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The 2018 ICRA Championships has again fallen victim to the strong winds on Galway Bay this morning.

The 53-boat fleet gathered in Galway Docks have been waiting for a break in the weather since Wednesday for the first ever staging of the combined WIORA and ICRA Championships by Galway Bay Sailing Club.

The Race team headed by two International Race Officers Alan Crosbie and David Lovegove now aim to complete a series of three championship races on the final day of racing tomorrow, Saturday, with a first gun at 0925.

ICRA Yachts Galway docks 0025ICRA yachts at Galway Docks Photo:

However, should winds abate, there is some frustration over the restricted access to the race area due to the opening times of Port of Galway lock gates that is beyond the control of the championship organisers.

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The Galway Bay based Marine Institute has presented competitors in the 54–boat ICRA Cruiser Racer National Championships currently being hosted by Galway Bay Sailing Club with a large A1 sized full colour poster illustrating the seabed imagery of the Bay derived from INFOMAR Mapping, the national seabed mapping programme undertaken jointly by Marine Institute and Geological Survey of Ireland.

Galway Bay is one of the first Irish coastal inlets to have been fully mapped by INFOMAR.

While the data are primarily used for safe navigation and shipping, they also provide invaluable information for fisheries management, environmental conservation, and strategic development programmes.

While as sailors we rely on our admiralty charts, pilot books, and more increasingly on our digital navigation software apps to get us safely around the coast, this modern era of seabed mapping data now enables production of high resolution oceanographic models, and reliably predictive tides and currents.

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The first race of the ICRA Championships in Galway has been cancelled today due to strong winds on Galway Bay.

The 54-boat fleet, moored in Galway Docks, was expecting an early start and as many as four races this morning after Wednesday's opening races of the WIORA championships were also cancelled due to strong winds.

Race officersThree of Ireland's six international race officers at Galway Docks for the ICRA National Championships. From left, Olympic Race Officer Jack Roy who is attending in his capacity as Irish Sailing President and Alan Crosbie and David Lovegrove, both of whom are officiating at the cruiser–racer championships Photo:

The Galway Bay Sailing Club race management team are keeping a close eye on weather forecasts to complete a minimum of three races in order to constitute a championships series by Saturday.

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With three-times-in-a-row class champion Joker 2 (John Maybury, Royal Irish YC) set to defend her title for an unprecedented fourth time, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association Nationals in Galway next week will be making history at least twice over in its first staging at the heart of the Atlantic seaboard. W M Nixon sets the scene.

The western rampart which is Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard is imbued with a truly heroic quality. Thrusting into an often hostile ocean, it can be totally off the scale of normal experience, and inevitably it has produced seafarers whose achievements continue to astonish the rest of us.

From ancient times, we think of St Brendan the Navigator and other voyaging monks. Myth and actuality may intertwine in the myriad stories of who did what and when, but there’s no doubting that such people did exist, and they definitely sailed long distances in small craft. It is also suggested that in 1492 in his pioneering Transatlantic voyage, Christopher Columbus had a sailor from Galway, one William Ayres, in his crew. And in a slightly more recent era, who could be more modern - a true role model for our times - than Granuaile, Grace O’Malley herself, the fearless Pirate Queen of Connacht, a magnificent woman who preferred to live afloat?

irelands atlantic coast2Not a place to be trifled with – Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard

Set against such legends, it might seem to be stretching things to make modern comparisons. But there’s no doubting that today’s sailing achievements by Connacht mariners are much greater than the area’s population would lead us to expect. Think of what has been done on the oceans by Jarlath Cunnane of Clew Bay in Mayo. Or Bill King of Galway Bay itself. And more recently, we have the unsinkable successes against the adversity of Enda O'Coineen

enda ocoineen pirate3When everything becomes permissible – Enda O’Coineen on his return to Les Sables d’Olonne in April after completing his two-stage two-boat voyage round the world
There’s something very special in the air west of the Shannon. So from time to time, it behoves the Irish sailing community to acknowledge this, and one effective way to do so is to stage the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Association National Championship in a truly western venue.

And where better than in Galway city itself, where you’ve excellent sailing and racing water as soon as you exit through the dock entrance? That said, selecting a venue and format for the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Nationals is always a real challenge in itself. And to solve it, there are those who say the simple option would be to incorporate the championship in Volvo Cork Week or the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in one year, depending on which one is being staged, and then in other years have it within the Wave Regatta in Howth, or the Sovereign’s Cup in Kinsale.

galway dock4Galway Harbour in festive mood

But this almost entirely misses the point of what a National Championship is all about. All major sailing events are special. Yet a National Championship is extra special. It ultimately confers a recognised title on the winners and implies that certain strict standards have been met in the staging of the series.

Regattas, or more relaxed events like the Calves Week in West Cork during the past four days, tend to put the social side on a par with the sailing. However, in a National Championship, the sailing is paramount, even in hyper-hospitable Galway. Thus although some of the smaller One-Design classes in the enormous Dun Laoghaire Regatta do designate their racing as their Leinster Championship or even their National Championship, it would be an embarrassment if the many cruiser-racers involved were to find that they were sharing their racing with competitors who saw themselves as seeking that extra edge which the Nationals require.q

kenny read galway5Galway works its crazy magic with everyone – this is top American skipper Kenny read exiting Galway Docks to sail on in the Volvo Ocean Race. Photo VOR

In fact, the organisers of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta have made it clear that the last thing they need on their very crowded agenda is the extra burden of a full-on National Championship. So a format in time and place has to be found whereby the more serious cruiser-racer enthusiasts in ICRA can have their demands for a genuine stand-alone National Championship met, and at the same time they have to accommodate the fact that dedicated cruiser-racer ownership now extends far beyond the Cork-Dublin axis on which ICRA was founded back in 2002, when the initial meeting was held in the Granville Hotel in Waterford, and the first conference was staged in Kilkenny.

In 2018, life is moving so fast that 2002 is indeed a different country. Back then, the Cork-Dublin focus agreed between ICRA founders Jim Donegan and Fintan Cairns carried its own irrefutable logic at the time in terms of boat numbers and distribution. And in any case, they and their supporters could more or less make up their own scenario as they went along, for in the intense world of dinghy and inshore keelboat competition, the young Turks – male and female alike - tended to dismiss the cruiser fleet contests as “truck racing”, seeing it as something which they could approach with little seriousness, if they bothered with it at all.

Fast forward sixteen years and the scene is very different. A classic case in point, analysed in detail here recently in, is the way in which the dinghy sailors of Greystones have created a dynamic interaction with owner-skipper Frank Whelan to make the Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera into one of the hottest boats on the Irish coast in 2018. Not only one of the hottest cruiser-racers of the season, but a matter of intense interest to keelboat and dinghy sailors alike.

Xp50 freya6The largest entrant in the ICRA Nats in Galway will be Conor Doyle’s new Xp50 Freya from Kinsale (photo of prototype)
As for generally introducing people to sailing, ICRA has been a pace-setter. Former ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly of Howth was an early experimenter with various Try Sailing ventures which became test runs for Irish Sailing. He was very keen to increase the crew pool with Sailing Introductory Days, knowing that from such a pool would come both new owners and new sailors. But he knew well that in modern life with its many distractions and rival attractions, cruiser-racing would have to make itself much more welcoming, much more beginner-friendly, in order to attract newcomers, and - more importantly - to keep them with the sport.

All of this was going on while the elephant in the room was growing ever larger. This particular elephant is the fact that cruiser fleets are increasing along the Atlantic seaboard, and if ICRA really is the national cruiser racing association, then from time to time the venue for its nationals has to reflect this with a major western fixture.

An acknowledgement of this was made when the 2013 Nationals were staged in Tralee Bay. It fitted in well with the annual programme as it came close on the heels of the biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race. But unfortunately the weather was very poor, and though the gallant Bob Bateman got some spectacular images when the sun was showing between giant rain-squalls, many races were lost altogether, and they barely mustered the quota to get a result.

icra nats tralee bay7Sunshine between the squalls – the ICRA Nats 2013 at Tralee Bay briefly enjoyed conditions like this. Photo: Bob Bateman
Since then, the annual ICRA Nats have been confined to venues between the Old Head of Kinsale on the South Coast, and Lambay island on the East. Yet as each local sailing centre continues to actively promote its own time-honoured regatta, finding a space to fit in an ICRA Nationals – with all its required resources of qualified administrative personnel – has sometimes been challenging.

And the growing fleets on the West Coast simply aren’t going away. On the contrary, they’re still growing, and they’re bringing fresh enthusiasm at a time when the established east and south coast centres are finding their fleets marking time as more boats move south to France, Spain and the Mediterranean, to avail of cheap flights, economical berthing, a more reliable climate, and the immediate feeling of enjoying recreation.

Thus the Irish sailing community should be grateful to the sailors of the Wild Atlantic Way for the fresh enthusiasm they’ve injected into the sport, with current ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney of Foynes Yacht Club a pace-setter in getting young people into the J/24, which has given sterling service as the entry boat for ICRA racing.

mcgibney and roy8Simon McGibney – who is Commodore of both ICRA and WIORA – with Irish Sailing President Jack Roy at the first staging of the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands, July 2016

Yet when McGibney and other West Coats folk promoted Galway as the venue for next week’s 2018 ICRA Nationals, there was unease in some quarters. It may all be a lovely idea for smaller craft which can be trailed to the event, but for bigger boats – particularly those from Dublin - the logistical challenges of having your boat halfway round Ireland in late August are obvious.

But the growing western input had increased over the years, with the ICRA National Conference being moved to Limerick. East coast sailors may think of it as a west coast location, but in all-Ireland terms, Limerick is arguably the most central major population and economic focal point in the country.

Certainly, the ICRA Conferences staged there have been fruitful in developing a growing organisation which, in addition to administering and expanding cruiser racing at home, was much involved with Ireland’s winning of the Commodore’s Cup in 2010 and again in 2012.

The enormous range of international experience which ICRA can draw from within its own ranks will be of added relevance in future as the likelihood of offshore racing being included in the Olympics becomes more likely. But for now, in 2018, the primary target is a successful staging of the ICRA Nationals in Galway

j24 simon mcgibney9Simon McGibney nicely placed in J24 competition with Gala Racing
Being a recognised national association carries its own special responsibilities, and it has been broadly recognised and accepted that it is right and proper that Galway should have its opportunity to stage the Nationals, for this is a mighty port which has contributed enormously to Ireland’s maritime life in general and sailing in particular.

Yet to do this, the Galway sailors have had to be prepared to sail all the way to Ireland’s east and south coast ports in order to take part in major national events, with the late great Dave Fitzgerald starting the trend by bringing Partizan to the first Round Ireland Race from Wicklow in 1980. He was to be followed in due course by Donal Morrissey with the special and much-travelled GK 34 Joggernaut, and from the Morrissey initiative there have spread out other campaigners, with Galway boats such as the Dubois 33 NowWhat (Lauren Heskin & Jim Grealish) an East Coast regular, while the university students of Galway should never be under-estimated in their endeavours at national cruiser-racing level, which eventually culminated in post-grad skipper Aodhan Fitzgerald of Galway winning overall in the Round Ireland in 2008, and his initiative has now been taken up by Aaron O’Reilly.

Other Galway sailors regularly trekking either by road or sea for competition elsewhere include Liam Burke who logged the miles first with the Corby 25 Tribal, and now does it with a Farr 31 of the same name. At the other end of the size scale, the intrepid adventures of Enda O’Coineen in the Open 60 class have inspired many, not least Joan Mulloy of Westport who currently races in the Figaro class but has hopes herself to take on the Vendee Globe mantle. And before all that, there was of course the joint initiative by Enda O'Coineen and the quiet man of the west, John Killleen, successful in their bid to bring the Volvo Ocean Race to Galway, while John Killeen also showed what could be done by organising the building in Galway city with Dan Mill of the mighty performance cruiser Nimmo, which started out to be an Open 60 in cruiser form, but ended up as very stylish 68-footer which turns heads wherever she goes.

john killeen nimmo10Built entirely in Galway – John Killeen’s handsome 68ft Nimmo. Photo: Jim Grealish

So this is the place where the ICRA fleet is now gathering for a programme and facilities lineup which has been put together by a team including ICRA/WIORA Commodore Simon McGibney, ICRA Hon Sec Denis Kiely, Event Chairperson Martin Breen, Galway Bay SC Commodore Gary Allen, and many others.

To meet the requirements of a National Championships, they have the services of three internationally recognised race officers and their own teams in the persons of former ISA President David Lovegrove of Howth, Alan Crosbie of Kinsale fresh from running Calves Week in West Cork, and former GBSC Commodore Dave Vinnell who will be in charge of the White Sail Fleet.

With entries through the 50 mark at 53 boats as we post this, with Garry Allen reckoning they’ll hit the 55 as the racing gets underway, the required critical mass has been comfortably met, and we’re looking at one mighty interesting assembly, with the Queen of the fleet already in port. This is Conor Doyle’s new Xp50 Freya from Kinsale, and her early presence in Galway irresistibly reminds us of how Conor’s uncle the great Denis Doyle with his peerless Frers 51 Moonduster arrived in Wicklow in ample time for the start of the 1982 Round Ireland race, and thereby set that classic event on the high road to longtime success and inclusion in the RORC programme.

There’s a contrast in style and size, but not in significance of presence, in the entry by Anthony O’Leary of Royal Cork YC – captain of the winning 2012 Commodore’s Cup team – with his modified 1720 Antix Bheag. A normal 1720 Sportsboat doesn’t comply with IRC regulations, but with a clever little cabin added, she becomes ICRA-eligible, and Antix Bheag’s progress through the week will be watched with fascination.

However, at the small boat end of the scale, all the muscle will be with the J/24s. They had seven boats racing in Division 4 at the ICRA Nationals in Crosshaven in 2017 with Daragh McCormack of Foynes (winner this year of the recent Mermaid Nationals at his home port) taking the title with Stouche, they’ve seven again in Galway with the emphasis on youth right across the board if you accept that seasoned campaigner Flor O’Driscoll of the Royal Irish YC is the very personification of eternal youth.

hard on port11Eternal youthful enthusiasm – Flor O’Driscoll’s J/24 Hard On Port

His presence in Galway further reinforces the fact that the Royal Irish YC is best represented of the clubs from beyond the western seaboard, with their challenge spearheaded by the extremely busy J/109 Joker, which has already won the Corinthian Division in the Volvo Round Ireland race and the Beaufort Cup in Volvo Cork Week under Commandant Barry Byrne’s captaincy, and is now back with the “old firm” of John Maybury of Dun Laoghaire and Mark Mansfield of Crosshaven to see can they make it four in a row in the ICRA Nats.

Conveniently-trailed boats such as Corby 25s and Quarter Tonners are on the line including ICRA Vice Commodore Richard Colwell’s Corby 25 Fusion from Howth, and the Quarter Tonners Cri-Cri (Paul Colton) and Quest (B Cunningham and J Skerritt RIYC), while the top Half Tonner at Cork Week, Ronan and John Downing’s Miss Whiplash RCYC), is very much on the strength and would be a good tip for another of the national titles.

In terms of spread of entries, it’s a revelation for east coast sailors, as the most northerly entries have come all the way from Sligo Bay with Sean Hawkshaw’s Sigma 33 Wardance from Mullaghmore, while Conor Ronan’s Corby 26 Ruthless is from Sligo YC itself.

Mayo SC in Clew Bay is sending Gerry Daly’s Elan 31 Crozz, John O’Brien’s Dufour 365 Shonagh, Duncan Sclare’s Achilles 9 Freebird, and John Gordon’s X332X-Rated, while both sides of the Shannon Estuary at Foynes and Kilrush will have strong contingents taking on the Galway Challenge.

And being Galway Bay, we also have a fresh-water entry from nearby Lough Derg with Kieran Ruane’s Sun Odyssey 32.2 Christina from Garrykennedy.

galway bay sailing12Gentle racing conditions in Galway Bay with the mysterious hills of The Burren beyond

It’s not easy running the Irish Cruiser Racing Association. A thriving land-based specialist national sailing organisation with its membership spread along every coastline and through the lakes will almost invariably have locations in more distant parts which feel they aren’t getting a fair crack of the whip in hosting major events.

Yet would a tendency to centralise major events, as they do in the UK sailing with the Solent, be suited to Ireland’s fleet distribution and fierce local pride? It would seem that ICRA has to find its own way, difficult and all as it can be. And next week, sailors of goodwill everywhere will be wishing the ICRA Nationals 2018 in Galway the very fairest of fair winds.

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'Provisional' divisions released today for the 53–boat ICRA National Championships fleet show a spread of ten or 11 boats per class for the Galway Bay event that begins next Thursday, August 16th.

As reported earlier today, Dublin and Cork boats are already on their way to Galway this weekend, by road and sea, and there will be defending and/or former ICRA and WIORA champions in each of the five divisions.

Scroll down for full divisions list is published below.

In ten-boat class one, long-standing champion Joker II, the J109 sailed by John Maybury of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire will be defending his title for the third year in a row. Untypically this season, Maybury lines up against only one other sistership. Glenn Cahill, a former WIORA champion and a runner-up in 2017, will compete in the Galway Bay based J109, Joie de Vie.

The biggest boat in the championships, Conor Doyle's brand new Danish-built XP50 Freya from Kinsale, has already arrived into Galway Docks where the fleet will be moored.

Grand_Soleil_Nieulargo_Denis_MurphyDenis Murphy's Grand Soleil Nieulargo competes in Class One Photo: Bob Bateman

Denis Murphy's Nieulargo, a Grand Soleil 40, that dominated Kinsale's Spring Series, and more recently played a leading role in the Beaufort Cup at Cork Week in July, is a tough class one competitor from the south coast, especially when the breeze is on.

Four other national titles will be decided along with the West of Ireland regionals which kick off what promises to be an exciting few days of racing from Wednesday 15 August.

Half Tonner Miss WhiplashHalf –Tonner Miss Whiplash competes in class two. Photo: Bob Bateman

In a ten-boat class two, the current WIORA west coast champion Tribal, a Farr 31 skippered by Liam Burke, from the host club, will defend her western title after five straight wins on the Aran Islands last year. The ICRA event chairman Martin Breen competes himself in the Dehler 37, Port of Galway while two potent entries are in from Royal Cork. Former ICRA champion and double Commodore's Cup champion Anthony O'Leary is in action in the customised 1720 Antix Beag.

Elan 333 Artful DodgerElan 333 Artful Dodger (Finnbarr O'Regan) competes in Class Two Photo: Bob Bateman

Also, from Crosshaven is the Cork Week Class three winner, John Downing's Half Tonner Miss Whiplash. From Sligo, Ruthless, the Corby 26 is entered by Conor Ronan.

Disarray Ray mcgibneyRay McGibney's Disarray from Foynes Yacht Club Photo: Bob Bateman

In an 11-boat class three division, from Foynes Yacht Club, Ray McGibney's Disarray, a past WIORA champion, that has previously finished second twice in ICRA Division Three is hoping Galway will be third time lucky. Among those travelling from the east coast is past ICRA champion Richard Colwell from Howth in the Corby 25 Fusion.

Stonehaven RacingJohnny Callanan’s Stonehaven Racing competes in Class Three

The Dublin boat is one of four Corby 25s competing that includes the WIORA champion, Johnny Callanan’s Stonehaven Racing.

Quest Quarter tonnerGood upwind sail trim and boat balance on the Quarter tonner, Quest Photo: Fiona Brown

In class four, Barry Cunningham's Quest is one of two Quarter Tonners racing from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Cunningham's crew recently finished 25th in the massive 1204–Boat Round the Island Race in the UK in July. Former Dun Laoghaire Regatta Boat of the Week winner and a past J24 Champion, Flor O'Driscoll is competing in 'Hard on Port', one of eight J24s racing that makes up the 11-boat division.

Yannick Mini 650 4541 1The smallest boat Round Ireland record holder is entered in class five of next week's ICRA national championships Photo: David O'Brien

All of the ten boats in class five are west coast based with half the fleet hailing from Foynes Yacht Club. It's a diverse bunch made up from boats such as Yannick Lemonnier's Transat 6.5 Proto, West sails, Pat Keating's Westerly Fulmar Excalibur and Kieran Ruane's freshwater entry of the Sun Odyssey 32.2 Christina from Garrykennedy Sailing Club on Lough Derg.

Provisional Divisions for ICRA/WIORA 2018

Sail Number Boat Name Owner Boat Type Boat Club Division
Division 1        
IRL5077 Freya Conor Doyle Xp50 Kinsale Yacht Club 1
IRL9292 Now What Lauren Heskin/Jim Grealish DUBOIS 33 Royal St George Yacht Club 1
IRL2129 NIEULARGO Denis & Annamarie Murphy Grand Soleil 40 B+C Royal Cork Yacht Club 1
GBR9498R Joie de Vie Silvie Blazkova / Glenn Cahill J/109 Galway Bay Sailing Club 1
IRL 7234 Hero Adrian O'Connell Humphries 3/4 Tonner Royal Western Yacht Club Of Ireland 1
IRL1206 Joker 2 John Maybury J/109 Royal Irish Yacht Club 1
IRL673 Lean Machine Cormac Mac Donncha J/35 Galway Bay Sailing Club 1
IRL1514 Zallaq Emmet & Duncan Kerin First 36.7 Royal Western Yacht Club Of Ireland 1
IRL1754 Green Monkey (WIORA Only) Stephen O'Gorman 1720 Galway Bay Sailing Club 1
GBR2750R Galway Flyer Erin Killeen SJ 320 MOD Bermudian Sloop Galway City Sailing Club 1
Division 2        
FRA21711 Tribal Liam Burke Farr 31 Galway Bay Sailing Club 2
IRL7386 Port of Galway Martin Breen Dehler 37 CR Galway Bay Sailing Club 2
IRL17200 Antix Beag A O Leary Custom 1720 Royal Cork Yacht Club 2
NED7950 Jaguar Gary Fort J/92s Tralee Bay Sailing Club 2
IRL1516 Gambit Joe Kiernan Sigma 38 Foynes Yacht Club 2
IRL7066 X-Rated John Gordon X-332 Mayo Sailing Club 2
IRL3330 Artful Dodger Finbarr O Regan Elan 333 Kinsale Yacht club 2
IRL26026 Ruthless Conor Ronan Corby 26 Sligo Yacht Club 2
GBR54354R Miss Whiplash Ronan & John Downing Mod Half Tonner Andrieu Royal Cork Yacht Club 2
IE8598 Exlixer Pat Alyward X372 Mayo Sailing Club 2
Division 3        
IRL3864 Ibaraki Mike Guilfoyle Westerley GK 34 Mod Galway Bay Sailing Club 3
IRL3062 CROZZ Gerry Daly ELAN 31 Mayo sailing Club 3
IRL2552 Fusion Colwell & Cobbe Corby 25 Howth Yacht Club 3
GBR6655r Daffodil - Stonehaven Racing Callanan & Team   Royal Western Yacht Club Of Ireland/Kinsale Yacht Club 3
IRL25007 Smile Rob Allen Corby 25 RWYCI/GBSC 3
Irl487 Disaray Ray Mc Gibney   Foynes Yacht Club 3
IRL1552 Movita Conn Lavelle Beneteau First 310 Mayo Sailing Club 3
GBR9656R Team NUI Galway Aaron O'Reilly First Class 8 NUIG 3
IRL1398 Wardance Sean Hawkshaw Sigma 33 Mullaghmore Sailing Club 3
GBR6566 RhocStar Lorraine Scully Formula 28 Galway Bay Sailing Club 3
IRL4206 Powder Monkey Liam Lynch Sigma33 Tralee Bay Sailing Club 3
Division 4        
GBR7028N Lady Laura Edward Enright Hunter 707 Foynes Yacht Club 4
ITA8709 Cri-Cri Paul Colton Jezequel Quarter Tonner Royal Irish Yacht Club 4
IRL508 Quest B Cunningham & J Skerritt Humphreys 1/4 ton Royal Irish Yacht Club 4
IRL4202 Gossip Brian Raftery J/24 Sligo Yacht Club 4
4188 Jasper Michael Lynch J/24 Foynes Yacht Club 4
IRL4212 Scandal HYC K25 J/24 Howth Yacht Club 4
IRL874 Running Tide David Brennan J/24 Galway Bay Sailing Club 4
IRL4794 Hard on Port Flor O'Driscoll J/24 Royal Irish Yacht Club 4
IRL5278 Gala Racing Simon McGibney J/24 Foynes Yacht Club 4
IRL4252 Jibe Fergus Kelliher J/24 Tralee Bay Sailing Club 4
IRL1558 Freebird Duncan Sclare Achillies 9m Mayo Sailing Club 4
Division 5        
TBC SHONAGH John O Brien Dufour 365 Mayo Sailing club 5
IRL9998 Christina Kieran Ruane Sun Odyssey 32.2 Garrykennedy Sailing Club 5
FR278 Excalibur P & E Keating Westerly Fulmar Foynes Yacht Club 5
K5552 Roamer Frankie Leonard Contessa 32 Galway Bay Sailing Club/Galway City Sailing Club 5
IRL1929 Lea Ho Conor Dodd Yamaha 29 Galway Bay Sailing Club 5
IRL723 Poitin Bev Lowes Shipman 28 Foynes Yacht Club 5
37 Kerry Dream Tom Murray Kerry Sloop 27 Foynes Yacht Club 5
3564Y Scorpio IV David Bevan Sadler 32 Foynes Yacht Club 5
IRL5147 Battle John Paul Buckley Golden Shamrock Foynes Yacht Club 5
491 West Sails Yannick Lemonnier Mini Transat 6.5 Proto Galway Bay Sailing Club 5

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From Thursday 16 August, Galway Bay Sailing Club hosts Ireland’s national cruiser racing championships for the first time — and a significant turnout is expected from clubs all along the West Coast.

As David O'Brien writes in the Irish Times today here, the upcoming ICRA Cruiser Nationals are, as the association’s Commodore Simon McGibney puts it, a “reminder of the resurgence of the sailing scene in the West”.

McGibney — also of Foynes Yacht Club at the mouth of the Shannon — lobbied hard for Galway to host the event following the success of 2013’s championships at Tralee Bay, which attracted a 61-strong fleet to the first Western-hosted nationals in ICRA history.

Simon McGibneyICRA Commodore Simon McGibney – delivering a boost to West Coast sailing

Indeed, nine of the 15 yacht clubs represented in this year’s entry list is based in the West — and both the host club and Foynes will be sending 11 boats each.

Given that four-fifths of the cruiser fleet is based on the East Coast, and that the event faces competition from Calves Week among others, that’s no mean feat.

Freya Xp 50 GalwayConor Doyle's Xp 50 Freya berthed in Galway Docks ahead of the ICRA Nationals next week. Photo: Aoife Mackey

Meanwhile, as smaller clubs like Garrykennedy and Mullaghmore are taking the opportunity to get noticed on the national scene, smaller boats will also be at the fore in Galway Bay next week.

Corby 25s, J24s and quarter tonners fill out a list of entries that includes the long-standing Class 1 champion Joker II, the J109 sailed by John Maybury who will be defending his title for the third year in a row.

Three other national titles will be decided along with the West of Ireland regionals which kick off what promises to be an exciting few days of racing from Wednesday 15 August

Sailing Instructions and class divisions are downloadable below.

The Nationals and the West Coast Championships are being held between the 15th and 18th of August and feature four days of action packed sailing and social events.

ICRA Nationals schedule of racesThe ICRA National Championships schedule of races

Captain Brian Sheridan from the Port of Galway has generously arranged free cranage and berthage for the duration of the event.

Class divisions in the fleet are expected shortly and will be posted on

The ICRA National Championships Sailing Instructions are downloadable below as a PDF file

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15 years have passed since a small group of Cork and Dublin sailors met at the Granville Hotel in Waterford to establish the Irish Cruiser Racing Association. In the intervening years, ICRA has had great success co-ordinating Irish yacht racing at home and abroad. caught up with Ric Morris, the recently elected ICRA strategist, and asked him for the latest on the cruiser-racing body in advance of its – just-launched – National Championships in Galway.  In recent years the demands on the association have changed. Irish Sailing too has begun to look to the association to take on a broader role. The association is responding to these changing needs through a refreshed five-year plan. The question now for ICRA is how can it add value to what’s already going on in Irish sailing? 

Ric Morris sailingRic Morris (left) says ICRA has to 'deliver for everyone' Photo: courtesy Andy Green

Ric, After a turbulent winter, these are interesting times for ICRA?

I only joined the exec in January and yes it’s been interesting! It’s good to have done an EGM. Everyone felt strongly about that. And that we should hold a formal AGM each year so the exec is held directly responsible going forward. There’s a good mix on the exec now of new and old. Meetings have been good to be involved with. All business.

The question over the winter has been, why should people care about ICRA, is it even needed?
It’s easy to forget what the situation was like before there was an ICRA. Regattas are great but we lacked a championship event that put yacht racing on a level playing field with other forms of sailing. If you look at what ICRA representatives have achieved since in terms of the All Irelands it puts that in perspective. There’s still a strong demand for an ICRAs as a national championship, focused on quality competitive racing. How best to deliver that is getting a lot of thought. Part of having a great competition means everyone being there. That probably needs a different solution depending on where the event is. The link with the All Irelands is something to pay attention too. It’ll be good to see the All Irelands back in a keelboat class soon. There are technical challenges in terms of IRC and ECHO that need looking after where the voice of owners needs to be heard. But I think ICRAs biggest achievement has been as a forum for co-operation, and long may that continue. I should’ve given the short answer first: people should care because everyone with an ECHO/IRC cert is paying an ICRA membership.

That brings its own pressures …
It does. It means ICRA has to deliver for everyone, and that’s reflected in what we’re presenting today. Former Commodore Nobby Reilly started that process with the national crew pool and training grant, and that’s been identified in the strategic review as something to build upon going forward.
We want to expand upon that. Open up the range of initiatives we’ll fund, so long as they are aimed at delivering more tightly defined objectives.
For instance, the evidence shows that well-structured under 25s programs pay dividends for the sport. We supported the club run under 25s teams at the J24 nationals and intend to do so again for Galway.

So where are things up to with this strategic review, a 5-year plan? Is that really necessary?
That comes back to the previous point in terms of agreeing and communicating what ICRA is and what it should be doing. That’s really what today is about. Setting out what ICRA is about, what we should be at, putting that in a relevant context.
Why five years? Given the money people commit to their boats, there’s a need to show how we’re going to deliver sustained value. Any changes need to be flagged well in advance so they can be factored into peoples plans.

'Embracing Yacht Racing'?
Putting our arms around the wide range of members needs, and the passion that people have for the sport. And it rhymes. Can’t go wrong with a rhyming tagline.
There was a discussion about using the word yacht. That it carries an off-putting message. I think that may have changed. For instance one of the biggest parties in the Med each year is called 'Yacht Week' and that’s promoted to a general and youthful audience.
In the end, though we’re not going to change any negative prejudice by hiding. The opposite in fact. Irrespective of what label we put on it, people think we sail yachts. No one knows what a cruiser racer is unless you’re already involved. If we’re looking to bring people into our sport, and we are, then we need to use the language they understand.

"Irrespective of what label we put on it, people think we sail yachts"

When I look at the mission and strategic goals, in particular, it all seems pretty obvious, one person called it dated.
I’d prefer straightforward and common sense but yeh I’ll go with obvious. Over the last couple of months, we’ve taken a step back and looked at what any other class association does, what the best ones focus on and where things are in Ireland. It’s not rocket science. The devil is in the detail. For instance, to run a nationals that’s “the pinnacle of yacht racing” has some implications for where and when you hold it. “Enjoyment and fun” is quite none specific so we’ve looked to express in more detail what people enjoy about yacht racing. And that’s what we’ll focus on.

A series of regional ICRA events?
We’ve already touched on the issue of relevance. ICRA turns up somewhere, runs a nationals and then disappears again. There’s a need to be engaged more regularly so that doesn’t happen; so that ICRA stays connected and has a vested interest in what’s going on. At the same time, there needs to be a boundary to what ICRA should and shouldn’t get involved with. We can’t, and shouldn’t seek to take on everything. Rather play our part working with the clubs, sailing industry and Irish Sailing.

"How can ICRA add value to what’s already there, to support what’s already going on?"

But the calendar is already pretty full…
We’re blessed that there’s already a calendar of established events. The question is more; how can ICRA add value to what’s already there, to support what’s already going on?

What’s next?
The next step is to look to turn this into a workable plan with a view to having a draft to circulate at the Nationals in mid-August. If anyone is keen to be involved they are most welcome.

Link to the ICRA strategy here Link to's ICRA latest news here

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This week Galway Bay Sailing Club (GBSC) members and friends gathered at Dock 1 Seafood Bar and restaurant in Galway Harbour for the official launch of the ICRA/WIORA 2018 which will be held in Galway Harbour from August 15th – 18th.

On a gloriously sunny Summer solstice evening the event chairman, Event organiser Martin Breen, kicked off proceedings by confirming how important it is for GBSC to host a national regatta in the Galway Docks.

Martin mentioned that GBSC has had a very sombre beginning to the season with the loss of longtime members Henry Lupton and David Fitzgerald. Even though of different generations, they were like-minded in their promotion of sailing and their exploits have been well documented on ‘Afloat’ie. It was their peers who wrote the constitution of GBSC which includes the club goal of ‘promoting the sport of Sailing on Galway Bay’ and it is within this goal that we sought the hosting of the 2018 ICRA National Championships.

"Please judge us in GBSC on how we contributed to promoting the sport of sailing on Galway Bay"

GBSC are really looking forward to providing the best of Galway hospitality ashore and the best of race management afloat, as the National Championships in any sport deserves.

Even though entries received to date are already in excess of entries to recent National Championships, GBSC says they do not consider this to be a benchmark of the success of the event. "Rather, after the Championships and when we begin to reflect on this season past about the time of the Autumn equinox, please judge us in GBSC on how we contributed to promoting the sport of sailing on Galway Bay".

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Regatta Chairman Martin Breen reports strong interest for August's ICRA/WIORA 2018 event from all over Ireland and further afield.

The ICRA Vice-Commodore (Richard Colwell) and Commodore (Simon McGibney) are confirmed entrants with Breen confirming new entrants 'on a daily basis'. See provisional entry list here

The end of May is the end of the early bird period discount period, leaving sailors only a few days left to avail of great discounts!

As previously reported by, the ICRA National Championship and WIORA from Aug 15th-18th are being held in association with Port of Galway under the guidance of Harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan. Capt. Sheridan has organised for there to be free berthage and craneage for the event so everyone can be catered for.

The end of May is the end of the early bird period discount period, leaving sailors only a few days left to avail of great discounts!

According to organisers, you will be able to leave your boat in the comfort of Galway Docks after racing and take the short walk into the bright lights of Galway City.

If you are sailing to Galway prior to the event you will also be accommodated. That way you can arrive in Galway for the regatta safe in the knowledge that your boat is there waiting for you.

Of course, a critical element of taking part in the event is securing accommodation and the team in Galway have their very own Accommodation officer, Aoife Macken, who has years of experience in the hospitality industry in Galway. She has put together a comprehensive list of accommodation options to suit all budgets which are available here

This includes 10 rooms in The Victoria Hotel right next to the docks so don’t delay as these rooms won’t be around for long! Aoife's contact details can also be found on this page should you have any questions. Galway is a busy place but there are plenty of beds for everyone.

As the central hub of the Wild Atlantic Way Galway and its environs has so much to offer that a good time is pretty much guaranteed while you’re here in mid-August.

Early bird entry ends on May 31st.

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There's good news for Irish cruiser–racers after a graph of International Rating Certificates (IRC) published by Irish Sailing administrators reveals a lift in certs issued so far this season.

It's an indication that more boats will be racing in a season that promises so much with June's inaugural Wave Regatta at Howth and the Round Ireland in Wicklow, July's Cork Week, and August's ICRA National Championships in Galway to name but a few.

The lift over 2017 numbers comes after several years of falling numbers and as such it will be cautiously welcomed by the recently recast Irish Cruiser Racing Body (ICRA) that is charged with increasing participation in cruiser–racer fleets.

All IRC certificates expire on 31st December of the year they are issued.

There are other variables that could have influenced the increase to April, one of which being 2018's early Easter which is the traditional IRC renewal date for the Summer season.

Against that, most sailors will agree that the 2018 season has been delayed by a fortnight or more due to bad weather in March and early April.

Harry Hermon of Irish Sailing says it will be more accurate to review the graph after quarter two, sometime in June, but for now the news looks positive for Irish cruiser–racing.

Exact numbers are hard to pin down but ECHO handicap cert stats offer another good indicator of the overall position, as all IRC holders also have an ECHO Cert. The latest position, from Irish Sailing files is below: 

Racing (Jan-April)


2014 Tot

2015 - Apr

2015 Tot


2016 Tot


2017 Tot


ECHO certs issued










IRC Revalidation














IRC Amendment







IRC Trial







IRC Short Handed







IRC Copy







IRC Re-Registration







The IRC rule is admimistered by London's Royal Ocean Racing Club. The RORC has been a leader in yacht handicap systems and in co-operation with the French offshore racing club, UNCL, created IRC - the principal yacht measurement system for the rating of racing yachts worldwide.

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