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Irish Sailing and Howth Yacht Club have decided that it will not be possible to hold the Youth Sailing Nationals in compliance with current advice issued from HSE over Coronavirus spread.

It is not possible to run an event of this size and comply with separation protocols on the shore, and although these are currently in place until 29th March, HYC and Irish Sailing have taken the decision now to postpone the event, giving everyone as much notice as possible.

Details of the rescheduled event now planned sometime in the Autumn will follow.

Published in ISA

Howth Yacht Club has decided to move its WAVE Regatta from the end of May to 11-13th September.

The decision comes today as the Government moved to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

WAVE Regatta is the first of the Summer's big Irish sailing regattas and along with the second edition of the three-day event, the club's traditional Lambay Races will also move to the Autumn date.

The schedule will continue to offer keelboat classes the options of racing in the 3-day regatta or a single-day entry for Saturday’s Lambay Races.

More on the new date as we have it.

Published in Howth YC

All-Ireland Junior Champion Chris Bateman of Monkstown Bay SC on Cork Harbour and seasoned participant Ronan Wallace of Wexford showed that local knowledge is not a pre-requisite to success in taking the top places in the time-honoured Round Ireland’s Eye Race, which on Saturday concluded Howth YC’s traditional Laser Winter Frostbite Series, a fixture event since 1974.

With the breeze already brisk and forecast to build, some of the competitors decided that discretion was better than valour and spectating had distinct advantages. The remaining 15 Standards and 3 Radials headed out for the Warm-up, or to be more accurate, Cool-down Race in the Sound. As a concession to the conditions - south-westerly gusting to 20 knots and changeable in direction - and to avoid wearing the sailors out too early, the ‘three triangles’ course was signalled by the Race Committee, always popular with the fleet on windy days when running dead downwind in a Laser with the water temperature below 10oC becomes unappealing.

A general recall showed the fleet was well up for the day and a U flag was broken out for the restart with Chris Bateman, visiting from Monkstown Bay SC for the day’s racing, being the only casualty. With swimming practice well underway, there was a ferocious battle between 4 or 5 sailors to avoid finishing last, with positions gained and lost on each leg as they each struggled to get to grips with the conditions.

Conor Costello was involved for a while but his heavy weather ability allowed him to break away, leaving Zander Mackay and Mark Kennedy to fight it out for the honour of being the last finisher - but with bragging rights over the retirees - before Mark ultimately took the place due to an unfortunate capsize at the last mark rounding. At the front of the fleet, the honours were equally hard-fought before Ronan Wallace took the gun in the Standards and Peter Kilmartin led the Radials home.

sheltered water2Close quarters racing inshore before the offshore sections provided a “Capsizefest”
Paul McMahon and Darach Dinneen gave a masterclass in tactical thinking by opting to skip the warm-up race in favour of last-minute refreshments ashore, staying fresh and dry to then increase the fleet for the main event round the multi-faceted and challenging Ireland’s Eye. By the time of its start, the conditions had become even more challenging, with the dense-air breeze now regularly heading for the mid-twenties and a steeply-building sea. The late arrivals joined the rest of a fleet by now somewhat tired and wet and were rewarded with a clean start for the concluding highlight.

What followed would later be described as a fast, memorable, terrifying and challenging Capsizefest, with lots of what older generations of Laser sailors are rumoured to have called ‘orgasmic planing’.

A feature of the event is that sailors have the choice of leaving the Island to port or starboard, their assessment based on the impact of wind direction, tide, sea state and the extent of wind shadowing expected from the Island’s high points. Only two sailors, both in Standard rigs, chose the clockwise route this year, Mike Evans doing best of them to eventually finish fourth. The second decided to head for home after reaching his self-imposed capsize limit before reaching the Martello Tower at the north-west end of the Island, with approximately a fifth of distance completed and the long legs along the north and east still to do.

For those choosing anti-clockwise, sailing into an ebb tide on the seaward side of the island with a very confused win-over-tide sea to deal with at the corners meant the rounding of the southern tip and the Stack challenged many, resulting in lots of shiny hull bottoms being put on display as capsizes quickly turned into energy-sapping turtles. Having swum and sailed their way around, the leading pack rounded the northwest corner at the Martello Tower to head down the Sound for the finish with a close battle still underway in both fleets, the outcome being mainly determined by who had the fewest capsizes and most energy left.

Chris Bateman’s victory in his first outing at the event gave the Standard rig sailors with more experience of the local waters a lot to think about, and his return next year to defend his title - allowing them a chance to redeem their pride - is much anticipated. Ronan Wallace and Darragh Sheridan filled the remaining podium positions while in the Radials, Peter Hassett was the top survivor, followed by Peter Kilmartin in second.

chris bateman wins3 He came, he saw, he conquered…..Chris Bateman’s debut in Howth’s classic Laser race Round Ireland’s Eye was a convincing success. He is seen here (left) with Howth Laser Captain Zander Mackay.

The fleet adjourned to the Clubhouse to ease tired bodies, rehydrate, share tales of adventure and enjoy the lunch and prizegiving for the Frostbite and Round the Island.

Next event for the Laser fleet is Howth’s Icebreaker Series (Sundays, March 22nd – Apr 12th) before the 2020 Laser Class Leinster Championship is hosted at HYC on the weekend of May 9/10.

Published in Howth YC
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Howth and its peninsula have been actively interacting with the sea since recorded history began, and instances of Howth children being taken sailing date back at least to the famous visit of Connacht’s sea queen Granuaille to Howth in the 1590s and beyond

On that occasion, the Lord of Howth was absent from the castle, and the fiery woman sailor from Mayo felt that his staff failed in their duties of hospitality. So she took the son and heir away in her sailing ship until an apology was received. All was harmoniously resolved in due course, and ever since then an extra place has been laid for dinner each evening in Howth Castle in order to welcome any unexpected visitor.

These days, Howth is a byword for hospitality, sailing and schools. Yet despite the peninsula being home to many boats, there are still some local children who miss out on the chance of getting to learn about sailing despite many school-aimed courses being run at the clubs.

But now a pilot scheme is being introduced this year by Howth Yacht Club through its sailing & powerboat training brand Quest Howth, introducing a new boats and sailing Bursary Programme. It’s on offer to pupils at the four primary schools in the immediate Howth/Sutton area - the Burrow NS, St. Fintan’s NS, Scoil Mhuire NS and Sutton Park. The bursary is aimed at children between 1st and 3rd class, and it offers one voucher for a one week course in HYC’s successful Cara Na Mara programme.

The voucher can be split between 2 children, which means they pay 50% of the normal course fee - this is to be made at the time of application. Deadline for applications from each school must be received by 31st March and final booking can be made on or before the 15th April.

This bursary is designed to encourage participation in the sport of sailing by a child who otherwise may not have had any previous connections or links to the sailing world, or the opportunity of learning to sail.

The Cara Na Mara programme is a child-focused approach which introduces children to sailing, allowing them to discover, explore and practice the skills and knowledge they need as sailors, while under the leadership and supervision of Irish Sailing qualified instructors. The children are placed in groups of six, under guidance of an instructor and an assistant instructor in a 6:2 ratio.

The children learn to sail in Picos which can accommodate more than one sailor at a time, and allows children to sail with their friends. Elements of the S.T.E.M programme, (Wind and Wave; Tide and Navigation etc) are introduced during the week through hands-on learning, and the courses include a healthy lunch each day of hot food and fruit.
Each school has been asked to nominate a child after informing parents of this opportunity requesting expressions of interest. The exact format can be left to each school, but all applications must be in with Howth Yacht Club by the 31st March each year. The school’s expression of interest or nomination should include why the school feels this child is particularly suitable to avail of the bursary, and must be accompanied by the parent/guardian’s approval to take part in the course.

The nominations can be dropped into the office or emailed to [email protected] .

For further details on the course please see the link below or please call HYC on (01) 8322141 or here. Howth YC is also staging its Sailing Information Evening tonight (Thursday 5th March at 7.30pm), and any parents are welcome to come along and find out more about the Quest Howth Sailing Courses.

Published in Howth YC
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Howth Yacht Club will welcome the Irish Sailing team racing roadshow funded by BIM - Bord Iascaigh Mhara - (Ireland's Seafood Development Agency) which is designed to attract sailors between the ages of 14 – 30 from around the area, it is not just for members of HYC.

The Roadshow will start at 10 am on Saturday 7th March and run for two days. Team Racing is a fun and inexpensive way for clubs to attract young dinghy sailors after they have left the structured environs of class youth racing or the Irish Sailing Training Schemes. All boats and instructors will be there on the day, all sailors have to do is turn up in their winter sailing gear. Given the time of year, we would advise that sailors have sufficient dinghy sailing competency to cope with reasonable winds and colder climes. With a focus on rules knowledge, boat handling, tactics and team building, the programme will further develop transferable skills and give rise to skilled and competitive racing in a very sociable environment. Participants have the option of doing both days or just one day if they prefer and the cost is €30 for one day or €50 for both. See the event flyer here for more details.

This initiative came from active Howth Yacht Club member, Darragh O'Connor who teaches in Sutton Park School and is heavily involved in sailing himself. Darragh first started team racing in Schull community college which he says hugely benefited him in his college sailing days and he was hooked, not only by the competitive but fun racing but also by the great social side attached to the events. This event is the first of what is hoped to be many new sailing initiatives which will be run by Howth Yacht Club this season, all with the aim of making sailing in the club more accessible to all ages and levels.

For more information regarding the event please contact Christina Knowles [email protected] or to book your space you can phone the office in HYC at 01-8322141.

Published in Team Racing
6th February 2020

Sheila Morrison 1927-2020

Sheila Morrison of Howth, who has died aged 92, had a natural talent for sailing. But in her many years, she demonstrated that her greatest gift was as a supportive and loving wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend who brought out the best in a remarkable extended family for whom boats and sailing – both on the sea and on the inland waterways - were a natural part of their way of life.

She was a Maguire, a daughter of Cecil Maguire who was originally from the inland waterways town of Enniskillen, but in the golden years just before World War I had found the best outlet for his engineering and mechanical talents in Dublin, where he was a pioneer in the rapidly-expanding motor trade.

This meant that his primary interest afloat was in developing motor-boats. But as the family home from the 1930s was beside the north shore of Dublin Bay where Kibarrack is veering into Sutton, his four children - Neville, Sheila, David and Romaine - were able to learn their sometimes self-taught sailing in dinghies in the sheltered inner waters of Sutton Creek inside Bull Island with the nascent Kilbarrack SC.

Cirrus 1950 grand canal2Cecil Maguire’s 40ft Thorneycroft motor-cruiser Cirrus on the Grand Canal in 1950, with the well-laden working canal boat 69M going past on her work. Even as young teenagers, the Maguire children had been expected to be able to re-position the 1945-bought Cirrus unaccompanied to the next cruising destination on the inland waterways, or bring her out to Howth if need be. Photo: David Maguire
However, as Cecil’s own sailing base was Howth, where he’d the 26ft 1894-built gaff cutter Marie and then after 1945 the comfortable 40ft Thorneycroft motor-cruiser Cirrus (which he bought at Lucan on the Royal Canal), he was keen that Howth Motor Yacht Club should share in this encouragement of young dinghy sailors, and seventy-seven years ago Sheila became the first of his children to join the club.

She was able to do so because she was at school in Dublin while her older brother Neville was away at school in Cork. He joined a few weeks later when he came home for the summer holidays, but it remained a matter of quietly amused satisfaction to Sheila for the rest of her life that she was senior to her renowned older brother Neville – subsequently a multiple champion - in terms of Howth sailing membership.

She was further drawn into the Howth scene with marriage in 1950 to Jim Higginbotham, whose wider family were involved with both HMYC and Howth Sailing Club, and they soon had two daughters – Gaye and Judy – while their sailing developed with Jim going into partnership in the Howth 17 Mimosa with a Dublin-based airline pilot from Cork, Paddy Kirwan, who later was to be President of the Irish Yachting Association.

sheila 1947 cirrus3 Jim Higginbotham and Sheila Maguire aboard Cirrus in Howth, 1947

Meanwhile, in Howth the major dredging of the harbour in the mid-1960s provided an opportunity to amalgamate the two clubs, an epic story in which Jim and Sheila found themselves playing a key role, as Jim became the Commodore of Howth SC (only the third one since its foundation in 1895) only on condition that HSC and HMYC continued with active negotiations to become one as Howth Yacht Club.

This was duly achieved in 1967-68. It may all seem a straightforward amalgamation in retrospect, but conservative feelings ran deep in the old guard in HSC, a notably purist organization, and Sheila’s kindness and charm as the Commodore’s wife - combined with her own family links to HMYC where both her daughters were in the Junior Training Programme – quietly played a key role in achieving a successful outcome.

Family life afloat and ashore continued with the notably fit Sheila keeping trim as a regular swimmer and badminton player in addition to sailing, and in time she and Jim had two sons-in-law with the inevitable connection to boats developing, airline captain Derek Bothwell who married Gaye and lived in Howth, and architect Stuart Hamilton, married to Judy, whose main interest was in the inland waterways – he was one of those who developed the private marina at Gortmore on Lough Derg.

sheila 1962 mimosa4Sheila on the helm in the Howth 17 Mimosa in 1962 with her sister Romaine Cagney and the next generation who are: Gaye Higginbotham (on afterdeck), Pamela Cagney (front left), Susan Maguire, Roger Cagney (later Commodore HYC), and Judy Higginbotham on right. Photo: Neville Maguire
In 1975 Jim and son-in-law Derek went into partnership with the Folkboat Mistral, and contributed greatly to the growth of this then-very-active class in Howth, which at its peak was pushing towards two dozen actively raced and cruised boats. But it was a sadly short-lived arrangement, as Jim Higginbotham died in 1979. It was a personal tragedy which left the extended family bereft, yet in time was to show Sheila’s remarkable powers of resilience while reinforcing her lively and mutually entertaining interest in her growing extended family.

The vitality of the family was such that by the time of her death, Sheila had seven grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren, with all of whom she maintained a busy and informative relationship. She kept herself well up to speed with the latest communication technology not because she felt it was the right thing to do, but because she was a Maguire and the interested and intelligent use of technology was in her DNA.

She cherished personal independence and continued driving herself to the end, while in her eighties, during a visit to family in Australia, she did an extensive self-drive tour of South Australia with a hired camper-van.

Meanwhile, her sailing had moved into another area with a second marriage in 1985 to the widowed Ian Morrison of Howth, a former offshore racing and cruising veteran with whom Jim Higginbotham had sailed, and whose sea-going interests were now taken up with the Mediterranean-based Halberg Rassy 42 ketch Safari of Howth aboard which they cruised extensively before Ian’s death in 2004.

That was a cruel year for Sheila as her younger sister Romaine Cagney – like all the Maguires a hyper-keen sailor and parent of sailors - also died, but in due course the Sheila Morrison resilience reasserted itself, and life went on afloat and ashore.

By this stage she was a lead figure in a very large family sailing scene, with son Derek Bothwell serving as Howth YC Commodore from 2002-2004, a role also filled by her nephew Roger Cagney, while another nephew was, of course, international sailing superstar Gordon Maguire, Neville’s son.

Yet for Sheila Morrison, all relatives were of equal interest, while her own direct and now-large family were her sustaining passion in an extraordinary global mutual-support system of constant communication and encouraging and loving interest.

Her funeral in Howth was an inspiring mixture of sadness and celebration, a true expression of the place and the people who are in it and sail from it. As for Sheila Morrison, she may have been 92, but it would entirely miss the point to describe her as being 92 years old. Sheila Morrison was never old.


Published in Howth YC
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Heralded as a ‘regatta wrapped inside a three-day party’, Wave Regatta takes place in Howth on the 29th-31st May (the June Bank Holiday Weekend) and the organising team at Howth Yacht Club would appear to have accumulated all the ingredients to replicate the very successful event that was first held in 2018.

The schedule offers keelboat classes the options of racing in the 3-day regatta that commences on Friday 29th May or a single-day entry for Saturday’s Lambay Races.

Wave Regatta 3781

The 3-day event invites IRC and ECHO Classes to participate in the highest quality racing that Howth affords, with a race management team led by International Race Officers, David Lovegrove and Peter Crowley. There will also be a mix of local one-design classes taking part, including the Sigma 33s, J/80s, Squibs, Puppeteers, Ruffians, E-Boats and Howth 17s.

Wave Regatta’s Race Director, Dave Cullen explains ‘utilising a mix of round-the-cans, windward-leeward and coastal race courses, the mix of racing will be of the very highest standard and we want to enthuse entries across a wide array of boat types and sizes. We will also be using the latest ICRA ECHO algorithm that revises handicaps between races and consequently allows relative performance to be adjusted throughout, ensuring every entrant has a chance at winning. For teams that might struggle to commit to the 3-day event, we’ve again included the option to compete in the Lambay Race on the Saturday only with an open invitation to enjoy the hospitality ashore in Howth Yacht Club for the whole weekend.’

Wave Regatta 3678

Describing the overall event, Chairman Brian Turvey explained: ‘Built on a platform that sets out to provide the highest quality racing, this year’s Wave Regatta unashamedly strives to use many of the resources that Howth has to offer so that it will be an unforgettable weekend for all competitors and visitors to the town on the June Bank Holiday. With the backing of Fingal County Council and generous support and expertise from Michael J Wright Hospitality, we have created an event that is much more than a sailing regatta and one that is designed to thrill a wider audience ashore, including visitors to Howth that weekend.’

The entertainment line-up for that weekend includes Howth locals Vogue Williams and the Guilty Party who will be joined by an array of live music acts each evening including guest DJ, yachting commentator and 6-time world champion (Etchells and 5.5m) and Olympic silver-medalist Mark Covell.

Notice of Race and Online Entry are now live on and the discounted ‘Early Bird’ entry expires on 27th March.

Published in Wave Regatta

It all came down to the eleventh and final race of the Australian Optimist National Opens 2020 in Melbourne, with a total fleet of 255 boats from eight nations racing. Howth Yacht Club's Rocco Wright was overnight leader by just one point from the USA’s Samara Walsh, and in today’s first of two races he consolidated this with a third, with Walshe in fourth. But French star Zou Schemmel had got himself back in contention with a win, while the hopes of Australia were raised by 12-year-old Joel Beashel of Sydney back in the frame with a second.

At the start of the final race, things looked very good for the Irish and French campaigns, as Wright and Schemmel got clear away in the lead, and thus were able to take the usually favoured right hand on the first beat. But conditions were becoming increasingly volatile, and boats on the left began to show ahead, with completely new names emerging at the head of the fleet. In the end, the winner of the final joust was New Zealand’s Joe Leith, whose best placing until then had been a fourth. As it was, even with this final win, he still placed back in 12th overall.

Meanwhile the top contenders saw their final complete re-shuffling get Beashel a sixth in this last race. But as Wright was out of it with 37th while Walshe was 13th and Schemmel 25th, Beashel emerged as winner with Wright second by just one point, and in turn one point ahead of Walshe with Australia’s Matty Goss fourth and France's Schemmel fifth.

Results here

This notable placing by Rocco Wright (who won two major regattas in Sydney in December) continues a remarkable period for the Irish Optimist Dinghy Class, as James Dwyer Matthews of Royal Cork won the British Spring Opens 2019, the British Opens 2019, and the 185-boat 11 nations Irish Opens 2019, while Rocco Wright took tenth in the Worlds 2019, second in the North Americans 2019, and now second in the Australians 2020.

Published in Optimist
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Howth Yacht Club has been selected to host the J/24 European Championships in 2021.

Ireland’s proposal was made at the 2019 World Council Meeting in Miami on 28 October 2019 and voted on by the European NJCA’s with the announcement made this week.

The Irish J/24 Fleet and Howth Yacht Club will rekindle a previously successful partnership which saw the North Dublin club host both the J/24 Europeans in 2011 and J24 World Championships in 2013 that Afloat's W M Nixon reviewed here.

Irish J24 Class President Mark Usher said: "The Irish J24 fleet is once again indebted to Howth Yacht Club. We are fortunate to have a club with their experience, expertise, facilities and infrastructure as our host club. I would like to recognise those who led the bid, Commodore Ian Byrne, Vice-Commodore Paddy Judge and Neil Murphy who were assisted by Flor O’Driscoll. We look forward to working with Howth Yacht Club to organise and deliver a top-class event both on and off the water.”

HYC Commodore Ian Byrne welcomed the news and said "Howth Yacht Club is delighted that our proposal to host the 2021 J/24 European Championships has been successful. Our continued support of the Irish J/24 Class and our team's previous success running national and international championships was instrumental in bringing this major European regatta to Fingal County. We will now set to work to provide world-class racing in our stunning setting and make the event memorable with our Howth hospitality ashore."

The Irish J24 Fleet is undergoing a period of significant growth demonstrated by 32 boats entering the recent Irish National Championships at Lough Erne Yacht Club.

The growth has been accelerated by a commitment to an Under 25 development programme which has been supported by Irish Sailing, Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) and West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association (WIORA) who have both provided grants to clubs for development of Under 25 teams.

In previous years, the hosting of international events has acted as a catalyst for new entries to the Irish fleet seeking to challenge themselves against top-class international competition.

Published in Howth YC
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Back in 1991 when the world seemed a much simpler place, a three-crew Irish team - using shrewdly-selected offshore racing boats chartered in Australia - took part in the then-popular International Southern Cross Series, which was built around a programme of inshore and offshore races of varying length culminating in the 630-mile Sydney-Hobart Race itself.

Australian ex-Pat John Storey (he was born in Meath) was at the heart of it with his own Farr 43 Atara, where his skipper and the Team Captain was Harold Cudmore. In fact, Cork provided much of the muscle, as the late Joe English skippered the “small boat”, the David 36 Extension – a former Sydney-Hobart overall winner - while the mid-sized team member was known as “the Howth boat”, as her crew was built around Kieran Jameson and Gordon Maguire.

The boat herself was the Davidson 40 Beyond Thunderdome, a name expressive of way-out Australian culture at the time – think Mad Max when Mel Gibson was in his popular prime – and the very fact of having an Irish team in the Southern Cross challenge on the other side of the world also caught the mood of the moment, for back home the economy was starting to get a move on after the glacially sluggish 1980s.

beyond thunderdome2When the going was good…..the Davidson 40 Beyond Thunderdome scoring well for Ireland in the early stages of the 1991 Southern Cross series

And the Irish Southern Cross team certainly got a move on. They were leading, with Gordon Maguire in particular at the helm of Beyond Thunderdome on top form. But then in a windward slugging match in the final pre-Hobart Race inshore event, an Australian boat on port collided with them, dismasting Thunderdome so totally that her series was over.

Yet victory was pulled from the wreckage. Gordon Maguire was immediately transferred to Atara to be top helm under Harry Cudmore’s command for the race to Hobart. As for Beyond Thunderdome, eventually she got complete points redress for the crash and for missing the race to Hobart. And meanwhile, Atara won the Sydney-Hobart race overall to make sure that Ireland won the 1991 Southern Cross Series.

atara 1991 sydney3Atara for Ireland! Back in 1991-92 when life was still mostly pre-internet, magazine covers could speak for everyone

It was all a life-changing experience for Gordon Maguire. The young Howth sailor – already a multiple champion at home – was soon swept up into the vibrant Australian sailing scene, such that while he has achieved success all over the world – including several Whitbread/Volvo Race victories – Australia is now his home, and he is best known for further top performances in many majors including more Hobart success with his overall wins currently totalling three.

But he has maintained his strong family links with Howth where his father Neville – a champion sailor now in his sprightly nineties – continues to be an active member. Thus twenty-one months ago in February 2018 with two Howth-crewed boats racing in the RORC Caribbean 600 from Antigua when Gordon Maguire turned up with his top lieutenants to race an American Maxi 72, there was something of a club reunion.

gordon maguire4Gordon Maguire in his role as one of Australia’s leading sailors, at a pre-Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race press conference

Much came out of that Caribbean 600 campaign after the Howth YC squad had secured a first in one class (for “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty with his Sunfast 3600 Bam) and second in another (with the Lombard 46 Pata Negra chartered by Michael Wright for a programme managed by Kieran Jameson).

But what didn’t emerge was a 2019 campaign to return to Antigua, for the Wright team had set their sights on the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race starting on December 26th 2019, and Kieran Jameson was set the task of securing a suitable boat in Australia.

It says everything about Kieran Jameson’s enduring enthusiasm for offshore racing that, 28 years after organising the Beyond Thunderdome campaign, his zest for it all is undiminished despite the fact that the charter market in the countdown to the 2019 Hobart race has been much more challenging.

Researching for a suitable boat was well under way by September 2018, but after years of the annual classic seeing entry levels hovering around the hundred mark and sometimes not even rising to that figure, 2019 is the 75th Anniversary. Entries have shot up to the 160 mark. And the greatest increase is in the 35 to 45ft size - precisely the range Jameson was targeting.

There were sleepless nights in trying to close a deal on a First 40, the Howth team’s ideal target. For although the marque has been in Australia for ten years now after making a mighty debut by taking first and second overall in the 2009 race, like their predecessor the First 40.7 they’ve proven to be continually competitive, and in size terms they’re a very manageable proposition for a team coming from the other side of the world, and the Howth team have been campaigning chartered First 40s in major race – with silverware to show for it - since 2014.

 kieran 2014 helm5First experience with a First 40 – Kieran Jameson at the helm of Thursday’s Child in the stormy Middle Sea Race of 2014. In the same boat in the 2016 RORC Caribbean 600, the Wright team from Howth took third in class. Photo: Brian Turvey

Fortunately through EastSail, the Australian charter mega-agency, they linked up with the First 40 Breakthrough, originally called Chancellor, which acquired her current name when she came under the ownership of medical research professors Matthew Vadas and Jonathan Stone, who had recently made a significant shared discovery in their field of research.

In the 2014 Rolex Sydney-Hobart, she was raced under the command of Matthew Vadas, but a strong Irish link was established as the sailing master was noted Malta-based offshore racing talent Barry Hurley (originally of Cobh) sailing his fourth Hobart challenge. He, in turn, had recruited Dun Laoghaire’s Kenneth Rumball (on his third RSHR) and his brother Alexander together with Catherine Halpin, and for a while, they were right in contention for the overall prize.

But the eventual winner, the Farr 43 Wild Rose (Roger Hickman), somehow got away from them down at Bass Strait, and while Breakthrough finished with a praiseworthy 12th overall, Hurley – who in November 2014 had taken a first in class in the Middle Sea Race – felt it was something of a missed opportunity.

These days, the two professors no longer contemplate doing the decidedly rugged race to Hobart personally. But they like the boat so much they’ve kept her on for personal cruising and less demanding races in the Sydney area, and it seems they were ready to be persuaded that a crew from Howth would be acceptable to take Breakthrough – re-named HYC Breakthrough for the duration - on a bareboat basis for the 75th Anniversary RSHR 2019.

But getting the boat in place is only the beginning of it. In today’s fast-moving world, people who felt sure they’d be available on the date to go to Australia find personal circumstances suddenly changing, and Kieran Jameson has found himself sorting and re-sorting a personnel roster which has only been completely finalized this week.

Heading the list is Darren Wright, current Irish Half Ton Champion with Mata, while Kieran Jameson fulfills the role – as required by the RSHR – of Sailing Master. Colm Bermingham and Rick de Neve (a co-owner of Mata) are listed as navigators, while Simon Knowles - in addition to other roles – is on the strength as tactician. The rest of the crew are Johnny White, Luke Malcolm, Emmet Sheridan and David Wright, and while they’re all proven sailors in Irish waters, although the boat has already been passed as fit for the big race by the regulators, the crew will have to put in 24 hours together sailing hard at sea on HYC Breakthrough as soon as they’ve all assembled in Sydney.

mata crew6Darren Wright (left) with the crew of Mata after winning the 2019 Irish Half Ton Championship during the Sovereigns Cup Regatta in Kinsale in June.
Because of the significant increase in fleet numbers over the usual RSHR turnout, demands on waterfront facilities and services are at a premium, but a high priority has been put on getting the sail wardrobe sorted, using the services of UK Sailmakers and Ian Short sails in Sydney.

And the fleet increase does mean that there will be much improved boat-for-boat racing featuring in the Hobart campaign, so Breakthrough will find herself being kept up to speed by the presence of five First 40s and seven comparably-rated Sydney 38s. Regardless of the overall picture, they’ll have the extra interest of a race-within-a-race.

Nevertheless, the feeling of very extended lines of communication is sensed as you realize that the entire crew is making the journey from Ireland. But a marker has already been put down by 28-year-old Luke Malcolm – a product of the HYC & ICRA Under 25 scheme who is now a full-time sailor – going out ahead two weeks early to start sorting the boat, and last week he sensibly sent back a basic but very real photo of Breakthrough just to reassure everyone that their boat for the big race was ready and waiting exclusively for them.

breakthrough last week7We have a boat…..the First 40 Breathough waiting in Sydney as photographed by Luke Malcolm last week, and passed by the regulators as fit for the RSHR 2019. Now her crew from Howth have to put in 24-hours of intensive sea time. Photo: Luke Malcolm
fireball divineyShane Diviney on wire and Luke Malcolm (helm) campaigning a Fireball on the European circuit. Photo courtesy Judith Malcolm

In Sydney, he soon linked up with Shane Diviney with whom he used to campaign a Fireball on the European circuit, who likewise has gone professional, and for the RSHR is aboard the Australian Judel Vrolik 62 Chinese Whisper (David Griffith) which has further Irish interest as the navigator is Offaly-born Adrienne Cahalan doing her 28th race to Hobart.

chinese whisper9So who’s superstitious about sail number 13? The JV 62 Chinese Whisper (David Griffin) will have Shane Diviney aboard for the 75th race to Hobart

There’s continuing Irish interest through the super-maxi Comanche whose owner Jim Cooney proudly proclaims his Meath connections (Ballivor to be precise) while from an international point of view Comanche’s credentials are further reinforced by having “The Navigator’s Navigator”, Stan Honey of California, on board to call the shots.

comanche spray10“The Ballivor Boat” – Jim Cooney’s Super-Maxi Comanche making fast but wet progress. Her crew for the RSHR 2019 will include the legendary navigator and tactician Stan Honey of Californiajim cooney11Australian entrepreneur Jim Cooney takes great pride on his County Meath links.

As for Gordon Maguire, he is of course well immersed in finalizing RSHR preparations with Matt Allen’s turbo-powered TP 52 Ichi Ban. But on a visit back to Howth in the Autumn, he’d a brainstorming session with the HYC Breakthrough team, and while his every word of advice was pure gold, the most cheering thing they were told was that the hard men of Ichi Ban wouldn’t dream of keeping themselves at peak performance with anything as crude as freeze-dried food. Thus when HYC Breakthrough get their shore management set up, Gordon will see that they’re guided with the proper introductions to the secret source of Ichi Ban’s magic victuals.

This vital shore management side will be looked after by Ian and Judith Malcolm, the parents of Luke, who are taking time out from the countdown to the Fireball Worlds 2020 in Howth to ensure that the HYC Breakthrough squad are protected as far as possible from the inevitable hassle which a long-distance management operation like this inevitably involves.

Because as with any great endeavour, no matter how careful and detailed you are in your planning, events will inevitably conspire to knock things astray. In all those years in which the organising Cruising Yacht Club of Australia realized they were in the countdown to the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart race, and in all the many months – running into well over a year – through which the increasingly determined HYC Breakthrough team were pulling all their threads together, who on earth would have thought that as the start time approached for the Races of Races, the city of Sydney - with its unrivalled natural harbour the perfect arena for the start of a classic sailing event – would find itself under increasing threat from raging bush fires?

InfoTrack in the smoke12The Maxi InfoTrack just visible in the Sydney smoke on Tuesday of this week, when the keenly-anticipated SOLAS Big Boat Challenge was blanked out and cancelled by the smoke from the bush fires.
Everyone is continuing with their plans, and when they staged a very special regatta last weekend for classics which had taken part in the Sydney-Hobart race before 1976, the wind obligingly was nor’easterly and the harbour was looking more like itself.

It was a wonderful occasion, for with every passing year Australia is becoming more of a world leader in the preservation of great classic boats. And when we realize that the attendance at last weekend’s event included such legends as Jim Hardy (87) and the immortal Gordon Ingate, full of beans at 93 and invigorated by being back on board the superbly-restored Caprice of Huon which he raced with such style during the 1960s, it gives us yet another excuse to use that classic Cowes Week photo from 1965.

It shows Caprice slicing through the crowded water accompanied by a launch filled with admiring RYS alickadoos, beating towards the finish line and an overall win in the Britannia Cup at a time when the boat was already 17 years old - and she’d been built in 1948 to a Robert Clark design which was basically pre-World War II in its origins.

windrose classics13Sydney sailing at its best in clear air – the classic Hobart race veteran Windrose on the second day of last weekend’s Pre-Hobart Classics Regatta in Sydney
jim hardy gordon ingate14Sailing as a sport for all ages – Sir James Hardy (left, aged 87) with Gordon Ingate (93) aboard the multiple winner Caprice of Huon, now a beautifully-restored classic.
caprice of huon15One of sailing’s most abiding images. Gordon Ingate’s Caprice of Huon slices her way through Cowes Roads in August 1965, on her way to winning the Britannia Cup when she was already 17 years old. And as a matter of note, she too carries sail number 13…….
But then on Tuesday as the final countdown continued with the day allocated to the Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge – traditionally a superb in-harbour spectacle involving legendary maxis – the wind has swung to the northwest, the smoke rolled over and the air became almost unbreathable while visibility was at times down to 0.1 nautical miles, so though an attempt was made at racing, it had to be abandoned.

It may seem utterly trivial to be concerned about smoke-impaired visibility for the start of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race on December 26th when so many people’s very existence and way of life and property is under the bush fire threat. But as the recent typhoon-plagued Rugby World Cup in Japan reminded us, life is going to go on regardless unless circumstances conspire the wipe out the entire human race, in which case no-one will be bothered either way.

So for those who find contemplation of the classic dash to Hobart a refreshing change from the suffocation of the Festive Season, the word is that the defending champion for the overall win is a Tasmanian boat, Philip Turner’s canting keel Reichel Pugh 65 Alive, while the line honours win is being defended – not for the first time – by the Oatley family’s frequently-altered Super Maxi Wild Oats XI skippered by Mark Richards.

rshr start16The Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race start as it can be, when the air is clear. Photo: Rolex/Studio Borlenghi

Published in Sydney to Hobart
Page 4 of 44

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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