Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: ISORA

"Sailing is a lifestyle activity which evolves as an expression of a vehicle sport afloat". There you go. So now you know. And please note that it's "lifestyle" and not "lifetime", though the latter also applies. Yet you were thinking it was just boats and sailing………….

This definition is a Sailing on Saturday distillation of several attempts at pinning down our sometimes incomprehensible aquatic interests for a wider world, and it results from many nautical minds devoting themselves to some deep thought during the pandemic lock-downs.

The irony is that those who are good at sailing in its competitive aspects will probably seldom think at all – in fact, probably not at all - about what exactly they're doing in the broader sense. For them, focus on specific performance-improving actions is totally dominant, they just get on with it, with their absorption in activity so totally involving every aspect of their being in the moment, and in what they're doing, that it effectively excludes any mental space for self-indulgent semi-philosophical reflection.

Nevertheless, the effects of the pandemic, the way we handled it while it was at its height, the way various organisations in sailing and boating made the best of the situation as it obtained at different stages, plus the way we're coping as we somewhat unevenly emerge (and let's hope we are emerging, for a Civil War in Japan over the Olympics wouldn't surprise us at all) tells us much about ourselves and our sailing and boating interests.

Going down the mine? At such times, the lone sailor is unlikely to be reflecting on whether or not sailing is a lifestyle activity that evolves as an expression of vehicle sport afloat.   Going down the mine? At such times, the lone sailor is unlikely to be reflecting on whether or not sailing is a lifestyle activity that evolves as an expression of vehicle sport afloat 

Overall, the abiding impression in Ireland has been of a notably cohesive and responsible society. Oh for sure, there were those who selfishly transgressed - some quite spectacularly. But in general, and certainly among those in the sailing and boating community, the sense was of a shared responsibility to keep things under control in a self-policing way, without requiring some government agency to mount some sort of patrols.

Yet equally, there was an obligation – and it really was an obligation – to get in as much sailing as possible when it was permitted during periods of easing. But even here, there were those who indicated that they preferred to sit it out until the complete all-clear was confirmed, and sailors were good at understanding and respecting the wishes of their fellow-enthusiasts who saw it that way.

In terms of achieving activity afloat, it became a case of the smaller and more specialist the organization and form of sailing involved, the more nimble it could be in having sailing while complying with the regulations of the moment. Single-handed dinghies made hay, with the Lasers in Dun Laoghaire a particular case in point, while two-handed races found their time has come, with Howth's annual Aqua Restaurant Two-Hander in July having its best turnout ever.

Just add water – Drascombes gathered on one of Ireland remotest waterways, on the uppermost Shannon where it enters Lough Allen. Thanks to a mastery of communications, the compact Drascombe Association are well able for what are in effect pop-up eventsJust add water – Drascombes gathered on one of Ireland remotest waterways, on the uppermost Shannon where it enters Lough Allen. Thanks to a mastery of communications, the compact Drascombe Association are well able for what are in effect pop-up events.

But in a very different area of sailing interest, the Drascombe Association in Ireland had one of their busiest seasons. It's a curious reality that the more quaint the boat involved, the more up-to-speed at within-class communications are those involved with sailing them.

The diverse standing army of Drascombe fans may not be completely happy with their prides-and-joy being described as "quaint", so let us assuage them by commenting that when the time is right, all you need to do is add water for an efficiently organised smoothly-communicated Drascombe gathering to take place, and 2020's expeditions up the River Boyne and into the remotest corners of Lough Corrib were classic cases in point.

The larger class organisations such as the notably effective GP 14 Association of Ireland found themselves more restricted, particularly as their originally-planned seasons had involved bringing international fleets to Ireland. But they maintained good lines of communication to members, which leaves them well-placed to accelerate into action when sailing resumes full time.

Thanks to 136 years of race organisation experience, Dublin Bay SC was able to demonstrate how to get "the mostest boats out there the fastest" whenever restrictions were raised. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienThanks to 136 years of race organisation experience, Dublin Bay SC was able to demonstrate how to get "the mostest boats out there the fastest" whenever restrictions were raised. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

When many restrictions were lifted for two months last summer, Dublin Bay Sailing Club got the mostest afloat the fastest, and for sheer effectiveness in these unprecedented circumstances, it's the groupings which amount to virtual organisations which have proven themselves the most nimble in providing sport, but it sometimes seemed the fewer involved in the actual running of events, then the more effective it became.

Rudyard Kipling once wrote an odd poem called Winners, whose sentiments were dismissed by George Orwell as being vulgar. Be that as it may, its regularly drummed-home theme was in the two lines:

"Down to Gehenna, or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone".

It's natural to think of its sentiments as coarse selfishness. Yet in running the Irish side of ISORA, Peter Ryan has been largely travelling alone, but it has been for the most unselfish of reasons – the speedy provision of events which comply with regulations yet provide the necessary training buildup for the glamour event which we hope will signal that as good a sailing season as we can reasonably expect in 2021 is getting underway, and that's the National YC's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on June 9th.

The smile on the face of the tiger…..Peter Ryan of ISORA says little but does a lot - largely working on his own – such that suddenly the offshore fleet finds itself with viable training races.   The smile on the face of the tiger…..Peter Ryan of ISORA says little but does a lot - largely working on his own – such that suddenly the offshore fleet finds itself with viable training races.  

We're now in a sort of limbo for the next two weeks with "Training Racing" permitted, but full-blown sport afloat not permissible until Monday, June 7th, and even then there will still be restrictions ashore, which means that effectively only half of our "lifestyle activity" can be fully activated.

Quite what a "Training Race" involves could be a matter of debate, and there were those who commented that last weekend's vigorous 35-mile ISORA Training Race from Dun Laoghaire looked very much like proper racing under another name.

The inaugural ISORA Training Race 2021 last weekend reinforced the feeling that the best training for offshore racing is going offshore racing. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien   The inaugural ISORA Training Race 2021 last weekend reinforced the feeling that the best training for offshore racing is going offshore racing. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien  

"Not so" say those who took part. Many crews were very surprised by just how rusty they were at various sail changing exercises, which normally ran as smoothly as a frequently-rehearsed ballet movement in the old days. And then as further proof it was "just training", the result was changed after the first post-race announcement when it was discovered that Outrajeous, the J/109 part-owned by Irish Cruiser-Racer Association Commodore Richard Colwell, was racing with an outdated and higher rating than was actually the case. In real racing, you usually expect the results to be based on the rating you enter with, but in Training Racing, it seems you're cut a bit of slack.

(Richard Colwell writes: Reading your article this morning. A point of order required. Outrajeous did enter under our correct rating, it was provided to the organisers 5 days before the training event happened, but was NOT updated by the event organisers in their files till afterwards! )

Ben Colwell and his father Richard (ICRA Commodore) aboard the J/109 OutrajeousBen Colwell and his father Richard (ICRA Commodore) aboard the J/109 Outrajeous.

Nevertheless, when the venerable Dublin Bay Water Wags went out in Dun Laoghaire for their first two "Training Races" on Wednesday of this week – a weekly programme for which 21 boats have signed up – it looked for a while as though officialdom at the highest level was keeping an eye on them to see if their training is for real. For the Naval Service's LE George Bernard Shaw came into port in such a way that the word is the "Training Race Officer" had to cancel the first race because of "an obstruction on the course".

"What's going on here then?" We are assured that the Naval Service's LE George Bernard Shaw was not on a Training-Not-Racing Patrol when she arrived into Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday in the midst of the Water Wags' first Training Race of the season.   "What's going on here then?" We are assured that the Naval Service's LE George Bernard Shaw was not on a Training-Not-Racing Patrol when she arrived into Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday in the midst of the Water Wags' first Training Race of the season.

"Power gives way to sail…." The view from the bridge on the LE George Bernard Shaw as a Dun Laoghaire Water Wag nips across"Power gives way to sail…." The view from the bridge on the LE George Bernard Shaw as a Dun Laoghaire Water Wag nips across.

However, the whisper on the waterfront is that every so often the navy ships are in Dun Laoghaire on a mock gunnery exercise to see how quickly they could level the still-controversial DLR Lexicon in the same way as the Helga did in the GPO in 1916. And the experience gained in such training could of course be re-directed to eliminating the proposed superstition-rejecting 13-storey apartment block supposedly approved for the Dun Laoghaire waterfront.

Be that as it may, sending a gunboat to check out whether or not the Water Wags really were on a Training Race would be an absurd waste of resources at a time when the Russians are clearly softening up the country – through preliminary cyber-attacks – for some sort of invasion. For as one experienced Water Wag sailor observed:

"In a fleet as diverse in sailing style as the Water Wags, it is always easy to discern a significant number of boats which are quite clearly involved in some sort of training exercise, rather than in any serious racing".

Nevertheless, the Water Wags can now cherish an unprecedented entry to their lengthy record of racing, which goes back to 1887:

Wednesday, May 19th 2021:

Training Race 1: Cancelled mid-race due to intervention of gunboat.

Training Race 2: Cancelled mid-race due to lack of wind.

Ominous sunset. Despite the calm which stopped the Water Wags second attempt at a Training Race on Wednesday, the late evening sky gave every sign of Thursday's approaching storm.Ominous sunset. Despite the calm which stopped the Water Wags second attempt at a Training Race on Wednesday, the late evening sky gave every sign of Thursday's approaching storm.

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

After last Saturday's high octane start to the ISORA season at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, several new boats are expected to join the Irish offshore fleet as the scene hots up for the National Yacht Club hosted Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on June 9th. 

A third Sunfast 3600 will arrive Dublin Bay shortly, according to Afloat sources, and also expected is a new Grand Soleil 44R.

As Afloat reported earlier, Mike and Ritchie Evans's new J/99 is also expected to compete in ISORA.

Another Howth boat, a Dufour 45, is yet another welcome addition to the Dublin race scene. Although she did not participate in the first ISORA training run, the distinctive navy hull of Emmet Sheridan's Dufour 45e was seen sailing on Dublin Bay last Saturday. The Howth Yacht Club yacht is entered for the D2D in the IRC racing division.

Andre Algeo's J99 Juggerknot II will be joined by another J99 design this season Photo: AfloatAndrew Algeo's J99 Juggerknot II will be joined by another J99 design this season in the ISORA Series Photo: Afloat

Overall, this means a fleet of 20 could muster for the next ISORA training event on May 29th, a part of the Viking Marine Coastal Series, the last before the D2D. 

At least three of four boats new boats will be racing the 320-miles to Dingle, which will be an offshore highlight of the Irish sailing calendar. 

New Greystones yacht, the J122 KayaNew Greystones yacht, the J122 Kaya Photo: Afloat

As Afloat reported previously, last Saturday's first outing saw a new Greystones yacht, the J122 Kaya join the ISORA scene, a sistership to Chris Power Smith's top-performing Aurelia, from the Royal St. George Yacht Club. 

Published in ISORA

Howth ISORA debutante Outrajeous was the winner of Saturday's 35-mile training event following a recalculation of IRC rating results.

The impressive performance of the north Dublin J109 crew came to light on Sunday evening after it was discovered the boat was 'racing under an incorrect handicap', according to ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan. 

Results have now been updated from the potent outing of the Dublin Bay offshore fleet that saw defending coastal champion, the JPK 10.80, Rockabill VI relegated to fourth place in the season opener.

Provisional IRC results released by organisers on Saturday showed John Gorman's Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie with the IRC win but that has now been updated to put Richard Colwell and John Murphy's second-placed Howth entry as the top performer with O'Gorman second. Andrew Algeo's J99 Juggerknot II of the Royal Irish Yacht Club remains in third place. See corrected results below.

The Impressive tightly packed start of the first Viking Marine sponsored ISORA coastal event with winner Outrajeous (IRL 191909) to leeward and second placed John O'Gorman's Hot Cookie (GBR 7536R) The start of the first Viking Marine sponsored ISORA coastal event of 2021 with eventual winner Outrajeous (IRL 19109) to leeward and second-placed John O'Gorman's Hot Cookie (GBR 7536R) to weather both clearly in the front row of a tightly packed line

Although a training event, the first coastal event of the season turned out to be an impressive outing for the 13-boat fleet with an opening beat for about two hours – dead to windward – followed by two tight reaches and a dead run with the opening 2021 fixture fortunate that the forecast for the breeze to drop completely in the afternoon not materialising.

With just one more ISORA training event (29th May) before the D2D on June 7th, these offshore excursions are important form indicators, with the top four all entered for the Dingle Race.

ISORA 2021 - Results are provisional as of 18:51 on May 16, 2021ISORA 2021 - Results are provisional as of 18:51 on May 16, 2021

Published in ISORA
Tagged under

ISORA's first event of its “Viking Marine Coastal Series at Dun Laoghaire Harbour yesterday mustered a high powered IRC fleet of 13 for a 35-mile course.

Starting in a testing south-easterly breeze of 18 to 20 knots at 0955 am, the coastal crews got the best of the day's Dublin Bay winds.

ISORA is running this month's training series in advance of a return to competition on June 7th as sailing is now considered a safe, non-contact sport with no material difference between training and competition under COVID-19 guidelines.

As Afloat reported previously, the fleet was joined for the first time by Frank Whelan's new Greystones Sailing Club J-boat, Kaya.

It's a sister ship of the top-performing Royal St. George J/122 Aurelia skippered by Chris Power Smith.

Rockabill VI (left) returns to the line after a premature start in the first outing of ISORA's Viking Marine Coastal SeriesRockabill VI (left) returns to the line after a premature start in the first outing of ISORA's Viking Marine Coastal Series

In a fleet representing a who's who of Irish Sea offshore talent, eager defending 2020 coastal champion Paul O'Higgin's Rockabill VI got off to a premature start at the committee boat end of the Dun Laoghaire Outfall buoy line.

Rockabill returned to the line as the rest of the fleet negotiated an upwind leg past Dun Laoghaire Harbour and across the Scotsman's Bay shoreline on their way to the  East Kish turning buoy.

Exiting the south of the Bay at Dalkey Island, it was on to Bennet buoy, an ISORA Dublin Virtual Mark to finish at the Dun Laoghaire pier heads.

Great breeze for the first of the ISORA Viking Marine Coastal Training EventsGreat breeze for the first of the ISORA Viking Marine Coastal Training Events

It turned out to be a great course that delivered a beat, a tight reach, a tight reach and a dead run with ISORA fortunate that the forecast for the breeze to drop completely in the afternoon did not materialise and the fleet came home in an 8 to 10-knot easterly. 

Provisional IRC results released by organisers initially showed John Gorman's Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie on the pace with a win on IRC in the training event.

Second is John Murphy and Richard Colwell's J109 Outrajeous from Howth and Andrew Algeo's J99 Juggerknot II of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in third place.

UPDATE: Results were updated on Sunday, May 16 as Afloat reports here to show Outrajeous as the winner and Hot Cookie second.

Provisional results from the first ISORA Viking Marine training event

ISORA will be running further training events this month ahead of the first big Irish offshore fixture of the season, the 320-mile NYC Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race on June 9th.  The training events will allow boats to get boats up to speed for the biennial offshore race, which is run under the auspice of the National Yacht Club.

Published in ISORA
Tagged under

ISORA has a potent cruiser-racer fleet of 14 entries and possibly more for Saturday's first training event of the 2021 season from Dublin Bay.

In an exciting development for Irish offshore crews, the ISORA fleet will be joined for the first time by Frank Whelan's new Greystones Sailing Club J-boat, Kaya.

It's a sister ship of the top performing Royal St. George J/122 Aurelia skippered by Chris Power Smith that is also slated for training on Saturday. 

The J/122 design is a 40-foot sloop conceived as a versatile, stable and simple-to-sail modern cruiser and racer.

Training as part of the Viking Marine Coastal Series will see a Dun Laoghaire to Dun Laoghaire Coastal route of 35 miles, representing the first training for next month's 320-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race from the National Yacht Club on June 9th.

JPK 10.80 Rockabill VIJPK 10.80 Rockabill VI

The new Wicklow J122 will meet defending Royal Irish ISORA champion, the JPK 10.80 of Rockabill VI (Paul O'Higgins) for the first time along with Andrew Algeo's J99, George Sisk's XP44 WOW and two Howth Yacht Club J109s Outrajeous of ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell and Simon Knowles' Indian.

J122 Kaya is prepared for Saturday's ISORA debut at Greystones HarbourJ122 Kaya is prepared for Saturday's ISORA debut at Greystones Harbour

See the entry list to date below.

ISORA Chief Peter Ryan told Afloat that he expects the Dun Laoghaire Harbour start could reach 20 boats but admits 'everything is running very late' as a result of the COVID delayed start to the 2021 sailing season.

 J/99 Juggerknot IIJ/99 Juggerknot II

The final training course will be made at midday on Friday and, as Afloat previously reported, Figaro offshore campaigner Kenny Rumball is providing a tactical Zoom briefing on the course tomorrow evening. More here.

ISORA race training begins on Dublin Bay on Saturday, May 15thProvisional Dublin Bay ISORA fleet  - race training begins on Dublin Bay on Saturday, May 15th

Published in ISORA

Dun Laoghaire Harbour sailor Kenneth Rumball a previous successful competitor on the ISORA circuit, along with teammate Pamela Lee has been competing in the toughest offshore sailing circuit, the one-design Figaro circuit in France. This circuit has produced some of the worlds greatest sailors including Jean Le Cam, Armel Le Cleach and Mike Golding to name a few.

In the past 18 months, the pair under the banner of 'RL Sailing' has been racing, training and coached by the most experienced French coaches in the training hubs of Lorient and St Gilles Croix De Vie.

The aim of RL Sailing is to qualify and represent Ireland in the mixed double-handed offshore class at the Paris 2024 Olympics

RL Sailing has similar aims to grow the sport of sailing in all disciplines in Ireland and here the pair explain their latest initiative.

Kenneth Rumball and Pamela Lee onboard their Figaro 3 foiler in FranceKenneth Rumball and Pamela Lee onboard their Figaro 3 foiler in France

A key ethos for the enjoyment of the sport is understanding. If more crews and skippers alike have a better understanding of the sport, they are more likely to enjoy their time on the water and will want to spend more time on the water. 

RL Sailing in conjunction with a sponsor of the team are offering pre and post-race analysis of the two ISORA training races pre the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and also a pre-race briefing for the D2D race. These sessions will be delivered via Zoom unless restrictions ease to allow briefings to be held in an outside well-ventilated area such as a marquee.

Pre-Race briefings will be conducted to look specifically around the wind and tides to be expected during the training races and also to look at some generic boat set up discussions.

Different weather models will be discussed along with local weather trends such as sea breezes, tidal variances and current changes.

However given the wide variety of boats sailed in the ISORA races, specific boat type settings and setups will not be discussed. These briefings are standard practice in the Figaro circuit to help skippers and crews discuss and understand the weather ahead of them to give a better understanding of the race and racecourse.

The post-race analysis will be a led discussion centring around which weather models were most accurate, the course and route taken by the leading boats, sail selection and options for different boats.

A certain amount of this discussion will be prepared from the Yellowbrick trackers to give skippers and crews an understanding of boat speeds and courses taken by each boat.

Once again this information sharing is a key training tool used in the Figaro circuit. While we are all competitors on the water, for all sailors to improve, information is shared and discussed to build knowledge.

We believe that training like this is invaluable to all skippers and crews and will only lead to a better understanding of offshore racing which will improve the standard of sailing and the performance of Irish offshore sailors both in home waters and abroad.

These sessions are currently subsidised by a generous RL Sailing sponsor to all ISORA sailors competing in the training races on the 15th and 29th of May 2021 and the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, however, in due course, there will be a modest fee for later races for this service.

The initial weather briefing for the race commencing on the 15th of May will take place on the 14th of May at 20:00 hours and will last for approximately 1.5 hours.

Zoom link here;

Topic: ISORA Training Race 15-5-21 Pre Race Weather Briefing
Time: May 14, 2021 08:00 PM Dublin

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87838370799?pwd=ZHpQZU44UWtHa2ROT2lTY0Q3Q1RqUT09

Meeting ID: 878 3837 0799
Passcode: 297492

Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee

Published in ISORA
Tagged under

ISORA will be running training events this month ahead of the first big Irish offshore fixture of the season, the 320-mile Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race on June 9th. 

The training events, starting on the 15th of May, will allow boats to get boats up to speed for the biennial offshore race, which is run under the auspice of the National Yacht Club.

As ISORA Chief Peter Ryan told Afloat last week when government restrictions were eased; "It's all systems go!"

ISORA race training begins on Dublin Bay on May 15thISORA race training begins on Dublin Bay on May 15th

16 Races

The offshore body has a busy 2021 season planned with a total of 16 races on both sides of the Irish Sea and a new title sponsor signed up; Musto.

Six Offshore (Qualifying Q1-6) races are scheduled, with the best five to count for the Championship title and the prestigious Wolf's Head Trophy, which was not awarded in 2020 due to COVID-19. 

Coastal Series

ISORA also have two Coastal Series running concurrently:

  • Viking Marine Irish Coastal Series - Five races best four to count
  • Plas Heli Welsh/UK Coastal Series - Five races best four to count

The first coastal race was held in North Wales on Saturday in accordance with ISORA's COVID-19 protocol with crew limited to 80% of the IRC crew number. The race was tracked using a new AIS system.

Updated Calendar

An updated ISORA 2021 calendar is being prepared to take account of last Thursday's government announcement and Saturday's disappointing news that Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta has been cancelled.

Published in ISORA
Tagged under

On Sunday, August 29th 1971, a group of offshore devotees who had campaigned the previous day's annual cross-channel Abersoch-Howth Race for the James C Eadie Cup gathered in the bar of Howth Yacht Club and gave some purpose to their noontime drinks by progressing a discussion about expanding the North-West Offshore Association – the governing body for the race they'd just completed – into becoming the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA).

Offshore racing in the area was nothing new, with Dublin Bay's Royal Alfred YC – founded 1870 – noted in the 19th Century for its cross-channel events to Holyhead, and more recently for overnight races which honed 24-hour seagoing skills in the club's Corinthian crews. Before that, the pioneering Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour Race of 1860 – repeated in 1861 and 1862 – had shown what could be done if there were sufficient levels of enthusiasm. And some recent research has suggested there may even have been a Round Ireland Race from Dublin Bay in 1831 or thereabouts, but there's much more work to be done before anyone can be sure whether or not that truly ground-breaking event actually took place.

Historic snapshot of the frontline yachts of the late 1880s – the start of a Royal Alfred YC cross-channel race to Holyhead in 1888Historic snapshot of the frontline yachts of the late 1880s – the start of a Royal Alfred YC cross-channel race to Holyhead in 1888

Meanwhile, there's quite enough to be going along with on what we know about the early days, with the Liverpool area's 1838-founded Royal Dee Yacht Club, and the 1844-founded Royal Mersey YC, running races and cruises-in-company for their super-wealthy members' large yachts, events which reflected links to both Dublin Bay and the Clyde, while the more modest Liverpool Bay YC established the Midnight Race to the Isle of Man in 1907.

That special event was taken over in 1925 by Tranmere Sailing Club on the south shore of the Mersey in Birkenhead, underlining the greater uncertainties of life after World War I of 1914-18. But TSC and more recently Liverpool YC have kept it going, staging the hundredth on 5th July 2019 with the winner being the Dublin Bay J/122 Aurelia (Chris & Patann Power Smith, RStGYC).

The J/122 Aurelia from Dun Laoghaire (seen here starting the Round Ireland race) maintained long-established cross-channel links by winning the 100th Isle of Man Race from Liverpool in 2019The J/122 Aurelia from Dun Laoghaire (seen here starting the Round Ireland race) maintained long-established cross-channel links by winning the 100th Isle of Man Race from Liverpool in 2019. Photo: Afloat.ie

Back in the 1950s this race, together with others which were staged in response to the fact that each August the focus of Liverpool saltwater sailing moved from the Mersey to North West Wales and Anglesey, had resulted in the formation after World War II of the Mersey & North Wales Joint Offshore Co-ordinating Committee.

The uniquely and splendidly complicated title surely deserves some sort of prize for accurately reflecting the challenges its committee were trying to achieve, something further exacerbated by the fact that further south around Tremadoc Bay to the east of the Lleyn, the sailing enthusiasts of Birmingham and other large English conurbations were seeking their brief period of summer sport from Abersoch, Pwllheli and Portmadoc. Thus it required the wisdom of Solomon to balance the brief programme such that each key offshore and passage race staged in the waters between Conwy and Pwllheli could achieve optimum turnouts for MNWJOCC-supported events.

Things had been a bit more simple, geographically speaking, on the Irish side even if the politics were now complex, but after the Irish Cruising Club had come into being in 1929, it took on the tradition of an offshore Whitsun Race in the Irish Sea, so much so that by the 1960s the ICC – along with the Royal Alfred YC - was playing quite an active role in Irish offshore racing generally.

In 1963, the Irish Cruising Club effectively illustrated the growing complexity of the area's offshore programme by attempting to set it in order, though it should be remembered that some of these events only attracted a handful of starters. Highlight of the season was the RORC/RStGYC Morecambe Bay Race of 220 miles on August 23rd, which also involved the NWOA. Sailed in heavy weather with a real southwest to west gale in the midst of it, the heroic overall winner was the Dublin Bay 24 Fenestra skippered by Arthur Odbert (Royal Irish YC)In 1963, the Irish Cruising Club effectively illustrated the growing complexity of the area's offshore programme by attempting to set it in order, though it should be remembered that some of these events only attracted a handful of starters. The highlight of the season was the RORC/RStGYC Morecambe Bay Race of 220 miles on August 23rd, which also involved the NWOA. Sailed in heavy weather with a real southwest to west gale in the midst of it, the heroic overall winner was the Dublin Bay 24 Fenestra skippered by Arthur Odbert (Royal Irish YC)

The M&NWJOCC for its part continued to see racing numbers expand, and it had felt confident enough to re-style itself the North West Offshore Association in 1962. And then with growing numbers from Ireland involved, and a strengthening association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (which co-sponsored a main event with the NWOA in the Irish Sea-Cork area), any land-centric title began to seem inappropriate, and the idea of going head-on for the straightforward, self-explanatory and rather catchy Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association had obvious appeal by the end of the successful 1971 season.

The most immediate attraction of ISORA was that its acronym could be pronounced as an easily-remembered and distinctive neologism - not really an option with NWOA, and definitely not with M&NWJOCC. And the main mover in quietly promoting this move to a new stage was Dickie Richardson, who was the very personification of Liverpool sailing.

While he'd moved his sailing base to Holyhead SC (near which he and his wife Elspeth were getting much entertainment from converting a former Methodist chapel into a summer base for their exuberant family) he was the essence of best Merseyside, a consultant anaesthetist who was, of course, a member of the Royal Mersey, but felt much more at home next door in Tranmere Sailing Club with fellow boat bodgers, discussing technical boat matters in a ferocious cloud of pipe tobacco smoke.

Dick Richardson in 1972 aboard his boat of the time, the Hustler 30 Skulmartin, which he'd completed himself from a bare hull. Photo: W M NixonDick Richardson in 1972 aboard his boat of the time, the Hustler 30 Skulmartin, which he'd completed himself from a bare hull. Photo: W M Nixon

Not that he was a bodger himself – he made a very competent job of finishing several cruisers from bare hulls, with the boats taking up all of his front garden in a west Liverpool suburb. We got some of the flavour of this great man in our 2015 appreciation of him after his death at the age of 89 but that obit should have been titled "Sir John Richardson 1926-2015".

You see, during much of the time J. C. "Dickie" Richardson was playing a key role in Irish Sea offshore racing, one of his sidelines was chairing a committee to expedite the commissioning of a new hospital in Liverpool. As with all such projects, it had been running so desperately late that the directors took on board the suggestion that if they just had the nerve to appoint one of their own consultants, the no-nonsense Dr Richardson, as the chair of a special commissioning committee, then the hospital would be up and running within the foreseeable future.

They accepted the advice, Dickie and his hand-picked committee then worked their heads off, and the much-admired hospital was functioning within a reasonable time - so much so that all his colleagues and friends assumed he'd be getting a knighthood in the next New Year's Honours List as a very well-earned thank-you. Not a bit of it. For it emerged that in order to get the job done, Dickie had eventually been so utterly blunt (or brutally rude as some shy types claimed) to every civil servant and politician with whom he'd had to deal that there was absolutely no way he was going to get a gong.

So this then was the man who, around one o'clock on Sunday, August 29th fifty years ago, was persuading us that it was high time the NWOA became ISORA. And beyond that, the sky was the limit, as he saw the re-shaped Association's remit extending northward to the Clyde and southwest to Cork.

But where he might have sometimes been tough in his dealings with hospital contractors and managers, in Howth YC among fellow sailors fifty years ago, with us sharing the space with the likes of Hal Sisk of Dun Laoghaire, Bill Cuffe-Smith of Howth, Ronnie Wayte of Skerries who'd just taken second in class in the '71 Fastnet with the Hustler 35 Setanta, and Alan Stead from Holyhead, in HYC that Sunday it was a matter of quiet persuasion, leading to agreement to hold a more formal inaugural meeting in the winter, an event which went so well that in the Spring of 1972 the new Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association published its first comprehensive programme, listing full sailing instruction for events which ran from May until September, taking in all the main offshore races between the Clyde and St George's Channel round to Dunmore East.

Some of the ISORA fleet in Howth after a cross-channel race in 1980, with the fleet including (at centre) Dai Mouse III (now Sunstone) and the McGruer yawl Frenesi, as well as the first Round Ireland Race winner Force Tension (Johnny Morris) on right. Despite the primitive facilities at most ports, more than a hundred boats regularly entered the ISORA Championship each season. Photo: W M NixonSome of the ISORA fleet in Howth after a cross-channel race in 1980, with the fleet including (at centre) Dai Mouse III (now Sunstone) and the McGruer yawl Frenesi, as well as the first Round Ireland Race winner Force Tension (Johnny Morris) on right. Despite the primitive facilities at most ports, more than a hundred boats regularly entered the ISORA Championship each season. Photo: W M Nixon

The Association was based on a minimal but effective structure, with Dickie Richardson (who was also Commodore of Holyhead SC) as Chairman, his close friend and fellow medic Alan Stead as Honorary Treasurer, and Liverpool sailor Frank Drabble as Honorary Secretary. In those early years, the offshore brigade were happy enough to leave the basic "clerical" work to a Holyhead nucleus, as the Committee was based on largely autonomous local representatives, including Sandy Taggart in the Clyde, Jim Blaikie in Belfast Lough, John Ellis in Lancashire, Peter May and George Peake in the Isle of Man, and Hal Sisk in Dublin.

In its first full season of 1972, the programme attracted 102 boats from 20 clubs taking part in a total of 11 races, and there was also a "short regatta week" of inshore and coastal races, the Captain's Cup, at Holyhead, a precursor of subsequent big fleet biennial ISORA Weeks which were to run for several decades.

There were many reasons why the modestly-launched ISORA programme was such as success, and one of the more extreme yet plausible was The Troubles. With life ashore being blighted by unrest and atrocities, being at sea and then meeting with fellow-competitors afterwards at an enclosed venue provided security which facilitated hassle-free socializing among people from every nation around the Irish Sea.

Certainly the three-day absence - which participation in an ISORA race implied - put you in something of a cocoon, and as the programme became part of sailing's basic structure, there were those for whom it was essential to mental well-being. A classic case was Alan Lawless of Malahide, who raced the Shamrock Half Tonner Jonathan Livingston Vulture. Through the week he ran a demanding television sales and servicing organisation, but for seven weekends of the summer, he would simply disappear for his necessary ISORA medicine of a cross-channel offshore race against a fleet of like-minded souls.

Liam Shanahan's Dehler db2s Lightning (NYC) was an ISORA star in the 1980sLiam Shanahan's Dehler db2s Lightning (NYC) was an ISORA star in the 1980s

That said, those who sailed regularly in ISORA found that each season was slightly different, as the many areas involved – when they saw what could be done - became much keener to take possession of what they regarded as their part of the widespread ISORA programme. For the overall results from 1972 had revealed how widely the net had been spread, and how effectively the International Offshore Rule was providing effective handicaps.

The largest fleet was in Class A, and here the overall winner was Dick and Billy Brown's 35ft Ruffian from Strangford Lough, which they'd designed and built themselves in 1970-71. After a successful early season in the northern events, they came south for the concluding Holyhead-Rockabill-Dun Laoghaire Race, and showed the St George's Channel fleet a clean pair of heels to clinch the class title.

Class B was also finalised in that last race by HYC's Bill Cuffe-Smith with his new deep-keel Mark 2 Arpege Leemara, which he campaigned with efficient determination. Being an Aer Lingus Jumbo Jet captain, he had traditional first call on any unused airline meals left over at the end of each Transatlantic flight, and it's said that he once arrived home at his house above Howth Harbour with 37 ready-to-go airline dinners, which duly went aboard Leemara in several allocations, for as one of his crew observed, as long as they were winning they were perfectly happy to rotate through the airline ready meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner…..

Winners Enclosure. At the conclusion of the final race of the inaugural ISORA season in 1972 from Holyhead-Rockabill-Dun Laoghaire, the berth at the East Pier near the National YC found (left to right) Class B winner and overall champion Leemara (Bill Cuffe Smith, HYC), Class A winner and overall champion Ruffian (Dick & Billy Brown, RUYC), and Class C wnner and third overall Casquet (Paddy Donegan, SSC)Winners Enclosure. At the conclusion of the final race of the inaugural ISORA season in 1972 from Holyhead-Rockabill-Dun Laoghaire, the berth at the East Pier near the National YC found (left to right) Class B winner and overall champion Leemara (Bill Cuffe Smith, HYC), Class A winner and overall champion Ruffian (Dick & Billy Brown, RUYC), and Class C winner and third overall Casquet (Paddy Donegan, SSC). Photo: W M Nixon

Class C in that closing race was won by Paddy Donegan's lovely Robb-designed CB yawl Casquet from Skerries, but in the season-long series, Casquet had to be content with third, as the winner was Bert Whitehead's up-dated own-built Dee 25 Timbobbin from Holyhead.

This was all in the olden days, when waterside berthing facilities were primitive, and many events which we see now as pillars of the annual programme had yet to be introduced. Thus ISORA in its early days had the field largely clear to itself, but the administrative pressures were rising. Yet here again they were lucky, as in Jean Scott they found an administrative genius for secretarial duties who took it all in her stride such that through the 1970s the annual championship usually had a well-managed entry of more than a hundred boats.

By 1974 a biennial ISORA Week added to the complexity, and in 1976 it went to Crosshaven, where for the first time the fleet experienced the benefit of marina facilities. But the entry net was now spread so wide that some sections of the fleet were speaking forms of English that the rest of us scarcely comprehended, while many of the North Wales sailors comfortably slipped into Welsh when it suited them to exclude others from their conversation.

Then too, the Cork men quite reasonably wondered why they were going to so much trouble to host a race week for a crowd including many strangers from the Irish Sea when they should have been staging a proper Cork Week with their own unmistakable stamp upon it, and that's how things became thereafter.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the rather over-extended ISORA empire, the annual Scottish Series centred on Loch Fyne was becoming a mighty force in its own right, so clearly the sensible thing was for ISORA to stick to the knitting, concentrate on its core programme at the south end of the Irish Sea and the northern part of St George's Channel, and that's more or less what they've been doing ever since.

This highly-focused approach produced great racing in high-strength doses, and over the years the build-up of racing memories involving many boats and crews and owner-skippers of enormous character in such a crazy narrative that it's difficult to escape the conclusion that it would be impossible to make a book out of it. The story is simply too complex, and the cast of thousands too numerous and varied. Perhaps the only way to manage it is simply to tabulate each season's results with basic notes about weather conditions, and analyse the way that boat types have developed over the years.

The Club Shamrock Emircedes (Michael Horgan & Peter Ryan NYC) was a regular participant in ISORA Racing, and also raced round Ireland and in the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race. For many years the Ron Holland-designed Shamrock in all its variations was a backbone of ISORA racing, and in 1984 Neville Maguire of Howth clinched the ISORA title with his Club Shamrock Demelza in the same weekend as his son Gordon won the All Ireland Windsurfing Championship.The Club Shamrock Emircedes (Michael Horgan & Peter Ryan NYC) was a regular participant in ISORA Racing, and also raced round Ireland and in the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race. For many years the Ron Holland-designed Shamrock in all its variations was a backbone of ISORA racing, and in 1984 Neville Maguire of Howth clinched the ISORA title with his Club Shamrock Demelza in the same weekend as his son Gordon won the All Ireland Windsurfing Championship.

And so too have the socio-economic conditions in which ISORA has existed in its fifty years. From a time in which waterfront facilities were so primitive that the only comfortable place in a harbour was aboard your own boat, we have graduated to a situation where totally-sheltered pontoon berthing is the norm, providing easy access to clubs and nearby restaurants which vie with each other in the standard of their "hospitality product".

We have also moved in from a time when it was thought normal for offshore sailing enthusiasts – both male and female – to disappear in pursuit of their strangely uncomfortable sport in preference to putting in quality family time ashore in a variety of user-friendly and sociable pursuits.

Thus as the world rolled on and moved into a new millennium in 2000, while there were those for whom the ISORA programme was the basis of their summers sailing, there was a definite trend among a growing majority to concentrate on fewer and bigger and inevitably highly-publicised events which were more in keeping with the noisy spirit of the age, rather than the essentially private pleasure which is ISORA racing.

Numbers were declining so markedly that by 2007 it was decided to hold a gala winding-up dinner in the Autumn for the old association in the National Yacht Club, where one of the many things to be decided would be the re-allocation of ISORA's many prizes. But Divine Providence decided otherwise. A mighty storm blew up, and the ferries were unable to sail from Holyhead to bring across the Welsh and English elements of the funeral party. The dinner went ahead regardless with the Irish section in top form, and happily the event failed completely in its objective.

Far from winding-up ISORA, the gathering decided to revive it in a turbo-powered and more concentrated form, with the National Yacht Club seeking a three-year agreement from the rest of the membership for the NYC to run ISORA for the benefit of all.

Peter Ryan's has contributed greatly to the significant contemporary relevance of ISORAPeter Ryan's has contributed greatly to the significant contemporary relevance of ISORA

Since then, success in this bizarre outcome of event has been thanks to many, but mainly to two people - the NYC's Peter Ryan, who started his ISORA career with Liam Shanahan on the all-conquering Dehler dbs Lightning in the 1980s and then went on to race the Club Shamrock Emircedes with his father-in-law Michael Horgan, and Stephen Tudor of Pwllheli, whose family's offshore sailing probably goes well back to beyond the time of a young Henry Tudor who eventually became Henry VIII.

They've created an effective, leaner, fitter ISORA which has proven its underlying strength as sailing has tried to accommodate the pandemic and the on-off nature of lockdowns. Peter Ryan is currently the ISORA Chairman, and in this time of stress, he and Stephen between them cover most of the administration with a nimbleness of movement which is denied to sailing organisations with a significant shoreside structural element.

Stephen Tudor also plays a key role in ISORA todayStephen Tudor also plays a key role in ISORA today

For if you've the means of electronic positioning on the starting line markers, and race trackers on the boats, even a coastal race can take place completely independently of the shore providing you're dealing with qualified crews and compliant boats.

Yet it's something that involves escaping from the rigidity of thinking. Thus ISORA may have announced the possible parameters of a 2021 programme starting in late April, but those seriously interested know that it all may change from week to week, or even day to day.

Through the ins-and-outs of 2020's truncated sailing programme, ISORA steered a skilled path which resulted in a championship that was acknowledged as being well worthwhile. So much so, in fact, that at the end of the year we made Peter Ryan the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" for December in an adjudication which was as much as token of hope that the best will be made of 2021 - whatever it may bring – as it was an expression of thanks for what he and ISORA had managed to achieve in 2020.

The supportive and congratulatory greetings which this adjudication inspired were very impressive indeed - positively heart-warming, in fact. So as the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association faces into its Golden Jubilee season, we know that, however difficult the outlook becomes, ISORA will make the best of it with as little fuss as possible.

RORC Commodore Michael Boyd and 2017 ISORA Champion Vicky Cox (J/109 Mojito, Pwllheli SC) at the ISORA Prize Dinners in the National YC 2017. In November 2007 a dinner was held in the NYC, ostensibly to wind up ISORA. The diners decided otherwise. Ten years later, this ISORA awards dinner attracted an attendance of 240.RORC Commodore Michael Boyd and 2017 ISORA Champion Vicky Cox (J/109 Mojito, Pwllheli SC) at the ISORA Prize Dinners in the National YC 2017. In November 2007 a dinner was held in the NYC, ostensibly to wind up ISORA. The diners decided otherwise. Ten years later, this ISORA awards dinner attracted an attendance of 240.

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

ISORA will race its first Dublin Bay coastal race of 2021 next month on April 17 and a month later it has scheduled its first cross-channel race to Holyhead, Wales on May 15th.

ISORA Chief Peter Ryan says he will announce the new schedule at Saturday's ICRA AGM, a meeting that includes key updates from regatta organisers from around the coast as regatta organisers are left in limbo by the pandemic.

The 2021 ISORA Series of races comprises the traditional Offshore Series of six cross-channel races, one Coastal Series in Ireland and one Coastal Series in Wales.

ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan has announced the first 2021 ISORA Dublin Bay Coastal Race will be on April 17thISORA Chairman Peter Ryan has announced the first 2021 ISORA Dublin Bay Coastal Race will be on April 17th

Last year, when the challenges of pandemic shutdown arose, Ryan grasped the opportunities provided by being Chairman of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, and having access to a generously donated consignment of Yellowbrick trackers, he set about devising a programme that would comply with regulations while still providing good sport. It was a bravo move that earned Ryan an Afloat Sailor of the Month award.

Ryan says the offshore body has been "spurred on" by recent announcements by its sister offshore club, RORC in the UK.

As Afloat reported earlier, RORC has announced its own return to offshore and overnight racing after a one year break due to COVID.

As a result ISORA, Ryan says, has decided to nail its colours to the mast and give Irish Sea sailors a date to aim for in 2021 too.

Subject to government guidelines, Ryan says "ISORA is open for business" but with total flexibility for whatever situation prevails at the time.

"If we're not going across the Irish Sea, we'll be going up and down it". It's a nod to how the association aims to work around COVID-restrictions that may yet prevent cross-channel racing again in 2021.

After having to abandon early-season efforts at Dun Laoghaire Harbour due to lockdown, Ryan is keen to encourage movement and willing to take a punt to get things going again.

"Our mission is to promote the sport of offshore racing in the Irish Sea, " he says. "ISORA is very nimble with our tracker set up so we can call off a race with a day's notice if needed", he told Afloat

Published in ISORA
Tagged under

Two of 2021's early-season cruiser-racer sailing fixtures on Dublin Bay are up in the air due to January's lockdown restrictions. 

A new ISORA 'Early Season Series' originally planned for this month was to continue the offshore's body's successful 2020 coastal racing out of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. However, the current lockdown has put paid to those plans, leaving ISORA boss Peter Ryan to reschedule.

"We had planned for January but that's not going to happen. So, rather than cancel, we will reschedule those races into a potentially tighter programme as soon as possible", Ryan told Afloat.

The 2020 ISORA Coastal Series attracted a dozen or more entries and typically involved a race using virtual marks along the County Dublin and Wicklow coasts.

Ryan's offshore enterprise won him an end of the year gong. The NYC sailor took an Afloat Sailor of the Month Award in December for his success in staging an ISORA series in lockdown in 2020.

DBSC Spring Chicken

Meanwhile, following the total abandonment of its popular Turkey Shoot pre-Christmas event, the hope is that Dublin Bay Sailing Club will be in a position to run its Spring Chicken Series that starts traditionally in the first week of February. 

The series of six races are held on Sunday mornings and organised by DBSC attracting as many as 40 boats.

However, as COVID lockdown restrictions are set to continue nationally until January 30th, fears are that there is now every chance that restrictions could also impact DBSC's spring fixture too.

The popular Spring Chicken format features short, sharp races typically of around one hour in duration.

In a new year announcement, DBSC was named as 2021 Sailing Club of the Year for its achievements in keeping sailing going on Dublin Bay during the lockdown in 2020.

Published in Dublin Bay
Tagged under
Page 5 of 37

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

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating