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Boat Builder Mark Bushe & Restoring a Cork Harbour One Design

15th March 2020
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Mark Bushe at the mast of Elsie shortly after launching her following restoration Mark Bushe at the mast of Elsie shortly after launching her following restoration

What motivates a man to buy a wreck over a hundred years old and decide that he can repair her? Why bother and was he ‘mad’ to think of doing so?

My Podcast this week is with a man who has done just that. He is Mark Bushe who lives in Crosshaven in Cork Harbour and hails from the great Bushe family of boat builders, with links back to Baltimore in West Cork and the legendary, George Bushe, a name revered in boating circles in Cork to this day.

Mark restored a legend of Cork sailing – Elsie – a Cork One Design. – the yachts which, after more than a century are still a major part of Cork sailing history.

cork harbouur one designAn archive photo of the Cork Harbour One Design Imp heading seaward in style. This 1895-96 William Fife design is one of many vintage One-Designs still sailing in Ireland which are of special interest to international boat-building schools Photo: Tom Barker

Their story began in 1895 at the then Imperial Hotel in Monkstown, the village across the River Lee from Carrigaloe on the Great Island, the Cobh side of the estuary, where five men formed a group to get a design for new yachts for Cork Harbour from the famous Scottish yacht designer, William Fife. A contract was agreed with Carrigaloe Gridiron and Works Company for the construction of five boats for the then sum of £79 pounds and 10 shillings, excluding sails and fittings. When the five yachts were built, the owners drew lots for their choice of boat. These were to be known as the Cork One Designs and destined to become a backbone of the story of yacht racing in Cork Harbour.

Cork Harbour One Design Else6Elsie, a restored Cork Harbour One Design Photo: Bob Bateman

Cork Harbour One Design Else4Elsie under full sail in Cork Harbour Photo: Bob Bateman

Cork Harbour One Design Else3Viewed from astern, the restored Cork Harbour One Design Elsie Photo: Bob Bateman

In May of 1999 one of them, Elsie, was vandalised, burned out by vandals and turned into a wreck which Mark Bushe bought a year later. He is my guest on this week’s Podcast and tells of the reaction of his wife when he showed her what he had bought a 100-year-old wreck, which will be one of these great boats sailing again on the waters of Cork Harbour this Summer to mark the 300th anniversary year of the Royal Cork Yacht Club….

Listen to the podcast below

And when you’ve heard the Podcast, this is the situation of the other Cork One Designs as outlined by Mark Bushe:

Elsie (Number 2) is now owned by Cork solicitor, Pat Dorgan and will be racing again this year.

Cork Harbour One Design Else2Restored Cork Harbour One Designs (from left) Maureen, Elsie and Querida in Cork Harbour Photo: Bob Bateman

  • C4, Jap, after many years on the South Coast of England, has been donated by her owner to the Royal Cork YC and will be sailing in Cork this season.
  • C5, Cygnet, returned to her original name of Little Devil, has been restored by Castlepoint Boatyard and may also be seen afloat soon.
  • C6, Maureen, belonging to the Horgan family, will be sailing this year. She was very badly damaged a number of years ago when hit by a Cork Harbour pilot boat, was rebuilt by Hegarty’s Boatyard and Castlepoint Boatyard.
  • C7, Minx, is fully restored and available for a buyer.
  • C8 Querida, George Radley, credited with reigniting of interest in the One Designs, will also be sailing this season.

The other four boats built, C1 Colleen; C3 Imp; C9 Sybil and C10 Betty have been lost or destroyed. Sybil is on the seabed in Kinsale Harbour, its position is known and she is said to be ‘inhabited by a large conger eel'.

Tom MacSweeney

About The Author

Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for Afloat.ie. He also presents the maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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