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Sailing on Saturday with WM Nixon

The Super Early Bird Draw for the 2019 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta took place yesterday evening (in the presence of an independent observer) and the boats (download the full list below) were drawn as winners – each of whom will receive a refund of their entry fee.

Winners were drawn from 224 eligible entrants who had entered and paid their entry fee by 31st December.

As David O'Brien reports in the Irish Times this morning, the current entry is 239 on target to match 2009's record entry of 450 boats

Early Bird Discount stays open until 31st March 2019.

Published in Volvo Regatta

With over six months to the first gun of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, 228 entries had been received by the close of the Super Early Bird Entry deadline of 31st December 2018.

The biennial regatta Chairman Don O'Dowd told Afloat.ie "compared to the same period in 2017, there are almost an additional 100 additional boats entered this time".

As Afloat.ie reported in mid-December, 75 entries had been received across 22 classes from 34 different clubs but a surge of entries has pushed the fleet to new heights at this early point.

What's perhaps an even stronger result for the Dun Laoghaire sailing festival is the fact 127 of these will be visitors to the town.

"127 of these will be visitors to the town"

RS Elites, for example, who will hold their UK National Championships have already their full complement of 30 boats entered.

58 yacht clubs are currently represented from the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, UK, Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland as well as National and local boats.

From the Dublin Bay area, the current local entry stands at National Yacht Club 34, Royal Irish Yacht Club 34, Royal St. George Yacht Club 31 and DMYC three.

The Super Early Bird draw will take place on the week commencing 7th January and all winners (with a prize of an entry refund) will be advised with all details of the draw posted on the event website.

Early bird discount entry fee available until 31st March 2019.

The full list of Entries is here Enter online here 

Published in Volvo Regatta

What would Christmas be like without sailing? Such a state of deprivation just doesn’t bear thinking about writes W M Nixon. But thanks to the wonders of modern communication - which at other times can be too much of a good thing - your Irish sailor who finds Christmas is becoming over-powering can hide away and dial up the already busy entry list for next summer’s Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, or follow the racetrackers for the Golden Globe or the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, and there he or she is – gone…….

Marvellous. You don’t even need to go sailing to get sailing at Christmas. There’s the ongoing drama of the Golden Globe to take you away. In it, the wonderful senior sailor Jean-Luc van den Heede (who looks for all the world like Willie Nelson’s much healthier brother, and sails every bit as well as Brother Willie sings) is hanging onto his lead despite his rig being in shreds, and in recent days has even managed to hold his distance ahead of the very determined Dutchman Mark Slats.

jean luc van den heede2Separated at birth…..? Singer Willie Nelson and sailor Jean-Luc van den Heede 

willie nelson3

Slats doesn’t look like any iconic singer that we know of, but we’re open to suggestions, for our knowledge of the Dutch music scene is limited, and this is the season of goodwill. That said, we’re all rooting for Willie (sorry, for Jean-Luc), for the man has sailing talent and courage to spare.

For the rest of us, if the complete lower shroud mast fitting started cutting its way down through the alloy extrusion of the mast itself, then it would be a matter of getting to port pronto under power, putting professional riggers on the job, and maybe even getting m’learned friends to write a letter to the manufacturers.

But when it happened to Jean-Luc after a massive knockdown of his Rustler 36 Malmut, he was in the middle of nowhere, yet somehow this 73-year-old guy got himself up the mast in the midst of the very rolling ocean and did enough between the shroud tangs and the lower spreader sockets to stop the shrouds cutting any further south.

mark slats boat4Mark Slats’ Rustler 36 Maverick looking decidedly purposeful. Despite two knockdowns in the storm which dismasted Gregor McGuckin and Abilash Tomy, Maverick’s rig is still intact and he is remorselessly hunting down the damaged Golden Globe leader Malmut

It did mean that he could no longer drive his Rustler 36 Malmut as hard as he would have liked, as the mast at times has been giving a passable impression of a piece of spaghetti. So in going on round Cape Horn and such things, he was forced to be sailing with three reefs in when one or two would normally have been all that was required.

Thus an astonishing lead of well over a thousand miles on second-placed Slats has been steadily whittled away, but as of today (Friday) van den Heede is through the 3,900 mile barrier to the finish and 707 miles ahead of Slats. But with some very difficult conditions to be negotiated with this dodgy rig before he gets beck to Les Sables d’Olonne, his problems will be prodigious, for there’ll almost certainly be rugged windward work in the Northeast Trades, and the cobbled-together rig setup emphatically dislikes slugging to windward.

If he does get back under his own steam, there’ll be some party, and this item here from Facebook shows that Jean-Luc isn’t shy of giving it a bit of a lash with the old vocal cords himself. It may not be comparable with Willie Nelson giving his defining rendition of The City of New Orleans, but then we doubt if Willie could get up a mast and carry out the repair which has carried Malmut over thousands of miles.

Meanwhile, the Southern Ocean is now becoming quite cluttered with abandoned Golden Globe racers, and all of them mastless. Gregor McGuckin’s Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance is the most salvageable at the moment, as she has drifted to within 1,250 miles of Western Australia.

Although any salvor would have to think about a new rig in due course, at least there’s the bonus of the special Glendalough whiskey which - all being well - is still safe in its barrel down below decks, as the pre-race foredeck location at Dun Laoghaire, Falmouth and Les Sables was for display purposes only. Ultimately, the idea was to bottle it at race’s end as a collector’s item, with each bottle selling for ginormous amounts. It could happen yet.

glendalough whiskey5Attention all whiskey enthusiasts in Western Australia…..this unique barrel of Glendalough is stowed below aboard Hanley Energy Endurance only 1250 miles away from Perth. Photo: W M Nixon

IRISH INTEREST IN SYDNEY-HOBART

When we think of what the Glendalough barrel and the boats have been through since this Golden Jubilee Suhaili circumnavigation re-enactment began on July 1st, it does rather put the claims about the Rolex Sydney-Hobart being one of the most rugged in the world into perspective. But for sailors who aren’t superhuman, the 628-mile annual classic can be quite enough to be going along with – a view which is supported by the many Volvo Ocean Race veterans who will be on various boats of significance when the race to Hobart gets going on December 26th.

Among them is ex-Pat Gordon Maguire, very much an Australian sailor these days, but he cut his sailing teeth in Howth. He did his fair share and more of successful Volvo racing, but next Wednesday the number one item on the agenda is getting the best performance out of Matt Allen Botin 52 Ichi Ban, with which the Allen-Maguire team took the Tattersalls Cup – the overall IRC winner – in 2017’s race. If they manage it again this time round, it will only be the third time in the race’s history that it has been won back-to-back.

ichi ban6Matt Allen’s Botin 52 Ichi Ban, with Gordon Maguire on the strength for his 21st race to Hobart, is looking for another overall IRC win for the Tattersalls Cup in next week’s Rolex Sydney-Hobart race

ichi ban7A potent yet simple racing machine – tiller-steering enthusiasts see their dreams fulfilled aboard Ichi Ban

Inevitably much interest focuses on the half-dozen hundred footers, with the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats XI increasingly fancied, as it doesn’t look as though there’ll always be enough wind around to get the best out of the big fat girls such as Jim Cooney’s Comanche and Christian Beck’s Infotrack.

There’s Irish interest in both of them, as Jim Cooney maintains family links with Ballivor in County Meath and Justin Slattery is in his crew, while Infotrack we knew well when she wasn’t quite looking her best – she was then called Rambler 100, and was more than somewhat inverted at the Fastnet Rock in August 2011.

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infotrack racing8The boat of many identities. The JK100 Infotrack has had several different names over the years, and looks decidedly different these days in Australia (above) than when last seen in Irish waters near the Fastnet Rock in August 2011 (below)

rambler capsized9

Other Irish interest focuses on the attractive Sydney 47 Wot’s Next, as Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee (overall winner of the 2013 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and June 2013 Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month”) is in the crew. Wot’s Next is as Australian as the kangaroo - the Sydney 47 marque was designed by Murray Burns and Dovell in 2004, and they’re built in state-of-the-art style by Sydney Yachts, which was spun out of the late Ian Bashford’s raceboat building company. The word is the Sydney Yachts inheritors build just slightly more ruggedly than Bashford aimed for. He was so obsessed (and quite rightly so) with keeping weight out of the ends, that it’s said you could almost push your finger through the transoms of his all-conquering J/35s. Maybe so, but they did the business - they were winners every which way.

wots next10The attractive Sydney 47 Wot’s Next will have former Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race overall winner Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee in her crew for the Sydney-Hobart Race
sydney 47 accommodation11The accommodation style in the totally Australian Sydney 47 is very much ahead of the curve

ENTRIES ROLL IN FOR VDLR 2019

Christmas is a time for mixed feelings this year for the organisers of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, for this week they lost one of their founding fathers with the sad death of Owen McNally. Afloat.ie will carry an appreciation of Owen in the near future, and he of all people would have been delighted with the healthy uptake there has been in early entries for 2019’s staging of Ireland’s ultimate sailfest, whose dates are July 11th to 14th.

Already they’re pushing towards the hundred mark, with early entries in 22 of the 39 classes for which racing will be scheduled, and notably strong input from outside Dublin Bay.

You may recall that Half Ton Classics Champion Dave Cullen with Checkmate admitted - after he’d won the title in Belgium - that he always like to have things done well in time, so doubtless Checkmate has already been prepared for next season by Alan Power at Malahide. Meanwhile, she’s firmly on the list for Dun Laoghaire next July, as too are the two HYC-owned J/24s which - in a sign of the times - are to be campaigned by Under 18 crews.

In the depths of the economic recession, they were sailed by Under 25 crews, but in these boomtime days, it seems that any capable 24-year-old is expected to have secured his or her own boat by some means or other, but Under 18s deserve a helping hand.

Either way, getting the entry in early is not only efficient and evidence of good management, but it acts as a very positive signs for existing or potential crew, and it’s of interest to note that from the home fleet at Dun Laoghaire, those signed up include the Goodbody clan with their successful J/109 White Mischief, and the Dublin Bay 2018 First 31.7 champion Camira (Peter Beamish & Andrew Jones

camira racing12The Dublin Bay First 31.7 champion Camira (Peter Beamish & Andrew Jones) is already signed up for next summer’s Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Published in W M Nixon

Peter Beamish's National Championship winning Beneteau 31.7 'Camira' from the Royal Irish Yacht Club is an early entry into next July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta that already has a strong uptake in overseas entries from the UK, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

75 entries have been received across 22 classes from 34 different clubs which is an early boost for Ireland's biggest regatta in 2019. The figure has doubled since entries opened last month.

Beamish, who won the 31.7 Title last August on home waters will be racing again on the capital's waters when an expected armada of 500 boats or more converge on Dun Laoghaire. This weekend Camira, a one-time series leader, will contest the final race of the Bay's Turkey Shoot Series.

In other one-design class news, the RS Elites who will be holding their UK Nationals at VDLR 2019 expect 30 boats, with 17 already entered.

In the IRC classes, it looks like Dublin Bay will see a strong visiting contingent from Scotland and Wales in the form of the RC35 class that was previewed recently by Afloat's W M Nixon here.

Racing is open to 39 classes and the Super Early Bird Entry will remain open until 31st December 2018. All fully paid entries received by this date will be automatically entered into a draw, whereby 5% will win a full refund of their entry fee.

The 2019 entry list is here.

Published in Volvo Regatta

Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta organisers are reporting a strong uptake for its early bird entry offer for next July's four-day sailing event on Dublin Bay.

With seven months to go, the country's biggest yachting festival – a collaboration between all four waterfront clubs – has already received 31 entries since the entry system opened a week ago.

Up to 500 boats are expected to compete across 39 classes from 11 to 14 July 2019. 

As part of the early bird offer, all fully paid entries received by 31 December 2018 will be in with a chance to have their full entry fee refunded.

The regatta has also released its 2019 promo video below: 

Published in Volvo Regatta

As part of the 2019 announcement of next year's biggest sailing event in Ireland, next July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta will host a special event within the regatta for Scotland's RC35 yachts to compete for the 'Celtic Cup'.

Details of the Dublin Bay regatta have been published this week in the official Notice of Race that is downloadable below. 

First thoughts, in an Irish context, of the RC35 concept were given by W M Nixon on Afloat.ie here

The event is jointly organised by Dun Laoghaire's four waterfront clubs and will run from 11-14 July. 

Classic Yacht 0059Classic yachts return to Dun Laoghaire for next July's Dun Laoghaire Regatta on Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat.ie

Feeder races for Dun Laoghaire's four-day regatta have been planned from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the west coast of England.

Event Chairman Don O'Dowd says 'we have a number of National and Regional events within the overall regatta which makes it more attractive for many to travel and compete'.

Entry is now open for 39 classes for racing, in Cruisers, One Designs, Dinghies and Classics.

Ireland's top Olympic, International & National Race Officers are in charge on the water and the organisers are forecasting a 480-boat fleet in total, drawn from 75 different Clubs from seven countries.

290 races are scheduled over four days.

420 dinghy 1416420s will race for National Championship honours as part of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Afloat.ie

Super Early Bird Entry

A Super Early Bird Entry will run up to 31st December 2018. All fully paid entries will be automatically entered into a draw and 5% of those will be lucky enough to have their entry fee refunded.

Early Bird Entry will then remain open until 31st March 2019

Eight Championships Within Dun Laoghaire Regatta

The Regatta will incorporate the following Championships: -

  • Royal Dee Yacht Club Irish Sea Offshore Championship
  • RS Elite UK National Championship
  • RC35 Class Celtic Cup
  • Sigma 33 Irish National Championship
  • GP14 Leinster Championship
  • SB20 Westerns Championship
  • Mermaid Leinster Championship
  • 420 National Championship

 Note: RC35 Class are not listed as a separate class. The Championship will run for them as a class within a class with separate results.

Download the 2019 Notice of Race below and see the online entry here

Published in Volvo Regatta

The memorable Dun Laoghaire Regatta of 2017 included celebrations for the Bicentenary of the great harbour, and the Kingstown 200 Trophy in its honour became something very special for racing among the Classics writes W M Nixon.

In a popular decision, the trophy was awarded to the beautifully-restored 1897-vintage 37ft cutter Myfanwy from Milford Haven in Wales. Thanks to a four-year re-building project by her veteran owner Rob Mason – a retired tugboat captain – Myfanwy had emerged from near-dereliction to become a vision of elegance that sails very well.

She is a classic yacht very much of the Irish Sea, originally built by Sam Bond at his renowned yard at Birkenhead on the River Mersey to the designs of Alexander Richardson (1845-1915) of Liverpool. For a couple of decades around the mid to late 1800s, Liverpool was one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and for a brief period it supported its own nationally-recognised yacht designer in Alexander Richardson, who is probably best known for his creation in 1884 of the all-conquering cutter Irex for Dublin whiskey magnate John Jameson.

Part of Myfanwy’s attraction is that Richardson seems to have been given a free hand in the project to create his own vision of what a perfect yacht should look like, for she is an almost-indulgent symphony of sweeping curves which are skillfully combined to provide a yacht of speed and style – arguably, she is his best-looking boat.

myfanwy crew afloat2Myfanwy’s crew in Dun Laoghaire Harbour are (left to right) Max Mason, Gus Stott, Andy Whitcher, and owner Rob Mason who restored the 1897 classic in a four year project. Photo: W M Nixon

In the days of her prime when based in the Menai Straits, she was unbeatable. Nevertheless when Rob Mason, his son Max, and shipmates Andy Whitcher and Gus Stott brought her over to Dun Laoghaire early in July last year to race in the Classics Division in VDLR 2017, she looked so interestingly beautiful that no-one would have minded too much if she’d only had an average performance by comparison with more modern classics. But she went like the wind, and at times was more than holding her own with the restored Dublin Bay 24 Periwinkle, a Bermudan-rigged design of 1938.

For Rob Mason, winning the Kingstown 200 trophy successfully rounded out his involvement with Myfanwy, for already he was thinking in terms of a more comfortable vintage motor-fishing yacht, and as mentioned in Afloat, he found exactly what he wanted with the 1938-built Blue Hills, which when new was originally based in Mulroy Bay in Donegal under the ownership of Frank Gilliland.

The acquisition of Blue Hills (now undergoing another of Rob Mason’s restorations) reinforced the decision to sell Myfanwy. But with such a unique boat, you need a new owner who will truly appreciates what he or she is getting. This has now happened, and any day now Myfanwy will be road-trailed to a specialist boatyard in Cornwall where she will be “purged” of standard modern fittings such as Tufnol blocks in order to comply with the requirements of CIM (Comite International de la Mediterranee).

Since 1926, CIM has been the final arbiter as to what constitutes an authentic classic yacht, and by the season of 2019, Myfanwy will be Mediterranean-based and racing to CIM rules. But for now, she leaves behind the fondest memories in Dublin Bay

periwinkle and myfanwy3Memories of a great regatta. Perwinkle and Myfanwy neck-and-neck at the entrance to Dun Laoghaire Harbour during VDLR 2017. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Published in Volvo Regatta

Welsh skipper Rob Mason has taken on a new vintage boat restoration challenge writes W M Nixon. The retired Milford Haven tugboat skipper swept all before him when he brought his beautiful 1897-vintage 37ft restored cutter Myfanwy to the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 in July last year. He and his cheerful crew went home with the Kingstown 200 Cup and a traditional purse of a hundred guineas, which they’d won in the classics racing to celebrate the Harbour Bicentenary.

myfanwy kingstown2(Above and below) Classic winning elegance – Myfanwy on her way to taking the Kingstown 200 Cup last July. Photo David O’Brien/Afloat.ie

Myfanwy classic 0278

Myfanwy is now for sale and is attracting international interest, while Rob has found another project irresistible – the restoration of a 42ft 1938-built trawler yacht which he discovered in a very tired condition in the tidal port of Hayle in the far western corner of Cornwall.

He bought this boat Blue Hills knowing only the main aspects of her history, notably that she had been designed and well built by renowned fishing boat constructors W. Weatherhead of Cockenzie on Scotland’s East Coast, and that thanks to the installation of secret compartments in her comfortable accommodation, she’d had a successful World War II in 1939-1945 career smuggling secret agents across the North Sea.

blue hills hayle3Blue Hills as she was when Rob Mason first saw her in Hayle in Cornwall. Photo: W M Nixon

But now it has emerged that there’s an Irish twist to the tale, as Blue Hills was originally built to the very specific requirements of Frank Gilliland. He was a north coast cruising enthusiast (Donegal and cross channel ventures to the Hebrides were his speciality) who wanted to change to a seamanlike motor-cruiser after a long sailing career.

However, the brief period of cruising by Blue Hills from Lough Foyle and Donegal (where her moorings were in Mulroy Bay) was the only time she was in Ireland, for after her war service ended in 1945, she was sold to an owner in Devon. When Rob Mason found this attractive boat, she had been out of commission in Hayle for at least four years, but having seen what he could do with Myfanwy, the results with Blue Hills will be impressive.

blue hills donegal4Blue Hills on her moorings in Donegal’s Mulroy Bay in 1938 while in Frank Gilliland’s original ownership.

To do it, however, Blue Hills had to be moved to Rob’s hidden waterside home in the upper reaches of Milford Haven, and in order to do this she’d to be lifted out at Hayle (where the tides are large) and road-trailed the full length of Cornwall and Devon before traversing the entire width of South Wales to Pembroke for a further brief period afloat being towed in the shelter of Milford Haven to Rob’s place.

Fortunately the long road haul was done before the present bout of extreme bad weather interrupted, and Rob’s shipmate Andy Whitcher reports: “only three punctures, otherwise not a bother….” In other words, a formidable task, well done by people who knew what they were about.

blue hills lifted5Blue Hills safely lifted at Hayle, but with the long road journey to southwest Wales still ahead of her. Photo: Andy Whitcher

With the Donegal connection, we’ll he following this already fascinating story with extra interest. Meanwhile as they wait for the perfect tide to get Blue Hills into her proper restoration berth, Rob has been going through the many lockers, and reckons that some of them have never been fully emptied of assorted specialist spare parts in all the boat’s eighty years.

Published in Historic Boats

Here on Afloat.ie, in recent weeks we’ve carried several formalised reviews of the 2017 sailing season at home and abroad in its many aspects, and have looked forward to what 2018 may bring, and what it should bring. Yet as the year draws to a close, every Irish sailor will have his or her own special memories and impressions of a remarkably varied and active sailing programme, played out at many venues. W M Nixon gives us his 2017 stream of sailing consciousness from 2017.

“Well, we got a result….” There was a time - and it’s not so long ago – when that was reckoned a successful outcome for many sailing events in Ireland. And at a certain level, it still is. But in taking an impressionistic look back over the sailing of 2017, it’s clear that expectations have been rising all the time.

So much so, in fact, that just getting a result - even with the best of racing - no longer provides something which will lodge happily in the memory for a long time. There have to be several extra magic ingredients afloat and ashore. And in looking back over what’s best remembered from 2017, we are maybe stumbling on factors which will be the key to success in the major events of 2018 and beyond.

Obviously the central element in it all is the willingness for voluntary effort in the organising of events both large and small, afloat and ashore. Only the most major championship and regattas can expect to have a professional core – and even then, sometimes only one person – at the centre of things. The bulk of the work, both beforehand and once the event is running, has to be delegated, and it takes certain kinds of people with a very special voluntary attitudes to do it successfully.

gp14s racing5Serious racing. 420s in the Junior Pathway Nationals at Ballyholme on Belfast Lough in April, where more than 190 boats took part

It’s not for everyone. Not everyone has the technical or social skills, and not everyone has the kind of personality for doing good work essentially by stealth. But when you do get a harmonious team of voluntary workers functioning productively to take best advantage of those happy times when ideal sailing conditions occur, then it’s a joy to behold.

Another factor is the strength of class associations. While huge world classes like the Lasers may have fully-manned international professional secretariats at their hearts, in Ireland in particular we cherish our numerous classes. And though some may be offshoots of an international design, it is the strength and energy of the Class Associations within Ireland which give them their special flavour.

gp14s racing5Irish sailing’s future. Optimists in strength at the Ballyholme Championship
Some are so special they’re unique. We could devote several articles to the many activities and events of the International Optimist dinghy in Ireland, and likewise the International Topper. Yet we’d still barely be getting to grips with two remarkable sailing class structures, for their rapid throughput of rising junior talent always gives the picture the sense of a rapidly rolling tapestry.

gp14s racing5The International Topper made a significant contribution to the fleet size of 190 boats at Ballyholme.

In a different area of the spectrum, the Irish GP 14 Association shows us what can be done by keen people with an adaptable vintage design, a truly nationwide community spirit, and a determination to get value for money. It’s a spirit which can be international, as we saw when the Worlds were staged at East Down YC on Strangford Lough in 2014. And it’s a spirit which can be deployed in the national interest as we saw in October 2017, when the class enthusiastically provided the fleet needed for the All-Ireland Helmsman’s Championship on Lough Owel at Mullingar.

Maintaining such a spirit needs a succession of keen key people, and we see it in classes of other types, sizes and locales. For instance, the Flying Fifteens in Dun Laoghaire with their can-do spirit are matched by the camaraderie-with-a-sense-of-history of their neighbours the Water Wags, while across Dublin Bay in Howth, the 1898-vintage Howth 17s are in better health than ever, with Ian Malcolm at the heart of a movement to keep this unique example of living history thriving.

gp14s racing5The GP 14s are a fine example of a vintage class which continues to thrive thanks to a very active class association.

gp14s racing5 Despite being Centenarians for many years, the Water Wags thrived in 2017 as never before. Photo: W M Nixon

gp14s racing5The 1898-vintage Howth 17s were in such good heart that in 2017 they even acquired a new-built boat, Orla (no 21) right. Photo: Neil Murphy

In newer classes, there’s evidence that the SB 20 is developing a fresh and healthy sense of being a special class which can do great things with the right spirit, and this is an attitude from which other more modern boat types can learn, for without people enthusiastically joined in a common purpose, they just become a collection of boats with nowhere to go.

Across country, the traditional boat movement in Galway – reflected in the continuing revival of the Achill Yawls in Clew Bay – provides its own special flavour, with the annual Galway gathering at Kinvara a mighty social event despite poor weather for August 2017’s staging.

gp14s racing5The Galway Hooker An Capall sailing in the waters of the west.

All of this will only impinge slightly on the south and southwest coasts, where boats and sailing are so much an integral part of the social structure that they’re a world to themselves, a self-sustaining universe which is now so large and varied that it’s wellnigh impossible to keep track of the way that our sport is developing.

Time was when you might find one or two boats secreted away on little-known anchorages on Cork Harbour. Most of the fleets would be concentrated at the main centres. But now, absolutely every cove has its little flotilla of boats, and you’d be hard put just to say how many boats are based within this wonderful natural sailing space.

And it’s not just a Cork Harbour phenomenon. Every inlet all round Ireland’s coast now has its local fleet. And every so often, events are staged which give us some notion of the numbers involved. And that also applies to the cruising brigade, whose doing are normally analysed from cruising log competitions during the winter.

For cruisers, 2017 brought an event which gave us some idea of the size and wide-ranging activity of the non-racing brethren. The fact that it wasn’t even staged in Ireland is further evidence of our new confidence and outward-looking approach. The Irish Cruising Club had been planning a rally in Galicia in northwest Spain for some years, the lead organiser being Peter Haden, whose home port is Ballyvaughan on Galway Bay, but he has wide-ranging experience and many contacts among the rias of Galicia.

gp14s racing5Michael Holland’s 70ft ketch Celtic Sprit in the Irish Cruising Club’s July rally to northwest Spain. Photo: Trish Phelan

It was expected that if all went well, the rally in July 2017 might attract as many as 30 boats. In the end, they’d to cap numbers at sixty, and many of them had sailed from Ireland across the Bay of Biscay, some from the furthest ports in the north. It went superbly well, and gave tangible evidence of just how much Irish sailing has come on in the past twenty years.

At home on the offshore racing front, the single highlight was the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – won in tough weather by Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI – but a significant turnout in the Fastnet Race saw Michael Boyd’s Lisa be best of the Irish, right among the front runners, while the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi won Class 3B and the Roger Justice Trophy for the best-placed school bat. Her crew included 17-year-old Lorcan Tighe, who was sailing as an instructor rather than a trainee, and already had the experience of the 2016 Round Ireland Race under his belt at the age of 16.

gp14s racing5Lorcan Tighe of Dun Laoghaire, an offshore veteran at 17. He was an instructor aboard the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi which won two prizes in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017, and was foredeck hand aboard Lynx in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race.

But while this high profile international success was important, a key aspect of Irish sailing in 2017 was the growing good health of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, largely thanks to the untiring efforts of Chairman Peter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire, who is the very essence of the spirit of ready voluntarism and quiet persuasion which makes Irish sailing what it is today.

Something which became more clear during 2017 was the readiness of sailors to differentiate between class, regional, national and international championships as being on a different plane from regatta events. This differentiation can be fairly fluid. For instance, some dinghy classes make their racing in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta their Leinster Championship as well. But generally, there was no mistaking the difference between the serious mood of the ICRA Nationals at Crosshaven as against the Sovereigns Cup at Kinsale, or the huge-fleet Irish Sailing Junior Pathway Nationals at Balyholme in April when compared to the more relaxed Junior Regatta at Howth in August.

gp14s racing5Simon McGibney (Commodore, Irish Cruiser-Racer Association) and Jack Roy, President Irish Sailing, in July at the first-ever WIORA Championship to be staged at Kilronan in the Aran Islands.

Of course, some events carved a character so individual as to defy classification, such as Calves Week in August at Schull, or the Half Ton Classics at Kinsale the same month, or the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands in July. That was something else altogether. Who would have thought, even ten years ago, that the very first sailing event at the new pontoons in Kilronan in our quintessentially western Aran Islands would attract a crack fleet of 44 boats, though local pundits did successfully predict that Liam Burke with Tribal would be the winner.

These highly-populated and fun-oriented events contrast markedly with the world of the international single-handers, who may start from much-visited event villages at their departure ports, but they’re utterly on their own out at sea. Yet they keep at it, and Tom Dolan of Meath recorded Ireland’s best-ever place in the Mini-Transat with a sixth overall in a class of 54 boats in 2017’s staging of the little boats’ big crossing.

gp14s racing5Tom Dolan’s Pogo 3 IRL 910 in flying form.

gp14s racing5Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam! at the start of the east-west Single-Handed Transatlantic Race, which was to experience a severe storm at mid-Atlantic, but the Irish boat went on to win the Gypsy Moth Trophy

That was in November. But it was back at the end of May that the Single-Handed Transatlantic Race from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island got under way, with Conor Fogerty of Howth sailing for Ireland in his Sunfast 3600 Bam. The Atlantic in June was in a foul mood, and several boats were rescued, but Bam had gone so well she was to the westward of the very worst of the storm, and raced on the win the real prize, the Gypsy Moth Trophy.

The fact that he had done so had settled quietly into our memories of the early season until one morning at the end of November, when the bare hull of one of the abandoned Transatlantic single-handers, Michele Zambelli’s Illumina 12, was found upside down on a Kerry beach. It was a chilling relic of the mid-Atlantic super-storm of June, an eloquent reminder that Bam’s great victory was won against ferocious odds.

gp14s racing5Chilling reminder of an Atlantic storm, The remains of the Italian Illuminia 12 on a Kerry beach a month ago.

In the post-Olympic year, the Olympic contenders were going through a quiet phase, but they’ll getting up to speed again early in 2018, though Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy is on a different tack at the moment. She’s a crew-member on Turn the Tide on Plastic in the Volvo Ocean Race, but her Olympic preliminaries in 2018 have been factored in.

Meanwhile in 2017, when summer did finally come to Ireland in July, we had the event and the organization in place to do it full justice. The Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017, from July 6th to 9th also celebrated the Bicentenary of Kingstown Harbour, and was simply the best sailing event in Ireland in Ireland during the year that is now leaving us.

gp14s racing5Celebrating 200 years. A perfect summer’s afternoon as the restored Dublin Bay Perwinkle and the restored 1897 cutter Myfanwy race for the Dun Laoghaire entrance and the in-harbour finish. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

The experience and the organisation were in place under Chairman Tim Goodbody to do the occasion justice, the entry numbers were up with an impressive Classics and Traditional section to honour the Bicentenary. All that was needed was the weather, and the Irish climate obliged. There were sailing breezes every day, sunshine every day, and with it all a comfortably warm ambient temperature that kept up late into the night to facilitate an indoors/outdoors lifestyle that had Dun Laoghaire’s classically elegant waterfront heaving with celebrating people having the time of their lives.

That it seemed so good may have something to do with the fact that many 2017 sailing events in Ireland were unlucky with their weather. It was just the way things panned out. But Dun Laoghaire with its entertaining in-harbour finishes was pure regatta with prizes galore – so many, in fact, that we need remember only one to represent them all.

gp14s racing5All were welcome to race in the Classics & Traditional section at the Kingstown Bicentenary. This is Jack O’Keeffe’s much-travelled Drascombe from Cork. Photo: W M Nixon

But it was the special one. The Kingstown 200 cup complete with a traditional purse of 100 guineas. And it went to a very special visitor, the 1897-built 37ft Myfanwy from Wales, originally designed by the great Alexander Richardson of Liverpool (he designed John Jameson’s all-conquering Irex), and restored by her owner-skipper Rob Mason of Milford Haven.

With her sweeping sheer and classic jackyard topsail-setting rig, Myfanwy was arguably the best-looking boat in the regatta. And when I was chatting with her convivial crew after the last race, they were in great form – they downed their pints of Guinness, and asserted that they’d just enjoyed the best five days of sailing in their lives. And that was before they were told that they’d won the Kingstown Cup, purse and all……

gp14s racing5Purest classics. Hal Sisk’s Peggy Bawn (1894, left) and Rob Mason’s 1897 Myfanwy in Dun Laoghaire. Peggy Bawn was fulfilling the classic spirit so completely that she was setting a suit of unused cotton sails at least sixty years old. Photo: W M Nixon

Until a couple of days ago, it was planned to end this last blog of 2017 on that friendly note. For we can all learn much from the success of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 and its Kingstown Harbour Bicentenary. It was the perfect combination of good but not too serious racing afloat, and brilliantly done fun times ashore.

But then with the end of 2017 in sight, along comes the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2017, extremely serious stuff. After various kerfuffles, Jim Cooney, whose people hail from Ballivor in County Meath, has taken line honours with the 100ft LDV Comanche, while Gordon Maguire of Howth has mastered the TP 52 Ichi Ban (Matt Allen) into a very hard-fought overall win. Words fail us. But then we recall that after Michael Boyd won the 1996 Round Ireland with the J/35 Big Ears, the incomparable Meath Chronicle ran the splendid headline: “Lobinstown Man Wins Round Ireland Yacht Race”. We live in hope of a similar headline: “Ballivor Man Leads Top Australian Yacht Race.”

And a happy and prosperous New Year to you too.

Published in W M Nixon

Taking on the dominance of the Dun Laoghaire J109 offshore fleet on its home waters and winning is no mean feat. Winning skipper Paddy Gregory of the Beneteau First 34.7 Flashback (owned by Don Breen and David Hogg) recalls last week's victory in Dun Laoghaire Regatta's biggest class, the 31–boat offshore division and believes 'attention to detail' and a strong desire to win got the Howth Yacht Club crew over the line first.

We’ve all heard the term, “That’s Yacht Racing”. It’s a sport where the factors out of your control such as the weather, shifts, Gods, planets, rabbit-feet etc must all align to yield a result. All we can ever do is try and do the best with what we can control and go for it.

If I was to sum up this year’s event in a word I would say, ”tough”.

Flashback ISORA Beneteau 34.7 1896Yards from the harbour finish line and overall 2017 VDLR offshore class victory – Flashback's crew give it all they've got. Flashback were also crowned Offshore Champions in the RDYC Jack Ryan Championship as part of VDLR Photo: Afloat.ie

The usual vagaries of Dublin Bay did not disappoint and dished up the expected amount of tidal and wind challenges; in fairness we did get a little more wind than was forecast.
Although extremely frustrating at times the light airs benefited us against the bigger boats. In the last Dunlaoghaire week it was averaging 20knts and we worked extremely hard to place fourth overall in the Coastal fleet.

Flashback began racing in the ISORA Coastal series a few years ago and we haven’t looked back. The growth in the Coastal Class is a credit to Peter Ryan and his team at ISORA, as it goes from strength to strength, evidenced by it now being the biggest fleet at the VDLR 2017.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 FlashbackFlashback coming into finish during the first offshore race of Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Photo: Afloat.ie

Flashback’s a standard Bruce Farr designed Beneteau First 34.7’ (overall length 32.7’!) that we commissioned in 2006 and we were lucky enough to win our first regatta in Dunlaoghaire that season. In the intervening years we’ve changed her very little, so we’re still using a 100m2 asymmetric spinnaker. We resisted the temptation to buy a larger rudder, which many of our sister-ships have done to help with control, choosing instead to learn how to cope with her eccentricities off the wind in a blow…….plus we saved some money!

About four seasons ago, having seen the trend on winning IRC boats, we decided to try non-overlapping headsails, instead of the 142% overlapping genoas that she was designed with, and it’s fair to say that our sailmaker Philip Watson (who we’ve worked very closely with over the twelve years ) really “nailed” it on his second attempt, and we now feel that she’s a faster boat for her rating than she’s ever been (moving from old rating 1003 to 986).

flashback crewFlashback's winning crew – Photo: Gareth Craig

We’ve been fortunate to have continuity of crew (panel of 15) and we now sail both of the Howth Yacht Club Winter series’ which keeps us relatively sharp when the Spring/Summer returns.

We’re very particular about having her underwater surfaces very clean because we don’t want to have that as an “ excuses to lose”. And we’re also picky about excess weight, so we strip off our cruising gear, such as sprayhood and TV, and keep her water & diesel tanks light before racing in events.

As a testament we moved from fourth in the 2015 event to first in 2017. 2015 was a heavy weather event and we all know what 2017 weather was like!

Flashback's crew were:
Paddy Gregory (Helm)
Don Breen Main (Trim)
Saraha Watson (Box)
Eamonn Burke (Kite trim and back up Bow/Mast)
Dave McGinn (Bow/Mast)
Des Flood (Head sail Trim)
Garath May (Head sail Trim)
Tactics (normally by general consensus!)

Published in Volvo Regatta
Page 1 of 5

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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