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Entries for Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta (VDLR) are beyond expectations for July's event giving organisers the opportunity to close the entry system at the end of April to review the 320 boats received so far.

Ireland's biggest regatta on Dublin Bay is planning to facilitate social distancing with its cautious approach to fleet sizes and by implementing a new regatta format that splits the fleets over two weekends.

"We've now 221 boats entered for the One Design weekend and 94 entries for the Cruiser weekend, so it may be the case that we will need to restrict entries, with priority being given to classes holding a championship or those with an excess of 10 entries", VDLR chairman Don O'Dowd told Afloat.

VDLR Chairman Don O'Dowd was ahead of the curve in leading his Committee into organising a re-structured two-part regatta to cope with post-pandemic conditions   VDLR Chairman Don O'Dowd was ahead of the curve in leading his Committee into organising a re-structured two-part regatta to cope with pandemic conditions  

As Afloat previously reported, the 2021 event comprise a One Design Championship (2nd – 4th July 2021) tailored explicitly for sailors in the one-design keelboat and dinghy classes. This is to be followed by an Open Cruiser Championship (8th – 11th July 2021) catering for the full range of Cruiser Handicap classes, including an offshore class.

Finalising entries will also allow Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta's Principal Race Officer Con Murphy to plan what fleets are going on what Dublin Bay coursesFinalising entries early will allow Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta's Principal Race Officer Con Murphy to plan what fleets are going on what Dublin Bay courses

It is estimated that 700 sailors will compete each weekend.

O'Dowd is confident that they will reach the overall target set back in January, and with 11 championships currently running as part of the event, it's not hard to see how that will happen with 70 days still to go before the first gun.

There is a buoyant SB20 entry for Ireland's biggest regatta on Dublin Bay this July Photo: AfloatThere is a buoyant SB20 entry for Ireland's biggest regatta on Dublin Bay this July Photo: Afloat

The plan now – subject to a Government Covid announcement to be issued in early May – is that entry to VDLR 2021 will be 'temporarily closed' on April 30 to allow the committee to 'take stock' of entries received across all classes.

Because it's unclear what the COVID-19 situation will be by mid-summer, organisers are anxious to get plans laid out early and work out early who's actually coming to the regatta. 

Ironically, it's not the numbers afloat that could be problematic but arrangements ashore as it is likely there will be no movement between yacht clubs due to ongoing restrictions.

By mid-June, the hope is that under Government guidelines, inter-county travel will return, and by that stage, too, hotels will have reopened. Outdoor restaurant dining recommenced to allow some regatta social activity.

"The Covid restrictions to be revised by the Government will clarify shoreside capacity permitted across the four venues for both parts of VDLR21, but in the meantime, we are continuing to make our plans' O'Dowd said.

Final call for all VDLR classes

"There has been a strong uptake in entries in some of the 22 predicted classes, but it has been patchy in some of the others", O'Dowd admitted.

He would particularly like to see entries from some regular classes that have been slow off the mark to enter this year. "If classes could enter by April 30, it would help us a lot. We want to finalise what classes will be based in what club, as there will likely be restrictions ashore".

Currently only nine Flying fifteens are entered into Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta but the local fleet has over 20 that is typically one of the biggest one design keelboats of the entire regattaCurrently, only nine Flying fifteens are entered into Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta but the local fleet has over 20 that is typically one of the biggest one-design keelboats of the entire regatta Photo: Afloat

In particular, VDLR is now seeking firm indications from classes such as the Shipmans and other popular Dublin Bay one designs such as the Flying Fifteens and J80s.

In the dinghy divisions, the RS, Mermaids, and the vintage IDRA 14s, celebrating their 75th anniversary, are also requested to make their entries by April 30.

Shipman sailing on Dublin Bay. VDLR is keen to see a bigger entry from this keelboat class Photo: AfloatShipman sailing on Dublin Bay. VDLR is keen to see a bigger entry from this local keelboat class Photo: Afloat

Reduced mixing of boats and crews at VDLR

Finalising entries will also allow Principal Race Officer Con Murphy to plan what fleets are going on what Dublin Bay courses. 'If we get an early commitment, we can facilitate class starts; otherwise, we may have to combine classes on the one line line', Murphy told Afloat.

In anticipation of restrictions, racing times will be staggered between classes. Murphy said the VDLR fleet is preparing to take extra steps for two sets of racing times per day, one at 10.30 am and the other at 1.30 pm, to further reduce the mixing of boats and crews ashore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

11 Fireball dinghies are already entered for VDLR 2021 that will also double as the class Leinster Championships Photo: Afloat11 Fireball dinghies are already entered for VDLR 2021 that will also double as the class Leinster Championships Photo: Afloat

Meeting COVID-19's sailing challenges in 2021

Dun Laoghaire is unique in being able to operate in the pandemic because of the extensive area within the harbour site and facilities provided by the waterfront clubs and organisations.

The regatta will utilise the full infrastructure of the Harbour venue to the best advantage and bring certainty to a calendar that has been hugely dictated by Covid-19 and the constraints imposed due to social distancing.

VDLR organisers are keen to see more Mermaid dinghies enter the July Regatta on Dublin Bay Photo: AfloatVDLR organisers are keen to see more Mermaid dinghies enter the July Regatta on Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat

Ireland's biggest sailing event

Growing over the last 16 years, the regatta is now one of Northern Europe's greatest shows on the water, eclipsed only by the UK's Cowes Week Regatta, one of the longest-running regular regattas in the world.

Since it first set sail in 2005, Dun Laoghaire Regatta has grown biennially and showcases the very best of Irish sailing action on the water. A regatta of this size also brings a lot of shoreside summer colour and significant economic benefit to the town of Dun Laoghaire.

The last edition in 2019 comprised over 300 sailing races across 30 classes and 2,500 competitors ranging from Olympic and world-class professionals to weekend sailors drawn from both Ireland and overseas.

In the unlikely event of a cancellation of the regatta due to Covid-19, a full refund of entry fees will apply, the organisers say.

Published in Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association invites you to join their next Zoom session on Dublin Bay Nature, which will be given by Richard Nairn on Thursday, 22nd April at 20:00 hrs.

Dublin Bay is one of the most intensively studied coastal areas in Ireland, and much is known about its marine life, birds and mammals, their numerous presence made all the more remarkable as it is an integral part of the life and environment of a busy city port.

The tide fills the bay twice a day, refreshing the shore and bringing seawater into contact with fresh water from the land. Some of the best examples of sand flats, dunes, saltmarsh, rocky shores, cliffs, islands and offshore sandbanks - all special European habitats - are found in Dublin Bay.

The North Bull Island is among the best surviving sand dune-saltmarsh systems in the country. This illustrated talk will highlight the most interesting areas, and summarise some recent research on nature in the Bay.

DBOGA Fundraising for Howth RNLI

Pre-Covid, we listened to talks together at Poolbeg while passing the Yellow Welly around for your €5 donaCon. In Zoom Land we can't
 do that but the RNLI urgently needs funds. Please click on: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/DBOGAHowthLifeboat to dob your €5 in. We are now well on the way to our target of €5,000. Thank you!

Richard Nairn

Richard Nairn is an ecologist and writer who has published five books and was a joint author of Dublin Bay: Nature and History (Collins 2017). He has done extensive monitoring of birds in the Bay and has provided environmental services to Dublin Port Company for over a decade. He has swum, fished, sailed and walked throughout Dublin Bay since the 1960s.

The details of this Zoom meeting are:

  • Topic: Richard Nairn Talk
  • 
Time: April 22nd 2021, at 20.00hrs
  • Link to join the meeCng: hcps://us02web.zoom.us/j/87869651645
  • Meeting ID: 878 6965 1645

Richard Nairn – Dublin Bay devotee and Irish national ecological guide and guardianRichard Nairn – Dublin Bay devotee and Irish national ecological guide and guardian

Published in Dublin Bay
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The environmental action group, SOS Dublin Bay, has today launched a detailed policy document entitled - “The water quality crisis in Dublin Bay - what is happening and actions needed to protect the public”.

Download the full documents and survey below.

The Group is calling for urgent steps to better inform the general public of the extent of the problem which it describes as serious and a more significant risk to swimmers than previously thought. It is also calling for urgent action by the government and Irish Water to clean up the Bay, which was declared a UNESCO Biosphere reserve in 2015 in recognition of its unique ecological and cultural status. 

The Group has conducted extensive research into data provided by Irish Water and the four local authorities in Dublin which reveals that in the 4 year period 2017 to 2020, a total of 8.875 million cubic metres [1] of untreated sewage and storm waters has been discharged into Dublin Bay from overflow tanks located at the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant. This figure does not include other significant discharges from the 410 Storm Water Overflows in the Dublin region which are not measured but are thought to exceed the discharges from the plant. 

This equates to 3,550 full-size Olympic 50 metre pools over the four year period and averages out at 74 Olympic pools full of untreated wastewater each month. These discharges of untreated sewer wastewater usually occur during storm periods where the current Dublin Wastewater Treatment Facility (DWwTF) reaches maximum capacity and cannot cope with the loadings being received.

The scene at Sandycove Harbour in the South of Dublin Bay where sea swimming in the harbour and nearby Foot Foot is a year round pursuit Photo: AfloatThe scene at Sandycove Harbour in the South of Dublin Bay where sea swimming in the harbour and nearby Foot Foot is a year round pursuit Photo: Afloat

In an online survey of over 1200 people conducted in March, more than one in 5 (21.77%) declared that they had been ill or suffered adverse health effects as a result of recreational activity they had recently undertaken in Dublin Bay.

Chairman of SOS Dublin Bay Gerard Jones said the Group were taken aback by how much wastewater is being illegally dumped into Dublin Bay – “Our research has revealed clear evidence of a significant ecological problem of which the public is unaware which is clearly having a negative impact on the health of bathers in particular. We have seen a major increase in year-round bathing in the Bay. People need to be informed about bathing conditions and periods of poor water quality. Dublin Bay is our city’s most treasured public amenity, but it is heavily polluted and causing illness. There a duty of care to protect public health and that obligation is not being met .”

SOS Dublin Bay is calling for a series of short and medium-term actions to be implemented

Short Term Measures Proposed

Systematic year-round survey of Dublin Bay bathing waters incorporating daily sampling and testing over a 24 month period - 365 days a year at 10 separate locations around the Bay. This should commence immediately, continue and conclude in May 2023. Information gained will inform the users of Dublin Bay when it is safe to use the bay for activities such as swimming, kayaking, etc.

The information to be disseminated to the public via real time electronic signage at established bathing locations and through information channels such as local authority information websites and social media channels.

The data to be used or planning and ensure investment in infrastructure is properly targeted at the root causes of the pollution of Dublin Bay.

The Dublin Waste Water Treatment Facility Plant in Ringsend has an Ultra Violet (UV) treatment facility which reduces the microbiological load of effluent from the Plant to Dublin Bay. This UV plant operates only during the Bathing Season (1 June - 15 September) each year. This plant should operate continuously throughout the year. This will result in an immediate improvement of the bathing water quality..

Medium and Longer Term Measures Proposed

More investment is immediately needed in the water infrastructure for the Greater Dublin Region. This will protect public health, achieve compliance with EU Directives meet the duty of care obligation of the State and ensure that Dublin Bay can retain its status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

These measures are :

Expediting the delivery of the new Clonshaugh wastewater treatment plant; this facility is urgently needed. Its future is in question following a decision of the High Court in 2020. The judicial review process is leading to a breakdown in the development of critical public infrastructure investment.

Accelerating the current upgrade at the Ringsend plant. This is due for completion by 2025; we believe the deadline is optimistic and unlikely to be achieved. Current contracts with the existing contractors for the Ringsend Plant upgrade, should be reviewed to determine how delivery can be brought forward.

Implement real-time testing using next-generation buoy based sensors which can test many times each day and transmit results via 5G telecommunications networks.

"There is a crisis in Dublin Bay which has led to the permanent closing of the Merrion beach as a bathing facility. Unless action is taken the bathing water is going to deteriorate further and could lead to more permanent closures of other Dublin beaches and popular bathing areas around the Bay; this is now a major public health issue and requires immediate action by Local Authorities, the Department of the Environment and the EPA" concluded Mr Jones.

Published in Forty Foot Swimming

July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta on Dublin Bay saw a big surge in early bird entries the last few days of March with the fleet now close to 300 of the expected 400 boats which, organisers say, will really help in planning for the biennial event.

The Wayfarer dinghy class were added to the running order yesterday bringing adding another ten boats to VDLR  2021.

As regular Afloat readers will know, in order to facilitate social distancing and be Covid-19 compliant, a new regatta format will comprise a One Design Championship (2nd – 4th July 2021) specifically tailored for sailors in the one-design keelboat and dinghy classes. This is to be followed by an Open Cruiser Championship (8th – 11th July 2021) catering for the full range of Cruiser Handicap classes. 

In anticipation of a summer outside of 5km bubbles that might just be possible, the VDLR committee is extending the current Early Bird Entry price until Friday 16th April 2021.

The entries so far for July's VDLR 2021 on Dublin BayThe entries so far for July's VDLR 2021 on Dublin Bay

Event Chairman, Don O'Dowd told Afloat: "We saw a surge of entries in the final 24 hours of March, and look forward to seeing everyone on the water as soon as it is safe to do so".

"Thanks to those 260 who have already entered across both weekends. It is great to see a number of the classes now taking shape and will really assist in the logistics and planning for this year's regatta", he added. 

The safety of participants and volunteers is of the utmost importance to the Waterfront Clubs and the Organising Committee of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2021. We are working extremely hard to ensure a Covid-19 compliant Regatta shall be run over the two weekends in July. The Regatta will comply with all current Government Guidelines relevant at that point in time, Event Chairman, O'Dowd said.

Published in Dublin Bay

Advance planning has started on creating the capital's newest golf course on a spit of sand close to the Merrion Gates junction in Dublin's Sandymount/Merrion area. Local golfing enthusiasts are excited at the prospect of a southside Royal Dublin style links course, which would be made possible through the continuing natural development of a dune complex extending westwards and northwards from the Booterstown marsh area. (see pics below)

Leading protagonist for the development, Cyril O'Morry noted that the links complexes at Dollymount, Royal Dublin and St Annes, was established in a relatively short time after Captain Bligh's Dublin Port development created the dunes that now extend to more than 280 hectares. "While the spit is only a short par 4 now, if it grows at the rate of the Bull Island, we'll be able to put nine holes in by 2035." There were mixed reactions from local residents. Ron Shawley, who has lived on Strand Road for more than 50 years, said " This is all pie in the sky. The rate of growth is not such that anything can be developed in the next 500 years let alone 15".

Bull Island MkII is already with us - these two photos of Merrion Gates were taken 15 years apart with 2021 belowBull Island MkII is already with us - these two photos of Merrion Gates on Dublin Bay were taken 15 years apart with 2021 below

Marcel de Gowlem, another of those involved in the plans, suggested that the rate of growth could be enhanced through a proposal from Dublin Port to create additional facilities on the South Bull Wall. "Imagine the huge public benefit this new island will create," he said "not only for golf but a beach to rival Dollymount. If the Dublin Port development is done properly, the dunes could grow at a much faster rate. At last, the southside will have a links course to match Royal Dublin, St Annes, Portmarnock and The Island."

Dublin County Council, still smarting after their plans to turn Strand Road into bicycle lanes were put on hold by an injunction, were less than enthusiastic about the proposals. Gord Towies, a spokesman for the council said; "The Council's priorities are to remove drivers from the area, not to encourage them"

Update (April 1, noon): Thank you for reading our 2021 April Fool's yarn

Published in Dublin Bay
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The impression conveyed in the image above of good-humoured sport afloat at the first regatta from the new harbour of Kingstown on July 22nd 1828 is so lively that today we easily forgive the relatively unskilled work of the artist, and instead celebrate the significance of what he was trying to convey.

The congenial nautical sport in Dublin Bay and the new harbour marked such an advance in the history of sailing on Ireland's East Coast that when the Kingstown Harbour Bicentenary was being celebrated as part of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta of 2017 (it was the Bicentenary of the formal laying of the foundation stone in 1817), each class winner received the presentation of a framed version of this print which shows that, just eleven years on from the start of construction, the massive new harbour was sufficiently advanced to host an inaugural regatta of international standard.

You might well think that in such an atmosphere, all was sweetness and light afloat and ashore as the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 approached final approval. But some research around the yacht which finished second, the 69-tonner Ganymede owned by Colonel John Madden of Hilton Park in County Monaghan, has cast another light on the mood of the time, and given us extra insight into the febrile and occasionally violent atmosphere which prevailed.

To set the scene, at the centre of power in Dublin Castle, the top men seemed to be playing footsie with the role of Lord-Lieutenant. This position was officially but briefly filled at the time of the 1828 Regatta by a keen sailing pioneer, the Marquess of Anglesey, who will forever be known as the dashing cavalry leader who was on his horse beside the Duke of Wellington observing the final stages of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 when a whiff of shot came past so lethally close that Anglesey exclaimed:

"By God sir, I've lost my leg"

"By God sir" responded the Iron Duke, briefly glancing down before resuming his critical scanning of the battle scene, "so you have".

Despite this injury, Anglesey lived to 85, and thanks to a very ingenious early 19th Century prosthetics maker, the loss of his leg above the knee didn't seem to hamper his style at all – he remained a superb horseman, and some of his abundant peacetime energies went into advancing the sport of sailing.

At the time, the builder of the fastest cutters was one Philip Sainty of Wivenhoe in Essex. But he happened to be in gaol for persisting in building and sailing smuggling cutters which regularly out-performed the finest revenue vessels. For someone like Anglesey, that incarceration was a minor inconvenience to be overcome, and Sainty's Get Out Of Gaol Card was the commission to build Anglesey's 113-tonner Pearl.

Ace smuggler Philip Sainty's "Get-Out-Of-Gaol" Card – the extra-fast cutter PearlAce smuggler Philip Sainty's "Get-Out-Of-Gaol" Card – the extra-fast cutter Pearl

She was a cutter of legendary performance which the thoughtful owner seldom if ever raced, instead enhancing his vessel's reputation by doing a horizon job on any comparable vessel he happened to meet at sea. But when he served his first brief term as Ireland's Lord Lieutenant from 27th February 1828 until December of the same year, he reckoned a regatta with proper racing from the new harbour at what was already re-named Kingstown would be just the ticket, even if he would only be observing from Pearl, rather than indulge in the cut and thrust of racing.

As we know from the 1828 picture, the racing went well with the Earl of Errol with his 42-tonner Liberty winning from Colonel John Madden with his 69-tonner Ganymede, while a muscular Christian, the Rev D. George, came third with the 37-ton Thetis.

But Anglesey's days in the top job at the Castle were already numbered, as he'd sent an "injudicious" pro-Emancipation letter to a top Catholic cleric which his enemies were already leaking like nobody's business. So by the time of the Dublin Regatta of 1829 at Kingstown, the Duke of Northumberland – of the opposing faction – was top dog, but the fates didn't seem to approve.

Colonel John Madden (1782-1844) of Hilton Park, Co Monaghan, owner of the 69-ton cutter Ganymede. Courtesy Madden family.Colonel John Madden (1782-1844) of Hilton Park, Co Monaghan, owner of the 69-ton cutter Ganymede. Courtesy Madden family.

All this may seem distinctly complicated, but it's thank to Johnny Madden of Hilton Park in Monaghan – whose great-great-grandfather owned the Ganymede – that we're getting near the reality, as that noted specialist historian George Gossip of Connacht – let's have no inane comments about nominative determinism, please – has been delving into the details on behalf of the Madden story, and he has come up with something of pure gold from the Dublin Morning Register of Friday 3rd July 1829. We'll let it speak for itself:

KINGSTOWN REGATTA OF 1829

Dublin Morning Register 3rd July 1829

KINGSTOWN REGATTA: The favourable state of the weather in the early part of yesterday allured an immense number to repair to the Regatta, and so numerous were the arrivals during the morning, that before eleven o'clock, the Forty-Foot road and the beach adjoining the harbour were densely crowded by carriages and other vehicles, belonging principally to the nobility and gentry.

There was, however, a larger attendance of the middling class than on the first day. At half-past eleven o'clock, his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant with the Duchess of Northumberland, and suite, arrived, and proceeded on board the Royal Charlotte. At this time the following vessels, entered for the Northumberland Prize of Sixty Guineas, were ready to slip their cables, and the usual signals having been given, they started:

Dolphin, 58 tons, Gower, Esq., R.Y.C., yellow and red horizontal.

Rob Roy, 50 tons, J. Meiklam, Esq., R Y.C., blue peter.

Ganymede, 69 tons, Colonel Madden, N.Y.C., red, white and red, horizontal.

Campora, of Liverpool, 148 tons, R. J. F. Williamson, Esq., white and red ball.

Vampire, 44 tons, Rev. D. George, R.Y.C., red.

Druid, of Cowes, 44 tons, R. Fox, Esq., R.Y.C., blue.

Young Paddy, of Cork, 42 tons, J. C. Beamish, Esq, C.Y.C., white and blue vertical.

Black Dwarf, of 62 tons, P. O'Kelly, Esq., N.Y.C., blue, white and blue, vertical.

Turk, Captain Kean, R.N., C.Y.C., union jack, red border.

The Ariel, which had been entered, did not start, but in her place, the Emerald Isle, belonging Mr. G. Gregg, swelled the number of the combatants.

Whilst the yachts were on their way through the harbour, the Campedora and the Black Dwarf came in contact, and intercepted the Ganymede which struck, with much force, against the Campedora.

The crews of the two last-named vessels, whilst they were in such disagreeable proximity, gave vent to their disappointment by attacking each other, and whilst the jolly tars of the Ganymede employed themselves in cutting the rigging of their opponent, the cook of the Campedora, armed with huge carving knife, presented himself before the master of the Ganymede, and fatal consequences might have resulted, if the hostile vessels had not speedily separated.

The Campedora, the largest yacht that has appeared at the Regatta, grounded near the pier, and the Ganymede, although she succeeded in passing into the bay, soon returned, as there was no chance, on account of the long delay, of getting up with the other vessels.

In consequence of this accident, the three largest vessels entered for the prize were prevented from proceeding; and the contest was between the Dolphin, Rob Roy, Vampire, Druid, Young Paddy of Cork, Emerald Isle, and Turk. The match was won by the Rob Roy, the Vampire being second, and the Druid third.

A few minutes before two o'clock, and whilst the yachts in the first match were out in the Bay, the following vessels sailed for the Twenty Guinea Prize:

Betsey, 18 tons, Hon. Col. Ward, N.Y.C., blue and red cross.

Gipsey, 19 tons, John Cooper, Esq. white and blue ball.

Fenella of Cork, 15 tons, Captain Berkeley, R.N., blue, white and red, horizontal.

Duke of Clarence 15 tons, Sir Edward Lees, union jack, white border.

Amelia of Milford, 10 tons, Captain B. Robertson, R.N., red pierced white.

This match was won easily by the Betsey, belonging to the Hon. Colonel Ward, who was on board, and actively engaged in steering his vessel.

Whilst the sailing matches were proceeding, there was a sharply contested boat race, for two cups of ten guineas value each, by gentlemen's six oared gigs. Two Liverpool boats were the only competitors —the name of the winner is the Harlequin.

WEATHER DETERIORATES

The weather was very favourable until about two o'clock, and up to that hour the immense concourse of spectators on the beach appeared to receive much enjoyment from the gay scene before them; but suddenly there was a very heavy fall of rain, and in a few minutes the beach was quite deserted.

The rain continued to pour, with scarcely any intermission, during the remainder of the day, and totally put a stop to the sports on the land side. Crowds of pedestrians, in most pitiable plight, were to be seen in all directions, seeking for shelter; every tent was occupied, and high prices were offered for covered cars to town.

Many a bitter imprecation was uttered against the Regatta, as if the rain had not been the cause of all the calamity; and many a solemn vow was made, by the staid and sober heads of families who suffered under the pitiless element, that no "sea show" should ever again seduce them from their dry and comfortable homes.

The Regatta Committee had made most excellent arrangements. They had abundance of funds, plenty of yachts—splendid prizes—and there was in the metropolis a growing taste for nautical sports; but the Committee could not control the weather, and the Regatta for the present year has, therefore, been in a great measure a failure.

However disagreeable the day may ultimately have been for everyone else, there's no doubt the lowly journo reporting it for the Register was having the time of his life. And in the ups and downs of Irish life, the twists and turns continued in 1830, when we're told that there was no Dublin Regatta in 1830 because of the death in London of King George IV, soon after he had finally but with the greatest reluctance signed the Act of Emancipation.

But with fashionable Dublin reportedly turned off "sea shows" by 1829's atrocious weather and the brawls in the harbour, it will have done no harm to take a year's break, for by 1831 the new head of state was William IV, the Sailor King, and yachting development was able to come back into fashion.

So too was the Marquess of Anglesey, restored in Dublin and serving his second term as Lord Lieutenant from 4th December 1830 to 12th September 1833. As George Gossip drily comments, he put the time to good use on the domestic front, as he married three of his daughters off to Irish Peers. Politically, however, things weren't so happy for him, for although he'd been strongly in favour of Catholic Emancipation, he was out of tune with The Liberator Daniel O'Connell's next stage in Ireland's national revival, the repeal of the Act of Union.

The Marquess of Anglesey, first Commodore of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in 1831The Marquess of Anglesey, first Commodore of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in 1831

But in the new enthusiastically nautical mood of the time, he was able to be ahead of the curve in the formalisation of yacht clubs. In that entry list for the Regatta of 1829, it will be noted that only three clubs feature – the RYC, the NYC, and the CYC. The RYC was the Royal Yacht Club, founded in London in 1815, Cowes-based soon afterwards, and transformed by the Sailor King William IV into the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1833.

The NYC was the Northern Yacht Club, formed in Belfast in the Autumn of 1824 by an eclectic group, including brothers and former friends of Henry Joy McCracken, the executed leader of the 1798 United Irishmen uprising. A Scottish branch of the NYC was formed on the Clyde at Rothesay in the summer of 1825, and went from strength to strength such that in 1834 it became the Royal Northern YC.

The Belfast branch was to be wound up in 1838 partly because of the increasing dominance of Kingstown's new harbour in Irish sailing, but in the 1820s and early '30s it was still very active, and as it was the only club of significance on the East Coast of Ireland, its burgee was flown by such noted Dublin Bay sailors as John Madden and Pentony O'Kelly.

The CYC – notably represented in 1829's regatta by Caulfield Beamish with his own-designed Young Paddy (also known as Little Paddy) which won the still-extant Cork Harbour Regatta Cup of 1829 – was the Cork Yacht Club, re-constituted in 1801 from what remained of the Water Club of 1720, and soon to become the Royal Cork YC in 1831 as the Marquess of Anglesey set about giving Irish yachting a boost.

The Cork Harbour Regatta Cup of 1829, won by Caulfield Beamish in the same year as he competed in the Dublin Regatta, is now displayed in the RCYC Trophy Cabinet in Crosshaven. Photo courtesy RCYCThe Cork Harbour Regatta Cup of 1829, won by Caulfield Beamish in the same year as he competed in the Dublin Regatta, is now displayed in the RCYC Trophy Cabinet in Crosshaven. Photo courtesy RCYC

MYSTERY OF EARLY ROUND IRELAND RACE

Although the Royal Irish Yacht Club didn't begin to formally come into being until September 1831 with meetings at the Gresham hotel (making it at heart a Northside club, don't y'know) it had a first season of sorts in Kingstown in 1831, and it's from around this time that a mystery arises.

It circulates around Colonel John Madden (1782-1844) and his yacht the Ganymede. Since 1734 the family home had been the decidedly stately pile of Hilton Park in west County Monaghan, but by the time our Colonel Madden inherited it in 1814, it was in a ruinous state and encumbered with debt, as his father seems to have run it as an unsuccessful private casino.

Hilton Park in County Monaghan, classic style in the heat of high summerHilton Park in County Monaghan, classic style in the heat of high summer

But the younger Madden was something else altogether, and with sheer hard work in running the huge farm – he became a leading expert in breeding Shorthorn cattle – while being boosted by helpful legacies from appreciative relatives keen to salvage the family name, he turned the fortunes of the massive estate around, such that by 1820 he could relax sufficiently to think of putting more energy into another interest – sailing.

Shrewdly realising that the new harbour on Dublin Bay would boost the locality's sailing activity, in 1820 he set in train the construction of a "seaside lodge" which became Ballygihan House in Sandycove. Quite when he acquired the 69-ton cutter Ganymede we don't know, but his summer residences in Ballygihan House and sailing and match-racing in the Bay and the Irish Sea became an important part of his life, as the new harbour provided the ideal summer base for his yacht, and in winter she could be safely berthed in the 1796-opened Grand Canal Basin in Dublin.

John Madden built Ballygihan House (left) in Sandycove around 1820 to be a handy "summer cottage" when sailing from the new harbour at Kingstown. It wasn't finally demolished until 1984.John Madden built Ballygihan House (left) in Sandycove around 1820 to be a handy "summer cottage" when sailing from the new harbour at Kingstown. It wasn't finally demolished until 1984

He and his crews developed their skills such that by 1831, as the soon-to-be-born Royal Irish Yacht Club was already making itself felt on Dublin Bay, they were reckoned one of the crack boats. And it's from that period that Johnny Madden can remember a top quality Irish silver soup tureen which suggests that in 1830, 1831 or 1832, Ganymede won a race around Ireland. He writes:

"Sadly, the superb lidded silver tureen, that was the centrepiece of the dining table in my youth, was sold by my father in the 1970s. It was sold through Alain Chawner auctioneers, and was allegedly bought by Dublin silver dealer Louis Wine. The tureen was oval, with dolphin handles on either end and a seahorse handle on the lid. On one side was a yacht in relief, which may have been Ganymede, on the other an inscription stating that it was awarded to Col. Madden for winning a race right around Ireland in Ganymede".

It would be a huge change in our perceptions of Irish sailing history if it could be proven that there was a first race around Ireland in 1831 or thereabouts, and it's frustrating to think that somewhere, hidden away in a collection of that legendary Dublin silverware of the period, there may still be a handsome soup tureen which gives credence to the idea.

That said, delivery voyages halfway around Ireland must have featured before the Famine of 1845 closed down sailing on the west coast, as the Royal Western of Ireland Yacht Club, founded at Kilrush in 1828, was mentioned as having a fleet of 18 substantial yachts based mainly in the Shannon Estuary by 1838, and as they figured in regatta results of the time at other venues, the "Regatta Progression" will have seen it making sense for them to head out round one half of Ireland to join the sport, and return to Kilrush at season's end via the other half.

Thus the concept of a round Ireland race will not have seemed entirely out of the question in 1830, for by 1860, when the first Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour Race was sailed, there was no debate about whether or not it could be done. On the contrary, the challenge was to get enough of the assertive and argumentative sportsmen of the time to agree to take part at one and the same time.

Lines of the 80-ton Corsair, designed and built for John Madden by Michae Ratsey of Cowes in 1832Lines of the 80-ton Corsair, designed and built for John Madden by Michae Ratsey of Cowes in 1832

Be that as it may, things were moving quickly in the sailing and social career of Colonel Madden of the Monaghan Regiment, and he became decidedly friendly with both the RIYC's first Commodore, the Marquess of Anglesey, and the Vice Commodore, the Marquess of Donegall, both of whom were also leading figures in the Royal Yacht Club in Cowes. Thus by the time the RYC became the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1833, John Madden was well established as a member, and he was sailing his new yacht, the 80-ton cutter Corsair designed and built for him by Michael Ratsey of Cowes in 1832.

Corsair as she was rigged when cruised to Italy in 1833-1835Corsair as she was rigged when cruised to Italy in 1833-1835

As it happened, not every part of Corsair was designed by Michael Ratsey. It seems that the carving-knife-armed intervention of the presumably Liverpudlian ship's cook of the big schooner Campedora from Merseyside, in the in-harbour battle with the crew of Ganymede in 1829, may have made a special impression on John Madden. For he personally designed the complete galley on Corsair, while further evidence of his serious voyaging intentions is still to be seen at Hilton Park in a Dublin silver "seagoing teapot", hall-marked 1833, with a broad base and handle on the side.

The broad-based seagoing teapot, hallmarked Dublin silver from 1833, is believed to have been carried aboard Corsair on her Italian cruiseThe broad-based seagoing teapot, hallmarked Dublin silver from 1833, is believed to have been carried aboard Corsair on her Italian cruise

But then he knew a galley and utensils which worked well at sea would be important for his plans, for despite racing success with the new cutter, his intention was to take a cruise with Corsair to the Mediterranean as soon as possible, while he was still a bachelor. The cruise took place between 1833 and 1835, and when Corsair returned after more than a few adventures, she brought back with her a complete and very elegant Italian marble fireplace, as one does.

The marble fireplace in the drawing-room at Hilton Park was sailed home from Italy aboard Corsair in 1835.The marble fireplace in the drawing-room at Hilton Park was sailed home from Italy aboard Corsair in 1835

It's still there in the drawing-room at Hilton Park, where Johnny and Lucy Madden's son Fred and his wife Joanna – the ninth generation of Maddens in this most hospitable place – will soon be opening the post-pandemic doors for discerning guests. For as you'll have gathered, the free-as-a-bird Colonel Madden who jaunted off for his sailing Grand Tour in Italy in 1833 was soon to have his wings clipped with marriage to the daughter of Admiral Wolseley in 1835. And the new Mrs Madden was soon ominously saying that his yachting habit was costing him at least £1,000 a year (the equivalent of millions today), whereas her daddy was getting his sailing for nothing - if you can imagine such blunt language translated into a polite Jane Austen-style exchange of views.

The upshot was that very rapidly the Colonel down-sized to a new handy little cutter called Dandy, and future sailing was confined to modest ventures from Kingstown, and frugal use of Ballygihan House as a summer base, while the income of the Hilton estate was optimized with careful management.

Perhaps it's overstating the case to say that the days of wine and roses were over, but from being a man in his prime strutting his stuff at Cowes with his friends from the Squadron, while his new Ratsey cutter Corsair lay elegantly at anchor in the Roads prior to departing for the Mediterranean, the Colonel's horizons were now reduced to the small hills of Monaghan, and the views of Howth Head across Dublin Bay.

Quite when the latter was taken out of the equation is not certain – it's thought to have been in the early 1840s that Ballygihan and Dandy were sold, and everything removable was brought home to Hilton Park.

The Colonel died young at the age of 62 in 1844, but he would have known that under the ownership of John Congreve of the Waterford family, his beloved 80-ton Corsair had been written into the racing records of sailing in a big way in August 1842. This was with a 130-mile match race with the 84-ton Talisman from the Solent to the Eddystone Lighthouse off Plymouth and back, sailed in a near-gale from the east, which meant all the pain was in the return leg.

"Closely-matched" is scarcely adequate for the outcome, for on a boat-for-boat basis the marginally smaller Corsair won by just one minute and 30 seconds. Far away in the high summer somnolence of deepest Monaghan, it will have been a result savoured with mixed feelings by Corsair's original owner.

Corsair – with her rig altered to a yawl – narrowly leading Talisman in the outward leg of the August 1842 Solent-Eddystone-Solent Match Race. After a very rugged beat back to the finish, Corsair won by one minute and 30 seconds. From the painting by Nicholas Condy of PlymouthCorsair – with her rig altered to a yawl – narrowly leading Talisman in the outward leg of the August 1842 Solent-Eddystone-Solent Match Race. After a very rugged beat back to the finish, Corsair won by one minute and 30 seconds. From the painting by Nicholas Condy of Plymouth

But in such a place and a house like this, you take a long and different view. As Johnny Madden has observed, going into some of this history, with the possibility that there may have been a Round Ireland Race a clear 150 years before Wicklow Sailing Club inaugurated the modern event in 1980, has given him fresh insight into some other items in the Hilton Park inventory.

"For instance" he says, "we have this dining table with a complete set of matching chairs which I'd reckon to be dated from very closely around 1820. I'd sometimes wondered how we've something so new about the place. Now I realise it must have been brought back from the holiday cottage at Sandycove when the Colonel finally pulled in his sailing horns".

When "something so new" refers to 1820, you're definitely set in a different perspective.

Published in Dublin Bay
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The light-bellied brent goose that made a welcome return to Dublin Bay in October is already planning the return journey to breeding grounds in Canada after spending the winter in Ireland.

Over the last few months, you may have spotted the familiar guest returning to the capital's shores and other Irish estuarial waters. They spend the winter feeding on eelgrass in estuaries and on crops in adjoining fields. The same birds return to the same fields year after year.

According to Dublin Bay Biosphere, approximately 30,000 of these birds migrate 3,000 km to Ireland each year for the winter season, arriving at Strangford Lough before moving on again to establish homes for themselves at coastal estuaries across the country.

Popular spots to see these visitors include Wexford Harbour, Lough Foyle, Tralee Bay, and Dublin Bay

In April, Brent Geese leave the UK and Ireland and head north again. The pale-bellied brent geese stopover in Iceland. Here they fatten up, increasing their weight by up to 40 per cent in preparation for the final 3,000 km (1,865 mile) flight over frozen Greenland to their breeding grounds in Canada. 

Click here to read more, from Dublin Bay Biosphere: http://bit.ly/3knFk3W

Published in Marine Wildlife
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A Dublin Bay sea mist that lay in the middle of the bay most of the morning had enveloped most of the south shore by lunchtime, reducing visibility down to 50 metres or less at Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

The morning had seen a large number of different types of pleasure craft enjoying the bright sunshine and calm conditions. 

Met Eireann had forecast Northeast or variable force 3 winds with some patches of mist or fog.

There were groups of different dinghy classes, sailing cruisers as well as fishing boats, jet skis and motor cruisers all enjoying one of the first weekends of 2021 afloat. 

The Stena Ferry disappears in the mist Photo: Barry O'NeillThe Stena Ferry disappears in the mist Photo: Barry O'Neill

Canoeists and paddleboarders and rowing boats hugged the shore at Scotsman's Bay as the mist grew thicker.

There were plenty of swimmers and day-trippers sampling the admittedly very cold February waters of just 7 degrees.

The extent of the mist meant that by 2.30 pm there most boating activities were kerbed with the fog lifting just after 4 pm.

Published in Dublin Bay
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Dublin Bay Old Gaffers’ Association invites all to join their next Zoom session on Shipwrecks Around Dublin Bay, which will be given by Cormac Lowth on Thursday 25th February at 20.00hrs.

Following on from his extremely popular talk on the loss of the Palme and the tragic demise of the Kingstown Lifeboat in 1895, the renowned maritime archaeologist and historian Cormac Lowth will talk on “Shipwrecks Around Dublin Bay.” Based on historical research, hydrographic surveys, underwater photography and data from his own diving expeditions, Cormac will reveal the stories behind many of the shipwrecks hidden under the waves of Dublin Bay and the nearby coast.

Only partially protected by the offshore shoals of the Bennet and Kish Banks, Dublin Bay has proved to be a graveyard for many ships. Closer inshore the Burford and Rosbeg Banks lie in wait for the unwary.

The sinking of the Queen Victoria

Cormac will describe the sinking of the Queen Victoria in 1853, the Tayleur on Lambay in 1854, the Vanguard in 1875, the Palme in 1895 and the Bolivar in 1947 to name but a few. If you are interested in Dublin Bay and marine archaeology you will not want to miss this talk.

Please be early to be sure of getting a good seat!

DBOGA Fundraising for HOWTH RNLI: Pre-Covid, DBOGA listened to talks together at Poolbegwhile passing the Yellow Welly around for your €5 lifeboat donation. In Zoom Land we can’t do that, but the RNLI urgently needs funds. Please click on: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/DBOGAHowthLifeboat. Thank you - we are nearly halfway to our target of €4,000.

The details of this Zoom meeting are:

• Topic: Cormac Lowth Talk
• Time: February 25th 2021, at 20.00hrs

Donate to RNLI here

Zoom Link here

Published in Dublin Bay
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The Irish Coast Guard rescued two swimmers after they ran into difficulty while swimming at the Forty Foot bathing place on Dublin Bay yesterday.

The incident occurred earlier today as the swimmers required help in the choppy sea. The Dun Laoghaire Harbour branch of the Coast Guard confirmed that one of the swimmers also required medical assistance.

Thankfully, all persons are understood to be ok.

Personnel from the National Ambulance Service, Dublin Fire Brigade, RNLI Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat Station, and An Garda Síochána were required during the rescue operation.

In a statement, the Coast Guard said: "We have had two callouts this morning involving swimmers. Conditions are unsafe along our coastline and continue to be unsafe for the rest of the week due to strong easterly winds.

Published in Dublin Bay
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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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