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With a fleet of 20 boats and crews drawn from 15 different clubs, including Seattle to the far west and Poole to the nearer southeast, the Irish J/24 Easterns over the weekend at Howth set the ball rolling towards the J/24 Europeans at the same venue in a week's time, with the first championship race scheduled for August 30th.

The all-Ireland resourced Headcase, whose crew of Cillian Dickson, Sam O'Byrne, Louis Mulloy, Marcus Ryan and Ryan Glynn count Howth, Lough Ree, Mayo and Ballyholme among their home places, maintained the steady progress already seen through the summer at several international majors, and came out first on 1,1, (8), 2,1. Next in line were the Kinsale team led by Michael Carroll with Kinsailor with a scoreline which included a first and two seconds to leave them on 9 points to Headcase's 5. Tadgh O'Loingsigh from Tralee Bay was third in Janx Spirit with the first of the overseas challengers, Dave Hale from Poole, fourth with Cacoon.

Full results here

Published in J24
Tagged under

(First published 11/12/2021) Four World Championships. Two Europeans. The super-staging of our defining offshore race. A major new offshore challenge. Regattas galore. A very significant Centenary. An important Golden Jubilee. At least one new One-Design class. Established OD classes finding a new lease of life. And there’s more proposed for sailing at all levels in Ireland in 2022. Much more…….

As it is, there’s something beyond the slightly surreal in contemplating the cornucopia of sailing events already listed in next year’s programme. After two seasons of keeping everything low profile – effectively under the radar, in fact – suddenly we’re now faced with numerous cheerfully-publicised happenings proposed afloat in 2022 to provide enough to fill a couple of normal seasons.

But as those who have gone sailing in 2020 and 2021 squeezed every ounce of sport they could get out of socially-distanced neighbourhood sailing in local classes, the thought that their cage doors might be thrown open with a great spreading of the wings is bound to let the imagination soar.

Vincent Delany racing the veteran Dublin Bay Water Wag Pansy – in his family for generations – in a brisk breeze in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Dublin Bay SC has played a leading role in keeping disciplined sailing very much alive through the pandemicVincent Delany racing the veteran Dublin Bay Water Wag Pansy – in his family for generations – in a brisk breeze in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Dublin Bay SC has played a leading role in keeping disciplined sailing very much alive through the pandemic

Distant horizons beckon, and in Ireland that horizon hints at such a panoply of mega-events approaching that we cock an ear for the call of the bugle and the beat of the drums, while keeping an eye out for the first glimpse of the flags flying.

All this despite the fact that we’re now moving from Delta Time to Omicron Time in the Pandemic Procession, while on the global front the pessimists would have us believe that if World War III doesn’t break out in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, then it will make its debut in the China Sea. That is, if it can find the time and space to do so before the climate change from global warming blows us away, burns us off, or floods us out.

BARRA THE TEXT-BOOK STORM

Certainly, it says something about our weird times that the only event which has recently gone exactly according to prediction was Storm Barra at mid-week. While his origins may have been somewhere distant in the tropics, Barra was only seriously in business for six days, busily developing between the Azores and Ireland, and then sweeping over us, in such a precise circle of lethally-deepening isobars, that you could have been persuaded he was made of vinyl before he simply faded into the North Sea.

Any properly-organised storm will ensure that the Fastnet Rock records the strongest winds, and Barra the Textbook Storm managed an 84 knot (155 kph) gust at West Cork’s sentinel outcrop.Any properly-organised storm will ensure that the Fastnet Rock records the strongest winds, and Barra the Textbook Storm managed an 84 knot (155 kph) gust at West Cork’s sentinel outcrop.

To complete Barra’s perfection as the Textbook Storm, the strongest gust in Ireland was 84 knots recorded on the Fastnet Rock, which is 96.66 mph, or an even more impressive 155.6 kilometres per hour according to taste, and all in exceptionally dense air which gave it that extra bit of oomph. Despite it, the temporarily-on-station maintenance team of four continued their work inside the lighthouse during the day - pausing only to record and post some vids - and then at night were entertained by Netflix. Cool.

INITIAL SAILING PROGRAMME FOR 2022

With online Club AGMs proliferating in the pre-Christmas period, we can be sure that extra events will be added to this basic structure within the coming days, but as it is the amount of sailing proposed is already mind-boggling, and the logistical challenges will be a complete study in themselves.

  • Feb 12th Kilkee Series Irish Universities SA
  • March 3rd – 6th IUSA Nats TBC
  • April Kinsale April League KYC
  • April 21-24 Youth Nats (All Classes) Ballyholme YC
  • April 23rd First ISORA Race
  • May 21-22 Dun Laoghaire Cup 2022 – 1720, Dragons, B21, J/80, SB20 RIYC
  • ?May 25th Kinsale-Blaskets-Kinsale Race KYC
  • June 3rd – 5th Wave Regatta (Howth YC)
  • June 3rd to 6th Scottish Series
  • JUNE 18th SSE RENEWABLES ROUND IRELAND RACE WICKLOW SC
  • JUNE 19th - 24th BRITISH & IRISH SQUIB NATS (EUROS) KINSALE YC
  • June 22nd Cobh to Dunmore East Race Cobh SC
  • June 23rd – 26th Bangor Town Regatta inc Sigma 33 Nats RUYC/BYC
  • June 24th - 26th WIORA Championship Kilrush RWYCI
  • July 1st “Kingstown to Queenstown Race” (Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour) NYC & RCYC
  • JULY 11th to 15th VOLVO CORK WEEK INC. ICRA NATS ROYAL CORK YC
  • AUGUST 1st to 8th 505 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP RCYC
  • August 2nd to 5th Calves Week Schull
  • Aug 6th to 7th Waszp Nats RStGYC
  • August 11th to 14th Optimist Nats RStGYC
  • AUGUST 14th TO 19th GP14 WORLDS SKERRIES SC
  • August 19th 29er Nats RStGYC
  • AUGUST 21-26 FIREBALL WORLDS LOUGH DERG YC
  • AUG 30-SEP 3 J/24 EUROS HOWTH YC
  • SEP 5th TO 9th SB20 WORLDS ROYAL IRISH YC
  • Sep 18th Kish Race DMYC
  • SEP 24th – 25th JUNIOR ALL-IRELAND SCHULL
  • OCTOBER 8t-9th SENIOR ALL-IRELAND SUTTON

The Irish Universities Sailing Association are contemplating Kilkee Bay in mid-FebruarySailing venue with a difference – the Irish Universities Sailing Association are contemplating Kilkee Bay in mid-February

KILKEE KICKS OFF

Before we get into considering the seriously heavy metal (they’re all set in capitals), a couple of points need clarifying. The Irish Universities Sailing Association have pencilled in a happening at Kilkee in County Clare in mid-February. IUSA in recent years has acquired quite the reputation for finding a serious team racing location where none had ever thought of it before, such as Lough Key in Roscommon. But the summertime bay at Kilkee in February is even more way out for whatever they’ve planned, though we note they’ve another date in March set for their Team Championship, venue to be confirmed.

Moving on to the more conventional seasonal openers in May, there’ll have been spluttering in the whiskey (or whisky) fortified porridge at breakfast tables on both sides of the North Channel at the news that the changing of dates of previously-sacred Bank Holiday Mondays in Scotland means that, after 44 years (some would say 48), the Scottish Series will be staged in early June instead of late May.

Andrew Craig of Dun Laoghaire, winner of the supreme trophy at the 2019 Scottish Series with his J/109 ChimaeraAndrew Craig of Dun Laoghaire, winner of the supreme trophy at the 2019 Scottish Series with his J/109 Chimaera

This will have a marked effect on the programmes for the itinerant offshore racing boats, as they have been accustomed to using the Scottish late-May rocket launcher (sailing past the still-snow-topped mountains of Arran is a memorable part of the package) to push themselves into early action for burgeoning events back in Ireland in June.

The Roll of Honour of Irish boats which have done this with great success goes back to the beginning, with names like the O’Learys with the Corby 36 Antix, the Kellys and the Craigs with their J/109s, and most recently John Minnis with his First 31.7 Final Call, springing to mind.

But now that very workable system has been abolished with no more than a tap of the delete button, and though it only applies to a few, they’re the creme de la crème who will have to decide whether they go to Scotland, or stay home for the up-graded Wave Regatta the same weekend in Howth.

Past winners in Wave Regatta at Howth, Ross McDonald’s X332 Equinox and Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’BrienPast winners in Wave Regatta at Howth, Ross McDonald’s X332 Equinox and Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Meanwhile, the major international events which are coming to Ireland are pretty well set in stone, with the four World championships – starting with the 505s at Royal Cork – from August 1st until the last biggie - the SB20 Worlds on Dublin Bay at the Royal Irish YC - concludes on September 9th.

Of the four classes involved, only the 505s had ceased to have an Irish presence, but that has already been remedied by Alex Barry of Cork with his successful international debut during 2021, a reminder that fifty years ago, Crosshaven 505 sailors like Clayton Love Jnr and Joe Woodward - to name but two - were national and international stars in a class which had real style and panache.

Alex Barry’s recently-acquired 505 on Cork Harbour is a reminder that the RCYC was once a stronghold of the class. Photo: Robert BatemanAlex Barry’s recently-acquired 505 on Cork Harbour is a reminder that the RCYC was once a stronghold of the class. Photo: Robert Bateman

As to the Fireballs, while it’s quite a while since John Lavery and David O’Brien of this parish won the Fireball Worlds in Dun Laoghaire in 1995, the class has been reviving lately, and as our vid here reveals, the winning boat from 1995 has been looking very well indeed on Lough Ree.

 

Both the GP14s and the SB20s in Ireland have shown themselves of international standard when they go abroad for Worlds and European Championships, so great things will be expected when the global contingent of the former hits Skerries in August, and the latter convene at Dun Laoghaire in September.

Close racing for the Irish GP 14 Class, which will feature in the Worlds at Skerries in August, and in the All-Ireland at Sutton in OctoberClose racing for the Irish GP 14 Class, which will feature in the Worlds at Skerries in August, and in the All-Ireland at Sutton in October

Coming slightly down the significance scale, the big Squib event at Kinsale in June is in effect the Euros, and if the travel situation has improved, it could be a mega-fleet happening. Certainly back in the mists of time, the Squibs managed an almost mythical giant regatta in Ireland, but that’s a topic for another day. Meanwhile the other Euros - and designated as such – are the J/24s at Howth, definitely a happening for dedicated DIY aficionados, whose enthusiasm keeps the old class going in great good heart these days.

As for the Golden Jubilee, it’s for ISORA. But as the first ISORA season of 1972 was a direct though much-expanded follow-on to the Northwest Offshore Association programme of 1971, maybe in acknowledging that the name change came about in Howth at the end of August 1971, perhaps they could build something around the Howth Wave Regatta from June 3rd to 5th. 

SHANNON OD CENTENARY

A hundred years young……the Shannon One Design’s unique style is timelessA hundred years young……the Shannon One Design’s unique style is timeless

The Centenary is of course the Shannon One Designs, the gloriously-unique determinedly-campaigned beauties which never look completely at home unless they’re racing on an Irish lake, which they do in abundant numbers. With other more politically-tinged Centenaries being marked these days, it will be rightly guessed that the SODs came blithely into being at a time of turmoil, and they’re going to be fighting fit for the big one hundred.

ROYAL CORK’S TRICENTENARY PLUS WILL HAVE SPECIAL ADDED INGREDIENTS

Alas, the Royal Cork’s hopes of celebrating its Tricentenary in 2020 were blown away by the COVID, but thanks to inspirational leadership by Admiral Colin Morehead, the club has come through in good heart, and the major Tricentenary Plus Two event at Crosshaven in 2022, the Volvo Cork Week incorporating the ICRA Nationals and a Classics Division from July 11th to 15th is going to be something very special indeed, and rightly so, preceded as it will be by a re-run of the Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour – the “Kingstown to Queenstown” – of 1860.

The Mark Mills-designed Cape 31 OD will come centre stage at Volvo Cork Week 2022.The Mark Mills-designed Cape 31 OD will come centre stage at Volvo Cork Week 2022.

ROUND IRELAND BACK IN STYLE

On the offshore front, there’s every sign that the iconic SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow – eventually cancelled after postponements in 2020 – is going to re-emerge in even more vibrant form on June 18th 2022, bang on the Midsummer Weekend as nature intended.

Down on the south coast meanwhile, there’s something new on the horizon – Kinsale YC’s proposed Blasket Islands circuit in mid to late May, with the finish back at Kinsale. In times past when major cruiser-racer events elsewhere only attract a small handful of Kinsale boats, realists have suggested it’s because their own home port has so many natural advantages and attractions that it’s always a disappointment to go anywhere else.

Kinsale’s “problem” is that it is too attractive…Kinsale’s “problem” is that it is too attractive……..

BLASKET BASHING…

Consequently, bashing your way down past the Fastnet and then the Bull Rock, and then the Skelligs, in order to round the Blaskets simply in order to sail straight home again to Kinsale, begins to make sense. But as Inishtearaght has the only lighthouse on that extremely rugged island group, we’re told that they’re going to try to time the race so that the fleet reaches the Blaskets in daylight, as there’s an unlit offlier to the west – the wonderfully named Great Foze Rock – which you wouldn’t want to be bumping into on a dark night.

“It’s there all right…..” Vendee Globe Racer Pip Hare with the unlit Great Foze Rock during a Round Britain and Ireland Race. Photo: Pippa Hare“It’s there all right…..” Vendee Globe Racer Pip Hare with the unlit Great Foze Rock during a Round Britain and Ireland Race. Photo: Pippa Hare

Quite how you time a sailing race from Kinsale to ensure the fleet is at the Blaskets in daylight may well be a matter of consulting the entrails of a chicken, but either way competitors will hope that the timing is such they’re all back in Kinsale by Saturday night. For as the success of the National YC’s Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race has shown, a midweek start and all finished by Saturday night is the recipe for success. There’s nothing at all sacred about traditional weekend starts for offshore races. In fact, at a major sailing centre, such timing is a nuisance, as it interferes with the local ongoing inshore racing programme.

As we get into the new year, just how possible some of the possibilities are will become clearer, and there are many looking forward to reviving cross-channel connections, while back home it will be interesting to see who comes out of the woodwork with the new Mark Mills-designed Cape 31 ODs, which will show here and there before making their major Irish debut at Cork Week.

And after two years of cancellation, it will be a sign above all others that normality of some sort is being established if the Cruinniu na mBad for traditional boats at Kinvara on Galway Bay can be restored in all its glorious sociability in August.

It could only be Kinvara in August – traditional sail at its very best in the southeast corner of Galway BayIt could only be Kinvara in August – traditional sail at its very best in the southeast corner of Galway Bay

This article was first published on Afloat on 11/12/2021

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

October 2021 has been kind to Irish sailing in brightening our spirits, letting our crews be active with more sunshine than you'd expect, and helping to banish any thoughts of the dodgy pandemic situation ashore. Even though the Bank Holiday Weekend gave some localities a short sharp reminder that Autumn can be a time of vicious weather, determined race organisers still managed to slide their events in under the radar one way or another, with Carlingford Sailing Club and the Irish Universities setting the pace by putting through a big team racing series.

This was despite steep-sided Carlingford Lough occasionally being in the kind of mood where you can be sailing along even while there are "Carlingford Kettles" whirling around. A Carlingford Kettle is a sort of miniaturised tame typhoon, and while I've sailed the length of the lough on a dark and breezy day when there were some kettles in sight picking up spray close in under the southeast shore, they seemed to be shy creatures, for none came near us and they went as quickly as they'd appeared.

Grabbing the sun while we can – Universities' team racing at Carlingford last weekend.Grabbing the sun while we can – Universities' team racing at Carlingford last weekend

As the event's report on Afloat.ie indicated this was a perfect example of a club with a high proportion of members keen to volunteer, all ready and willing to host a boisterous crowd of young racing enthusiasts who have spent much of 2021 with an increasingly pent-up feeling dominating their lives, for all that sailing seemed to be a healthy sport ideally designed to provide an alternative to lockdown neurosis.

For one of the best things about sailing is that it provides your daily dose of Vitamin D as a bonus. The type of people who sail simply aren't the types who loll about on a beach working on their suntan, let alone dutifully sitting down the garden in sunshine (or
even going for a walk) for the prescribed length of time.

On the contrary, they want to be up and doing in all the action required with a complex wind-driven vehicle sport, so if sunshine can be introduced into the equation, so much the better. And it certainly makes the job of the nautical photographers easier, for capturing a completely eye-catching sailing image is a relative doddle in sunshine by comparison with snatching an inspiring snap on a very grey day, particularly now that so many boats have black sails.

Photographer Annraoi Blaney stylishly overcomes the problem of black sails and absent sunshine with this inspired composition of Viking (Kevin Darmody) and Soufriere (Stephen O'Flaherty) racing in the Beshoff Motors Autumn League at Howth. Photo: Annraoi Blaney.Photographer Annraoi Blaney stylishly overcomes the problem of black sails and absent sunshine with this inspired composition of Viking (Kevin Darmody) and Soufriere (Stephen O'Flaherty) racing in the Beshoff Motors Autumn League at Howth. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Yet whether your sails are black, white, purple, yellow or green, they've found lots of sunlight in Autumn events like the Beshoff Motors Autumn League in Howth, and while some other late season championships weren't quite so lucky, throughout October Afloat.ie has been recording a rich variety of regulation-compliant events on the water at many centres.

But has this late-season success gone to people's heads? As October morphs into November and the clocks go back, it behoves us to remember the thoughts of one Thomas Hood (1799-1845) - supposedly a humorist, but then they're a notably gloomy bunch:

NOVEMBER

No sun — no moon!
No morn — no noon —
No dawn — no dusk — no proper time of day.

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member —
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! —
November!

Set against that attitude, it seems that by contrast, sailing administrators throughout the country see sunshine in every shower and a silver lining in every cloud at this time of the year, for the proposed November weekend programme at several clubs has never been so un-seasonally active.

Not that late Autumn and Winter sailing is something new. There are those who persist in seeing it as a novelty, yet the Frostbite League staged for all-comers under PY by Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club in the sensible confines of Dun Laoghaire Harbour goes back at least half a century, while the opening of the first stage of the marina at Royal Cork in Crosshaven in 1974 immediately ushered in the country's first Autumn League for keelboats.

Bright as she goes – Autumn League racing at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert BatemanBright as she goes – Autumn League racing at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman

So before long, we'll be celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the RCYC Autumn League, while on the East Coast April 2024 will mark fifty years of a continuous sailing programme at Howth YC. They'd their usual Opening Day in April 1974, then as the traditional sailing season was closing down in the Autumn, the news Lasers turned up and a Sunday morning frostbite series got going – drawing in entries from as far away as Wexford to the south and Carlingford to the north – and it still does so, while after the marina was opened in 1982, the keelboat Autumn League and Brass Monkey winter-long series both became possible, and it has all been trundling along non-stop ever since.

With a membership around the 2,000 mark, it may well be that Howth YC needs various identifiably different programmes to keep everyone happy, and it is a fact that if you sail there all year round – whether in keelboats or dinghies – you'll meet a significantly different group as the seasons change, with the two-part winter-long Brass Monkey series a friendly contest in which people who wouldn't normally dream of going racing find themselves upping the heartbeat with a spot of unaccustomed competition.

DBSC Turkey Shoot in sunshine, Rockabill VI leading from Mermaid. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienDBSC Turkey Shoot in sunshine, Rockabill VI leading from Mermaid. Photo: Afloat.ie

And it gives you an insight into aspects of weather you'd otherwise miss, particularly the effect of air density on wind pressure. One November day we were racing to windward in a ketch-rigged Westerly Conway in a rising and very humid southerly, and a squall of more than 40 knots brought us to a halt for all that we sailing in sheltered water immediately east of Ireland's Eye. The wind briefly freshened a little more, and with all her top hamper of the big radar scanner and other broccoli on the mizzen mast, the boat simply slid gently sideways, for the pressure was the equivalent of 50 knots in a dry climate.

Therein lies Admiral Beaufort's genius, for his Beaufort Scale was based on the effect of the different wind speeds, with a Force 6 exerting something like 200 times the pressure of a Force 2. All of which may seem a long way from various club sailing secretaries and their committees devising busy programmes for their members in these peculiar times to keep club sailing busy through November and well into December.

But it adds insight into what happens when the glitzy Dublin Bay SC Turkey Shoot works towards the conclusion of its seven-weekend programme just as the days are about to start getting longer again. As organiser, Fintan Cairns observed: "It knocks the stuffing out of the winter and into the turkey……."

"Knocking the stuffing out of the winter and putting it into the turkey…." It takes a real effort to realize that this photo of George Sisk's WOW racing in the DBSC Turkey Shoot was taken in December. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien"Knocking the stuffing out of the winter and putting it into the turkey…." It takes a real effort to realize that this photo of George Sisk's WOW racing in the DBSC Turkey Shoot was taken in December. Photo: Afloat.ie

But at least those involved are mostly locally-based, and that is the essence of the various winter programmes. Thus we observe with a certain awed fascination the GP14 Association's determination to race next weekend a championship - postponed from April - with Cullaun Sailing Club in distant County Clare.

Cullaun SC in County Clare opted for lake sailing despite the presence of the Shannon Estuary nearby. Photo courtesy CSCCullaun SC in County Clare opted for lake sailing despite the presence of the Shannon Estuary nearby. Photo courtesy CSC

It's a club which is regarded with the warmest feelings, for I can remember the late Stuart Nairn and his friends - mostly from Shannon Town - bringing it into being way back when.

Nevertheless, November with a long journey for most competitors is quite a challenge. For sure, the GPs are up for it much better than most class associations. But the very fact that it is being contemplated at all shows how keen people are to make up their sailing deficit.

"Dream of the distant west" – Wayfarers racing at Cullaun. Photo courtesy CSC"Dream of the distant west" – Wayfarers racing at Cullaun. Photo courtesy CSC

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

What was it with last weekend's weather? As the pandemic restrictions against activity afloat are ever-so-gradually eased, not only was there some sort of sailing going on almost everywhere, but the mood was that of late August. Yet it was the weekend nearest the Autumn Equinox, the very essence of September, when by tradition we should have been battling nasty gales coming out of decaying tropical storms. But instead, we were revelling in sunshine and balmy breezes while remarking that such clouds as were about – mostly soft and fluffy on the east coast – reminded us of a gentler Paul Henry skyscape.

But of course, the special radiant nature of the sunshine was totally seasonal, as has been noted in every year of the forty-seven that have elapsed since Autumn Leagues began with the opening of the first stage of the Royal Cork Marina in 1974, augmented by the arrival of the Laser Class and its regular autumn-winter programmes at a growing number of sailing centres. Thus last weekend in terms of time precision was pure late September, even if – in terms of attitude - we thought it was August and seemed to have lost an entire month somewhere along the way.

The cotton-wool clouds of a sunny morning on Dublin Bay as the fleet runs eastwards for the KishThe cotton-wool clouds of a sunny morning on Dublin Bay as the fleet runs eastwards for the Kish

But then quite substantial parts of August deserved to be lost, notwithstanding those folk who claimed to have been in remote parts of the country where they had nothing but blazing sunshine and drought conditions for six days in a row.

Maybe so. But the way that boats and crews leapt to life as it began to become evident that the weather last weekend was going to be better than expected was such that it was worthy of notice, and it certainly brought the DMYC's Kish Race centre stage in sailing people's perceptions of Dublin Bay.

Heaven knows but we've been suggesting for long enough that the Kish Race should have the same position in the Dublin Bay sailing fixtures hierarchy as the Cobh-Blackrock has in Cork, and the Lambay Race holds north of Howth Head. But the fact that the Kish Race has had to be held in late September because the Dublin Bay programme at season's height is already well filled with events going back at least a hundred years means that the Kish Race has acquired the image of being distinctly Autumnal, unlike last Sunday's iteration, which was pure joy with a healthy fleet of 41 boats.

Queen of the Bay – Kish Race winner Kaya of Greystones. Photo: Afloat.ieQueen of the Bay – Kish Race winner Kaya of Greystones. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

And the fact that it was won by the Queen of Greystones, Frank Whelan's J/122 Kaya sailed by Patrick Barnwell, gives it all an added significance. For until the new harbour and marina was built at the North Wicklow port, Greystones had a unique and visible link with the project to replace the Kish Lightvessel with a vast fixed lighthouse embedded in the Kish Bank.

It was all done on a foundation structure of an enormous reinforced concrete cylinder which was constructed in the Coal Harbour in Dun Laoghaire and then towed the eight miles out to the lighthouse site on a calm day. Except that it wasn't quite calm enough at the first attempt, some cracks appeared in the big concrete floating wheel, and the Irish Lights engineers demanded a replacement.

Few things go to waste in Ireland, and some bright sparks in Greystones reckoned that the rejected first base for the Kish LH would provide an excellent end-piece to lengthen their tiny pier. It did the job very well, and for years no visit to Greystones was complete without a walk to the end of the pier "to stand on the Kish Lighthouse….".

The old harbour at Greystones – the circular end to the main pier was salvaged from the failed first attempt at pre-fabricating the Kish Lighthouse.The old harbour at Greystones – the circular end to the main pier was salvaged from the failed first attempt at pre-fabricating the Kish Lighthouse.

And though at first glance the new harbour has changed the waterfront almost out of all recognition, it looks perfectly possible that some of the Kish LV Mark I is still in there somewhere, which means that every time Kaya and her marina neighbours put out to sea, they're going close past the Kish…….

All of which has taken us some way from the sheer delight of contemplating last weekend's experience of healthy Atlantic weather working its way gently across Ireland. We like to think that this is our standard weather, but in recent years there seem to have been increased though very different inputs from Siberia or Sahara, and if they're otherwise occupied the Arctic isn't above chucking some unpleasantness towards our green island, which is really at its emerald best when the wind is in the west.

RS Aeros off Dun Laoghaire on Sunday, revelling in the best kind of Irish weather. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienRS Aeros off Dun Laoghaire on Sunday, revelling in the best kind of Irish weather. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

There's no need to enumerate the horrors of the Beast from the East when the weather's coming from Siberia except to point out that Arctic air is cleaner. But when we've had a prolonged soporific airflow from the Sahara, you find all sort of peculiar little bugs around the house and garden which make you wonder if it's safe to breathe, and it may well be that only safe place to be is out on a sailing boat.

We'll dream of sailing like this all winter – SB20s showing the colours on Lough ReeWe'll dream of sailing like this all winter – SB20s showing the colours on Lough Ree

Thus it's time and more simply to celebrate sailing, and we do so with photos from Edel Kellegher, Joanne Leavy and Gilly Goodbody. Last weekend effortlessly produced sun-filled sailing images which it would take forever to set up if you were trying to organise it according to a fixed schedule. It's something which Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra have been trying to arrange in order to do justice to their superbly-restored Dublin 21s Naneen, Garavogue and Estelle, but to get it right you need at least eleven factors to come into alignment, so at this stage it's just the happy coincidence of Gilly Gooodbody being in the right place at the right time aboard her family's J/109 White Mischief in the Royal Irish YC end-of-season Pursuit Race which produced the first images which do justice to the challenge of the showing the DB 21s looking their best in their home waters.

The restored DB21 Naneen of 1905, the only boat of the class actually built in Dun Laoghaire, is flying the house flag of her first owner, Cosby Burrows (1856-1925) of County Cavan. Photo: Gilly GoodbodyThe restored DB21 Naneen of 1905, the only boat of the class actually built in Dun Laoghaire, is flying the house flag of her first owner, Cosby Burrows (1856-1925) of County Cavan. Photo: Gilly Goodbody

Dublin Bay twilight racing at its sweetest for the restored DB21 Garavogue. Photo: Gilly GoodbodyDublin Bay twilight racing at its sweetest for the restored DB21 Garavogue. Photo: Gilly Goodbody

All of which makes you realise what a genius was sailing photographer Frank Beken of Cowes. His famous 1911 photo of the big Fife schooner Suzanne is now so iconic it has more or less entered the public domain as it's the ultimate essence of Beken. The photo was ordered and Frank Beken looked at the weather, arranged the day, and the skipper and large professional crew sailed Suzanne away down the west Solent to Lymington to get all the sails up and drawing as they ran back at ever-increasing speed.

In those generally pre-radio days, it was up to Beken to be in station off Egypt Point at Cowes at the right time in his launch – Suzanne's target - ready with his huge glass plate camera in which the shutter was activated by a bulb in his mouth in order that both hands could hold the camera steady. There was only one nano-second in which everything was perfect, and he captured it. Afterwards, his most memorable comment was that as Suzanne was rolling slightly, he and his launch driver had to duck to avoid being carried off by the main boom as she swept past………

Is this the ultimate sailing portrait? The Fife schooner Suzanne in 1911 with all eight sails filled to perfection. Photo through Pinterest courtesy Beken of CowesIs this the ultimate sailing portrait? The Fife schooner Suzanne in 1911 with all eight sails filled to perfection. Photo through Pinterest courtesy Beken of Cowes

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You might say it's unnatural. Normally at this time of year, we'll be talking of the evenings and the season closing in together to facilitate a gently easing pace. But last weekend in Cork, they seemed to have so many things going on at once it was sometimes difficult to tell where one began and another ended. Meanwhile, in Dublin, it was equally hectic with the ICRA Nats building to a climax at Dun Laoghaire with the National YC, while across Dublin Bay on the Howth peninsula, it was a flurry of activity at both Howth and Sutton.

Yet this weekend, if anything the Dublin events lineup is even more tightly packed. This morning the ISORA Pwllheli-Dun Laoghaire Race gets underway to reinforce the sense of gradually returning normality, even though the pandemic limitations have meant it's only the second cross-channel race of the 2021 season.

On the Howth peninsula meanwhile, today and tomorrow see the Sutton Dinghy Club GP14 Autumn Open and Youth Championship, while across the hill (newly inhabited by Old Irish Goats from Mayo) at Howth Harbour, the first race of the annual six weekends Beshoff Motors Autumn League comes into action, with the entry of 90-plus showing an encouraging increase of interest from other clubs along the Fingal coast as far north as Skerries.

The almost nonexistent entry input from the south side of Dublin Bay reflects the fact that the line of the Liffey and the Dublin Port shipping lane bisecting the bay constitute the Great Divide. The only southside entrant is Flor O'Driscoll's J/24 Hard on Port, and as a Corkman originally (Cobh to be precise), the great Flor would probably be indignant at being described as a Southsider, as he competes under the Bray Sailing Club colours, which puts him into an entirely different ethnic group.

Veteran skipper Flor O'Driscoll's vintage J/24 Hard on Port (Bray Sailing Club) is returning to Howth today for the first race of the six weekend Beshoff Motors Autumn League. Photo: AfloatVeteran skipper Flor O'Driscoll's vintage J/24 Hard on Port (Bray Sailing Club) is returning to Howth today for the first race of the six weekend Beshoff Motors Autumn League. Photo: Afloat.ie

You'd think today's action was enough for Howth, but tomorrow they've both their annual Junior Regatta and the visit by the three newly-restored Dublin Bay 21s which have been busy this week, as they raced on Thursday evening in the NYC's traditional end-of-season with Hal Sisk at the helm of Estelle winning, and last night they were manifesting their presence at the Royal Irish YC's 190th Anniversary Pursuit Race.

All this is going on while in both the Royal Cork YC in Crosshaven and HYC in Howth, the thoughts of those who think beyond the local horizon are with their teams in the New York Yacht Club Invitational Inter-Club Event being raced from this morning at Newport, Rhode Island in the red-hot Mark Mills-designed Melges ILC 37s, which constitutes a mighty challenge in themselves for newcomers to the event.

This hot ticket is not for the faint-hearted. The NYCC Invitational raced in Mark Mills-designed ILC 37s is notoriously competitive. In this photo, Royal Cork helmed by Anthony O'Leary is sail number 3, in prime positionThis hot ticket is not for the faint-hearted. The NYCC Invitational raced in Mark Mills-designed ILC 37s is notoriously competitive. In this photo, Royal Cork helmed by Anthony O'Leary is sail number 3, in prime position

For the Royal Cork team, with an impressive lineup of O'Learys, this is the seventh stab at the challenge. And in last year's first staging in the ILC 37s, they got the Bronze against 20 other clubs, so they start this morning as one of the favourites. But for the Howth squad led by Darren Wright, as they start for the first time in this decidedly stratospheric event, it already seems quite an achievement to have got there and passed all the tests, including a rigorous crew weigh-in.

With so much going on it takes an effort to think back even five days to the final overall results for the ICRA Nats, but as ever they provide something of a statistician and trend analyst's dream, for as one critical observer of the developing Irish sailing scene has trenchantly observed: NO CLASS WAS WON BY A BOAT STILL IN PRODUCTION.

Equally relevant is the other inescapable conclusion: ONLY TWO CLASSES WERE WON BY A BOAT REGISTERED AS SAILING FROM ONE OF IRELAND'S SIX FRONT LINE CLUBS.

And all for the honour of Rush Sailing Club…..Keeping a vintage J/109 in race-winning trim is not something to be undertaken lightly. Towards the end of Autumn each year, the Kelly's family's J/109 Storm disappears into their big shed in Lusk in the heart of Fingal. She reappears each Spring, immaculate after much family, crew and community effort. Photo: Afloat.ieAnd all for the honour of Rush Sailing Club…..Keeping a vintage J/109 in race-winning trim is not something to be undertaken lightly. Towards the end of Autumn each year, the Kelly's family's J/109 Storm disappears into their big shed in Lusk in the heart of Fingal. She reappears each Spring, immaculate after much family, crew and community effort. Photo: Afloat.ie

The habit of continually up-dating an older boat to keep her competitive under IRC is a quintessentially Irish thing, and our long history of sailing means that our concept of "old" in boats is different from the rest of the world. And the fact that we're discovering that quality fibreglass construction seems to have an almost unlimited lifespan only adds to the possibilities for successful ageing in the Irish fleet.

But against that, a significant cohort of Irish sailors have an increasing appreciation of innovation in boat design and equipment. And the reality that maintenance, and major boat up-grade project costs, are rocketing at our limited waterfront boat service facilities means that simply renewing one's boat every three years is an increasingly attractive proposition, particularly among those working in the huge IT and Research complexes in Dublin and Cork where continuous up-dating is as natural as breathing.

The trouble is that the manufacturers who rely on this increasing trend in favour of planned obsolescence don't always get it right. Years ago, the J/35 must have been seen eventually as a complete pain in the neck by the directors of J Boats, as the damned thing just kept on winning despite the alternative attraction of new temptations which the company kept bringing to the marketplace.

Lets hear it for Wexford! The Quarter Tonner Snoopy brought the ICRA Class 3 Honours home to Courtown Sailing Club. Photo: AfloatLets hear it for Wexford! The Quarter Tonner Snoopy brought the ICRA Class 3 Honours home to Courtown Sailing Club. Photo: Afloat.ie

Over at Beneteau, they must have come to think of the endlessly successful First 40.7 as a millstone around their neck in trying to progress the company. But meanwhile back in the world of J/Boats, I'll never forget seeing the Tyrrell family of Arklow's very new J/109 Aquelina emerge at the head of the fleet in the Lambay Race of 2004, and thinking that there would be a boat of ideal size, type and provenance to become a hugely successful new One Design cruiser-racer class for Dublin Bay and its immediate area.

It took some years for it to happen, but then the class took off in Dublin Bay, and in a week's time, the Royal Irish YC will be hosting the annual J/109 Championship to give us a take on the class's health in the post-pandemic circumstances. However, the ICRA Championship meanwhile was much as expected, with the Kelly family's J/109 Storm winning the 24-strong Class 1 (biggest in the fleet) from sister-ship White Mischief (Goodbody family).

It was a totally typical regatta outcome in many ways, as Storm now clearly sails as a Rush SC boat, reflecting the growing muscle power in the sailing world of clubs on the Fingal coast, while White Mischief is "old establishment" with the RIYC.

The overall list of topliners under IRC says it more clearly:

ICRA Nats 2021

  • Class 0 (and overall champion) Kaya (J/122, Frank Whelan, Greystones SC)
  • Class 1 Storm (J/109, Kelly family, Rush SC)
  • Class 2 Checkmate XVIII (Classic Half Tonner, Nigel Biggs, Howth YC)
  • Class 3 Snoopy (Classic Quarter Tonner, Joanne Hall & Martin Mahon, Courtown Harbour SC).
  • Class 4 (non-spinnaker) Gung-Ho (Super Seal F/K, Grainne & Sean O'Shea, RIYC).

With seventeen clubs in all represented in the ICRA Nats fleet, the assumed overall success of the Big Six clubs was inevitably going to provide added motivation for those who were enabling their own small home or childhood clubs to punch above their weight. It can only be healthy for little clubs to be putting one over on the biggies from time to time, and it certainly happens on the south coast with Baltimore SC sometimes functioning as an "alternative" Royal Cork YC, while it was quite a thing at the ICRA event, as another conspicuous contender was Shaun Douglas's First 40.7 Game Changer from Belfast Lough, which lists Cockle Island Boat Club as the home base.

Shaun Douglas's First 40.7 Game Changer is clearly home-ported at CIBC – where's that? Photo: Afloat.ieShaun Douglas's First 40.7 Game Changer is clearly home-ported at CIBC – where's that? Photo: Afloat.ie

Cockle Island is the rocky islet protecting the shoal natural harbour at Groomsport on the south shore of Belfast Lough, and the reality is that Game Changer can only get within convenient distance of the clubhouse (it's an attractive conversion of the old Lifeboat House) at high water. But it was CIBC's encouragement of the youthful Shaun Douglas which set him on his successful sailing path, and this is remembered every time Game Changer goes racing.

Groomsport on the south shore of Belfast Lough is home to Cockle Island Boat Club. Cockle Island is the rocky islet sheltering the harbour, but as it is shoal, CIBC's best-known boat Game Changer can only visit at High WaterGroomsport on the south shore of Belfast Lough is home to Cockle Island Boat Club. Cockle Island is the rocky islet sheltering the harbour, but as it is shoal, CIBC's best-known boat Game Changer can only visit at High Water

Yet typically of the Irish fleet, the First 40.7 Game Changer is of a notably successful marque (nearly 700 built) of which the last one was produced more than five years ago, while that other favourite the J/109 has also been taken out of production. Certainly, they can now offer a very attractive proposition for anyone game to take on an end-of-season bargain with all its maintenance challenges, but as our world resumes its fast-moving mode, there's an increasing line of thought whose proponents reckon that everyday working life already provides enough in the way of hassle, and when they go sailing they want to do so in a new and immediately competitive boat which represented the latest design thinking and comes adorned with warranties which immediately make any concerns somebody else's problem.

Of course, they cost an immediate fortune. But suddenly the money seems to be there, and when you've a useful boat available to a design created by a genius of global repute who happens to have his design studio in a remote and beautiful valley in the Wicklow Hills, what's not to like?

Thus although there's still quite a bit of sailing to be done before 2021 is finally out of the way, the advent of a new Irish class of Mark Mills-designed Cape 31s in 2022 is already top of the agenda.

The Cape 31 can get a move on when given the chance. Photo: Rick TomlinsonThe Cape 31 can get a move on when given the chance. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

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Let's hear it for coloured sails. On a grey day on a grey bay, every last spinnaker or asymmetric or gennaker or whatever with a splash of colour was more than welcome yesterday morning (Friday) to help bring the grimly monochrome scene to life as a raw easterly – From Russia With Malice as you might well say – livened up the seas off Dun Laoghaire to help the Irish Cruiser Racing Association get its 2021 Championship underway on Dublin Bay.

The hosts at the National Yacht Club, with Paul Barrington as Race Director, had pulled out all the stops, and a goodly fleet of around 80 boats has gathered for battle. In normal times this would be regarded as a distinctly so-so turnout. But these are not normal times. Thus it's a very good entry in a stop-go period of mixed pandemic responses, for there are those who have decided to sit it out completely until a very clear all-clear is sounded. However, other more gung-ho types have been reckoning for some time now that it's all systems go, even if they have to keep themselves reined in when ashore.

And though we've only the first day's racing of a three-day programme to go on, on the basis of home club location we've a useful and varied spread of sailing centres large and small getting their name up in lights, though a quick scan of the Class 2 outcome suggests that the Howth sailors' occasional habit of racing around some unusual natural marks does no harm at all in training for orthodox turning points in Dublin Bay.

With weather marks like this at home, Howth boats find orthodox race marks in Dublin Bay a straightforward proposition. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyWith weather marks like this at home, Howth boats find orthodox race marks in Dublin Bay a straightforward proposition. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Either way, 2021 has seen great sport on the water in contrast to a sense of restriction on already limited socialising the minute you step off the boat. This is constraining for everyone, for as we've suggested before, sailors are so weird that their's is the only sport in which the participants administer performance-enhancing drugs after the event.

It means that when leaving the boat, you may be well aware that you've had an indifferent race. But even a couple of socially distant pints ashore is enough to modify the recollections to having been placed in the top half of the fleet.

In theory, there should be no greater difference in mood than that between the pre-racing and the après-sailing, but it has to be said that in offshore racing in particular, the fact that its participants are a minority within a minority sport used to mean that they simply had to celebrate meeting each other before the event, regardless of the detrimental effect it may have on their performance when the big race began next day.

Even the great ocean-racing pioneer Captain John Illingworth was prone to this, and during the RORC Channel Race of 1947 - his first major race with the new and hugely innovative 40ft Myth of Malham – he was pleased to observe that the Myth was out-performing everything once they'd started turning to windward in a Force 5 to 6, "even though my head was regularly in a bucket, as I'd over-indulged at the pre-race dinner the night before".

John Illingworth's innovative Myth of Malham was the super-star boat of 1947, '48 and '49.John Illingworth's innovative Myth of Malham was the super-star boat of 1947, '48 and '49.

You didn't need to go to the English Channel to witness this sort of thing. The great Leslie Kertesz of the National YC, who introduced the ultimate Dehler DBS Lightning to ISORA racing back in the 1970s, had started his competitive life afloat with the austerely dedicated rowing clubs on the Danube in Budapest, and he found the Irish Sea's pre-race approach of those convivial days distinctly odd.

Before there was a marina at Pwllheli, the season concluded with the Abersoch-Rockabill-Howth Race, and the first time Lightning's skipper witnessed the pre-race Bacchanalia in the notably hospitable South Caernarvon Yacht Club in Abersoch the night before what everyone knew was going to be a heavy weather race, he was briefly rendered speechless, and then gasped out:

"My God" said he, "and these people like to think of themselves as athletes…."

Stretching the season – sunset sailing for one of the Howth J/80s on Wednesday. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyStretching the season – sunset sailing for one of the Howth J/80s on Wednesday. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Of course, it's all changed now, nutritionists rule is total, and there are those who modify their diet in all sorts of beneficial ways as the race approaches. For even if you've found a cure for seasickness or aren't prone to it in the first place, anything that improves the chances of being in top condition at sea is very welcome.

Time was when the greatest hazard of all was what amounted to an unofficial competition between owner-skippers as to who could host the best dinner in Cowes the night before the Fastnet Race. This usually had the makings of a perilous experience, so there were those of us who'd find an excuse to skive off to the outskirts of Cowes, where we knew of an unpretentious little café with good home cooking and the chance of a light but nourishing booze-free meal to set us up for the morning's inevitable wind-over-tide slog westward.

The memories of all that came back in full colour this week when our Offshore Sailors of the Month for August – the entire ship's company of the mighty successful Fastnet veteran Desert Star of Irish Offshore Sailing – sent along some more photos of as nearly perfect a sailing experience as anyone is ever likely to have. For if a boat of Desert Star's age and style, and crewed moreover by trainees, had done any better in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021, there'd have been rioting in the streets of Cherbourg by those who have spent squillions in trying to achieve a comparable performance.

The Last Supper…..the crew of Desert Star having a restrained and sensible meal in Cowes the night before the Fastnet Race – skipper Ronan O Siochru on right.The Last Supper…..the crew of Desert Star having a restrained and sensible meal in Cowes the night before the Fastnet Race – skipper Ronan O Siochru on right.

The fact is the Desert Star did everything right from beginning to end. And with skipper Ronan O Siochru's Fastnet experience now covering four good races, the show was properly on the road the night before, when he and his team had somehow arranged a quiet meal together – The Last Supper as they call it – in what must have been one of the few peaceful corners of Cowes, and you don't need to be hawk-eyed to note that every glass is filled with water, but there's not a bottle of wine to be seen.

It's now all filed away under Special Memories. But meanwhile, with continued restriction-lifting promised in the weeks and months ahead, there are several significant late-season fixtures in prospect. And it has to be said that when the ICRA Nats were announced as the first weekend of September, it brought a soothing vision of balmy Indian Summer weather, and sailing on a sea which will continue to get warmer until mid-September.

Twilight sailing as we dream of it – the Gore-Grimes family's successful Dux arriving at the weather mark on Wednesday evening. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyTwilight sailing as we dream of it – the Gore-Grimes family's successful Dux arriving at the weather mark on Wednesday evening. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

But whatever we're experiencing today, nobody would talk of Indian Summer weather, so they'll be relying on the heat of competition to keep the temperature at tolerable levels for late-season fixtures and Autumn Leagues.

Another item which comes up the agenda at a time like this is Twilight Sailing, an evocative name whose promise is seldom fulfilled unless you're based in a place where daytime temperatures are such that Hoagy Carmichael's "cool, cool, cool of the evening" is the local anthem. We should be so lucky. This persistent easterly which has plagued us in recent days with its thin but seemingly impenetrable skein of cloud cover gets plain cold at night.

 Mind the gap…..Paddy Kyne's Maximus negotiating the turn at Gannet City off Howth. When the tide is ebbing southward, there's a helpful north-going eddy to the south of The Stack, close in under the cliffs if you can manage to carry the wind. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyMind the gap…..Paddy Kyne's Maximus negotiating the turn at Gannet City off Howth. When the tide is ebbing southward, there's a helpful north-going eddy to the south of The Stack, close in under the cliffs if you can manage to carry the wind. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Now and again it breaks enough for a final glimpse of the sun just before it sets, and in the evening races at Howth this week, Anraoi Blaney was on hand to capture some brief golden moments and also to wonder anew at the fact that, effectively within city limits, boats are racing close under rugged stack rocks which are home to one of the most vibrant gannet colonies in the world.

Those gannets are what they'd called "runners" in Howth. The first breeding pair settled on The Stack off the northeast corner of Ireland's Eye as recently as 1989. Now they're everywhere. That first pair have a lot to answer for.

Golden sunset, Silver Shamrock. Conor Fogerty's 1976 Half Ton World Champion is bathed by the elusive orb on Wednesday evening. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyGolden sunset, Silver Shamrock. Conor Fogerty's 1976 Half Ton World Champion is bathed by the elusive orb on Wednesday evening. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

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The National YC's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race of Wednesday, June 9th – just two days after such things became permissible on June 7th - may have been hailed here as "a spectacular pillar event to launch the 2021 Irish sailing season out of the pandemic penumbra". But the truth is that the season currently getting under way is more like a gentle tide flooding into a winding and shallow creek, rather than a sudden eruption of activity across a wide front.

As with the new tide, if you watch closely and persistently for things happening, you'll see little change. But if your focus switches elsewhere for a while, then look back again and you'll find real signs of things starting to happen, of development taking place and sailing centres coming more vibrantly to life with events which are in themselves a testing of the waters.

This sense of testing of the waters reflects a commendable maturity in the sailing community. Our sport manifests itself in so many ways afloat and ashore that it is simply impossible to devise rules about distancing and so forth which comply precisely with each and every requirement. Thus as each event takes shape, a substantial input of common sense is required to ensure that it optimizes the sport while minimising any infection hazard.

When the going gets tough….overall winner Nieulargo (Denis Murphy RCYC, left) and Pete Smyth's Sun Fast 3600 Searcher (NYC) getting their teeth into the early stages of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race. Photo: Michael ChesterWhen the going gets tough….overall winner Nieulargo (Denis Murphy RCYC, left) and Pete Smyth's Sun Fast 3600 Searcher (NYC) getting their teeth into the early stages of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race. Photo: Michael Chester

Of course we can claim that the hazard is decreasing on a daily basis. But no sooner is this assumed that some new twist arises, and having shared the battle for so long, it would be at odds with the remarkable overall cohesiveness of Irish society to flaunt the rules with blatant disregard, even if some very small sections seem to take a pleasure in doing so.

Thus although the D2D was indeed a spectacular event, it only impinged on landward life at the carefully regulated start and finish. For the rest of the time it was taking place in the very model of a healthy environment, sometimes with more fresh air than even the very keenest were looking for.

For those who don’t feel they have to spend nights at sea in order to get their necessary dose of fresh maritime air, mid-June also brought the Dragon South Coast Championship at Glandore for a cracking fleet of 19 boats, with Cameron Good of Kinsale and Neil Hegarty of Dun Laoghaire’s Royal St George YC on a tie break after six races, the break going in favour of the Kinsale skipper who saw his clubmate James Matthews taking third overall.

Meanwhile, in the upper reaches of Strangford Lough, Newtownards SC hosted the GP 14 Ulster Championship with Ger Owens of Royal St George, crewed by northern sailor Melanie Morris, winning overall, with second going to Ross and Jane Kearney while Shane McCarthy of Greystones was third, with the Silver Fleet topped by James Hockley while the Bronze went to Michael Brines.

Today (Saturday) sees the conclusion of the four day O'Leary Insurances Sovereigns Cup at Kinsale, and while inevitably there has been a shoreside element morning and evening, it has been happening with a manageable fleet – as ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell approvingly put it after considering the close Class 1 results: "It's great to be back in Kinsale, and there's a quiet buzz about the place - as it should be with the restrictions and the smaller numbers."

Jump Juice (Conor Phelan) and Freya (Conor Doyle) make a neat call on the start in Day 2 of the Sovereign's Cup at Kinsale. Photo: Robert BatemanJump Juice (Conor Phelan) and Freya (Conor Doyle) make a neat call on the start in Day 2 of the Sovereign's Cup at Kinsale. Photo: Robert Bateman

This weekend sees the pace continue its incremental increase, with locally emphasized events on all coasts. Across in Connacht, the new popularity of the very ancient Cong to Galway Race down Lough Corrib hopes to see the recent day's better weather of the west continuing. And although defending champion Yannick Lemonnier was reported yesterday as being safe in Lampaul, that extraordinary bay on the west coast of Ouessant, with the mast of his MiniTransat boat down around his ears, it wouldn't surprise us at all if he somehow still turned up for the start, but in his absence his able young son and regular crew Sean might be making alternative arrangements under the radar.

EAST COAST SAILING

Currently, it's largely a question of keeping things local, and there's nothing more utterly local than the Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club's annual At Home on the north shores of Dublin Bay. It's an event that goes back most of the way to the club's founding in 1875, but last year's on-off lockdowns affected Clontarf more than any other club.

This is because their substantial and growing cruiser-racer fleet is entirely dependent on drying moorings in the Tolka Estuary, just across the main shore road from the club. Thus any activity afloat involves much communal to-ing and fro-ing in a decidedly busy neighbourhood. So CY & BC had to take it on the chin, and their cruisers stayed ashore for the entire season last year, even if a spot of dinghy sailing was possible in times of eased restriction.

Sean Langan, Commodore of Clontarf Y & BC, led his cruiser fleet afloat this year at the earliest permitted opportunity. In 2020's lockdown, the Clontarf fleet – all of which lie to drying moorings – had to stay ashore out of commission. Photo: Courtesy CY&BC)   Sean Langan, Commodore of Clontarf Y & BC, led his cruiser fleet afloat this year at the earliest permitted opportunity. In 2020's lockdown, the Clontarf fleet – all of which lie to drying moorings – had to stay ashore out of commission. Photo: Courtesy CY&BC)  

However, this year, as soon as the official signs were favourable, Commodore Sean Langan and his members heaved their fleet afloat in a choreographed operation involving two cranes, and today (Saturday, June 26th) is the Clontarf At Home, with the IDRA 14 dinghies launching into their 75th Anniversary Year, while the Howth 17s race round the Baily from their home port in a precisely-timed race to optimise the day's high water and provide good racing for an ancient class which is pushing towards having twenty boats in full commission.

The 1898-founded Howth 17s – seen here in the Lambay Race on June 12th - are gradually pushing towards their full number of 20 boats for the 2021 season. Photo: Patricia NixonThe 1898-founded Howth 17s – seen here in the Lambay Race on June 12th - are gradually pushing towards their full number of 20 boats for the 2021 season. Photo: Patricia Nixon

LOCAL SAILING CLASSES

In all, it's a celebration of local sailing in local classes, and time was when the Glens from Dun Laoghaire used to come across the bay to Clontarf as well. Who knows, it may happen again, as the 1947-vintage 25ft Mylne-designed Glens are having a revival with some boats undergoing very extensive restorations, a topic to which we'll return in the near future.

Meanwhile, one of the restored boats, Ailbe Millerick's Glenluce, made her re-vitalised debut last Saturday in some style to take a win. Admittedly it was with the formidable imported talent of John Duggan on the helm while the owner sweated away at working the pit, making the mistake of doing it so efficiently that it could well become a regular position……..

The newly-restored 25ft Glen OD Glenluce (Ailbe Millerick) on her way to winning her first race of 2021 last Saturday in Dublin BayThe newly-restored 25ft Glen OD Glenluce (Ailbe Millerick) on her way to winning her first race of 2021 last Saturday in Dublin Bay

Of course, when it comes to 2021's sailing revival, the sheer weight of numbers in the greater Dublin region means that significant fleets can quickly be assembled, and there could well be thirty boats gathering in Dublin's River Liffey today for the final meet of the Cruising Association of Ireland's pop-up East Coast rally, which has ranged between Skerries and Arklow.

The Cruising Association of Ireland rallying in the heart of Dublin. Photo: W M Nixon   The Cruising Association of Ireland rallying in the heart of Dublin. Photo: W M Nixon  

As for competitive sailing, weekly racing numbers in the Dublin Bay Sailing Club programme at Dun Laoghaire regularly chime in at comfortably more than a hundred boats and counting, but in the current climate, that's something to be carefully monitored rather than shouted from the rooftops.

Nevertheless, if you happen to be on a Dun Laoghaire rooftop, every Wednesday evening reveals an increasing fleet of Water Wags out racing. Their best turnout so far this year was 26 boats on Bloomsday, the 16th June, but with 50 boats now registered with racing numbers, it's surely only a matter of time before they manage an evening with 40 boats, as they topped the 30 mark turnout three years ago.

The Water Wag fleet blossoming for Bloomsday, June 16th, with 26 boats racing. They should top the 40 turnout in one race for the fist time ever in 2021.The Water Wag fleet blossoming for Bloomsday, June 16th, with 26 boats racing. They should top the 40 turnout in one race for the fist time ever in 2021.

FOYNES SHOWS THE WAY FOR WEST COAST SAILING

The quiet putting-through of a first racing event was seen last weekend at Foynes, where the J/24s assembled in socially-distanced groups for their seasonal starter, the Southern Championship. That said, trying to be socially-distant anywhere near the notoriously-hospitable Foynes Yacht Club is almost an impossibility – after all, even the family dog goes out on the big committee boat with visiting race Officer Derek Bothwell - but it seems to have been a largely health-compliant happening.

The J24s start their 2021 Irish season with last weekend's Southerns at Foynes, and overall winner Headcase (4547) narrowly getting the best of it. Photo: Foynes YCThe J24s start their 2021 Irish season with last weekend's Southerns at Foynes, and overall winner Headcase (4547) narrowly getting the best of it. Photo: Foynes YC

Thus when we suggested to Cillian Dickson - helm of the winning boat Headcase with all-Ireland crew of Ryan Glynn, Louis Mulloy and Sam O'Byrne - that they might have been over-celebrating on Saturday night with a scorecard of straight wins all through Saturday as against a couple of seconds on Sunday, he earnestly demurred, assuring us that the opposition was just a little bit less rusty on Sunday, and he expects them to be competition-honed by the Nationals in Sligo on August 6th-8th.

Truly, today's young sailors are a very serious lot. Time was when the Enterprise dinghy was all the rage throughout Ireland, and it was a fact of life in the class that the Saturday night leaders in any two-day regional championship simply wouldn't figure in Sunday's racing, so easily would they have been led completely astray by their attentive classmates in celebrating their initial points lead.

At Foynes, everyone rallies round to support the race team. Photo: FYCAt Foynes, everyone rallies round to support the race team. Photo: FYC

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This week the welcome sound will be coming to Scribbler.

The 25-tonne travel hoist boat lift will be manoeuvred into position beneath her at Castlepoint Boatyard and Scribbler will be carried down Point Road, onto the Crosshaven slipway and lowered to caress and enter the waters of Cork Harbour.

I'm looking forward to it and the other welcome sound that, for me, is the real start of each season and that is when my Sigma 33 again catches a breeze and the bow sounds its first engagement with the sails, pushing her through the water.

For the past few weeks, like many boat owners, I've been frequenting the yard and, driving through Crosshaven village, noting what has been happening in the other yards there.

The hoist at Crosshaven Boatyard has been increasingly busy. A crane has appeared for launching boats at Wietze's yard. The movement of boats at all the yards shows that the annual 'launching season' is underway. It has not been happening as early as in other years because of the grim months of Covid, but now the momentum has overcome doubt and migration to the water is well underway. The yards are emptying of their winter populace.

It's been interesting and enjoyable to talk to other owners, discussing the season ahead, how each is getting on with the boat preparations and the big question -, how long before launching.

One of the positive aspects of what might be called 'pre-season' is the level of interest reported from Cork clubs amongst young sailors who've been engaged in training for the past few weeks and of newcomers to the sport.

Youth interest in sailingYouth interest in sailing Photo: Bob Bateman

Cork clubs have been announcing their plans for the restart of racing from next week.

ROYAL CORK YACHT CLUB

At the Royal Cork, National 18s and Mixed dinghies will start racing on Wednesday evening next, June 9. The following night it will be the turn of Keelboats and on Friday night, June 11, non-spinnaker Keelboats will begin whitesail racing. On Saturday, June 12, the Dognose and Miss Betty Trophies are fixed for all Portsmouth Yardstick dinghies and the start of a June league for keelboats is planned. Club facilities will be re-opened and a special weekend is planned for June 19 and 20.

"It is our intention to run the PY1000 Dinghy Race, an Admiral's Chace and we will repeat this theme of special Member's Days in July with the return of the Round The Island Race and then again in August for the Cork300 Tricentenary At Home." This Sunday the Junior Sailing Academy for teenagers starts, with 30 sailors signed up and on Bank Holiday Monday the club is starting 'Try Sailing' a programme to encourage interest in taking up the sport.

The RCYC is also planning to go ahead with its 'Wild Atlantic Cruise' which is scheduled to depart Crosshaven on Saturday, July 10, with the aim to arrive in Bantry the following Saturday.

KINSALE YACHT CLUB

"Competitive sailing is recommencing at KYC is resuming next Wednesday and we have a full calendar of events for the rest of the summer," says Michael Walsh, Kinsale Commodore. "The highlight of our summer will be the Sovereigns Cup from June 23-26. We are hosting the Squib South Coast Championship on July 17/18 and the Dragon Nationals September 2-5/. Our regular Wednesday evening Cruiser racing, Thursday Squibs and Dragons and Friday White Sailing will run in monthly leagues from June through September. We have a full calendar of junior sailing events and we are gearing up to commence the Sailability training in the coming weeks.

MONKSTOWN BAY SAILING CLUB

Monkstown Bay Sailing Club will resume dinghy racing next Tuesday night, June 8. This follows preparatory training series over recent week evenings.

Cork clubs will be getting back racing next week Photo: Bob BatemanCork clubs will be getting back racing next week Photo: Bob Bateman

COVE SAILING CLUB

At Cove SC the club is ready to go with its dinghy racing and cruisers returning to competitive action on the water next week. A lot of work has been done on the marina at Whitepoint and on the club facilities there.

GLANDORE HARBOUR YACHT CLUB

At Glandore Harbour YC fixtures include the Squibs Early League to start on Saturday, June 12 with the Dragon Summer League beginning the following Saturday, June 19. Mixed Dinghy July League Racing is fixed to start on July 4.

BALTIMORE SAILING CLUB

The highlight of the season at Baltimore Sailing Club is Regatta Day on the first Monday in August," according to the club. The 1720s Baltimore Cup is scheduled from July 31 to August 1.

SCHULL HARBOUR SAILING CLUB

Schull Harbour Sailing Club's Cruiser Racing season will start on Saturday of next week, June 12, with the Commodore's Race. Junior Sailing will begin on Saturday, July 4 and run every Saturday morning until late August," according to the club. "Entries for Calves Week from August 3-6 continue to arrive. The event is looking positive."

And that's the best note for the sailing season ahead in Cork – being positive.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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If evidence that Ireland's 2021 sailing season was about to start next week was needed, it was most definitely on display yesterday on Dublin Bay with dozens of different types of sailing cruisers and dinghies taking on a stiff south-easterly breeze and some great waves in anticipation of next week's 'mini training series' in compliance with the latest COVID regulations.

As regular Afloat readers know, after months of planning and preparations  - and some agony - ' race training' is set to begin next week and competition from June 7th at the country's major sailing centres.

Training group of Lasers, Flying Fifteens, RS Aeros, 29ers along with two-handed and fully crewed J109s, B211s, 31.7s and Sunfast 3600s, all enjoying the ideal conditions on the capital's waters.

Boat programmes and crew arrangements are being firmed up not only for June 7th return to competition but also for this month's training period that precedes it. 

May 'training' series

Some of the big clubs are advertising training mini-series from Monday, May 10th with "sailing considered a safe, non-contact sport with no material difference between training and competition".

  • ISORA Training starting 15th May
  • DBSC Training starting 15th May
  • RCYC Training starting 13th May
  • KYC Training starting 12th May

Dublin Bay

On Dubin Bay, DBSC will begin its mini-series from next Saturday, May 15th and it is planned to run training on club night's of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for the next three weeks or "until DBSC is given the approval to start its AIB DBSC summer series".  

ISORA training for June's Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race is also expected to begin on May 15th with news that the National Yacht Club's 320-mile offshore on June 9th is definitely in 'go mode'.

ISORA is likely to continue its coastal racing on either side of the Irish Sea until cross-channel racing can resume. 

Dublin Bay cruiser racing returns to the bay in JuneDublin Bay cruiser racing returns to Dublin Bay in June

Lambay Race at Howth

In Howth, Afloat's WM Nixon has reported the HYC Sailing Committee is considering staging the club's Lambay Race for Saturday, June 12th, when the tides are perfect. And though that new out-of-the-blue date still awaits approval at the General Committee meeting this week, it could well be a runner.

South Coast Sailing

In Cork Harbour, Royal Cork Yacht Club will run Cruiser-racer training each Thursday (May 13th) and Friday evenings starting this week, "It's great to get back on the water",  the Crosshaven Club's CEO, Gavin Deane told Afloat.

Likewise in Kinsale Yacht Club, Commodore Mike Walsh plans cruiser-racer training at the West Cork Harbour from Wednesday evening, May 12th, as preparations continue for the club's confirmed Sovereign's Cup Regatta on June 23rd.  

Return to racing from June

It is expected that in June that the country will continue to open up after COVID and a full racing season can commence from June 7th enabling the D2D Race two days later on June 9th. 

Racing on the South coast then continues later that month with the Sovereigns Cup on 23rd- 26th of June.

Already plans are being hatched to try and retain some of the 11 national and regional championships that were built into the now cancelled Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and more news on that as we have it. 

Sources at Schull Harbour Sailing Club say Calves Week is "definitely on" and confirmation of August's big regatta in West Cork (3rd to the 6th of August) is expected soon.

Later that month, WIORA is scheduled at Fenit in County Kerry from 25th to 28th August.

The National Yacht Club will stage its second big event of the season when the ICRA National Championships is hosted by the East Pier club on September 3rd, with details of the three fleet event released here this week.

3rd to the 6th of August
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Golf and Tennis Doubles competition returns on Monday, May 10th in a further relaxation of Government COVID rules that has not extended to sailing.

Sailing clubs had been urging officials to lobby the Government's Sport Ireland's Expert Group to classify sailing with sports such as golf as a non-contact, outdoor and low-risk activity but there has been no such green light for sailing so far.

The latest Golf Ireland protocols confirm that from next Monday 10th May, golfers will be allowed (1): Casual-play rounds for handicap purposes for members and visitors, with no restrictions on numbers of household per group, and (2): Club competitions for members. 

In tennis, Doubles play involving players from different households is allowed from May 10th. Adult coaching can be delivered in pods of six players per court with four players on court at any one time from May 10th.

Sailing may resume training next week but yacht racing is not permitted until June 7.

Training Mini-Series

As regular Afloat readers know, however, clubs are taking advantage of the permission to train from May 10th with the introduction of training mini-series. Most notably in Dublin, series are underway next week by both Dublin Bay Sailing Club and ISORA,

It's been a frustrating time for the sport over the last ten days attempting to grapple with vague guidelines that have led to some inevitable consequences, including the cancellation of Ireland's biggest regatta

It's a theme taken up discussed by Afloat's WMN Nixon here.

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

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