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This year’s Women on Water Festival will be held at the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club at Cultra on the south side of Belfast Lough near Holywood. The date is 12th May.

This event, hosted by the RYANI is planned to give women the opportunity to get involved in sailing and boating for the first time and is open to any women above the age of 18.

The WOW festival is an opportunity for women to try a variety of different activities on the water within a supportive environment and a chance to meet new friends whilst developing skills. This is an open entry festival which welcomes all women who may be new to the sport or may have tried it before but would like to build some more confidence on the water. It is aimed at women interested in learning more about boats, but you don’t have to have completed a WOW programme previously.

Women taking part will get the opportunity to try their hand on a huge range of boats, from small dinghies and powerboats to larger yachts. It’s also a great opportunity for those involved to meet like-minded women who often become their friends for life.

Last year, the Festival was hosted by the Donaghdee Sailing Club on the North Down coast, and Lara Sunday, who took part, said, “There were women from all over Ireland there – some who had been sailing their entire life and then newbies like myself- there was just a really nice mix. Sometimes you think you can’t start things, especially when you’re later in life. It made me think that this is something I can do.” Donaghadee Sailing Club gained several new members after the Festival.

Activities scheduled include Dinghy and Keelboat sailing as well as Powerboating. No experience is needed as it is a day for learning and socialising. Buoyancy Aids will be provided if you don't have your own and the price includes activities, goodies, lunch and most importantly a chance to catch up with others and have lots of fun.

Vice Commodore Lindsay Nolan said “We are delighted to be hosting the 2024 RYA WOW festival. We followed all the work and research done by the RYA on female participation in sailing and hope that we can offer a fabulous day on the water to showcase sailing. Sailing can be a competitive sport if you want it to be but also sailing can be a lot of fun, a way to make new friends and a special way to get outdoors”. Sarah Dalzell is event director.

Tickets will be on sale until Sunday 5th of May and If you would like to know more info please contact [email protected] or sign up here 

Published in RYA Northern Ireland

If you had checked the half a dozen forecasting apps, Sunday’s Belfast Lough wind forecast would have ranged from two to five knots from either east or west, and it was going to be very cold, and sure enough, it was very cold. On arrival, RS400 Frostbite crews that had arrived early had spinnakers hanging limply from their masts, and the wind cups on the club’s mast were barely turning, so it was no surprise that only half the fleet turned up, and the half that did were pondering why they had even bothered.

The decision was made to go and a lovely breeze then filled in from the east.

A few of the usual faces were missing. Frostie Series leader Peter Kennedy had to abandon racing, so luckily Mike Ferguson parachuted into the driving seat in 1522.

Jocelyn Hill's place was taken by sister Emily in 741; and lastly, Bob Espey couldn’t make it, so his new chariot was offered to GP14 duo Ross Kearny & Dan Nelson.

The first race got underway sharp at 13.30. The start line had a massive committee boat bias, so everyone was jostling for space at the committee boat, and with the little breeze, it was easy to stall and get pushed out the back like me. 1522 with Ferguson & Kane leading the way to the windward mark, closely followed by Donnelly & McCaig in 2nd. It appeared to pay on the downwind leg to go for the lay lines; anyone who gybed off early seemed to suffer for it. Andrew Vaughan, in 1438 with Martin Weatherspoons, seemed to suffer even more as their wing wang had gone wrong, and as a result, they had no control of the Gennaker pole. They completed the race in 9th then threw in the towel for the day. Taking the bullet was 1522 Ferguson & Kane, followed by 1405 Donnelly & McCaig in 2nd, then 1533 Kearney & Nelson in 3rd.

Race 2 the race committee did move the start line forward to square it off but by the time the race started there was still a committee boat bias and again there was a good turn out at the committee boat. With twelve boats all having a clean start, the fleet slowly took off up to the first windward mark with a good split going left or right, and it appeared that the boats which sailed more right took the advantage. First to the windward mark were Ferguson & Kane, with Purdon & Hayes and Donnelly & McCaig following suit.

On the down wind, the wind clocked around and the boats that gybed early took the gains and you could nearly hit the leeward marks if you soaked hard enough. Ben Martin in 1179 managed to leapfrog four boats which he was pleased with as he had been at the rear of the fleet. It was in the second beat where GP14 champ Ross Kearney, who knows how to sail fast, couldn’t get 1533 to the point. He eventually realised that he wasn’t in a GP and figured out if you put the centre board fully down you could actually point these RS400s.

Ferguson & Kane held on to the lead, followed by Purdon & Heyes in 2nd and Donnelly & McCaig in 3rd.

By Race 3 the race committee adjusted the start line again. Ferguson & Kane, in 1522, thought that they would take a chance with a cheeky port-end flyer, but the wind shifted just before the start, and they were totally in the wrong spot. Kearney & Nelson in 1533 selected the right gears and lead the fleet to the windward mark. Ferguson & Kane put in a lot of hard work in to get back up to second around the mark.

Hammy Baker & Dan Sherriff in 1006 were doing a good but irritating job of cover taking 1353 Robert Hastings & Peter Todd, but they were victims of their own doing by putting in a downwind gybe and somehow, they sailed over their kite which stopped them dead. I didn’t snigger, honestly! Ferguson & Kane made some unusual mistakes, going to the wrong leeward gate mark and they also went up the wrong side if the beat for too long which didn’t do them any favours.

In the end, Kearney & Nelson in 1533 held on to take the win, Purdon & Hayes took second again, but they were given a run for their money on the last leg with 1353 Hastings & Todd taking a close 3rd. It was great to see Will & Rachel Browne in 1188 who are new to the fleet and to double handers taking 4th.

Overall, the fleet was all pleased to get out; the breeze filled in, the sun came out, and we got three good races in. 

Winners for the day’s racing were, 1533 Kearney & Nelson, with a 3, 5 & 1. In second place with exactly the same points 1004 Purdon & Hayes with 5, 2 & 2.

With 15 races now completed and discards kicking in, the overall series leaders are still 1522 Kennedy & Kane on 29 points. In second place is 1004 Purdon & Hayes at 42 points, and in third are the Vaughans at 53 points. With a few more Sundays to go before Christmas, The overall trophy is not in the bag just yet!
RS400 Results from Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

Published in RS Sailing

Ten RS Fevas from clubs around Belfast Lough rounded off their season with a Final Fling at Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club recently.

After the initial strong wind died down to just in time to allow the event to take place, the fleet of ten boats came to the line, five from Ballyholme, including Kirsty and Rory McGovern, new to the class and five from the host club.

Race Officer Terry Rowan set the course and got three races away without delay. This was a bonus for the fleet to have the experience of three short races and practice at starts.

The Rideout sisters - Emily and Annabelle from Ballyholme, won Race 1, and Matt and Peter Rideout pipped them to the finish line on Race 2. However, the girls got back to win the third race and took the overall prize. Sally Nixon and Jess Dadley-Young from BYC got in three good races with a second and two thirds. Niamh Coman and Ellie Nolan (RNIYC) had their top result of a fifth and two sixths whilst Mum Aileen and son Louis were consistent to finish 4th overall. As the afternoon progressed the wind died to nothing, and the sailors were ably assisted to shore by the rescue crews.

After racing the competitors enjoyed a meal together, everyone being awarded prizes including the youngest helm and crew (Martha Nolan and Cara Coman), newcomers to the fleet (Izzy Stout and Amelie Stevenson) and best capsize (Finlay Pierce and Benjamin Wallace).

Published in RS Sailing

Robert Hume, the Admiral of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, has authored a comprehensive history of the club, with invaluable contributions from many others.

The 180-page hardback book is richly illustrated and covers the club's beginnings and development from 1818 until 2022. The club is located on the western shore of Belfast Lough at Cultra, approximately six miles from Belfast.

Cultra means 'the back of the strand' and was the end of a long beach that extended from Belfast to Cultra.

Robert Hume, the Admiral of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club with copies of his new book that offers a comprehensive history of the Club Photo: Lindsay Nolan Robert Hume, the Admiral of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club with copies of his new book that offers a comprehensive history of the Club Photo: Lindsay Nolan 

The book details the story of the small harbour that Hugh Kennedy of the Manor House built, followed by the establishment of 'The Northern Yacht Club' in 1824 by a group of gentlemen led by John McCracken, a passionate yachtsman and brother of Henry Joy McCracken of the Society of United Irishmen.

The history covers the rise and temporary fall of yachting at the venue, the blossoming of sailing at Cultra with the formation of the Ulster Canoe Club in 1892, and the Cultra Sailing Club in 1894.

The 1902 Fairy class still racing at Royal North today Photo courtesy: RNIYCThe 1902 Fairy class still racing at Royal North today Photo courtesy: RNIYC

The various name changes are detailed, including the formation of the North of Ireland Yacht Club in 1899 and its subsequent grant of the Royal Warrant by King Edward VII in 1902, leading to the club's current name.

The book also provides insights into every class of boat sailed at RNIYC and the influential families involved, such as Lord Dufferin, Workman, Inglis, Corry, and Dunville. The club wasn't just about yachting, however. It also hosted motoring events and tennis. During the Edwardian era, the club encouraged lawn tennis and other social activities and played a pioneering role in the development of motorsport in Ireland with timed automobile trials.

A Motor meeting and competition in front of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club in 1908 Photo courtesy: RNIYCA Motor meeting and competition in front of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club in 1908 Photo courtesy: RNIYC

At the book launch, Admiral Robert Hume spoke about his sailing life, which started at age five with his father, Norman in his Dragon Poseidon. Robert is still sailing and currently shares the Fairy class boat, Minx, with his son Jamie. He thanked his wife Maureen, and everyone who helped with the book, especially for putting up with all the boxes and papers scattered throughout their house while he completed his research.

The book can be purchased by emailing [email protected], priced at £40.

 Author Admiral Robert Hume and Mrs. Maureen Hume at the  Launch of the history of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club Photo: Lindsay Nolan Author Admiral Robert Hume and Mrs. Maureen Hume at the  Launch of the history of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club Photo: Lindsay Nolan

A week out, the dogs on the streets could have told us that the weather was not looking good for the last day of racing, and true enough, with a base rate of 18 knots gusting 33 knots and a miserable drizzle, it was decided early in the morning to call the final Frostie Series race for RS400s off at RNIYC on Belfast Lough.

It wasn’t a great shock to know who had finished where, as the results stood from the previous week.

The RS400s at the Royal North of Ireland dinghy park did not sail on the last day of the Frosties The RS400s at the Royal North of Ireland dinghy park did not sail on the last day of the Frosties due to strong winds

In third place was Luke McIlwaine from Newcastle Sailing Club with his crew Ryan Wilson from Carrickfergus Sailing Club.

In second place were Liam Donnelly and Rick McCaig, both from Carrickfergus Sailing Club and in 1st place was the ever-consistent but not flawless (only three capsizes this series) Peter Kennedy from Strangford Lough Sailing Club and Stevie Kane from RNIYC who picked up the Frostie Series Trophy for the second year in a row.

The RS400 Frosties Series, including the overall trophy, laid out at the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club on Belfast LoughThe RS400 Frosties Series, including the overall trophy, laid out at the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club on Belfast Lough

As for 2023, the RS400 & RS200 calendar is just about finalised. The events lined up so far are:

  • RS Westerns, 1st & 2nd April @ Galway City SC
  • RS Northerns, 6th & 7th May @ Strangford SC (Castleward)
  • Irish RS Games 30th June, 1st & 2nd July @ Blessington SC
  • RS400 UK Nationals 31st July – 4th August – Mounts Bay, Cornwall

The RS400 Frostie Series will be back at RNIYC next November and December.

RS400 Frosties Series Race Officer Gerry ReidRS400 Frosties Series Race Officer Gerry Reid

Published in RS Sailing

This year's Royal North of Ireland RS400 Winter Series 2022 represents the fifteenth year of the popular Belfast Lough sailing event.

It will kick off on Sunday, the 8th of November, for seven consecutive weeks up to the 18th of December.

With a regular 18 boats on the start line and a bonanza of boats turning up for the last day, GP14s are joining the RS 400’s for the last day, known as the Christmas race. A further twelve GPs are expected for that.

Last year a record 20 RS 400’s entered for the whole series. The Series draws boats and very talented sailors from all over the country, with one boat travelling all the way from Dublin.

Last year's winners, Peter Kennedy and Stephen Kane won a hard-fought battle, mostly coming down to the last day, with relentless pressure from Andrew Vaughan and veteran of the fleet Liam Donnelly. This year will see additional pressure from other contenders, Jane Kearney, or Tom Purdon perhaps. 

A busy Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club dinghy park at last year's RS400 Winter Series 2022 on Belfast LoughA busy Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club dinghy park at last year's RS400 Winter Series 2022 on Belfast Lough

The PRO Gerry Reid said, “A typical Sunday race will consist of three quick-fire races of about 20 minutes each. We bear in mind that it gets cold for the competitors and the event team, so we don’t hang about. This all came about back in 2007 when a few 400’ guys approached the Club and asked about a few races around Halloween, this developed into its present guise of, three races per day over 7 /8 weekends the numbers just built. We are delighted to keep this event going despite an interruption from Covid.”

Racing can be watched from the shore at Cultra, starting at 1.30 Sunday 6th November.

Racing at last year's Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club  hosted RS400 Winter Series 2022 on Belfast LoughRacing at last year's Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club hosted RS400 Winter Series 2022 on Belfast Lough

Published in RS Sailing

The Vaughan family in the Jeanneau 349 Toucan win the second Glenarm Race in Northern Ireland.

The chance to end the season on a high rewarded those who took part in the Royal North of Ireland annual Glenarm event in late September as the brisk Northerly kept them on their toes in a lively race.

The club lies at Cultra on the southern shore of Belfast Lough, and the destination Glenarm is a few miles north of Larne Harbour on the East Antrim Coast.

Nine boats entered the event he which is open to both racing crews and those who prefer the camaraderie of a cruise-in-company. The Vaughan family in the Jeanneau 349 Toucan, Gordon Patterson’s Sigma 362 Fanciulla, Woo Kearney in the Sigma 33 MaDeCoco and Johnny Parkes Oceanis Clipper 323 Pegasus left Cultra start line at 10:00. While Toucan made the decision to cross the Victoria shipping channel at the earliest opportunity preferring the relative shelter of the Co. Antrim side of the Lough they made it out of the Lough first, heading northeast to make the most of the tidal gains. They held firmly onto the first position until the finish off Glenarm.

The other three hugged the Co. Down coast on the way up the Lough. Next to finish was Fanciulla and having suffered a huge tear in their main sail and damage to their jib, this was no mean feat. However, it was MaDeCoCo that clinched second position from Fanciulla on corrected time, followed by Pegasus in fourth.

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club's Glenarm Race resultsRoyal North of Ireland Yacht Club's Glenarm Race results

The five boats taking the cruise-in-company option timed their departure from Bangor Marina at 11:00, heading straight for Glenarm under engine and arriving amongst the finishing racing fleet. The strong Northerly against the north-flowing ebb resulted in a fairly bouncy sea state for those motoring, but they did have more time to appreciate the stunning east Antrim coast, and all enjoyed the hospitality on arrival.

A barbeque had been arranged by Conor Haslett at the Marina, and the winner’s trophy was awarded to the Toucan crew in front of a crowd of family and friends.

Published in Belfast Lough

Come Saturday 18th September, cruising boat owners from Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club on Belfast Lough will be sailing north on the club's inaugural 'Glenarm Challenge'.

Glenarm is a small village on the famous Antrim Coast Road on the east of County Antrim, and it has a forty-eight berth marina, which includes a new ten berth pontoon.

This race will see offshore racing re-established at Royal North, and this year the race will hopefully start from one of the club lines at 1100 hrs and for those interested in a more leisurely day, it will be combined with a cruise-in-company. The event is limited to members only for this season, with the opportunity to make it an open event next year.

The germ of the idea started earlier this summer. Gordon Patterson's Sigma 362, Fanciulla threw the proverbial gauntlet down to Gavin Vaughan's New Jeanneau 349 Toucan, stating that he challenged his heavy displacement 36-footer against the new 34-foot light displacement boat in a race to Glenarm. So, word got back to the club's Honorary Sailing sec, who thought it a great idea if it were to be opened up to other cruiser owners within the club.

Gordon Patterson said that what makes it more interesting is "There are a few conditions which were part of the original challenge; Owner helm (helm to start and finish and spend at least 50% of the race on the helm); the start is from RNIYC and the crew must not exceed 4". He continued; "Gavin Vaughan and myself are putting some sponsorship together for a trophy, and this will consist of a crystal keeper and the perpetual Cup which will be named in honour of whoever wins between us on scratch handicap. Gavin would be the favourite as he would normally give the Sigma a little under two mins an hour, but if conditions are favourable, we are confident".

A late afternoon/evening social event near Glenarm marina is also being planned.

The NHC handicap race start will be from one of the club lines, and NoR and Sis will be issued shortly. It is hoped to organise a late afternoon or evening social event near the marina.

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club still has places available for sailing courses and fun days this season.

The club lies on the North Down coast, near Holywood and enjoys safe waters in Belfast Lough.

The courses start on 5th July and run for 7 weeks till 20th August, covering a variety of RYA Stages from 1 and 2 in the first week running up to Stages 3 and 4 and are open to members and non-members from age 8 to 18. There are fun afternoons during that time and the course season ends with a fun week for everyone.

For those new cadets who are not sure about taking to the water for the full day, the Club provides two weeks for newcomers with half-day Stages 1 and 2 morning or afternoon sessions during the weeks 12th till 23rd July.

Cadet Officer Gillian Killiner encourages children and young people to take this valuable opportunity. She says, "We have a wonderful team of instructors waiting to teach your child how to sail or get them to the next stage in the beautiful and safe surroundings of Belfast Lough".

The courses can be booked online here

Cadet Summer Sailing at the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club on Belfast Lough is proving popular with much interest in the scheme which starts on Monday next (13th July).

Rear Commodore Sailing Jonny Millar, Cadet Officers John Driscoll and Gillian Killiner and the Hon Sailing Secretary Denis Todd have put together an attractive though restricted programme for the children.

Due to the current COVID 19 restrictions the sailing will run in a new format in order to get the Cadets on the water and remain safely within current guidance. There will be no access to the changing rooms, or any other rooms inside the clubhouse. This makes it impossible to run the usual RYA course structure. The new format will simply focus on getting children out sailing, improving their skills and confidence on the water.

Morning or afternoon sailing sessions will be bookable in fortnightly or weekly blocks. Morning sessions are for those looking to improve their sailing skills, afternoons for Cadets looking to start or improve their racing. These active sessions will be run by RYA qualified Senior and Dinghy Instructors. There will be no inside classroom sessions, just more time on the water! Group sizes will be limited and consequently, overall capacity is reduced.

Unfortunately, the restrictions do not allow shared boats or the close contact with instructors needed to run beginners’ courses. All sailors taking part will be sailing single-handedly. As the club is aware many younger Cadets want to learn to sail this situation will be kept under close review.

Online booking is open here

Rear Commodore House Lindsay Nolan says, “The new format is different to our usual, but the changes allow us to remain within current guidance and get some Cadet sailing. We look forward to seeing our Cadets on the water again this summer”.

Published in Belfast Lough
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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