

The return to Dun Laoghaire of the restored Dublin Bay 21 Naneen a fortnight ago was the realisation of the faithfully maintained vision of Fionan de Barra and Hal Sisk. Photo: W M NixonThe return to Dun Laoghaire of the restored Dublin Bay 21 Naneen a fortnight ago was the realisation of the faithfully maintained vision of Fionan de Barra and Hal Sisk. Photo: W M Nixon

However, it's in the job specification of Flag Officers that they only have to serve for a limited period, but continuity in the complex business of running DBSC is provided by long-serving Honorary Secretaries, and in the present era, it has been two diligent administrators – Donal O'Sullivan and more recently Chris Moore – who have kept the machine running smoothly.

To say that Chris Moore understands how the wheels and levers of sailing in Dublin Bay are most effectively operated is to hugely understate the situation, for in addition to his current role, he has also served at different periods as Commodore of the National YC and as Commodore DBSC. The voluntary hours he puts in as the DBSC workhorse are beyond measure, yet his enthusiasm remains undimmed, and somehow he even finds the time for some sailing of his own, currently with the J/109 Powder Monkey.

The spirit of Dublin Bay Sailing Club is found in many volunteers, and not least in current Honorary Secretary Chris MooreThe spirit of Dublin Bay Sailing Club is found in many volunteers, and not least in current Honorary Secretary Chris Moore

As the club functions as the overall body for Dun Laoghaire sailing with its four separate established cubs with their own clubhouses, DBSC itself has no need of a clubhouse and thus has nowhere to display the Club of the Year Trophy. Thus the hand-over ceremony could be delayed until the regulated limitations began to be lifted, but with continuing uncertainty as to which way the pandemic figures are going, this seemed as good a time as any, as DBSC definitely want to be in possession of the wheel for their own annual spectacular, the distribution of their mostly silver mountain of annual prizes and trophies.

And by a happy chance, the "Club of the Year" award ceremony has taken place in National Heritage Week. That may place its emphasis on our built heritage. But in Irish sailing's remarkable and unusually long history, it is our vibrant yet venerable organisations that are a key part of our national sailing heritage.

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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