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Displaying items by tag: America's cup

#americascup – The wind won the day at San Francisco when Day 7 racing of 34th America's Cup was postponed until this morning. With an ebb tide of a strong 2.7 knots the wind limit at the start time was 20.3 knots.

The ebb tide flows against the wind direction and creates a challenging sea state for the AC72s.

The wind continued to build as it does at this time of the year in San Francisco and the race committee pulled the plug at 1.31pm when the wind strength was a consistent 25 knots.As the AC72 returned to base gusts of 32 knots were experienced.

On Wednesday wind conditions will start to moderate and so will the strangth of the tide.

Races 11 and 12 are rescheduled tfor today, at 1:15 pm and 2:15 pm San Francisco time.

Emirates Team New Zealand leads Oracle 7-1. The winner of the 34th America's Cup will be the first team to score nine points.

Published in America's Cup
16th September 2013

America's Cup Still Up For Grabs

#americascup – Today is a layday in the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco after a ferocious weekend of racing in which defenders USA racing the 75ft catamaran Oracle put in an astonishing Lazarus act to snatch more wins, with the pace being indicated by seven lead-changes in just one race. This prompted seasoned observer Gary Jobson to comment that there have already been more place changes in this series than in any since the cup became an international challenge series in 1870.

And there's more to come when racing resumes tomorrow. Grant Dalton's Emirates New Zealand team now lead by 7 point to 1, but defender USA's seemingly lowly score is distorted by the fact that they had to win two races before they could even begin to amass points - they'd incurred a severe rule infringement penalty set by the International Jury before this final challenge series started.

New Zealand need only two more wins to clinch the nine points for overall victory, so with eight wins required, the Oracle team still has a mountain to climb. Nevertheless their performance over the past two days shows that while it's still a slim hope, it's not impossible. That said, the Kiwi train is very much on the direct line, and they almost added another point yesterday. They were in the lead when racing was called off by the race officers as the wind had edged above the agreed maximum speed of 23 knots, set after the fatal accident to the Swedish challenger back in the Spring. Tensions are such that Kiwi commentators wondered if the race would have been so readily scrubbed if the Americans had been in the lead.........

It could all end tomorrow if there are two more Emirates New Zealand wins. But the programme has the potential to draw out the agony right through to Monday September 23rd if Jimmy Spithill and his Oracle USA team can continue to work miracles.

Published in Racing
Tagged under

#americascup – As one of the biggest sceptics on the subject of the 34th Americas Cup and their use of 72–foot catamarans, I thought I would find it hard to admit that I might be wrong. After watching the racing in San Francisco on Sunday its not so difficult after all. The boats are not perfect, in fact if there is to be a second generation then there are a number improvements to the rule.

These would encompass proper movable elevators on the rudder and a general improvement of the adjustability of the control services. This would lead to a safer boat. Probably a slightly reduced wing size and some way of reducing the reliance on the hydraulics powered by the coffee grinders.

The most important people on the teams are the guys who work on the electronics and the hydraulics, as we have witnessed these systems are fragile.

But here is the kicker, sailing is being changed by these phenomenal machines, kids round the world are trying foils on all sorts of boats, and some of the experimenters are big kids... our sport is in need of a new infusion of enthusiasm and a new wave of thinking, I think these boats are it.

Until you have seen these boats for real you get very little concept of the speed, TV does not do them justice. San Francisco is the most incredible natural amphitheatre to witness these incredible machines and the equally superb teams.

Hopefully today we will witness more of the similarities of team Oracle and Team New Zealand.

Anthony Shanks (in San Francisco)

Published in Your Say
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#americascup – Pre-start favourites New Zealand helmed by Dean Barker gave much encouragement to their supporter by winning the first three of four brisk races in San Francisco over the weekend as the finals of the 34th America'a Cup got under way.

Racing in 72 ft catamarans, the first race saw the US (helmed by James Spithill) briefly ahead. But the Kiwis not only appeared to have a slight upwind edge, they also tacked better, and were soon back in the lead to win by 36 seconds in a 22 minute race.

The mood was notably low in the American Oracle Camp, as they are already carrying a two-win penalty as punishment for having illegal trimming weight in an earlier part of the series. The formula for the finals is that the first winner of nine clean races is the new champion, but the Oracle situation is such that they have to win two extra races before their tally towards nine wins is even begun.

The Oracle mood wasn't improved by Saturday's second race. Aggressive pre-start manoeuvring by the Kiwis saw Oracle head to wind and powerless at the signal. A US protest against that manouvring was waived away by the umpires, and New Zealand went on to a clear 52 second win.

But the Americans came out swinging for Sunday's first race, and by snatching the inside position at the first mark, things were looking up. However, on the second beat, the Kiwi superiority in beating and tacking was very forcefully demonstrated, and they finish first with a lead of 28seconds.

Sunday's second race saw everything fall America's way. They'd the best of the start, and continued to hold their lead to the downwind gate. On the beat, the Kiwis tried to draw them into a tacking duel, but the Oracle crew stayed aloof, working the shifts instead, and they took their first win by seven seconds.

Today is a layoff, and battle is resumed tomorrow (Tuesday).

Published in Racing
Tagged under

#americascup – Today, the monster in its fully finished form finally emerges from its cave. For sure, we have a pretty good idea of what it will look like. Yet the convoluted preliminaries for 34th America's Cup have gone on for so long now that anyone who reckons they know what has been happening is probably deluded. And as for what it's really going to be like off San Francisco today, it's anyone's guess – curtain up on any show is a world away from dress rehearsal.

There's one heck of a difference between tests and trials, and defender and challenger selections. All we know is that two 72ft catamarans will be pushed to the limit, and the rest of the world will briefly pay attention to our sport of sailing, mainly in the hope of seeing a spectacular and very expensive crash before dinner.

But for sailing enthusiasts, mixed feelings only begins to describe it. Horrified and slightly guilty fascination is probably the most general reaction. Not to worry, folks. It has always been that way. The America's Cup is indeed sailing's sacred monster. But it's undoubtedly our monster. And it's just about the only way the general public connect with sailing. So we have to live with it with the best grace we can manage, for it's completely pointless trying to assert that it has nothing whatever to do with us.

It's grand guignol goes afloat. And it's the apogee of the times in which we live, for it's now way beyond the international. It's beyond the supra-national. It's globalisation par excellence. It may in theory be New Zealand challenging America. But the multiple-nationality mixes in the crews have made traditional concepts of sailing for your own country irrelevant. So it's completely appropriate that it's taking place in sailing waters off the world capital of electronic technological development in the American state which is home to the world headquarters of the entertainment industry.

If this all seems way over the top, worry not - be of good cheer. For just about every staging of the America's Cup has provided some of the most over-the-top events of its era. Larger than life characters. Spectacular and often dangerous maritime technology. And expenditure that does nothing whatever to reduce the popular perception that sailing is basically a rich man's sport.

All that together with all the jolly interaction of minutely detailed rule interpretation, legal rows and international incidents. The miracle is that so far nobody seems to have gone to war, but it's early days yet. Certainly back in the 1890s the disputes that our own Lord Dunraven got into with the New York Yacht Club weren't that far from the "send a gunboat" reaction which played a key role in international diplomacy at the time.

The schooner America shortly after her launching in New York in 1851. A swift and seamanlike vessel, she was able to sail across the Atlantic before winning the new Queen's Cup – subsequently the America's Cup - at Cowes that same year. A whole world away from today's hazard-laden 72ft catamarans, America survived a colourful life until 1945, when she was finally destroyed in a snowstorm in Annapolis .

Faced with all this, those of us who prefer the quiet life seek solace in contemplating the boats and the sailing, even if the last time the America's Cup was in a form to which ordinary sailing folk can relate was when it was staged off Perth in Western Australia in 1987. The racing was in 12 Metres with great sailing. This was thanks to the afternoon breeze wrongly known as the Fremantle doctor. It's actually the docker, from the days when it regularly brought becalmed sailing ships into port each afternoon. But it has been gentrified with suggestions of health benefits, as was Fremantle itself thanks to the America's Cup.

Whatever, it was a real racing series, using boats with which the world of sailing could identify. But after Dennis Conner won and took the trophy back to America, the short but happy period with 12 Metres came to an end, and since then we've had to get used to a new scenario each time round, sometimes with boat which are very odd indeed.

But then that's always been the case when we look at the America's Cup in its entirety. Recently, in talking here about Harry Donegan of Cork and his cutter Gull which he raced in the first Fastnet of 1925, we talked of Gull as having been designed by the young Charles E Nicholson, who went on to design some formidable racing craft, America's Cup boats among them.

In fact, it was Nicholson's first America's Cup challenge design, Shamrock IV of 1914 for Thomas Lipton, which was perhaps his most remarkable of all. The previous series of 1903 had seen things get out of hand entirely, with the Americans successfully defending with the 143ft Herreshoff-designed Reliance. She was lightly built out of such a toxic mixture of metals that it's said she hissed when put afloat, and after keeping the cup with three straight and convincing wins, she had to be dismantled as her seaworthiness could no longer be guaranteed.


Charles E Nicholson's hull design for the 110ft Shamrock IV in 1914 was very advanced for its time


Shamrock IV's rig was much more primitive than her hull design

The new rule for the proposed 1914 series saw boat sizes reduced, but for his first attempt Nicholson went high tech, producing a skimming dish 110ft long. Unfortunately for the challenge, the Great War broke out as this extraordinary boat was sailing across the Atlantic - challengers had to do this in the early days of the Amrica's Cup, as America herself had sailed to England in 1851. But when Shamrock reached New York, the series was postponed for the duration of the war, and when it finally took place in 1920, even though the Americans had had six years to create a faster boat, Shamrock IV came within one race of winning.


The hull lines of the J-Class Endeavour of 1934 were much less advanced in concept than the hull lines of Shamrock IV twenty years earlier.


With the bow overhang longer than the stern, the J Class Endeavour is a rather odd-looking boat

Subsequently, Bermudan rig took over with the introduction of the J Class in 1930, but although the rigs were more modern, it could be argued that the J Class marked a distinctly retrograde step from Shamrock IV in hull design. I know they're continuing to build J Class yachts these days, but for the life of me I can't find them attractive. The sterns look all wrong, or maybe the bow overhang protrudes too much Whatever the reason, the J Class rule produces sterns which seem to rise too quickly, while the bow overhang is excessive to give a sort of back-to-front profile.

Thus a comparison between the hull lines of Shamrock IV and Endeavour – supposedly the most beautiful J Class of them all – shows a sweet hull in the case of Shamrock, yet with Endeavour you've a hull which is going to pull half the ocean behind her.


The great racing off Perth in 1987, when Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes (pictured) wrested the cup back from the Australians. This was the last occasion in which the America's Cup was sailed in boats which bore some resemblance to normal yachts.


The Dennis Does It. Dennis Conner with the America's Cup after winning it back from the Australians in 1987.

It's all a long way from today's catamarans which aren't really described as boats at all – they're platforms underneath wings. And any disturbance of the water is minimal. So it could be argued that the only connection with the America's Cup in times past is that they're being sailed by people, but even there we have difficulty in discerning their humanity, as they're kitted out like bikers in the TT on the Isle of Man.

But somewhere in it all, there are real people. There isn't much Irish involvement this time round. But with names like William Henn and Lord Dunraven and Willie Jameson and Thomas Lipton and Harold Cudmore resonating down the years in America's Cup history, we cannot deny that slightly horrified fascination as the 34th series gets under way today in San Francisco.

Not least of the fascination lies in seeing what happens afterwards. We aren't talking about everyday ordinary folk here. The kind of hyper-successful people who get to make America's Cup challenges and defences genuinely do believe that when something goes wrong, then it undoubtedly is somebody else's fault. Their code is summed in this spin on an old piece of verse:

And when that one great scorer comes,
To write against your name,
He writes not that you won or lost,
But how you spread the blame.

Published in W M Nixon

#AmericasCup - The America's Cup has been rocked by news of a cheating scandal in Oracle Team USA that has seen the team docked two points and three of its members banned from the event.

According to Reuters, the penalties are "unprecedented" in the 162-year history of the America's Cup.

It emerged that one-class 45ft catamarans that the team raced in a preliminary event in July, and again in a youth race last week, had weighted bags with lead and resin stuffed into their frames.

Though the team's skippers and managers claimed no prior knowledge, and argued that no advantage had been gained from the illegal ballast, the international jury investigating the incident decided that points should be docked from the main 72ft boat racing division.

It also banned from the race crew members Dirk de Ridder and two other shore crew, while a fourth sailor was suspended for the first four races of the series.

Reuters has much more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update

#AmericasCup – The Swedish Artemis Racing AC72 catamaran has capsized during training in San Francisco Bay and has suffered severe damage.

At least one crew member from the chllenger of record is reported to be seriously injured and receiving CPR. Local media reports also say not all crew are yet accounted for.

The boat is reported to be a total loss and support boats including the Coast guard are on scene dealing with the rescue of crew members and wreckage from the upturned craft. Tugs are responding to Artemis AC72 wreck, just north of Treasure Island.

Emergency crews were on site and performing CPR to a crew member who had been trapped under the platform of the yacht for an estimated 10 minutes according to an America's Cup news source. 

A live video link of rescue efforts from CBS here

Artemis Racing is a professional sailing team challenging for the 34th America's Cup.

Artemis Racing is competing in the America's Cup World Series, the Extreme Sailing Series and on the RC44 Championship Tour.

The team represents the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS)

No official statement yet. Updates as we have them. 


Published in News Update
Tagged under

#VOR - The sailing world has paid tribute to Volvo Ocean Race coach and round-the-world yachting legend Magnus Olsson, who has passed away from a stroke at the age of 64.

Olsson was a long-time veteran of the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), beginning in 1985 when it was known as the Whitbread Round The World Race and last competing in the 2008-09 edition.

Most recently he was coaching the all-women Team SCA in their preparations for the 12th edition of the race starting this summer.

"It's with great sadness I received the news about Magnus passing away," said VOR chief Knut Frostad. "He was my mentor when I sailed around the world with him 20 years ago.

"He was the inspiration for me and for so many more and more than anything he was the smile of the race," he continued. "A true friend has left on his final leg and the sailing world will never be the same without Magnus and his smile. Never. My thoughts are with his two sons and his close family today."

Olsson - known to friends as 'Mange' - was born on 4 January 1949 and grew up near Stockholm. He began sailing on Lake Mälaren aged eight and learned his trade in OK Dinghy, Trapez and 505s, winning three Swedish national titles in the latter.

Before beginning his round-the-world career he also served as crew on Sverige in the 1976 America's Cup.

The Volvo Ocean Race website has further tributes from world sailing luminaries HERE.

Published in Ocean Race

#AmericasCup - The America's Cup could cost the city of San Francisco up to $20 million, according to Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The columnists reckon that fundraising efforts to raise the close to $34 million needed to cover the event's expenses "have pretty much hit the wall at $14 million" - leaving an already cash-strapped city to potentially pick up the shortfall.

San Francisco's fundraising issues have echoes of Galway's hosting of the Volvo Ocean Race last year - an event that was a rousing success itself, but one that left race organisers in debt by nearly half a million euro.'s own WM Nixon wrote at the weekend that "it's time for a reality check" for San Francisco with some notes to go before the first yachts race in the bay.

While he believes that the event will be a sell-out, "it's not a question of whether or not the tickets sell out. Rather, it's a matte roof how quickly, and to whom, and for how much."

Published in News Update
9th February 2013

Sails and the City

#americascup – It's time for the reality check in San Francisco. This morning, season tickets guaranteeing "the best seats on the bay" for the America's Cup 2013 go on sale. The America's Cup Season Pass includes a ticket to the choicest seating in a prime waterfront location at the America's Cup Village, with an elevated close-up view of the race start and the top turning marks of the course.

Perhaps talk of a "reality check" is pitching it too high. They'll sell out, as did the tickets to the same locations for the preliminary on-the-water sparring during 2012. But for those running the project, whether directly involved in everything to do with the sailing, or in the background co-ordination of the city's participation, each and every last pointer to the marketability of the ultimate sailing event is going to be closely analysed. The hope will be that conclusions can be drawn as to whether or not it's possible to generate enough interest in viewable sailing to make waterfront communities get more committed to it at official level.

So it's not a question of whether or not the tickets sell out. Rather, it's a matter of how quickly, and to whom, and for how much. The economic interaction between sailing and cities is extremely difficult to quantify, so the goldfish bowl which is the America's Cup in the Bay City will provide an excellent opportunity for gauging public interest, and where it all might go.

As it is, the city fathers in San Francisco are having quite a bumpy ride with the America's Cup. It took all sorts of negotiations and deal-making to secure civic backing to let the big sailing circus happen in the bay in the first place. Since then, a public appeal to build up a $20 million non-profit organisation to underpin the staging of major sporting events in the city, starting with the America's Cup, has been greeted mainly by silence – and it's not the agreeable silence of hundred dollar notes floating into plastic buckets.

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee is still in the early stages of creating this promotional organization, called OneSF, but if the America's Cup fails to hit its earning expectations, the hope of attracting events like the Superbowl in the near future will be severely hampered.

Coming as it does in the week when the Volvo Ocean Race organisation confirmed the list of ports round the world which will be hosting its stopovers in the next staging of the circumnavigation, it's of special interest. We're now getting a plethora of information as to which cities are hitting the target. But other than that they all want to do it, it's difficult to discern a shared pattern for success.

And when you add the complexities of big city politics, it can be anybody's guess as to what makes for the magic formula. But for the Volvo stopover wannabees, I'd suggest that being the finishing port is not a winning proposition. This seems to have been underlined by Galway's two experiences with the race. The first time round when Galway was a stopover, admittedly it was still something of a novelty, and we weren't stony broke. But the fact that there was still racing to be done gave it a special dynamic.

Second time round, you'd have thought Galway being the finish port would have done the business, but precious little business was done. The buzz wasn't the same. The national economic situation was dire and the weather was crap, and today the unhappy legacy of ill feeling still lingers on. There was no strong sense of the city, apart from the immediate harbour area, benefiting in any way.

There have been all sorts of explanations. In the economic extremities of the time, it's even possible that Ireland's new road system played a part. The Dublin to Galway motorway was unfinished for the first Volvo visit. But it was very much up and running the second time round. Thus economically stressed families in the capital could contemplate a day visit to Galway and get all of the excitement of the Volvo Ocean Race show without spending a cent in the western city, and still be comfortably home that same night. All they needed was a tankful of diesel for the people carrier, and enough cash for the road tolls. Crazy theory maybe, but who knows.....

By the same token, the Tall Ships in Dublin at the end of August was a gift for financially-stretched families. So much of it was just one great big free show, and though there was one day of awful weather, the rest of it had as good weather as the summer of 2012 could provide. So the citizens were happy with their free maritime show. And a happy citizen is a happy voter, so the city fathers were happy. But whether or not the traders were happy is another matter, though heaven knows those on the quaysides charged enough for snacks which would have been half the price in a normal retail outlet.

Yet for those who party, it was a marvellous excuse for a party. There are times when the sailing events into which we all put so much thought and effort in order to chime with public interest are simply seen by Joe Public as no more than a good excuse for a party. And when it's not convenient to party, interest is zero. One setting where you'd think sailing and public interest would comfortably interact is during Cork Week, when the fleets on the in-harbour courses are racing in dramatic style close in on the Cobh waterfront. It's so good you'd think they could sell tickets to those who want to watch. But in truth there are probably more people on the boats admiring Cobh than there are people ashore in Cobh bothering to look out at the racing.

I'd a telling insight on general interest in sailing at Wicklow during the start of the Round Ireland Race in June. While there was the usual crowded buzz around the harbour and Wicklow SC, I reckoned a better overview could be had up the road at Wicklow Golf Club.

Well, it hit the spot perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that when the good times return, if you happen to be involved in organizing some sort of corporate function associated with the start of the Round Ireland Race, then see if you can cut a deal with the golf club. They've a bit of space, and there's a splendid view of the entire starting area and the first mile or so of the race itself.

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The start of the Round Ireland Race 2012 as seen from the clifftop tee at Wicklow Golf Club Photo: W M Nixon

Best view of all is at the tee which is right on the clifftop. There happened to be a four ball driving off as the last minute ticked away to the start. It took me a bit of overuse of the zoom lens to get a pic, yet it still made a double-page spread for the Afloat Annual. But as for the four happy golfers who could have enjoyed the best view possible of the start of the Round Ireland Race – they didn't take a blind bit of notice. When people bang on about making sailing accessible and visible to all, I sometimes think of those golfers. But maybe that's not quite fair. Golfers are a different species. If there'd been a golf course on Cape Trafalgar on the 21st October 1805, I don't think anyone playing on it would have noticed anything at all unusual out at sea on that particular day.


Derrynane in far southwest Kerry must be Ireland's most complete cruising anchorage. It's utterly beautiful, it provides perfect natural shelter, its feeling of being away from it all is total, and ashore there's everything you could want, from superb beaches and glorious walks, to a perfect pub nearby.

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Derrynane, probably the most complete cruising anchorage in Ireland. Photo: W M Nixon

But that's only the start of it. The place is suffused in history and topical interest. It's the home port of Damian Foxall, and in times past it was the summer sailing base for Conor O'Brien of Saoirse fame, whose signature you can see in the guest book at Keating's pub. And the Dunraven family of America's Cup notoriety also had their summer place at Derrynane.

Before that again, it was of course the ancestral home of Daniel O'Connell, The Liberator, and a run ashore would be given added depth with a visit to his family's Derrynane House, which has been entrusted to the nation since 1964. Despite its setting near the sea, it slumbers in an almost tropical torpor, an architectural mishmash of considerable charm. And for sailing folk, it has added interest in that O'Connell was himself a sailing enthusiast, co-founder of the Royal Western YC at Kilrush in 1829, and one of those who re-started the Royal Irish YC on 4th July 1846.

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Ancestral home of a sailing man. Derrynane House is "an architectural mishmash of considerable charm"

A week ago, however, it was announced that Derrynane House would be closed for six months from April 2013 for a major re-furbishment on which €1.2 million would be spent. I marked it down as an item of information to be included this week for anyone cruising the southwest who would normally plan a visit to Derrynane and the house in their programme. But the good people of the neighbourhood, many of whom are involved in the hospitality industry, have decided otherwise.

Righteous indignation is a marvellous energizer, particularly when it is genuinely righteous. When you think of it, of course, there is nothing more absurd than planning to close the jewel for visitors in the neighbourhood crown right in the middle of the year of The Gathering. Whatever, the quiet roar of righteous indignation from the people of Derrynane and Caherdaniel blew away all the nonsense of closure this summer, and the re-furbishment is being re-planned to happen outside the summer season.

If the re-furbishment programme is being re-structured, maybe they can expand it to include a major tidy-up of the ancestral graveyard down by the harbour. Things may have improved in it recently, but I was there last Easter, and it was in a disgraceful condition.


Those who re-create the astonishing 800 mile voyage by Ernest Shackleton and his men in the sailing lifeboat James Caird from Elephant Island to South Georgia have tended to add even further to the lustre of Shackleton and his shipmates. Their voyages have usually been in the Antarctic summer, whereas the original epic passage took place in late April and early May, which would have been the equivalent of undertaking a major Arctic voyage in the 22ft boat at the beginning of November.

Thus the recent successful Caird voyage by Tim Jarvis and his shipmates is the same as an Arctic voyage at the end of July. But that is still a great achievement by most standards. It's just that Shackleton's voyage was so far beyond our comprehension that we needs must grasp at anything which will put it in context.

He and his shipmates were superhuman, and none more so than Tom Crean. Even the most casual study of life aboard shows that Crean was central to the survival of all. Anyone who has ever tried to heat a cup of coffee in heavy weather on a comfortable cruising boat at sea will have some appreciation of Tom Crean's efforts in ensuring that everyone on board the tiny vessel had one life-saving mug of hot milk every night.

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Not yachting as we know it...Ernest Shackleton and his crew launch the tiny James Caird at Elephant Island as the Antarctic winter starts to set in on April 24th 1916.

It's absurd to compare the superhuman task of heating milk aboard the James Caird with your average yotty's heavy weather experiences, but as it happens, in a sense this was a yachting venture which happens to chime with something done by Conor O'Brien from our Derrynane story.

After he returned with his Baltimore-built Saoirse from his circumnavigation in 1923-25, Conor O'Brien received an order from the Falkland Islands company for a larger version which would become the inter-islands trading ketch Ilen. Ilen was built in Baltimore (she's back there now, being restored at Oldcourt) and in 1927 O'Brien was to sail her out to the Falklands. But the only way he could get insurance was if she was registered as a yacht, so it was Ilen RIYC, complete with burgee, which sailed to the south Atlantic.

With Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance, while everyone wanted him to sail under the white ensign as befitted a national hero who should have been part of the Royal Navy, there were technical objections. But it was neatly solved by Shackleton becoming a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and Endurance went to Antarctica as a yacht of the RYS, entitled thereby to fly the white ensign.


There is only one thing more boring than a sailing boat under motor, and that is a sailing boat under motor in the rain. But we had a lot of that on Thursday night on TG4's Turas Huiceara, the six part series on Thursdays at 9.30pm which traces the voyage of the 47ft Galway hooker Naomh Bairbre along the Celtic seaways to the north of Scotland and back to Connemara.

Last week we'd left Donncha and the lads in Castlebay in Barra with a double whammy. Their main boom – all 34ft of it – had broken. And in TG4 HQ somebody had forgotten to switch on the sub-titles button, which as Donnacha mentioned in his response here on Monday, had baffled everyone – apparently even some fluent Irish speakers were having difficulty understanding the Barra Gaelic.

Not all, though. Anyone who polished up their Irish in the Gweedore Gaeltacht in Donegal would have had no problem. Many years ago I was out in Barra with Johnny Roche in his South Coast One Design Safina (super little boat, she's based in Poolbeg these days, owned by John B Kearney's nephew) and one of our crew was Denis Drum, purveyor of fine art to the gentry, and world class chef. Denis noted the little fishing boats landing lobster and crab in abundance, and decided to get some, but the guys in the pub told him the story that all the catches go straight to Paris for the highest prices, and that he'd no chance.

Nothing daunted, Denis went down and turned on the old charm, but no success. So he switched on his Irish sub-titles button, waxing lyrical with the old tongue he'd learnt in Gweedore. It was magic. He was given as much shellfish as we could possibly need, and more, and all for free. There was so much that a cockpit locker lid had to be used for the serving dish. We were up to our ears in lobster and crab for several days. So Barra-speak can be understood in Ireland.

But not by most of us, and maybe it's just as well. I've since seen the programme on the TG4 Player with the sub-titles, and Calum MacNeil's story of the MacNeils of Barra and their interaction with the home of their ancestors was not a a pretty yarn. Seems the MacNeils of Barra became experts in seaborn cattle raiding to the land of the O'Neills, and their speciality was sweeping into Clew Bay on Reek Sunday and grabbing the cattle while all the locals were on top of Croagh Patrick for the annual pilgrimage. It must have been someone connected to the MacNeils who made sure that sub-title button was switched off.

Well, anyway, this past Thursday, still without their mainboom they had to motor all the way in order to visit St Kilda. Fair play to Steve Mulkerrins who built the Naomh Bairbre in Chicago in 2003-2006, he made a good job of installing the auxiliary engine, because the big girl did it all without a bother, but it would have made for much better television if it had been under sail.

That said, the film gave an excellent impression of the utter remoteness of St Kilda, and its inherent sadness. But by this time the rain was set in, and they seemed to have it with them all the way back in to Skye for the Highland Games, where the caber wasn't big enough to be a new mainboom (the average caber is "only" 19ft 6ins).

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Cruising off Skye in sunshine in August 2012. But the Naomh Bairbre wasn't so fortunate – in Skye she found neither sunshine, nor a new mainboom. Photo: W M Nixon

So they went north to Stornoway where a lovely man felled a fine Sitka spruce in the woods beside the castle and hallelulia, Naomh Bairbre is sailing again. Next Thursday they get round the north of Scotland (we'll need some convincing that there's much of Gaelic interest on the south shore of the Pentland Firth), and then start heading back towards Ireland through the Caledonian Canal, hopefully finding some sunshine on the way. There was little enough of it last Thursday night, and in February it's as welcome as a glass of cool water in the desert.

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Published in W M Nixon
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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