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Displaying items by tag: Royal Ulster Yacht Club

The keelboat weekend held at Royal Ulster Yacht Club on Belfast Lough on 21st and 22nd August is a new venture and benefitted from generous sponsorship by Shortcross Gin.

The nine-strong fleet included five visitors, and of these two were fleet winners. From nearby Ballyholme and Cockle Island clubs, Shaun Douglas's Beneteau 40.7 Game Changer topped the IRC 1 fleet, and in IRC 2, it was the Carrickfergus based Corby 29, Brian and Ryan Wilson's Elixir. The local Dufour Classic 41, Mingulay (Johnny Ritchie) won the Whitesail division. NHC 1 saw a different winner with Jay Colville's First 40, Forty Licks from Royal Ulster and East Down on Strangford Lough first. In NHC 2 Elixir enjoyed another victory with a clean sweep, keeping at bay Paul Fekkes from East Antrim BC in Larne and Carrickfergus SC in the Ultimate 20 Black and Slippy.

The windward-leeward racing suffered the same changeable weather conditions as the Topper Irish Championships at Carrickfergus across the Lough, with 22-knot gusts and rain on the Saturday and the opposite on the Sunday.

Johnny Ritchie, RUYC Rear Commodore, thanked Shortcross Gin for its generous sponsorship; "An enjoyable and well-organised event. Despite the inclement weather on Saturday, we had a wonderful variety of wind conditions. Race Officer Colin Loughead did well to get Race 5 set on Sunday in very light conditions".

RUYC Keelboat Weekend  Lucy Smith (Game Changer) with RUYC Rear Commodore Johnny RitchieRUYC Keelboat Weekend Lucy Smith (Game Changer) with RUYC Rear Commodore Johnny Ritchie

Light winds at RUYC Keelboat Weekend for Forty Licks Jay Colville RUYC and East Down YCLight winds at RUYC Keelboat Weekend for Forty Licks Jay Colville RUYC and East Down YC

Ryan Wilson Elixir winner of both IRC and NHC 2 with Johnny Ritichie, RUYC Rear Commodore

This article was updated on August 26 2021 following revised results published by RUYC

It has been a long time coming. Royal Ulster's Opening Day will be on Saturday 1st May. Although this is an annual event, it will have its own particular difficulties this year due to the Covid restrictions.

Opening Day is traditionally not an event that requires formal entry and is open to nearby Ballyholme YC members and it is difficult to predict the turnout.

The club will be managing the event within the latest RYANI guidance for starting racing and have protocols in place at both Clubs to ensure numbers are contained within the recommended limit of 100 attendees.

That process will be made considerably easier given that neither the Waverleys nor the Sigmas have yet launched.

It is anticipated there will be four classes: IRC unrestricted, Whitesail, Lasers and Dinghy Handicap. The Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions will be on the website

Given the current weather forecast for generally light conditions, it is anticipated racing will be around the buoys, and the start will be around 13.00

In anticipation of an eagerly awaited easing of the Lockdown in Northern Ireland, and looking forward to a return to racing, the Royal Ulster Yacht Club Sailing Committee has arranged for Bill O'Hara, OBE, to lead a Zoom session to help refresh and update members' knowledge of some of the more common sailing rules.

The Zoom session is tomorrow night – Wednesday 14th April from 7.30 pm till 8.30 pm.

The talk is also available to crew members who may not be members of the Club.

Bill represented Ireland in the Finn class in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and the '88 games in Seoul. And as mentioned in afloat.ie his career profile on the international front runs through such major events the Volvo Ocean Race in 2008 for which he was Principal Race Officer, via Chief Umpire for the Extreme 40s in 2009 to Chief Umpire for the J class in 2019.

A large part of Bill's time is spent on the water as an umpire adjudicating yachts, either in match or fleet racing all around the globe. He is also a rules advisor to several countries, especially Ireland, in the run-up to the next Olympic Games.

Since 1970 it has been the tradition that Royal Ulster Yacht Club in Bangor on Belfast Lough, presents the Sir Thomas Lipton Memorial Cup to the America's Cup Challenger's Yacht Club. When the first Challenger series was run in that year, RUYC decided it would be a fitting tribute to Sir Thomas's memory to present a trophy to the winner of the challenger series. He had challenged five times with his yachts, all called Shamrock, through Royal Ulster as he was not admitted to the elite Royal Yacht Squadron until 1931, shortly before his death. It is said that both King Edward VII and King George V shared their interest in yachting with Lipton and enjoyed his company.
The club, therefore, commissioned the Sir Thomas Lipton Memorial Cup.

But how was this presentation going to be possible during the pandemic? Through a stroke of luck, it did go ahead on 24th February. That's where the man in Auckland came in. Member John Taylor and his wife Charlotte live in the city, and John agreed to present the Trophy to the Challenger; the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team entered through Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club Sicily. John is well known in sailing circles in Belfast Lough, and pre-Covid regularly spent the summer in Bangor.

Lipton was of Irish parentage and lived in Glasgow. After humble beginnings and years of working in America, in 1870, he established Lipton's Market in that city. This enterprise was successful, and a chain of groceries followed. When his empire had grown to 300 stores, he entered the tea trade and established the Lipton brand.

Royal Ulster presented the Trophy to the Challenger; the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team entered through Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club SicilyRoyal Ulster presented the Trophy to the Challenger; the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team entered through Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club Sicily Photo: COR/Borlenghi

The first occasion the Trophy was presented was to Gretel II entered through Royal Perth Yacht Club. This was presented by Karl Smyth, Honorary Secretary RUYC at the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, Newport, Rhode Island. Since 1970 RUYC has presented the Trophy on 13 occasions. Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron are the current holders, and they were first presented with this Cup in 1995, then again in 2007, 2013 and 2017, so they have been the custodians for 18 years, making them the longest holder.

In recent months, RUYC Hon Secretary Garth Maxwell built a working relationship with Hayden Porter, CEO of RNZYS, who also sits on the America's Cup organising Committee in New Zealand. John and Charlotte Taylor are well known in both yacht clubs in Bangor, where pre-COVID-19, he regularly spent his summer months.

RNZYS hosted a small dinner on the night of the 24th February, sponsored by Prada, to facilitate the presentation of the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup by RUYC. The Ida Lewis Yacht Club also presented their Pell Cup, a trophy they have presented to the Challenger since 1958.

The small but exclusive guest list includes Francesco Longanesi Cattani - Prada, Agostino Randazzo-Commodore - Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club, Max Sirena – Director and Skipper Luna Rosso Prada Pirelli, Aaron Young – Commodore, RNZYS, Hayden Porter – CEO, RNZYS, Simon Davidson – Commodore, Ida Lewis Yacht Club, and of course, John Taylor - all with their respective partners.

A letter of congratulations from HRH The Duke of Gloucester, Commodore of Royal Ulster, was also sent.

Published in America's Cup

Neighbouring clubs Royal Ulster and Ballyholme at Bangor in County Down on Belfast Lough are both due back on the water soon.

The RUYC sailing committee has decided that in line with further guidance from the RYA that competitive sport can’t start until the 17th July at the earliest, that the club will start sailing on the Saturday 18th July in the first of a series of Round Belfast Lough type courses. In August a new one round the Copeland Islands is planned. The updated sailing programme and sailing instructions for the new series of races will be available here www.ruyc.co.uk on 10th July.

Thursday night racing has been cancelled for this month (July) but as events are moving very quickly now, the August points racing will be reviewed should there be a further easement. The annual Regatta will now not be possible this Saturday (11th) as competitive sailing cannot happen until later in the month. It is hoped that a smaller-scale event will be held during September.

Short cruises in company around Belfast Lough are on the books with a start this Sunday (12th) with a short trip to Helens Bay where anchoring is possible.

Sailing Secretary Jim Coffey said “The sailing committee would like to thank members for their patience and understanding whilst we try and work our way through these difficult times; ultimately the safety of members is paramount as the pandemic is still with us".

At Ballyholme the bar will open this evening (9th)with drinks served outside with the now usual restrictions. See Ballyholme.com

And there is good news for cadets. Paul Prentice RTC (Recognised Training Centre) Principal is delighted to be able to run courses. “ Thanks to our dedicated training team, with support from RYANI, we are delighted to release our Programme for 2020”. He adds “ As you will see there are a number of changes to the format, and unfortunately, due to restrictions we are unable to offer beginners courses.

The team is excited to welcome you back on the water”.

Courses are available to book, for Members only until Friday 17th July, after which they will be opened to non-members. Please take some time to read the information online and particularly the cancellation policy and ifIf you have any questions or concerns, please give Lyn a call at the club on 028 9127 1467.

The opening up of Royal Ulster Yacht Club on Belfast Lough has been long-awaited and tomorrow (Friday 3rd July) is the big day.

During the past week bar and waiting staff have undergone training on the new way of working. As members will appreciate life cannot return to normal just yet so restrictions will be in place initially and the situation will be reassessed weekly. But for at least this weekend and the next the Club will only be open on Friday lunchtime and evening, Saturday evening and Sunday lunchtime for dining. There will initially be only a limited menu as the head chef is stranded in Poland but as soon as he returns – in the middle or to the end of July, depending on quarantining rules - the menu will be extended again.

To accommodate the numbers, social distancing is important and for the smooth running of the service, tables can only be booked with at least 24 hours’ notice and at most 10 days before the desired date and members will be given a fixed time to arrive. And to accommodate as many as possible two sittings will be trialled . Also, initially bookings will only be accepted for members and members of their households. Pre- or post-dinner drinks will be served at the table as the bar itself which will be screened. The dining room will be zoned, and each zone will have a dedicated waiter or waitress. This is to limit the possibility of cross contamination and aid tracing if there should be an outbreak at the Club

For those wishing to buy drinks without a meal, this can only be accommodated outside and will be table service only. Booking will not be required for this, but it is expected names and contact details for track and trace purposes will be required.

There will be sanitisation stations throughout the clubhouse and entry and exit will be through the front door with a limited one-way system into and out of the front bar.

In common with many other businesses, the club is trying to discourage the use of cash so bar and dining bills will be paid by card.

Rear Commodore Maurice Butler said he can see the light at the end of the tunnel “ While clearly, it will take several more months to see a return to something near normal hopefully it will not be too long before sailing can get underway in earnest.

In the meantime, the Club is planning short-handed crew races and day cruises in which family groups from the one household can participate. It is unfortunate that with the delay since March of being able to get access to their yachts some owners will not have the necessary work done in sufficient time to make it worthwhile launching their boats this year. I do believe that 2020 will go down as the strangest sailing season on record. We all hope fervently that it will never be repeated!”

At this time of furlough and time filling, some Royal Ulster Yacht Club members on Belfast Lough decided not to squander an opportunity and found they could turn their hands to producing items for the NHS and friends.

Claire Storey, in response to a post from groups making scrubs, borrowed a sewing machine and with help and guidance from a neighbour started sewing. She began with scrubs made from bed linen donated by friends and managed to make the best of the great weather and sewed in the garden. Her scrubs went to the Covid Paediatric and A&E Wards in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Claire’s husband has asked her to make face masks for his office staff when they return to work, and she will be donating some to friends. The masks are not for not suitable for front-line workers but adequate otherwise.

Claires scrubs 2Claire Storey's scrubs

Mae and Walter Burke have set up a duet production line assembling much-needed visors. Friends had told them that a joinery firm in Bangor, Dougan Contracts, were making visors and they offered to help assemble them. Walter says the most difficult part is the headbands, but it has not deterred them from producing several hundred. The face shields are distributed free of charge to local frontline health workers.

Mae BurkeMae Burke

Also making face masks for friends and family is Barbara Polly, who manages to fit production in with her day job as a nurse in a local surgery. She borrowed a sewing machine from her mother in law and makes them on her days off.

These are just a few of an army of volunteers producing items for the NHS and friends.

Although the mystery of how a Goblet inscribed Royal Ulster Yacht Club, dated 1869 and awarded to a Mr Foster Connor, ended up in Melbourne (Read Afloat's earlier report here) has not been resolved, the trophy has been bought by the club and is now in a glass cabinet in the Gloucester Room.

Mr Connor was a wealthy Belfast linen merchant with a home called Seacourt on Wilson’s Point in Bangor overlooking the Lough. He was Rear Commodore of RUYC in 1884 and owned the Amba. It would appear that he gave his name to some buildings in Bangor – Connor House School and the Connor Wing of the local hospital.

Given the significance of the date, this is likely to be the oldest cup in existence bearing the Club’s Royal name. Its size may disappoint as cups awarded for club races in those days were mainly “keepers” rather than perpetual challenge cups!

Recently Royal Ulster Yacht Club was contacted by a Mr Andre Jaku of Melbourne, Australia about a goblet he had bought from Leonard Joel’s Auction house in the city. 

It was listed as silver and was engraved with the words: 

Royal Ulster Yacht Club
Won by the AMBA The property of Foster Connor Jun Esq.
Corinthian Match Aug 1869

It appears slightly repaired on the stem and there is a small mark on the bottom. I understand from the club historian, Ed Wheeler, that it is the trophy for the race between Amba owned by Mr Connor and Mr John Currell’s Flirt.

According to the Club history, Foster Connor seems to have become a member in 1869 and this was the year in which the Club received its Royal warrant (ie its name changed from the Ulster Yacht Club to the Royal Ulster Yacht Club). Interestingly, this did not come officially into force until a meeting on 14th October at which the warrant was received and the name change took place. So, the date on the goblet, August 1869, precedes the date on which the Club became RUYC, so the inscription may be misleading, although the trophy could have been awarded and inscribed after the warrant was formalised.

Connor’s 9-ton cutter Amba and John Currell’s 7-ton cutter Flirt seem to have been the leading protagonists.

RUYC Trophy Australia 1The RUYC Trophy with an Australian twist

Ed Wheeler reveals that Currell and Connor were having some kind of feud at the time and at a committee meeting a letter was read out from Foster Connor, in which he declined to accept the jurisdiction of the “three gentlemen who proposed to decide a question in dispute on that occasion”. At the meeting, he said that the Protest Committee was not properly constituted because not all of the Sailing Committee had been invited and of the three who were, two were brothers, so he would not abide by their decision. Mr. Richard Patterson then said that, before the race started, Mr. Connor had told him that he would not be bound by any decision the race committee might make; he then said that the reason they agreed to go before the two members on the committee after the race was because they were sure that the decision would go in their favour.

Connor was Rear Commodore of RUYC in 1884 and his son, Charles C Connor held the same position in 1891. Although the details of the race for which the cup was awarded in 1869 are not known, the following year a similar race took place. This was a “Corinthian” race, meaning a race for amateur sailors only, for yachts of 10 tons or under. Cups awarded for club races in those days were mainly “keepers”, rather than perpetual challenge cups, which is why the cup is marked as Foster Connor’s property.
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There are several occasions in which a Mr Foster Connor is mentioned in records.

And from those he would appear to have been a wealthy man, owning two residences, one in Belfast and a grand mansion called Seacourt which he built at Wilson’s Point on the west of Bangor Bay. In the Dept of Communities Historic Buildings it is included as “A grand symmetrical, classically-styled, two-storey three-bay house over concealed basement, built c.1865, located to the north side of Bangor, overlooking the sea and in 1860 the Journal of the Society of Arts named Foster Connor and Co as one of the six principal linen manufacturers in Belfast. He was also a keen yachtsman. (Journal of Society of Arts; Hunt’s Yachting Magazine) Connor died in 1881 and the house then passed to his son Charles C Connor”

In a Belfast Street Directory, he is listed as a linen merchant and yarn merchant with a residence in Linenhall Street, Belfast.

Connor is buried with other family members in the Belfast City Cemetery with an 8ft high headstone described as a

Memorial to the Foster Connor (died 5th December 1881 aged 70 years) as well as other members of his family.

Foster Connor was a wealthy linen merchant who lived in Belfast but also had the fine residence Seacourt built for him at Wilson's Point, Bangor.

So, the question is how did the goblet come to be in Melbourne?

The 35th staging of international races for the 176-year-old America’s Cup is rising rapidly up the agenda. The opening jousts for challengers begin on 26th May 2017 at the first-time-selected venue of Bermuda, and the cup series itself starts there on 17th June. It’s time to focus on the sailing paradise of Bermuda, and particularly its role in changing the shape of sails in mainstream sailing. W M Nixon takes a typically skewed look at what it all might mean.

The irony of it is that, long before the rig was popularly accepted, it was the sailors of Bermuda who were credited with the invention of the jib-headed triangular shape for mainsails. This dominated yacht design for nearly a century. Yet in 2017, as the inevitably trend-setting America’s Cup finally comes to Bermuda for the first time, it will be raced by sailing machines – the word “boats” seems inadequate – which are setting what looks very like an extremely modern variation of the classic gaff rig.

For what are today’s state-of-the-art square-headed mainsails other than an attempt to get as much sail area as possible within the limits set by the height of the mast and the length of the boom? And what rig was based on the same premise? Exactly. The gaff rig, and its very useful cousin, the sprit rig.

Americas Cup defenders Oracle 2Is this or is this not gaff rig? America’s Cup defenders Oracle in action off San Francisco

Lemsteraak Schollevaer 3David Beattie’s Dutch Lemsteraak Schollevaer, sailing here on Lough Ree, indicates that classic Dutch yachts tended towards shortening their gaff booms to such an extent that for a period they were almost Bermudan rigged. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet at a certain stage, as the pioneering Dutch yachtsmen moved from the sprit rig to the gaff rig, the gaff booms became so short that the sailing world was very close to having jib-headed mainsails. But boats setting bisquine rig or something very similar showed what could be done with topsails, and longer gaff booms with topsails above them became the norm.

In due course, the logic of having lighter masts, and mainsail and topsail one and the same with no booms between them, became inescapable. Yet because so many people, relatively speaking, had by this time taken up sailing, the arguments about which rig, gaff or Bermudan, was superior soon became ludicrously heated.

Prince of Wales cutter Britannia 4The Prince of Wales cutter Britannia in Dun Laoghaire in 1893, newly-built and on passage from the Clyde to the Solent, showing how a racing gaff rig could be shortened down for sea-going passages in heavy weather, with the topmast safely housed and a loose-footed gaff-headed trisail set instead of the full mainsail.

Traditionalists argued that while Bermudan rig might be just about acceptable for inshore racing in sheltered water, anyone going cruising or racing offshore needed the rugged gaff rig with its compact mast, possibly heightened by a topmast which could he lowered and housed against the forward side of the mainmast when at sea and conditions deteriorated.

And then there were and still are the uber-traditionalists who argue that if gaff rig had been good enough for their fathers and forefathers before them, then it was good enough for them, and you don’t have to go any further than Howth, Connemara or Falmouth to find them in their droves.

A new factor entered the equation with the development of the heritage industry, which concluded that that the loss of familiarity with handling the formerly-universal gaff rig was a real cultural threat. So in 1963 the Old Gaffers Association came into being at much the same time as the Classic Yacht Movement was starting to gain traction, and thus the preservation of gaff rig was being upheld from both ends of the wealthy to barely-getting-by spectrum.

Falmouth Working Boats racing 5Where gaff rig is the norm – Falmouth Working Boats racing. Under ancient legislation, it is only permissible to dredge for oysters in Falmouth Harbour under sail, and the working boat with adjustable performance has developed as a result.

It was all great fun if you didn’t take it took seriously, but in its day, some people took it very seriously indeed and a few still do, so we’ll give the pot a very good stir by revealing that it was Irish sailors who played a key role in making Bermudan rig mainstream.

Our header image reveals that Bermudan rig in a quite sophistcated form was not unknown from 1834 onwards. But nevertheless even in crack yachts like Belfast linen magnate John Mulholland’s schooner Egeria of 1865 vintage, and John Jameson of Dublin’s cutter Irex designed by Alexander Richardson in 1884, the relatively crude gaff topsails being set still showed how closely they were descended from lug rigs which in turn had evolved from trying to get simple squaresails to set closer to the wind.

schooner egeria3John Mulholland’s 99ft schooner Egeria of 1865 vintage set topsails which were developments of lug sails

John Jameson Irex 1884 7John Jameson’s Irex of 1884 originally set a topsail which looked very out-of-date just ten years later

But by the late 1880s, topsails were becoming more clearly jib headed, and for a while they used a combination of short mainmast, a short topmast, and a topsail yard to provide their height, which could resulted in a distinctly stunted look when on a dead run, as is seen in the Scottish ironmaster Peter Donaldson’s all-conquering 70ft 40-rater Isolde, designed and built by Fife in 1895.

Isolde yacht 1895 8Fast boat, dumpy rig? Peter Donaldson’s successful Isolde of 1895 looked to have a very low-slung rig when she squared off on the run

It is the famous photo of the new Belfast Lough 25ft One Designs at their start in the RUYC Regatta in July 1898 - their second season – which best shows how gaff rig had developed in the decade since Irex was the boat to beat. The BLOD 25’s have topsails which use long yard to sit as flush as possible with the mast. As the luff length of the topsail was actually longer than the luff length of the mainsail, and as it is luff length which does most of the work in making to windward, getting the topsail and mainsail to set as one was vital in achieving best performance.

Belfast Lough 25ft OD 9Serious topsails. With a luff length longer than the luff length of the mainsail, the Belfast Lough 25ft ODs had to get the set of their topsails just right.

In fact, as I learned in my days of racing a Howth 17, fractions of an inch in the location of the topyard halyard and jackyard outhaul on their respective yards made all the difference between having a very effective topsail, and having a heap of rubbish aloft which was only holding you back if the wind freshened on the final leg. You were getting there if, when setting the sails, you could look aloft and see the newly-hoisted topsail set as flat as a board, with even tensions to every corner. This meant that you could ease the mainsail peak halyard just a smidgin to transfer some of the load directly to the topsail, thereby making mainsail and topsail in effect into one sail which happened to have a couple of bits of wood in the middle.

However, despite the favourable impact made by boats such as Isolde and the BLOD 25s, larger yachts tended increasingly to revert to long topmasts in order to make their topsails more effective, and in the most enthusiastic cases, the mastman would be despatched aloft to lace the luff of the topsail to the topmast and the mast itself. This certainly achieved an efficient set for the sail, but was unseamanlike in the extreme, as it totally obviated the topsail’s supposed benefit of being able to reduce sail area aloft in only a few minutes.

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until 1912 that designer Charles E Nicholson was allowed by an owner to do away with the cumbersome, eddy-inducing topmast altogether, simply by extending the mainmast in the lightest possible section in a 12 Metre.

Naturally the critics expected the new unfeasibly tall masts to break under the load of the topsails, and some of them did just that. But those tall continuous masts that stayed aloft tended to win races, and so the Marconi mast was here to stay. They were nicknamed “Marconi” masts in acknowledgement of the high aerials required by Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), whose mother was a Jameson and whose first radio report of a sporting event was the Royal St George YC Regatta of 1904 in Dublin Bay.

It was only two years after the first Marconi sailing mast appeared in a yacht that the first international racing yacht took the next logical step of making the topsail and mainsail into one, and that yacht was newly-commissioned in 1914 from Fife of Fairlie by an Irish yachtsman, Arthur F Sharman Crawford, Commodore of the Royal Munster Yacht Club on Cork Harbour.

Arthur F Sharman Crawford 10Man of many talents and interests – Arthur F Sharman Crawford contributed much to his adopted home of Cork
There’s a book to be written about Arthur F Sharman Crawford (1862-1943), for there’s no way that even a dozen blogs could explain how the Dublin-born English-educated younger son of a northern family with extensive land-holdings in County Down – particularly on the shores of Belfast Lough – came to be the Managing Director of Beamish & Crawford’s brewery in Cork. There, he joined the management team at the age of 28 in 1890, and guided it as Managing Director through some of its most successful periods, and also skillfully negotiated the difficulties of World War 1, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War in a total period from 1914 to 1923, while at the same time being a great benefactor to his adopted city, particularly in the area of technical education, but also in the broader cultural and artistic sphere.

Yet this was no unduly serious do-gooding workaholic. On the contrary, Arthur Sharman Crawford (the family preferred their double surname without a hyphen) was sports mad. A keen yachtsman who was an early owner in the Cork Harbour One Designs of 1896, he was elected Commodore of the Royal Munster YC when it was still at Monkstown in 1898. When it moved to Crosshaven in 1923, as he lived at Lota Lodge in Glanmire north of the harbour, he transferred his full allegiances to the more conveniently located Royal Cork at Cobh where he was already Vice Admiral, and in 1925 he became Admiral and served in that post until 1935.

He also rode to hounds every winter with ferocious enthusiasm, being Joint Master of Cork’s United Hunt for four years. And in later life he played a central role in the establishment of Cork Golf Club, where he served as an actively and frequently-playing President for many years. But in his prime, sailing was his main sport, and he spread his wings far beyond Cork Harbour, for he campaigned on the international scene with a Fife 12 Metre called Ierne, and as a member of many yacht clubs throughout Ireland and Britain, he was a frequent guest helm at regattas, with particularly close associations with the Royal Ulster YC on Belfast Lough.

There, his older brother Robert was Vice Commodore and chaired the committee which oversaw the five challenges for the America’s Cup by Thomas Lipton, the first in 1899 and the last in 1930. The advice of the widely-experienced Arthur was regularly sought by this committee. Yet in other areas of life, there was a parting of the ways between the two brothers. In a time of political restlessness, the northern-based Robert Sharman Crawford was uncompromisingly unionist, and became an active leader in the Ulster Volunteer Force from 1912 onwards. But in the different mood of Cork, the southern-based younger brother had a more accommodating attitude towards Home Rule, reflected in the fact that he continued to play a public role in Cork life, and all his branch of the family were at their deaths buried in the family plot on Little Island in Cork Harbour rather than in the ancestral family lands at Crawfordsburn in County Down.

Beamish Crawford Counting House 11The distinctive Beamish & Crawford Counting House in Cork was built in 1918 during Arthur Sharman Crawford’s long period as Managing Director of the brewery

There was a very pointed irony in the brothers’ relationship, for even as the brewery in Cork prospered under Arthur’s stewardship, the inherited income from the Crawford estates in the north was shrinking thanks to longterm effects of the activities of Michael Davitt’s Land League and the resultant Gladstone-inspired Land Acts of 1896. The dividends from Cork became an increasingly important part of Robert Sharman Crawford’s income to maintain his opulent lifestyle as a leading yachtsman and as Lord of the Manor of the new loughside Crawfordsburn House, built in the late 1890s to the designs of Vincent Craig. He was the architect brother of Northern Ireland’s future first Prime Minister James Craig (another sailing enthusiast), and his considerable architectural talents were at the same time being deployed for the design of the new Royal Ulster Yacht Club building, which opened in April 1899.

By 1912 and the public declaration of the Ulster Covenant with Robert Sharman Crawford a leading signatory, the fact is that his way of life was largely supported by Beamish & Crawford dividends. It seems only ironic in hindsight – at the time, everyone on all sides though they were doing the right thing. It is only in looking back from the distant and safe viewpoint of 2017 that we realise how curious it was that 104 years ago in 1913, when Colonel Robert Sharman Crawford put his own-funded brigade of the Ulster Volunteer Force through their parades, manoeuvres and exercises on the lawns and fields of Crawfordsburn House, it was all being largely paid for by the continued devotion of the Beamish stout drinkers of Munster.

Yet in that dreamlike pre-World War I era, such activities still seemed slightly theatrical and unreal, and normal life went on at an even more determinedly enthusiastic pace than ever. Having finally agreed a Measurement Rule with the defenders, early in 1914 Thomas Lipton’s latest America’s Cup Challenger, the Charles E Nicholson-designed Shamrock IV, was nearing completion in the south of England. And in the Fife yard in Fairlie in Scotland, a new William Fife designed yacht with an experimental rig was under construction for Arthur Sharman Crawford.

For although Lipton’s technically advanced Shamrock IV carried a very sophisticated gaff rig, it was a gaff rig nevertheless. Thus Arthur Sharman Crawford’s new boat was more important in terms of overall technological development. A more manageable 8 Metre after several successful but demanding years with the 12 Metre Ierne, the new Ierne II was the first yacht to the International Rule of 1907 to set a Bermudan rig.

8 Metre Ierne II 12Arthur Sharman Crawford’s 8 Metre Ierne II in 1914, when she was the first International Rule yacht with Bermudan rig.

Why is she almost totally forgotten in Ireland? Well, Arthur Sharman Crawford led a sort of sailing double life, or even treble life. At home in Cork Harbour, his sailing was local, often using local boats. On Dublin Bay and particularly in Belfast Lough, he was associated with the Lipton camp. But on the Clyde or in the Solent, he was the international or even supra-national yachtsman Arthur Sharman Crawford, challenging the top talents at a rarefied level which was remote from the more localized approach of Cork Harbour or Belfast Lough, and at a tasteful remove from the razzmatazz of Lipton’s America’s Cup challenges.

So when Ierne II appeared fresh out of the wrappers to surprise everyone in the Solent in July 1914, she had never been anywhere near either Belfast Lough or Cork Harbour. It was in the Solent that she made her debut, and for a few very encouraging weeks, while she was undoubtedly a very different creature to sail than a gaff-rigged boat, she was out-performing them all to windward.

It’s intriguing to reflect that when Ierne II was being admired as the hottest new boat in Cowes in late July 1914, briefly in the same harbour at the same time we would have seen Erskine & Molly Childers’ Asgard and Conor O’Brien’s Kelpie pretending to be leisurely cruisers going gently about their business, when in fact they were bound for the Ruytigen Lightvessel to collect their cargoes of Mauser rifles.

Within a couple of weeks, everyone’s plans were in disarray with the outbreak of World War I. All the key figures in the Asgard/Kelpie adventure quickly found themselves positions with the Allied Forces. As for Arthur Sharman Crawford, at the age of 52 this was not an immediate consideration, but his plans for a new programme of fresh excitement for a keen yachtsman past what was then considered the prime of life simply evaporated. Cowes Week 1914 was cancelled completely, and Ierne II was denied the stage which would have provided the setting to enable her to claim her rightful place in sailing history.

restored 8 Metre Ierne II 13The restored 8 Metre Ierne II is a vivid reminder of Arthur Sharman Crawford’s pioneering instincts.

Indeed, it was only when noted Yorkshire sailor Hew Jones spotted her laid up in Portugal in 2005 and set about a restoration on Humberside that the whole astonishing story was revealed. When World War II ended in 1918, anyone running a business in Cork amidst Ireland’s growing troubles had other things on his mind, and Arthur Sharman Crawford put Ierne II – laid up since the beginning of August 2014 – on the market. She was eventually bought by Norwegians who wanted a boat for the 8 Metre Class in he 1920 Olympic games in Belgium, and they struck gold in every way, as Ierne II won the Gold Medal.

The top racing sailors were increasingly convinced that Bermudan rig would be where it was at, but in the post war recession, progress was slow. Nevertheless, it was another Irish owner who led the way in the south of England. Elizabeth Workman was the widow of one of the founders of the Workman Clark shipyard in Belfast, and as they at least had done well out of the war, she had the resources to re-commission her 112ft gaff cutter Nyria, designed by Charles E Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson in 1906.

Nyria was Solent-based, and following the success of Ierne II and other newly-Bermuda rigged smaller boats in the 1920 Olympics, Elizabeth Workman took the mighty step of getting Charles Nicholson to kit out Nyria with Bermudan rig for the 1921 season, making this the first internationally recognized “big yacht” to do so.

Nyria 14Nyria, owned by Elizabeth Workman of Belfast, in 1921 became the first “big yacht” to be kitted with Bermudan rig
The corner towards Bermudan rig was being turned, and yet another impulse came from Ireland , this time with the commissioning of the world’s first Bermudan-rigged One Design class. The lively Belfast Lough sailing scene of 1914 had been largely destroyed in the trenches of the Somme by the time peace returned in 1918. In an exchange of letters in 1919, some of the more senior members of the Royal Ulster wrote about the need for a new class of boat “which could be sailed by a man and his daughters”. Far from being a gesture for women’s rights, this was simply a sad admission that so many young sailing men would never return from Flanders fields and northern France that it would be 1925 where anything approaching normal manpower levels in sailing would be regained, and so in 1921 the Alfred Mylne-designed Bermudan-rigged 29ft River class made their appearance on Befast Lough. They have never known any rig other than Bermudan, and they continue racing today, though now based on Strangford Lough.

River Class 15The River Class, seen here racing in Befast Lough in 1921, were the world’s first Bermudan-rigged One Designs.

River Class Strangford Lough 16The River Class as they are today in Strangford Lough after 96 years of setting Bermudan rig
Thereafter, the move towards Bermuda rig was inexorable and seemingly irreversible, even though sailors as experienced as Billy Mooney of Dublin were ordering the gaff rigged ketch 42ft Aideen to be built by Tyrell’s of Arklow in 1934, and he sailed her so well that he won his class in the 1947 Fastnet Race.

But others were more restless. Since 1898 the gaff-rigged Howth 17s had been sporting their jackyard topsails at their home port north of Dublin, and in 1907 the Dublin Bay Sailing Club adopted the same design, and proprietorially re-designated them as the Dublin Bay 17s. Not only that, but in 1936 a young and competitively successful Dun Laoghaire owner, Terry Roche, decided he would lead the way by converting his DBSC 17 Eileen to Bermudan rig. Despite the fact that she now carried lee helm as he would also have had to move the mast aft to make the new rig balance, he doggedly sailed her to Holyhead and back to prove that all was well. But nobody followed his lead, and after this rather expensive experiment, Eileen reverted to gaff rig and successful racing the following year, and the only lasting memorial of this project is the quaint photo of the Dun Laoghaire waterfront in 1936, a classic image worthy of Cartier-Bresson, with the Water Wags racing off the Royal Irish YC beyond, while in the left of the photo is Eileen sailing under Bermudan rig using mainsail only, which probably balanced quite nicely.

waterfront Dun Laoghaire1936 17A quirky photo worthy of Henri Cartier-Bresson. The waterfront at Dun Laoghaire in the summer of 1936, with the Water Wags beyond racing off the Royal Irish YC, and on the left Terry Roche’s Howth/Dublin Bay 17 Eileen in her brief but expensive flirtation with Bermudan rig.Photo courtesy Hilary Keatinge-Roche

Howth 17s Dun Laoghaire 18Howth 17s at Dun Laoghaire again, but this time rigged as nature intended, complete with jackyard topsails. Photo VDLR
Yet other classes such as the Belfast Lough Island class yawls changed to Bermudan rig in the 1930s, but in Dublin Bay the honour of the gaff rig was stubbornly carried until 1963 by the Dublin Bay 21s, when after sixty years of gaff they converted to Bermudan rig which gave have them another 23 years of active racing life.

Typically of everyone being out of step except Dublin Bay, 1963 was also the very year in which the Old Gaffers Association was founded simply to preserve gaff rig. Ironically, gaff rig is now more visible than ever, albeit above plastic hulls. After all, there are more than a thousand gaff-rigged Cornish Shrimpers sailing the sea.

Dublin Bay 21 19Dublin Bay 21 in full gaff rig glory

Dublin Bay 21 20It is 1963, the Old Gaffers Association has just been formed, yet in Dun Laoghaire in 1963 the Dublin Bay 21s make their debut rigged like this……..

So is it coming full circle? Maybe. After all, when the America’s Cup multi-hulls start strutting their stuff on Great Sound in Bermuda, they’ll be setting square-headed mainsails which are gaff rig in any sensible definition. And all that where Bermuda rig as we knew it for so long originated more than 183 years ago……

Ben Ainslie Americas Cup boats 21When gaffers meet….one of Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup boats making knots towards another old gaffer

But the real test is on Cork Harbour. The reversion to gaff rig came centre stage there last year when the new Ultra National 18s decided the only way to make their otherwise state-of-the-art boats truly sexy was to give them trendy square-topped mainsails.

And if by any chance the spirit of Arthur Sharman Crawford still sails about Cork Harbour, the place he came to love so well, I’ve no doubt he’ll be doing it aboard a ghostly Ierne XXX under a spectral square-topped mainsail, occasionally waxing nostalgic about the old days when he sailed Ierne II with a quaint three-sided mainsail.

National 18s Ultras 22Being fashionable. In 2016, the National 18s Ultras in Cork Harbour reverted to “gaff rig”.

Published in W M Nixon
Page 1 of 3

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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