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A substantial fleet of classic yachts will be racing at Volvo Cork Week, with one entry having a history with the Royal Cork dating back over 100 years. David Aisher's 60ft-George Wanhill designed classic Thalia raced for the Royal Cork Yacht Club in 1890.

Irish Times Sailing Correspondent David O'Brien wrote recently how, in fact, Thalia was the first entry received for the Cork300 celebrations.

Th entry was received within minutes of the official entry system opening.

The biennial regatta week has extra significance next year as it forms a vital part of the Royal Cork’s historic ‘Cork300’ celebrations marking what is claimed to be the oldest yacht club in the world’s tricentenary.

As Afloat reported previously, Thalia will most likely be one of the oldest boats competing. Built in 1888, she was first raced from the Royal Cork Yacht Club, moving to the south coast of England in 1918.

After a more recent stint in the Caribbean, she was bought by David Aisher in 2010 and returns to Crosshaven for an important homecoming.

Published in Cork Week
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Online entry has opened for the 2020 IRC European Championship which will take place in Cork Harbour, Ireland during Volvo Cork Week as part of the unique celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

The 2020 IRC European Championship will be held over five days of racing from Monday 13th July to Friday 17th July during the biennial Volvo Cork Week regatta. The championship is expected to attract a record fleet of highly competitive IRC rated boats vying for the overall win and class honours.

Last month, the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest yacht club in the world, launched its online entry system for the prestigious Volvo Cork Week 2020 regatta which will see hundreds of boats and thousands of yachtsmen and women from around the globe compete on the waters around Cork Harbour from July 13th – 17th.

On the 8th July, prior to Volvo Cork Week and the IRC European Championship, the Morgan Cup Race will start from Cowes, bound for Cork. Organised by the Royal Ocean Race Club since 1958, this will be the first time that the course has been set across the Celtic Sea to Cork. The 324nm race is expected to attract a substantial fleet. A new trophy for Line Honours has been donated by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

Early entries for Volvo Cork Week show the amazing diversity of boats that will be celebrating the Royal Cork Yacht Club’s unique and historic celebration for the tricentennial. One of the most advanced racing yachts ever built will be in action as Irving Laidlaw returns to Volvo Cork Week with his Botin 56 Highland Fling 16. Niall & Olivia Dowling's Ker40+ Arabella is the first entry from the FAST40+ Class with half a dozen carbon flyers expected to be racing. David Collins IRC52 Tala will also be challenging in a red hot big boat fleet.

"Niall & Olivia Dowling's Ker40+ Arabella is the first entry from the FAST40+ Class"

A substantial fleet of classic yachts will be racing at Volvo Cork Week, the first entry has a history with the Royal Cork dating back over 100 years. David Aisher's 60ft George Wanhill designed classic Thalia raced for the Royal Cork Yacht Club in 1890. The 1720 Sportsboat Class is expected to have the largest fleet for many a year. The first entry was received from Conor Clarke who will be sailing under the burgee of the Royal Irish YC.

The Royal Cork Yacht Club has also received the first entries for the Beaufort Cup, open to sailing teams from all over the world representing their associated national services. The first Irish entry for the Beaufort Cup is Denis & Annamarie Murphy Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo (RNLI Crosshaven). The first American entry is Ken Johnson's C&C 121 Grateful Red (US Army/ US Marines). The first British entry is the Royal Navy Sailing Association's J/109 Jolly Jack Tar, skippered by Philip Warwick.

Head of Sevenstar Racing Yacht Logistics, Wouter Verbaak has confirmed that Sevenstar Yacht Transport has partnered with Cork 300 and included special arrangements for yachts requiring shipping to Volvo Cork Week. “Cork has been made a special part of our USA, Med and Caribbean shipping logistics. Planned loading days from Southampton, UK to Cork, Ireland are between 16-30 June, 2020 with return loading days 20-27 July, 2020 in time for Cowes Week. We have FAST40+ yachts and classic yachts already in our plan, with space for more yachts wishing to compete at Volvo Cork Week,” confirmed Verbaak.

Published in Cork300
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The Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest yacht club in the world, today launched its online entry system for the prestigious Volvo Cork Week 2020 regatta which will see hundreds of boats and thousands of yachtsmen and women from around the globe compete on the waters around Cork Harbour from July 13th – 17th.

The world-renowned biennial regatta, first held in 1978, is expected to attract a bumper fleet of entries and will this year incorporate the Irish Cruiser Racing Association National Championships, 1720 European Championships, the Beaufort Cup, a Classic Yacht regatta and the southern championships for the International Dragon Class.

All qualifying boats entered in Volvo Cork Week 2020 will automatically be entered into the ICRA National Championships, the pinnacle of the Irish inshore cruiser racing calendar which will see the Irish National Champion declared.

Volvo Cork Week has historically been regarded as a ‘must-do’ regatta on the international sailing calendar due to its unparalleled reputation for exhilarating competitive racing over a variety of race courses in fair sailing waters and its incredible line-up of post-racing off the water entertainment and social activity.

mariette corkMariette will attend Cork300 celebrations this July Photo: Bob Bateman

This year’s Volvo Cork Week has extra special significance as it forms a key part of the Royal Cork Yacht Club’s historic ‘Cork300’ celebrations marking what is the oldest yacht club in the world’s tricentenary.

Volvo Cork Week Director of Racing, Rosscoe Deasy said: "I look forward to welcoming sailors from around the world to Cork Harbour in 2020 in celebration of the Royal Cork Yacht Club's tri-centennial year. We have a packed schedule and the season's centrepiece will be the renowned Volvo Cork Week in July. Notably, the 2020 regatta will also include championship events such as the IRC Europeans, the ICRA Nationals, the 1720 Europeans and the Beaufort Cup.

1720 racing cork week1720 Euoprean racing will be staged as part of Cork Week Photo: Bob Bateman

“Since 1978, every Cork Week has delivered a unique mix of top-notch competition afloat & top-class entertainment ashore, and next year will be no different. In fact, judging by the interest received and the stories of glory days already being retold, Volvo Cork Week 2020 will set a new standard on both counts. This event has been 300 years in the making, no sailor should miss it.”

Richard Colwell, Commodore of the Irish Cruising Racing Association said, “The ICRA is delighted to be partnering with the Royal Cork Yacht Club to hold the Irish Cruiser Racing National Championships as an integral part of Volvo Cork Week 2020. We encourage all of the cruiser racing fraternity in Ireland to travel and take part in what promises to be an exciting and competitive event, as part of Royal Cork’s broader Tricentenary celebrations. With visitors from countries all over Europe, it is important that Irish Cruiser Racing shows the strength that we have across all classes from White Sails to Cruiser 0 at the National Championships and so contribute to the competitive racing expected.”

A bumper fleet of more than 50 yachts from Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Spain and elsewhere around Europe is expected to compete in the 1720 Sports Boat European Championships as part of Volvo Cork Week 2020. The race committee is particularly pleased to host this European Championship event due in part to the fact that the original idea for the 1720 was conceived by a group of committed racing members of the Royal Cork Yacht Club. This distinctive class of boat also took its name from the year in which the club was founded.

Beaufort Cup racing for Military and rescue teams as part of Cork Week 300 celebrations Photo: Bob BatemanBeaufort Cup racing for Military and rescue teams as part of Cork Week 300 celebrations Photo: Bob Bateman

The third edition of the Beaufort Cup, the prestigious international inter-services sailing regatta, will also be hosted by the Royal Cork Yacht Club with the support of the Irish Defence Forces, during Volvo Cork Week. A specially commissioned perpetual trophy in honour of Sir Francis Beaufort, creator of the Beaufort Scale, will be presented to the overall winner of the regatta which will entail a mix of challenging offshore and tactical inshore racing, including an overnight race around the iconic Fastnet Rock and back to Cork. International teams from their associated national emergency services are invited to compete in this prestigious competition, with the proviso that 50% of each team must be active in the service they represent.
Volvo Cork Week will also host a dedicated Classic Yacht Regatta for the first time in 2020. Classic Yachts from around the globe will sail to Cork to celebrate ‘Where It All Began’ and partake in three days of racing in and outside Cork Harbour. This event will also provide a fantastic viewing spectacle for shoreline onlookers.

Ross DeasyRoss Deasy, Cork Week Regatta Organiser

In addition to this, the International Dragon Class will return to Volvo Cork Week in 2020 following their very successful outing in 2018, to hold their Southern Championships in Cork.
Royal Cork Yacht Club is also delighted to host the recently announced 2020 IRC European Championships, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), during Volvo Cork Week 2020. The Notice of Race and online entry for this much anticipated standalone event offering a varied race programme, with a mixed range of courses set in and around Cork Harbour, is expected to be available shortly.

As always, the atmosphere in Crosshaven, home of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, will be second to none both during and ahead of Volvo Cork Week 2020, with a series of national and international races to Cork taking place in the run up to the five-day regatta.

These include the highly prestigious Morgan Cup race - organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club since 1958 - which will cross the Celtic Sea to Cork for the first time ever with the support of the Royal Yacht Squadron and the Royal Cork Yacht Club. This 324nm race will carry an attractive points-weighting for the 2020 RORC Season Points Championship and is expected to attract a substantial fleet. The line honours winner for this race will be the first recipient of a specially commissioned perpetual trophy graciously donated to the Royal Cork Yacht Club by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, to honour the club’s tricentenary and the close relationship between the United Kingdom, Ireland and its sailing communities.

morehead monaco farnon6Vice-Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club and Cork300 Chairman, Colin Morehead (left) with His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco (centre) and Royal Cork Admiral Pat Farnan

Meanwhile, the historic Kingstown to Queenstown feeder race from Dun Laoghaire to Cobh will take place on July 9th, enhancing the build-up to Volvo Cork Week 2020 with a re-enactment of what is acknowledged as the first-ever offshore race to take place in the British Isles, in 1860.

A competitive fleet will also set sail on an 800nm race from Heligoland, Germany, to Cork, Ireland, on July 4th competing for the Robbe and Berking German Offshore Trophy, arriving ahead in Ireland of the historic Volvo Cork Week 2020.

Vice-Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club and Cork300 Chairman, Colin Morehead, said: “The biennial Cork Week regatta has seen many friendships and memories created since it was first held in 1978. I would encourage everyone to return to Cork Harbour next year and join us in celebrating Where It All Began by participating in Volvo Cork Week 2020 and help restore its status as Europe’s largest fun regatta.

Online entry to Volvo Cork Week 2020 opens here from 10:00hrs Thursday 28th November.

Published in Cork Week

The 2020 IRC European Championship will be held at Cork Week as part of the unique celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

As Afloat previously back as 2016, the 5th edition of the IRC European Championship will take place in Cork Harbour over five days of racing from Monday 13th July to Friday 17th July 2020. The championship is expected to attract a record fleet of highly competitive IRC rated boats vying for the overall win and class honours.

On Wednesday 8th July, prior to the IRC European Championship, the Morgan Cup Race will start from Cowes, bound for Cork. Organised by the Royal Ocean Race Club (RORC) since 1958, this will be the first time that the course has been set across the Celtic Sea to Cork. The 324nm race is expected to attract a substantial fleet and will be a weighted race within the world's largest offshore racing programme, the RORC Season's Points Championship.

"With a large majority of Irish boats already holding IRC Endorsed certificates there is the prospect of many strong Irish entries"

"The Irish IRC fleet are highly competitive and with a large majority of Irish boats already holding IRC Endorsed certificates there is the prospect of many strong Irish entries," commented Director of Rating for IRC, Dr Jason Smithwick. "With this diverse range of boat types racing under the IRC rating system we have been working closely with the Royal Cork Yacht Club to create an exciting and varied race programme with a mixed range of courses. This balance of course types will allow all boats to have a chance and create a fair and interesting event for the competitors. The IRC rating offices have also been working with the organisers to have a thorough programme of equipment inspection to ensure good equipment control before and during the event," continues Smithwick.

Corinthian teams racing small and medium size boats have enjoyed tremendous success in the IRC European Championship. In 2016 the inaugural championship was hosted by the Royal Cork Yacht and was won overall by Royal Cork's Paul Gibbons racing Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge. For the last three championships French teams have won overall. The 2020 IRC European Championship will feature high performance boats, including a number of FAST40+ teams expected to be racing under IRC. Prizes are also awarded to the best Corinthian team, as well as individual IRC Classes.

Overall winners of the IRC European Championship

  • 2016 Paul Gibbons' Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge (Cork, Ireland)
  • 2017 Guy Claeys' JPK 10.10 Expresso 2 (Marseille, France)
  • 2018 Didier le Moal's J/112E J-Lance (Cowes, UK).
  • 2019 Yves Ginoux's Farr 36 Absolutely II (San Remo, Italy)

For the 2020 IRC European Championship, competitors will enjoy wide-ranging and competitive racing afloat, as well as the Royal Cork's unique and historic celebration of their tricentennial.

"We're delighted to welcome the IRC European Championships back in 2020 where the fleet will enjoy a varied programme of races set in and around Cork Harbour," commented Cork Week Director of Racing, Rosscoe Deasy. "Shorter racecourses will be specially laid outside of Roches Point, a wonderful sailing area with open sea conditions and stable winds, while the famous 'Harbour Race' will bring additional navigational and tactical challenges. A 10-14 hour 'Coastal Race' is planned along the treacherously beautiful Irish headlands, providing a demanding test of crew focus and endurance. Admittedly the real test will be found ashore in Crosshaven where only the stoutest of hearts will be able to resist the siren call of the legendary Cork Week craic. It's going to be a great event!"

Published in RORC
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Irish Olympic helmsman Mark Mansfield picks his big (and smaller) events coming up for the Irish cruiser classes in 2020

The 2019 season is only just coming towards its end and already owners and crew are looking ahead at what is in store next year. There are still some good events to finish this season, and among them, the Autumn Leagues in Howth and Royal Cork, The final ISORA race, with the spoils still not decided, the J109 Nationals, the final summer series DBSC races and of course the very popular DBSC Turkey Shoot series.

2019 was very much a front-loaded year with Scottish Series, ICRA Nationals, Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, Sovereigns Cup and Dun Laoghaire Regatta all happening within a seven-week period, and 2020 is not looking a whole lot different.

Below you will see the dates of the bigger events for 2020.

Without a doubt the two standout big boat events next year will be the Round Ireland Race in June and in July, Royal Cork Yacht Club host their special Cork Week, on the Munster club's 300th year anniversary. More on this later.

2020 'Big Boat' events

  • Scottish Series, Tarbert - May 22nd to May 25th (Friday to Monday)
  • Wave Regatta, Howth Yacht Club - May 29th to May 31st (Friday to Sunday)
  • Round Ireland Race, Wicklow SC - Starts June 20th (Saturday)
  • RORC Morgan Cup - Cowes to Cork - Starts July 8th (Wednesday)
  • Cork Week, Royal Cork Yacht Club (300 Year Celebration) - July 13th to July 18th (Monday to Saturday)
  • Calves Week - Schul August 4th to August 7th - (Tuesday to Friday)

Other events that are building numbers are Bangor Week, commencing 25th of June and WIORA week (date not published yet). The very popular ISORA offshore series runs throughout the year and these dates are also eagerly awaited.

Here are some details of each of the larger events:

Scottish Series

Always a very happy hunting ground for Irish boats wishing to sharpen themselves up for the new season. Numbers generally have been dropping for the Scottish Series except for the very popular RC35 class where Irish Boats took all podium places this year. Class 2 in 2020 might also show some increases with the biennial Classic Half-Ton Cup in Cowes bringing the competitive Half Tonners out to play early. This year there were two half tonners—expect more in 2020. Great racing and great pub craic around the beer tent and local pubs.

RC35 ScotlandIrish Boats at 2019 Scottish series RC 35 class Photo: Marc Turner

Wave Regatta

Only a new event in 2018 and is based around the Howth Yacht Club traditional June Bank Holiday Lambay Race. Wave Regatta is held every two years and if 2018 is anything to go by, it will be very well attended in 2020. It comes just a few days after the end of Scottish Series. A variety of courses over the three days, including the very popular round Lambay race. Well organised with great onshore facilities.

Signal 8 WaveJamie Mc William's Ker 40, Signal 8 at Howth's Wave Regatta 2018 Photo: Afloat

Round Ireland Race

The big one. 704 miles from Wicklow to Wicklow, clockwise around Ireland and its islands, turning corners all the way around. It goes from strength to strength. There is a rumour of a very large, very well known Maxi looking at taking on the challenge and the record in 2020. If you only plan to do one full-length offshore race, this is the one to do. I have done five Fastnet Races and I would always pick a Round Ireland over a Fastnet.

For those boats who have competed in the last two events, there is the added bonus of the chance to win a Volvo car for the best Boat over the 2016, 2018 and 2020 races. I’m sure we will be advised of the current pecking order very soon on this.

Niall Dowling Niall Dowling's Royal Irish Yacht club, Ker 43, Baraka GP, the overall winner of the Round Ireland 2018 Photo: Afloat

RORC's Morgan Cup

Rarely do Flagship RORC races end in Ireland, but on the 300th year anniversary of the founding of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the RORC have graciously organised for one of their big races to finish in Cork, as a way of getting UK boats over for the Cork Week 300 regatta.

Approx 90 boats competed in the 2019 Morgan Cup edition this year, won overall by a J109. I suspect you may see some offshore orientated Irish boats decide to include this race in their calendar next year, which also serves as a way to get the boat to Cork in time for the Cork Week 300 Series.

Cork Week 300

From the Height of Cork Week in 2000 when boats competing topped 700, it has fallen somewhat. However, 2020, the 300th Anniversary of the club's founding, is all set to be special and interest from all corners of the world is evident with housing around Crosshaven and Carrigaline already starting to be booked up.

A number of classes are planning to use the week as their European Championships. The 1720 class, who had circa 75 boats at their 2000 event, are planning a big show in 2020 with already 10 boats confirmed from the UK with more likely to follow. A proper event Announcement is expected in September announcing some major classes and profile boats that will be competing.

The 2020 ICRA Nationals is being held as part of Cork week (three days only). Cork Week also incorporates a building fleet for the Beaufort Cup, which is a separate event within the week for associated national services (Army, Naval, Police, Firefighting, Coast Guard etc). This event incorporates an offshore race around the Fastnet and back.

Cork Week 2020 will be one not to miss. White Sail and coastal fleets will be included and the highlight is the all in Harbour race.

FekkesRory Fekkes from Carrigfergus SC, First Class 8—FN-GR8—Overall Winner of Cork week 2018 Photo: Bob Bateman

Calves Week

Numbers have held up very well for Calves Week. In 2019, there were 65 cruisers competing, with very competitive racing over the four days. A mix of windward-leeward courses, around the Islands and the Fastnet race keeps everyone interested. One race a day, with all the crews congregating after racing out in the streets between Newmans and Hackett's pubs. The Apres racing is as important as the racing with many sailors choosing to incorporate family holidays into the week. If you are doing Cork Week, and have not done Calves Week before, maybe you should consider leaving the boat in Cork and sliding down westwards a week or two later.

Rockabill JPK10.80Paul O'Higgins Rockabill VI from the Royal Irish—Winner of Calves week Class One in 2019 

It was while crossing the Atlantic on the Sail Training Brigantine Asgard II during a celestial navigation module of his Naval Service education in 1999 that Barry Byrne had something of an epiphany writes W M Nixon. He’d been introduced to sailing through the welcoming approach of Wicklow Sailing Club in his home town. This led on to joining the Naval Service after he left school.

The thought of transferring to the Army had arisen. Yet it took a long voyage on Asgard II to make the decision for him. His enjoyment of it gave him back his love of sailing and he considered that maybe a career at sea might not be conducive to continuing sailing as a sport.

Thus he changed course, transferring to the Army and a successful career in which he has specialized in technology and served with the UN in peacekeeping missions throughout the world, rising to the rank of Commandant.

In sailing, Barry and his team in the 704-mile Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018 won the Corinthian Class and placed second overall, and then went on to successfully defend the highly competitive Beaufort Cup in Cork Week just two weeks later.

shea and barry byrne2Barry Byrne (right) with his father Shea at Wicklow Sailing Club’s celebration of becoming Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year” 2017. Barry’s captaining of the team which won the inaugural Beaufort Cup in 2016 played a key role in Wicklow SC’s year of achievement. Photo: Angela Higgins

Currently doing an intensive Masters degree in Leadership and Management in the military Staff College at The Curragh, he reflects on how military principles served his team well during last year’s sailing campaign.

While many top sailors achieve success by using proven business administration and motivational means, Commandant Byrne shares the ways in which the success of the J/109 Joker II and her crew might stand up to classic military analysis. He sets the scene:

“Half of the team that competed in the Round Ireland (June 30th) and Cork Week/Beaufort Cup (starting July 16th) had never sailed together before. Like many of us, I had just returned from overseas service with the United Nations in February. We had very little time to put together a campaign aimed at winning two of Ireland’s premier competitions. For this, we used military principles.

Plans are nothing, but planning is everything

General Dwight D Eisenhower is credited with this statement. The point here is that no plan survives first contact with the enemy (or the West Coast of Ireland in a rugged mood). But if you have been through an effective planning process, it will stand to you. We used the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) and Mission Analysis, essentially breaking down the mission ahead of us by factor, deduction and task. This helped in allocating clear areas of responsibility and job ownership in a short timeframe.

misson analysis3It may seem a long way from racing the Atlantic, but a proper Mission Analysis beforehand set the time-limited preparations on the right trac


The first event was the Volvo Round Ireland, and we set ourselves the goal of winning the inaugural Halpin Trophy, the armed forces trophy introduced by Wicklow Sailing Club. We would be up against international military teams, most notably the semi-professional British Soldier team who had their own race yacht, the X41 British Soldier, which went on to win the RORC annual series. We used the principle of SMART goals, with which many readers will be familiar (Editors' Note: SMART is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). This was an ambitious target, but we assessed it as achievable and it focused our efforts.

Weapon of Choice

There is no point assembling a team if you do not have the tools for the job, and thanks to John Maybury, we had our weapon of choice; the seasoned and very successful J109 Joker 2. John is himself an inspirational leader. He is very supportive of the Defence Forces, indeed some of his own crew of longtime friends have enduring connections to the three services.

Focused Training

The training we completed on Joker2 in such a short time had to be very specific. Every training session had a clearly defined goal and timeframe, and we conducted After Action Reviews following every session. We also enlisted the help of a professional coach, Mark Mansfield, who gave our training focus and direction and was a valuable source of knowledge on J109 rig set up. Mark’s experienced insights on the Cork coastal area were particularly helpful in the Beaufort Cup.

mark mansfield4Mark Mansfield in racing mode. The former Olympic sailor and all-Ireland champion provided valuable insights for the Defence Forces’ crew in intensive training and rig-tuning sessions


Much of the preparation involved getting the boat ready. Getting to the start line of a challenging Cat 3 Offshore Race is a marathon in itself. The safety regulations your boat must pass and the training - such as sea survival - is substantial. Clearly defined areas of responsibility (which emerged from our mission analysis) were key.

One secret weapon we had was Flight Sergeant Adrian Mulligan, an aircraft technician who led much of the boat preparation, particularly regarding instruments. Unfortunately, Adrian suffered a back injury prior to the race. Exemplifying the Defence Forces values of loyalty and selflessness, instead of dropping off the campaign completely, he actually increased his contribution shoreside to compensate for being unable to sail.

military ration packs5One of the pre-race preparation areas given special attention was nutrition, food and water. The Military Ration Packs may not be some people’s idea of haute cuisine, but they were exactly what was needed.

He brought another technical member of our race crew, Captain Wietse Buwalda, up to speed with all the instrumentation and power systems on the boat. This was later to prove vital in our success on the water. Other areas we focused on were nutrition, food and water. We had exactly the right amount of high energy military ration pack food, with Sergeant Paddy McGrath and Lt Richie O’Hagan leading the charge here.

Mission command 

Another military principle is mission command. You pick the right person for a job and tell them what needs to be done, but not how to do it. A good friend, Captain Mick Liddy, was my navigator just as I had been his navigator on the last Round Ireland we did together. My brief to Mick was to win the Round Ireland… beyond this, I didn’t second guess him.

Mick Liddy trimming 4279While every crewmember had a primary role, they also took on many other tasks – here, navigator Mick Liddy is on trimming duties shortly after the start.

round ireland downwind7When the going was good. As seen from one of the French competitors, although the sun may not be shining, Joker II is making excellent progress along the south coast.

When we were off the West Coast in those extremely strong and very persistent north to northeast winds which kick up seas of special viciousness, we were way, way, further West than any other team on the racecourse. Joker 2 was enduring the worst of the weather in the hope of being first to find a suggested slight backing of the breeze. It has to be admitted my resolve was tested, but I’m glad to say I managed to keep my mouth shut. A team in the most recent Volvo Ocean Race fell foul of this inter-personal hazard, with the skipper and navigator second-guessing each other, which ultimately led to an overall slowing down and a harsh lesson for themselves and other offshore campaigners.

fastnet rounding8Joker II reaches the Fastnet Rock – the sky may still be blue, but those ominous cloud streaks to the west hint at the fierce headwinds in prospect


Our rough-and-then-some experiences far out to the westward further tested other areas of character.

The Defence Forces core values are Respect, Loyalty, Selflessness, Physical Courage, Moral Courage and Integrity. I saw all of these when things got difficult on the West Coast. Due to a sudden diesel leak and the violent conditions, the interior of the boat had become a hellhole and the cause of seasickness among those who had never succumbed before.

Far from strengthening and sustaining ourselves with all those carefully-selected rations, the team could not even keep water down without vomiting, yet everyone dug deep. Mick and I bailed the diesel out of the bilge with a rag and bucket while the boat was slamming into 35 knots of wind. We trusted the team to run the show while the skipper and nav were down there for several hours. My routine was to fill a bucket of sea-watery diesel, empty it over the side, vomit, go back down and fill another bucket. Every member of the crew was a leader that day. Everyone stayed on the rail. Even at 3 am, team members who had not eaten in 30 hours and were continually being drenched to the core with ice cold Atlantic waves, were volunteering to rotate to the bow. 

jokerII round ireland route9Most crews go off in the Round Ireland Race expecting a fast run down the west coast. But for 2018’s Race, the Atlantic was in a vicious mood with strong to gale northerlies, and Joker II went far to the west in the hope of finding a backing of the breeze suggested by some forecasts. It was a tactic by which they neither gained nor lost, but up off Donegal as the wind slackened, they made some good choices which put them well into the hunt.

It was a brutal two nights. Just a few miles from us, a crew had rescued one of their team who had gone overboard in pitch black horrific conditions. (Editor’s Note: In the stream of information coming through from the Round Ireland fleet, the J/109 Jedi, skippered by Michael Boyd with Kenneth Rumball of Irish National Sailing School as first mate, tersely reported an MOB situation. But very quickly, they followed it with a brief message to the effect that the man overboard was retrieved, there were no injuries, and they were immediately resuming the race. This calm approach was so redolent of the best traditions of offshore racing that the incident became just one of many in a tough race. But happily at the RORC Annual Prize Giving in London in November, that briefly-recorded achievement in the Atlantic received the special recognition it deserved, with Michael Boyd and Kenneth Rumball being awarded the RORC’s Seamanship Trophy).

Barry Byrne continues: While this kind of offshore sailing may sound grim, even dangerous, it is precisely why we do adventurous training in the military; to test leaders at all levels.

My dad always says there are no atheists in a foxhole. I don’t think there was an atheist on Joker 2 that night either. Not when we were in the thick of it, nor when we eventually converged with the fleet off northwest Mayo and checked to see where we had ended up in the rankings. Once we’d crossed Donegal Bay, our navigator continued to resist the temptation to hug the coast, and we were looking good approaching Tory Island.

The Final Stages

When the wind eventually eased, it did the worst possible thing - it died completely. Teams were left in tortuous drifting conditions off the North Coast of Ireland where tides would frequently send you backwards at five knots if local seabed conditions or sheer depth of water prevented kedging.

During this particularly trying time, our electronic instruments died completely, thanks to having taken such a hammering off the West Coast. But Captain Wietse Buwalda, a communications officer, who - as mentioned already - had closely studied the electronic systems with Flight Sergeant Adrian Mulligan prior to the race, effectively rebuilt the system in about four hours of relentless work.

jokerII good progress10When it all started to come right – having finally escaped from the North Coast, Joker II makes good progress down the Irish Sea

As all this went on, a minke whale followed our boat for about 24 hours. I’m not sure if we were delirious with tiredness, but superstition got the better of us, and we took to sacrificing our tastiest treats from our ration packs to Minkie in the hope he would send some wind…

jokerII near finish11One of the most difficult stages was the final 15 miles, with the wind drawing ahead and total concentration needed to get the best out of the boat

And - eventually – he did. We escaped the North Coast with a great spin down the East Coast in twenty knots of favourable breeze. But about fifteen miles from the finish line, we encountered yet more drifting conditions and a nail-biting finish after five days of nonstop racing and minimal sleep. Finally, we got there. The legendary welcome in the wonderful Wicklow Sailing Club was everything I had remembered in previous races.

The fact that we collected the Halpin Trophy meant Mission Accomplished, so it was icing on the cake to get first in the Corinthian Division, first Irish boat and place second overall, in all coming first in four divisions of the 56-strong international fleet of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018.

round ireland result12Military principles and values achieve the desired result

wicklow prize giving13Prize-giving for Joker 2 at Wicklow at the conclusion of the Volvo Round Ireland Race with (back row, left to right) Hal Fitzgerald (Race Director), Denise Cummins (Commodore Wicklow SC), Commandant Barry Byrne, Lt. Alexander Rumball, Capt. Wietse Buwalda and David Thomas of Volvo Car Ireland. Front row (l to r) Cdr Brian Mathews (Commodore Defence Forces SC), Ens. Marcus Ryan, Sgt. Patrick McGrath, and Capt Mick Liddy (Rtd).

Beaufort Cup

It was a hectic turnaround to get the boat ready for the Beaufort Cup in Cork just two weeks later. This was made even busier as I am involved with running the series itself and liaising with all the visiting teams. This was the second iteration of the event, and it was a huge success, involving 160 competitors and 30 Defence Forces sailors, making up 16 teams including the US Marines, UK armed forces and Irish emergency services teams including national champions and Olympians, with eight of the 16 boats being highly competitive J109s.

Central to the Beaufort race programme is the short offshore to the Fastnet Rock, a scenic 24-hour drag race down and back. We didn’t manage to get the lead until the last three hours. Until then, we had been schooled from ahead at different times by Simon Coveney, Stefan Hyde, Youen Jacob, Peter O’Leary and Fastnet expert Tim Goodbody.

However, we’d had a solid night race and our navigator Comdt. Ian Travers made a good decision to split from the pack and go offshore for breeze in the final miles. It was a winning move. My brother Teddy had raced with us for this offshore, and it was a great moment crossing the finish line.

beaufort fastnet finish14After a spot-on tactical call over the final few miles. Joker 2 sweeps across the lines to win the Fastnet Race in the Beaufort Cup series in Volvo Cork Week.

The rest of the week was a tough battle, particularly the last race when we were over the start line and had to go back and re-cross the line in a double points race. But yet again, in adversity true teamwork came into its own. Huge performances were put in by the whole team, notably Ensign Marcus Ryan and Louis Malloy sailing a flawless race to get us back into the fifth position we needed to secure overall victory in the event.”

A €10,000 prize goes to the winning Beaufort Cup team, and we gave €5,000 of this to Crumlin Children’s Hospital in Dublin, while the other €5,000 went to the RNLI, something special for us as the Baltimore RNLI crew skippered by Youen Jacob had run us a very close second in the overall series in Cork.

In summary, military tools for campaign planning combined with values of teamwork and resilience stood to the Defence Forces sailing team throughout last year’s ambitious campaign”.

beaufort prizegiving15Mission accomplished. Joker II’s team with the Beaufort Cup include (left to right) Cpl. Brian Phelan (Rtd), Louis Malloy, Ens. Marcus Ryan, Commandant Barry Byrne, Malcolm Moir, Capt. Ian Travers (Rtd), David Thomas of Volvo Car Ireland, Lt. Richie O’Hagan, and Sgt Patrick McGrath

Published in W M Nixon

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer, Mission Blue Foundation

Volvo Cork Week 2018 has been awarded Gold Certification by the International ‘Sailors for the Sea’ Clean Regatta programme with the event sustainability partners MaREI Centre for Marine & Renewable Energy and An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme.

The Clean Regattas programme is the world’s only sustainability certification for water-based events. The initiative helps people run more environmentally friendly events to protect local waters and beyond, raising the bar for ocean health around the world. “We are thrilled to support Volvo Cork Week in their efforts to educate participants on environmental protection by serving as a model for responsible sailing” says Robyn Albritton, Sustainability Director, Sailors for the Sea.

The world’s oceans are in crisis. Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean from land and 40% of the oceans are heavily affected by human activity, including pollution, overfishing, destructive fishing practices and the loss of coastal habitats.

For Volvo Cork Week the Royal Cork Yacht Club implemented a range of Clean Regattas Best Practices to reduce the environmental impact, including the provision of reusable water bottles and hydration stations, compostable food and coffee containers, paper straws, energy conservation, online registration forms and an information campaign on reducing single-use plastics and marine litter.

Aoife Deane, Communications & Public Engagement Manager for MaREI said “our collaboration with Clean Coasts on supporting Volvo Cork Week in their efforts to run a cleaner, greener, regatta represented an important opportunity for us to engage the sailors and members of the public on sustainability issues such as ocean degradation, marine litter and plastics”

The Royal Cork Yacht Club is dedicated to protecting the waters on which we sail.

Published in Cork Week
Tagged under

July 2018 will go down in Irish sailing history as one of the busiest months ever experienced, including as it did the Volvo Round Ireland Race and Volvo Cork Week.

In this exceptionally busy period, Commandant Barry Byrne of the Defence Forces was arguably the most active sailor on our seas, as he skippered the Irish Defence Forces on the J/109 Joker 2 to second overall and victory in the Corinthian Division of the Round Ireland Race, and in Cork Week he not only played a key role in organizing the highlight event, the Beaufort Cup series for services crews, but he successfully defended it, again skippering Joker 2.

Published in Sailor of the Month

With the best score of any of the 120 boats over the past week, Rory Fekkes’ Fn’Gr8 (Carrickfergus Sailing Club) has been confirmed as the overall winner of Volvo Cork Week following an intense three-race final day. The Antrim boat was a convincing overall winner to the week despite several other strong performances in other classes but Fekkes had accumulated an impressive 19-point lead in his eleven-boat fleet.

Read more on this in W M Nixon's Cork Week review here.

Cork week prizegiving11Rory Fekkes of Carrickfergus SC, with David Thomas, MD of Volvo Ireland, at the prize-giving ceremony Photo: David Keane

F'N'Gr8 Rory FekkesRory Fekkes’ Fn’Gr8 (Carrickfergus Sailing Club) was the overall winner Photo: Bob Bateman

“Best week ever! It’s the closest racing we’ve ever had,” Fekkes said even before learning of his overall event win. “We were hoping to get the overall win so we kept going to the end even though we only had sixth place to discard.” As for the 300th anniversary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club in 2020, Fekkes reckons “It’s a class event so we’ll be back!”

"Fekkes had accumulated an impressive 19-point lead in his eleven-boat fleet"

A thrilling climax transpired on the final day of Volvo Cork Week with numerous classes decided in the very last race of an exciting and fun-filled regatta. With all of the IRC Classes and the Beaufort Cup hanging in the balance, three races were held for most of the classes. The high pressure, that had delivered warm weather all week, had changed to 12 knots of cold moist air from the Atlantic.

Beaufort Cup

Cork week prizegiving10The Irish Defence Forces crew show their delight after receiving the Beaufort Cup from David Thomas, MD of Volvo Ireland, at the Volvo Cork Week prize-giving ceremony 2018 Photo: David Keane

Cork week prizegiving4Youen Jacob of Baltimore RNLI

After over 40 hours of intense racing, Barry Byrne's Irish Defence Forces team, racing J/109 Joker 2, have successfully defended the Beaufort Cup. Youen Jacob's Baltimore RNLI team, racing J/109 Juggerknot, put the defending champions under serious pressure, taking the gun for the first race on the last day, but finished runner-up by just two points. Simon Coveney's Irish Defence Forces Team, racing Jedi, recovered from a starting penalty in the first race of the day to make a tenacious comeback taking the final podium spot for the Beaufort Cup, just ahead of Denis & Annamarie Murphy's Crosshaven RNLI team, racing Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo.

“We’re over the moon, it’s more than we ever dreamed of,” said Byrne. “It’s a tough event to win, especially against the calibre of people we were up against – Olympians, All-Ireland champions and people like Tim Goodbody and other great sailors.”


Cork week prizegiving6Frank Whelan of Greystones Sailing Club takes the IRC One prize Photo: David Keane

Frank Whelan's Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera (Greystones SC) staged the 'come back of Volvo Cork Week'. On the penultimate day, Eleuthera had scored two victories to move up to third and then smashed out three straight bullets today to win the class. Whelan's young Greystones dinghy crew were the most adept at turning corners on the inshore courses today.  Eleuthera crew boss Paddy Barnwell told 'A combination of Olympic and windward leeward really suited the boat and crew, and as always we got some good breaks. The crew pulled liked dogs and really smashed it!" 

Jay Colville's First 40 Forty Licks (East Down YC), which had led for much of the regatta was runner-up, and Jonathan Anderson's J/122 El Gran Senor (Clyde Cruising Club) was third.


Dunlop & Cox's J/108 Mojito (Pwllheli SC) won the last two races of Volvo Cork Week to climb from third to first for a dramatic class win by a single point from Ronan Harris' J/109 Jigamaree (Royal Irish YC). Brian & Mary Jones J/109 Jelly Baby (Royal Cork YC) could well have won the class, save a steering problem in the penultimate race, which put the local team back to third, just two points away from victory.

IRC Three

Cork week prizegiving5Ronan Enright of RCYC Photp: David Keane

There was high drama from the start with the overnight leader, Jonny Swan's Half Tonner Harmony (Howth YC), disqualified in a Black Flag start at the beginning of the last day. Ronan & John Downing's Half Tonner Miss Whiplash (Royal Cork YC), took full advantage taking a bullet in the first race of the day and scoring a second place in the final race to clinch the class. Kieran Collins Olson 30 Coracle IV (Royal Cork) was third. A special mention to Volvo Cork Week's biggest fans, Paul & Deirdre Tingle's X-34 Alpaca (Royal Cork YC), which finished the regatta in style with a win in the last race.

IRC Four

Fn'Gr8 (Carrickfergus SC) was the winner, James Mathews' Ed Dubois Diamond (RCYC/KYC), won a close battle for runner up from Paddy Kyne's X-302 Maximus, who was third, just a point ahead of Denis Byrne's Trapper 25 Cracker (Royal Cork YC).

Desmond, Ivers and Deasy's Sunfast 32 Bad Company (Royal Cork YC), finished Volvo Cork Week with a win in the last race for the IRC Coastal Class, but the class win went to Denis Hewitt's Mills 37 Raptor (Royal Irish YC), which dominated the class winning three out of five races. Steve Hayes' Magic Touch (BSC/GSC) scored a second today to move up to runner-up for the regatta. Patrick Burke's First 35 Prima Luce (Royal Irish YC) was third.

Non Spinnaker

Cork week prizegiving3Capt Pat Farnan, RCYC Admiral, makes the presentation to Clodagh O'Donovan of RCYC Photo: David Keane

In IRC 1 Non-Spinnaker, Broadhead, Collins & Stuart's Sigma 38 Persistance (Royal Irish YC) won the first race of the day to extend their lead, but Aidan Heffernan's Dehler 36 Indulgence (Schull Harbour SC), answered the call with two race wins to take victory in the class by a single point. Clodagh O'Donovan's Roaring Forties (Royal Cork YC) scored three podium finishes today, to place third for the regatta.

Cork week prizegiving2Pat Vaughan of RCYC

In IRC 2 Non-Spinnaker, there was a photo-finish, as the top three boats, all from the Royal Cork YC, finished the regatta with the same score. After discard, Tom McCarthy's Impala 28 Whistlin' Dixie, was still on level points with Pat Vaughan's Contessa 33 Aramis. Whistlin' Dixie was declared class winner by virtue of more first places in the 8-race series. The O'Mahony's Hanse 31 Loch Greine (Royal Cork YC), which had led for much of the regatta, was just a point of the win in third place, after discard.

Cork week prizegiving7Katie Collis of Royal Cork Photo: David Keane

Cork week prizegiving1Max Coveney with Rachel, Hannah and Daniel Akarlind are all smiles after receiving their jackets Photo: David Keane

1720s & Dragons

The International Dragon enjoyed three races today. Their respective Southern Championships will conclude tomorrow. Daniel Murphy's Serafina (Kinsale YC) leads the class but the second day of the championship belonged to Peter Bowring's Phantom (Royal St.George YC), which scored a 2-2-1 today elevating the team to second for the series. Cameron Good's Littla Fella (Kinsale YC) is third. After five races, Anthony O'Leary's Antix (Royal Cork YC) is the clear leader for the 1720 Southern Championship. Brian Twomey's Dark Side (Royal Cork YC) is second after scoring three podium finishes today. Brook & Griffith's Luvly Jubbly (SCYC & PSC) is third. Racing for the 1720 and International Dragon Southern Championships will conclude tomorrow, Saturday 21st July.

Click for's Cork Week 2018 coverage in one handy link 

Published in Cork Week
Tagged under

If you set out to explain to a stranger to sailing everything that has been going on afloat and ashore at Volvo Cork Week 2018 (and we refer only to the official events), then you’d find yourself warbling away until Christmas and beyond writes W M Nixon.

Admittedly it may often seem like that in this comment section in any case. But in the matter of Cork Week in all its manifestations over the years, we carry a lot of baggage, having raced in the very early first mini-version which was staged in 1970 as part of the Royal Cork’s Quarter Millennial celebrations.

Following that, after 1974 when the RCYC opened the first stage of its new marina, the club could put on the welcome in a big way, and fresh possibilities were revealed with hosting ISORA Week 1976 at Crosshaven. Thanks in part to that, from 1978 onwards, the biennial RCYC Cork Week was born.

At its height in terms of numbers, the fleets were prodigious. But that was before the age of a cash-rich time-poor society, when doing anything for more than four days is seen as being too much of the long haul, with life today lived as a tasting menu of sports and recreations, changing almost from day to day and almost certainly from one weekend to the next.

classic cork conditions2Classic Cork conditions – Class I race seawards
As well, for cruiser-racers, the “Ryanair effect” has surely played a role in reducing active numbers in Ireland. Back in the day when Cork Week was young, only an elite few kept their boats in the Med. It cost a lot to get there, and facilities were relatively sparse.

Yet now, if you get to a harbour in Croatia or Northwest Spain or Malta or wherever via one of the many cheap flights, you might well find more Irish cruiser-racers in active use than you do at home. There are also those who have copped on to the fact that the government-subsidised marinas in France (thanks to its heavily-taxed citizens) offer extremely good value. And like all those other places mentioned, the very fact of being on your boat in those distant places means you really are on holiday, whereas at home, even when on a boat it’s difficult to drop life’s everyday hassle.

Then, of course, the weather is another factor, with us now having to deal with the notion that too much “good” weather is actually very bad for Ireland and her economy. People managed to elude going into work in the recent heatwave, while our agricultural industry is much distressed. The fact is, the last thing we need is a Mediterranean climate, and if you want to sail in one, it’s much better that you have to go there to find it.

eleuthera racing3Frank Whelan’s Grand Soleil 44 from Greystones SC is an impressive looking machine, and she finished the Week in impressive style with the Class I win. Boat captain Paddy Barnwell told Afloat 'A combination of Olympic and windward leeward really suited the boat and crew on the last day. The crew pulled liked dogs and really smashed it!
But in this time of rapid change, you have to makes some allowances for those of us who knew Cork Week when it was the liveliest sailing show in Europe. In the early 1990s, we’d a 35ft cruiser-racer which really did the business of being able to race and cruise, and when we went to Cork Week it was in the expectation of living on board, and somehow making the boat race-ready each morning.

We rather looked down our noses at those hyper-keen owners who rented a house in the village to accommodate their crew, and kept their boat in a stripped-out full-on racing conditions. Nevertheless, when I woke up one morning and found that there were eleven people sleeping aboard a boat which had only seven berths, there was a feeling that maybe things were going a bit too far. But we grabbed breakfast, piled superfluous gear onto the pontoon, and went out to race in heavy weather, getting fifth out of 25 in a reasonably competitive class.

Then it was ashore to hit the scene in the compound, the complete regatta village. We’d all sorts of passes to allow us to go everywhere within it, but when I had to go out the front gate on the Friday night, the security man asked me did I realize that everything indicated I hadn’t gone beyond the confines of the compound for the entire week. After due thought, it didn’t really surprise me at all.

But these days, we seem to have a Volvo Cork Week which, for the early part of the week at least, had two distinct focal points. The main scene is still in Crosshaven, but for one night – Tuesday – the glitzy bit was further up the harbour in the time-hallowed surroundings of the Naval Base in Haulbowline, where they held a Gala Dinner for all the Beaufort Cup competitors.

barry byrne and mate4Even when you’ve been racing round the Fastnet Rock the night before, the full dress uniform does wonders for the look of a man – Beaufort Cup winner Commandant Barry Byrne (left) and one of the visiting skippers at the Gala Dinner on Haulbowline Photo Bob Bateman
As they’d been racing round the Fastnet the night before, maybe it was excusable that some of the civilian participants made a rather feeble effort at complying with the black tie requirement. But the naval, military and air force types cleaned up a treat with some very classy dress uniforms in evidence, stylishly reinforcing the evening’s purpose of celebrating camaraderie and the challenges of offshore racing in surroundings about as different as you can get from the spooky atmosphere which surrounds the Fastnet Rock as night comes on.

The next day, it was back to the racing with the pressure on for those afloat, but there was also an opportunity to see how our predictions from a week ago were holding up, and as the series progressed through its early days, the results were very encouraging for the soothsaying department.

But that said, you’d need to have been a stubborn contrarian to expect anything other than success for Rory Fekkes’ little all-black F’nGr8 from Carrickfergus in Class 4, which came to Cork laden with successes from the Scottish Series in May, the Howth Wave regatta in June, and the Bangor Town Regatta at the beginning of July.

fekkes racing5The little black wonder – Rory Fekkes Quarter Tonner F’nGr8 from Carrickergus SC was bought for just eight thousand snots, and transformed into a champion
fekkes again6Rory Fekkes in the Harbour Race – the complete new suit of sails probably cost a good bit more than the bargain boat did in the first place

The boy has form, as tipsters would say – his father Paul was International GP14 World Champion in 1991, and Rory is no slouch himself on the dinghy circuit. But with this little keelboat which he bought in need of TLC for 8,000 sterling, he seems to have found the perfect outlet for Northern Irish technological ingenuity, and she has given a performance of almost chilling excellence in a class which is by no means lacking in boats of known high performance, discarding a sixth to finish first at 9.0pts, out of sight on James Matthews’ Kinsale-based Dubois Quarter Tonner Diamond on 26 points, with Paddy Kyne’s X-302 Maximus from Howth just one point behind in third.

From northern waters, we also mentioned Jonathan Anderson’s impressive J/122 El Grand Senor from Scotland as one to watch in Class 1, and she likewise has risen to the challenge. But a boat from within Strangford Lough which had to be content with third in class at Bangor, Jay Colville’s First 40 Forty Licks, was also tipped and she found new speed at Cork with the likes of Russell McGovern in her crew, and was right there at the top of the podium. However, in Friday’s final races, Frank Whelan’s very swift Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera from Greystones seldom put a foot wrong to notch three wins to take the overall prize, with Forty Licks second and El Grand Senor third.

When the fleet is usually in several classes that seem to be going every which way, there’s something very reassuring about a big come-all-ye event which sends everyone across the same starting line at the same time to race round the same course, and Cork Week’s cherished Harbour Race on the Wednesday does that in style.

It could be a Race Officer’s nightmare, but PRO Jack Roy (El Presidente to his friends) was taking no nonsense. After one false start, the back flag rule was invoked, they were as good as gold, and in an intriguing event, a Howth boat took first overall, while another one was third.

jack roy beard7“El Presidente” – Cork Week PRO and Irish Sailing President Jack Roy in a previous existence when he sported a beard. Photo courtesy National YC
You may think I make a point of this because Howth is my home port. But on the contrary, it’s because it’s such an odd outcome. Howth is an artificial harbour on the end of a peninsula jutting out into the Irish Sea, and its race courses are set between two islands well clear of the coast. In other words, Howth boats race at home on courses about as different as humanly possible from the twists and turns and mud-hopping of Cork’s in-harbour course. Yet Jonny Swan from Howth with the pretty little classic Half Tonner Harmony came first in the Harbour Race, and while Rory Fekkes was second, Paddy Kyne from Howth with the X-302 was third ahead of Jay Colville in Forty Licks in fourth, the Simon Coveney crew in the J/109 Jedi in fifth, and Barry Byrne of the Defence Forces sixth in Joker II.

harmony running8Jonny Swann’s Half Ton Classic Harmony, overall winner of the Harbour Race and second in Class 3
In other words, although Wednesday’s Harbour Race may be considered something of a fun event, those results are very much for real - these are serious contenders. And for Thursday and yesterday’s concluding races, it was back to set courses, Olympic stuff and all that, so how did it all pan out?

Well, for a while it looked as though Harmony would hang onto the overall lead in IRC 3 as well, but Jonny Swan was too eager on Friday morning and got the black flag, and in the afternoon he was fifth. But meanwhile the local Andrieu-designed Half Tonner Miss Whiplash (Ronan & John Downing) was in very smooth form, taking a first and second to move into a two point lead over Harmony in second, while Kieran Collins’ very interesting Olson 30 Coracle IV (a Californian speed design which originated in 1978, believe it or not) was third.

miss whiplash9There she is – gone………Ronan & John Downing’s Half Tonner Miss Whiplash snatched the Class 3 lead with great sailing on the final day

olson 30 coracle10One of the most interesting boats in the regatta, Kieran Collins’ 1978-designed Olson 30 Coracle IV was lying second in Class 3 until Miss Whiplash lived up to her name on the final day
So much attention was focused on the many J/109s in the Beaufort Cup series (with which we conclude this report) that it’s easy to overlook the fact that several others sister-ships were racing as standard entrants in Class 2, and this concluded with a battle for the class overall win between two of them, Ronan Harris’s Jigamaree from the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire, and the 2017 ISORA Champion Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop, Pwllheli SC). In the end, Mojito got it by a whisker, 14 pts to Jigamaree’s 15, which in turn was just one point ahead of sister ship Jelly Baby (Brian & Mary Jones, Royal Cork YC).

Come Thursday, and the One Designs came out to play - the 1720s and International Dragons - modern-looking boats you might well think, of a recent type. But in the case of the Dragon, you’d be much mistaken. Our main page for the night of Thursday July 19th and the morning of Friday July 20th had a sunny photo of the Dragons racing at Cork juxtaposed with the classic gaff ketch Maybird finishing the Round Ireland Race. Modern and ancient, you might well have thought. But the fact is the Dragon design by Johan Anker of Norway first appeared in 1929, while the design of Maybird by Fred Parker first appeared as Aideen in 1934, then was refined to become Maybird in 1937.

1720s and dragons11One Design bliss - a pair of 1720s frame the International Dragons
But while Maybird has remained true to her roots, the only thing still original about the Dragon (which was first conceived as a small cruiser-racer) is the hull shape – everything else has been changed, and she still seems as modern as tomorrow. Certainly the class got a tremendous welcome back to Crosshaven, where they used to be very strong in the 1950s and 60s, and by yesterday evening’s conclusion, the overall winner was Daniel Murphy’s Serafina from Kinsale, with Peter Bowring’s Phantom (RIYC) second and Cameron Good’s Little Fella (KYC) third.

As for the 1720s, which originated in Crosshaven in 1994 and take their name from the RCYC’s foundation date as the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork, we mentioned in Tuesday’s story, in reference to the classic 50ft sloop Northele recently bought by Anthony O’Leary, that for Volvo Cork Week, he’d be racing his 1720 Antix. He has indeed been doing that, and with a real flourish – four firsts and a second to put him out of sight on second-placed Dark Side (Brian Twomey) with the Welsh boat Luvly Jubbly third.

dragons racing12There’s something about the way an International Dragon sails to windward that speaks to all sailors

At a perhaps slightly more leisurely pace, a select group of ten boats chose to sail the entire regatta on daily coastal courses, though they also did the Harbour Race. Overall, they’d a historic winner – Denis Hewitt & partners of the RIYC on the Mills 36 Raptor, which was originally Aztec, built in 1996 by David Harte and Garrett Connolly for Peter Beamish. With a crew including Fintan Cairns, Nobby Reilly and Barry Rose, we can be quite sure that many issues had been fully discussed by this gathering of the Wise Men by the time Raptor concluded her successful series on a scoreline of 3,1,1,1, & 4.

Cork week raptorDenis Hewitt & partners of the RIYC on the Mills 36 Raptor

While all the One Design racing was getting into gear in the final two days, the Beaufort Cup was reaching its climax. This inter-services event now outshines everything else in Volvo Cork Week, and it has acquired such momentum it virtually has a life of its own. Although 2016’s inaugural staging was impressive, 2018’s has blown everything else away in its ability to capture popular imagination, and the way that the outcome went contested right to the end.

So what more can we say about Commandant Barry Byrne’s achievement in retaining the trophy? One of my favourite skippers always says that he would rather be lucky than good, and while I never discussed with him whether he meant good by moral or performance standards, every racing sailor knows exactly what he means.

Either way, in the Beaufort Cup, Barry Byrne and his Defence Force’s team sailing John Maybury’s J/109 Joker 2 carried off the Houdini act more than once, starting his campaign by coming from behind to win the Fastnet Race by four minutes and 11 seconds on the water, and then going on through the week to fight off challenges from Youen Jacob with the Baltimore RNLI in Andrew Alegeo’s J/109 Juggerknot, Tanaiste Simon Coveney and his Defence Forces crew on the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi, and Dennis & Annamarie Murphy and the Crosshaven RNLI on their Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo.

joker wins13It may be only a blurry screen grab, but this was Joker 2 sweeping into Cork Harbour to win the Fastnet Race by four minutes and 11 seconds on the water, giving a mighty boost to Commandant Barry Byrne and his crew in their quest to retain the Beaufort Cup

The pressure was kept up to the very end. With three race sailed yesterday (Friday), Youen Jacob gained a point with a first to Byrne’s second in the first race. But then Barry Byrne got back in the saddle with first in the second race while Jacob was fourth.

While the Byrne crew were ninth in the final race which was won by Tim Goodbody with Simon Coveney second, Youen Jacob was held back to sixth, and Commandant Barry Byrne and his crew had retained the Beaufort Cup only a fortnight after winning the Corinthian Division and taking second overall in the Volvo Round Ireland Race.

So there it goes, Volvo Cork Week 2018. Nail-biting finish to the Beaufort Cup with victory again for Barry Byrne, and a complete tour de force by Rory Fekkes and his little black boat from Carrick. Roll on 2020 and the Tricentenary.

summertime cork harbour14Summertime and sails on Cork Harbour, as it has been for three hundred years and more. Roll on 2020 and the Royal Cork Tricentenary……… Photo Robert Bateman

Fireworks at Cork WeekFireworks mark the conclusion of 2018's Cork Week at Crosshaven  Photo: Bob Bateman

Click for's Cork Week 2018 coverage in one handy link 

Published in W M Nixon
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