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(First published 27/11/21): The 2021 programme for Irish sailors is still in action with winter series underway at several centres, while next Wednesday a junior squad departs for Oman and the Youth Sailing Worlds which get fully underway on December 11th. But nevertheless, the final weekend of November is a traditional time to take stock, and as we bounce along on what everyone had hoped would be the final major wave of the pandemic, but unfortunately is no longer so certain with the New Variant Out Of Africa, it’s intriguing to assess how sailing has coped with providing meaningful sport in a continually changing environment of altering regulations and mixed weather.

In fact, once the first major lifting of restrictions was permitted from Monday, June 7th, the pace afloat was increasingly hectic until far into September, with quality sailing which was well beyond the modest ambitions of “meaningful sport”. Thus in what is essentially a broad-brush overview of the 2021 season, we cannot hope to mention everything, let alone detail all boat classes, but we do hope to go beyond a tasting menu.

To succeed, the 2021 sailing programme had to develop a sort of split personality. The healthiest place to be was afloat and sailing full-on. If anyone contracted COVID-19 from doing this, we have yet to hear of it. But ashore afterwards, the traditionally boisterous après sailing was sometimes no more than a memory.

Ireland has so many people living within easy reach of their boats and the local sailing programme that many developed the habit of going straight aboard, getting into the race, and then returning home immediately afterwards with their only-brief socializing being within the crew bubble.

We’re not claiming this was universally the case – all clubs energetically provided the means of social and hospitality interaction within the Social Distancing guidelines, and many sailors made the best of it to provide some semblance of post-regatta happenings. But far from being disdainful of those who went sailing but otherwise completely kept their distance ashore, their careful attitude was treated with respect by the more convivial competitors in a sense of shared agreement. Getting worthwhile numbers actually sailing was much more important than traditional post-race rituals.


Despite this subdued approach, the flexibility of campaigning a Laser at international level meant that during the inter-wave period of peak mobility between countries at mid-August, Dun Laoghaire was able to stage a major international young sailors championship from 7th to 14th August with the Royal St George and the National YCs hosting the 2021 ILCA 4 Youth World Championship, attracting 230 entries from 31 countries.

Thanks to the availability of space on Carlisle Pier, the Laser Youth Championship 2021, with 230 boats from 31 countries, could be staged in mid-August in Dun LaoghaireThanks to the availability of space on Carlisle Pier, the Laser Youth Championship 2021, with 230 boats from 31 countries, could be staged in mid-August in Dun Laoghaire

In the mood of the summer, it was run with a modest amount of fanfare. But afloat, the scene was as intense as ever, with the Boys’ Division being won by Martins Atilla from Latvia ahead of Alexandros Eleftherladis from Greece, while the Girls were led by Emma Mattivi of Italy from Petra Marednic of Croatia, with the best-placed Irish within divisions being Royal Cork’s Oisin MacSweeney (better known for his Topper successes), who took Silver in the Boys Silver Fleet.

That such an event would be briefly possible by mid-August was still in the realms of speculation when the more stringent regulations had been lifted on Monday, June 7th. This had meant the clamps were still firmly in place for the best part of the usually sailing-hectic June Bank Holiday Weekend. But in some places on that Freedom Monday, people went determinedly sailing in celebration, and in Howth half a dozen of the venerable Howth 17s rushed themselves into commission for an informal race.

Further north on both sides of the North Channel, a broader easing of restrictions had meant that a Scottish Series of sorts had been possible in May, albeit sailing from several venues in the inner Firth of Clyde itself rather than at Tarbert. Nevertheless, John Minnis’s immaculately-prepared First 31.7 Final Call (RUYC) went across to make the best of it, and effectively won overall.

Subsequently in the multi-class One-Design Regatta Weekend early in July at Dun Laoghaire, Final Call came south and showed with her all-conquering performance that her Scottish win was no flash in the pan.

John Minnis’s First 31.7 Final Call from Belfast Lough had overall success in both the Firth of Clyde and Dublin Bay. Photo: O’BrienJohn Minnis’s First 31.7 Final Call from Belfast Lough had overall success in both the Firth of Clyde and Dublin Bay. Photo: O’Brien

But by the time that series of July races came around, the month of June had been crazily busy in a sort of super-powered “school’s let out” atmosphere. Throughout the uncertain waiting period beforehand, Race Chairman Adam Winkelmann of the National YC’s Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race had kept the faith in his belief that racing would be possible by mid-June, and thus he and his team were able to get going almost immediately with a crack fleet making their start to race to Dingle on Wednesday, June 9th.


After the usual slugfest past the Fastnet and on to Dingle, the title was finally wrested from Paul O’Higgins’ two-time winner, the JPK Rockabill VI, by the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo from Crosshaven.

Start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – winner Nieulargo (left) with Nicky Smyth’s new Sun Fast 3600 Searcher. Photo: Michael ChesterStart of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – winner Nieulargo (left) with Nicky Smyth’s new Sun Fast 3600 Searcher. Photo: Michael Chester

It was a hard-won win in a hugely symbolic event, so when Nieluargo returned to Crosshaven on the top of the tide on the evening of Monday, June 14th, she was greeted right at the clubhouse by RCYC Admiral Colin Morehead with a five gun salute, a traditional acknowledgement of major success elsewhere that used to be routinely accorded to RCYC yachts in the mid-19th Century.

This mood of celebrating release from lockdown was matched on the East Coast, where Howth YC’s traditional annual Lambay Race was put together as a club-only event in jig time for Saturday, June 12th, and 78 boats appeared at short notice to help things get moving again, with Colm Bermingham’s Elan 33 Bite the Bullet winning the Lambay Lady from M & J Wenski’s Zarquon by 11 seconds.

The Howth 17s Orla and Isobel racing round Lambay to celebrate the start of Howth YC’s 2021 season on June 12th. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyThe Howth 17s Orla and Isobel racing round Lambay to celebrate the start of Howth YC’s 2021 season on June 12th. Photo: Annraoi Blaney


With club racing now fully underway at most centres, the pace of sailing in June was stepped up further with the Sovereigns Cup series at Kinsale over the extended weekend from June 23rd onwards. There was a feeling of pent-up energy being released, and out of it the top performer was the new J/99 Snapshot (Mike & Richie Evans, Howth YC) with the noted talent of Laura Dillon in the afterguard, while clubmate Robert Rendell’s very new Grand Soleil 44 Samatom swept the board in the large Coastal Division. Nieulargo for Crosshaven kept herself up in lights with a runner-up slot, Kieran Collins’ superbly-sailed vintage Olson 30 Coracle VI (RCYC) won IRC 2 while the RCYC J/24 Ya GottaWanna (David Lane) was tops in IRC3.

Kieran Collins’ classic Olson 30 Coracle VI belied her age with the IRC2 win at Kinsale. Photo: Robert BatemanKieran Collins’ classic Olson 30 Coracle VI belied her age with the IRC2 win at Kinsale. Photo: Robert Bateman

In the first weekend of July, the focus shifted to Dublin Bay where seven One-Designs of national status were able to stage major regulation-compliant championships at once thanks to spreading the organisational focus across the clubs. The Ruffian 23s, hosted by the National YC, had a popular winner with Ann Kirwan racing Bandit.

As Commodore of Dublin Bay Sailing Club, she’d a key role in running one of the most important local sailing programmes, which in Dublin Bay’s case saw weeknight numbers racing regularly rising to 142 boats, an achievement which had already been recognised with DBSC becoming the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year” for 2021, the second time the club has been awarded this unique trophy which has been part of sailing in Ireland for more than forty years.

DBSC former Commodore Jonathan Nicholson and current Commodore (and 2021 Ruffian 23 Champion) Ann Kirwan with the Mitsubishi Motors “Cub of the Year” trophy. Photo: Frank Burgess DBSC former Commodore Jonathan Nicholson and current Commodore (and 2021 Ruffian 23 Champion) Ann Kirwan with the Mitsubishi Motors “Cub of the Year” trophy. Photo: Frank Burgess 


But while clubs like DBSC were providing the adjustable structures in which sailing could be optimised as circumstances changed, it was the often historic local One-Design Classes which best thrived in the constrained conditions, and for 2021 pride of place has to go to the Centenary-celebrating Strangford Lough River Class, 28ft 6in Mylne-designed classics which first sailed on Belfast Lough in 1921, but soon disappeared into the secret waters of Strangford Lough. There, all twelve boats survived to meet 2021’s hundred-year deadline when an excellent profusely-illustrated class history was produced by James Nixon, while Graham Smyth’s immaculately-restored Enler won the Centenary Regatta.

A hundred years, and still going strong…..all twelve Strangford Lough River Class sloops celebrated their Centenary during 2021. Photo courtesy River Class.A hundred years, and still going strong…..all twelve Strangford Lough River Class sloops celebrated their Centenary during 2021. Photo courtesy River Class

Another Mylne design, the 25ft Glens of late 1940s vintage, races in both Strangford Lough and Dublin Bay, and they have now come through the limbo period to emerge as classics worthy of restoration and the cherished status of Local Treasures. This process is particularly evident in Dun Laoghaire where a group in the Royal St George YC have become Glen connoisseurs, and it was the newly-restored Glenluce (Ailbe Millerick) that made the most successful racing impression during 2021.

Meanwhile, the Dublin Bay Water Wags just keep rolling along, a born-again phenomenon since their first manifestation in 1887. New boats are appearing most years, and the magic number of 50 in registered racing trim has now been achieved with the enduring Maimie Doyle design of 1900, though in 2021’s circumstances, the number racing regularly was between 25 and 30.

Ailbe Millerick’s restored Glen OD Glenluce racing in Dublin Bay. Several boats of the 1947-vintage Dun Laoghaire class are being restored Ailbe Millerick’s restored Glen OD Glenluce racing in Dublin Bay. Several boats of the 1947-vintage Dun Laoghaire class are being restored 


However, the historic Dublin Bay One-Design tradition moved into an entirely new chapter on Friday, July 30th, when the first three of the restored Dublin Bay 21s, the 1902 Mylne-designed classics being restored by Steve Morris of Kilrush for Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra, sailed into Dun Laoghaire led by Naneen, the only one of the class to have actually been originally built in the port.

Home again. The restored Dublin Bay 21 Naneen competing in the final DBSC race of the 2021 season.Home again. The restored Dublin Bay 21 Naneen competing in the final DBSC race of the 2021 season.

But while the East Coast may be strong on Alfred Mylne classics, it is only in Cork that we find a Fife-designed class, the 29ft Cork Harbour ODs of 1895 vintage. Although the Royal Cork may have had much of its Tricentenary Celebrations smothered, the determined leadership of Admiral Colin Morehead has seen every permissible opportunity used to celebrate the club’s existence, and in September Crosshaven’s own global sailing superstar Harold Cudmore took the RCYC’s own CHOD Jap to the celebrated Festival of Classic Sail at Saint-Tropez, and became the overall winner.

Another one for Cork! Harold Cudmore holds aloft the champion’s prize at St Tropez.Another one for Cork! Harold Cudmore holds aloft the champion’s prize at St Tropez.

Back home meanwhile, other more prosaic local One-Designs stepped up to the plate to meet the demand for local sport, and classes as various as Puppeteer 22s and Howth 17s at Howth, Shannon One Designs on the great lakes of the mighty river, RNIYC Fairy Class at Cultra, and Belfast Lough Waverleys spending the summer in Strangford Lough, were to find themselves in flagship roles.

There are several other keelboat classes which fulfill both national and local roles, notably the Flying Fifteens, Squibs, SB20s, J/24s and Cork 1720s, and all were pushing their potential to the ultimate, with the 1720 Sportsboats in particular on a roll, with competitive boat-restoration now part of the 1994-founded class’s spirit.


The appearance of the very shiny restored Breaking Bad at Crosshaven in the Autumn has set such a standard that we’re sure – if she attracts the kind of sailing talent that’s talked of – that The Silver Bullet is how she’ll be known, but officially calling her that would be hubris of a high order.

New boat for old – the beautifully-restored 1720 Breaking Bad at Crosshaven – how long before she’s called the Silver Bullet? Photo: Robert BatemanNew boat for old – the beautifully-restored 1720 Breaking Bad at Crosshaven – how long before she’s called the Silver Bullet? Photo: Robert Bateman

The 1720s attracted a ferociously keen fleet of 27 boats to their Audi Waterford Europeans at Dunmore East in September, and maybe it was a sign of the times, but there were at least half a dozen hot favourites, and in a superb contest it was the Crosshaven-Howth combined team of McBearla-Rope-Dock-Atara – aka Aoife English and Ross McDonald - which won out from Elder Lemon with veteran Robert Dix, who has been winning majors in both dinghies and offshore racers – including the All-Ireland Helmsman’s Championship at age seventeen – for more than half a century.

While all these inshore dinghy and keelboat events were taking place all round the coast and on the lakes, offshore the skillfully-planned ISORA programme run by Peter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire and Stephen Tudor of Pwllheli was progressing, and in the end to make it viable there had to be champions for each side of the Irish Sea even though the season concluded on September with the Pwllheli to Ireland Race on September 11th, the Irish season winner being Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) while the Welsh champion was the J/109 Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop, PSC).


Elsewhere in Ireland, Galway Bay SC ran an imaginative and very well supported race-and-cruise-in-company, aka Lamb’s Week, in the bay and out to the Aran Islands and on to Roundstone, the racing highlight being a superbly calculated (by Fergal Lyons) pursuit race round Inis Mor from Kilronan, narrowly won by the Sigma 33 Scorpio (Mark Wilson, GBSC).

Mark Wilson’s Sigma 33 Scorpio won Gaoway Bay SC’s Round Aran Pursuit raceMark Wilson’s Sigma 33 Scorpio won Gaoway Bay SC’s Round Aran Pursuit race

GBSC success didn’t end there, as Liam Burke’s Farr 31 Tribal with a keen young crew took part in the WIORA Championship at Tralee, and returned to Galway with the overall winner’s trophy.

Calves Week at Schull in the first week of August was a similar celebration of the joy of local sailing in scenically spectacular waters, and while ashore the distances were being maintained, it was close racing afloat, with the overall winner being Frank Whelan’s J/122 Kaya from Greystones, which then went on to be overall winner of the ICRA Nats 2021 run by the National YC in Dublin Bay in September.

As ever, it was a good season for several boats from the J Boats range, with John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II (RIYC) winning the class’s nationals at the RIYC in late September, while on both coasts of Ireland the venerable J/24s – much-loved by a very special cohort despite efforts to make them see the advantages of the J/80 – continued to thrive, with the all-Ireland syndicate-owned Headcase winning the breezy Nationals at Sligo and with it one of the world’s oldest sailing perpetual challenge trophies, the 1822-vintage Ladies’ Cup of Sligo Yacht Club.

Frank Whelan’s J/122 Kaya from Greystones won overall in West Cork and Dublin Bay. Photo: O’BrienFrank Whelan’s J/122 Kaya from Greystones won overall in West Cork and Dublin Bay. Photo: O’Brien

Clearly, it was an active and manageable season if you were prepared to sail at home, but with a class like the Dragons with a strong European circuit, being always in Ireland can seem a bit limiting, though it did mean that Irish waters saw more of the Dragons in 2021 than is usual, and Martin Byrne (Royal St George YC) won the big championship at Kinsale in September.

Inevitably, the need to deal with international requirements impinged on a small but select elite group of top performers, and as a result their followers at home became very familiar with the waters and sailing conditions to be found on Lake Garda and at Vilamoura and Lanzarote.

World Champion Eve McMahonWorld Champion Eve McMahon

Lake Garda became a sort of mountain sailing station for the elite youth squad of Howth Yacht Club, with Rocco Wright beginning his exit from the Optimist Class in spectacularly impressive style there, and when Garda staged the Laser Youth Worlds 2021, clubmate Eve McMahon sailed a magnificently determined campaign (there isn’t the space here to enumerate the special problems which Garda can provide) to win Gold, a really beautiful world-class achievement.


With the postponed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo coming down the line in the latter half of July, the question of whether or not the 49er Fingal team of Robert Dickson of Howth and Sean Waddilove of Skerries would become Olympians had been answered back in April at Lanzarote. They’d qualified with one race to spare, after which they’d sailed the final race in such a relaxed mood that they found the performance to do a horizon job on the rest of the fleet.

Sean Waddilove and Rob Dickson on the day they qualified for the OlympicsSean Waddilove and Rob Dickson on the day they qualified for the Olympics

It was hoped that this “competitively relaxed” frame of mind could be carried over into the Sailing Olympics for both the 49er sailors and for 2016 Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy sailing her last Olympics in the Laser Radial. But the controversy-laden pandemic-plagued atmosphere in Japan was anything but relaxed, and the frustrated Irish showing reflected this.

But with something as broad as the current Irish sailing scene, even as one door slams negatively shut, another opens, and August brought the RORC Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 in its new extended version with the finish at Cherbourg, providing what was surely 2021’s greatest participation sailing event of top international standards, with dozens of nations represented in a fleet pushing towards the 400 mark.


At first, it looked as though the small but keen Irish and Irish Sea squad were in for another disappointment, as a very impressive first place in the two-handed Figaro 3 class for Kenneth Rumball of Dun Laoghaire and Pamela Lee of Greystones was penalised. They’d been relying on the GPS supplied with the boat, but the organisers relied solely on YellowBrick which gave marginally different readings, and consequently, RL Sailing had been indicated as infringing the forbidden TSS at the Fastnet Rock.

“Everything’s Going To Be All Right” Aboard Desert Star in the Fastnet Race as they realized things were very much in their favour“Everything’s Going To Be All Right” Aboard Desert Star in the Fastnet Race as they realised things were very much in their favour

But meanwhile, as the results analysis continued, it was found that the famous Lombard 46 Pata Negra, now owned and skippered by Pwllheli’s Andrew Hall with Carnarvon as her new port of registry, had placed third overall. And then beautifully out of the blue, Irish Offshore Sailing’s Ronan O Siochru with the much-used veteran Sun Fast 37 Desert Star from Dun Laoghaire, sailed a well-nigh faultless race in every sense, and placed second in Class 4, and 14th overall. At the contemporary competition level of the Fastnet Race, this was a fantastic achievement.

The international offshore scene continued at centre-stage in September and the Figaro Solo with Ireland’s Tom Dolan racing Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan. There was frustration in the early stages, but racing from Brittany round the Fastnet and back for the final stage seems to have inspired him, as he was first at the Fastnet, and despite being a marked man thereafter, he was still solidly in third at the finish in Saint-Nazaire – there’s nothing like finishing the big one with a podium place.

Tom Dolan’s Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was leading at the Fastnet Rock.Tom Dolan’s Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was leading at the Fastnet Rock

International solo offshore racing interest didn’t end there, as Galway’s Yannick Lemonnier had entered his 2004-vintage Manuard design Port of Galway in the Eurochef Mintransat 2021. A pre-series dismasting looked to have stymied the campaign, but friends known and unknown rallied round to get the show back on the road, and Port of Galway sailed off on time in the midst of an extraordinary fleet of 90 boats – most of them of more modern designs – and by the time she got to Guadeloupe, the Galway sailmaker placed 16th in the hyper-competitive Proto division.

Dinghies came back to prominence in September with the Golden Jubilee of the Lasers being marked at Ballyholme where it all started in Ireland, and several of those who had been there at the start - including Ron Hutchieson and Bill O’Hara – were much involved, while the overall winner on the day was Gareth Flannigan.

Down memory lane – Bill O’Hara sailing in the Lasers Golden Jubilee regatta at BallyholmeDown memory lane – Bill O’Hara sailing in the Lasers Golden Jubilee regatta at Ballyholme


The Irish Cruiser Racing Association, under its Commodore Richard Colwell and a Committee of all the talents, had been quietly busy in an active background role throughout the season, developing its programme of support to clubs in encouraging Under 25s in full-on involvement. It’s a policy that chimes well with the niche position which the J/24, in particular, holds with younger less affluent sailors, who seek to sail in command rather than in a narrow crewing role.

ICRA becomes most public through its annual National Championship, and its selection of a Boat of the Year based on a clear-cut season-long points system which finally concludes with the inclusion of results obtained from the main Autumn Leagues. 2021 proved very effective in moving the various programmes along, and after the hiatus which was 2020, the ICRA Nats 2021 were hosted, with a crack fleet in Dublin Bay, by the National YC from September 3rd to 5th.

In three days of good and varied racing, the broad appeal of the ICRA welcome was eloquently reflected by the fact that the entries were drawn from seventeen clubs in all, including several craft from the north, and for those who are inspired by aspirations of levelling-up, it was notable that only two classes out of the five main divisions were won by boats from one of Ireland’s six major front line clubs.

The overall winner was declared as Frank Whelan’s Class 0 champion, the J/122 Kaya from Greystones, thereby putting her among the favourites for the Boat of the Year title as she already carried the Calves Week victory in her points total, and the favourable impression given by the spread of winners is self-evident:

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

In the end, the Boat of the Year title came down to the results obtained in the last race of the AIB Autumn League at Royal Cork YC at Crosshaven, but while those were awaited it was re-confirmed that the ICRA Nats 2022 would be combined in Cork Week in July 2022, while it was additionally announced that the ICRA Nats 2023 would be hosted by Howth Yacht Club.

ICRA Boat of the Year 2021 Nieulargue (Denis Murphy, RCYC) negotiating the Old head of Kinsale. Photo: Robert BatemanICRA Boat of the Year 2021 Nieulargue (Denis Murphy, RCYC) negotiating the Old head of Kinsale. Photo: Robert Bateman

Eventually, the Autumn League at Crosshaven saw a class win for the Murphy family’s Nieulargo which – when added to consistent performances early in the season - elevated her into the Boat of the Year title by just one point over Kaya.


Across the Atlantic, a successful boat – designed by Mark Mills of County Wicklow – was back in prominence with the IC 37 providing the impressive fleet performer for the New York YC Invitational at Newport, Rhode Island. Two Irish clubs were involved, and while the Howth team skippered by Darren Wright were on a very steep learning curve, the Royal Cork squad skippered by Anthony O’Leary were in familiar territory, defending the Bronze Medal they won in 2020. Some of the leading American clubs had had their teams in training all season, so the newly-arrived Corkmen did very well to take fourth overall in a fleet of 19.

Two Irish teams in the NYYC Invitational at Newport, Rhode Island – Royal Cork third left, and Howth second rightTwo Irish teams in the NYYC Invitational at Newport, Rhode Island – Royal Cork third left, and Howth second right

Back home at the end of September, the All-Ireland Juniors were staged at Schull, and Rocco Wright (HYC) came out of the woodwork to snatch the overall win in the final race of an intensely-fought series. The Seniors followed a week later, raced in the National 18s at Crosshaven, and though it might have been thought that the 18s’ own representative helm would have an advantage, it was that versatile star Ger Owens (RStGYC), currently doing most of his racing with the GP 14s, who emerged as the new Champion of Champions.

Ger is not the first to have done it twice, and Nin O’Leary of Crosshaven actually won it three times on the trot, but Ger’s record is unrivalled on one score – he last won it 20 years ago. And his sailing enthusiasm is undimmed – just a fortnight after the Helmsman’s Championship, he was back to sailing GP 14s, crewing this time for Katie Dwyer of Sutton in the Munster Championship at Cullaun in County Clare. They were within an ace of winning overall, but Katie’s clubmate Alan Blay pipped them at the post.


That very-late-season major at Cullaun experienced some daunting weather, but until then the Autumn Leagues had been fortunate in the volatile conditions of September and October, happening to hit on the days when conditions were benign. This was also generally the experience of the last major happening at Lough Derg, October’s Keelboat Freshwater Regatta for Dragons, SB20s, Flying Fifteens and Squibs, when the class winners were Cameron Good (Kinsale YC) in the Dragons, Andrew Deakin (Lough Derg YC) in the SB20s, Trevor d’Arcy (Carrickferus SC) in the Flying Fifteens, and Gordon Patterson (Royal North of Ireland YC) in the Squibs, an extensive range which only partly illustrates the truly all-Ireland nature of the entry list at this increasingly popular event.

Squibs and Flying Fifteens mixing it at the Lough Derg YC Fresh Water Keelboat RegattaSquibs and Flying Fifteens mixing it at the Lough Derg YC Fresh Water Keelboat Regatta

By the end of October, we’re approaching the usual relative prominence of through-winter Frostbite events and the intense seven-race series which is the Turkey Shoot in Dublin Bay. But in 2021 nothing was normal, and November brought a mighty assembly of Lasers at Barcelona, with the powers-that-be trying to persuade everyone – now that the Great Originator Bruce Kirby is no longer among us – that the boat is officially called the ILCA.


After fifty good years and more, it’s going to take more than a year or two to persuade everyone to think of the much-loved Laser with a new name. But either way it was great news for Ireland at Barcelona, as Olympian Finn Lynch (NYC) emerged from a long performance drought to take second in the premier division, while Sean Craig (RStGYC) notched fourth in the Masters.

The huge Laser fleet in Barcelona in November may have been racing just ahead of the winter, but it provided the opportunity for Finn Lynch (centre) to make a spectacular exit from his performance drought.The huge Laser fleet in Barcelona in November may have been racing just ahead of the winter, but it provided the opportunity for Finn Lynch (centre) to make a spectacular exit from his performance drought.

But Barcelona was getting wintry enough, and attention has swung to Oman, where the Fingal 49ers took an eighth in their series, while the scene is being set for next month’s Youth Worlds. December may also bring the annual Rolex Sydney-Hobart race in Australia on December 26th – it’s always of Irish interest, as Gordon Maguire has made it his trademark event. But with Tasmania currently pandemic-barred for visitors, it’s possible the race will either be re-routed or else cancelled altogether.

With the latest gloomy COVID news, the future is more uncertain than ever. But at least for sailors in Ireland, in 2021 we had a great season, a super season that nobody would have thought possible back in March.

This article first appeared on Afloat on 27/11/21

Published in W M Nixon
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Sovereign's Cup competitors can expect a mix of light to medium conditions over the next four days at Kinsale Yacht Club tempting pundits to predict that it might be the all-round performance of cruiser-racers types such as the J109 (that make up 15% of the fleet) that might come out on top by Saturday.

Light winds for this morning's opening day of the O'Leary Life & Pensions Sovereign's Cup at Kinsale Yacht Club looks like a tricky scenario but fresher conditions with sun and breeze from Thursday offer the prospect of some 'champagne sailing' for the fleet of 62 boats now gathered in the West Cork port. 

As Afloat reported previously, the event is split across five divisions with the biggest boats competing in the Coastal series which also features the biggest turnout.

In the Sovereign's Cup offshore line-up is Denis and Annamarie Murphy's Champion Grand Soleil Nieulargo from the Royal Cork Yacht ClubIn the Sovereign's Cup offshore line-up is Denis and Annamarie Murphy's Champion Grand Soleil Nieulargo from the Royal Cork Yacht Club

Included in the offshore line-up is Denis and Annamarie Murphy's Nieulargo from the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven and Kinsale's own Conor Doyle on Freya. George Sisk's WOW! from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire is also back as one of the original entries for this course.

George Sisk's WOW! from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire is competing in this week's Sovereign's Cup at Kinsale Yacht ClubGeorge Sisk's WOW! from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire is competing in this week's Sovereign's Cup at Kinsale Yacht Club 

The four-day series is being staged at nearly half its normal size due to the Covid-19 pandemic and no indoor activities have been organised with restrictions on numbers ashore in place. Overseas entries are unable to attend due to travel restrictions.

"While we are unable to have festival conditions ashore this year, there's still a mood of celebration as we're all set for great racing afloat," commented Anthony O'Neill, Regatta Director at Kinsale Yacht Club. "The competitors have closely followed the Covid guidelines and our precautions have been widely welcomed; people just want to get out sailing at last."

The four-day O'Leary Insurance Group Sovereign's Cup is the first of the regular Irish regattas on the national fixtures list to resume.

Published in Sovereign's Cup

The coastal fleet is the largest of the four fleets totalling 62 boats that will take to the water on Wednesday for the 2021 O'Leary Insurance Sovereign's Cup off Kinsale.

Recent Dun Laoghaire to Dingle winner Nieulargo will battle again with D2D runner up, Freya as well as other D2D contestants Samatom, Searcher, Hot Cookie. Conor Phelan's Jump Juice completes the fleet.

Conor Phelan's Jump JuiceConor Phelan's Jump Juice Photo: Bob Bateman

As Afloat previously reported, the J109's look set to spend the four days battling it out in Class 1. Finbarr O'Regan's Artful Dodjer is new to this fleet and had a very strong D2D race, if not for the penalty incurred at the Tuskar.

Finbarr O'Regan's J109, Artful DodjerFinbarr O'Regan's J109, Artful Dodjer

However, Anthony O'Leary is hoping to cause an upset in his modified 1720, while others such as Altair, Chancer, Alpaca and Ruth are all contenders in this class.

Paul Tingle's X34 AlpacaPaul Tingle's X34 Alpaca

New to Class Two is the J80 of O'Sullivan/O'Regan called No Notions. This has been performing very competitively in KYC club racing. They are up against the Half Tonners and Kieran Collin's Coracle VI.

There are three Quarter Tonners in Class 3 who will take on local boats, Luas, Swift and Toro Loco.

In White Sail 1, James Matthews in his newly acquired Jeanneau 49, Fiscala, is hoping to put his stamp on the division.

White Sail 2 also has a newcomer. The Forde/Good partnership is entering the Ballad of Kilmac, their recent acquisition - an Albin Ballad.

The 2021 Sovereign's Cup Sailing Instructions are now available and downloadable below.

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Kinsale Yacht Club is welcoming welcome back the O’Leary Insurance Group as headline sponsors of its Sovereigns Cup 2021.

The other major regatta news from Kinsale this week is that Anthony O’Neill has been appointed Regatta Director for next edition. Welcoming the news, Commodore Michael Walsh reported that work is well underway into the organisation of the 2021 regatta saying “We look forward to welcoming all competitors to Kinsale Yacht Club in June for the 14th edition of the Sovereigns Cup. It’s fantastic to welcome back the O’Leary Insurance Group as headline sponsor and am personally delighted to see Anthony O’Neill take the helm as the regatta director for the event”

Speaking of his appointment Anthony O’Neill commented “I’m honoured to have been asked to head up the organising committee for next year’s Sovereigns Cup. I have competed in the event many times over the years and look forward to welcoming many cruiser/ racers as well as one-design classes to Kinsale next June. I am also especially thankful to the O’Leary Insurance Group for their support. This is the third Sovereigns Cup in a row that they have been title sponsors and we are all delighted to welcome them back”

Robert Kennedy of the O’Leary Insurance Group added, “Brian and I were delighted to be asked here this evening for this photoshoot to welcome Anthony into his role and also to acknowledge the wonderful relationship the O’Leary Insurance Group and Kinsale Yacht Club have built up over the past number of years. Sovereigns Cup is a unique event, in the unique setting of Kinsale and we very much look forward to working with Anthony and his team to ensure the success of Sovereigns Cup 2021”

This will be the 14th Sovereigns Cup which started in 1995 and runs biennially. The event runs from the 23rd to the 26th of June 2021.

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With two World Championships on the agenda, and Ireland’s biggest sailing event – the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta - making its biennial appearance at mid-season, 2019’s sailing programme couldn’t be anything other than interesting as it also included the increasingly popular D2D – aka the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – and a re-vamped Sovereign’s Cup at Kinsale which included the Irish Half-Ton Championship and two One-Design classes.

But as the developing sailing programme for 2019 was being finalised in the latter part of the 2018 season, it was pointed out that the seven-week period between the start of the main fixtures with the Scottish Series at Tarbert in May 2019 and the conclusion of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta on July 14th was distinctly compressed, with a series of pillar events at different venues almost nose-to-tail, which would see boats taken as far north as Loch Fyne, and as far west as Dingle in the midst of a very crowded schedule.

The suggestion was that this would distort the perception and enjoyment of the season, yet it overlooked the fact that - apart from the Sovereign’s Cup series at Kinsale at the end of the June, and the VDLR 19 itself in mid-July - the other big happenings were purely for cruiser-racers.

For sure, with their large crews, they raise the number of active participants and interest in their major championships. Yet the idea that it would all happen with a Big Bang in seven weeks, and that the rest of the season would seem an empty desert, by comparison, proved well off target.

There was always something going on every week of the season, and if the “Seven-Week Scrunch-up” did mean a concentration of emphasis on cruiser-racer competition in that period, at alternative times the sailing community – including cruiser-racers themselves – could think of other things such as the build-up towards the Olympics in 2020, the many dinghy championships, the growth of classics, the strength of the traditional boat movement, and even the mysterious world of long-distance voyaging.

curly morris2Curly Morris: veteran sailor, respected sailing administrator, and GP 14 addict. Photo: W M Nixon
It was that thriving organisation, the GP 14 Association of Ireland, which started things in mid-January with a special invitation regatta and dinner at Skerries – with boats representative of every major GP 14 centre throughout Ireland – to celebrate the 75th birthday of one of their most devoted adherents, Curly Morris of Larne. His love of the GP14 is well matched by his skills in sailing and sailing administration, such that he is a member of World Sailing’s Class’s Committee, and later in the year, he was also elected President of GP14 International. But at Skerries, as is right and proper, the sailing came first, and despite it being January they fitted in three quick race with the honours going to Ger Owens of RStGYC, crewed by Curly’s daughter Melanie.

curly morris3Curly Morris racing his GP 14 Trouble on the Way with Royal Cork YC at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman
Nevertheless sailing is generally under wraps in January, yet that same weekend in Dun Laoghaire, the Irish National Sailing School – “The School that Never Sleeps” – provided boats and personnel to help Race Officer Vincent Delany stage the Inter-Schools Shanahan Cup, presented by 2015 Sailor of the Year Liam Shanahan, the winners being Gonzaga College with a team of Jack Fahy, Andrew Conan, Henry Higgins, Finn Cleary, Tom Higgins, and Con Murphy.

There were various frostbite series well underway at several centres, but by March the Inter-varsities were swinging into play, the main action being the IUSA Championship on Lough Key. All credit to the Irish Universities, they’re very imaginative in their choice of interesting venues, as Lough Key is one of the loveliest of the Shannon lakes, yet it is seldom used for sailing events.

The racing was extremely close, but in the end, it was UCD all the way, with their team of helms Jack Higgins, Patrick Cahill and Daniel Raymond, and crews of Alanna Lyttle, Lucy McCutcheon and Katie Cassidy besting Trinity in a nail-biting finish. UCD seem to be getting it right every which way, as Lucy McCutcheon was voted Captain of the Year, and UCD also became IUSA Club of the Year.

UCD winning team4The UCD Team, winners of the Irish Inter-Varsities 2019 at the imaginatively-chosen venue of Lough Key, included helms Jack Higgins, Patrick Cahill and Daniel Raymond, and crews Alannna Lyttle, Lucy McCutcheon and Katie Cassidy – their Captain Lucy McCutcheon (third right) was also voted IUSA Captain of the Year. 
Came April, and the early season in its traditional form starts to show signs of life, with the first of the ISORA races harshly testing enthusiasm, for though the days may be getting longer and the sunshine a bit warmer, April is when the sea is at its coldest. Thus many were thinking of Antigua Sailing Week, a few even got themselves there, and it felt like home with one of the leading contenders being the Antigua National Sailing Academy’s own Royal Cork 1720 - far from home in miles maybe, but very much at home in the brisk conditions by providing the ideal step-up boat for youngsters making their way from dinghies into keelboats.

antigua 1720 sailing5 A bit of Ireland in the Caribbean – Antigua National Sailing Academy has found that the Royal Cork 1720 Sportsboat provides an ideal step-up from dinghies to keelboats.

Nevertheless back home those raw early races kick-start the main sailing programme, and by mid-May, club sailing is active, and the first dinghy Nationals have already been staged with the well-supported Laser Masters at Howth going to Royal St George’s Sean Craig. Meanwhile keelboats are already looking overseas, with Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm of Rush and Howth leading the charge to Scotland – a progression which eventually saw Storm becoming the RC35 Champion 2019, while the Scottish Series saw something of an Irish clean sweep, with Andrew Craig’s J/109 Chimaera (RIYC) winning IRC 2 and overall – Andrew being Sean Craig’s brother, it was a good month for Clan Craig. Back in Tarbert, Jay Colville’s First 40 from East Down YC in Strangford Lough won Class 1, with IRC 3 going to Jonny Swan’s Half Tonner Harmony (Howth YC), while Rory Fekkes’s up-graded First 8 F’n Gr8 from Carrickfergus was tops in IRC 4, and a special award went to John & Brian Hall of the NYC with their J/109 Something Else, who were fourth in class and have done a record number of the Scottish Series.

sean craig6Sean Craig (RStGYC), Irish Lasers Masters Champion 2019chimaera sailing7Andrew Craig’s J/109 Chimaera (RIYC), overall winner of the Scottish Series. Photo:
But even while the racers were upping the pace, before May was out the painstakingly-restored 1926-built 56ft Conor O’Brien made her number in Dublin Bay, having sailed round from Limerick in line with her work for Sailing into Wellness and the promotion of the proposed Salmons Wake voyage to West Greenland. It was a fine evening of early summer as a large crowd of well-wishers met her at the Royal Irish YC, and while the programme as outlined by Project Manager Gary MacMahon seemed decidedly ambitious, when Ilen finally returned to her south coast base at the Trident Hotel on September 4th she had achieved all her objectives which included a double-crossing of the Atlantic.

ilen at figaro8The restored ketch Ilen off Kinsale during the Figaro visit to Kinsale. By the time she returned to Kinsale early in September, she’d completed a 5,000 mile two-way Transatlantic voyage to West Greenland. Photo: Robert Batemanfigaro boat kinsale9The new foiling Figaro 3s made their international debut at Kinsale at the beginning of June. Photo: Robert Bateman
Before going back to Greenland, Ilen was to act as a Support Boat at Kinsale in early June for the visit by the Figaro Solo fleet from France, which included Ireland’s Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who – like their rivals – were still getting to grips with their new foiling Figaro 3s. Later in the series in the English Channel, Tom was to take the Top Rookie prize for one of the legs, but when they came to Kinsale both Irish sailors were still on a wellnigh vertical learning curve, while the organisers were learning that the Irish weather is a perverse beast – there was generally plenty of wind around during early June, but at the time the Figaro organisers wanted to send their record 50th Anniversary fleet on a long leg taking in the Isle of Man, there was so little wind in prospect that they were sent direct to the next port in France.

June was the ultra-busy month for the domestic fleet, starting with the Lambay Races at Howth where the overall winner was the keenly-campaigned veteran Club Shamrock Demelza (40 years and counting) sailed by Steff Ennis & Windsor Laudan, which somehow emerged triumphant from the midst of a complex fleet many of whom were already gearing up for the four day Frank Keane BMW ICRA Nationals at Royal St George YC the following Thursday.

With a good entry, the main point of interest in the lead-in phase was where the Class Divisions would be made, something which proved to be of exceptional relevance as it put the Half Tonners into Division 2, yet kept a whole gaggle of X Yachts free of the Half Ton shadow and able to spread their wings in Division 3.

The fact is the Half Tonners tend to dominate whichever Division they’re in, and this was very much the case at the ICRA Nats, where Michael & Darren Wright and Rick Deneve’s relatively recently-acquired Half Tonner Mata from Howth pipped it by half a point from Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate XVIII, and on down the line there was no getting away from the fact that the first seven placings in IRC2 saw six slots being filled by Half Tonners.

Meanwhile, apparently safely ensconced in IRC 3, the Gore-Grimes family’s X310 Dux found she was bundled in with F’n Gr8 fresh from Rory Fekkes’s Scottish success, but Dux took it all in her stride, logging a scoreline of 3,3,1,1,1,1,2 against the Carickfergus boat’s 1,1,4,3,2,2,3, which gave it to Dux by 12 pts to 16, and as Division 3 was the largest class with 23 racing, Dux had the bonus of being declared overall winner of the ICRA Nats.

Division 1 was dominated by J/109s, with John Maybury’s Joker II (RIYC) compensating for the fact that Howth boats had won IRC 2 and IRC 3 by being well ahead in the final points of Storm and Outrajeous (Richard Colwell & John Murphy). And RIYC scored too in the Coastal Division, where ten hot boats showed they preferred something a little different from slugging up and down between the cans, with Paul O’Higgins’ JK 10.80 Rockabill VI winning overall from the First 40 Forty Licks, with the Sunfast 3600 Yoyo (Brendan Coghlan RStGYC) third.

icra 2019 nats10The Frank Keane BMW ICRA Nats 2019 at RStGYC on Dublin Bay, with the X-302 Xebec (Bourke/McGirr/Ball) from Howth leading the charge
With the successful ICRA Nats 2019 safely put to bed, the focus immediately switched to the National YC’s 270-mile Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on the evening of Wednesday 12th June. While the weather in May had been reasonably bright if cold, June was having too much grey, and the D2D start day was a damp misery, but at least as the low-pressure area which was causing it was shifting to the eastward to draw the wind from the north, the large and varied fleet went off at increasing speed in a fair wind.

“Large and varied” scarcely does it justice, as the fleet of 46 starters included some of the most impressive cruiser-racers from Ireland and the Irish Sea, and ranged in size from Mick Cotter’s Southwind 95 Windfall dwarfing everyone at the top end down to the two Mintransat boats, Louis Mulloy’s Blackshell Farm from Mayo and Yannick Lemonnier’s Port of Galway, where there’d been a sudden crew change the day of the start as regular co-skipper Dan Mill was out with a serious knee injury, but SB20 sailor John Malone of Lough Ree YC gallantly stepped into the breech at the last minute, and acquitted himself with style in a tough cold race.

d2d19 start11The start of the Dingle Race, with overall winner Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins, left) dwarfed by line honours winner and new record setter Windfall (Mick Cotter). Photo: O’Brien
With the wind in the north it looked all set for Windfall to break the 24hr 48min course record set by her predecessor, the 78ft Whisper, in 2011 – and maybe even chop the 24 hours while she was at it. But the D2D is a cussed beast, there are always holes in the wind, and a veering northerly means you are slugging into it in confused seas in the final stage off the West Cork and Kerry coast from the Fastnet round the Great Skellig and on into Dingle. So in the end, although Windfall did manage a new record, it was by just 20 seconds better than Whisper’s 2011 time.

Windfall finishing12Big boat, big country…..Windfall crosses the finish line at Dingle to establish a new D2D course record. Photo: Rachel Fallon
In the main part of the fleet, Andrew Hall’s skinny J/125 Jackknife from Pwllheli had been revelling in the running and reaching to show the way down the east coast and along the south, but once the upwind stuff came top of the agenda, less extreme boats got in on the act. Yet though Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia (RStGYC) was putting in an impressive show, the defending champion, Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) was always there or thereabouts, and at the finish, she pounced to finish ahead of the bigger J/122 and correct into an unassailable lead.

Meanwhile the J/109s were not only giving the rest of the fleet a tough time, but they were having some mighty battles among themselves, and though Johnny Murphy in Outrajeous seemed to have everything under control to have all other J/109s astern going down to the Fastnet – sometimes by a quite substantial margin – at the Fastnet itself Outrajeous slipped into the wrong side of a flatter patch, and Ruth (NYC) - with 19-year-old Ben Shanahan the youngest skipper in the race – slipped past her right in at the Rock and stayed ahead all the way to the finish, where it was noted that these two J/109s had sailed maybe the most efficient race of all, as Ruth completed the 270 mile course with 279 miles logged, yet Outrajeous managed it with only 277 miles.

But minimal miles are of little use of they’re sailed at low speed in a light patch. You can live with extra miles or two if the boat is roaring along, and for much of the race Rockabill VI was doing that very thing, making her overall winner by a remarkable 50 minutes and 47 seconds with Aurelia second, the Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (John O’Gorman, NYC with Mark Mansfield onboard) third, Ruth fourth, Jackknife 5th, and Outrajeous sixth. 

Rockabill spinnaker13Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI – in addition to becoming overall winner of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, she is now ISORA Champion 2019 and ICRA Boat of the Year. 
As for the two little ’uns, Port of Galway was first of the two Minitransat boats and had an hour and 54 minutes in hand on Blackshell Farm, so clearly John Malone’s SB 20 experience stood him to the good in a decidedly rugged race.

The theory of the timing of the D2D was that it would allow participants a reasonable margin to get themselves to Kinsale for the four day O’Leary Life Sovereign’s Cup at the end of June while still making some token appearances at the workplace, and certainly there were some who managed it all to enjoy Kinsale en fete, with that unique atmosphere of sail, sport and socialising which Ireland’s Number One hospitality venue lays on so very well.

Until now, anyone who remembers the overall review from 2018 will have been wondering what might have happened in 2019 to Frank Whelan’ star boat of that year, the Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera from Greystones. Well, the Sovereign’s proved that Eleuthera most certainly hadn’t gone away for 2019. She’d always been pushing towards the frame in the earlier events, but at Kinsale she burst through with a convincing display of six wins in some demanding racing to take the Sovereign’s Cup in style for the best overall performance in IRC.

eleuthera winning kinsale14Frank Whelan’s Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera from Greystones was tops at the Sovereigns. Photo: Robert Bateman
So that was one up to the East Coast. But when it came to the Portcullis Cup for the top scorer in ECHO, it couldn’t have gone further west, as it went to John Gordon’s X-Rated from Mayo SC in Clew Bay in the heart of Connacht. This neat balance then left it open house for others results, and few were more interesting than the Half Tonners, where Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate XVIII (RIYC & HYC) won the IRC Class overall, but in the scoring system which the Half Tonners had devised for themselves within the format of the regatta, the new Irish Half Ton Champion was the Wright brothers and Rick De Neve’s impressively up-graded Mata from Howth.

Other winners included George Sisk’s Xp44 WOW (RIYC) in the Coastal Class, the J/109 Outrajeous (Richard Colwell & Johnny Murphy) in IRC 1, and Martin Byrne’s International Dragon Jaguar (RStGYC), with the class being included in the Soveriegn’s as part of the buildup to Kinsale’s hosting of the Dragon Gold Cup in 2020. Also right there was Kinsale’s own John Twomey in his Bruce Kirby-designed Blazer 23, who had a clean sweep in WS IRC2, his crew including Eugene Hinkel who built the original moulds in Canada and thus got double enjoyment out of his visit to Kinsale.

mata wright deneve15 Mata (Michael & Darren Wright and Rick De Neve, HYC) emerged from the Sovereign’s Cup at Kinsale as the new Irish Half Ton Champion

In the end, a full programme was patiently chiselled out of some distinctly uncooperative weather by senior Race Officer, Irish Sailing President Jack Roy, while the overall organisation by Bobby Nash coped very well with conditions which were erratically typical of much of 2019’s weather, and of which John Twomey wrily commented: “The weather is the boss”.

However, with July and the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta approaching, the weather finally began to take on a proper summery tinge, and with prospects looking good, late entries pushed the lineup in the 30-plus classes so near to 500 boats that most people claimed it had been achieved, though maybe 498 might more accurately hit the spot.

Either way, it was a lot of boats and a colossal number of sailors counting on the four days from 11th July to 14th July to provide them with the highlight of their summer’s sailing. Organising Committee Chairman Don O’Dowd and his specialist team, together with an army of volunteers, had everything in place to run smoothly with the Dun Laoghaire waterfront hospitality and entertainment machine, so all they needed was some sunshine and a bit of a breeze, and they got those too, so once again it was a very special event which showed just what Dun Laoghaire can do if given the chance.

RS elite start16The RS Elites came visiting to make the VDLR 2019 their annual championship

mcintyre rs elite17Olympic sailing medallist Mike McIntyre after retaining the title in the RS Championship in Dublin Bay. Photo: O’Brien
As usual, it attracted some exotic entries from across the Channel, including three dozen RS Elites who had selected the VDLR as the setting for their 2019 British & Irish Championship, with former Olympic medallist Mike McIntyre emerging – not for the first time – as the class champion. In style, they couldn’t have been more different from another visiting class, the 1898-vintage Seabird Half Raters from Treardur Bay across in Anglesey, with the expedition by the Seabirds and Treardur’s 14ft Morgan Giles-designed Myth dinghies being the launching of Treardur Bay SC’s Centenary Year.

The Seabirds’ leaderboard was dominated by the oldest boat in the visiting fleet, the 106-year-old Scoter, family boat of the Warden-Owen family whose noted member Eddie Warden-Owen, CEO of the RORC, had found the time to be in Dublin Bay on this historic occasion, and to make it really worthwhile, he helmed Scoter to a clean sweep.

scoter dublin bay18The 106-year-old Seabird Half Rater Scoter was helmed to the class’s overall win in VDLR 19 by RORC CEO Eddie warden-Own. Photo: O’Brien
Despite their vintage, the Seabirds couldn’t claim overall seniority at the VDLR, as the Howth 17s are a year older, and it was one of the oldest Howth 17s, Ian & Judith Malcolm’s 121-year-old Aura, which topped the class by one point from Brian & Conor Turvey’s Isobel, a mere stripling from 1988.

Of course, if it’s total history you’re into, then although the Water Wags which currently race in the bay are to a design from 1900, their origins go back to 1887, but whatever their age, the sport is better than ever, the class continues to increase with Number 50 expected afloat for 2020, and meanwhile at VDLR19 it was Guy Kilroy’s Swift which won overall from Cathy MacAleavey’s Mariposa.

That’s the charm of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, particularly when the weather is obliging as it was once again in 2019. For although it involves an enormous fleet, within each of the 32 classes there was an intense sense of community which every so often over-lapped with the class next door, and of course spread further at the apres sailing in the four clubs which was Dun Laoghaire at its best.

Of course, somewhere in all this, some mathematical and computer genius is churning out results, and the miracle is that it all makes sense at the traditional prize-giving late on the Sunday afternoon. There, the top boats were Class 0: Eleuthera (Frank Whelan, Greystones SC), Class 1 Joker 2 (John Maybury, RIYC), RC35 Storm (Pat Kelly, RSC & HYC); Class 2 (A) Checkmate XVIII (Nigel Biggs (RIYC & HYC); Class 2 (B) Dux (A Gore-grimes (HYC); Class 3 F’n Gr8 (Rory Fekkes, Carrickfergus SC); Class 4 She Too (Jonathan Fawcett, South Caernarvon YC); Coastal A: Mermaid IV (Seamus Fitzpatrick, RIYC), Coastal B: Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC).

fekkes boat19Rory Fekkes; up-graded First Class 8 from Carrickfergus won her class at VDLR19. Photo: O’Brien

When you combine the full complexity of those results with the ins and outs of the many One-Design Classes, for most of us it then becomes an impenetrable maze. But the organising committee have a formula whereby the overall champion can be calculated by leaderboard results interacted with class numbers, and out of this magic theorem the Supreme Champions of VDLR 19 were Dave Gorman and Chris Doorly of the National YC racing Betty in the large Flying Fifteen class, where their programme was so well completed that they discarded a 3rd and a second, and otherwise apart from another second, they’d a clean sweep of seven wins.

For those who found the VDLR simply too much in its sheer weight of numbers, there was soon escape nearby with the Wayfarer Worlds at Greystones. Normally an international fleet of 63 boats including strong contingents of Danes and Canadians in addition to the preponderance of UK entries would have seemed a bit on the crowded side, but the Wayfarers are different, some of them really do cruise their boats, but equally they provide great racing, and after an excellent championship, it was sailmaker Mike McNamara from East Anglia who took the title.

wayfarers best20Sixty-three Wayfarers raced at Greystones in their Worlds, and found some of 2019’s best sailing conditions. Photo: Alan Jones
Meanwhile those still trying to analyse the VDLR results in their totality risked brain meltdown, but with the season’s big one now very successfully put to bed, it was hugely refreshing to look westward, because before July was gone, Galway Bay Sailing Club had organised an imaginative Cruise-in-Company from Galway to Lorient in Southern Brittany for 27 boats in co-ordination with the Yacht Club de Lorient – who sent three boats to cruise back with their Connacht friends. It was largely the doing of Cormac Mac Donncha, and the planning was meticulous yet light of touch, while the new or refreshed seagoing confidence instilled in a fleet of boats drawn from many sailing centres in the west will be of real benefit in the future.

hooker trilogy21Peter Connolly’s Galway Hooker from the Claddagh greets Lorient YC’s President Jean-Gab Samzun’s Peterson 46 Trilogy in Galway Bay before the combined fleet of 27 boats departed for the Galway-Lorient Cruise-in-Company in July. Trilogy was originally Robin Aisher’s Yeoman XXI which successfully completed the 1979 Fastnet Race, and in the crew was the owner’s daughter Sally who – as Sally O’Leary, wife of former RCYC Admiral Anthony O’Leary – attended the Fastnet 79 Reunion lunch in Howth Yacht Club on October 11th. Photo: Patricia Cannon
Still on the Atlantic seaboard, the end of July saw the WIORA Championship at Foynes, but although the fleet was drawn from several clubs, it was soon clear that Foynes’ own McCormack brothers in their J/24 Stouche were on a roll, and they finished as overall champions with five wins and two seconds.

wiora championship22The WIORA Championship at Foynes grabbed its bit of summer when it was found.

mccormack clan23 The McCormack Clan of Foynes had much to celebrate after the WIORA Championshp and the Mermaid Nationals

Barely had the prizes been distributed before the McCormacks were gone from Foynes, for of course in addition to his J/24 expertise, Darragh McCormack’s talents include Mermaid racing with the family’s beloved and beautifully-maintained Innocent, and he was on to defend his 2018 title in the Mermaid Nationals 2019 at the Royal Cork, the first time ever that Crosshaven has hosted this historic event.

There was a fleet to match the star quality of the linkup, and there was no way the likes of Paddy Dillon from Rush was going to give Darragh McCormack an easy ride of it, so much so that going into the final day the Foynes helm lay third while Dillon was first with Wexford’s Derek Joyce and Skerries’ Mark Boylan also very much in the hunt. But McCormack kept his cool and by the end of the day he’d won overall by 2.25 points, his second championship in ten days.

darragh mccormack24Darragh McCormack and his brothers on their way to victory in the Mermaids at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman
 Suddenly, we were in August, with eleven Irish boats in the record-fleet Rolex Fastnet Race on August 3rd, and a fascinating lineup of cruiser-racers descending on West Cork for Calves Week at Schull. It was the first time the two events were on in the same week, but even though the Fastnet Rock might be used as a mark of the course during Calves Week, it was a time for crowded emotions rather than crowded race marks as it was the 40th Anniversary of the Fastnet Race ’79 disaster, and the restored Robert – the Baltimore lifeboat in 1979 – had been brought to her old home port by her restorer Jeff Houlgrave to meet up with current Baltimore cox’n Kieran Cotter, whose period of service is such that it runs from that historic time through other noted rescues such as the 2011 rescue of the crew of George David’s Rambler 100 after her keel had fractured.

Also involved in the commemoration was Gerard Butler, lighthouse keeper on the rock in ’79, but so much was going on at the time that the full significance of the West Cork and Irish contribution to the saving of many lives was difficult to put into perspective until October this year, when a commemorative lunch was hosted by Howth Yacht Club by Fastnet 79 survivors Kevin Burke, Peter Lennon and Brian Turvey.

In all, 18 Irish yachts had been racing in the 1979 fleet, and while three had finished with the great Denis Doyle’s Swan 44 Moonduster the best-placed to win the Gull Salver, many had simply retired to the nearest safe port, while others such as Ken Rohan’s Regardless and Hugh Coveney’s Golden Apple had taken assistance.

Yet with so many rescue agencies officially involved, there has subsequently been very little personal contact between the rescue services and those who were racing. With forty years elapsed and people fading from the scene, the three Howth sailors felt that as so many east coast boats had been involved, an east coast club might provide the ideal setting for both sides to get together socially, mainly as an opportunity for the racers to say a heartfelt and intensely personal “Thank you” to the key personnel involved.

commodore john kavanagh25Commodore John Kavanagh. The Fastnet 79 Lunch of October 11th finally enabled him - together with Baltimore Lifeboat Cox’n Kieran Cotter and Fastnet Rock Lighthouse Keeper Gerard Butler – to meet many of the Irish sailors ho had taken part in the race.

These included Commodore John Kavanagh of the Naval Service who was in command of the LE Deirdre on station throughout the rescue prior and often giving active assistance, Gerard Butler whose calm presence on the Fastnet Rock was reassuring to all, and Kieran Cotter whose devotion to the Baltimore Lifeboat and to the wellbeing of West Cork and its islands has been a lifetime service.

When the idea was first mooted, it had seemed almost too vague in its objectives, but on the day – October 11th – all doubts were cast aside. Crews from 1979 came together again from far and wide, and in some cases, it was the first time they’d met in forty years. No less than three former Admirals of the Royal Cork YC were present, as too was a former Admiral and Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, together with other former officers of that remarkable organisation.

And there in their midst were Commodore John Kavanagh, Cox’n Kieran Cotter, and Lighthouse keeper Gerard Butler, exceptional people who had done a wonderful job, people who can never really be properly thanked, but simply to be with them was to experience an extraordinary gathering which will never be forgotten by those taking part.

And it was something which will in turn add to the mystique of the Fastnet Race, which is now at such a level that its 350 places were booked out within minutes of going online early in 2019, and the same will happen again in 2021. In 2019, there were eleven Irish boats taking part in a race which became increasingly rugged as the neared the Irish coast in freshening nor’westers. And while none looked like matching Ger O’Rourke’s great overall victory with the Cookson 50 Chieftain in 2007, Conor Doyle of Kinsale – nephew of the legendary Denis – was best placed of the Irish with his Xp 50 Freya to win the Gull Salver which his uncle had won in that ill-fated race of 1979.

freya sailing26Conor Doyle’s Xp 50 Freya from Kinsale was top-placed of the Irish boats in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race to win the Gull Salver. Photo: O’Brien
Within classes, some success looked more likely, as for a while the two Sunfast 37 boats of Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire – Desert Star skippered by Ronan O Siouchru and Sherkin skippered by Daniel Smith - were in a one-on-one battle for the Roger Justice Trophy for the best-placed sailing school entry, but a light patch towards the finish as they raced neck-and-neck saw their chances slip to leave Desert Star second and Sherkin third – excellent results perhaps, but Irish offshore schools have become accustomed to winning the Roger Justice.

As for Calves Week (which is actually just four days), some of it was sailed in conditions which even hardened Fastnet racers found quite demanding, while the partying ashore was its usual boisterous self. But for the crew of Paul O'Higgins' JPK10.80 Rockabill VI, a high level of celebration was merited as they won overall from a quality fleet which included boats of the calibre of Eleuthera, Jelly Baby and Nieulargo.

jelly baby27 The Jones family’s J/09 Jelly Baby was third boat in IRC One in Calves Week 2019. Photo: Robert Bateman

North along the Atlantic seaboard, the 40th of Cruinniu na mBad, the “Gathering of the Boats” built around the traditional deliveries of Connemara turf to picturesque Kinvara snug in its southeast corner of Galway Bay, was celebrated as a tribute to the late Tony Moylan who set it going four decades ago. His vision has worked so well that these days the interaction between seafaring, traditional boat racing and western culture is almost weatherproof, but as was so often the case in 2019, the conditions improved on the Sunday and the event saw some fine traditional boat racing.

cailin at mark28Skipper Pat Folan brings the Galway Hooker Naomh Cailin to the mark during the racing at the 40th Anniversary Cruinniu na mBad at Kinvara in mid-August. Photo: Pierce Purcell
The latter part of August saw a slew of One Design National Championships, both keelboats and dinghies. The Lasers went north, choosing Ballyholme for their Nationals with Ronan Wallace of Wexford on top in the Standard fleet, and Michael Crosbie of Royal Cork leading the 4.7s, while Ellen Barbour of County Antrim YC across the lough at Whitehead was top girl, and the Radials were won by Micheal O’Sulleabhain of Royal Cork.

The weekend of August 15 to 18th saw some particularly robust weather, indicating that the RORC had been wise – in the Autumn of 2018 - to move their Fastnet start back an entire fortnight, but in Ireland dates had been set on this weekend for the Optimist Nationals in Howth and the GP 14 Nationals in Skerries, and they went at it through thick and thin. The Sunday, in particular, had a bruising and squally westerly, and though they managed one race in Howth before declaring the championship completed, in the more exposed water off Skerries, the Geeps found their series had been completed after Saturday evening’s final event. 

The Optimist event at Howth was on such a scale as to be almost incomprehensible, with 185 boats in all, and eleven nations taking part. IODAI has now become an international power. In the first race, local star Rocco Wright took the bullet, but this made him a marked man thereafter by the likes of American Freddie Parkin, who put his stamp very firmly towards the front of the fleet thereafter. But James Dwyer Matthews of Cork (he gives allegiance to both Kinsale and Crosshaven) was always there or thereabouts, and in the final day’s big wind, while Parkin went down the mine, Dwyer Hickey kept his cool for a commanding performance to take the overall win, and though Parkin managed to hold onto second overall, the host club’s Luke Turvey, Rocco Wright and Johnny Flynn were next in line at 3rd, 4th and 5th.

james dwyer matthews29Keeping his cool – the strong winds of the final day at the Irish Optimist Nationals were the making of James Dwyer Matthews of Cork, who moved into the overall lead and the championship title in the final race.
This was some indication of the strength of the class in Ireland, already indicated by the fact that Rocco Wright had placed tenth overall – the best ever by an Irish helm – in the Oppy Worlds in July, and then in October he and James Dwyer Matthews were to star in the North Americans in the Bahamas, with Wright coming second while Dwyer Matthews was fifth.

As for the rugged old salts in the GP 14 Nationals up at Skerries, Shane McCarthy of Greystones – former GP 14 World Champion (2016) – was back on top form with longtime shipmate Damien Bracken to win overall from an impressive fleet which included several cross-channel talents keen to suss out the venue for 2020 GP 14s Worlds. As for McCarthy, he has a secret second life as a top single-hander in the Solo dinghy class mostly on the English circuit, and he ended the 2019 Solo programme third overall out of a very large fleet, while he rounded out the GP 14 season in Ireland by winning October’s Hot Toddy event on Lough Erne.

Lough Erne was also the setting on the weekend of August 23rd to 25th for the Irish J/24 Nationals with a good fleet. Much of the strength of the class is now to be found in the west, with young syndicates finding that the veteran J/24 provides an affordable way into sailing if everyone plays their part in supporting the upkeep, and ICRA has been particularly supportive of U25 initiatives. However, sailing conditions had been frustrating in Fermanagh with only five races out of a scheduled nine as the final day dawned calm, but Race Officer Derek Bothwell got them away as soon as a breeze hinted, and three races were completed in jig time.

j24s lough erne30The success of the J/24 Nationals on Lough Erne was a very effective demonstration of the success of the ICRA U25 projects at clubs throughout the country
Until then, it had looked as though overnight leader Darragh McCormack of Foynes was going to add yet another trophy to his 2019 collection, but the truly all-Ireland team with Headcase (Cillian Dickson of Lough Ree & Howth, Sam O’Byrne of Howth, Louis Mulloy from Mayo SC, Marcus Ryan from Mayo and Ryan Glynn from Ballyholme) somehow worked their way up from third overall until in the final race they needed to be two clear places ahead of McCormack’s Stouche, and they did it with a third against a fifth, and a favourable countback.

The ICRA U25 award went to Tadgh O’Loinsigh and his squad from Tralee Bay, while the Silver Fleet was won by Colm O’Flaherty with Jana from Sligo and the Bronze by Conor Houghton from Wicklow, and if that’s not a truly national championhip outcome, then I don’t know what is.

At the end of August, the RS 400s descended in strength on Royal North of Ireland YC at Cultra for their British and Irish Championship, and while cross-channel star Nick Craig was overall winner, the home squad put in a good show, with Rob Espey and Richard McCullough of Ballyholme taking second to become the new Irish champions, while Chris Penney and Jessica Rutherford of Carrickfergus and Holywood were sixth overall and second in the Irish division.

September saw the conclusion of the 2019 Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association Programme, a series which is so cleverly designed to provide user-friendly time-efficient events on both sides and across the Irish Sea that the concluding event was officially billed as Race 16, even if nobody had actually sailed all 16 races. But it brought all the heavy hitters together for a finish in Dun Laoghaire to the cross-channel James C Eadie Cup race, and though notable performers such as Pwllheli’s double champion Mojito (J/109, Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop) and Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia (RStGYC) were right there at the top of the leaderboard going into this final contest, it was Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI which took the title at the very end in this, her most successful season, making it the first time an Irish boat has been ISORA Champion for several years.

The meticulous buildup to the Subaru Flying Fifteen Worlds in Dublin Bay in September, hosted by the National Yacht Club, led to a well-run champion which reminded us that in Dun Laoghaire terms, the Flying Fifteen functions as a very effective local class which can successfully aspire to competition up to regional and sometimes national level. But when the heavy hitters arrived in town from several nations for the 72-strong Worlds, the competition was lifted onto a new plane.

vials turner31Graham Vials & Chris Turner, Flying Fifteen World Champions 2019, in winning form in Dublin Bay. Photo: O/Brien
A very strong British contingent in dominant form saw Graham Vials and Chris Turner of Derwent lift the title with no less than six wins, and it was English crews all the way until fourth place overall, where Australia’s Mike Hart and Dean McAuley (Royal Freshwater Bay YC) made their mark. Best Irish were Andy and Rory Martin of Strangford Lough YC in 17th.

September brought the decidedly high-powered New York Yacht Club Invitational Series for crews from 20 major international clubs, racing the new Mark Mills-designed Melges IC 37 racing out of Newport, Rhode Island. Anthony O’Leary of Royal Cork has been involved in this series since it started, and 2019 was one of his best performances to finish third overall – he reckoned that years spent racing a Royal Cork 1720 provide ideal training for racing the similarly set up IC 37.

The DinghyFest in Crosshaven finally made its landing in mid-September, and while it attracted a very large and eclectic fleet, much attention was on the Rankins, those edge-glued ply clinker dinghies which were built by the Rankin brothers in Cobh. Now seen as traditional, they’re being restored and revived as a class on Cork Harbour, and they made for an attractive contrast with the modern all-fibreglass transparent-sailed machines which whizzed about in company with the latest versions of the National 18s.

rankin dinghy32The revival of the Cork Harbour-developed Rankin dinghies is an encouragement for wooden boat enthusiasts in the south coast. Photo: Robert Bateman
And it was out of the ranks of the newer machines that the contenders emerged for the All-Ireland Junior Championship at Schull in the final weekend of September. But as they sailed the competition in Schull’s own TRS 3.6 dinghies developed by David Harte, the more hefty young helms had to compensate by finding small crew, so the robust Christ Bateman of Cork who emerged from the ranks of RS 200 racing and turned 18 just a week before the junior finals press-ganged his 9-year-old brother Olin – half his age and half his weight – into service, and they duly won in some excellent racing, with second place going to Clare Gorman of the National YC.

bateman brothers33Rising talent. Chris Bateman, crewed by his brother Olin, on his way to victory in the All-Ireland Junior Championship at Schull
The grown-up version came a week later, the 73rd Annual All-Ireland Sailing Championship being raced in Flying Fifteens in Dun Laoghaire with Peter Kennedy (SB 20) of Strangford Lough the defending champion in a brisk weekend, at first out on Dublin Bay and then with the finals raced within the harbour in some very intense sailing.

All Ireland sailing34Perfect conditions for the final day’s racing in-harbour in the All Ireland Championship at the National Yacht Club. Photo: O’Brien
Among those competing was Michael O’Connor of Royal St George, who had emerged as the new SB 20 Champion in the Nationals raced at RIYC at the end of August, and in addition to the fact that he has been World Corinthian Champion in the class, his crew for the All Ireland was Davy Taylor, who had crewed for Ben Duncan when he won the All-Ireland in 2013.

David Taylor did it again, guiding his man to the win with Ballyholme’s Rob Espey of the RS 400s second and Shane McCarthy from Greystones and the GP 14s third, a result which handed over the reins of the Irish SB20 Class in very good heart to new top honcho John Malone of Lough Ree YC.

Michael OConnor Taylor35Another success for the SB20 class, and for ace crewman Davy Taylor (left) who helped Michael O/Connor (with salver) to win the All-Ireland in 2019, just as he had helped Ben Duncan in 2013. Photo: Irish Sailing/David Branigan
October continued with the J/109 Nationals in Dublin Bay won yet again by John Maybury’s Joker 2 (RIYC), while across in Howth the Beshoff Motors Autumn League was generally blessed in finding good weather when it was needed to record a seven-race series out of which the Puppeteer 22 Trick-or-Treat (Alan Pearson & Alan Blay) was so successful in the largest class numerically that she also became Overall Champion. And while Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI may have had to be content with third overall in IRC 1 as the racing pattern better suited the J/109s Storm (Pat Kelly) and Outrajeous (Richard Colwell & Johnny Murphy), it gave the enthusiastically-campaigned RIYC boat the accumulated total under the new championship formula to become ICRA Boat of the Year 2019 by just one point, a perfect ending to the season.

Published in W M Nixon

The weather might have thrown four seasons at the O'Leary Life Sovereign's Cup this week but it was no match for the organisers or competitors who successfully completed the penultimate days racing albeit in fog off Kinsale today. 

It leaves overall victories either still to be decided going into the final day tomorrow or the prospect of clean sweeps in some divisions.

Following the cancellation of Thursday's programme due to gale conditions, racing resumed today with the weather again attempting to get the upper hand.

Dense fog covered the course area for the entire day while a moderate breeze kept the left-over swell from the previous day's gale towards the challenging end of the scale at around three metres for the most part. Race management teams opted to sail round the cans courses for the cruiser racers while one-designs were given a short windward-leeward course.

However, the poor visibility meant the one-designs could only have one race while the remainder of the event completed the programme for the day.

Wow on Top in Coastal Races

WOW XP40George Sisk's WOW Photo: Bob Bateman

Two wins from two races puts George Sisk's XP40 Wow from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in pole position for the Coastal Class Title after he beat Conor Doyle's XP50 Freya on home waters. Doyle is second with clubmate Thomas Roche third on Meridian.

Eleuthera Leads Class Zero

Eleuthera Grand Soleil 44Frank Whelan's Eleuthera Photo: Bob Bateman

In Class Zero, Greystones Sailing Club's Eleuthera (Frank Whelan) also continues her lead and the Grand Soleil 44  is four points clear of Conor Phelan's Jump Juice Royal Cork YC

Outrajeous is Five Points Clear

 DSC6718 Richard Colwell's Outrajeous Photo: Bob Bateman

Division One will come down to the final races as Richard Colwell and John Murphys' lead on the J109 Outrajeous from Howth YC on five points comes under pressure from Brian Jones sistership Jelly Baby from the Royal Cork YC on eight points. Update: A protest room decision is awaited in this fleet.

Checkmate XVIII v Mata in Half Ton Battle

Mata Michael Wright Half TonMichael Wright's Mata Photo: Bob Bateman

In the largest fleet of the event, Nigel Biggs Half Tonner Checkmate XVIII leads Division 2 on IRC but Half-Ton national champion Michael Wright on Mata from Howth Yacht Club won both of the day's races and can draw level on the final day.

Little Fella Leads Dragons

Little Fella DragonCameron Good's Little Fella Photo: Bob Bateman

Cameron Good of the host club has broken the points tie in his favour in the Dragon class and now leads overnight leader Martin Byrne and the Jaguar Sailing Team as the 16-boat national championships heads for a conclusion tomorrow. 

Twomey Looks for Home Victory

John Twomey Sovereigns Cup white sailsJohn Twomey's Shillelagh Photo: Bob Bateman

Amongst the White Sails classes, John Twomey from Kinsale YC extended his lead on Shillelagh with another race win for the day. Summing up the series so far, he said: "The weather is boss!" See Afloat's White Sails photo gallery from today's racing here.

Fine and light conditions are forecast for the final day when the 1720 Sportsboat will be hoping to add more races to their single result that saw Ross McDonald on Ropedock Atara from Howth YC take the lead over Anthony O'Leary's Antix from the Royal Cork YC.

Full results here. All subject to protest.

The 2019 Sovereign's Cup will be reviewed later today by WM Nixon in his Sailing on Saturday blog here

Published in Sovereign's Cup
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The Notice of Race for the 2019 Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale Yacht Club has been published and entries are now being taken online here

Sponsored by O’Leary Life the event that runs from 26 – 29 June will provide for very competitive racing in the waters off Kinsale.

The full Notice of Race is downloadable below.

Early Bird entry is available until 15th February. The 2019 event also incorporates the 1720 European Championships and the Irish Dragon National Championships. As well as the normal IRC and Echo classes there will also a Coastal Fleet who will sail longer coastal races and White Sail (Non-Spinnaker) classes.

Kinsale Yacht Club and marina are located in the centre of town.  The event is also great for families and there are lots of things to do in the area for the non sailors: beaches, golf, walks all around the harbour, hiking, paddle boarding, motor boat hire.

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Next week's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta has 88 IRC entries so far, of which 18 have yet to provide rating certs. Of the remainder, figuring out the handicap breaks to make up five good IRC classes is no easy task. sticks its neck out to give a best guess on the breaks, numbers and top performers at Ireland's biggest regatta.

A big problem in setting the rating breaks is the lack of larger Class Zero boats and the very large number of Class One boats. 

So far there are only five large yachts, rating around 1.100 and higher. Many of the normal class zero yachts seem, for whatever reason (maybe not enough crew, feel they can’t compete in Class Zero or prefer to do longer races), have opted for the Coastal Division. This includes the likes of Wow, Lively Lady, Aurelia, Aqualina. Therefore VDLR organisers will likely need to extend Class Zero to include yachts right down to 1.039 to get the entry numbers in Class Zero up to say, nine. The low number turnout of traditional sized Class Zero boats at this regatta is nothing new, it continues from the very low turnouts of Class Zero boats also at the ICRA Championships (two competed) and the Sovereign's Cup (four competed). As previously mentioned on, Class Zero in Dublin Bay – and elsewhere – is continuing to dwindle and providing separate class racing for such low numbers is hard for regatta organisers to justify. 

The very high number of Class One yachts, including 13 x J109’s will make up a 24–boat fleet from a rating of 1.035 to 1.000.

Splitting Classes Two, Three and Four appear more straight forward, with natural breaks occurring and giving decent numbers in each class.

So here is's guess on the breaks, numbers and top performers. Bear in mind, the 18 boats with no ratings yet may well change these figures.

Jump juice DLRoyal Cork's Ker 39 Jump Juice (Conor Phelan) Photo: Bob Bateman

Class 0 (rating 1.036 and above—9 entries) Eala of Rhu, a very well sailed Swan 45 from Scotland, won her class at Scottish series, and will be very competitive in this class where she will be out ahead and be able to sail her own race. Behind her are three very similar good boats (Dark Angel, Jump Juice and Aurora (ex Blondie). Dark Angel has had the better of Jump Juice in her last three Regattas and this will likely continue. Aurora will likely be competitive also. Paul O'Higgins Rockabill VI, recent winner of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, if there are strong conditions, will be well to the fore, but in a mixed regatta, expect Eala of Rhu to take it from Dark Angel.

Sovereigns cup ds 1751J109 Joker II (John Maybury) – a triple ICRA winner and Tim Goodbody's White Mischief sistership below Photos: Bob Bateman


Class 1 (rating 1.035 to 1.000 – 24 entries) This is likely where the best racing will be in the IRC divisions. 13 J 109’s including the three times ICRA National Champion, John Maybury's Joker II. It will be interesting to see how Andrew Algeos Juggerknot and Andrew Craig's Chimera fare against her. Tim Goodbody's White Mischief will also be in the mix. Other notable Dublin entries are Colin Byrne's Bon Exemple and Anthony Fox’s Archambault 35, Gringo. There are a numer of Good Scottish boats of this size and one to watch out for would be Kevin Aitken's Animal which was very competitive in this years Scottish Series. Of course, if Olympian Mark Mansfield is aboard Joker II as tactician, expect it to take it with at least one other J109 on the podium.

Sovereigns cup df 2087Ross McDonald's ICRA Class Two Champion Equinox, an X332 from Howth Yacht Club Photo: Bob Bateman

Class 2 (rating .999 to .959 – 11 entries) This is likely to be a straight shootout between Ross McDonald's X332 Equinox who just won the 2017 ICRA Nationals in Cork and Stephen Quinn's J/97 Lambay Rules which recently won their class at the Scottish Series. If conditions are lighter, we would put our money on Lambay Rules, while if there is breeze, Equinox will be hard to beat. With the present long range forecast of mixed conditions we will just edge it to Lambay Rules.

Sovereigns cup df 2087Dave Cullen's Checkmate, a Half–Tonner from Howth Yacht Club Photo: Bob Bateman

Class 3 (rating .958 to .922 – 10 entries) Likely to be a battle of the Half Tonners, David Cullen's Checkmate V, Johnny Swan’s Harmony, and from Scotland, Roddy Angus’s Trastada. Trastada faired very well at Scottish Series, finishing ahead of Harmony before eventually being beaten by Lambay Rules. If the breeze is strong, expect the X302’s (Maximus, Dux and Xebec) to be to the front but in a mixed wind event we will put our money on Trastada to take it from Checkmate by a nose.

Sovereigns cup df 2087The Quarter Tonner Cartoon (Ken Lawless) Photo: Bob Bateman

Class 4 (rating .922 and below –16 entries) A mixed bag including the three quarter tonners, Ken Lawless in Cartoon, Paul Colton’s Cri Cri and Jim Monaghan's Enigma. We would expect the winner to come from these three and with Cartoon finishing ahead of Enigma last week at Sovereign's we will go for Cartoon to win this class. Paul Colton Cri Cri could be a wild card, however, as he has done a lot of work to her over the winter and it is not fully known how this will effect her performance.

Published in Volvo Regatta

The people of Ireland – sailors and farmers alike - are gasping for a bit of real summer. But with Met Eireann predicting that next week will be favourable for hay-making, there’s a dilemma for grassland farmers who like a bit of sailing writes W M Nixon.

The top line of attention in Irish sailing is definitely not turning towards haymaking. On the contrary, it’s looking very much to Kinsale and the biennial Sovereigns Cup Regatta. This year’s O’Leary Life-sponsored staging of the popular event starts next Wednesday afternoon – June 21st – and continues until Saturday June 24th. That’s spot on the traditional Mid-summers Day, when Kinsale is usually looking its very best - so much so that they even have a pretty little place on the harbour called Summercove.

The thought of sailing serenely past Summercove into Kinsale YC’s welcoming marina sounds very good indeed to the cruiser-racer fraternity just now. After being battered briefly but frequently during the ICRA Nationals at Crosshaven a week ago, and then battered longterm in the 275-mile Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race which started on Wednesday evening and still has some of the surviving fleet finishing through today, the thought of smooth sailing past Summercove, with all those hospitality options close ahead in Kinsale, is very attractive and then some.

kinsale marina2The location of the Kinsale YC marina offers immediate access to the facilities of a bustling town

And there’s always the beguiling possibility that the 94-strong fleet will have excellent but not too ferocious racing, for it’s emphasized that this is a regatta, and not a championship, national or otherwise. Thus in addition to the cruiser-racer divisions, the option of other classes is available, while the new headline sponsors have provided the O’Leary Trophy for the Family Boat Award, the best-sailed boat with a family crew.

As for the social programme, wall-to-wall is a phrase that springs to mind. Club groups from elsewhere book their accommodation maybe years in advance in order to be sure of having the most convenient access to the club, the marina, and the many fabulous eating places, pubs and party venues in the town. So it’s not surprising that for many sailors from abroad, Kinsale sailing IS Irish sailing.

squib kinsaleKinsale’s large selection of boats includes a thriving class of Squibs

Thus after other events during July, the next big one up on the Kinsale fixtures list is the World Half Ton Classics from 14th to 17th August. Kinsale does not have a significant Half Ton Classic element in its own fleet, but when the Irish Half Ton Classics Association was told that 2017 was to be their slot and which port did they wish to use, the almost-immediate choice was Kinsale with its wide selection of places to stay, and it has clearly hit the target - already the potential fleet is pushing towards the 30 mark.

But that’s in August, meanwhile in celebrating the Sovereigns Cup regatta which originally was the brainchild of Kinsale-based sailing handicap numbers ace Denis Kiely more than 25 years ago, let’s cast a final eye back to 2015 and its winners’ list, when they carried out the tricky experiment of combining it with the ICRA Nats.

demelza kinsale4The veteran Club Shamrock Demelza (Windsor Laudan & Steph Ennis) had a run of wins at the Sovereigns Cup in 2015, and she’ll be back in Kinsale next week to defend her title

Division 0 IRC winner was George Sisk’s Farr 42 WOW from Conor Phelan’s Ker 37 Jump Juice, with the Nobby Reilly/Alan Chambers Mills 36 Crazy Horse third. Division 1 IRC was John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II from Rob McConnell’s A35 Fools’ Gold, with Ian Nagle’s J/109 Jelly Baby third. Div 2 winner was Ross McDonald’s X332 Equinox from Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV, while third was Jonny Swann’s Half Tonner Harmony.

Div 3 champion was the Corby 25 Fusion (Richard Colwell & Ronan Cobbe) from Tim Goodbody’s Sigma 33 White Mischief, with the Desmers/Ivers/Deasy Sunfast 32 Bad Company was third.

Division 4 was taken by the Howth YC club-owned junior crew-sailed J/24 Kilcullen, with the Quarter Tonner Quest (Barry Cunningham) second, and Donal Harding’s Albin Express White Magic third, while the non-spinnaker Div A was won by Colm Bermingham’s Elan 333 Bite the Bullet from Paul Tully’s sister-ship White Lotus. Non-spinnaker Division B was dominated with a run of bullets by Windsor Laudan and Steph Ennis with the veteran Club Shamrock Demelza, an impressive display.

Once the Sovereigns Cup bug has bitten, you stay bitten, and most of those owners from two years ago – some of them now in bigger boats – will be there next Wednesday to enjoy the Kinsale buzz again. But as this evidence of proper summer finally arriving takes over our thinking, it’s time to spare a thought for those who will be spending this weekend in more rugged pursuits.

Conor fogerty5Conor Fogerty has been putting in a world class performance in the OSTAR, and currently leads his sister-ship by 385 miles. Photo: W M Nixon

fogerty bam6This is the kind of numbers Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam! carries when fully crewed, which makes his successful single-handing of the same boat even more impressive

Top among them is Conor Fogerty, who has been sailing an absolute blinder in his Sunfast 3600 Bam in the OSTAR – the Original Singlehanded Transatlantic race. Although the leader Andrea Mura in the very much larger Open 60 Vento di Sardegna is already finished in Newport, Rhode Island, Fogerty is currently the favourite to win the Gypsy Moth Trophy which is the very essence of this historic event. He may even manage to be second on line honours, and has worked out an astonishing lead of 385 miles on his closest direct rival, Mark Hipgrave in the other Sunfast 3600 Mister Lucky.

As for our other noted single-hander Tom Dolan, he’s in a different scenario starting tomorrow, the two-handed Mini-Fastnet from Douarnenez round the famous rock, racing Mini 650s. His crew is his regular shipmate Francois Jambou, and for those concerned about keeping up fleet numbers elsewhere, it’s of interest to note that for the 2017 Mini-Fastnet the organisers have had to limit fleet numbers to a manageable 70 boats, and they had to set that limit quite some time ago, so keen were people to take part.

dolan jambou7Tom Dolan (right) starts tomorrow in the two-handed Mini-Fastnet from Brittany with Francois Jambou as his shipmate in the Pogo 2

minis gather8The Minis start to assemble for tomorrow’s Mini-Fastnet. Interest was so igh from an early stage that the oriagnsiers had to linit the fleet to 70 boats at an early stage

All this can be rugged stuff, but we hope that conditions are benign for this weekend’s festival of Classic and Traditional Craft in Crosshaven. For there at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, they have a modern classic which is the focus of much well-earned attention.

This is the greatly modified Etchells 22 which Bill Trafford of the very appropriately named Alchemy Marine, up at Skenakilla near Mitchelstown in North Cork, has transformed into a perfect little weekend cruiser. We’ve carried the continuing story of this Etchells transformation during the past year, but everyone has waited with bated breath for news of the first sail, and how she performed.

etchells guapa9New girl in the block at Crosshaven. Somewhere in there is a former Etchells 22. Photo: Bill Trafford

It’s only this week they’ve completed the rigging and sail-setting in Crosshaven, and Bill Trafford was hoping for more summery conditions to take his latest creation out for the first time. But Des McWilliam turned up with an absolutely lovely suit of sails on Wednesday evening, and with a “never mind the weather, we’re in the shelter of the harbour” attitude, they took Guapa out for her first spin.

etchells guapa10The concept of the re-configured Etchells 22 is so complete that she has every appearance of being a totally new boat. Photo: Bill Trafford

The reactions were somewhere beyond the merely rapturous. Des McWilliam would not be backwards in coming forward in telling you if he thought your boat didn’t make the grade, but he waxed lyrical with joy at the transformed boat’s ease of effortlessly making seven-plus knots, “sitting in style in your little bit of Chippendale”.

As for helming characteristics, despite the rudder being moved all of two feet aft to accommodate the new cockpit/cabin layout, the word is that she balances a treat. “Weather helm is just on three degrees” reports Des, “which I’d regard as about perfect”.

We’ve followed this intriguing story with fascination. Now that it turns out to be a good news story – and a really good news story at that – great credit is reflected on all involved, as an Etchells modification has never been taken this far before. But as ever with Bill Trafford, the question is: What next?

etchells guapa11Sailmaker Des McWilliam’s big grin (right) says it all as Guapa takes her first sail. Photo: Bill Trafford

Published in W M Nixon

The Sovereign’s Cup at Kinsale Yacht Club will have an afternoon start for all cruiser–racer fleets on the first day of racing on June 21st.

The first gun for the biennial cup has been pushed back to 1355hrs to make it easier for sailors travelling down to Kinsale on the Wednesday morning. 

The move is designed to save on a nights accommodation costs in the West Cork port and assist sailors in having to take one day less off from work. Organisers say they hope the move will attract an 'even bigger and better fleet from around the east and west coasts'. 

KYC says an amendment to the Notice of Race for the O'Leary Life sponsored event will be published shortly to reflect these changes.

Published in Sovereign's Cup
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