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Displaying items by tag: Offshore

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
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The 2022 RORC Transatlantic Race will see a collaboration between two eminent yacht clubs; The Royal Ocean Racing Club and Yacht Club de France, as they team up for the next edition of the 3,000 nm (5,500km) race from Lanzarote, Canary Islands to the Caribbean.

With an interest in expanding their programme of races, the Paris-based Yacht Club de France were keen to seek an alliance with the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the International Maxi Association to promote the already established RORC Transatlantic Race to its members and affiliated clubs. Modern IRC boats, as well as classic yachts will be invited to participate in the 8th edition of the annual race which has attracted previous entries from around the world to date.

“With the still-growing popularity of offshore racing in France and amongst our membership, we are very happy to join together with one of the most active and renowned offshore racing clubs in the world – the Royal Ocean Racing Club. We will be honoured to present a trophy on behalf of our historic club and help promote the RORC Transatlantic Race to our members and through our 32 associated clubs in France,” explains President of Yacht Club de France, Philippe Heral.

The dramatic volcanic mountains of Lanzarote make an impressive backdrop as the RORC Transatlantic Race fleet head for GrenadaThe dramatic volcanic mountains of Lanzarote make an impressive backdrop as the RORC Transatlantic Race fleet head for Grenada Photo: James Mitchell

The longest offshore race in the RORC’s Season’s Points Championship, which consists of over 20 events, the RORC Transatlantic Race was originally set up as a feeder race for the popular RORC Caribbean 600, to allow RORC members and Maxi boat owners the opportunity to race across the Atlantic before competing in the Caribbean regatta season.

“We very much look forward to working alongside our colleagues at the Yacht Club de France, which is one of the oldest yacht clubs in France (1867), to promote the race to its members and associations, and open the event to a wider audience,” commented RORC Commodore James Neville. "This is not the first time we have worked together as the RORC has used the Yacht Club de France’s prestigious Paris headquarters for the organisation of dinners for RORC members based in France."

Since the inaugural race in 2014, the RORC Transatlantic Race has been run in association with The International Maxi Association who award an impressive silver trophy to the Line Honours winner each year and the 2022 race will continue this custom.

Teasing Machine arriving in the sunny Caribbean after the Atlantic crossing in the RORC Transatlantic Race Photo: Arthur Daniel

IMA Secretary General, Andrew McIrvine said: “Since Charlie Barr first raced across the Atlantic back in the early 1900s in his three-masted schooner, its lure has drawn dozens of sailors who have a shared dream. Whether a passionate owner of a Maxi yacht, a modern IRC or classic yacht, or an experienced or novice crew, those who have competed in the RORC Transatlantic Race have fulfilled their ambition and we are delighted to be working alongside RORC and Yacht Club de France to help achieve this.”

The RORC Transatlantic Race will start on 8th January 2022 from Lanzarote and hosted by Calero Marinas in the Canary Islands.

Published in Offshore
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Meet Yannick and Sean Lemonnier, Galway Bay's father-son shorthanded offshore sailing duo. Yannick is the owner of Quantum Sails Ireland and is preparing for the 2021 Mini Transat Race.

He has been sharing his passion with Sean for years and the two have spent some unforgettable moments together on the water.

As regular Afloat readers will recall, the duo – with a hat-trick under their belts – are the reigning champions in the Cong-Galway Race, Ireland’s oldest and Europe’s longest inland yacht race. 

Learn more about their favourite offshore adventures in the Quantum vid below.

Published in Quantum Sails

Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon crossed the finish line of the 7th edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race at 04:53 UTC in an elapsed time of 9 days, 18 hours, 53 mins and 40 secs. Green Dragon wins the IMA Trophy and takes Monohull Line Honours for the RORC Transatlantic Race.

Olivier Magre’s Class40 Palanad 3 was less than five hours behind, completing the 2735-mile race in a phenomenal elapsed time of 10 days, 1 hour, 43 mins and 18 secs. For the moment, Palanad 3 have scored the best corrected time under IRC for the RORC Transatlantic Race Trophy.

Green Dragon becomes the seventh boat to win the International Maxi Association’s IMA Trophy. Whilst this year’s race is a different route, Green Dragon is the first monohull to complete the RORC Transatlantic Race in under 10 days. The Secretary-General of the IMA, Andrew McIrvine commented: “Congratulations and best wishes from the IMA to Johannes and the Green Dragon team. We are sorry not to able to greet you, as we would have in more usual times, but we hope you enjoyed the race.”

“It is an honour to win the IMA Trophy, as so many famous boats have done, but to finish the race in such a fast time is incredible. Although we finished in Antigua and not Grenada, the route we took was to the south, so there is not much difference in the miles we have raced,” commented Green Dragon’s Johannes Schwarz.

Celebrations on board Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon after winning the IMA Trophy and Monohull Line Honours in the RORC Transatlantic RaceCelebrations on board Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon after winning the IMA Trophy and Monohull Line Honours in the RORC Transatlantic. Race. Green Dragon crew: Kees Bos, Alexis Duvernoy, Jonathan Florent, Florian Guezennec, Jens Lindner, Angel Lingorski, Jorge Lorenzo Roman, Elena Malakhatka, Peter Marchal, August Ruckman, Johannes Schwarz (Skipper), Anton Tajiev, Ada Westerinen.

“In the early part of the race we didn’t push too hard because we are a mixed pro-am crew and there were strong winds on the reach from Lanzarote to Tenerife,” explained Schwarz. “Later in the race we deployed the big kite and the conditions were just so fantastic. It was really special and very emotional for all the crew - we went faster and faster. I have to say that we are deeply impressed by the performance of the Class40s, they were so incredible! When we arrived in Antigua, it was not possible for the RORC team to meet us due to the curfew, but as if by magic, there was a cooler of cold beer on the dock!”

Green Dragon crew: Kees Bos, Alexis Duvernoy, Jonathan Florent, Florian Guezennec, Jens Lindner, Angel Lingorski, Jorge Lorenzo Roman, Elena Malakhatka, Peter Marchal, August Ruckman, Johannes Schwarz (Skipper), Anton Tajiev, Ada Westerinen.

Published in RORC
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 (1200 UTC Sunday 17 January) Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon is leading the RORC Transatlantic Race for Monohull Line Honours and is approximately 500 miles from Antigua

The race reaches an exciting stage on the ninth day with the leading boats closing in on the finish line in Antigua. Oren Nataf’s Multi50 Trimaran Rayon Vert, skippered by Alex Pella was under 400 miles from the finish and expected to take Multihull Line Honours on Monday 18th January.

Olivier Magre’s Class40 Palanad 3 was just 60 miles behind Green Dragon and is expected to finish the 2,735 nautical mile race in just over 10 days - lightning-quick for a 40-footer. “The boat is going fast!” commented Palanad 3’s Luke Berry. “The only problem we have is the seaweed. We clean the rudder after a gybe, but have also resorted to taking the kite down and trying to sail backwards! All is good, so we mustn’t complain.”

Half of the time, racing in the 2,735-mile RORC Transatlantic Race is conducted at night. Whilst moonlight can guide the way, it becomes much more difficult to see, let alone adapt to a sudden change in conditions. For this race, in messages sent back to the RORC Race Team, competitors have reported significant squall activity, especially at night.

Antoine Carpentier’s Class40 Redman looks unlikely to catch their sistership Palanad 3 in the race to the finish. In his recent blog, Carpentier describes the frustration at night on Day 8. “Last night was not good for us (Saturday 16 Jan.). A local cloud formed sucking the wind from 20 knots down to just six knots and shifting 90 degrees. In torrential rain we put in a series of gybes to get out of the position; there was no sleep for the Redman crew. When we looked at the race sched. updates and saw our friends on Palanad 3 had not lost any speed, we were green with envy. How to stay motivated? All our efforts to get the boat to move as quickly as possible will have been in vain if we give up.”

Class40 Redman also reports problems with Sargassum seaweed during the RORC Transatlantic Race © Antoine Carpentier Sailing Sebastien Saulnier’s Sun Fast 3300 Moshimoshi gybed on to starboard on Saturday evening. In the last 48 hours, Moshimoshi has turned a 16-mile deficit into a 40-mile lead on Benedikt Clauberg’s First 47.7 Kali.

Benedikt Clauberg commented via satellite about encountering a squall in darkness, which has dramatically affected their performance: “At night without the moon it is so dark that we don’t see even one boat length in front of us, watching only the compass and wind instruments. If the clouds arrive it becomes more than black and the wind can pick up very quick. After surfing at up to 13kts we got hit hard by a strong gust with rain and ripped our spinnaker. With everyone clipped on we got it down and went into cruising mode for the rest of the night. Today the sun is back but we are now in ‘Schmetterling’ mode as we say in Swiss, or wing-on-wing. Otherwise, all is good on board. The crew had a salty shower and are having fun and we see birds and flying fish. Dinner is a Porcini Risotto with a tomato mozzarella salad caprese. We hope you all are fine and no bad news on the other side.”

News from Tim and Mayumi Knight, racing Pogo 12.50 Kai is that they have been racing conservatively due to a gear problem. However, the latest news from Tim is: “Much of our problem has been sorted out and we are back sailing less cautiously with a target speed of 7-8 knots. Kai was approaching halfway in the race and 1,560 miles from the finish.

Published in RORC
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Royal Cork Yacht Club 2020 winner Nieulargo will set its sights offshore again in 2021 as the family-based Grand Soleil 40 aims for both of next year's big offshore fixtures on the Irish coast; next June's Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race and August's Fastnet Race over the new course to Cherbourg.

As regular Afloat readers know, Nieulargo took victory in Kinsale's Fastnet Race in August 2020 and then went on to win the big offshore race of the 2020 season the same month when the RCYC yacht scooped the inaugural SCORA Fastnet 450 Race.

Nieulargo, a 2018 RCYC Yacht of the Year,  is campaigned inshore and offshore by husband and wife duo Denis Murphy and Annamarie Fegan and their daughters Mia and Molly.

Annamarie Fegan is presented with the KYC Fastnet Trophy by Rear Commodore Tony Scannell after Nieulargo won Kinsale's Fastnet Race in August 2020 Annamarie Fegan is presented with the KYC Fastnet Trophy by Rear Commodore Tony Scannell after Nieulargo won Kinsale's Fastnet Race in August 2020

The double offshore victories were a satisfying end to 2020 for the Crosshaven crew after what looked at one point this summer that there would be no offshore racing at all following the cancellation of Wicklow's Round Ireland Race.

News of Nieulargo's 2021 season plans came with this week's RCYC announcement that co-skipper Fegan is to run the shore-side events of Cork Week 2022.

Overall winner Nieulargo at the start of the Fastnet 450 Race on Dublin Bay Photo: AfloatOverall winner Nieulargo at the start of the Fastnet 450 Race on Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat

Published in Royal Cork YC
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Larne Harbour on the east coast of Antrim in Northern Ireland is currently the base for the MPI Resolution, the world's first purpose-built vessel for installing offshore wind turbines, foundations, and transition pieces.

The ship is working out of Larne to provide Operations and Maintenance services to the UK west coast wind farms and has been using Larne as the base port for these operations.

The 2003-built vessel is 130 metres in length overall and has a 38-metre beam.

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Peter Ryan, who was first elected to chair ISORA in 2007, will lead the Irish Sea offshore sailing body into the 2021 season following his reelection as chairman at November's virtual ISORA AGM hosted by Pwhelli Sailing Club.

Ryan, of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, is the only Irish Flag Officer in an otherwise Welsh-based executive with Vice Chairman Peter Dunlop and Stephen Tudor remaining as Secretary/Treasurer and Webmaster, both of Pwhelli Sailing Club. The Social Media Secretary is Victoria Cox.

ISORA's General Sailing Committee, that decides on coastal and offshore race courses, also carry the remit of providing guidance and encouragement for other competitors. The 2021 committee includes a number of key competitors including three Royal St. George skippers, Chris Power Smith of J122 Aurelia, Lindsay Casey, skipper of the J97 Windjammer and Brendan Coghlan, from the Sunfast 3600, Yoyo.

Brendan Coghlan's Sunfast 3600, YoyoBrendan Coghlan's Sunfast 3600, Yoyo. Photo: Afloat

Full details of the ISORA Committees are here.

Published in ISORA
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As 33 potential Cape Horners prepare for the start of the 9th Vendée Globe solo non-stop round the world race from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 8, The International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) has taken on the mantle of maintaining an official register of those who have completed solo circumnavigations via the Three Great Capes – Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn.

The listing, which records 155 solo non-stop circumnavigators and a further 143 who have completed true circumnavigations around the three Capes with stops en route, has been compiled from listings maintained previously by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation back in 1969, historian DH ‘Nobby’ Clarke, The World Sailing Speed Record Council and information culled from books and the public domain.

Click here to review the IACH Register of Solo Circumnavigators

Commenting on the new Register, Sir Robin said today: "It seems totally appropriate that the IACH now becomes the holder of the list of solo circumnavigators passing south of the Three Great Capes. This is a valuable resource.”

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (left) being congratulated by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston after winning the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race. Photo credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (left) being congratulated by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston after winning the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race. Photo credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, the father figure of French solo sailing and a serial Cape Horner who has rounded the infamous Cape 10 times, the last time when leading the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race, agrees: “To list all the sailors who have turned around the world alone with or without stopovers has been a huge task. It is a very important part of the history of navigation and I hope a lot more names will be added over time.”

The current record for the fastest solo non-stop circumnavigation is held by Frenchman François Gabart with a time of 42 days 16h 40' 3" set in 2017 aboard the 30m trimaran Ultim MACIF.The current record for the fastest solo non-stop circumnavigation is held by Frenchman François Gabart with a time of 42 days 16h 40' 3" set in 2017 aboard the 30m trimaran Ultim MACIF. Photo: Jean-Marie LIOT / ALEA / MACIF

The current record for the fastest solo non-stop circumnavigation is held by Frenchman François Gabart with a time of 42 days 16h 40' 3" set in 2017 aboard the 30m trimaran Ultim MACIF. The time to beat for the current Vendée Globe monohull entrants is 74d 03h 36' set by fellow Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h in his IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire during the last race in 2017.

The oldest solo circumnavigator is Australian yachtsman Bill Hatfield who, at 79, completed a west-about route in his 11.58m monohull L'Eau Commotion in 2018 with a time of 414 days. The youngest is fellow Australian Jessica Watson who in 2010 at the age of 16, completed a non-stop solo Southern Hemisphere circumnavigation via the three Great Capes in her 10.23m yacht Ella's Pink Lady but failed to sail the full 21,600 orthodromic distance set by the WSSRC to claim a full circumnavigation.

History and membership criteria

All who complete a circumnavigation via Cape Horn are welcome to join the exclusive International Association of Cape Horners and claim an official certificate to commemorate their achievement.

The Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au Long Cours Cap Horniers was founded in 1936 by a group of French Master Mariners based in St Malo to form an exclusive, albeit dying bond, between those who had sailed round Cape Horn in square rigged sailing ships. Those are now history. The last commercial sailing ship voyage was in 1949 when the Pamir and Passat sailed from South Australia bound for Falmouth. In 1969, the British Chapter of the Association became the International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) and amended the membership criteria to read: ‘To promote and strengthen the ties of comradeship which bind together the unique body of men and women who enjoy the distinction of having voyaged round Cape Horn under sail.’

Specifically, full membership, currently £20 per annum, is open to those who have rounded Cape Horn under sail as part of a non-stop passage of at least 3,000 nautical miles which passes above the latitude of 52° South in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and is completed without the use of engines for propulsion.

Associates are those with an interest in Cape Horn but whose experiences do not meet the full membership criteria. One of the latest Associates is Susie Goodall whose yacht was pitch-poled and dismasted 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn during the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race.

This modernising approach has opened membership to all those who have raced around Cape Horn in events like the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean races, Sir Chay Blyth’s Global Challenge events, the Jules Verne Challenge and solo events such as the BOC Challenge, Vendée Globe, Five Oceans and Golden Globe races. Membership is also open to the many who have cruised around the infamous Cape under sail.

“Sailing around Cape Horn, the Everest of ocean sailing, has always been a badge of honour. I commend anyone who has achieved this great feat to join the IACH”, says the Earl of Portsmouth, the Association’s President.

Published in Solo Sailing
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Four-time Olympic keelboat helmsman Mark Mansfield, a regular competitor at Irish IRC and one-design regattas and Irish agent for some well-known sailing brands, reviews how the 2020 sailing season 'happened' in pandemic and considers what could be done to keep the scene alive in 2021

2020 will likely go down as one of the strangest ever yacht racing seasons. It started back in January with great optimism, looking forward to such events as the Round Ireland Race, The 300th Anniversary Cork Week Regatta, Bangor Regatta on Belfast Lough and Wave Regatta in Howth. In the end, though some regattas were rescheduled for later in the year, all foundered with the ups and downs of the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic.

In the few months from May to August, some reasonable racing was allowed to be had at club level around the country, including a decent number of DBSC races on Dublin Bay and a revamped ISORA series from Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Article author Mark Mansfield believes reduced crew numbers and coastal courses can help to keep cruiser-racer going in pandemicArticle author Mark Mansfield suggests reduced crew numbers and an emphasis on coastal course racing can help to keep cruiser-racer going in 2021

One of the highlights was a pop up offshore fixture, the inaugural 260-mile Fastnet 450 Race, which involved a race from Dun Laoghaire on the East Coast around the Fastnet Rock on the South Coast and into Cork Harbour, all held under strict no contact Covid regulations with an online briefing and prizegiving.

The winner of the Fastnet 450 Race was Royal Cork yacht Nieulargo (Denis and Annamarie Murphy Photo: AfloatThe winner of the Fastnet 450 Race was Royal Cork yacht Nieulargo (Denis and Annamarie Murphy Photo: Afloat

Clearly, the lessons learned in 2020 will need to be brought into 2021 to see what was successful, and what was not.

Going forward, large onshore events which involve a lot of socialising and shoreside entertainments will not likely be a runner again in 2021. So how should we be preparing to ensure 2021 allows decent racing and allows owners to get good use out of their boats? Here are some suggestions and thoughts on this.

Boat crew numbers

When Afloat published my thoughts on the 12th of May about how keelboat racing work can with social distancing, I suggested that reducing cruiser crew numbers while racing would assist in social distancing and project the right image.

This article was picked up by the international sailing media and carried by websites around the world. I got a lot of positive feedback.

Mark Mansfield's May article in Afloat was well received across the racing worldA screenshot of Mark Mansfield's May article in Afloat setting out how keelboat racing can be kept going in pandemic

In Ireland, Irish Sailing, the national governing body, decided to effectively open up to full crews on yachts, after initially being ultra-cautious and allowing no cruiser-racing apart from same household crews. Then, when Level 3 came in, all racing was closed down again, despite other sports continuing to compete. This course of action and the zig-zag nature of their direction has led to a lot of disquiet and it continues.

In the UK, when they allowed cruiser racing to open up, it initially was with household crews, then when this was extended it was with limited numbers while racing.

80% of a boats IRC crew number rounded to the nearest whole number was the norm with events such as the RORC IRC National Championships and the J Cup, both held under these restrictions.

I appreciate sailing happens in the open air and it has been rare to find anyone being infected with Covid-19 while sailing, however, reducing crew numbers shows the sport is making the effort and the optics are much better. Eight bodies sitting out shoulder to shoulder on a 35-footer does not give the right impression.

Joker 2 going upwind in Kinsale 2017 ICRA Nationals—which she wonBefore COVID - The successful Dublin Bay J109 Joker II going upwind in Kinsale at the 2017 ICRA Nationals – which she won

With many owners struggling to fill full crew positions on their boats anyway, restricting all boat crew numbers could also help level the playing field. Maybe Irish Sailing and the Clubs it represents could look at this as an option to allow racing to continue next year?

2021 Irish Sailing Calendar

2021 is scheduled to be another big year if Covid allows it. For cruiser-racers around the country, you have, in addition to DBSC, ISORA and other club racing, the following big events.

Add to this WIORA in Tralee, and perhaps another Fastnet 450 Race and this could be a really great season—if it all goes ahead. So how does sailing position itself to be able to complete these larger regattas in what will likely still be a Summer of Covid restrictions? The answer has to be:

Good PR – Highlighting the Covid restrictions to make everyone safe—no gatherings, no briefings, no in-person prizegivings. Highlight the sailing, not the shore activities.

Reduce crew numbers  see above

Provide more coastal and longer races – rather than the three races a day that is the norm. Shorter races with more turning marks need more crew aboard and all the crew end up coming ashore at the same time. Longer Coastal races need fewer people and the boats come back home on a staggered basis.

Prepare a strong 'Plan B'  for having no onshore events or contact. July's Dun Laoghaire Regatta with four clubs to dissipate people, an on-site marina and a large town just behind, are already anticipating this by separating the event into one designs one weekend and IRC racing the next.

More offshore racing

Offshore and long coastal racing needs to be included more in boat owners plans if they are to get value from their investment. As the Fastnet 450 Race showed, there is an increasing appetite for this form of the sport, and in these Covid times, that interest has grown further. Offshore racing, with limits on crew numbers, allows for relatively safe sailing with crews being able to stay apart easier and boats arriving back to port looking for rest rather than social interaction.

ISORA managed to run eight coastal races off Dun Laoghaire Harbour this season keeping the Irish Sea offshore scene very much alive despite the pandemic Photo: AfloatISORA managed to run eight coastal races off Dun Laoghaire Harbour this season keeping the Irish Sea offshore scene very much alive despite the pandemic Photo: Afloat

ISORA can be congratulated for growing this form of the sport in Ireland and Wales and even in this difficult year, they were able to get in a range of races, all be it without being able to mix the Irish and welsh boats. The combination of shortish offshore races and long coastal racing has been very popular in 2020 and I expect you will see a few more boats join their ranks in 2021.

On the South Coast, there is a move afoot to come up with a similar series to link the Fastnet 450 race with the Kinsale/Fastnet/Kinsale race and then add some coastal day races to form a series. More to follow on this.

ISORA Champion Rockabill VI (Paul O'Higgins) from the Royal Irish Yacht ClubISORA Champion Rockabill VI (Paul O'Higgins) from the Royal Irish Yacht Club

Fingers crossed a vaccine or better treatments for Covid will come quickly, but it is doubtful that they will come quickly enough to mean our 2021 season will be back to normal. We have to expect that 2021 will be disrupted again, and now it the time to plan for this. With some small changes, a bit of luck and a bit of goodwill all or most of these big events above can happen and be a great success. Let's plan for the worst but hope for the best.

Mark Mansfield is an Irish agent for Quantum Sails and J Boats/Grand Soleil in Ireland. More details below.

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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