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For the first time in the history of the London club, the RORC Season’s Points Championship has had to be cancelled. Current restrictions continue to make it impossible to run overnight races for all IRC classes with the result that the last offshore race of the season, the Cherbourg Race has had to be cancelled. With only two races, the RORC Transatlantic Race and the RORC Caribbean 600 having been completed, and three required to constitute a series, the club has had no option but to cancel the 2020 Season’s Points Championship.

“This has been a difficult and unprecedented decision for the club,” said RORC Commodore Steven Anderson. “We were very keen to have one proper offshore race for all classes to allow us to complete the series. We all hoped that by September the restrictions to control the spread of the virus would have been eased sufficiently to allow a sprint to Cherbourg and a good way to end a very frustrating season for all.”


RORC Two-Handed Race to Cherbourg

Instead of the usual season ending Cherbourg Race, the RORC has confirmed the intention to run a two-handed race to Cherbourg. This race which will start on Friday 4th September is in line with current government regulation and has added significance in that the City of Cherbourg will host the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race for the 2021 and 2023 editions.

RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone has been delighted with the number of teams who are participating in the summer series.

“We were pleased to have 133 boats in ‘Race the Wight’, the first race of our Summer Series and interest in the rest of the series is very strong. We decided to start the two-handed race to Cherbourg on the Friday to give the opportunity for those two-handed teams who are involved in the summer series to participate in the last race of the series which is scheduled for Sunday 6th September.”

The RORC Summer Series consists of three additional races on Saturday 15th August, Saturday 22nd August and Sunday 6th September.

Published in RORC

The Royal Ocean Racing Club is expecting in excess of 100 entries for Race the Wight, scheduled to start on Saturday 1st August. All entry fees will be donated to the NHS Trust and the Scaramouche Sailing Trust. Race the Wight will be the first of a four-race RORC mini-series during August and September.

“As a charity, we rely on donations and grants. Every pound we receive goes towards getting more students from different backgrounds sailing,” commented Jon Holt, Scaramouche Sailing Trust. “Our next big goal is to be on the start line of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021. We are grateful for the ongoing support from RORC and proud to be named as one of the charities for the race.” The Greig City Academy will have upwards of a dozen students on different boats for the race.

IRC Classes for the 50nm race around the Isle of Wight are still to be confirmed. However, early entries indicate a fleet full of champions with any number of potential victors.

RORC Vice Commodore James Neville racing his HH42 Ino XXX and Ian Atkins’ Melges IC37 Icy are favourites for monohull line honours. The overall winner of the Race the Wight will be decided by time correction using the IRC Rating System. In big upwind conditions Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy’s Swan 56 Noonmark IV, skippered by Mike Gilburt, will be a force to be reckoned with. Given the crew limitations and favoured wind conditions, Greg Leonard‘s Class40 Kite (Prev. Maxime Sorel’s V and B, winner 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race) should blast round the island.

Ian Atkins’ Melges IC37 IcyIan Atkins’ Melges IC37 Icy

Greg Leonard's Class40 KiteGreg Leonard's Class40 Kite Photo: John Green Cowes

“We are looking forward to it,” commented James Neville. “It’s been completely frustrating to have missed racing. We have been modifying the boat over the winter and part of this race will be to test and learn what can be done. The race will give us the experience to move on to the next steps in terms of how we can race the boat given the current restrictions. We have had one training session and it is certainly all on when we gybe. However personally, I wouldn’t go out if we were unable to use spinnakers because it is important to get the boat lit up. We will be racing with six and be taking all the necessary precautions.”

“I am beyond excited!” Exclaimed Ian Atkins. “The challenge now is whittling a crew of nine down to six, but we will probably rotate the crew during the mini-series. Everybody on board is very capable, so they should all get a chance to race during the series. You need all nine crew in a blow on a short windward leeward race, but round the Wight is perfect to stretch our legs without too many corners to negotiate.”

Tom Hayhoe and Natalie Jobling will be racing J/105 Mostly HarmlessTom Hayhoe and Natalie Jobling will be racing J/105 Mostly Harmless Two-Handed and both work for the NHS Trust. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

18 J/Boats have already entered the race, Tom Hayhoe and Natalie Jobling will be racing J/105 Mostly Harmless Two-Handed and both work for the NHS Trust. Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood won last year’s RORC Channel Race and will be competing with a crew of five.

“With water ballast and a sail configuration designed for short-handed sailing, we are actually sailing with our optimum crew, even with the restrictions,” commented Michael O’Donnell. “The race around the Isle of Wight, starting at the Royal Yacht Squadron, is possibly the most iconic in the world - we just can’t wait to get out there.”

"The permitted crew can be up to a maximum of 6 people from any household or two-thirds of a boat’s IRC crew number whichever is the least"

Eight examples of Beneteau’s Sun Fast yachts have entered including the overall winner of the 2019 RORC Season’s Points Championship, Trevor Middleton’s Black Sheep and last year’s season runner up Bellino, raced two-handed by Rob Craigie and Deb Fish. Two Sun Fast 3300 will be racing, Peter Bacon’s Sea Bear and Jim Driver’s Chilli Pepper.

Five JPKs have already entered, including Richard Palmer’s JPK 10.10 Jangada, overall winner of the 2019 RORC Transatlantic Race. Jangada will be facing new teams in similar designs. Peter Butters JPK 10.10 Joy, and JPK 11.80s; Ed Bell’s Dawn Treader and Astrid de Vin’s Il Corvo.

 1939 Giles one-off design Whooper 1939 Giles one-off design Whooper Photo: Paul Wyeth

2019 Quarter Ton Cup Champion Protis2019 Quarter Ton Cup Champion Protis. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Vintage yachts abound through the fleet including some of the smallest entries, 2019 Quarter Ton Cup Champion Protis, with Ian Southworth on the tiler, will be able to gauge their performance against Tony Hayward’s Blackfun. Past RORC Commodore Peter Rutter will be racing his restored Half Tonner Quokka 9. Giovanni Belgrano is part of the structural design team for INEOS Team UK for the America’s Cup and his 1939 Giles one-off design Whooper has solid form for the race. Whooper is a past winner of the Gold Roman Bowl in the ISC Round the Island Race, beating over a thousand competitors. Ross Applebey’s Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster will also be in action and was in fine form recently winning class once again in the RORC Caribbean 600 and overall winner of 2019 RORC Cowes St Malo.

Simon Baker’s Dazcat 1495 Hissy FitSimon Baker’s Dazcat 1495 Hissy Fit. Photo: James Tomlinson

In the MOCRA Class, last year’s ISC race winner will also be competing, Simon Baker’s Dazcat 1495 Hissy Fit. Strong challengers in the multihull class include 2019 RORC Season winner, Ross Hobson’s Sea Cart 30 Buzz, and third in the 2019 RORC Season’s Points Championship, James Holder’s Dazcat 1295 Slinky Malinki.

Full details in the Notice of Race can be found in the Notice of Race but in summary: permitted crew can be up to a maximum of 6 people from any household or two-thirds of a boat’s IRC crew number whichever is the least.

Competitors are also reminded of the government guidance on social distancing and other Covid19 measures.

Published in RORC

A while back, the off-the-wall idea was mooted of creating a line of quality face-masks, tastefully printed or even embroidered with sailing and yacht club logos. The world of high fashion was already on to the idea of designer-labelled COVID-contesting kit, and in our more sedately-minded sport, some of us were thinking it might soon become a good idea to have logo-featuring facial covering if the pesky disease thing didn’t go away, thereby requiring us to make mask-wearing as nearly trendy as possible, with - in some cases - the useful juice of a touch of snobbery to give it spice.

Certainly, it will take something extra to get sailing folk to use the things. For us, they generally come with distinctly unpleasant associations, because for anyone who runs a boat with a touch of DIY effort, facemasks are part of the scenario, and they are inextricably linked with the most horrible jobs of all, such as getting the anti-fouling racing-smooth in under the aft end. And though you should of course also be wearing goggles, many don’t, while those of us wearing spectacles find our misery with specs is exacerbated with a mask by seeing everything through thickening mist.

The Royal Cork Yacht Club’s very elegant burgeeThe Royal Cork YC’s very elegant burgee. In these extremely challenging times, would people be more prepared to wear a proper face mask if it incorporated their club’s logo?

Of course, I’m not suggesting you should immediately use your crisp new club logo-embellished quality facemask for those nasty jobs. But that said, after this coronavirus has been stalking us for a year or two, a certain cachet will attach to arriving down to join your work team of crewmates under the mighty ship, and attacking the preparation work on the nether parts of the vessel attired with an obviously very well-worn washable Royal Cork Yacht Club face mask to protect your schoolgirl complexion, and keep those nauseous fumes and poisonous particles out of the vital tubes.

It reminds me of when I first met up with American sailors wearing the always-trendy Sperry Top-Sider deck shoes. This wasn’t until the 1960s, yet the Top-Siders had been around since 1935, when Paul Sperry had become mighty inventive with non-slip soles after slithering over the side of his boat one night in Long Island Sound while wearing the usual glorified tennis shoes which passed for deck shoes in those days.

His eventual creations, with the uppers based on moccasin design, were soon fashionable, and even in the late 1960s, they still looked so good by comparison with anything in Europe that they were the height of style, and never more stylish than when looking well worn, as though they’d notched a Bermuda Race and then a Fastnet Race as well.

No gentlemen would ever wear shiny new Top-Siders“No gentlemen would ever wear shiny new Top-Siders.” An advertisement honouring product longevity from an era when people wore yachting caps on every possible occasion, and planned obsolescence was only a gleam in some asset strippers eye

In fact, while I sometimes saw an American wearing an immaculately-polished pair of Top-Siders, there was never any doubt that this was well-loved footwear of considerable vintage, and it was virtually unknown to see anything remotely like a new pair of Top-Siders. Apparently the secret behind this was that, when you finally did have to buy a new pair, you’d get your gardener to wear them for a busy fortnight or even a month before you’d dream of using them yourself……

Royal Ocean Racing Club

We can’t of course get some obliging employee to wear our club-logo facemask to give it honourable venerability, but how the idea of such facemasks turn out will become part of the quaint world of club regalia folklore. Club cravats and bow ties are really a bit too much for most of us, but once upon a time, when people still wore ties, the seahorse-logo neck-tie of Royal Ocean Racing Club (where our own Laura Dillon is currently Rear Commodore) was quite the thing to be qualified to wear, and one evening in that wonderful RORC clubhouse in the heart of London, a fresh-faced young offshore-racing enthusiast burst into the bar and brightly announced to Douglas Campbell, the 100% proof Scottish barman, that he’d just become a member, and would like to buy a tie.

An architectural gem and a nautical powerhouse in the heart of London – the RORC Clubhouse, once ruled by the legendary Douglas CampbellAn architectural gem and a nautical powerhouse in the heart of London – the RORC Clubhouse, once ruled by the legendary Douglas Campbell

Laura Dillon, RORC Rear Commodore, is still the only woman sailor to have won the All-Ireland Helm ChampionshipLaura Dillon, RORC Rear Commodore, is still the only woman sailor to have won the All-Ireland Helm Championship

Douglas had a Scots accent so deep and growly you could have run the lighting off it, so he just looked up from under his heavy eyebrows and gruffly demanded: “Silk or Terylene?”

Younger readers, ie anyone under the age of about 60, will need to know that Terylene was the fancy new world-beating synthetic fibre which eventually became known, American-style, as Dacron. Our new young member back in the day in the RORC knew exactly what it meant, but he needed to be apprised of the full significance of the choice, so he responded: “I just don’t know Douglas, which do you recommend?”

Douglas ground out the reply, with his deep slow voice made even slower and deeper and growlier by this over-keen assumption of first-name familiarity:

“Well, if you just want to hold the trousers up, the silk will do. But if you need to start the outboard, then it has to be the Terylene”.

That was then, nowadays people need to be told that many offshore racers’ tenders carried quaint Seagull outboards which you started by winding a removable pull-rope round a wheel on top, and in extemis in the absence or breakage of that pull-rope, you were well stuck if somebody’s tie wasn’t up to the job – it was no laughing matter.

And nor is COVID-19, but heaven knows we need something to brighten our days as the full effects of this pandemic threaten to embrace us again in Lockdown claustrophobia, and we find that our news of sailing sport is increasingly reliant on local events which would probably be much happier to be left on their own to get on with their usually fairly private sailing.

Peter Courtney racing Howth 17 Oonagh – his family first became involved in the Howth 17 class in 1907   Family affair. Peter Courtney racing Oonagh – his family first became involved in the Howth 17 class in 1907

As the dates of what would have been major national and international fixtures come and go with events un-sailed in this pandemic-constrained season, we find we’re cherishing the more manageable second-tier fixtures with a strong home-club bias which can still be staged with the proper controls in place. These are events which will probably have a slightly quirky character combined with a distinct local flavour which will provide an inbuilt level of crowd-control in these strange times.

For they are indeed strange times when, for long enough, it had seemed that “Three’s a crowd” was the mantra of the day, with social-distancing providing the code. And even now when the basics seem to be that we’re allowed close groups of ten if we watch our manners, we must always remember the ultimate fallback ruling is: “If in doubt, stay at home”.

In those circumstances, how do you transfer the safety of home and its instinctively-known rules and restraints into the fluid sociable structures of the group behaviour which used to be the natural basis of sailing’s shoreside post-race gatherings?

Dublin Bay & Cork Harbour cruiser fleets

“With some difficulty, and in a mood of constant vigilance” seems to be the answer, as we see modern classes such as the Dublin Bay and Cork Harbour cruiser fleets develop a controlled form of their normally hyper-sociable programmes, while in classic labour-intensive classes such as the Dun Laoghaire Water Wags and the Howth 17s, it seems to be a matter of baby steps - for want of a more robust phrase – as acceptable crew bubbles are evolved to make racing possible.

Club cruiser racing returns to Cork Harbour and the RCYC at Crosshaven“Let there be light”. Club cruiser racing returns to Cork Harbour and the RCYC at Crosshaven on Thursday, July 9th 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

But with every race in a shortened season thus becoming more precious in an already limited programme, people will not lightly relinquish their carefully-assembled crew bubbles for initially attractive short-handed events. Thus when it was announced some time ago that Howth’s annual Aqua Restaurant Two-Hander Race’s format – formerly aimed at the cruisers – was going to be extended to all Howth classes when raced today (Saturday, July 18th), it seemed a reasonable enough idea at the time, when personnel limitations looked like being a central theme of the 2020 season.

Howth Seventeens

However, since then the ancient Howth Seventeens have been carefully building up their fleet afloat together with the maximum crew groupings qualified to race the boats, so now their attitude to the Two-Hander invitation is: “Thanks, but no thanks”.

In a normal season, the 1898-established Howth class would sail an impressive total of between 55 and 60 races. But in this shortened season, even with some add-ons if the Autumn proves clement there’ll be far fewer races, and each one will be that much more precious as a result.

The time-honoured Saturday Howth 17 contests - each one a mini-regatta with the fleet resplendent in their jackyard topsails – have become such a pillar of the class’s programme that the idea of one of them being a race in which personnel numbers are reduced to just two per boat is something which smacks of sacrilege when they’ve found that a Howth 17 will often give of her best with four on board.

Ian Malcolm won the Howth 17s last Tuesday, and then took fourth in the Water WagsClassics addict. Ian Malcolm won the Howth 17s last Tuesday, and then took fourth in the Water Wags in Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday.

In an age when modernity is such a dominant feature of popular thinking, building up such a large group of enthusiasts with their shared joy in racing boats of an ancient type is a remarkable community achievement, but it doesn’t just happen by accident. Slightly interested newcomers are gently but persuasively drawn into the net until they become totally committed class enthusiasts.

And though the boats are based on a revered One-Design concept, an assiduously maintained double-scoring system of both scratch and handicap divisions is a class-strengthening recognition of the differences in human abilities and aptitudes, as it ensures that nearly every boat genuinely wins a prize.

In some ways, this was the biggest difference I noticed when I moved from the north to the south of Ireland very many years ago. Up north, One-Design means One-Design, and the idea of having a handicap division within a One-Design class probably offended against the tenets of the majority religion.

Water Wags

But in Dublin Bay and Howth, handicapping in One-Designs was regarded as being every bit as normal as having handicaps in club golf, and it was something which contributed greatly to the extraordinary longevity and good health of many of the OD classes.

The strong historical basis of all this became evident recently when the Water Wags Honorary Treasurer David Clarke was putting some old paperwork in order, and he discovered that the yellowing documents included a copy of the Evening Herald for Friday 3rd September 1939.

At first glance, you might think the Dublin daily evening paper had been kept because its front page featured disturbing news from Eastern Europe regarding an increasing unpleasantness between Germany and Poland. Indeed, maybe that had something to do with it. But the real reason it is in there is because it includes the DBSC Handicaps for the next day’s racing, on Saturday, September 4th 1939.

The Water Wag Class’s copy of Dublin’s Evening Herald for Friday 3rd September 1939The Water Wag Class’s copy of Dublin’s Evening Herald for Friday 3rd September 1939. You might well think the interest is in various unpleasant events in Eastern Europe……Courtesy David Clarke

…..but in fact the focus was on the handicaps as they applied to the Water Wags on Saturday September 4th. Courtesy David Clarke…..but in fact the focus was on the handicaps as they applied to the Water Wags on Saturday, September 4th. Courtesy David Clarke

And they don’t half bend over backwards to keep everyone in each class involved. Few more so than the Water Wags. They may not match the mixed cruisers, where one boat – the deliciously misnamed Windward – is allowed 41 minutes. But then the Water Wags were allegedly One-Design, yet northern OD sailors would have been appalled to discover that they were so tolerant that one boat – Glanora – was generously allowed all of 15 minutes by the two hotshots, Coquette and Penelope.

26ft gaff cutter Marie (seen here in 1966) was one of the boats featured in the 1939 DBSC handicaps The 26ft gaff cutter Marie (seen here in 1966) was one of the boats featured in the 1939 DBSC handicaps list – she was allowed 39 minutes against the scratch boat, Harald Osterberg’s 14-ton Bermudan cutter Marama. Built by J E Doyle of Dun Laoghaire in 1893 and designed by his daughter Maimie (who also designed the new type of Water Wag in 1900) Marie is still with us, owned and restored by Roy Ashton of Groomsport in County Down

Olympians Finn Lynch & Annalise Murphy

Quite what handicaps the number cruncher of 1939 would have applied to Olympians Finn Lynch and Annalise Murphy who won the Water Wags on scratch this week is beyond the realms of speculation, but those seriously interested in the well-being of grass roots sailing will have noted that Ian Malcolm with the 1915-vintage Barbara (allowed 4 minutes back in 1939) placed fourth on scratch in the Wags on Wednesday in Dun Laoghaire, while on Tuesday he had taken line honours with his 1898-vintage Howth 17 Aura at Howth, a double classics performance which few if ever can have achieved before, and evidence that, truncated season or not, some people are determined to get in just as much sailing as they can in this truncated season of 2020.

Thus they’re now developing the idea that Howth’s attractive marina/clubhouse complex provides an ideal sailing sport setup in the time of coronavirus, as on the land side it’s a completely closed compound which also provides the club’s only access to moored boats in the outer harbour, a closed compound where entry can easily be restricted to one gateway, and registration and contact tracing can be rapidly developed, particularly with Wave Regatta from 11th to 13th September in mind.

Howth Yacht Club’s marina/clubhouse complex Howth Yacht Club’s marina/clubhouse complex provides a usefully-closed compound from the landward side.

Round the Kish

As it is, the sailors of Howth have been quietly putting their good fortune to proper use, with the second race of the Fingal Series being staged last Saturday to see Dermot Skehan put in a masterclass demo with his Humphreys-designed Toughnut to do a horizon job on the rest of the fleet of sixteen in a race which took them out round the Kish, and meanwhile, HYC Cruising Group Captain Willie Kearney liaised with the sailing club at Skerries (where so far as I know there’s still no harbour master) in order to ensure that there’d be enough clear quay space for his fleet of 18 Howth cruisers to berth in a social-distance compliant style, and Skerries Sailing Club obliged.

Meanwhile, we note that the Royal Irish YC is right up to speed with the continuing twists and turns of the un-winding and re-winding of the regulations, with a crisp notice issued yesterday informing members that if they want a beer or two after today’s DBSC race, they must still order food with it.

Some day, some day maybe very distant, somebody is going to set a mighty computer to work at calculating just how much weight the thirstier part of our nation has had to put on in order to be comfortably un-parched, and yet COVID-compliant….

Published in W M Nixon

After a long and open discussion by the RORC Race Management team, senior members of the RORC Committee, and with advice from medical experts, it has been decided that any overnight race that the Club would run would not adhere to the UK Government guidance currently in place. As a result, the Ushant race has been cancelled and in its place will be organised a long day race in the English Channel using laid and virtual marks, starting and finishing in Cowes.

"It was a difficult decision as we were all keen to run a proper offshore race," said RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone. "The crux of the decision was based around the guidance that overnight stays away from home are permitted, but only with others from the same or one other household. So whilst a group of up to six people from different households can meet outside, and therefore race a boat (subject to social distancing), they cannot stay together overnight. Our medical expert also pointed out that it would be impossible to honour the 1m+ social distancing guidance when down below in all but the largest race boats."

"The RORC has to take a responsible position when organising offshore races and although teams are in the open air where transfer of the virus is dramatically reduced, we had to consider the position while below decks and the current Government guidance on staying away from home overnight," said RORC Commodore Steven Anderson. "The decision only affects the Ushant race and we will consider the options for the Cherbourg race (Friday September 4th) at the end of July."

RORC Mini Series

The RORC will now put in place a series of long day races which will include the 'Race the Wight' on Saturday August 1st, a round the cans day race in the Channel on Saturday 15th August and another long day race on Saturday 22nd August, with the Cherbourg race (or its replacement, on Saturday September 5th) and trophies awarded to each class winner, the Two Handed division and overall.

Race the Wight

Given that Government guidance now allows up to six people from different households to race on the same boat, the RORC Race Management team have also reviewed the eligibility criteria for the forthcoming Race the Wight, scheduled for the 1st August. There is no change to the Two Handed division, but the number of crew on any boat will be limited to six in total, or two thirds of the IRC crew number (rounded down), whichever is the least, with a minimum of three people.

RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone notes: "With the changes in regulations we believe that adopting the maximum crew of six people or two thirds of the boats IRC crew number (rounded down) is a fair solution for all the fleet and allows the smaller boats a greater opportunity to observe social distancing guidelines."

Published in RORC
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A race around the Isle of Wight on Saturday 1st August will see the return to competitive racing at the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) - the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The race will replace the originally scheduled Channel Race and is open to COVID-19 compliant crews following Government regulations in both the Two-Handed and family/same-household classes.

Race entries are required to have an IRC TCC of 0.900 and above.

RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone comments: "It's been extremely difficult to know what changes to racing will allow us to go back to our original programme; taking into consideration the current regulations and social distancing measures, plus the need to protect the integrity of the season point score. It's our belief that the Channel Race may be a little too early to allow fully crewed racing and would potentially be difficult with regulations not permitting overnight racing. We, therefore, think a race around the Isle of Wight (for those who can), is a great compromise as crews can enjoy a distance race with an offshore element whilst still remaining close to the Solent."

Starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, the 50-nautical mile race will adhere to the latest Government guidelines and advice from the RYA and World Sailing. The safety of all competitors, staff and volunteers are of primary concern as the RORC continues to monitor the Coronavirus outbreak carefully.

The fleet will race anti-clockwise, heading westwards towards Yarmouth, leaving the Solent and rounding the famous Needles Lighthouse before making their way along south-west coast of the Island to St. Catherine's Point before crossing Sandown Bay to round the Bembridge Ledge. The fleet then makes its way either side of No Man's Land Fort and across Osborne Bay to the finish line back at Cowes.

RORC member, Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard raced around the course in 3h 43m and regular RORC racer, Ned Collier Wakefield took just 2h 22m on the MOD70 Concise 10 - just short of Brian Thompson's ratified World Sailing Speed Racing Council record of 2h 2m 31s in Phaedo3 in Sept 2016! Although these records show the potential speeds possible from these impressive racing machines, the course can take anything up to 12 hours for some of the smaller entries.

All competitors will register their own finish times after crossing the line and submit them for the final results.

"It should be a very nice day of racing for those two handed teams who can follow the guidelines and those sailing families/households who can do the same," continues Stone. "Sadly the timing of the tides doesn't allow us to include the smaller entries, but we think we can give most people a start and their first longer race since the lockdown. Staff and volunteers are really looking forward to Race the Wight as well; I think it's good for everyone.

"We have some nice prizes for the class winners and for our overall winner, and with entry fees going to the Scaramouche Sailing Trust and the NHS, we couldn't be happier about the whole event. It's a great way to re-start the season," concludes RORC Racing Manager, Stone.

Published in RORC
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Royal Cork yachtsman Harold Cudmore, Ireland spoke with Louay Habib for an hour-long show focusing on the Admiral's Cup for the 11th edition of the RORC Time Over Distance Series.

In the 1970s Cudmore was one of the first sailors to travel the world to compete at international yachting events, especially match racing. In 1986 he became the first non-American to win the Congressional Cup. In the America's Cup Cudmore was heavily involved in several British campaigns during the 1980s. He was also head coach of the 1992 winning campaign America3 and coach for the all-women's campaign in 1995.



Between 1977 and 1993 Cudmore took part in seven editions of the Admiral's Cup - Racing for Ireland, Great Britain, Australia and Germany. In 1989 he was the mastermind ashore for the victorious British team. To this day, Harold Cudmore travels the world, racing in a wide variety of inshore and offshore events. His amazing abilities as a yachtsman are only matched by his talent for storytelling!

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Ireland's Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker relives tragedy and triumph in the Olympics, America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race in the 10th edition of the RORC Time Over Distance Live Lockdown Series.

Since 2017 Ian has been the Director of Racing for the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and in the interview, he shares his thoughts on the shape of sailing post-lockdown.

Walker has won Olympic silver for Great Britain as both helm and crew and in different boats, the 470 dinghy in 1996 and the Star keelboat in 2000.

He has competed in two America's Cup's, including skipper and helm of GBR Challenge. Three consecutive Volvo Ocean Race campaigns that began with Ireland's 2008/9 Green Dragon and concluded with him becoming the first British skipper to win the race with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

Louay Habib interviews Ian Walker for an hour-long Facebook Live show featuring pictures, videos and stories from a fascinating career.

Watch here or below

test dragonGreen Dragon

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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Born in Chicago in 1952, round the world sailor Skip Novak is best known for his participation in four Whitbread Round the World Yacht Races, including three as skipper with Alaska Eagle, Drum and Fazisi. Louay Habib interviews Novak in this latest RORC video series. 

Popstar Simon Le Bon's 'Drum' famously capsized in the 1985 Fastnet Race but went on to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race, finishing third.

In 1989 Skip Novak project-managed the build of the first Soviet entry in the Whitbread Race - as the Iron Curtain was coming down, Novak skippered Fazisi in the round the world race.

Wishing to combine his mountaineering skills with sailing, Novak built his first expedition yacht Pelagic in 1987 and has since spent every season in Antarctic waters.

Published in RORC
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In 2025, the Centenary of the RORC Fastnet Race – arguably the world’s most famous offshore challenge – will be sailed. Until recently, it would have seemed a bit odd to be focusing on a Centenary all of five years hence. But we now live in very strange times, and the current lockdown with multiple cancellations and postponements of unknowable length means that at some time in the future – maybe even further into the future than we dare to think – there will still be a log-jam of international events trying to find their place in the sun in order to get a regatta and a result, while the previously-established world sailing programme will hit more than a few bumpy patches as it tries to regain its regular rhythm.

Centenary Fastnet Race

In these circumstances, there’s no doubting that the Centenary Fastnet Race is a quintessential pillar event, a happening of such European and international significance that other fixtures should unquestioningly cede precedence to it. And the Centenary Fastnet Race to which they should cede precedence in 2025 ought to be on the best-known and most-frequently-sailed course, from Cowes down Channel and northwest to the Fastnet Rock, and then southeast leaving the Isles of Scilly to port, and on to the finish at Plymouth - 608 miles in all.

2 rounding fastnet rock2The Fastnet Rock is the only constant in the changing history of the Fastnet Race. Photo: Robert Bateman

New Cowes-Fastnet-Cherbourg course

Although the Fastnet Races of 2021 and 2023 will use the new Cowes-Fastnet-Cherbourg course, it has been hinted that for historic 2025, this time-honoured course from Cowes to the Fastnet and thence to Plymouth will be resumed. But as it happens, it’s not the original course. The first Fastnet in 1925 started from the Royal Victoria YC at Ryde on the northeast coast of the Isle of Wight, and exited the Solent eastward, leaving the Isle of Wight to starboard before heading for the Fastnet Rock and then back to Plymouth. This was sailed annually from 1925 until 1931, after which the race became biennial. But the same course was retained except for 1935, when it started in the Western Solent and sent the fleet directly westwards from the Royal Solent YC at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.

The old course was resumed in 1937 and 1939, then after losing three races to World War II from 1939 to 1945, 1947’s race saw it resumed from the Eastern Solent. But with shoreside facilities problems in the immediate post-war period, that 1947 Royal Victoria YC start was provided from Portsmouth with assistance from the Royal Navy. Then in 1949, the start from the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes - with the fleet going westward - was introduced, and the Fastnet Race as virtually everyone today has known it was born.

2a fastnet race course2aThe “traditional” Fastnet Race course has only been sailed between 1949 and 2019, with three different start ports being used – with Ryde on the Isle of Wight the most frequent – before Cowes became the start point in 1949.3 plymouth harbour3The port of Plymouth. While Cherbourg may have been indicated as the finish port for the Fastnet Races of 2021 and 2023, until now Plymouth has been the port most totally associated with the race. It wasn’t until 1949 – 24 years after it was first raced – that the Fastnet Race finally started from Cowes, but between 1925 and 2019, the race always finished in Plymouth.

Overall Fastnet wins

Ireland’s successes in the Race over the years since its inception in 1925 have been distinctive, even if they aren’t numerous. But then, proportionately speaking, how many overall Fastnet wins should a country with our sailing population expect to achieve?

For there’s no doubt that enthusiastic national numbers with good boats and a strong success ethic throughout the crews will show in the results, as has been seen in recent years with the overall handicap winner table being dominated by the French. But then, just a couple of the more popular Breton sailing ports would have more boats between them than you’ll find in all Ireland, and the modern French offshore racing tradition, built on the well-earned hero-worship of Eric Tabarly and his successors, has solid foundations with achievements which are manifested in many ways.

4 fastnet carlo4With a total fleet pushing towards the 400 mark, getting the contemporary Rolex Fastnet Race under way at Cowes is a continuous process of many class starts. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Harry Donegan’s Gull

Our own focus is inevitably narrower, but when we remember that one of the seven boats in the original Fastnet was Harry Donegan’s Gull out of Cork and that the Corkmen were leading the fleet going past Land’s End when outward bound for the Rock - even if they were third at the finish in Plymouth – suggests that Ireland may actually have punched above her weight, for the period of 1920 to 1960 was one of relatively low activity in Irish offshore racing.

5 gull start5 1Harry Donegan’s Gull at the start of the first Fastnet Race from Ryde on the Isle of Wight in 1925. A17-ton gaff cutter designed by Charles E Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson in 1898, Gull was obliged under the rules of the new race to carry an adequate dinghy, which in this instance was kept upright on the starboard deck “as it was very handy for stowing gear”

6 gull during fastnet6Aboard Gull, driving hard during the first Fastnet Race in 1925. There were no rules requiring her to be fitted with guard rails, so she didn’t have them as they were considered “rather unsightly”.

That said, in 1947 Billy Mooney’s 42ft ketch Aideen out of Dun Laoghaire won her class in the 1947 Fastnet, as did Frank & Eric Hopkirk’s venerable cutter Glance from Belfast Lough in the race of 1953. But it has to be admitted that these wins were in numerically small divisions, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that Irish participation became more frequent.

By this stage, the Admiral's Cup was central to much of it, and it was a member of the 1971 team, Rory O’Hanlon’s S&S 43 Clarion from Dun Laoghaire Harbour, which went into the record books by winning the Philip Whitehead Cup, while the growth in the number of smaller boats was reflected in Ronnie Wayte taking second in the very large Class IV in that 1971 race in his new Hustler 35 Setanta of Skerries, which is currently – 49 years later - on the strength of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire.

7 clarion ohanlon7The classic 43ft Sparkman & Stephens Clarion (Dr Rory O’Hanlon RStGYC) during the 1971 Fastnet Race, in which she won the Philip Whitehead Cup

Fastnet Storm of 1979

Through the 1970s the pace built up, and in 1979 Ireland dominated the first stages of the Admiral's Cup, while in the first couple of hundred miles of the Fastnet Race itself, the betting was on as to whether Ken Rohan’s Holland 39 Regardless or Hugh Coveney’s Holland 43 Golden Apple would be the overall winner. But the Fastnet Storm of 1979 and the loss of both their rudders put paid to that high hope.

8 regardless 1981 may8Ken Rohan’s Holland 39 Regardless during the Irish Admirals Cup Trials at Cork, May 1981. With a crew built around Robert Dix, Drewry Pearson and Des Cummins, Regardless went on to be the top Admiral's Cup boat in the 1981 Fastnet Race. Photo: W M Nixon

Regardless

However, with a fresh crew including Young Turks like Robert Dix, Drewry Pearson and Des Cummins, Regardless was back for more in the 1981 Fastnet to achieve the best Irish result until then, the win in Class 1 and the overall win among all Admirals Cup boats.

They’re a talented trio, as Robert Dix – aka Dixie – had been the youngest ever All-Ireland Champion Helm at the age of 17 in October 1970 when the Helmsmans Championship – raced that year in National 18s – was the culmination of the Royal Cork’s Quarter Millennial celebrations. And ten years later, the trio were very much in action piloting Bruce Lyster’s eccentric Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble to overall victory in the 1980 ISORA Championship.

9 swuzzlebubble lyster8Bruce Lyster (left) on his originally-centreboard Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble coming in to win the Pwllheli-Howth Race of August 1980 - and the 1980 ISORA Championship with it - his crew including Robert Dix, Drewry Pearson and Des Cummins. Photo: W M Nixon

Admiral's Cup

Then came 1981, when the Admiral's Cup was arguably at its peak, so the Fastnet performance of Regardless was internationally acknowledged as something very special indeed. It certainly strengthened the already strong bond between the three guys, a bond which continues today in their joint ownership of the Hallberg Rassy 48 Alpaire of 2009 vintage, a particularly attractive Frers design in which they’ve recently been cruising the Black Sea.

But meanwhile, their performance with Regardless in 1981 had shown that clearly, the Big One was within sight, and in 1987 Ireland finally got the overall Fastnet Race win. Well, sort of…….

Thirty-three years ago, the growth of sponsorship in sailing could result in a confusion of results if rules from the era of total Corinthian participation were applied with precise regard for the last letter of the law. Thus although there were many sponsored entries racing in national teams in 1987’s highly competitive Admiral’s Cup for which the Fastnet Race was the climax, the peculiar reality was that none of them was eligible – because of being sponsored – to win the Fastnet Challenge Cup for the overall winner.

With a record fleet lining up for the Fastnet Race itself, and with thirteen teams competing with ferocious enthusiasm for the Admiral’s Cup in the best series for several years, it was so hectic in Cowes that the thought of an acute results problem arising in Plymouth after the Fastnet Race had finished does not seem to have been on the radar. Yet this is precisely what happened, and needless to say it was an Irish boat which was right at the eye of the storm.

Stephen Fein’s Dubois 40 Full Pelt was a late addition to the Irish Admiral’s Cup team. Skipper Tom Power of Dun Laoghaire had found that the boat he had originally chartered came with intractable rating problems. But in being forced into relatively last-minute negotiations with Full Pelt, the Irish fell on their feet.

10 irish indo racing10All systems go. The Dubois 40 Irish Independent racing in the 1987 Admirals Cup, Tim Goodbody is on the helm

Full Pelt was the result of a dynamic linkup between owner Stephen Fein, his ace boat optimizer and tuner Jo Richards, and designer Ed Dubois. Yet despite being a boat which was clearly showing further potential with every outing, Full Pelt had yet to find a guaranteed team place as the Admiral's Cup moved up the agenda.

Negotiations took place with some urgency. With the support of non-sailing Team Captain Sean Flood, sponsorship was secured from the Irish Independent newspaper, and the delicate task of balancing a crew panel between Full Pelt’s core crew and Tom Power’s own talented squad – which included helmsman Tim Goodbody – was set in train. With generous give and take on both sides, a real team spirit emerged, and as the 1987 Admirals Cup got under way, it was clear that Irish Independent was very much a boat to be taken seriously, with Tim Goodbody proving to be the equal and sometimes the better of international helming superstars like Lawrie Smith.

11 irish indo crew11The crew of 1987 Fastnet Race winner Irish Independent at the Royal Irish YC on 2nd December 2016 were (left to right) Billy Pope, Tom Power, Jo Richards, Stephen Fein, Sean Flood (Team Captain), Tim Goodbody, Tom Roche and Graham Deegan. Photo: W M Nixon

The Fastnet Race itself was a classic. In those days the big race started on the Saturday, and Irish Independent was very much in contention overall as she rounded the rock on the Monday evening. Then with the wind freshening wetly from the west, progress was rapid towards the finish at Plymouth, with the 40-footers finishing in a bunch around 0300hrs on the Wednesday morning.

This closeness of finish was exactly as Jo Richards had anticipated, and thus he had always been focused on keeping Irish Independent/Full Pelt’s rating a point or two below comparable boats. This meant that while the Richard Burrows-skippered Dubois 40 Jameson Whiskey rated 1.0195, Irish Independent clocked in at 1.0188. As often as not, Irish Independent would be ahead on the water anyway, but there was always this tiny ratings gap to fall back on, something which increased in significance with longer races and particularly with the Fastnet.

So on that wet pre-dawn Wednesday morning, Irish Independent was already well launched on her way to being declared overall winner of the Fastnet Race. And in a broadening of the scope of Irish success, it soon became clear that the legendary Holland 39 Imp, raced as a veteran by Roy Dickson of Howth, was also going to win the Philip Whitehead Cup. But in the euphoria of these achievements, it took a while before it was fully realised that despite the clarity of Irish Independent’s victory, there was no way she was going to win the coveted Fastnet Challenge Cup. That would go to the top-placed non-sponsored boat.

In the end, the band of brothers which had emerged from the melding of two crews aboard Irish Independent/Full Pelt had to be content with receiving a little silver dish – “a leprechaun’s hub-cap” as Tom Power described it – as the only acknowledgement of what they had done.

While everyone knew what the real situation was, the fact that the official records stated otherwise tended to obscure the facts with every passing year, and the untimely death early in 2016 of designer Ed Dubois – who had been an active crew member on the boat during the Fastnet Race – was a reminder that something needed to be done to put things in proper perspective.

Friday, December 2nd 2016 would normally have been a day on which people started seriously anticipating Christmas. But for those for whom Irish Independent/Full Pelt was a very special boat at the centre of an unusual but successful crew-merging project, Friday, December 2nd 2016 was the day on which the then Commodore of RORC, Michael Boyd, and the 1987 skipper of Irish Independent, the late Tom Power, jointly hosted a lunch in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire to honour the memory of Ed Dubois and to celebrate the sportsmanship and goodwill of Stephen Fein and Jo Richards in throwing themselves so completely into campaigning with a crew of Irish strangers who had become close friends by the time the series was completed.

12 grosvenor deegan12Janet Grosvenor of the RORC and Graham Deegan, a crewmember on Irish Independent in 1987, in the RIYC December 2016. Photo: W M Nixon

An official stamp of approval was put on it all by the welcome presence of Janet Grosvenor, Assistant Secretary at the RORC in 1987, and key administrator of the Admiral's Cup, who has since been properly recognized for her great services over very many years to offshore racing by being conferred with Honorary Membership of the RORC. And thanks to links with Irish Lights, a new trophy – made from a prism from the light on the Fastnet Rock – was presented to Stephen Fein and Tom Power, acknowledging the boat’s clear overall win and complete with the names of the crew.

As for the full supporting cast at that lunch of 2016, it was extraordinary, as it included both the 1987 Team Captain Sean Flood, and the Team Manager Terry Johnson, it also included former RORC Commodore John Bourke who was navigator of Jameson Whiskey back in 1987, and it numbered almost the entire crew panel for Irish Independent/Full Pelt, including those who had sailed some of the races, and those who had stood aside to allow the core squad to race the boat round the Fastnet.

13 group 2016 shot13Putting the record straight. Among those who gathered at the RIYC in December 2016 to put the record straight on the real winner of the 1987 Fastnet Race were (left to right) Michael Boyd (Commodore RORC), Jim Horan (Commodore RIYC), Janet Grosvenor (RORC), Billy Pope (Irish Independent crew), Tom Power (Irish Independent skipper), Michael O’Leary (Fastnet contender), Jo Richards (Irish Independent designer/tactician), Stephen Fein (owner Full Pelt/Irish Independent), Terry Johnson (1987 Irish Admirals Cup Team Manager, Sean Flood (1987 Irish Admirals Cup Team Captain), Tom Roche (Skipper 1987 Irish Team Mumm 36), Tim Goodbody (Irish Independent helm), John Bourke (former Commodore RORC and navigator on 1987 Irish Team Dubois 40 Jameson), Graham Deegan (Irish Independent crew) and Paddy Boyd (Fastnet contender). Photo: W M Nixon 

But although the question of just who really did win the 1987 Fastnet Race was finally resolved in a roundabout sort of way in Dun Laoghaire 29 years later, back in the late 1980s the amateur/professional/sponsorship thing was a conundrum which rumbled on for quite a while. Thus in Jamie Young’s article earlier this week about using eco-friendly auxiliary sail power for cargo and passenger-carrying commercial vessel, we mentioned in our intro that his West Coast-based Expedition Yacht, the Frers 49 Killlary Flyer, had been overall winner of the 1988 Round Ireland Race.

Well, this is true up to a point. But in 1988, Round Ireland Race Director Michael Jones of Wicklow was ultra-scrupulous in implementing the amateur/professional/sponsorship directives. And in those days, Killary Flyer was Brian Buchanan’s Hesperia from Belfast Lough. Yet she did the 1988 Round Ireland as Woodchester Challenger in a well-sponsored deal arranged by Liam Lawlor of Howth with support from the Dublin-based finance company, but skippered as usual by Dickie Gomes, who sailed with most of his regular crew.

Yet as far as Michael Jones was concerned, the sponsorship made the boat a completely different animal, and she could only race in the Channel Handicap Division, whereas all the main prizes were still being allocated in the International Offshore Rule division. It’s small consolation that the IOR was soon to be replaced with Channel Handicap’s offspring, the IRC, for in 1988 Dickie Gomes and his crew sailed the race of their lives round Ireland to be challenging Hesperia/Woodchester’s slightly bigger sister, Denis Doyle’s Moonduster, at every corner before coming home to a strong finish at Wicklow.

When the results became official, Woodchester may have won overall under CHS from Liam Shanahan’s db2S Lightning from the National YC. But in IOR among the proper silverware, Lightning was the winner by three hours from Tony Vernon’s 40-footer Canterbury from Abersoch with Moonduster third, while Woodchester Challenger was simply nowhere in every way, for as far as the IOR Division was concerned, she simply didn’t exist.

14 woodchester hesperia14 One of German Frers most attractive designs, this Frers 49 started life as Ron Amey’s Noryema XI. She then became Brian Buchanan’s Hesperia, while for the 1988 Round Ireland Race she was – as seen here – Woodchester Challenger, and these days she is Jamie Young’s Killary Flyer, the noted Arctic Expedition Yacht based in northwest Galway.

Yet in the special camaraderie which prevails at the end of a Round Ireland Race, the attitude seemed to be that we were getting two good winners for the price of one. Lightning’s win was deservedly popular, and remains so today, for the Shanahan family have now been making a massive contribution to Irish offshore racing for three generations. And Woodhester Challenger's race had been one of those flawless performances which falls rarely to anyone, and are cherished for their own sake.

But there’s a certain irony in the fact that for the next Round Ireland in 1990, a huge affair with a significant Maxi presence, all the old rules and reservations about commercial sponsorship of entries had been chucked out with total abandon. Absolutely everyone was in with a chance at all the main prizes, and the line honours winner and fully acknowledged overall winner was Lawrie Smith – with his crew including Gordon Maguire - racing the Maxi Rothmans, a sponsorship which would be seen these days as so toxic that the boat probably wouldn’t even be allowed into Irish territorial waters.

Meanwhile back at the Fastnet Race, with the absence of Moonduster after the deathn at the age of 81 of Denis Doyle in 2001, it fell to several boats to take on the mantle of Irish representation. And they did it very well, for although The Duster had been a regular entrant and in the Fastnet class frame at times, stellar results eluded her. But when another Crosshaven boat, Eric Lisson’s Noray 38 Cavatina - which was already well-known as a Round Ireland success - took on the Fastnet challenge in 2005, she came within 23 minutes of winning the Fastnet Challenge Cup.

Sailing in Class 3, they’d a race-long ding-dong with the slightly lower-rated Nicholson 33 Iromiguy (Jean-Yves Chateau). There was an unusually large amount of spinnaker work, and Eric Lisson recalls how as night drew on they’d see the all-too-familiar spinnaker of Iromiguy fading into the dark astern, then through the night they’d have that familiar impression of sailing so well that they were convinced they were dropping the Frenchmen. But as sure as God made little apples, as the dawn came up one of the sets of navigation lights astern would be revealed as having that damned Iromiguy spinnaker setting sweetly aloft.

cavatina sailing14aA boat and crew in harmony – Cavatina and her team came second overall (by 23 minutes) in the 2005 Fastnet Race, and won their Class in the race of 2007. Photo: W M Nixon
So at the finish Iromiguy had the class win by 23 minutes from Cavatina, and as the numbers overall fell the right way for boats of Class Three, Iromiguy had the Fastnet overall win too. It was the third Fastnet Challenge Cup win for Cork-based designer Ron Holland, as Iromiguy’s sister-ship Golden Delicious had won overall in 1975, while Dave Allen Holland 39 Imp won in 1977. Yet that was only small consolation for Cavatina’s all-amateur crew, to be so near and yet so far, even if the vast majority of offshore racers could not conceive of the wonder of coming second overall in a Fastnet Race.

Eric Lisson and longtime shipmate Dave Hennessy (who was subsequently to complete a four year global circumnavigation in his own boat Laragh) were to have considerable consolation in 2007 when they raced Cavatina in the AZAB and won overall against opposition including Jamie Young’s Frers 49 Killlary Flyer from Galway. Buoyed up by this success, Cavatina then went on to do the 2007 Fastnet Race in which, this time round, they got the class win. But overall it wasn’t Class 3’s race, yet with Cavatina’s class win and another noted success, 2007 was arguably Ireland’s best Fastnet Race to date.

For it was the race of 2007 – all of twenty years after Irish Independent’s win – which secured the overall win again, and this time the Fastnet Challenge Cup came with it with no equivocation.

For this was the year of Ger O’Rourke’s Cookson 50 Chieftain from the Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland in Kilrush. The Limerick skipper had his own way of doing things, such there were factors around Chieftain’s win which made it an epochal achievement in the purest if sometimes a rather crazy spirit of Irish offshore racing.

For a start, Ger O’Rourke – who’d already taken a class win and fourth overall in the Sydney-Hobart Race when his boat was still fresh from the builders in New Zealand – had a superstition about not officially entering Chieftain for the next big race on her outline programme until she had completed the one in which she was currently involved. In 2007, she raced the New York to Hamburg Race, taking second. But it was only once she was in Hamburg in late June that Ger got in touch with the RORC about the Fastnet, to be told that they’d take his entry, but he’d be 46th on the waiting list as the 2007 Fastnet Race had long since been over-subscribed.

It sounds daft, but there hadn’t been a real gale in open water in the Fastnet Race since the mega-storm of the 1979 disaster, and people were still nervous of its memory. Thus the RORC office were confident that there’d be a lot of drop-outs as the 2007 race approached, as it was a very unsettled summer. They were right, with Chieftain moving up the waiting list so rapidly that Ger considered it worth his while to position his boat in the Solent, where by the Tuesday before the race on Sunday, he was told he was now highly likely, and his full entry was confirmed on the Thursday.

As it happened, he’d four days to the start, for though it had been planned for the Sunday, a short sharp severe storm zapping up the English Channel saw it being postponed 25 hours until the Monday, which didn’t help the jitteriness of many crews. But Chieftain’s team were made of sterner stuff, and on Monday there she was, confidently thumping her way to windward down the Solent in the midst of the Fastnet fleet with her canting keel earnings its keep and with a crew who, if they lacked anything resembling a crew uniform, seemed to be on top of their game with the prodigious talent of Jochem Visser included in the strength.

15 chieftain solent15Chieftain making knots to windward down the Solent in the 2007 Fastnet Race – she had been an official entry for barely three days

As the bulk of the fleet approached the Lizard still slugging to windward, a serious gale warning led to multiple retirals – more than a hundred, for the memory of 1979 was still very strong. But the canting keel Chieftain was just getting into her stride despite all her electronics crashing before she cleared Lizard Point. Thereafter, all navigation and strategy and tactics were reliant on little hand-held GPS sets and a set of very sodden paper charts, but it didn’t take a feather out of them even if their boat’s size and speed made them one of a kind, racing largely on their own with nobody to compare their performance with, and little-noticed in the on-going race reports.

16 chieftain at finish16The winner that came out of nowhere…..Chieftain approaching the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2007 on the Tuesday evening

Thus it was something of a surprise when Chieftain appeared on her own out of the late evening light as Thursday night drew on, and finished towards sunset into an unchallengeable winning position. Conditions had ideally suited a boat of her size and type, but there were several comparable craft – it was Chieftain the last-minute entry which had read it to perfection for a very clearcut Irish win, and now Ger O’Rourke had an unexpected problem – he had to hit the shops in Plymouth to find a clean shirt for the prize-giving.

17 Chieftain finishes17Home before dark – Chieftain and her motley crew cross the finish line at Plymouth to win the Rolex Fastnet Race 2007. Owner/skipper Ger O’Rourke had some unexpected retail therapy in having to buy a clean shirt for the prize-giving
It had been a magnificent win, and in its total individuality, it stands alone. Since then, Irish success in the Fastnet has been for the Roger Justice Trophy for Sailing Schools, with Ronan O Siochru with Irish offshore sailing’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star winning in 2015, while Kenneth Rumball with Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi won it in 2017.

18 jedi 2017 fastnet18The Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi (left foreground) makes a neat start to the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 in which she won the Roger Justice Trophy. Photo Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

So all in all, it’s a more-than-reasonable record of Fastnet success for Ireland. And anyway, it is our rock, after all, is said and done. So we undoubtedly have skin in the game for 2025’s Centenary, and doubtless, there are several top sailors thinking about it already, though the way the enormous but still limited online entry list is filled within minutes of opening for business makes it a bit of a lottery securing a place.

That said, straightforward priority should be given to boat with a gold standard Fastnet Race history, and it’s particularly notable how many pre-World War II Fastnet Race overall winners are still happily with us, including Bloodhound from 1939, Stormy Weather from 1935, Dorade from 1933 and 1931, and Tally Ho from 1927 which is currently (as reported in Afloat) being restored.

19 dorade stormy weather19Still going strong. The beautifully-restored 1931 and 1933 Fastnet Race winner Dorade (left) chasing the 1935 winner Stormy Weather in the race of 2015 – despite being five years older, Dorade finished ahead. Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
20 Halloween riyc20The 70ft Hallowe’en at the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire. Designed and built by Fife of Fairlie, Hallowe’en won line honours in the 1926 Fastnet Race in her first season afloat. Photo: W M Nixon

Also making their stately way afloat are the 1939 line honours winner, the 88ft Nordwind, and the 1926 line honours champion, the Irish-owned 70ft Fife-designed-and-built beauty Hallowe’en. But important as these Fastnet veterans are, for sheer prominence in the race’s history, none can rival the former Pilot Cutter Jolie Brise, winner for George Martin in the first race of 1925 and for Bobby Somerset in 1929 and 1930.

Jolie Brise is reckoned by the pundits to be the finest pilot cutter ever built. And her three successes in the early Fastnets were pointers to the success pattern in the modern race. For Jolie Brise is French-designed, and French-built. She was the last sailing pilot cutter to be commissioned for the vital service out of Le Havre in Normandy. She sails like a witch. Jolie Brise is very special indeed.

21 jolie brise21The last (and greatest) of Le Havre’s sailing pilot cutters, Jolie Brise was designed and built in France in 1913, and has won three Fastnet Races including the first one in 1925, plus the races of 1929 and 1930. She is now beautifully maintained and well used by Dauntsey’s School of Wiltshire in England

Irish Success in the Fastnet Race

  • 1925 Gull (HPF Donegan, Royal Cork YC) 3rd overall
  • 1926 Hallowe’en (now owned by Royal Irish YC syndicate) First to finish
  • 1947 Aideen (A.W. Mooney, Irish Cruising Club) First in Class A
  • 1947 Marama (Harald Osterberg, ICC) Second Class A
  • 1953 Glance (F & E Hopkirk, Royal Ulster YC) 1st Div A, Jolie Brise Cup
  • 1971 Clarion of Wight (Dr Rory O’Hanlon, Irish CC & Royal St George YC) First Division A and Philip Whitehead Cup
  • 1971 Setanta of Skerries (Ronnie Wayte, Irish Cr C & Skerries SC) Second Class IV
  • 1981 Regardless (Ken Rohan, Royal Irish YC) First Class 1
  • 1987  Irish independent/Full Pelt (Tom Power & Stephen Fein, Royal Irish YC) First overall 
  • 1987 Imp (Roy Dickson, Howth YC) 1st Div A, Philip Whitehead Cup
  • 2005 Cavatina (Eric Lisson, Royal Cork YC) 2nd Overall and 2nd Class 3
  • 2007 Chieftain (Ger O’Rourke, Royal Western of Ireland YC) First overall and Fastnet Challenge Cup, RORC Yacht of the Year 2007)
  • 2007 Cavatina (Eric Lisson, RCYC) First Class 3
  • 2015 Desert Star (Ronan O Siochru, Irish Offshore Sailing) Roger Justice Trophy
  • 2017 Jedi (Kenneth Rumball, Irish National SS) Roger Justice Trophy

*Afloat.ie welcomes any additions and corrections to the above

Published in ISORA
Tagged under

The Royal Ocean Racing Club announces further cancellations and changes to some of its key events as the season progresses and the COVID-19 pandemic continues throughout April. 

The decision comes after continued close monitoring of Government and medical advice, and in line with guidance from World Sailing and the RYA. The RORC's intention is to adapt its race programme and courses as necessary in order to get members and competitors on the water as soon as it is possible and appropriate.

Myth of Malham - Cancelled

One of the most popular and tactically challenging races, the 230nm Myth of Malham race, scheduled to start on Saturday 23rd May (Bank Holiday), has regretfully been cancelled. The course from Cowes, around Eddystone Lighthouse and back to a finish in the western Solent, mirrors the first 130nm of the Rolex Fastnet Race and takes in some of the most complex tidal gates around notable headlands that include Portland Bill and Start Point.

De Guingand Bowl - Cancelled

The next cancellation in the 2020 RORC Season's Points Championship is the De Guingand Bowl on Saturday 6th June. The race traditionally sails a course relatively close to the Isle of Wight with a Club finish back in the Solent.

RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone comments: "In previous editions, it has provided a great opportunity for the Race Committee to try different aspects of course setting to challenge the fleet and its navigators. Last year we tried out some really exciting and new ideas around the course and the weather, and we were extremely keen to keep that going again. Sadly it's not to be this year, but we will continue to explore these ideas in 2021!"

East Coast Race - Under review

The Club is also working closely with EAORA (East Anglian Offshore Racing Association) and the East Coast Race which is still currently scheduled for the 19th June. The Associations' PRO, Paul Jackson said: "The East Coast Race is still under review. There have been some positive comments from the Netherlands, but it is still early days at the moment and we will wait until we are a little closer to the event to make a final decision."

IRC National Championship - Potential Date Change

The RORC is also considering moving the IRC National Championships from its scheduled June timeslot to Friday 11th, Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th September. The potential move would see the IRC Nationals being run together with the IRC Double-Handed National Championship scheduled for the same weekend.

This is the same weekend as the Irish IRC Nationals that will be raced as part of WAVE Regatta in Howth, County Dublin.

IRC Rating Director Dr Jason Smithwick commented: "This later schedule for the IRC Nationals could be a good result for the IRC fleet. A later schedule in September should allow the best chance of giving the national IRC fleet a top-level event with sailing in good conditions."

RORC Commodore Steven Anderson commented: "Today's announcement cancelling our next two offshore races were inevitable, however, we are keeping all our options open to get the fleet back on the water as soon as it is appropriate. We may have to shift our focus to more Solvent-based racing, or at least racing a little closer to home, but it's our intention to get as much racing into our programme as we can and adapt events and the programme as necessary."

Published in Scottish Waters
Page 1 of 37

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

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W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
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