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Lloyd Thornburg's American MOD 70, Phaedo3, co-skippered by Brian Thompson, crossed the finish line of the 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race at the Royal Malta Yacht Club to take Multihull Line Honours at 00.09.41 CET on Tuesday 20th October in an elapsed time of 2 days 11 hours 29 minutes and 41 seconds. Lloyd Thornburg, and his elated crew, were greeted at the Royal Malta Yacht Club by Commodore, Godwin Zammit.

After crossing the finish line, Lloyd Thornburg commented dockside at the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

"We were repairing one of the beams the night before the start, we were repairing a bit of damage sustained from setting some of our records, so we didn't get to do our normal practice and preparation.

The start of the race went really well and we had a very nice sail up to Sicily, then in the Messina Strait, we found a wind hole, which was a bit of a battle to get out of. It was a wonderful race with Rambler for much of the way, they made a better call in Messina going inside and it took us a while to get back from that. The conditions were light with lumpy seas, which we don't do so well in but towards the end we finally got our legs and were able to show the speed we are capable of.

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As the sun rose over Stromboli on the third day of the offshore Rolex Middle Sea Race, close to half of the 111-strong fleet had passed the active volcano on the northeastern most point on the 608-mile course. American Maxi, Rambler 88 –  that will sail in next June's Round Ireland race – was the first monohull to pass Stromboli, just before sunset. Skipper, George David was reminiscing about the last occasion he passed the 'Lighthouse of the Mediterranean'.

“It could not be a nicer afternoon than it is, with 11 knots of wind speed, VMG sailing.” commented George David from the helm of Rambler 88. “The sun is about an hour from setting, Stromboli is over our left shoulder, it must be about 25,000 feet high and didn’t realise there was a village on the north shore. Last time I was here in 2007, we passed at around 1am, we were having a much faster race then, that’s the year we set the record and Stromboli lit up with a proper eruption in the middle of the night, so there is not a nicer place to sail anywhere than right here, right now.”

At 0800 CET on Day 3, Lloyd Thornburg's MOD 70 Phaedo3 was passing Pantelleria, 220 miles from the finish. The American trimaran is expected to arrive at the Royal Malta Yacht Club early tomorrow morning but that could easily change with the wind speed. Rambler 88 was just two hours behind Phaedo3 at 0800 CET, both yachts are experiencing upwind conditions, which are expected to continue throughout today.

54 yachts had passed Stromboli this morning, giving an accurate picture of the overall leader racing under IRC for the Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy and for the six individual IRC Classes. Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard's Maltese J/122 Artie was the overall leader at Stromboli this morning, an hour ahead of the Czech Republic team racing Xp-44, Vikesha II, sailed by Igor Skalin. Costantin Manuele's Italian First 40.7, Canevel Spumanti was third after time correction.

At 0800 CET on Day Three of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, the fleet was extremely well spread out, 250 mlles separating the front to the back of the fleet. Two Italian yachts with highly experienced crews are performing well. Michele Galli's Italian TP52, B2 was just three miles from Vincenzo Onorato's Italian Cookson 50, Mascalzone Latino. The two yachts were negotiating an area of little breeze off Palermo. 50 miles away reaching the fresh southerly breeze at Favignana will be the next goal and by estimation only, these two yachts are in a strong position for the overall win.

On board Mascalzone Latino Italian tactician, Flavio Favini has won eight world championships in various classes and taken Line Honours in the Rolex Middle Sea Race on two occasions with Esimit Europa II. Mascalzone Latino Irish navigator, Ian Moore, was tactician with Bella Mente, winning last month's Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship. Ian has also won the Rolex Middle Sea Race as navigator with Lucky in 2010.

On board B2 Italian tactician, Francesco de Angelis, has won six world championships in different classes and the Louis Vuitton Cup. B2's Spanish navigator, Nacho Postigo has won five world championships and the TP52 Mediterranean championship. Francesco and Nacho formed the after-guard for B2's overall win of the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2013.

IRC Class leaders at Stromboli

IRC 1: Hungarian RP60, Wild Joe, sailed by Marton Jozsa. 44 minutes from Jan-Henrik Kisteit's German Maxi 72, Momo.

IRC 2: Mascalzone Latino. 17 minutes from TP52, B2.

IRC 3: Bastiaan de Voogd Dutch team racing Sydney 43 Coin Coin. 14 minutes from the Turkish Ker 40, Arkas Flying Box, skippered by Serhat Altay.

IRC 4: Vikesha II, nearly two hours from Giuseppe Puttini's Swan 65, Shirlaf. Maltese First 45, Elusive II BOV, skippered by Christoph Podesta, was third.

IRC 5: Artie was over an hour ahead of Canevel Spumanti.

IRC 6: Milan Hajek's Czech Republic team racing First 40.7, Three Sisters 45 minutes from Peppe Fornich's Grand Soleil 37, Sagola-Biotrading.

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Carrickfergus sailor Ian Moore, navigator on Vincenzo Onorato's Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino, reported feeling mixed emotions on board this afternoon in the second day of the Middle Sea race. “Just having a cold beer and some antipasti to celebrate getting out of the Straits but need an anti-depressant having seen the Ireland score!” (Ian's is referring to Ireland losing to Argentina in the Q-T of the Rugby World Cup.)

So far the Rolex Middle Sea Race has produced conditions which have favoured the smaller yachts but that is about to change. The fleet caught in Messina have little wind and experiencing foul current. For now, as a guide only, leading yachts from IRC Classes 5 and 6 include; Lee Satariano and Christian Ripard's J/122 Artie, Costantin Manuele's First 40.7, Canevel Spumanti and Vikesha II skippered by Oleg Evdokimenko. However, expect the high performance yachts to get back up the rankings by tomorrow afternoon.

Lloyd Thornburg's MOD 70 Phaedo3 passed through Messina Strait, approximately 24 hours into the Rolex Middle Sea Race and rounded Stromboli at approximately 1600 CET. The ballistic trimaran is expected to get into fresh breeze from the southeast during this evening. The three combined hulls of Phaedo3 have a waterline length of 60 metres (200ft) but the entire structure only weighs 7000kg. Coupled with hi-tech sails and a rotating and canting mast, Phaedo3 is capable of travelling at over twice the wind speed. Later tonight, Phaedo3 is expected to be on a broad reach in 15 knots of breeze and should be literally flying at well over 20 knots of boat speed, towards the most northwesterly point of the course, Favignana. It is highly unlikely that any of the 111 strong fleet will see Phaedo3 again, until they return to Malta.

George David's American Maxi Rambler 88 is in a commanding position to take monohull Line Honours having stretched out a 15-mile lead over Jan-Henrik Kisteit's German Maxi 72, Momo. At 1600 CET, only eight yachts had passed through the Messina Strait: Rambler 88, Momo, Mascalzone Latino,B2, Wild Joe, Varuna, Plis Play and SFS II. This pack of yachts is very likely to pull away from the fleet left in the Messina Strait, especially as the vast majority of the fleet are now experiencing negative current and will do so for the next few hours.


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17th October 2015

Light Start to Middle Sea Race

Light Northwesterly winds for the next two days will test even the most experienced offshore sailors in the Middle Sea race from Malta today. The search is on for the quickest way to get out ahead of the pack in the 100–plus boat fleet.

Valletta's magnificent Grand Harbour on the fortified island of Malta is steeped in history and again today was the site of an important battle, this time among 111 teams from 22 different nations competing in the 36th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Organised by the historic Royal Malta Yacht Club, which was founded in 1835, the Rolex Middle Sea Race is the final event on the Mediterranean regatta calendar. It attracts the most experienced professional and Corinthian sailors, challenged by the varied conditions that the stunning 608 NM race course offers.

The Royal Malta Yacht Club’s Race Committee precisely executed seven starts with the cannons firing from Saluting Battery and the fleet set off heading North towards the Strait of Messina. 

According to Jules Salter (GBR), navigator onboard Maxi 72 Momo; “It’s going to be light. We will probably get to know the East coast of Sicily quite well as we will be trying to get some sea breeze or night breeze up there. After that, there is a big feature coming in about three days (Tuesday), which will bring in a bit of excitement – wind, rain and thunderstorms. But if we can get going fast, we will get around ahead of it. Or we will get involved in it. Or if we are really slow it will pick everyone up and make it a small boat race.”

Momo’s closest competition for line honours is expected to be George David’s new Juan Kouyoumdjian designed Rambler 88. The American team holds the course record, having completed the race in 47 hours and 55 minutes and three seconds in 2007. They return to Malta as part of their grand slam, which includes the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race and 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

“On time it could be anyone. Rambler 88 is a machine – a really good boat – can’t wait to get going again,” said navigator Andrew Cape (AUS), America's Cup winner and a veteran of six Volvo Ocean Races. “We need to sail it as hard as we can, we have a really good crew and anywhere suits Rambler. It’s just a matter of us getting the right breeze. It’s apt to be a pretty slow first night and morning, that is going to make it hard for us to win on handicap – but anything can happen.”

The truly diverse fleet of yachts range from 9.5 to 27 M in length and includes three Volvo Open 70s, Green Dragon (AUT), Black Betty (TUR) and SFS (FRA), as well as the impressively fast multihulls Phaedo3 (USA) and Paradox (USA), which have already pulled out in front of the fleet.

Meanwhile, there is also the stunning 52 foot wooden yawl Dorade, designed by Sparkman & Stephens and meticulously restored by owner Matt Brooks (USA). Dorade also competing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race as part of her quest to compete in all the ocean races the boat won in 1930s, which includes the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race where she placed seventh overall among 354 entries.

It promises to be a long night for navigators, with all sights set on Capo Passero, the most Southerly point of Sicily, followed by the wind shadow of Mount Etna.

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The Royal Malta Yacht Club has announced that 100 yachts have now entered its 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Offshore Race.

The 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race starts on Saturday 17th October.  The 36th edition of the race has attracted competitors from at least 22 different countries from all over the world. The 606-mile race starts and finishes in the spectacular surroundings of Malta's capital city, Valetta. The Fortress City is named after its founder, the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette and its impressive bastions date back to the 16th century. From the Grand Harbour, the race is blessed with unsurpassed scenery with its course, taking competitors close to a number of stunning islands around Sicily and Malta, before returning to the Royal Malta Yacht Club for a fantastic welcome.

Since the first edition in 1968, the race has attracted a wide variety of competitors and yachts and this year's race is no different. World Champions and professional sailors from the Volvo Ocean Race and America's Cup will be taking part, as well as passionate corinthian sailors. The yachts are just as diverse, from elegant classics to the world's fastest multihulls. The Rolex Middle Sea Race has an appeal that satisfies a wide variety of sailors.

Three of the world's fastest multihulls will be racing this year, capable of demolishing the race record. MOD 70, Musandam-Oman Sail, will be the first entry from Oman in the history of the race. The multi-national crew racing Musandam-Oman Sail blends established and world-renowned sailors with exciting young Omani talent. In 2014, skippered by Sidney Gavignet, Musandam-Oman Sail set the race and course record for the Round Britain and Ireland Race. Hitting a top speed of 43 knots, Musandam-Oman Sail rarely dropped below 25 knots in completing the 1800 mile course in four and half days.

From St. Barths, West Indies, Lloyd Thornburg's MOD 70, Phaedo3, will also be making its Rolex Middle Sea Race debut. Earlier this year, the lime green trimaran has been smashing records in the Caribbean including the RORC Caribbean 600 multihull record, which has stood since the first race in 2009. Multiple world record holder, Brian Thompson, leads the all-star crew and will be keen to beat Musandam-Oman Sail, which was faster on the water than Phaedo3 in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race.

Californian solar energy expert, Peter Aschenbrenner, will be racing his Nigel Irens 63' Trimaran, Paradox. After MOCRA time correction, Paradox beat both Musandam-Oman Sail and Phaedo3 in the Rolex Fastnet Race and was the Open Class winner for the 2015 Transatlantic Race. Paradox crew includes skipper, Jeff Mearing, crew of the record breaking Hydroptere and Paul Larsen, the fastest man on water with Sail Rocket; 65.45 knots! Neither Peter Aschenbrenner, nor Paradox, have taken part in the Rolex Middle Sea Race before.

“Malta is an amazing place, a crossroads of civilizations for three millennia.” enthused Peter Aschenbrenner. “Mid-October is my favourite season for the southern Mediterranean and we are thinking about taking a couple of extra days after the race to cruise around Gozo. For the race, I love the 600 mile format, which is long enough to be a proper ocean race with lots of tactical challenges but an approachable commitment time-wise for those of us who take the occasional week off of work. I am really looking forward to sailing past Etna, the Messina Strait, around Stromboli and also the Aeolian islands , around the Egadis and Pantelleria. I have been to many of these places as a visitor, but never under sail.”

In sharp contrast to the carbon fibre, high speed multihulls, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has attracted classic yachts and this year, one of the world's most famous.

Designed in 1929 by Olin Stephens, the 52ft yawl, Dorade, won the Fastnet Race in 1931 & 1933. Olin Stephens was skipper through 1932 when he handed the boat to his brother, Rod Stephens who sailed to victory in the 1932 Bermuda Race. Californian, Matt Brooks is now the proud owner of Dorade, and is extremely fastidious with regards to the authentic appearance, maintaining the yacht as closely as possible to her original configuration. Dorade maybe the oldest yacht to compete in the Rolex Middle Sea Race but she is still very competitive. In last month's Rolex Fastnet Race, Dorade was second in IRC 4 and seventh overall out of over 300 yachts racing under IRC and second in class for the 2015 Transatlantic Race.

Dorade is competing in all of the races in the Atlantic series, and of course the Rolex Middle Sea is one of those.” commented Matt Brooks. “Beyond that, this is our next chapter in Dorade's history, to take on races she has never done before, particularly iconic and challenging off-shore races like the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Last summer we competed in several of the coastal classic regattas in the Mediterranean - Corsica, St Tropez and Cannes -- and did very well there. We look forward to experiencing the Mediterranean from offshore in this year's race.”

Godwin Zammit, Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club is looking forward to welcoming over a thousand sailors to the club. “The staff and volunteers that organise the Rolex Middle Sea Race have been working diligently to make ready for our guests from overseas.. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is the flagship race of the Royal Malta Yacht Club and we will be doing everything possible to ensure that the race will run as smoothly as possible. The Royal Malta Yacht Club has excellent facilities and we wish all of the participants a warm welcome and fair winds for this year's race.”

The 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race starts on Saturday 17th October.

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#irishsailingreview – 2014 has been the year in which Irish sailing regained its international confidence afloat by re-capturing the Commodore's Cup. Having won it in 2010, the national economic collapse prevented any defence in 2012, but in July 2014 the stain and shame of 2012's non-appearance was emphatically wiped from memory with a convincing team victory led by Anthony O'Leary.

Ashore meanwhile, it had taken longer in some quarters for the economic realities to become fully evident and accepted. But for the Irish Sailing Association, a grassroots revolution within the national authority and sailing in general in 2014 resulted in a root-and-branch analysis of the workings of the Association, which had been heading towards financial disaster through a combination of over-staffing, grandiose schemes of expansion and empire-building, and an emphasis on activities and programmes which were remote from the needs of ordinary sailors throughout Ireland.

It took six months to turn round the course of the Association. But on November 5th 2014 the new ISA President, David Lovegrove, was able to announce a far-reaching re-structuring which is already resulting in a leaner and fitter body, better able to provide a realistic service for clubs and the huge diversity of recreational activity on Ireland's seas and lakes.

While all this high profile activity and action has been taking place at international and national level, those Irish sailors who had managed to keep up their sport through the financial downturn – albeit in often very reduced circumstances – continued to sail their boats with the attitude that, while the economic situation was disastrous, it mustn't be allowed to become serious, and in some ways the best course out of the recession was to sail through it. W M Nixon casts an eye over the year's main activities.

In the Irish sailing year, Christmas Day is New Year's Eve. Next morning, on December 26th – St Stephen's Day or Boxing Day or whatever you're having yourself – the annual 628-mile Sydney-Hobart Race starts. It may be on the other side of the world, and it may still be in the very last days of the old year. But Irish interest at home and in Irish-Australia is always high, and in the sailing community it's seen as the start of the new season.

December 26th 2013 was in line with this, as we'd ex-Pat superstar Gordon Maguire – a previous Hobart race overall winner – very much in contention with Matt Allen's totally new Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban, we also had Sean McCarter of Lough Swilly YC skippering Derry/Londonderry in the warmly-welcomed Clipper Fleet of 70-footers designed by Tony Castro (formerly of Crosshaven) which were taking in the Hobart race as part of their global circumnavigating race, and we'd Barry Hurley and Kenny Rumball on the First 40 Breakthrough knowing that in the 2010 Hobart race, the new design's race debut, First 40s had taken first and second overall.

In a rugged race in which the wind got up to gale force and more towards the end, it was a much-loved hundred footer, Bob Oatley's continually-modified Wild Oats XI, which stole all the headlines with line honours, a course record, and a class win. Irish hopes were best met by Sean McCarter, who logged a very clear win in the Clippers. As for Ichi Ban, while she was third in IRC Div 1 and 8th overall, it wasn't quite a stellar performance, reinforcing the views of those of us who think the boat may be just a little too plump by today's lean and hungry standards. And aboard Breakthrough, they'd 8th in class and 29th overall, a useful performance perhaps, but Barry Hurley will be back on December 26th 2014, boosted by his first in class and second overall in October's Middle Sea Race.

Matt Allen's Ichi Ban in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race of 2013, with Gordon Maguire as sailing master. To some observers, the very new Carkeek 60 seemed distinctly plump in her hull form forward compared to her closest competitors

In late January 2014, attention focused on the Quantum Key West Regatta in the Florida Keys, where Irish Olympic sailor Peter O'Leary of Cork was on the strength of New York art dealer Marc Glimcher's completely new and very potent looking Ker 40 Catapult. The boat did the business afloat in Florida, but further business was done ashore, as Anthony O'Leary himself was in Key West to see if he could sign up Catapult to be the secret ingredient in Ireland's Commodore's Cup team, for which at that stage the only certainty was his own older Ker 39 Antix. There seemed to be agreement, but in the volatile world of international trading and snap decisions in which top modern sailing operates, there can be sudden reversals of fortune, and O'Leary later admitted that until Catapult was actually unloaded from a ship in Europe, he hadn't been a hundred per cent certain she'd show.

Key West had further Irish interest in that veteran skipper Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens – a former Round Ireland Race winner – was another star in the show, but much was to happen in Irish sailing before the Round Ireland 2014 got under way in Wicklow on June 28th.

With March slowly showing signs of Spring, university racing came centre stage, and it was University College Dublin which came through on top to qualify as Ireland's representatives in the Student Yachting Worlds in France in October, the team led by Philip Doran.

Another team was emerging as the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) announced that our Commodore's Cup squad would be Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39 Antix, Marc Glimcher's Catapult, and the Grand Soleil 43 Quokka chartered by Michael Boyd and Niall Dowling, with Anthony O'Leary as team captain. He in turn would be supported by the shore management team, for a very intense week of racing, of Barry Rose and Fintan Cairns, with Mike Broughton in what would prove to be the particularly onerous task of Team Meteorologist.

As 2014 was exactly midway between two Olympiads, top level international dinghy sailing to Olympic standards might have been expected to be on the back burner. But Ireland's Olympians were very much on track on the international scene, and busy with their own programmes which culminated in the ISAF Worlds in Santander where Olympic places in Rio de Janeiro for 2016 were secured by James Espey in the Laser, Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern in the 49er, and Annalise Murphy in the Women's Laser Radial. All were of course also seen in other boat types from time to time, with Annalise in particular bringing some glamour to the growing class of foiling Moths in Ireland.

Annalise on the foiling Moth

Other top international women sailors had descended on Ireland in early June with the ISAF Women's Match Race Worlds at Crosshaven. It's very much a specialist sailing interest, but aspiring Irish woman sailors attracted to this discipline found that this successful regatta provided some very useful networking contacts and future crewing possibilities, while the racing itself saw Sweden's Anna Kjellberg of the Royal Gothenburg YC become the new champion after defeating Camilla Ulrikkeholm of Denmark in the final.

In an entirely different area of sailing and life afloat, the traditional boat scene had come early to life with the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival at the end of May. In the Irish climate after a particularly damp Spring, it reflected great credit on those involved that there was such a good turnout, ranging from the Shannon Gandelows from Limerick recently returned from their historic visit to Venice, through the many restored classic yachts of the region, also including the lovely Shannon cutter Sally O'Keeffe from Kilrush, and going on into the restored traditional mackerel and lobster yawls which make West Cork their home.

Shortly after their historic visit to Venice, the Shannon gandelows built by the Ilen School took part in the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival at the end of May. The gandelow here, rowed by Liam O'Donghue, Anthony Kenny and Robert Samlle, is headed across Baltimore Harbour towards the gaff ketch Sile a Do.

The pride of the Shannon Estuary - Sally O'Keeffe was built in a community effort in Querrin on the Loop Head peninsula.

The traditional lobster boat Saoirse Muireann (left, Cormac Levis) and the mackerel yawl An tiscaire (Uilliam O'Lorcain) are a familiar sight in the waters of West Cork. Photo: Brian Marten

They were to re-appear in even greater numbers at the Ballydehob Gathering of the Boats in early August, a month during which the classic Galway Hookers of the West Coast were at their busiest on their home Atlantic waters, but the East Coast also had its moments with the Riverfest in Dublin's Liffey in early June seeing traditional and classic craft in a lively mix.

Sails in the City – two of the 1898 Howth Seventeens racing in the heart of Dublin in the Liffey Riverfest. Photo: W M Nixon

It could almost be Connemara, were it not for the Puppeteer 22s – the Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan in the new Classics & Traditional Division in Howth's annual Lambay Race, which was marking its 110th anniversary in 2014. Photo: W M Nixon

Indeed, so strong is the growing interest in classics and trads on the East Coast that to celebrate the centenary of the Lynch family's Howth 17 Echo (one of the newest of the class, the most senior ones were built in 1898) Howth YC provided a traditional Lambay Race course – simply up around Lambay and back to Howth Harbour – for the Seventeens and a new Classics Division, with the Howth 17s seeing the first two places taken by 1898 boats – Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) and Aura (Ian Malcolm) – while Old Gaffers Association International president Sean Walsh won the classics with his Heard 28 Tir na nOg from the Clondalkin team's Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan. As for the overall prize among the large fleet of more modern boats sailing their more complex course, that was won by Colm Bermingham's Bite the Bullet.

The countdown to the Commodore's Cup had continued with inspirational performances by Anthony O'Leary in the Easter Challenge in the Solent, where he won his class with Antix, and then in June he did the same again with the British IRC Championship. Back home, ICRA held their Nationals with the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire in mid-June, and out of a fleet of a hundred plus boats it was the vintage Marcus Hutchinson/Rob Humphreys designed Quarter Tonner Quest (Jonathan Skerritt, RIYC) which was best overall scorer, a notably impressive performance also being put in by the Ker 36 Jump Juice (Denise Phelan) from Crosshaven.

The 27-year-old Quarter Tonner Quest (Jonathan Skerritt) was overall winner in the ICRA Nats at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: David O'Brien

Downhill battle at the ICRA Nats with the Mills 36 Raptor (ex-Aztec) in foreground, while beyond is Peter Dunlop of Pwllheli's J/109 Mojito against the XP33 Bon Exemple (Colin Byrne, RIYC). Photo: Davd O'Brien

The Ker 36 Jump Juice (Denise Phelan) dominated Class 0 at the ICRA Nats. Photo: David O'Brien

The end of June, and it was Round Ireland time. Thirty-six boats started from Wicklow, 33 finished in a race which was mostly on the slow side, with mid-size boats having their day. The winner was Richard Harris's Sydney 36 Tanit from Scotland by just six minutes from the home favourite, Liam Shanahan's J/109 Ruth from the NYC in Dun Laoghaire. The French defending champion, Laurent Gouy's Ker 39 Inis Mor which sails in Ireland under the burgee of Clifden Boat Club, placed third while Frank Doyle of Cork, second generation round Ireland aristocracy as son of Denis of Moonduster fame, was fourth with his A35 Endgame.

The start of the Round Ireland Race 2014 well illustrates the eclectic nature of the fleet. In right foreground is Richard Harris's Sydney 36 Tanit which was overall winner by just six minutes from the J/109 Ruth (Liam Shanahan), just beyond with the black jib, while the Volvo 70 Monster Project (David Ryan) comes thundering through the fleet at the beginning of a performance whch would see her take line honours win and thd class win in the CK Div.. Photo: Kevin Tracey

The same weekend as the Round Ireland race started, Lough Foyle sent the Clipper Fleet on their way after a week's festivities in Derry/Londonderry, made even more festive by the fact that Sean McCarter and his crew with the home town's boat had crowned their win in the Sydney-Hobart race with victory in the Transatlantic leg to Derry.

Clipper fleet in Derry

Crosshaven fairly leaped to life with Cork Week in July, and after several hitches in various boat-shipping plans, it was notable as the first time the Irish Commodore's Cup Team 2014 were seen together, and mighty impressive they looked too, with Quokka proving best on the Cork Week leaderboard.

Michael Boyd (centre behind cup) and his Quokka crew, a member of Ireland's Commodore's Cup team, were overall winners of Cork week 2014. Photo: Bob Bateman

In the F18 Worlds at Ballyholme, Dutch skipper Gunnar Larssen (crewed by Ferdinand van West) is seen here putting in the smooth performance which saw him winning the worlds at his thirteenth attempt. Photo: W M Nixon

While all this excitement in racing boats with lids was building on the south coast in July, up north on Belfast Lough at Ballyholme the F18 Worlds were held for one of global sailing's most popular catamaran classes. Though the entry of 56 boats didn't match the 150-plus entries they get when the class has its worlds in its Mediterranean heartlands, the sailing was good and a popular winner emerged in longtime F18 sailor Gunnar Larsen, who is Dutch despite his Scandinavian name.

Dinghy attention was also very closely focused on Dublin Bay, with an enormous fleet of Optimists at the Europeans hosted by Royal St George YC from 12th to 20th July, and Dun Laoghaire really showing what it can do in being a major international regatta centre. France's Enzo Balanger was tops from Sweden's Kasper Nordenram, while best of the Irish in the Gold Division was Royal Cork's James McCann in tenth – not surprisingly, he was to go on to win the Nationals at his home club in August.

Nations from across Europe and beyond were at the Optimist Euros at Dun Laoghaire

Finn Lynch racing at Douarnenez in France where be became the new U19 Laser Standard world championPhoto: Trevor Millar/Sail Coach

On the broader international scene, former Opty stars Finn Lynch (National YC) and Seafra Guifoyle (Royal Cork) were to turn in outstanding results during 2014, with Guilfoyle firmly in the frame through the ISAF Youth Worlds in the Laser, eventually coming home from Tavira in Portugal with the Silver, while Finn Lynch was on top form to clinch the Gold in the Under 19 Laser Standard Worlds at Douarnenez in Brittany.

Back aboard the boats with lids, late July had brought the Commodore's Cup in the Solent, and if anyone out there doesn't know who won, we'd like to hear from them, as the state of total seclusion which this implies is surely something which could be packaged and marketed to our hyper-informed and over-crowded world. The comprehensive Irish victory just seems better and better with the passage of time, and for Anthony O'Leary it was the highlight of a fantastic season which in September was to see him win the Helmsman's Championship of Ireland (admittedly by just a whisker) in J/80s in Howth to set up a national double for Royal Cork, as young Harry Durcan of Crosshaven was winner of the Junior Helmsmans. O'Leary meanwhile went on to win the 1720 Nationals in Baltimore later that month, and then in November his beloved Antix was named RORC Yacht of the Year.

Antix in the Commodore's Cup, hanging in well coming to the weather mark to stay ahead of the newer Ker 40 Cutting Edge. Photo: Rick Tomlinson)

Even as Antix and her team mates were racing on towards glory in the Solent, in Clew Bay the West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association (WIORA) were staging their annual championship at hospitable Mayo SC, and it saw a good spread of results, with the overall winner being Galway's Liam Burke with his Corby 25 Tribal, while the runner-up was the McGibneys' Dehler Optimum 101 Dis-a-Ray, which sails under the Foynes YC burgee, but her home port is Tarbert further west along the Shannon Estuary.

August was busy with events for enjoyment. Eighty boats raced in Calves Week in West Cork, which has now been compressed to a four day regatta which means, as one sage family man observed, that you can take a house in Schull for a week's holiday, and then just as the wife and kids are getting fed up with having the ould fella always about the place, doesn't he absolutely have to go off and spend the last four days of the holiday sailing with his mates? That one of the top boats was Colman Garvey's True Penance maybe says it all.

Calves Week 2014 entries were up 25% in 2014. Photo: Bob Bateman

The GP14 Worlds at East Down YC in Strangford Lough launched a hundred boats every day in smooth style. Photo: W M Nixon

The biggest dinghy event of all (other than the Laser Nationals, which as ever are in a league of their own) was the GP 14 Worlds in mid-August at East Down YC in Strangford Lough, which had its excitement in a sudden storm on the Monday, but it all turned out okay. Boats involved were just over the hundred mark, the best boats were built in Northern Ireland by Alistair Duffin, and winners were English crew of Ian Dobson and Andy Tunnicliffe from Burwain, while top Irish were John and Donal McGuinness of Moville in Donegal, they were sixth.

At the other end of the intensity scale, down in Howth they had their first cruiser-racer two-hander for the Aqua Restaurant Challenge. Despite very restrained pre-publicity, it attracted 34 boats for a race round Lambay and the Kish. Stephen O'Flaherty's elegant Spirit 54 Soufriere, fresh from a win in the Panerai Classics in Cowes and co-sailed by David Cagney, took line honours and almost won, but the vintage Humphreys Half Tonner Harmony (Peter Freyne and Jonny Swann) just pipped them at the end.

Sailed in summery weather, the new Howth two-handed was about as different as possible from another two-handed experience in August, that of Liam Coyne (NYC) and Brin Flahive (Wicklow) in the 1800 mile RORC Seven Star Round Britain and Ireland. They didn't have to be two-handed, there were fully crew boats involved including the 70ft–trimaran Musandam in which Ireland's Damian Foxall played a leading role in taking line honours in record time, but aboard the First 36.7 Lula Belle the Irish duo just toughed it out despite sailing the last 500 miles with virtually nothing functional, they simply decided to see it through, and to their amazement found they'd won Classes V & VI.

Lula Belle on her way out of the Solent with 1800 miles to race. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Brian Flahive & Liam Coyne back in Dun Laoghaire on the morning of their return from the finish of the Round Britain & Ireland Race. Photo: W M Nixon

As for the Laser Nats, they were at the end of August and another Ballyholme event, with Johnny Durcan of Royal Cork winning from Rory Fekkes of the home club, while the radials saw Annalise Murphy keep her hand in with a win from Cork's Cian Byrne.

After some rugged August weather, particularly on Ireland's East Coast, September was utterly blissful and it sweetly rounded out Dublin Bay Sailing Club's 130th season, the birthday being marked by a fairly epic dinner in the National YC. September also saw the conclusion of the slowly but steadily reviving Irish Sea Offshore Racing programme, with the end-of-season race from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire seeing Liam Shanahan's J/109 Ruth confirmed as the overall winner of the series. Among locally campaigned dinghies, meanwhile, Dun Laoghaire's keen Fireball Class kept its annual programme in lively shape, and the season drew a close with Barry McCartin and Conor Kinsella winning overall from Noel Butler and Stephen Oram.

ISORA Champion Ruth skippered by Liam Shanahan jnr from the National Yacht Club

Across country in Limerick, the CityOne dinghies and the traditional Shannon gandelows created in projects of the Ilen Boatbuilding School made their debut in the city centre on one of the last days of the Indian summer, and then they were put on display in a Naumachia in St Mary's Cathedral which was officially opened by Michael Noonan TD, and later formally visited by President Higgins.

The hopeful new spirit of Irish sailing in 2014 was evident in St Mary's Cathedral in Limerick, when the CityOne dinghies built by volunteers in an inner city revitalisation project went on display in a Naumachia in the Cathedral on September 26th, after their first regatta on the Shannon in the heart of Ireland's City of Culture 2014. With the boats in the cathedral were (left) Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey (Director, the Ilen School), Limerick's senior TD and Ireland's Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, and Gary MacMahon (right) Director of the Ilen School & Network for Wooden Boatbuilding. Photo: Press22

And then more vigorous winds returned in October, with the Freshwater Keelboat event on Lough Derg – originally just an exclusive Dragon thing – finding itself swamped with sixty and more boats from five classes and increasingly rugged conditions, such that only the Dragons and Squibs managed to get in any meaningful racing, with Neil Hegarty (RStGYC) winning the Dragons while James Matthews and Rob Jacob of Kinsale topped the Squibs.

Dragons in Autumn action on Lough Derg – Neil Hegarty (right) was overall winner from runner-up Richard Goodbody (left) Photo: Gareth Craig

Squibs on Lough Derg – it may look like perfect sailing, but the top came off the weather very soon afterwads. Photo: Gareth Craig

The Student Yachting Worlds in La Rochelle in October had some hiccups in UCD's campaign for Ireland, but while they very narrowly missed the podium in a truly international event, they stayed put at fourth overall. And round in the Mediterranean, a record fleet for the Rolex Middle Sea Race from Malta saw entries soar through the 120 mark for the first time, and the 606 mile race had its first half in light breezes, but the second half was in pure Mistral, with people talking of "winds easing to 44 knots....." A Maltese-owned J/122 won, but second overall and first in her class was the Xp44 XpAct (Josef Schultheis) with a strong Irish emphasis in her crew including Barry Hurley, Andy Boyle, Kenny Rumball and Phillip Connor.

Soon afterwards, the Volvo World Race got under way with first stage from the Med to Cape Town, and Ireland's Justin Slattery on the winning boat on Leg 1. Back home, Autumn leagues had seen renewed enthusiasm as though people had suddenly re-discovered their sport, and the great sailing year of 2014 drew towards its close with the Lasers in Howth starting their 40th winter of annual frostbite racing. This means that HYC have now had a continuous sailing programme since April 1974, while across in Dun Laoghaire the DMYC Frostbite Series must be the most senior of all winter events. Winter Leagues attract more aficionados, with the popularity of the Dublin Bay Turkey Shoot in particular providing a forceful reminder that Dun Laoghaire is the principal sea access for a notably affluent and very large population in South Dublin. With the Turkey on its way, soon it's Christmas. And then the new Irish sailing season will begin on the blue waters of Sydney Harbour.

Justin Slattery on Volvo World Race 2014. Photo: Volvo Ocean Race

Published in W M Nixon

#sailorofthemonth – Barry Hurley, who learnt his sailing on Cork Harbour out of Cobh, is best known as a star of the short-handed offshore racing scene. But in recent years he has been carving a formidable reputation as a team co-ordinator on board fully-crewed boats, and the recent 606-mile Middle Sea Race out of Malta against a record fleet of more than 120 boats has been an outstanding achievement for him.

In a central role aboard Josef Schultheis's Xp44 XpAct, Hurley and his shipmates took first in class on IRC and ORC, and second overall in both IRC and ORC. It was his tenth Rolex Middle Sea Race, and again it was aboard a boat which as always was immaculately presented, while the gathering of crew from far andwide for XpAct resulted in ten very experienced sailors from five differentcountries coming together in Malta a week before the start.

From Ireland they had Andrew Boyle trimming, a bow team of Kenny Rumball and Phillip Connor, and Barry Hurley as a driver. They opted for four helmsmen, four trimmers, and two bow so as to push hard throughout. Boat preparation had been relentless during the long summer, with the commissioning of a new carbon bowsprit twice the length of the original. They'd a full suit of nine sails to work all the angles to maximise the potency of an already very strong boat, and having finished second in class in 2013 with her, they knew they could do better with a few minor adjustments.

It was a race of two halves. Very light airs for the first three hundred milesgave XpAct the opportunity to recover from some early sail issues , and be in the hunt at the half way point North of Sicily. A strong Mistral then allowed them to push the boat to its limits for the second half, and with non stop trimming in enormous seas they completed the second 300 miles in just over 24hrs. They hit 22.9 knots max boatspeed, and averaged mid teens on the legs to Pantelleria, Lampedusa, and home to Malta, carrying an A3 and one reef in well over 30 knots approaching the finish. The fact that the Volvo70 and some of the other big offshore racing boats only got past them on the last leg shows how hard they were pushing their 44ft 'cruiser racer'.

XpAct's achievement was the peak of a remarkable Irish performance in a challengingevent, with Irish sailors also finishing sixth overall, as well as notching many good placings in individual classes. Next on Barry Hurley's personal agenda is the 70th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race at Christmas, for which he expects to have Irish sailors in the crew. But for now, he is very definitely the "Sailor of the Month" for October 2014.

Published in Sailor of the Month

#MiddleSeaRace - As previously reported on, Irish-crewed boats made the podium in the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race that came to a close last week. But they didn't mark the only Irish involvement in the gruelling offshore challenge.

Howth Yacht Club was represented twice among the fleet, with one team chartering Lucy Reynolds' Beneteau First 40, Southern Child, and HYC sailor Laura Dillon setting out on the S&S 41, Winsome.

The latter was forced to retire from the race after the extreme weather conditions that hammered the Mediterranean midweek, with Dillon describing the situation as "frightening" – though both boat and crew were able to shelter at the Italian island of Pantelleria, relatively unscathed.

Meanwhile, the crew of Southern Child elected to push on to the finish, helped by their more remote location out of the full impact of the Force 10 gales that rammed the fleet.

Despite that fortune, the return leg was heavy going in confused seas and waves as high as 10 metres, and it was only on crossing the finish line that the crew discovered they'd placed sixth in Class 4, which saw 75% of entered boats retire.

"Sustained wind strengths of 44 knots for a period of 24 hours really tested the spirit of the crew, and the relentless conditions were some of the most difficult that I've seen," said HYC's Kieran Jameson, who crewed Southern Child with Darren Wright, Colm Bermingham, Frank Dillon, Rick De Nieve, David Wright, Paul Walsh, Jonny White, Will Murray and Lucy Reynolds.

Published in Offshore

#middlesearace – Two Irish crewed boats took podium positions in October's Middle Sea Race that concluded this morning. Racing as part of a Maltese crew Irish offshore sailors Kenny Rumball, Andy Boyle, Philip Connor and Barry Hurley are provisionally second overall and first in class three as part of Xpact, an Xp44.

After probably the toughest 24 hours in the 46 year history of the race, Lee Satariano's Maltese J/122, Artie finished the Rolex Middle Sea Race on Thursday 23 October 2014 at 00h 45m 5s in an elapsed time of 4 Days 13 hours 35 mins and 05 secs to win overall.

Last year's winner Otra Vez, a J122 with Ireland's top offshore sailing duo Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive, the August winners of the Round Britain and Ireland race, as part of the hot J-boat crew, was third.

Artie confirmed as overall winner of the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race

The Royal Malta Yacht Club has been a hive of activity both day and night, welcoming back yachts taking part in the Rolex Middle Sea Race. By Midday on Day Six 34 yachts have finished the race and 25 yachts have retired. Each and every sailor that has taken part, including those that are still out there, has a story to tell for years to come. The 35th edition of the race has been one of the most memorable in the 46 year history of the race. The storm that arrived on the fourth night of racing was ferocious in its strength and lasted over 24 hours. Thankfully, conditions have now abated somewhat and although there are broken boats and battered crew, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has received no reports of serious injuries. The majority of the fleet are expected to finish today.

Reports of over 60 knots of wind and mountainous seas abound. At the Yacht Club bar, acts of expert seamanship, in exceptionally rough seas, are the main topic of conversation. These anecdotes are resonating around the sailing community, the world over. Take Eric De Turckheim's Teasing Machine, which showed electric pace in the savage seas, only to be dismasted 20 miles from the finish. Ross Applebey and Andy Middleton's Scarlet Oyster, spent last night lashed to a fishing boat, sheltering from the storm. There are a dozen Double Handed teams still out there and soon their stories will add even more depth to what has become a fascinating race.

This afternoon, with all mathematical possibilities exhausted for all of the yachts still racing. Lee Satariano's Maltese J/122, Artie was declared the overall winner of the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Artie was also declared the first Maltese yacht to finish the race and winner of IRC 4, ORC 4 and ORC Overall. Godwin Zammit, Commodore of the Royal Malta Yacht Club congratulated Lee Satariano and the entire Artie crew at the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet." Smiled Lee Satariano. "But now having had the opportunity to reflect on the race, even more important than winning was the achievement of actually finishing the race in the conditions that we had out there. Even near the end my worry was not finishing, right up until the end, we knew boats were in difficulties, which was very unfortunate and that was playing on my mind until we crossed the finish line. I would like to emphasise that one thing we really promote on Artie, throughout the year, is that we have young dinghy sailors on board and a main objective is to get these youngsters out sailing, combining them with our regular crew to create the future sailors that will be representing Malta."

Artie's crew for the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race
Lee Satariano, Christian Ripard, Sebastian Ripard (co-skippers), Matthew Gusman, Sam Pizzuto, Tom Ripard, Matthew Almekinders, Gordon Bugeja, Timothy Davis.

Published in Offshore
Tagged under

#middlesearace – At Stromboli in the Meditteranean Sea this morning, two Irish sailors part of the crew on the Maltese yacht Otra Vez are first in IRC in the 600–mile Rolex Middle Sea Race. Gatt Floridia's Maltese J/122, Otra Vez was leading the class at Stromboli after time correction and immediately headed south towards the Aeolian Islands. Onboard Otra Vez, as previously reported, are Ireland's top offshore sailing duo Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive, the August winners of the Round Britain and Ireland race.

At 0900 CET Otra Vez was sailing almost two knots quicker than their Maltese rival, J/122 Artie, skippered by Lee Satariano. Andy Middleton and Ross Applebey's British Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster has taken up the most northerly position of the class, and when passing Stromboli, the highly successful yacht was lying third in class.

By Midnight virtually the entire fleet racing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race had passed through the Straits of Messina, heading for Stromboli, the active volcano that marks the most northerly part of the 608 mile course. As high pressure moved in from the north, the area around Stromboli had virtually no gradient wind and for those yachts yet to reach Stromboli, a south flowing current has slowed proceedings even further. For the competitive offshore yacht racer, performing well in light wind is more difficult than blasting through a storm at top speed.

After two nights at sea, the crew may well be at their lowest energy level for the whole race. The rhythm of offshore life has not been established and the ever changing wind saps energy through numerous sail changes. Concentration also becomes difficult. After the excitement of the start adrenalin levels are now lower and keeping alert is not as easy. In light airs, losing focus on the helm, or on the sail trim, can be very costly and stalling the boat in little wind makes it difficult to get going again.

Half of this race takes place in the hours of darkness. When the crew are deprived of the sense of sight, spotting changes in the wind on the water becomes difficult but other senses tend to make up for this deficiency. Feeling the breeze on your cheek, sensing the heel of the boat, hearing the sails flap or the bigger wavelets tapping at the hull, these become the prime indicators. The first two days and nights of the Rolex Middle Sea race have not been about surfing down big seas with the salt spray hissing past the wheel, but racing well in light airs is a dark art, and there are plenty of magicians out there.
Analysis at 0900 CET 20th October 2014


At sunset on Day Two Line Honours favourite, Igor Simcic's Maxi, Esimit Europa 2, entered a transition zone in the wind and came to a virtual standstill until dawn. This allowed the duelling pair of Maxi 72s to close the gap. Niklas Zennstrom's Swedish JV72, Ran V and George Sakellaris' RP72, Shockwave are now just ten miles behind, Esimit Europa 2. Ran V is now the provisional leader of IRC 1.

After rounding Stromboli, a group of yachts made their intentions clear; gybing south towards the Aeolian Islands in the dead of night. Greek Farr 52, Optimum 3 Aspida, co-skippered by Periklis Livas and Nick Lazos led the way along with Paolo Semeraro's Neo 400, Neo Banks Sails and Marten 49, Moana, skippered by Christian Hamma. The Aeolian Islands are a UNESCO world heritage site but this group of yachts was not going sightseeing. The islands rise up to peaks of several hundred metres. The hot air that rises during the day, cools at night, often forming a local drainage wind. What is more, this group of yachts are the closest to the north coast of Sicily, where potentially a sea breeze may develop during today.

By complete contrast, Dmitry Samohkhin, Russian Swan 60, Petite Flamme has made a move offshore. This places the yacht above the tide, which will aid the team when gybing back towards Favignana. Also fresh winds are predicted to come from the north and if the forecast is true, Petite Flamme would get into this breeze, before the other yachts in their class.


This morning, the yachts racing in IRC 3 have virtually restarted the race with the majority of the yachts forming a new 'line' just after rounding Stromboli. Alessandro Narduzzi's Italian Nelson Marek 43, Il Moro di Venezia XXVII, was leading at Stromboli after time correction. Igor Katalevskiy's Russian First 44.7, High Spirit was second with Andrey Abrusov Russian First 40.7, Courrier du Coeur in third. Two yachts that have enjoyed success in the early part of the race have a difference of opinion in tactics. Italian Adria 49, Ars Una, skippered by Alberto Nunziante, has taken up the most southerly position in the class. Whilst Bastiaan de Voogd's Dutch Sydney 43, Coin Coin has taken up the most northerly position.


At Stromboli, Peppe Fornich's Grand Italian Grand Soleil 37, Sagola Biotrading was leading the class after time correction and was nine miles ahead of their nearest rival on the water, Christopher Spray's beautifully restored classic, Stormy Weather, which has John Brinkers on board. "We are at Stromboli and it has 'glassed out', confirmed John Brinkers. "Very frustrating as Stormy Weather had a great passage last night, we had 12 knots of wind and our water line length came into great use, putting us in a good position. However this morning all we can do is watch as the smaller lighter boats drifted past us, taking away all of the miles earned through hard work last night. There isn't much we can do at the moment, but keep our spirits up and hope that the forecast for more wind will come sooner rather than later."

Frustrating as it may be for the crews racing on the slower yachts, time is not standing still. In fact the lack of breeze should be very encouraging. The overall winner of the race is decided by the IRC rating of the yacht, which is a time correction handicap. For the yachts with lower rating, their 'clock' is ticking far slower than the high performance yachts and maybe - just maybe - the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race will be won overall by one of the smaller yachts in the race.

Published in Offshore
Page 6 of 9

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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