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First elected in November 2018, Richard Colwell will continue to lead the Irish Cruiser Racing Association following today's AGM into what is hopefully a busy 2021 summer sailing programme.

Speaking at today's online meeting, ICRA Secretary Denis Byrne announced some changes to the 11-person 2021 committee. 

Colwell paid tribute to the work of Cove Sailing Club's Johanna Murphy from Cork Harbour, the outgoing South Coast Offshore Racing Association (SCORA) Commodore and also to Race Judge Cxema Pico who have both retired from the committee.

Coming onboard is the new SCORA Commodore Daragh Connolly from Royal Cork and also Saoirse Reynolds from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

John Leech of Lough Derg continues as Treasurer and Dave Cullen of Howth continues in the Communications role.

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The Irish Cruiser Racing (ICRA) National Championships returns to Cork Harbour as part of Cork Week Regatta in 2022.

The venue was announced at this weekend's ICRA 2021 Conference online. 

The cruiser-racer fleet had planned to race in Cork in 2020 as part of Royal Cork's Tricentenary event that was not held due to COVID, so the decision to return in 2022 was an easy one, according to ICRA Commodore, Richard Colwell. 

ICRA Racing returns to Cork Harbour after a six year gap in 2022ICRA Racing returns to Cork Harbour after a six year gap in 2022

The 2022 racing is expected to offer a variety of inshore and coastal courses both inside and outside the harbour.

This year the ICRA Championships races or national honours on Dublin Bay at the National Yacht Club in September.

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Key Irish sailing regattas depend on a Government Level Two status being in place this summer in order to proceed, the Irish Cruiser Racer (ICRA) conference heard yesterday.

Over 100 sailors and regatta representatives gathered online to hear the latest regatta news from the East, South and Southwest coasts.

It was a heartening gathering that revealed how much clubs had achieved despite all the obstacles thrown up by COVID-19.

ICRA's Dave Cullen struck an optimistic note when he noted this weekend's reduction in pandemic numbers and advances in the vaccine roll-out, while each of the regatta organisers who joined the conference via Zoom were bullish about plans yet also spoke of the current 'challenging' situation.

The fate of the competitive sailing season hinges on whether Level Two will be implemented in time or if sailing can be seen by Sport Ireland's Expert Group as a 'low risk, outdoor non-contact activity' deserving of a special case, especially given the view there is no difference in risk in sailing between training and competition mode.

Cruiser racing off Cork in the Elan 333, Artful DodgerCruiser racing off the Cork coast in the Elan 333, Artful Dodger Photo: Bob Bateman

For the moment, the assumption is that 'it's all going ahead'  but there appears to be quite a lot of contingency or 'Plan B' work behind the scenes as Covid-19 impacts the 2021 season too.

It's worth remembering it was only this time last year that few of us had even heard the phrase 'social distancing'. Much of the regatta planning for 2020 was completed before we knew anything about what it was like living with our new best friend. We are more informed going into 2021 and rightly or wrongly, in Northern Ireland, Bangor Town Regatta has already chosen to cancel its June races.

Howth yacht Equinox is a regular Sovereign's Cup competitor at Kinsale Photo: AfloatHowth yacht Equinox is a regular Sovereign's Cup competitor at Kinsale Photo: Bob Bateman

June's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and Kinsale's Sovereign's Cup Regatta (where 14 entrants are common to both events) are perfectly timed to feed Dublin boats to the south coast but each event is now awaiting the Government's April 5th advisory in order to firm up arrangements.

Both events have achieved their 50-boat entry limits and are operating waiting lists.

Sovereign's Cup

O'Leary Insurance Sovereign's Cup Chairman Anthony O'Neill from Kinsale Yacht Club told the conference that he remained 'hopeful' and was continuing to plan for the 23rd June but in the event that restrictions were not lifted then, the event would, unfortunately, have to cancel and look to other plans if restrictions permit. The event hit its 52-boat target within three weeks and has eight boats on a waiting list.

Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race

Likewise, Race Chairman Adam Winkelmann, said that the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race from the National Yacht Club would not be moved to another date this season and if it could not go ahead on June 9th the decision had already been taken to scrub the biennial event and aim for the 2023 edition instead. The 280-miler has achieved its 50-boat limit, 90 days before it starts as Afloat reports here.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta

July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Race Officer Con Murphy outlined contingency plans for his Dublin Bay event that has already been split over two weekends to reduce fleet sizes. Murphy said the fleet could take extra steps to have staggered early start and finish times if needed to further avoid the mixing of boats and crews ashore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

ICRA & WIORA

Autumn events such as ICRA's own national championships at the National Yacht Club that has moved out to September 3rd to 5th look the best prospects of being uninterrupted. ICRA's Ric Morris is confident of the Nationals proceeding at this point after the loss of the 2020 event. Likewise, WIORA week that is scheduled for August 25 to 28th at Tralee Bay Sailing Club is also 'cautiously optimistic', but the County Kerry club will initially taking entries without any payment, according to the organiser Liam Lynch.

ISORA

ISORA's Peter Ryan laid out a full season of races for his offshore crews under new sponsor Musto and is planning a 16-race Irish Sea series that, as Afloat previously reported, includes cross-channel races from May 15. Ryan says the series will again be deploying technology to give it the biggest amount of flexibility both in terms of its onboard trackers and its crew manager app. ISORA's approach, Ryan says, is to 'start racing and keep going till we're told to stop'.

Organising clubs, the conference heard, are 'planning for the best and preparing for the worst' as they await next month's Government announcement. As Peter Ryan observed, 'there's a great interconnection of events this season but one trip will upset the whole apple cart'.

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There will be more boats on the water in the season ahead, crewed by young sailors supported by the Irish Cruiser Racing Association's Under 25 programme which has been so successful that ICRA is now working with the national sailing organisation on developing a further stage of the project, to encourage those finishing it to buy their own boats and increase the size of cruiser fleets at clubs around the country.

"We are now seeing the positive result of what started many years ago at Howth Yacht Club in focusing on the Under 25s, which was then taken up by ICRA, by clubs around the country. It is really encouraging," Commodore Richard Colwell told me in advance of the annual general meeting of ICRA on Saturday, March 6.

Despite the unpredictability of the challenges sailing faces due to the continuing Covid 19 pandemic, he is hopeful that the season ahead will be a good one.

ICRA Commodore, Richard ColwellICRA Commodore, Richard Colwell - ICRA is encouraging young crews to buy their own boats and increase the size of cruiser fleets at clubs around the country

"There may still be difficulties early in the season, but later in the Summer I am hopeful that there will be more opportunities and our national championships are well placed in September," he says on this week's podcast, where we follow up on the theme highlighted in last week's edition. This was where Daragh Connolly, the new Commodore of SCORA, the South Coast Offshore Racing Association, described the growing interest of young sailors in cruiser racing and going offshore.

Anthony O'Leary's Antix Beag, from Royal Cork, a customised 1720 sailing Photo: Bob BatemanAnthony O'Leary's Antix Beag, from Royal Cork, a customised 1720 sailing Photo: Bob Bateman

I started the Podcast by asking Richard Colwell how hopeful he is for the season ahead:

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, RTÉ and Met Éireann's Evelyn Cusack will head the line-up of speakers and presentations at the ICRA AGM which the Commodore will start at 10.30 am with an update. The conference will be on Zoom, due to pandemic restrictions and registration for it is open.

This will be followed at 10.40 am by Evelyn Cusack's half-hour presentation on forecasting the weather. And at 11.10 am, international yacht designer Mark Mills will give a brief talk on his line of work.

After a short break, there will be briefings on the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race by Adam Winkelmann, Sovereigns Cup by Anthony O’Neil, Dun Laoghaire Regatta by Con Murphy, ICRA Nationals by Ric Morris and ISORA from Peter Ryan.

Published in Tom MacSweeney

ICRA will hold its annual conference and AGM online on Saturday 6th March from 10:30 to 13:00 due to COVID restrictions.

The implications of the pandemic on the 2021 cruiser-racer season will be discussed, according to association spokesman, Dave Cullen. 

ICRA has already moved its 2021 National Championships out from May to September and this May's Scottish Series has been totally revamped as a purely on the water event in a bid to stage Scotland's biggest sailing event after 2020's cancellation.

Weather forecasting and sailing

Having ironically been unable to attend last year’s event as Headline Speaker due to the weather, RTE and Met Eireann’s Evelyn Cusack will join ICRA this year covering the topic of “weather forecasting and sailing”.

Evelyn Cusack will speak at March's online ICRA conferenceEvelyn Cusack will speak at March's online ICRA conference

While the event will naturally be shorter due to being online, the conference will have a number of experts offering advice on all aspects of racing and yacht preparation and will be followed by the AGM.

The full ICRA agenda and registration details will be issued shortly and published on Afloat.

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The ICRA/ISA Under 25 Keelboat Support Programme is open for 2021 applications.

The scheme was created as a support programme to help sailing clubs develop their own Under 25 squads and ICRA reported an overwhelming response to the initiative when launched in December 2019.

Seven clubs, from across the country, now have established U25 squads, with another two clubs actively looking for the right platform to start their own programmes. 

The idea behind the programme stems from the belief that while there are a significant number of young sailors that become Irish Sailing instructors and partake in University Team Racing, ICRA says a lot simply drop out of the club racing scene in their 20s. An Under 25 keelboat development programme can offer a place for some of these sailors. Keeping them active in the sport and fostering their commitment as members of their clubs.

In the second of three years of funding for the scheme, successful applicant clubs will be provided with an initial Capital Grant which will assist clubs to buy a keelboat for their U25 squad. The scheme will then continue to provide an annual allowance to assist the club run their U25 programme until it is well established.

ICRA is now inviting Irish Sailing Category 1 clubs to send “Expression of Interest” to apply to join the programme.

Full details about the programme are here

Published in ICRA

With the loss of the key cruiser-racer events in 2020 Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) Commodore Richard Colwell says the association is unable to award its annual Boat of the Year prize.

As well as its own ICRA National Championships, June's Round Ireland Race, July's Cork Week, September's Wave Regatta and WIORA in Tralee were among some of the big casualties in the Irish sailing scene due to COVID. 

ICRA is expected to a new schedule of events for its Boat of the Year Award early in 2021 even though the body has already made a pre-emptive move and rescheduled its 2021 National Championships from May to September as Afloat reported here.

"Hopefully, 2021 will shape up to be a normal season, albeit a "new normal", Colwell says.

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After cancelling its 2020 championships twice, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) has now seen fit to move the dates of its 2021 National Championships from May to September next year because of the continuing threat of COVID-19.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Commodore Richard Colwell, said "It is now evident that the continued impact of Covid-19 will be felt well into 2021. With that in mind, ICRA was conscious of a need to provide as much time as possible to try and ensure that a National Championship does take place in 2021".

As such, ICRA says it has worked with Dun Laoghaire Harbour's National Yacht Club, the 2021 hosts of the event, to rearrange the National Championship dates from its original date in late May, to an alternative date in early September 2021.

The change also removes an unfortunate clash with the Scottish Series that occurred with the former date, as Afloat reported here.

The new dates for next year's ICRA National Championships are September 3rd - 5th 2021.

In 2020, it was originally planned to race the ICRA Nationals as part of Cork Week and RCYC's 300th celebrations and when that July date was cancelled, ICRA opted to race as part of Septembers' rescheduled Wave Regatta which in turn was axed at Howth also due to COVID leaving the championships not sailed for the first time in its 18-year-history.

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ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell on the cancellation of the 2020 Championships planned as part of Wave Regatta 2020

It is with a heavy heart that we announce that Howth YC and Fingal County Council have taken the unenviable decision to cancel Wave Regatta 2020 due to the concerns over COVID 19 precautions. ICRA has been involved in these discussions which have explored all possibilities to keep the event alive in some format and we fully support their decision. It means that, at this stage of the season, the ICRA National Championships will not now proceed in 2020.

In discussions with HYC and the main sponsor Fingal County Council, it is clear that due to the current increase in cases and the fact that we have been held at phase 3 for the foreseeable future, the event could not go ahead safely so we fully endorse this decision made on public health grounds. It recently clear that with the numbers involved we simply can’t justify running the event and maintaining social distancing required under the current restrictions.

This is obviously not the news that any of us on the ICRA committee, as avid cruiser racers wanted to hear, as we would all love to get back to what we love and hosting National cruiser racing events.

Having said that, our first and foremost concern has to be the health and safety of all involved in any event.

ICRA will continue to do all we can to support and encourage club cruiser racing for the rest of the year, as well as continuing to support the development of the Under 25 programme and ratings platform development.

We will now work hard on plans for next year's event - at which stage hopefully we will all have learnt how to deal with the virus better and be in a position to back fully to cruiser racing and again run national events.

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The Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) has today announced that it will provide funding to encourage cruiser racing participation, in the form of discounts to help cover the costs of reducing ECHO and IRC certs from the 1st August.

Conscious that yacht owners are only now starting to get back on the water, for what will be truncated season, ICRA has worked with Irish Sailing and RORC, to provide funding for discounted certs, in order to do what it can to encourage boats to take out certs and take part in racing events.

ICRA says it receives all of its funding through Irish Sailing, from a ring-fenced proportion of cruiser cert fees, after RORC and administration costs are removed.

So far this year ICRA has also allocated and funded close to €10,000 supporting the continued development of under 25 team participation in clubs across the country.

This has come in the form of capital grants, trickle grants for teams already set up, and coaching. They also provide regional support grants, in order to help support cruiser racing across Ireland, which is paid to WIORA and SCORA. The funds also help ICRA to manage and deliver a successful National Championships each year and provide support and development of ratings systems and results.

The once-off COVID 19 cert discounts will allow for yachts to avail of an ECHO cert from the 1st August ongoing to the end of 2020, for less than half the current price, at just €20 per cert.

ICRA has also arranged to provide a 20% discount off any IRC cert purchased between the 1st of August and the 1st September. While they have also confirmed with RORC, that from the 1st of September boats will be able to avail of half-price IRC certs.

However, owners should bear in mind that the turnaround time for standard IRC certs from Irish Sailing is 2-3 weeks, and while every effort will be made to turnaround certs as quickly as possible, this may well be too tight to have your cert 5 days before Wave/ICRA Nationals starts unless an expedited service is paid for.

ICRA hope these discounts, funded as a once-off for 2020 as a response to COVID 19, will help to encourage boats to take out certs and enter open events being staged from now until the end of the season.

In particular, ICRA is keen to encourage boats to have certs in order to be in with a chance to compete for the number of ICRA National Championship titles up for grabs in Corinthian/White Sail, ECHO and IRC classes, at the Wave Regatta from the 11th-13th Sep – with great racing planned for all levels and experience. A very strong entry for the ICRA National Championship 2020 / Wave Regatta is already in, and we would encourage all boat owners to enter what promises to be the highlight of the shortened season.

Richard Colwell, ICRA Commodore, “We don’t have huge budgets at ICRA, as I am sure most are aware, and these are provided by those taking out their certs each year.

However, at our recent committee meeting their was unanimous support to try and do what we can to encourage as many boats to go racing as possible. Driving participation in our sport at all levels remains our core mission.”

ICRA understand that many boats have already applied and paid for certs, and we would like to thank these cruiser-racer owners for continuing to be active participants and supporters of the wider the sport. We had to make a call to apply this discount from a point in time, and unfortunately, discounts can’t be backdated, but we hope this small funding gesture helps to encourage as many yachts as possible to take part in racing for the remainder of 2020.

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