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Whatever about weather extremes being experienced elsewhere in the world, Howth is apparently in its own little magic microclimate. January has served up four Sunday mornings on the trot with good racing for the MG Motor "Sailing Club of the Year 2023" and its current Spring Series section, with fleet numbers building steadily as the different classes get into the countdown for the Mother-of-all-Concluding Races, the annual scramble around Ireland's Eye on Saturday, March 11th, with its added spice of circuit direction being an option for each competitor.

Sunday's fourth week of the Spring Series welcomed some new faces to the mix. Regular competitors were joined by yet another GP14 entrant, building the growing numbers across the classes.

A strong westerly breeze, accompanied by a strengthening flood tide going in largely the opposite direction, made for a race-course with a variety of conditions across it. After a quick postponement, two races were completed around triangular courses, with only one individual recall for the mostly well-behaved fleet. The three ILCA classes started together, with the growing PY fleet starting immediately afterwards.

Cork-Wexford ding-dong - Dan O'Connell of Cobh just managing to keep his wind clear to lee of Wexford's Ronan Wallace. Photo: Harry GallagherCork-Wexford ding-dong - Dan O'Connell of Cobh just managing to keep his wind clear to lee of Wexford's Ronan Wallace. Photo: Harry Gallagher

The ILCA 7s saw Ronan Wallace and Dan O’Connell fighting for the lead around the race course as usual. While it was neck and neck at the beginning of the third lap of the first race, Dan had to take a penalty, while simultaneously, Ronan’s kicker failed. The Wexford helm managed to make it to the top mark in the lead, and limp his boat home even while the Cobh sailor reeled him back in. Ronan did well to just about hold onto the lead crossing the finish line.

Conor Murphy got his first podium of the season, but couldn’t get close enough to take advantage of the difficulties in front of him. Then some quick jury-rigging between races gave Ronan a makeshift kicker, and he went on to win the second race as well. Richard Tate and Andrejs Samoilovs swapped 5th and 6th in each race, while Oisin Hughes took home fourth in both races, and a guest appearance from Conor Gallagher added an international element to the day’s racing.

The ILCA 6s saw Marco Sorgassi (RStGYC) deliver two convincing wins, beating not only the rest of the ILCA 6s, but also most of the ILCA 7s! Dave Kirwan of Malahide again opted for the ILCA 6 instead of the 7, and was a close second in the first race, while in the second race, an individual recall and a capsize allowed Dan O’Hare to take seconnd . Marco has a 6-point lead in the series after 8 races, and with 10 more races to go, there are still plenty of opportunities for the fleet order to change.

Looking good and going very good....Marco Sorgassi (RStGYC) is so dominant in the ILCA6s that he frequently finishes in the middle of the ILCA7s. Photo: Harry GallagherLooking good and going very good....Marco Sorgassi (RStGYC) is so dominant in the ILCA6s that he frequently finishes in the middle of the ILCA7s. Photo: Harry Gallagher

The ILCA 4s were fresh from some training on Saturday with HYC’s Aoife Hopkins, although there were very different conditions between the 2 days! Charlie Keating improved on his showing of last week with two first places, while the rest of the fleet swapped places between the first and second races. In the series overall, Aisling Kelly maintains her lead over Riaghan Boardman of Rush and Viktor Samoilovs. Time will tell if some of the more recent entrants can climb the leaderboard by the end of the series.

The PY Fleet grew again with the addition of Puppeteer 22 ace Alan Blay’s GP14 from Sutton Dinghy Club. However, Blay could only manage send in both races against Daragh Sheridan, who made the most of the breeze to blast down the reaches and runs in his RS Aero to take two 1sts. Matthew Cotter was joined by Aoife Hopkins (now very much back tp private sailing) in their GP14, but gear failure on the water prevented them from competing in the racing.

"The Men Upon The Wire" - Mike Evans and Troy Hopkins racing the former's RS800. Troy's daughter Aoife, having stood down from public full-time international competition, went very private on Sunday with a spot of GP14 crewing. Phoo: Harry Gallagher"The Men Upon The Wire" - Mike Evans and Troy Hopkins racing the former's RS800. Troy's daughter Aoife, having stood down from public full-time international competition, went very private on Sunday with a spot of GP14 crewing. Phoo: Harry Gallagher

Mike Evans’ RS800, Peter Boyle’s GP14 and Jeremy Beshoff’s B14 rounded out the rest of the fleet.Full results from the day and series are available here [1]. There are 5 more Sundays and 10 more races in the series, as well as the annual Round the Island race on Saturday 11th March, so be sure to join in the growing winter Dinghy fleets.

Published in Howth YC
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25th January 2023

Brian Murphy 1945-2023

When the brief notice of the death of Brian Murphy at the age of 77 was posted on the Howth YC Facebook page recently, the response from members said everything about a remarkable - indeed a unique - sailing enthusiast and man of many parts. Within a day or two, 33 sad but very fond and favourable responses were made public, each one giving an extra insight into why his decidedly offbeat approach to life had provided an entertaining and rewarding - if sometimes maddening - input into the experiences of those with whose lives his own sometimes erratic existence became beneficially intertwined.

In national sailing terms, he is still best remembered – after 43 years – as a leading member of that special group which sailed in the first Round Ireland Race from Wicklow in 1980. Typically of Brian Murphy, his David Thomas-designed Hydro 28 Crazy Jane – which he’d completed himself from a bare hull – was the smallest boat to finish the course. And equally typical of the man, although he never finished another Round Ireland Race in a boat of his own, such was the impact of his engaging personality back in 1980 that for decades afterwards he was thought of as “Brian Murphy of Howth, the Round Ireland veteran”.

Brian Murphy at the helm of his own-finished Hydro 28 Crazy Jane preparing for the start of the first Round Ireland Race from Wicklow in 1980. Photo: W M NixonBrian Murphy at the helm of his own-finished Hydro 28 Crazy Jane preparing for the start of the first Round Ireland Race from Wicklow in 1980. Photo: W M Nixon 

The first Round Ireland Race start at Wicklow in 1980 was the first time offshore racers from elsewhere (the 16 entries came from all over Ireland and North Wales) began to learn about the power of the south-going ebb off Wicklow pierhead. But the quick-thinking Brian Murphy was in control, and the little Crazy Jane had the best of a rather ragged start. Photo: W M NixonThe first Round Ireland Race start at Wicklow in 1980 was the first time offshore racers from elsewhere (the 16 entries came from all over Ireland and North Wales) began to learn about the power of the south-going ebb off Wicklow pierhead. But the quick-thinking Brian Murphy was in control, and the little Crazy Jane had the best of a rather ragged start. Photo: W M Nixon

As for Crazy Jane, his propensity for innovation soon had her changed. He lengthened the boat considerably and frequently – the amounts could vary from year to year – while you could never be too sure which style of rig he might appear with each season. Show most people a collection of broken International Dragon class masts, and they would see a heap of scrap metal. But show Brian Murphy that same heap of scrap, and he would see the basics of a very innovative needle spar rig for Crazy Jane.

This photo of Crazy Jane manoeuvring before the Round Ireland start in 1980 is a last glimpse of her in her original form. Before that season was out, Brian Murphy had made several modifications which continued throughout his long and successful ownership. Photo: W M NixonThis photo of Crazy Jane manoeuvring before the Round Ireland start in 1980 is a last glimpse of her in her original form. Before that season was out, Brian Murphy had made several modifications which continued throughout his long and successful ownership. Photo: W M Nixon

He and fellow can-do types at Howth such as the great Neville Maguire quietly operated a world-class action group in alloy spar re-purposing, while any bigger boat offshore racing campaign which had seemingly been completely de-railed by a broken mast knew that, in Brian Murphy, they could find salvation for their plans when the professional spar-makers were quoting hopelessly long replacement times.

Inevitably this taste for emergency engineering meant that he was easily distracted from one of the many aspects of his varied career, when at one stage he was running his own highly innovative engineering company, which at its peak employed 18 people. Inevitably they were drawn by their charismatic leader into precision challenges which few other engineering companies would undertake, and none with Brian Murphy’s flashes of pure genius.

Needless to say he was way ahead of everyone else in comprehending computers and their full potential, so much so that at times he was speaking a different language. Yet if there was something to do with sailing he would happily adapt himself to the technical expertise of the “client”, and over the years one of his contributions to Howth sailing was his willingness to listen to race officers and fabricate some peculiar and specialist pieces of kit in order to facilitate their work aboard the Club’s Committee Boats, with the effective flagship Star Point becoming a classic case of “handsome is as handsome does”.

HYC’s Senior Committee Boat Star Point has become a very successful race organization platform thanks in part to Brian Murphy’s willingness to implement sometimes decidedly quirky changes requested by Race Officers. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyHYC’s Senior Committee Boat Star Point has become a very successful race organization platform thanks in part to Brian Murphy’s willingness to implement sometimes decidedly quirky changes requested by Race Officers. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Brian Murphy’s intellectual and cultural interests were many and varied, and when he was engagingly talking or explaining about something which had newly attracted his attention, he was a magnetic and sometimes wildly funny conversationalist, with a wicked line in concluding put-down lines.

 The late Brian Murphy, long past retirement age but with his quizzical and amused brain as sharp as ever The late Brian Murphy, long past retirement age but with his quizzical and amused brain as sharp as ever

His latter life was partly dominated by a struggle to keep his weight under control. Yet when he really cared about something, somehow the weight fell away, and the sparkling-eyed and charismatic younger Brian re-emerged.

Roger Cagney, Howth Yacht Club Commodore 2011-2012, as painted by Brian MurphyRoger Cagney, Howth Yacht Club Commodore 2011-2012, as painted by Brian Murphy

Art became a passion for much of his later life, and having taught himself to paint, he set up an art group within HYC in which his aptitude for instruction and example inspired many, while he himself continued to hone his skills with a speciality in deft portraits which - apparently effortlessly – captured the spirit of the individual portrayed, while his landscape and event paintings of life along the East Coast reminded his fellow members that it isn’t essential to go to the mighty Atlantic seaboard in order to get the full flavour of life in Ireland.

Now this astonishing and always interesting man – often dubbed “the mad professor” – is gone from among us. But he leaves an extraordinary array of memories and achievements. Our thoughts are with his family and his many close friends and colleagues.

WMN

The spirit of the East Coast – the special excitement of Laytown Races captured by the late Brian MurphyThe spirit of the East Coast – the special excitement of Laytown Races captured by the late Brian Murphy

Published in Howth YC
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A growing turnout of close to 30 boats hit the water in the third week of HYC's Dinghy Frostbites, aka the Spring Series. In the days leading up to Sunday's racing, some forecasts were teasing light breezes, a welcome prospect for the fleet as nearly every Sunday to date has worked the sailors hard with plenty of strength and skill required to keep boats underneath rigs. In the end, this week's racing was no exception, as the "firm" south to south-east breeze was noticeable in the boat park, and even more so on the water after the sailors performed a testing run out to the course. HYC's newly elected Commodore Neil Murphy led the Race Management Team, and with a breeze of 14-18 knots, and gusting up to 24, he got two races away around a triangular course.

The ILCA 7 fleet saw the usual suspects of Ronan Wallace of Wexford, Rory Lynch of Baltimore and Dan O'Connell of Cobh battling it out in the top three. In the first race, Dan suffered a poorly-timed capsize at the top of the run (what would be "a well-timed capsize"? -Ed) leaving Ronan and Rory to fight it out for the remaining lap, while the rest of the fleet attempted to chase from behind. Ronan took first, Rory second and Oisin Hughes got his first podium of the series taking third. In the second race of the day, Ronan had the lead over Dan and Rory for the first lap, however, a strong downwind and second upwind saw Rory take first and keep it until the finish.

Southern sailors suss out the Howth real estate - with racing around high water, Ronan Wallace of Wexford and Dan O'Connell of Cobh were able to review some of the Peninsula's more desirable waterfront properties. Photo: HYCSouthern sailors suss out the Howth real estate - with racing around high water, Ronan Wallace of Wexford and Dan O'Connell of Cobh were able to review some of the Peninsula's more desirable waterfront properties. Photo: HYC

Further back in the fleet, positions were hard fought for with Malahide's Andrejs Samoilovs and Vinnie Varley battled it out with Howth's Zander Mackay, Dun Laoghaire's Richard Tate and Lough Ree's Aidan Breen. After 6 races, Rory Lynch leads the fleet but is tied on 7 points with Ronan Wallace. With 12 races to go, and some more discards to come, it's anyone's guess who will be on top by the end of te series.

The ILCA 6 fleet saw Marco Sorgassi's 5 race winning streak coming to an end, as Dave Kirwan of Malahide pipped him for first in race 2. Despite their smaller sails, the ILCA 6s were in the mix with the larger ILCA 7s. Howth's Fiachra Farrelly and Rush's Charlie Savage took third and fourth in each race. Marco still has a healthy lead on the ILCA 6 fleet overall, but the rest of the fleet is tight and will need the 12 remaining races to sort out their finishing order.

Please gather round, girls and boys, and have a good look at a symmetrical spinnaker - just like your granny and grandpa sailed with......Photo: HYCPlease gather round, girls and boys, and have a good look at a symmetrical spinnaker - just like your granny and grandpa sailed with......Photo: HYC

The ILCA 4s had a great turnout of 8 boats, boosted by the coaching session run alongside the racing, led by HYC's own Aoife Hopkins. In their first weekend of the series, HYC's Krzysztof Ciborowski and Charlie Keating took home first and second in each race. Rush's Riaghan Boardman took a third and a fourth, while Malahide's Viktor Samoilovs recovered well from a seventh in the first race to a third in the second, but while Aisling Kelly had to settle for two fifths, she still leads the series overall.

The PY fleet also grew in numbers, with a growing GP14 presence bringing the first-ever symmetrical spinnakers to a HYC Frostbite series. Daragh Sheridan continues to dominate the timed fleet, adding two more wins to
his tally. Mike Evans' RS800 and Conor Twohig's GP14 swapped 2nd and 3rd in each race, while Jeremy Beshoff's B14 pulled in a fourth in both races. Daragh Sheridan has a clear lead in the series, but all is to play for in the coming weeks.

Somehow Daragh Sheridan managed to find some blue sky sailing as Lambay loomed through the grey day. Photo: HYCSomehow Daragh Sheridan managed to find some blue sky sailing as Lambay loomed through the grey day. Photo: HYC

The series continues next weekend and runs until Sunday, 5th March, full results from today are available below. It's never too late to join in.

The annual Round the Island Race will be taking place on Saturday, 11th March, followed by the series closing lunch and prizegiving, which is always a good time. Last year saw the typical Frostbites fleets joined by Waterwags, GP14s, IDRA14s, RS600s and more! Notice of Race and Entry is available.

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Looking back from the current ultra-cold snap, it was typical Howth luck on Sunday when the Spring Series managed to zap through a couple of sunlit races before the change to freezing came, with the mercury falling through the floor while snow threatened. Admittedly sailors had to deal with a gusty westerly breeze, in addition to a flood tide throwing up some choppy waters, but Wexford's Ronan Wallace (7), Dun Laoghaire's Marco Sorgassi (6), Aisling Kelly (4) and Daragh Sheridan (PY) all had successful days, with each taking a win in both races for their fleets. The series regulars were joined by Conor Twohig & Matthew Cotter's GP14, with rumours spreading of even more GP14s to join for the remainder of the series and the upcoming Round the Island Race in March.

The 14-knot breeze, with gusts up to 23, was thankfully less shifty than last week's outing.

Conor Twohig & Matthew Cotter's GP 14 hopes to bring more classmates to the PY Division in next Sunday's racingConor Twohig & Matthew Cotter's GP 14 hopes to bring more classmates to the PY Division in next Sunday's racing

Ronan Wallace took home two 1sts in the ILCA 7s, but they were far from easy wins, as Rory Lynch of Baltimore and Dan O'Connell of Cobh fought him every step of the way around the triangular courses. Oisin Hughes shows consistency with four 4th places, and if there are lighter days to come then he'll be right up there in the podium places. The series' two firsts each for Lynch and Wallace leave them tied at the top of the table, but with 14 more races in the series, anything could happen.

The ILCA 6s had one of their top turnouts of the year so far, but Marco Sorgassi continued his dominance with another two wins, allowing him the rare honour of discarding a 1st place. Dave Kirwan, usually in an ILCA 7, stepped into an ILCA 6 for the day and came home with two 2nd places. Fiachra Farrelly, Darragh Peelo and Charlie Savage filled out the remaining spots in that order in both races.

Baltimore Style. Rory Lynch demonstrates a West Cork technique for minimising wetted area on the runBaltimore Style. Rory Lynch demonstrates a West Cork technique for minimising wetted area on the run

Rush's Aisling Kelly took home two 1sts in the ILCA 4s, while Riaghan Boardman and Viktor Samoilovs battled it out behind her. Riaghan and Viktor took home a 2nd and a 3rd each. Competition is sure to heat up inthe ILCA 4s, as from next week, HYC's Aoife Hopkins is leading training sessions that tie in with the racing each Sunday.

 Conor Murphy leading a group home as the long-forecast deterioration in the weather begins to manifest itself in the clouds to the northwest Conor Murphy leading a group home as the long-forecast deterioration in the weather begins to manifest itself in the clouds to the northwest

The PY fleet saw usual HYC suspects Daragh Sheridan's RS Aero and Jeremy Beshoff's B14 out on the course, taking 1st and 2nd respectively in each race ahead of the GP14.

Full results from Sunday's racing are available here. The HYC Dinghy Frostbite series runs for another seven weekends, and is followed by the annual Round the Island Race on March 11th.

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The Spring series of the HYC Dinghy Frostbites kicked off on Sunday, 8th January, after a brief hiatus since the Winter series wrapped up before Christmas. A New Year’s Day Race had bridged the gap for some of the competitors, but for most - who come from many different clubs, some remarkably distant - Sunday with some welcome sunshine was their first venture on the water in 2023 writes Conor Murphy

A moderate south-westerly breeze greeted the ILCA and PY fleets to the racecourse, where the race committee got two races away cleanly in quick succession. An ebb tide, along with shifty and patchy conditions, meant the competitors all had to be tuned in to every lift and header to be near the front of their fleet.

BALTIMORE AND WEXFORD BATTLE IT OUT

In the ILCA 7s, Baltimore’s Rory Lynch and Wexford’s Ronan Wallace had close battles all the way around the course in both races, with Rory Lynch ultimately holding out and taking first in both races. HYC’s Stephen Quinn, Oisin Hughes and Dan O’Connell rounded out the top 5, forming a leading pack that was tough to break into. The shifty conditions led to a lot of position changes around the course, but consistency was the name of the game.

Vinnie Barley keeping things nicely under controlVinnie Barley keeping things nicely under control

Marco Sorgassi of Dun Laoghaire again showed the rest of the ILCA 6s his stern for most of the race, along with a lot of the ILCA 7s having a similar view of the rapid Royal St George sailor, with Darragh Peelo and the host club's Fiachra Farrelly followed with two seconds and two thirds respectively.

In the ILCA 4s, Aisling Kelly and Riaghan Boardman traded 1st and 3rd in the two races, while Viktor Samoilovs showed his consistency coming home with 2nd in both races. All 3 are tied on 4 points, setting them up for a close series

The PY fleet had a diverse range of competitors and welcomed back Mike Evan’s RS800 and Jeremy Beshoff’s B14 after a brief absence for both.

They were joined by the RS Aeros of Daragh Sheridan and Abby Kinsella. The RS Aeros won the day, with Daragh and Abby taking 1st and 2nd in both races, respectively.

The Spring series runs until Sunday 5th March, and it’s not too late to enter to join for the eight remaining weeks.

The trainer in training - Daragh Sheridan of STI with his double-winning RS AeroThe trainer in training - Daragh Sheridan of STI with his double-winning RS Aero

ROUND THE ISLAND RACE DATE SET

The winter series is roundeded out by the open annual Round the Island Race on Saturday 11th March, the last Saturday before St Patrick's Day holiday A big turnout of dinghies from around Dublin is expected, so keep an eye out for the Notice of Race and Entry, which will be published shortly.

Results below

Published in Howth YC
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The selection of Howth Yacht Club as Ireland’s latest MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year Award” represents a remarkable harmony of achievement between the competition winners and the sponsors, with Howth Yacht Club becoming “Sailing Club of the Year 2023” as the all-electric MG4EV is acclaimed as Ireland’s “Car of the Year 2023”.

Howth YC came rocketing in style and readiness out of the global pandemic’s frustrations to find itself in a 2022 season of remarkable achievement at home, on the national scene, and abroad at the top international level. And it has been a time of record club membership, with numbers totalling 2,173 in all categories undertaking a hugely varied range of activities afloat and ashore at all stages of competitiveness.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

This vividly reflects the club’s dynamic interaction both with the community on its home peninsula, and with a more widely-spread membership, some of whom are happy to travel significant distances to get to Howth – in several cases internationally - in order to enjoy the special “Howth sailing and boating product”. This has developed so successfully over the years that 2023 is the sixth occasion on which Howth YC will be holding the top club title in the 44 years of this informal inter-club contest’s existence, a record of achievement matched only by the National Yacht Club of Dun Laoghaire and the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven.

MG4 EV “CAR OF THE YEAR 2023”

Like Howth Yacht Club, sponsors MG Motor enter 2023 on a real high. The international company has been facing the challenge of developing an affordable electric car for some years now, and while impressive progress had been made with several models, it has only been in recent months that the real breakthrough has come with universal approval for the MG4 EV family saloon.

The Howth Yacht Club marina/clubhouse complex was initially created literally “out of nothing” in the empty and dry-at-low-tide southeast corner of Howth Harbour between 1981 and 1987, with additions and improvements continuing ever sinceThe Howth Yacht Club marina/clubhouse complex was initially created literally “out of nothing” in the empty and dry-at-low-tide southeast corner of Howth Harbour between 1981 and 1987, with additions and improvements continuing ever since

This “hot-hatch” variant of the award-winning MG4 EV will become available during 2023This “hot-hatch” variant of the award-winning MG4 EV will become available during 2023

In Ireland, this breakthrough first came late in 2022 with lavish praise from the Sunday Business Post. But it was in December that the “we’re walking on air” level of recognition was reached, when all The Irish Times motoring writers enthusiastically agreed that the MG 4EV was The Irish Times “Car of the Year 2023”.

Sailing people are more aware than most of the benefits of clean air and the potential of different environmentally-friendly and relatively noise-free methods of generating motive power for vehicles afloat and ashore. So this happy coincidence of mutual acclamation for two outstanding organisations is a matter of special celebration in a world in which good news seems to have become a rare commodity.  

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

HOWTH’S SENSE OF CONTINUITY KEY TO SUCCESS

In announcing Howth YC’s success today, we have to take a snapshot of the club as it is now. But of course, like all successful sailing organisations, it is a strong sense of continuity in administration afloat and ashore, combined with sailing enthusiasm and success on the water, that keeps things humming smoothly along, with the regular Changes of the Watch at the Annual General Meetings reflecting the quietly renewing pool of people willing to serve an organisation of this size, complexity and energy.

Incoming HYC Commodore Neil Murphy has participated and served in sailing in Howth, in Ireland, and internationally for many years. Photo: W M NixonIncoming HYC Commodore Neil Murphy has participated and served in sailing in Howth, in Ireland, and internationally for many years. Photo: W M Nixon

Thus it was as recently as December 13th that Vice Commodore Neil Murphy – who for very many years has put even more into sailing than he takes out of it -  succeeded cruiser-racer skipper Paddy Judge as HYC Commodore. But it was the end-of-year announcement of Afloat.ie’s December “Sailor of the Month (Services to Sailing)” national award to Paddy Judge which was able to highlight the fact that his period of service had gone way beyond ascending the ladder in the officer ranks, as he had been the club’s voluntary General Manager for the difficult years as HYC – like clubs everywhere – dealt with and then recovered from the massive problems posed by the economic recession of 2009-2012.

In doing this he was ably supported throughout by Honorary Secretary Bernie Condy, who continues with her customarily under-stated yet very effective dedication to HYC. But the running of the club on a day-to-day basis was restored to normality with the appointment of Aideen Doran as General Manager in September 2020 in time for Paddy Judge to take over as Commodore in December of that year.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

HOWTH PENINSULA GEOGRAPHICALLY DEFINED ITS OWN PANDEMIC RESTRICTIONS

He succeeded Ian Byrne, who had drawn the short straw in being Commodore during the most intense periods of pandemic lockdown. But Ian had provided exemplary leadership through personally acquainting himself with each and every last detail of the new regulations and limitations in order to permit sailing at Howth whenever possible.

Ian Byrne (Commodore 2018-2020) and Paddy Judge defining the two metre inter-person pandemic limit at the clubhouseIan Byrne (Commodore 2018-2020) and Paddy Judge defining the two metre inter-person pandemic limit at the clubhouse

The Howth peninsula came into its own as a clearly defined naturally distance-limiting compliant area for in-bubble activity, and one of the fascinations of it all – as the vaccination programme got under way – was the discovery that the peninsula had more healthy inhabitants over the age of 85 than the authorities had fully realised. Of course they were all on some GP’s register, but as the fittest of them never bothered their doctors very much from one year to the next, it was an agreeable surprise to discover just how many sprightly ninety years olds there were about the place.

RAVE AT THE WAVE

This spirited attitude is reflected in the fact that Howth Yacht Club doesn’t behave like a 128-year-old organisation burdened by its long history. On the contrary, if you’d been at the rave night or some other special during the club’s nationally-contested biennial Wave Regatta at the beginning of June (when the overall winner was Howth’s own Demot Skehan with his vintage MG34 Toughnut) you could have been forgiven for thinking this was some volume-enhanced pop-up setup which would be completely gone by Monday. 

Overall wnner Dermot Skehan with his successful Toughnut crew and Commodore Paddy Judge at the Howth Wave Regatta in JuneOverall wnner Dermot Skehan with his successful Toughnut crew and Commodore Paddy Judge at the Howth Wave Regatta in June

Equally, the club’s senior class - the 1898-established jackyard tops’l toting Howth 17s, designed by founding Commodore Walter Boyd, do not see themselves as sacred relics to be lovingly preserved by their owners on a curator and caretaker basis. On the contrary, the key people in keeping the class thriving down the years, mad keen sailors such as Nick Massey, Peter Courtney and Ian Malcolm, have done so on the basis that the Seventeens are all there to provide first class one design racing,

The 17ft Class Association members expect to have at least 60 races per year, with the 125th Anniversary in 2023 being enhanced by the fleet upping sticks in late June and taking themselves to Baltimore in West Cork – led by Class Captain Dave O’Shea - for the special 125th birthday bash, and much racing.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

COMMUNITY SPIRIT

The perfect topsail set on a Howth 17 by Peter Courtney’s 1911-built Oonagh (right) in close competition with the 2019-built Orla. Photo: Neil MurphyThe perfect topsail set on a Howth 17 by Peter Courtney’s 1911-built Oonagh (right) in close competition with the 2019-built Orla. Photo: Neil Murphy

The Seventeens personify the community spirit of Howth sailing, seen at its best back in March 2018 when Storm Emma flattened the shed on the East Pier in which seven Seventeens were in winter storage. In a first pessimistic assessment, it was reckoned maybe five were write-offs. But in the end, only one was a complete re-build, the rest were restored through the skills of boatbuilder Larry Archer, and a happy dream came true in August 2022 when the 1907-built Rosemary – dubbed the IKEA boat after being found as little more than a flat-pack after Emma came to call – went so well in her restored condition that helmsman Davy Jones won the closely-contested National Championship for his co-owners George Curley and David Potter by a whisker, at something like the fifth stage of a points countback.

Davy Jones and crew celebrate their extremely close win of the Howth 17 Nationals in August 2022 with Rosemary.  Photo: Patricia NixonDavy Jones and crew celebrate their extremely close win of the Howth 17 Nationals in August 2022 with Rosemary.  Photo: Patricia Nixon

“The IKEA Flatpack Boat” – Rosemary as she was in March 2018, after Strom Emma had swept through Howth“The IKEA Flatpack Boat” – Rosemary as she was in March 2018, after Strom Emma had swept through Howth

Meanwhile the Boat of the Year on a season-long points basis was Davy Nixon’s Erica, unusual for having been built in a shed at Howth Castle in 1988 when the St Lawrence family were still in residence after 817 years. As it happens, one of Howth’s significant occurrences in 2022 was the departure of the St Lawrence family after 851 years in the castle. But there are four very ancient Howth families which pre-dated them still in residence in the village, and as like as not you’ll find one of them sailing against or in the Brains’ Trust, which campaigns Erica, where the crew panel includes Fred Connolly who is both the HYC Marina Superintendent and the Howth Lifeboat cox’n, while another notable on the strength is the Peninsula’s computer genius and AI expert, who’ll have the answer to your high-tech query before you’ve even thought of the question.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

HOWTH MOVES TO WICKLOW

This sense of a supportive Howth community emerged in an unusual way at the start of the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow on June 18th. Mike & Richie Evans of Howth had entered their successful little regatta-winning J/99 Snapshot for what was to be her first major offshore race. But though Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules from Howth has been an impressive Round Ireland performer in times past, the old salts on the waterfront wasted no time in telling the Evans brothers that they were taking on a notoriously tough race in what was little more than a glorified day sailer.

Where else would you get a lighthouse with flower-filled window-boxes? The reassuring presence of HYC Senior Committee Boat Star Point - aka “The Men’s Shed Afloat” -  entering Howth Harbour. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyWhere else would you get a lighthouse with flower-filled window-boxes? The reassuring presence of HYC Senior Committee Boat Star Point - aka “The Men’s Shed Afloat” -  entering Howth Harbour. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Thus in his report of the race for the HYC Website, Mike Evans noted how reassuring it was to find that HYC’s senior Committee Boat Star Point had been recruited down to Wicklow to start the Round Ireland Race in the absence of the usual Naval Service vessel. In Howth the more irreverent may refer to Star Point as the “Men’s Shed Afloat”, but for Snapshot’s crew it was almost as though they were going off on an evening race at home rather than taking on the world and the largely unknown challenge of the Atlantic.

The Evans brothers’ J/99 Snapshot under Wicklow Head at the start of her successful Round Ireland Race, which contributed to her becoming ICRA Boat of the Year. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O/BrienThe Evans brothers’ J/99 Snapshot under Wicklow Head at the start of her successful Round Ireland Race, which contributed to her becoming ICRA Boat of the Year. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O/Brien

They soared through the race, frequently leading overall, and though the cards hadn’t fallen their way in the final stage, the masterly way in which they short-tacked along the beach inside the worst of the foul tide in the final miles to the finish saw Snapshot move up the rankings to a close second overall and comfortably first of all the Irish entries, an achievement which made a major contribution to her being declared the “ICRA Boat of the Year 2022”. 

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT

With a regularly-competing international lineup which includes Rob Dickson contesting the 49er to World Champion level with Sean Waddilove of Skerries as crew, plus Eve McMahon, Rocco Wright and Luke Turvey leading the charge as very junior yet seriously competitive  ILCA/Laser contenders, Howth finds itself sharing their success with all Ireland. But either way, there’s no denying that Eve brought back at least two Gold Medals from world level contests, while Rocco had at least one and many other successes at home, so the future for Howth and Ireland looks bright, with new talent such as Harry Dunne coming up through the Optimist ranks.

ILCAWorlds Gold Medallist Eve McMahon welcomed back to Dublin Airport by her parents Vicky and JimILCAWorlds Gold Medallist Eve McMahon welcomed back to Dublin Airport by her parents Vicky and Jim

That said, more senior campaigners should be given every credit when success is achieved, and Howth’s leading J/80 international campaigner -Pat O’Neill who had already carved out big wins in Europe  - went to the US in 2022 for the J/80 worlds at Newport, and returned with the Bronze, a notable success wrested from the core of the J/80 heartlands.

J/80 World Championship Bronze Medallist Pat O’Neill (second left) with his crew in Newport, Rhode IslandJ/80 World Championship Bronze Medallist Pat O’Neill (second left) with his crew in Newport, Rhode Island

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

FORTY YEARS OF THE MARINA

At home meanwhile, Howth was quietly celebrating the 40th Anniversary of its marina in the best possible way, by using it at full capacity for a continuous programme of sailing training for all ages, an intense fixture list of club racing events, and the hosting of majors. Among these, the J/24 Europeans was a highlight, with Howth’s own David Lovegrove officiating in his role as an International Race Officer at one of several majors which resulted in his spending 25 days during 2022 afloat and actively administering significant championships.

Race Officer David Lovegrove at his work. Commodore of Howth Yacht Club for its Centenary in 1995, he is busier than ever these days, spending a total 25 days afloat in 2022 running major sailing events. Photo: Judith MalcolmRace Officer David Lovegrove at his work. Commodore of Howth Yacht Club for its Centenary in 1995, he is busier than ever these days, spending a total 25 days afloat in 2022 running major sailing events. Photo: Judith Malcolm

But for most folk, the marina is a friendly and rewarding place to keep a boat, and ever since it came into being, the club’s largest single section has been the Cruising Group. First convened in the 1980s by Gary McGuire, and larger and more active than ever these days with its record of achievement since 1982 including Pat and Olivia Murphy’s really excellent nine-year global circumnavigation with their 40ft cutter Aldebaran, in many ways the Cruising Group is what HYC is all about.

As for the future, 2023 is already well set up with the Howth programme book-ended by the National Youth Championship in April and the ICRA Nationals at the beginning of September. Looking at Howth’s busy and well-filled sailing and fishing harbour today, you might well think the basics of it have been there for a very long time. But the fact is that only forty years ago what is now the highly active and successful clubhouse/marina setup was no more than an enormous pit in the harbour, and filling it in the most useful possible way required a very special club and community effort whose spirit is happily stronger than ever today.

Howth Yacht Club and Marina today. Forty years ago, this was empty space, and still a dream whose fulfillment required enormous club and community effortHowth Yacht Club and Marina today. Forty years ago, this was empty space, and still a dream whose fulfillment required enormous club and community effort

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After missing out on racing the previous week due to a piercing easterly gale, the race officers of the HYC Dinghy Frostbites – which has attracted entries from clubs near and far - decided that three races would be run on 11th December, instead of the usual two writes Conor Murphy, This effort to catch up on races was welcomed by the sailors across the fleets, as all eyed up an opportunity to climb another place or two in the series results, which remain tight across the board.

The eagerness of the sailors was muted somewhat by a stiff northerly breeze, stronger than expected. More than one sailor who had over-indulged in the Christmas buildup on the previous evening - after looking at a light and pleasant forecast - was left contemplating the outcome of those choices made in the merriment of the night before. The northerly breeze imposed order on the launching process, but once sailors made it to the race course, they arrived to a laid Olympic course; shorter than usual, to allow the three races to be completed before any frostbite set in. All fleets started together each time, and were well behaved to get away cleanly.

Daragh Kelleher of Skerries staving off the challenge of Dan O’Connell of Cove in the Howth racing. Photo: HYCDaragh Kelleher of Skerries staving off the challenge of Dan O’Connell of Cove in the Howth racing. Photo: HYC

In the ILCA 7s, the same four -- Ronan Wallace of Wexford, Rory Lynch of Baltimore, Daragh Kelleher of Skerries and Dan O’Connell of Cove - battled it out around the racecourse each time, swapping places at each corner and fighting until the finish line. Conor Murphy trailed the leading pack each time, never quite breaking into it, finishing 5th in each race. Dave Kirwan of Malahide and Stephen Quinn of Howth battled it out for 6th and 7th in each race, swapping positions more than once. Ronan Wallace leads the series by 7 points, and only 2 points separate Daragh and Rory in 2nd and 3rd, so it’ll be close-racing to close out the series.

Munster v Leinster….Rory Lynch (Baltimore SC) leading Ronan Wallace (Wexford HB&TC) and Dan O'Connell (Cove SC) to the leeward markMunster v Leinster….Rory Lynch (Baltimore SC) leading Ronan Wallace (Wexford HB&TC) and Dan O'Connell (Cove SC) to the leeward mark

In the ILCA 6s, Marco Sorgassi (Royal St George YC) demonstrated why he’s leading the series with a solid three bullets, beating many of the ILCA 7s around the course at the same time. Hugh Delap, Fiachra Farrelly and Una Connell filled out the rest of the fleet. While Marco has a 10-point gap to Hugh in 2nd, only 3 points separate Hugh and Fiachra in 3rd, so it’s all to play for on the 18th December.

In the ILCA 4s, Aisling Kelly had a stormer and clinched three 1sts, leaving Riaghan Boardman (Rush), Maebh Butterly and Charlie Power fighting it out over the remaining spots. Riaghan leads the overall series, but with only 2.5 points between him and Aisling; if Aisling keeps her form, then it’ll come down to the wire next week.

The PY Fleet saw Daragh Sheridan (Howth) continue his dominance with another 3 wins in his RS Aero 7, while Abby Kinsella (RS Aero 6) and Howth’s Hugo Micks (Fireball) fought it out for 2nd and 3rd places. Hugo leads the series overall, but Daragh and Abby are close on his heels.

Having a ball……Hugo Micks (HYC) with his classic Fireball leads the PY Division despite being up against much more modern designs. Photo: HYCHaving a ball……Hugo Micks (HYC) with his classic Fireball leads the PY Division despite being up against much more modern designs. Photo: HYC

While the pre-Christmas series wraps up this coming weekend on the 18th of December if a possible predicted gale doesn’t materialise, there’s plenty more Frostbite sailing yet to come:

  • The New Year's Day race will go ahead as usual, with a slightly later start time. All entrants from the pre-Christmas series are entered automatically, and it's a surefire way to blow away the cobwebs!
  • The Spring HYC Frostbite series kicks off on Sunday, 8th January, 2023, and will run each Sunday until 5th March.
  • The famous Round the Island Race takes place on Saturday, 11th March, where everyone and every dinghy is invited to race around Ireland's Eye, finding the quickest route in either direction.

Overall results can be found below

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A well-attended Annual General Meeting at Howth Yacht Club last night (Tuesday) saw Commodore Paddy Judge standing down after a period of service which was much longer than his time as Commodore would suggest, as he also stood in as Honorary General Manager for a significant period as the club adjusted to rapidly changing circumstances.

This management structure saw it successfully transformed into a thriving organisation with more than 2,000 members when all categories are included, while 2022 - its 40th year operating its own marina - saw a remarkable range of trophies being won by members at home and abroad.

Having served as Vice Commodore and in many other capacities both in Howth and at national level for many years, Puppeteer 22 skipper Neil Murphy takes on the mantle of Commodore. And while it is now some years since Breda Dillon was HYC's first female Commodore, it is encouraging to see that several noted women sailors are included in the new Board of Directors elected at the Annual General Meeting. The following members were elected to serve on the Board for next year: 

Neil Murphy, Commodore
Kevin Monks, Vice Commodore
Christina Knowles, Rear Commodore
Gary Cullen, Rear Commodore

Caoimhin O'Laoi, Honorary Treasurer
Bernie Condy, Honorary Secretary
Emmet Dalton, Honorary Sailing Secretary

Cormac Farrelly, Committee Member
Lara Jameson, Committee Member
Robert Kennedy, Committee Member
Tom McMahon, Committee Member
Jill Sommerville, Committee Member
Darren Wright, Committee Member 

With more than 2,000 members, Howth Yacht Club's celebrations in 2022 have included marking 40 years of operating its own marinaWith more than 2,000 members, Howth Yacht Club's celebrations in 2022 have included marking 40 years of operating its own marina

The new Board is looking forward to a successful year of sailing and social events at the Club. Under the leadership of Neil Murphy and the incoming Board, the Club will continue to promote the sport of sailing and to maximise the opportunities for both its members and for newcomers to enjoy the beautiful waters off Howth.

The Club would like to thank outgoing Commodore, Paddy Judge, and the retiring Board members for their hard work and commitment and looks forward with excitement to the start of 2023 activity in just two weeks' time.

New Year's Day racing for dinghies and keelboats will get a very busy year underway, during which Howth YC will host the Irish Sailing Youth Nationals, as well as the National Championships for both the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) and the ILCA (formerly Laser) Class.

The Changing of the Watch at Howth Yacht Club - Paddy Judge hands over to Neil MurphyThe Changing of the Watch at Howth Yacht Club - Paddy Judge hands over to Neil Murphy

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The HYC Dinghy Frostbites kicked off its 2022/2023 season in perfect conditions on Sunday, with 40 boats entered, blue skies, and a warm southerly breeze putting on a special show of benevolence for the first of the planned 18 weekends of dinghy racing writes Conor Murphy.

The regulars welcomed newcomers from all over Dublin and further afield.

Also joining the fleet were some long-time HYC members - lately more used to keels and crew delegation - who have swapped their usual chariots to experience hiking pads, toe-straps, and the challenges of verticality - welcome to Colin and Ronan. The 22/23 series is a first for the long-running event in that a PY class is competing alongside the traditional Laser/ILCA competitors.

Racing kicked off after a slight delay, due to the shifting southerly breeze coming over the Head. A highly qualified team of Neil Murphy, Richard Kissane, and Liam Dineen started all the Classes together. The strong ebb tide, and an excess of enthusiasm by some to bag a front-row spot, saw the fleet immediately earn the first General Recall of the winter. A successful restart under the U flag sent the fleet on their triangular course.

Due to some challenges in finding the gybe mark (or at least the correct one from the selection available) in the rougher water of the Sound, a windward-leeward course was set for the second race, which got away cleanly on the first attempt.

Competition is tight across all ILCA fleets, with 4 of the top 5 Irish-ranked sailors competing in the ILCA 7 fleet. The 7s saw very close racing with multiple lead changes throughout both races, as each sailor sought the best breeze and least tide on a challenging race track.

Series regulars Ronan Wallace of Wexford (1, 2) and Daragh Kelleher of Skerries (3, 1) lead the fleet, followed by event newcomer Rory Lynch (2, 3). A special shout-out goes to Conor Costello for finishing the first race before accepting defeat and acknowledging that the bung is definitely a critical piece of equipment and best fixed in the transom
before going afloat - he thankfully made it back to the Club before going into full submarine mode.

The ILCA 6 fleet saw extra competition this year, with two Dun Laoghaire Masters joining the fray. RStGYC’s Marco Sorgassi showed the fleet a clean pair of heels with two wins, showing good pace to keep up with a lot of the ILCA 7s. HYC’s Una Connell follows, leaving Hugh Delap and Fiachra Farrelly tied in 3rd.

A strong turnout in the ILCA 4s sees Howth’s Cillian Twomey leading the pack, with Ciara McMahon, Des Turvey, and Aisling Kelly trailing, only a point separating them.

The new PY fleet had a mix of participants and is being led by ex-ILCA 4 sailor Abby Kinsella in her RS Aero 6, winning convincingly over Aoibhinn Farrelly’s RS Feva and Hugo Micka’s Fireball. Competition is sure to ramp up over the coming weeks, with more RS Aeros already entered, as well as an RS800.

The series continues next week, and all dinghies from all clubs are welcome to take part in some of the best winter racing in the country.

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The growing Irish RS Aero fleet closed out its summer season with a blustery Eastern Championships in Howth Yacht Club on the Hallowe’en Weekend. Thrills, spills and tactical racing were the order of the day, while shifting winds and strong tides gave the competitors something extra to think about while trying to keep the boat upright.

Top UK Aero sailor Peter Barton from Lymington (where the surname ‘Barton’ is sailing royalty) led a pre-event coaching day on Friday. It’s a testament to the International Aero community how generous the leading sailors are in sharing their tips for success. And the takeaway from this was there is no substitute for time in the boat – it was a shared experience and not at all a hard sell for the RS Aero.

Racing was postponed on Saturday due to torrential rain and blustery winds. Sunday provided champagne conditions to complete four races. Racing was held in the Sound close to Ireland’s Eye, where it was important to be aware of the tidal flow.

Local sailor Paul McMahon may have been out of his usual role at the front of the Puppeteer 22 fleet, but he showed some good late season Aero RS form, taking three wins from four races. Despite that, racing was actually very close. The overall result was still up for grabs on the last beat of the last race, with Peter Barton getting caught out of the tide and on the wrong end of a wind shift, allowing Paul to take the final race and title.

Daragh Sheridan of HYC coming in under an “interesting” sky to take third overallDaragh Sheridan of HYC coming in under an “interesting” sky to take third overall

Irish Champion Daragh Sheridan finished in third, one point behind Peter, with a seriously consistent score-line never outside the top three, while visiting Dublin Bay and Strangford Lough sailors Noel Butler and Hammy Baker rounded out the top five.

First Master from Greystones in his ILCA 6 rig was Roy Van Maanen, with new Aero owner Abby Kinsella taking first Youth and Female. Thanks from the Irish Aero RS Class to all involved in running the event, INSS for providing spares, support and prizes, Rooster Sailing providing plenty of goodies and Howth Yacht Club for providing top class hospitality.

HYC Vice Commodore Neil Murphy with Paul McMahon, Aero RS Eastern Champion 2022HYC Vice Commodore Neil Murphy with Paul McMahon, Aero RS Eastern Champion 2022

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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