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Waterman Kelly Consulting Engineers has pledged its support for the upcoming Irish Youth Sailing Nationals, which is scheduled to be held at the Royal Cork Yacht Club in April.

The Cork Harbour competition is expected to draw around 200 sailors aged between the low to high teens from all over Ireland, who will compete in one of six dinghy classes.

Eric Waterman, Managing Director of Waterman Kelly Consulting Engineers, praised the event, stating, "We are delighted to be part of this event where the best of the best in Irish youth sailing will compete against each other over four days. Sustainability is very much to the fore at the event, and this is an area that Waterman Kelly places significant focus on when dealing with our clients."

The event is set to take place from April 4th to April 7th, and early bird entries will close on March 15th.

Those interested in participating can find more information on the Waterman Kelly Consulting Engineers website or by contacting [email protected] and entering the Irish Sailing Youth Nationals 2024 via the Entry Form on the Royal Cork Yacht Club website.

Event organiser for the Royal Cork, Tim McCarthy, expressed his delight at having a well-established business like Waterman Kelly Consulting Engineers supporting the event. "It is an opportunity to work with a company that shares many of the same values and helps profile all that is best about our sport in a positive manner," he said.

The Irish Sailing Youth National Championships are held in different locations around Ireland every April and are designed to showcase and develop youth sailing. It is billed as the 'premier event' for Irish youth sailors across a range of junior dinghy classes and attracts sailors aged in their early to late teens. While the event is open to all, it is expected that all competitors entering will be competent in sailing in a sustained fresh breeze and will have experienced competing in regional or National events for their chosen dinghy class within the last nine months.

Published in Royal Cork YC
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The Royal Cork Yacht Club is gearing up to host the 10th anniversary of the popular PY1000 dinghy race on Saturday, April 20th, 2024. The event, which has become a highlight of the club's calendar, is sponsored once again by Crosshaven House, a partnership that began in 2023.

The race will see Toppers and the RS Teras leading the charge out of the starting gates, heading for a turning mark at Coolmore House. The rest of the fleet will follow in hot pursuit.

This year's race will follow the same format as last year's, with boats starting in order of slowest to fastest. The first boat to cross the finishing line will be declared the winner, with placings on the water determining the final position. This format has proved popular with sailors and spectators alike, emulating the famous 'Bloody Mary' event held each year in London.

The PY1000 dinghy race is set to take place on high tide, and if weather conditions permit, the plan is to race in the river in front of Royal Cork Yacht Club Photo: Bob BatemanThe PY1000 dinghy race is set to take place on high tide, and if weather conditions permit, the plan is to race in the river in front of Royal Cork Yacht Club Photo: Bob Bateman

The winner of the 2023 event, Chris Bateman, was presented with the newly commissioned Crosshaven House PY1000 trophy and a prize of €700 by Stacey O'Sullivan of Crosshaven House.

This year's prize fund of €1,000 will be split among the top three finishers, with the winner receiving €700, second place receiving €200, and third place receiving €100. There will also be additional prizes for the youngest sailor, first female helm, and the oldest combined crew age.

The race is set to take place on high tide, and if weather conditions permit, the plan is to race in the river, providing a thrilling spectacle for spectators. So, dust off your boat, and get ready for an exciting day of sailing.

Published in Royal Cork YC
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Royal Cork Yacht Club Crosshaven, Co. Cork is all set to host the Youth Sailing Nationals from 4th to the 7th of April.

The event promises great sailing at Easter in Cork Harbour, and entry to the event is now open. Sailors in ILCA 6 & 4, 29er, 420, Topper, and Optimist can participate in the event under Principal Race Officer Anthony O'Leary.

This year, 210 sailors are expected to attend the event, and sailors are encouraged to enter early as places are limited. The event forms part of the selection trials for the 2024 World Sailing Youth Worlds, IODAI Team selection, and National Squads.

Ben O’Shaughnessy and Ethan Spain will be defending their 29er Youths title, while female European champions Alana Twomey and Lucia Cullen hope to top the podium.

U17 World Champion Sienna Wright will be in action in the ILCA6s in Cork Harbour in April U17 World Champion Sienna Wright will be in action in the ILCA6s in Cork Harbour in April 

In the ILCAs, Sienna Wright, who recently won the U17 ILCA worlds and was second overall in the ILCA 6 Youth worlds in Argentina, is expected to participate.

The Optimist fleet is also expected to be very strong, with more than just a title on the line, as these championships will finalise selection for the IODAI national team for 2024. Sailors are urged to refer to www.iodai.com for information about the IODAI selection policy and Optimist entry. 

With great sailing and tough competition, the Youth Nationals promises to be an exciting event. Don't delay, get your entry in now!

Published in Royal Cork YC

This week’s election of Annamarie Fegan as Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the first woman sailor to fill the top posting in this extraordinary organisation’s 304-year history, is remarkable in that it doesn’t seem to have been seen within the sailing community in Ireland as something particularly remarkable at all.

Admittedly it has been well-signalled years in advance, thanks to the Royal Cork’s steady officer-promotion process. And if anything, that quietly reliable process is the club’s most remarkable feature. The Royal Cork’s continuing throughput of very able and multi-talented voluntary officers at all levels, and in every area of interest and activity in the complex functioning of this globally significant club, is a wonder to behold.

For although the RCYC may be global in outlook with an understandably large overseas membership keen to be part of this unique organisation, the fully-active home membership available to keep the wheels turning by renewing the active officer throughput is numerically quite small, even in comparison with some other Irish clubs.

Like every RCYC Admiral in modern times, Annamarie Fegan has worked her way steadily up through the voluntary ranks that fill the busy officer roles and run both the main committee and the essential sub-committees. Her own involvement afloat began with the demanding sport of coastal rowing from Crosshaven, and a key part of her policy as Admiral is encouraging newcomers into sailing Photo: Bob BatemanLike every RCYC Admiral in modern times, Annamarie Fegan has worked her way steadily up through the voluntary ranks that fill the busy officer roles and run both the main committee and the essential sub-committees. Her own involvement afloat began with the demanding sport of coastal rowing from Crosshaven, and a key part of her policy as Admiral is encouraging newcomers into sailing Photo: Robert Bateman

Yet the new Admiral has already well proven herself in key positions in the administrative hierarchy, both during and before the times of her immediate predecessors Colin Morehead and Kieran O’Connell, who were in the two-year office when the club was weathering and then emerging from the lockdown of much of its activities during the covid pandemic.

ROYAL CORK’S COURAGEOUS RESPONSE TO PANDEMIC

That this should have been at its most intense during the RCYC’s keenly-anticipated Tricentenary Year of 2020 would have severely tested the mettle of any organisation. But as we recently observed, in the context of another leading Irish female sailor overcoming a very challenging situation that threatened to deprive her of a world title in the final race of a very tough series, if courage is grace under pressure, then the Royal Cork rose above its problems with a grace that was the very real expression of group courage. The spirit of the ancient club in those ultra-challenging times was an inspiration for everyone.

Running the Royal Cork YC’s contemporary marina/clubhouse complex is a business in itself, and in the challenging lockdown period, the Club responded in a graceful and courageous way to the almost total cancellation of its long-planned Tricentenary. Photo: Robert BatemanRunning the Royal Cork YC’s contemporary marina/clubhouse complex is a business in itself, and in the challenging lockdown period, the Club responded in a graceful and courageous way to the almost total cancellation of its long-planned Tricentenary. Photo: Robert Bateman

And then, as the levels of permissible sailing expanded post-pandemic, with offshore racing one area in which a relatively high level of activity could be resumed, it was Annamarie Fegan and her husband Denis Murphy and their two keen-sailing daughters Molly and Mia with the family’s much-loved Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo who led the charge, their successes including the 2021 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race overall win.

The surest indicator that Cork Harbour was slowly returning to normal life. Nieulargo racing in the first post-pandemic Thursday evening race from Crosshaven, and with a woman helm too. Photo: Robert BatemanThe surest indicator that Cork Harbour was slowly returning to normal life. Nieulargo racing in the first post-pandemic Thursday evening race from Crosshaven, and with a woman helm too. Photo: Robert Bateman

TRADITIONALLY SALUTED VICTORY FOLLOWED BY BEST FASTNET RACE START

This was an inspiration to all sailing, such that then-Admiral Colin Morehead revived an old Royal Cork tradition of the 1800s by providing Nieulargo with a socially-distance-compliant three gun salute when the boat returned in glory to Crosshaven. But it emerged that that the Nieulargo crew were only starting in leading the post-pandemic sailing revival, for when the Fastnet Race got going in August, screen-viewers worldwide following the live stream had a brief but very real glimpse of Nieulargo getting the best start of the entire fleet.

The challenge of a Fastnet Race start into a sou’wester at Cowes is to arrive spot on at the inner end of the line, close under the RYS battery, with all rights to be on port tack only in a very narrow window. In the 2021 Fastnet, Nieulargo was officially recorded on the live stream as doing this beautifully to have the best start of the entire fleetThe challenge of a Fastnet Race start into a sou’wester at Cowes is to arrive spot on at the inner end of the line, close under the RYS battery, with all rights to be on port tack only in a very narrow window. In the 2021 Fastnet, Nieulargo was officially recorded on the live stream as doing this beautifully to have the best start of the entire fleet

By that time, the fact that Nieulargo always had at least three women in the crew, including long stints with one of them helming, had long since ceased to be a matter of comment in the sailing community. But then, female sailors have long had a special position in Irish sailing. Or more accurately, they have a position that would be regarded as special elsewhere, but is the norm here to such an extent that the elevation of Admiral Fegan in Crosshaven has arguably more to do with her exceptional sailing, administrative and can-do abilities, coupled with her infectious enthusiasm, than anything else.

An RS21 in full cry. The major significance of the RCYC Volvo Cork Week 2024 is underlined by the fact that this expanding class sees racing in Cork Harbour’s top regatta as an essential part of its international developmentAn RS21 in full cry. The major significance of the RCYC Volvo Cork Week 2024 is underlined by the fact that this expanding class sees racing in Cork Harbour’s top regatta as an essential part of its international development

And 2024 is going to be an extra-busy sailing busy year for the Royal Cork YC, bringing the highlight of the Biennial Volvo Cork Week from 15th to 19th July, with the Youth Nationals before that on April 4th to 7th. Cork Week is being fed entries by two passage races, one from Falmouth, and the other a re-enacting of the pioneering Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour Race of 1860, the “Kingstown to Queenstown”. And all of this is in addition to a busy home programme which has been a big part of life around Cork Harbour for centuries.

LONG TRADITION OF GENDER EQUALITY IN SOME OF IRELAND’S SAILING

They’ll be so busy at Cork Week that only the visitors from newer sailing areas with older attitudes will have the time to comment that there’s anything special about the historic hosting club having a female Admiral. For in Ireland, we’ve seen women office holders in many of the leading official positions in other important sailing organisations for half a century and more.

And while this column may sometimes seem to go over the top in enthusiasm for the maritime achievements of Grace O’Malley, the 16th Century “pirate” queen of Connacht, there is no doubt that she was a real force afloat and along the coast of the Atlantic seaboard, with plenty of tangible evidence of her existence and achievement to influence a gender-equal outlook in the Irish maritime mindset.

The new Admiral as just another crew, third from bow on Nieulargo’s weather rail. Photo: Rick TomlinsonThe new Admiral as just another crew, third from bow on Nieulargo’s weather rail. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

In more modern times, the world’s oldest One-Design class, the 1887-founded Dublin Bay Water Wags, has always seemed to set the pace in the best way possible, by sailing along as though gender differences were not of significant importance, and certainly not in the matter of who did what in the sailing of the boats. This has been such that as long ago as 1894, Yachting World magazine ran a feature about the female Wag sailors’ achievements to which we referred here

This may have been the situation because it’s possible that being a premises-free organisation provides greater natural freedom, whereas having a club operating through its own bricks-and-mortar clubhouse tends to emphasise gender differences in the rules and regulations.

EQUAL BUT DIFFERENT

Nowadays, no reasonable person claims that the sexes are anything other than equal. But only an unreasonable person would claim that they’re the same, and thus their basic shoreside needs are slightly different, thereby reinforcing any still extant dinosaur notion that one gender is necessarily superior to another.

But without a clubhouse, the simple lack of a need to define separate areas made gender equality the normal state of affairs, and today senior non-clubhouse organisations like Dublin Bay Sailing Club (founded 1884), the Water Wags (1887) and the Irish Cruising Club (1929) continue go about their activities with what may seem like a notably modern outlook on the interacting sailing roles of women and men, and their shared entitlement to play a full part in every aspect of the organisation’s functioning, both afloat and ashore.

The Water Wags of Dublin Bay may seem incredibly ancient to those seeing them for the first time, yet they have always been effectively gender-blind, and here they are shaping up for a typical Wedneday evening start in Dun Laoghaire Harbour with Mandy Chambers’ new-built No 50 nearest camera.The Water Wags of Dublin Bay may seem incredibly ancient to those seeing them for the first time, yet they have always been effectively gender-blind, and here they are shaping up for a typical Wedneday evening start in Dun Laoghaire Harbour with Mandy Chambers’ new-built No 50 nearest camera

Nevertheless there’s the inescapable fact that the average female sailor lacks the sheer physical strength of the average male sailor. But please note that we’re talking averages here. There is of course a large area of overlap, where a super-fit and highly motivated female sailor like Steph Lyons (originally of Kinsale YC) was far and away the first choice for bowman (her own choice of job description) on the successful Cookson 12 Calibre in the recent Sydney-Hobart Race.

Steph Lyons may be in her favourite crewing position on the bow here in Sydney Harbour’s sheltered waters, but she has now logged four successful if sometimes very rough Sydney-Hobart races in this demanding roleSteph Lyons may be in her favourite crewing position on the bow here in Sydney Harbour’s sheltered waters, but she has now logged four successful if sometimes very rough Sydney-Hobart races in this demanding role

CAHALAN’S HOBART COURSE A WORK OF ART

In that same super-tough race, Offaly-born Adrienne Cahalan was navigator/tactician on the overall winning RP 66 Alive. The course she plotted, through a rapidly-changing wind and weather situation in her 31st race to Hobart, was such a masterpiece of creative interpretation and appropriate action that they really should find some way of turning it into some form of inter-active art, and enter it for the next Turner Prize.

Navigational superstar. Adriennne Cahalan’s 31st Sydney-Hobart aboard the RP66 Alive brought her yet another overall winNavigational superstar. Adriennne Cahalan’s 31st Sydney-Hobart aboard the RP66 Alive brought her yet another overall win

Thus we find that nowadays the truly able women sailors have proven themselves the equal or better than the men, particularly when it comes to post-success communication. Even the youngest Irish international female sailing star seems to have the natural empathy that enables her to handle the media rather better than many of the most senior male sailing stars. Yet it remains an inescapable fact that Ireland’s supposedly supreme sailing contest, the Championship of Champions, has only once been won by a woman in its 77 years, and that was Howth’s Laura Dillon way back in 1996.

BONDING WITH SPECIFIC BOAT TYPES

But it might be that an ability to maintain a high level of helming performance through differing boat types is a situation where real gender differences do arise. Laura has always been exceptionally competent in steering successfully with whatever boat she might find herself in, with her current range including the tiller-steered J/99 Snapshot and the vintage wheel-steered S&S 41 classic Winsome.

The ultra-versatile helm Laura Dillon is still the only female sailor to have won Ireland’s Championship of ChampionsThe ultra-versatile helm Laura Dillon is still the only female sailor to have won Ireland’s Championship of Champions

Yet many sailors – both women and men – are much affected by the fact that sailing is a vehicle sport, and they’re at their best in the particular floating vehicle with which they feel a special bond. Thus, in a world in which nearly 150 different boat classes are officially recognised as being of sufficient international significance to merit their own World Championship, it’s confusing for outsiders.

For it means we have a bewildering number of World Champions in sailing, a situation made even more complex in that we’re fully aware that where those champions do step into another type of boat, they might never repeat their previous greatness. The apparent situation where this seems to affect women sailors more than men may be something we may have to accept, without making a song and dance about it.

The reality is that in the big picture of sailing in Ireland , we have been moving towards general gender equality – or even gender blindness – for very many years, albeit sometimes with glacial speed, but towards it nevertheless. Certainly there are times when you might think there’s some truth to the recent conclusion of a United Nations Committee that it will take another 286 years to close the gender gap in discriminatory laws, particularly as some countries now seem to be very deliberately going full astern.

IRELAND’S INTERNATIONAL FEMALE SAILORS ON TOP OF THE PACE

Be that as it may, another “more optimistic” time of 132 years is small consolation, but there’s real encouragement in Ireland’s sailing scene in which in terms of international results, women are out-pacing men. Of course they’re doing much of it in racing in women-only events, but civilised people should be able to cherish people’s differences, while placing a high value on their underlying equality.

Unprecedented. The crowd of well-wishing sailors from all over Ireland who thronged the National YC when Annalise Murphy brought home her Olympic Silver Medal in 2016. Photo: NYCUnprecedented. The crowd of well-wishing sailors from all over Ireland who thronged the National YC when Annalise Murphy brought home her Olympic Silver Medal in 2016. Photo: NYC

And the top women sailors seem to be able to enjoy their success in a less self-conscious way. It was natural that everyone should join in the spontaneous jubilation when Annalise Murphy won the Silver Medal in the 2016 Olympics, but the recent parade of sailing success for Ireland led by Eve McMahon, Serena Wright and others has shown an inspiring maturity in communicating the joy of achievement by our young female sailors which few of the males can match.

OLD-TIME LONDON BOAT SHOW REVEALED THE REAL GENDER DIVISION IN DECISION-MAKING

But perhaps the final world on where the genders stand in the sailing world comes from a recollection from the long-gone and much-lamented Earls Court Boat Show in the heart of London in the first part of January every year. It was a setting and a timing which made it both a real breakout from the post-Christmas torpor, and a lively and guaranteed international exchange for some of the most noted movers and shakers in world sailing and its supporting industries.

Earls Court Boat Show in the heart of London was staged annually in January from 1957 until 2007. At its most successful, it became the world of boats and sailing’s leading international information exchange and networking location, and at its heart was the legendary Guinness StandEarls Court Boat Show in the heart of London was staged annually in January from 1957 until 2007. At its most successful, it became the world of boats and sailing’s leading international information exchange and networking location, and at its heart was the legendary Guinness Stand

Another part of Earls Court was that you could comfortably rely on many of the ordinary punters turning up dressed as though they were about to go sailing. So I once asked a noted London-based cruising man - who was normally dressed - why so many of his compatriots arrived into the old concrete hangar in mid-winter dressed for sailing.

“Because their wives tell them to”, was his immediate reply.

All of which is now a very long way from the smooth changing of the watch down Crosshaven way last Monday night. Congratulations, Admiral Fegan. No better person. The sailors of Crosshaven are lucky. And they know it.

Annamarie Fegan, the new Admiral of the Royal Cork, may mark a change of some significance, but she is in the much stronger Crosshaven tradition of providing years of voluntary service to the club in other posts while steadily rising in the officer hierarchy.Annamarie Fegan, the new Admiral of the Royal Cork, may mark a change of some significance, but she is in the much stronger Crosshaven tradition of providing years of voluntary service to the club in other posts while steadily rising in the officer hierarchy.

Listen to a podcast with Annamarie Fegan here

Published in W M Nixon

“It only took 304 years…”

The words of Royal Cork Yacht Club’s first female admiral, Annamarie Fegan, on her election to the post this week.

As Afloat reports here, Fegan, who already broke new ground in the world’s oldest yacht club when she was elected first female vice-admiral several years ago, was involved in coastal rowing before she took up sailing.

Annamarie Fegan (seated centre) on her election as Royal Cork Yacht Club’s first female admiral Photo: Bob BatemanAnnamarie Fegan (seated centre) on her election as Royal Cork Yacht Club’s first female admiral Photo: Bob Bateman

The Murphy family yacht Nieulargo during the Rolex Fastnet Race start off Cowes in 2021 Photo: Rick TomlinsonThe Murphy family yacht Nieulargo during the Rolex Fastnet Race start off Cowes in 2021 Photo: Rick Tomlinson

She credits her daughters Molly and Mia for much of her success on water. Her family crew - the Murphys on Nieulargo – won the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race in 2021 and were the best-placed Irish entry in last year’s 50th Fastnet Race.

“It’s amazing to sail with family, but it can be very difficult – the good normally outweighs the bad in spades,” Fegan told Wavelengths.

She has paid tribute to many great volunteers in RCYC over the years, and says she looks forward to working with her new executive.

One of her main goals is to get more people from every walk of life into sailing. You can listen to her interview below.

Published in Wavelength Podcast

History was made at the world’s oldest yacht club last night when Annamarie Fegan became the first female admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

Fegan, who was a coastal rower before she took up sailing later in life, had already set a first several years ago when she became vice-admiral.

The club’s new executive, elected at last night’s annual general meeting, also returned three female committee members for the first time.

Royal Cork's first lady admiral elected (Front Row) Pat Harte, Treasurer; Annamarie Fegan, Admiral; Denis Byrne, Vice Admiral; and Gavin Deane, General Manager. (Back Row) Yvonne Durcan Rear Admiral Dinghies, Ray Clancy Chair of Marina and Facilities Committee, Patrick D'Arcy, Rear Admiral Cruising, Robert Foster Rear Admiral Keelboats and Mary Creedon Chair Membership, Communications and Events Committee Photo: Bob BatemanRoyal Cork's first lady admiral elected (Front Row) Pat Harte, Treasurer; Annamarie Fegan, Admiral; Denis Byrne, Vice Admiral; and Gavin Deane, General Manager. (Back Row) Yvonne Durcan Rear Admiral Dinghies, Ray Clancy Chair of Marina and Facilities Committee, Patrick D'Arcy, Rear Admiral Cruising, Robert Foster Rear Admiral Keelboats and Mary Creedon Chair Membership, Communications and Events Committee Photo: Bob Bateman

Fegan has been congratulated by Minister for Enterprise and sailor Simon Coveney and by her fellow members led by the outgoing admiral, Kieran O’Connell.

The RCYC dates back to 1720, and an afternoon and card tea party was held in 1938 when a new category of “lady” member was permitted, with Mrs J Bagwell of Queenstown, as Cobh was then known, being the first associate female member, without full voting rights.

Fegan had already set a first several years ago when she became vice-admiral.

She is the former owner of a catering business, re-trained as a psychotherapist and recently completed a masters in the psychotherapy of relationship mentoring.

Fegan is also a highly accomplished sailor, and her family crew, involving her husband Denis and daughters Mia and Molly Murphy, was declared the best-placed Irish entry in last year’s 50th Fastnet Race.

She credits her two daughters for the skills that also saw the Murphy family coming first in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race in 2021 in their Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo.

Annamarie Fegan's Grand Soleil 40 yacht Nieulargo, which she sails with her husband Denis and daughters Mia and Molly Murphy Photo: Bob BatemanAnnamarie Fegan's Grand Soleil 40 yacht Nieulargo, which she sails with her husband Denis and daughters Mia and Molly Murphy Photo: Bob Bateman

She says one of her main ambitions is to make “sailing less elitist and more inclusive”, with far more “pathways” towards becoming involved.

She explains that part of the club’s efforts to break down the social and financial barriers include encouraging every sixth-class primary school pupil in Crosshaven to complete a one-week sailing course, while there are “Try Sailing” courses for people of all ages”.

Lady admiral Annamarie Fegan is congratulated on taking office by members and outgoing admiral Kieran O'Connell (right) at the 303rd Royal Cork Yacht Club agm Photo: Bob BatemanLady admiral Annamarie Fegan is congratulated on taking office by members and outgoing admiral Kieran O'Connell (right) at the 303rd Royal Cork Yacht Club agm Photo: Bob Bateman

Sailing is “ great for mental health, getting out in the fresh air, and it opens up fantastic opportunities”, she says.

“ My children (both in their early 20s) have travelled the world working on boats. Nothing beats the feeling of being on the water - it clears my head. We are lucky here in Cork to have such great facilities,” she says.

“As the club's first female admiral, I stand on the shoulders of outstanding female members who worked tirelessly for the club but were not given this opportunity,” Fegan says.

“ I am confident that we have amazing girls rising up through the ranks who will be well-suited to take on this post in the future. I’m very excited about working with the new leadership team as the volunteers are the backbone of the club.”

Fegan takes over the prestigious post in a year that the club is hosting two prestigious events - the Youth Sailing Nationals in April and the Volvo Cork Week from July 15th to 19th.

The RCYC has expressed its gratitude to outgoing admiral Kieran O Connell for his dedicated service.

Commenting, RCYC general manager Gavin Deane said “we are indebted to Kieran for his great leadership and direction over the last number of years”.

“His vision and dedication has been instrumental in the great development and growth of the club. We look forward to the innovative and inclusive direction that Annamarie will undoubtedly bring to the role,” Deane said.

RCYC offers a range of courses and training opportunities for people of all ages from Junior “try sailing”, cadets, Optimist, keelboats, Topper and Laser fleets, adult beginner and advanced sailing courses and the recently revived mixed dinghy fleet which feeds into the junior academy.

Listen to a podcast with RCYC's first lady admiral here

Published in Royal Cork YC
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In anticipation of the 303rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Royal Cork Yacht Club (RCYC) scheduled for tonight (Monday, January 22nd), the club's rich historical tapestry took centre stage this week. Dr. Alicia St Leger, Past Admiral Colin Morehead, and Dr. T. Paul McCarthy presented a supplement to 'A History of the Royal Cork Yacht Club' (2005) to Admiral Kieran O’Connell.

The brainchild of Dermot Burns, who served as Club Archivist from 1991 to 2019, the supplement delves into the early history of the Royal Cork Yacht Club. Burns, deeply involved in exploring the club's history, was the inspiration behind the 2005 book. He continued his research post-publication, focusing particularly on its early period. In 2019, he expressed his intention to publish his findings coinciding with the club's tricentenary. Unfortunately, the onset of the Covid pandemic and other factors led to delays, and in late 2021, before his death a few months later, Burns entrusted the completion of the project to then Admiral Colin Morehead.
Collaborating with Dr. Alicia St Leger, author of 'A History of the Royal Cork Yacht Club,' and Dr. T. Paul McCarthy, Morehead ensured that Burns' extensive research is now available for future generations.

During the occasion, Admiral Kieran O’Connell expressed gratitude, saying, "On behalf of the Flag Officers and Members of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, I want to express my sincere appreciation for all the efforts and endeavors which have gone into the preparation of this supplement by its author Dr Alicia St Leger and fellow members Colin Morehead and Dr T. Paul McCarthy."

L to R - Colin Morehead, Past Admiral, Alicia St. Ledger, Author of 'A History of the Royal Cork Yacht Club' & Dr. T. Paul McCarthy, Past ArchivistL to R - Colin Morehead, Past Admiral, Alicia St. Ledger, Author of 'A History of the Royal Cork Yacht Club' & Dr. T. Paul McCarthy, Past Archivist

Dr. Alicia St Leger, shedding light on the supplement, mentioned, "The earliest known reference for the club is 1720, and this is the start date of the supplement. As is clear by the text, the sequence of dates has gaps." She emphasized the limited source material for this historical period, but highlighted the club's holdings and the scrutiny of various sources, including newspapers, artworks, maps, charts, and contemporary written accounts up to and including 1833.

St Leger pointed out that the documented history reveals how the club experienced times of great activity and expansion, as well as challenging periods, particularly during wars. "The sequence also shows how changing times necessitated periodic renewal and updating of the club’s organisation, something that was essential to ensure its long-term survival and growth," she added.

Dr. T. Paul McCarthy concluded by stating, "It is likely that further information will be found in the future that will shed light on the development of the club in this period, and it is hoped that this document will assist future researchers in this regard." The supplement serves as a crucial addition to the preservation and understanding of the Royal Cork Yacht Club’s storied past as it continues to navigate its way into the future.

Published in Royal Cork YC
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The growth of interest in dinghy sailing through the development of a Mixed Dinghy fleet, part of the club’s programme to encourage more people into sailing, is noted as particularly successful in the annual report of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

Youth sailing has been given particular attention, and the club now has two 1720s and a J24 available for the development of Under-25 racing.

“The club got three RS Feva club boats. The RS Feva has established itself as the main dinghy in the fleet. The new 420 fleet has gathered significant momentum since it was established,” the report says.

Incoming Royal Cork Yacht Club Admiral Annamarie Fegan (left) with one of the club's top youth sailors Stephen O'Shaughnessy, and outgoing Royal Cork Yacht Club, Admiral Kieran O’Connell Photo: Bob BatemanIncoming Royal Cork Yacht Club Admiral Annamarie Fegan (left) with one of the club's top youth sailors Jonathan O'Shaughnessy, and outgoing Royal Cork Yacht Club, Admiral Kieran O’Connell Photo: Bob Bateman

While bad weather affected club racing, there was still a successful season of sailing, and it was “an excellent year for the RCYC on the international stage,” says Admiral Kieran O’Connell, noting the success of members at overseas events, maintaining the international reputation of the club and its competitive sailing standards. “A big well done to all members who competed in the many events across the year across the globe.”

“Inclement weather was a problem. A number of races had to be cancelled due to bad weather, but there was still a very active and successful year of sailing. The club ran 46 races throughout the Summer, Autumn and Winter leagues,” says the Admiral’s report.

Members will gather for the 303rd annual general meeting in the Crosshaven clubhouse on Monday night, January 22, for what will be a historic occasion.

The oldest yacht club in the world is set to elect current Vice Admiral, Annamarie Fegan, as the first woman to be its Admiral. When current Admiral Kieran O’Connell took office in 2022, he nominated her for that post. She was elected by
the members and is expected, in what has been the pattern at the club, to become Admiral as he completes his two-year term in office.

The 2024 1720 European Championships will be staged as part of Volvo Cork Week this July Photo: Rick TomlinsonThe 2024 1720 European Championships will be staged as part of Volvo Cork Week this July Photo: Rick Tomlinson

“This year is a Cork Week year and entries are already flowing in for the next edition of Volvo Cork Week since the formal launch of the event in October,” the Admiral says. “This legendary event has always attracted a large number of national and international entries since its inception. The exciting RS21 One Design Class will be a part of the 2024 event and the 1720 Europeans and discussions are on-going with several other fleets and classes. We have interest from the US and the UK for the Beaufort Cup – (the inter-Services competition).”

The annual report notes a slight drop in membership. “The club’s membership took a slight dip,” according to Kieran O’Connell, “but is still tracking well over the last few years, and the club’s finances are in a very healthy place after considerable capital projects that have enhanced the club and facilities for members. This year has been excellent, and we will, as always, endeavour to continue this trend for many years.”

Published in Royal Cork YC
Tagged under

Thirteen sailors were greeted with glorious sunshine as the Royal Cork Yacht Club ILCA class officially kicked off their 2024 season with a three-day clinic on the Curlane Bank in Cork Harbour.

This year marks a significant milestone for the Munster club, with the first female Admiral, Annamarie Fegan, set to take office in a few weeks. The ILCA racing season will start locally in February with a defroster series, followed by the Munster championships in Baltimore on March 30th and 31st. The Irish Youths championships will take place from April 4th to 7th, followed by the Connaught championships on April 27th and 28th.

With a newly varnished flagpole and a new flag, Royal Cork Yacht Club is ready for an exciting 2024 season ahead in Cork HarbourWith a newly varnished flagpole and a new flag, Royal Cork Yacht Club is ready for an exciting 2024 season ahead in Cork Harbour

Further afield, the ILCA World Masters will take place in Adelaide from February 2nd to 9th, with Royal Melbourne's Rob Jeffreys and Dun Laoghaire's Royal St George's Sean Craig competing.

Meanwhile, the ILCA 6 World Championships in Argentina (starting January 3rd) will feature Howth YC's Eve McMahon, who is continuing to improve in her bid for an Olympic berth in Paris.

The RCYC three-day ILCA clinic was held on the Curlane Bank in Cork HarbourThe RCYC three-day ILCA clinic was held on the Curlane Bank in Cork Harbour

The start-of-season kickoff clinic was led by coaches Michael Crosbie, Jonathan O'Shaughnessy, and Micheal O'Suilleabhain, who took a fleet of ILCA 4s and ILCA 6s out for a fantastic session on the Curlane bank. Alongside this, an open training session for ILCA 4s will be hosted by the RCYC from February 15th to 18th, featuring top-class coaches and some planned racing.

Those interested in joining the ILCA fleet for an exciting year can contact [email protected]. The Royal Cork Yacht Club has sailors across ILCA 4, 6, and 7, with a good mixture of male and female sailors involved. There are some club boats available to lease and several boats currently for sale

With the club looking forward to Cork Week Regatta in July, the ILCA class is sure to provide some exciting racing this season.

Published in Laser

In a week’s time, Sailing on Saturday will resume normal service with a preview on December 23rd of the up-coming Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race on December 26th, both generally and from an Irish angle, for we have some interesting participants with Gordon Maguire heading the charge aboard the all-conquering Caro.

But for now, acutely aware that the placing of Christmas Day on a Monday appears to have resulted in a so-called festive season marathon of potentially three undiluted weeks and more, we realise that some dyed-in-the wool sailing and cruising enthusiasts urgently need a heavy fix of maritime diversion.

So here’s a rambling peregrination through the odd world of cruising clubs and associations to provide holiday-long distraction, which if needs be can be read as you would most easily eat an elephant, in other words one bit at a time.

CRUISING’S INTERNATIONAL LINKS

There’s an easygoing yet quietly dynamic relationship between the leading cruising clubs on both sides of the Atlantic, drawing on the wealth of experience afloat and ashore gained over very many decades and even centuries by the very first clubs and their members.

These ways of doing things have emerged both from the protocols that began with the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork in 1720 with its subsequent re-branding in the 1820s to become the Royal Cork Yacht Club, and from the ambitions for direct cruising organisational development.

The fleet of the 1720-founded Water Club of the Harbour of Cork on manoeuvres in 1738. Individual or group cruising visits by these pioneering boats to West Cork and sometimes further were so frequent that they scarcely merited mention in the club records. Photo: RCYCThe fleet of the 1720-founded Water Club of the Harbour of Cork on manoeuvres in 1738. Individual or group cruising visits by these pioneering boats to West Cork and sometimes further were so frequent that they scarcely merited mention in the club records. Photo: RCYC

This first came to the top of the agenda in 1880 in London with the challenges of developing a new non-premises cruising club in London, a club whose members would share a fascination with cruising under sail and its engendering of friendship, sociability and mutual support of all kinds through flourishing in an organisation in which many of the members, while very much sailing enthusiasts, were avowedly non-racing people.

THE GROWTH OF CRUISING GROUPS

Today, with the Cruising Group within several of our sailing and yacht clubs in Ireland being the single largest sub-section of the membership, it’s difficult to visualize a time when the yachting establishment saw real sailing as only being in racing. But as it happens, it took a while to acknowledge the validity of this bedrock of our sport, and in the Irish context we realise yet again what a giant in our sailing progress was the physically diminutive Harry Donegan (1870-1940) of Cork.

Harry Donegan: his enthusiasm for sailing of all kinds and his generosity of spirit made him a great force for the good in the sport’s development in Ireland and beyondHarry Donegan: his enthusiasm for sailing of all kinds and his generosity of spirit made him a great force for the good in the sport’s development in Ireland and beyond

In Cork Harbour, the Water Club may have started as a non-racing organisation which expressed itself through fleet manoeuvres followed by hugely convivial dinners typical of the time, either on their small ships or at their shoreside focal point of the old castle on Hawlbowline Island. At these mega-feasts, indulgence was such that one of the club’s famous Rules stipulated that “no member to bring more than a bumper of wine to the dinner, except My Lords the Judges be present”.

WATER CLUB OF CORK SOON RACING

Disregarding the hint at a notoriously thirsty judiciary other than wondering how many readers might have been faced with the menu choice of “Dublin Lawyer” in a West of Ireland restaurant (see end of this blog for answer), we know from ancient newspapers of the mid-1700s that Water Club members were already challenging and wagering for races among themselves.

And by the time the club as Royal Cork was going full blast a hundred years later, racing had become so prominent that any RCYC yacht returning to the harbour from other sailing centres conspicuously flying winning flags would be given a nine gun salute as she passed the club battery. This attractive if noisy performance was charmingly resurrected by Admiral Colin Morehead in a lockdown-compliant way, when the Murphy-Fegan team on Niuelargo returned from winning the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race in 2021, as celebrated here  and here 

The Royal Cork YC’s purpose-built 1854 clubhouse at Cobh proved ideal for saluting returning winnersThe Royal Cork YC’s purpose-built 1854 clubhouse at Cobh proved ideal for saluting returning winners

SOUTHWEST IRELAND’S LONG-ESTABLISHED ROLE AS A WORLD-CLASS CRUISING AREA

In cruising back from Dingle to Cork, the crew of Nieulargo would have been sailing along a familiar coastline, as frequent vacation visits to southwest Ireland’s cruising paradise of West Cork and Kerry has been as much a part of Cork Harbour’s sailing heritage as the racing and fleet manoeuvres for one very long time. But as the racing became ever more intense in the latter half of the 1800s, with Dublin Bay leading the international charge in codifying its rules, cruising began to emerge as a distinctly separate discipline.

The keenly-raced Dublin Bay 21 Garavogue under her original rig. While the class is currently being restored by Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra under a simpler rig, in 1904 the first Commodore of the 1929-founded Irish Cruising Club, Herbert Wright, was to start his cruising with Garavogue’s sister-ship Estelle under this rig, while he also raced Estelle with Dublin Bay SC with determination and successThe keenly-raced Dublin Bay 21 Garavogue under her original rig. While the class is currently being restored by Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra under a simpler rig, in 1904 the first Commodore of the 1929-founded Irish Cruising Club, Herbert Wright, was to start his cruising with Garavogue’s sister-ship Estelle under this rig, while he also raced Estelle with Dublin Bay SC with determination and success

Its enthusiasts found fulfillment in the simple joy of sailing and voyaging in a competent manner, and the more complex challenge of developing and properly using seagoing boats that really could be comfortably lived aboard. At the same time, they were learning the skills of seamanship, navigation and pilotage that had previously been the often secretive province of the maritime professionals, that secrecy being the natural manifestation of a trade protection attitude.

CITY LIFE FOCUSED CRUISING CLUB DEVELOPMENT

That said, it took the rapidly increasing population of a vibrant city at some distance from the more popular sailing centres to create a specialist cruising club, and that came about in 1880 in London when a young lawyer originally from the West Midlands, Arthur Underhill, quietly but determinedly brought the Cruising Club into being.

Most of its founder membership was made up from his boyhood friends from “messing about in boats” days in suburban Wolverhampton, people who also shared his career decision to make their way in the bigger world of London. They continued their sailing, but now from South Coast havens mostly around the Solent, or sailing centres out in the Thames Estuary.

There is an Irish link to Underhill, as he was a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and did some sailing in Dublin Bay while here. Subsequently, the boat he owned for the longest length of time was the hefty vintage ketch Wulfruna, built in Waterford in 1874 and of such a size and weight that he needed some professional crew.

Cruising Club founder Arthur Underhill, a Trinity College Dublin graduate, at the helm of his 1874 Waterford-built ketch Wulfruna. While he was in complete charge as Corinthian skipper at sea, when coming into port he allowed his professional skipper to choose where Wulfruna would be anchored, for if a wrong choice was made, the professional crew would have to do the very heavy work of re-anchoringCruising Club founder Arthur Underhill, a Trinity College Dublin graduate, at the helm of his 1874 Waterford-built ketch Wulfruna. While he was in complete charge as Corinthian skipper at sea, when coming into port he allowed his professional skipper to choose where Wulfruna would be anchored, for if a wrong choice was made, the professional crew would have to do the very heavy work of re-anchoring

But he resolved the conflict between that and his Corinthian ambitions by being the skipper at sea. However, when he’d brought the boat to the chosen harbour, he allowed his professional skipper to decide exactly where they’d anchor, “as the crew would have to do all the heavy work of re-anchoring if his first choice was a mistake”.

FIRST CRUISING CHALLENGE CUP INAUGURATED IN 1895

It took about ten years for this novel Cruising Club to gain traction, but by the 1890s it was acquiring recognition, and it really became something comprehensible in the general sailing mindscape when the perpetual Challenge Cup for the log of the best Cruising Club cruise of the year was instituted in 1895.

The first awardee - for you don’t “win” a cruising cup - was Belfast doctor Howard Sinclair for his 1895 Round Ireland Cruise with the notably small cutter Brenda – originally just 23ft overall, she’d been lengthened by John Hilditch of Carrickfergus to 26ft in 1894.

FORMER RACER BECOMES FAST CRUISER

Brenda was typical of the first yacht of many a cruising beginner, as she was originally a cabin-less racing boat designed by the promising young Scottish naval architect W E Paton, and built by T. Norris in Belfast in 1886 for a J Irvine of Holywood on Belfast Lough’s south shore. She was of a reasonably healthy shape suitable for the fitting of a full deck and cruising accommodation for new owner Howard Sinclair by Hilditch in 1891, in a process they continued three years later with the length increase to create a wholesome boat.

Brenda in 1891, flying the RUYC ensign after her conversion from open racer to cruiser, but still with the straight stem as designed by W E Paton in 1886Brenda in 1891, flying the RUYC ensign after her conversion from open racer to cruiser, but still with the straight stem as designed by W E Paton in 1886

But Paton in 1886 was already busy elsewhere, as the trend in the red-hot racing centres of the Solent and Clyde was still towards ever-narrower heavily-ballasted gaff cutters setting an enormous spread of sail. So while the reasonably normal Brenda was getting ready for her first season in Belfast Lough, Paton had gone to extremes with the hyper-narrow Oona, built in the Solent for a demanding Scottish owner.

Officially, under the then widely-used Thames Measurement Rule of the Royal Thames Yacht Club, Oona was only a 5 tonner. But this seemingly small “weight” size was because of the absurdly narrow beam. In profile, she was a lot of boat. With very heavy displacement and a lead ballast keel chiming in at seven tons, she was in fact the ultimate expression of the “plank-on-edge” concept.

Whether Oona would have succeed or not in the 1886 racing is unknown, for as she was built in the south of England, Paton had to get together a crew to get this freakish craft to Scotland round Land’s End in time for the impatient owner’s new season.

Heading north in the Irish Sea, they were caught up in an easterly gale with very poor visibility. Whether or not they thought they were entering Dublin Bay, or whether they were trying to thread the needle of entering Malahide Estuary at high water is unknown, but it was on the Muldowney Bank at Malahide just north of Dublin Bay that Oona met her end.

The remains of the extreme super-heavy “plank-on-edge” cutter Oona on the beach at Malahide, Spring 1886. Underneath that slim deck are not the remains of some super-light skimming dish, but rather all that’s left of an extra-heavy “plank-on-edge” cutter which had a ballast keel of seven tons. Photo courtesy Hal SiskThe remains of the extreme super-heavy “plank-on-edge” cutter Oona on the beach at Malahide, Spring 1886. Underneath that slim deck are not the remains of some super-light skimming dish, but rather all that’s left of an extra-heavy “plank-on-edge” cutter which had a ballast keel of seven tons. Photo courtesy Hal Sisk

Either way, the morning light revealed the intact deck, though not much else, of the extreme boat on the beach inside Malahide’s Muldowney Bank, and there was no sign of the crew of five. The mystery of it all added to the tragedy. However, those who owned and appreciated successful more normal boats designed by Paton not only now had an onus on them to do extra-well afloat, but in Sinclair’s case he had decided to improve on the lost but promising young designer’s work.

SINCLAIR DESIGNS OWN BOATS, AWARDED CUP THREE TIMES IN ALL

Having shown what could be done with his own-designed improvements to a sensible Paton design with the Brenda, he became both a serial yacht designer-owner and a serial cruising trophy awardee. In 1896 and 1897 he was awarded the Challenge Trophy two further times in new boats each year, both built to Sinclair’s own design by James Kelly of Portrush, and both well able for the acclaimed cruises to Orkney and the Outer Hebrides.

In those circumstances, it would have been reasonable to expect Belfast Lough to become a hotbed of local and national cruising club development. But Sinclair faded rapidly from the scene for reasons that are really none of our business, so we’ll delve into them in all their curious detail.

HOWARD SINCLAIR’S COMPLICATED FAMILY LIFE LEADS TO EXILE

He was married to a younger sister of Beatrice Grimshaw (1870-1953), the Belfast writer who could only find the sense of freedom to write and live as she wished by settling very far away from Belfast, in Papua New Guinea. Meanwhile, her sister the first Mrs Sinclair was almost permanently ill, and when she eventually died, Howard Sinclair soon proposed marriage to her feisty younger sister, the lively Nicola.

 Howard Sinclair. Formerly a pillar of society in Belfast where his medical speciality was as a pioneer in tuberculosis treatment, his life took an unexpected turn that resulted in a special ceremony in Papua New Guinea, and lifelong “exile” in Devon in England Howard Sinclair. Formerly a pillar of society in Belfast where his medical speciality was as a pioneer in tuberculosis treatment, his life took an unexpected turn that resulted in a special ceremony in Papua New Guinea, and lifelong “exile” in Devon in England

But in the Presbyterian Belfast of which he was very much a part as an Elder of the Church, his religion forbade him to marry his deceased wife’s sister. However, on hearing of this, Beryl wrote from Papua New Guinea where she could easily arrange their marriage there in the ecumenically-minded Port Moresby, and they took up that offer. But after returning from the Pacific islands, living in Belfast was out of the question, so the newly-wed Dr & Mrs Sinclair went to live in Torquay in Devon on England’s south coast, where he remained a member of the Cruising Club until his death in 1948, but only made modest ventures afloat.

THE REMARKABLE MISS GRIMSHAW

Beatrice Grimshaw had meanwhile lived on in Papua New Guinea for 27 years, and then re-located to Australia where she died at the gallant and still independent age of 83 in 1953. She’s someone who deserves to be better known, and in 2022 Irish Cruising Club member Diana Gleadhill’s book Shadowing Miss Grimshaw was published to illustrate what a remarkable woman she was – as too is her spirited biographer.

BELFAST LOUGH’S HIGH LATITUDES CRUISING PIONEER

Back on Belfast Lough, the centrality of the place as a focal point for the greater development of cruising was further set back by the death in 1902 of Lord Dufferin, the high latitudes cruising pioneer who was Commodore of Sinclair’s now-former club, the Royal Ulster YC at Bangor. Yet in that same year the little Cruising Club in London made a mighty leap – it became the Royal Cruising Club.

This was a powerful recognition which the highly aspirational Dufferin would have rated highly, as he had put much energy into ensuring that the 1866-founded Ulster Yacht Club became the Royal Ulster YC in 1869, the year in which the Church of Ireland became disestablished to leave the way clear for Presbyterianism to be accepted as the main religion in northeast Ireland.

High latitudes cruising pioneer Lord Dufferin in his virtually self-invented role as “Admiral of Ulster”, wearing a uniform he designed himselfHigh latitudes cruising pioneer Lord Dufferin in his virtually self-invented role as “Admiral of Ulster”, wearing a uniform he designed himself

This may all seem remote from sailing. But ours is a sport which does not take place in a vacuum, and extra insight comes into any history and understanding of it in being aware of the changing socio-economic and political and religious background in which it is, in its quiet and peaceful way, trying to develop.

ERSKINE CHILDERS AND ASGARD ENTER THE SCENE

Put bluntly, you won’t get much cruising going on in times of war. Yet the two impinge, for another early member of the Cruising Club, and very active in it at the Royal Warrant’s conferral, was Erskine Childers, whose Asgard was awarded the Challenge Cup in 1913. But the awardee was Childers’ friend Gordon Shephard for his late season - very late season - delivery cruise of Asgard from Norway westward to Scotland, then down the Irish Sea to Dun Laoghaire, and then to a unplanned and hasty laying up – with much damaged gear and a broken bowsprit – with Dickie’s of Bangor in North Wales.

Erskine and Molly Childers, cruising the Baltic in the more peacful times of 1910 aboard AsgardErskine and Molly Childers, cruising the Baltic in the more peacful times of 1910 aboard Asgard

THE IMPATIENT CONOR O’BRIEN

It was unplanned as Childers was still London-based and had hoped that Shephard might get Asgard back to her home port in the Solent despite the ferocious November weather, but in the end all were glad enough to see her safely into the shed at the foot of the mountains of Snowdonia. That said, when the decision was quickly made in the Spring of 1914 to ship the guns for the Irish Volunteers from off the Belgian coast to Howth and Kilcoole on Erskine & Molly Childers’ Asgard and Conor O’Brien’s Kelpie, it meant that getting Asgard ready for sea took longer than expected, and Childers was late in making a rendezvous at Cowes with Kelpie, where the excessively punctual O’Brien had been conspicuously impatient.

Bare-footed and impatient – Conor O’Brien on Kelpie. Photo courtesy Gary Mac MahonBare-footed and impatient – Conor O’Brien on Kelpie. Photo courtesy Gary Mac Mahon

HARRY DONEGAN OF CORK AND FRANK GILLILAND OF DERRY

By this time others had been coming into the Irish cruising story, as RCC member Frank Gilliland of Derry was busily cruising and proselytising for the attractions of Donegal, and in Cork Harry Donegan was a compact Force of Nature. While a member of the Royal Cork at Cobh, his home club was the 1872-founded Royal Munster then at Monkstown, and he raced successfully with his 2.5 rater which he had also made inhabitable for cruising mostly to the southwest.

His curiosity and enthusiasm was such that he was soon compiling notes and harbour plans as sailing directions and cruising guides, but meanwhile as a canny Cork solicitor he’d enough energy and administrative savvy to be recruited by the owners of the new 1895-conceived Fife-designed 31ft Cork Harbour ODs as Class Secretary. He was never personally an owner, but it is said that at various stages he was to helm every one of them to a win.

A Fife-designed (1895) Cork Harbour One Design in full cry. Harry Donegan was the very effective secretary to the new class, but never owned one himself. However, it is said that he won races as helmsman in every one of the seven boats. Photo: Tom BarkerA Fife-designed (1895) Cork Harbour One Design in full cry. Harry Donegan was the very effective secretary to the new class, but never owned one himself. However, it is said that he won races as helmsman in every one of the seven boats. Photo: Tom Barker

DONEGAN’S USEFUL 1909 SAILING HISTORY

In 1909 he found a new outlet for his joy in sailing and his abundant spare energy - he was a lifelong teetotaller - by publishing History of Yachting in the South of Ireland 1720-1908. He was the first to admit that it was something of a cut and paste job, but that is hard work in itself, and it did much for Cork sailing confidence at a time when other centres were equalling or indeed overtaking the great South Coast harbour as a location for sailing development, while it has been a very convenient source of reference ever since.

By 1912 Harry Donegan had first aired his opinion that there should be some form of cruising club for Ireland. But as politics was another interest, and as he was the active Chairman of the Cork Branch of the post-Parnell Redmondite National Party, the increasingly turbulent times for the Home Rule movement was another Donegan pre-occupation in a rapidly developing situation.

POLITICS AND WAR DISTRACT FROM FORMATION OF AN IRISH CRUISING CLUB

This took in World War I from 1914-1918, the Easter Rising in 1916 in Dublin, the Irish War of Independence from January 1919 to July 1921, and the post-treaty Civil War from June 1922 to May 1923. In this rapidly-developing situation alliances were fluid, and by the time the remarkably localized Civil War broke out as the summer of 1922 got going, Donegan found himself in alliance with his former opponent Michael Collins in the latter’s new role as commander of the recently-created National Army of the treaty-recognising Irish Free State.

Gull at the start of the first Fastnet Race, August 1925. War dispatches carrier, first Fastnet Race contender, and cruising yacht of the moving spirit behind the foundation of the Irish Cruising Club – Harry Donegan’s famous Gull set a spread of sail that wasn’t for the faint-heartedGull at the start of the first Fastnet Race, August 1925. War dispatches carrier, first Fastnet Race contender, and cruising yacht of the moving spirit behind the foundation of the Irish Cruising Club – Harry Donegan’s famous Gull set a spread of sail that wasn’t for the faint-hearted

GULL DELIVERS MILITARY DISPATCHES

This reached a high point when Collins’s sister was shipped aboard the 1921-acquired 17-ton Donegan cutter Gull in July 1922 in Crosshaven, in order to begin the process of successfully carrying dispatches from the Free State General Emmet Dalton - who was besieging rebel strongholds in Cork city – safely towards General Collins at HQ in Dublin, while by-passing the mid-country routes where the rebels had destroyed strategic bridges.

In the midst of all this turmoil, more peaceful developments of ultimate significance for Irish cruising were taking place. In the early years of the 1900s, Glasgow was at its height of prosperity as one of the British Empire’s premier heavy engineering power-houses. But not all of its yachtsmen were billionaires with enormous sailing vessels and steamship yachts. Many ran smaller businesses or had salaried roles in the great companies, and their sailing and cruising was done in more modest boats, which each winter were laid up in small affordable boatyards dotted all around the upper Clyde, many of them best accessed by the Firth of Clyde’s impressive steamer service.

CLYDE CRUISING CLUB EMERGES

One such place was Port Bannatyne just west of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, where like-minded spirits - who had often met while cruising the Hebrides in summer - found themselves together again through many off-season weekends while fitting out their boats on Bute. In the autumn of 1909 while heading back to the mainland at Wemyss Bay (it’s pronounced “Weems”) on the Sunday evening paddle steamer, the idea finally crystallised among some of them to form the Clyde Cruising Club.

Thanks to the large cruising population sailing from that coast, it would turn out to be a uniquely successful synthesis of association and club, and was to include passage racing with its other activities of organising Meets and producing Sailing Directions. It was to have a significant influence in Ireland which was to reach something of a height in 1938, when John B Kearney of Dublin’s marvellous own-designed and built 39ft yawl Mavis was to win CCC’s famous annual Tobermory Race with a young Rory O’Hanlon at the helm at the finish.

John Kearney’s Mavis wins the Clyde Cruising Club Tobermory Race in 1938 with the young Rory O’Hanlon (later ICC Commodore) at the helm. The CCC rules stipulated that cruising yachts in their races should tow their dinghies as normalJohn Kearney’s Mavis wins the Clyde Cruising Club Tobermory Race in 1938 with the young Rory O’Hanlon (later ICC Commodore) at the helm. The CCC rules stipulated that cruising yachts in their races should tow their dinghies as normal

Meanwhile back in Ireland much had been developing on other fronts. Conor O’Brien of Foynes and Kelpie fame, having previously put much into his bare-footed mountaineering, was now moving into almost total devotion to cruising and voyaging – still bare-footed – and he saw as a possible if unusual career as a sailing voyager and writer for which he reckoned that membership of the Royal Cruising Club would provide a useful structure and source of publicity.

To become a member, he pulled off the most unlikely combination of supporters. In 1919 he got the High Sheriff of Derry, Commander Frank Gilliland RN – whom he had met through Royal Naval Reserve service during World War I – to propose him for the RCC, while his seconder was Erskine Childers.

Childers didn’t really like O’Brien personally at all, but in 1919 he was somewhat pre-occupied by his new role as one of the very able Directors of Propaganda for the new parallel Sinn Fein Government of Ireland, operating from the Mansion House in Dublin.

CONTRASTING NATURE OF O’BRIEN’S COMBINED SUPPORT DUO

The unlikeliness of this typically O’Brien unusual combination of people became abundantly clear in June 1923. His new 42ft ketch Saoirse, constructed after Kelpie was lost on a North Channel rock on the Scottish coast in 1921, was built to O’Brien’s own design in 1922 by Tom Moynihan and his skilled team in Baltimore despite the Civil War going on in the neighbourhood, and in 1923 was preparing to go to sea. On June 20th 1923, Saoirse departed from Dun Laoghaire on her ultimately totally successful pioneering global circumnavigation south of the Great Capes.

History in the making. Saoirse gets under way in Dun Laoghaire, June 20th 1923History in the making. Saoirse gets under way in Dun Laoghaire, June 20th 1923

Yet by that time, his RCC Proposer Commander Frank Gilliland was the Aide de Camp to the first Governor of a partitioned Northern Ireland. And he had a uniform to his own design. For like Lord Dufferin some decades earlier in his largely self-invented yet official role as Admiral of Ulster, Gilliland really did very much enjoy dressing up in self-created fancy uniforms.

THE END OF ERSKINE CHILDERS

By contrast, Erskine Childers had been very much a dresser-down. But when Saoirse took her historic departure, he was no longer on the scene as he had been executed in November 1922 in Dublin by the new Free State Government – whose Treaty support he opposed - for being armed with a tiny pistol for personal protection given to him by his former friend Michael Collins.

Be that as it may, the cruel and tragic ironies of the situation were blithely put aside as the untested Saoirse proved herself on her first long passage to Madeira a hundred years ago, replicated this past summer by a 28-boat celebration-filled rally of the Irish Cruising Club in Madeira.

For so long as things went well, Conor O’Brien knew he had access to the high road for international voyaging recognition in the 1920s through his RCC membership, as the continuing adjudicator for the club’s increasingly prestigious Challenge Cup was Claud Worth (1869-1936).

CLAUD WORTH, INTERNATIONAL CRUISING’S LEADING AUTHORITY EARLY IN THE 20TH CENTURY

He may have risen no higher than being Vice Commodore of the RCC, as Arthur Underhill stayed quietly in place at the head of his beloved “little club” until his death at the age of 89 in 1939, by which time Worth had also gone. But Claud Worth was both the real powerhouse in the RCC and in the international and national development of cruising and offshore sailing, as seen in 1908 when he realised that limited membership clubs could only do so much.

Claud Worth, the kindly and conscientious man who was a major force in cruising developmentClaud Worth, the kindly and conscientious man who was a major force in cruising development

CRUISING ASSOCIATION FOUNDED

Thus when he realised the constraints on cruising expansion of a limited membership club like the RCC, he was a moving spirit in the 1908 foundation of the Cruising Association in London, and subsequently an active member. And all this despite the fact that he found the time to design his own boats down to the last detail and to a professional standard, and then went on to project-manage their timber selection and construction while continuing his busy professional life as a pioneering opthalmological surgeon who was particularly noted for his specialist medical service during World War I.

So when he awarded the Challenge Cup to O’Brien three years on the trot in 1923, ’24 and ’25 for Saoirse’s then-remarkable circumnavigation, it was the ultimate voyaging Oscar of its day. And at the same time, Worth’s approval was invoked in the foundation of the Cruising Club of America, which has been celebrating its Centenary in 2023, with Claud Worth’s support having been sought for the idea of this new CCA in 1922.

CRUISING CLUB OF AMERICA ARRIVES WITH A FLOURISH

This 2023 Centenary of the CCA has been celebrated with a mighty book of the key elements in its history, the encyclopaedic Adventurous Use of the Sea. Cleverly edited by former CCA Commodore Sheila McCurdy, who is the daughter of that legendary designer of great boats, the late Jim McCurdy, it has been engagingly written by Tim Murphy, long associated with key roles in the international magazine Cruising World, for which he continues to be an Editor-at-Large.

 Published to celebrate the Cruising Club of America’s Centenary in 2023, Adventurous Use of the Sea by Tim Murphy, edited by Sheila McCurdy and with Dorade featured on the cover, is an eloquent introduction to some of the most outstanding people in offshore sailing Published to celebrate the Cruising Club of America’s Centenary in 2023, Adventurous Use of the Sea by Tim Murphy, edited by Sheila McCurdy and with Dorade featured on the cover, is an eloquent introduction to some of the most outstanding people in offshore sailing

It is no insult to these two creators to say that I find Adventurous Use a challenging and demanding read. It’s not because of a complex structure, because it’s very well put together and reads easily if you only skate through it. But the many superstar sailors highlighted are such utterly exceptional characters of outstanding achievement that if you give the elegantly-assembled words their proper attention, you find yourself totally involved in great lives lived by exceptional people who well embody the true American spirit.

GREAT LIVES LIVED TO THE FULL AFLOAT AND ASHORE

These are great lives lived to the full and beyond, both afloat and ashore, to such an extent that we more ordinary mortals find ourselves being left in a state of vicarious exhaustion after each chapter.

It begins with the definitive story of how a young New York sailing journalist in the early 1920s got together in downtown Manhattan with like-minded spirits to discuss and argue about sailing and the possibility a cruising club in a joint called Beefsteak Johns. It all sounds like something out of a Damon Runyon story, an impression lessened in no way by the journalist being called Bill Nutting. That was nominative determinism gone mad, but his subsequent life story indicated that it was very much for real.

For the only properly paying job that William Washburn Nutting could get in boat writing in New York at the time was as Editor of a magazine called Motor Boat. Yet although he was a square peg in a round hole, his energies were such that he succeeded commercially with Motor Boat to such an extent that the proprietors went along with his idea of a competition to design a motor-boat with auxiliary sails that could carry their Editor across the Atlantic, so that he could then furnish them with on-site reports from the already-legendary Harmsworth Trophy International Powerboat races in the Solent in 1922.

It could be a still from the film of a Damon Runyon story. CCA founding Commdore William Washburn Nutting in the day job as a tough and inventive New York maritime journalist in 1921It could be a still from the film of a Damon Runyon story. CCA founding Commdore William Washburn Nutting in the day job as a tough and inventive New York maritime journalist in 1921

OCEAN SAILING CRUISER DISGUISED AS “A MOTOR SAILER”

Somehow, Nutting slipped past them the fact that the winner, the William Atkin design for the ketch that became the 45ft Typhoon, was this desired motor-boat with auxiliary sails while insead she was actually a classic American characterful gaff ketch whose sailing potential was disguised by having a deceptively low rig.

He did this smoke and mirrors so well that the publishers paid for the building of the boat, and Nutting and his Beefsteak John cronies – eccentrically experienced sailors every one - sailed across to England with just a day and a half to spare before the powerboat contest started, and he kept himself covered by transmitting back sometimes imaginative accounts of the Harmsworth Trophy races.

The plans of the William Atkin-designed 45ft Typhoon were displayed to the publishers of Motor Boat in New York as being those of a motor-boat that needed the small rig to help get their motor-boating editor across the Atlantic to provide on-the-spot coverage of the 1922 Harmsworth Trophy International Powerboat Races in the SolentThe plans of the William Atkin-designed 45ft Typhoon were displayed to the publishers of Motor Boat in New York as being those of a motor-boat that needed the small rig to help get their motor-boating editor across the Atlantic to provide on-the-spot coverage of the 1922 Harmsworth Trophy International Powerboat Races in the Solent

For his mind was elsewhere, as his real purpose in being in Cowes was to meet Claud Worth and seek his ideas and support for creating an American version of the Royal Cruising Club. In this he succeeded, with Typhoon and Worth’s Tern III rafted together, while the two very different seafaring enthusiasts got on very well indeed.

An unlikely pairing – Claud Worth (left) and Bill Nutting (right) were soon friends. Photo: CCAAn unlikely pairing – Claud Worth (left) and Bill Nutting (right) were soon friends. Photo: CCA

Then in the best Nutting style, he also got to know and befriend everybody of else of sailing significance in Cowes, including County Limerick’s own Lord Dunraven of America’s Cup unjust notoriety, the great sailmaker Tom Ratsey who, on learning of a sail wardrobe deficiency in Typhoon, donated his own trysail from his famous ever-re-developing cutter Dolly Varden, while Nutting also began a close friendship with the growing sailing legend who was the rebellious young designer Uffa Fox, though also making his number with the Governor of the Isle of Wight who conveyed formal greetings from King George V the sailor king.

HARMSWORTH TROPHY FIRST RACED IN CORK HARBOUR IN 1903

There may be people who can skillfully work a room, but William Washburn Nutting could work an entire country when he put his mind to it. Meanwhile, somewhere in the margins, the Harmsworth Trophy concluded. And we should be more interested in it, as the first one was staged in Cork Harbour from Cobh to Cork City in 1903 in a waterborne reflection of the Gordon Bennett Motor Car Racebeing held in Wicklow and Kildare in the same year because automobile racing was forbidden in England.

POWERBOAT LEGEND GAR WOOD ENTERS THE STORY

This resulted in Irish hospitality being acknowledged by the visiting cars being painted in what became known as English Racing Green. As for that first Harmsworth Trophy race in Cork Harbour in 1903, the winner was Napier 1 of the UK piloted by Campbell Muir and Dorothy Levitt, while the 1922 races in the Solent – reported in colourful style by a cheerful Bill Nutting with his real purposes for being in the Solent having been fulfilled - was won yet again by the legendary American Gar Wood.

A long way from ocean cruising under sail. Speedster Gar Wood’s champion powerboat was one focus of Bill Nutting’s attention in Cowes in 1922A long way from ocean cruising under sail. Speedster Gar Wood’s champion powerboat was one focus of Bill Nutting’s attention in Cowes in 1922

Such was Nutting’s exuberance as he prepared to sail westward from the Solent that he may well have supplied the famous telegraphic exchanges at the conclusion of the Harmsworth Trophy. An impatient New York newspaper sent a querulous “How old Gar Wood?” enquiry. It can only have been Nutting at the other end who replied: “Old Gar Wood fine, how you?”

UFFA FOX JOINS THE STRENGTH

If he did send that ’gram, his mind was immediately turned elsewhere, as Uffa Fox had accepted an invitation to sail back to New York in Typhoon with the best of the summer already well gone, and Nutting knew that making the right impression with the hugely sociable but highly opinionated young designer could only add to his own reputation if things went well.

Fox did write some insightful material about the voyage, but it was all over-shadowed by the Typhoon being almost completely rolled twice in a Gulf Stream storm in the final few hundred miles to New York. Thanks to having a significant amount of her ballast in an external lead keel thanks to shipmate Casey Baldwin (for Nutting in his hurry to build had been prepared to make do with internal ballast), she eventually brought herself upright, and her motley crew were still with her.

The unique experience (and almost the ending) of a singular lifetime. A very young Uffa Fox (centre back) with his shipmates on Typhoon in the Azores before she was almost completely rolled in a November 1922 storm in the Gulf Stream while nearing New York. Photo: CCAThe unique experience (and almost the ending) of a singular lifetime. A very young Uffa Fox (centre back) with his shipmates on Typhoon in the Azores before she was almost completely rolled in a November 1922 storm in the Gulf Stream while nearing New York. Photo: CCA

FILTHY SETTING FOR MOVES TOWARDS CREATION OF CCA

So though she got safely to New York by November, much of her interior was be-fouled by oily bilge water, and malodorous items that had fallen out of various lockers. Yet it was in this filthy setting, when she finally berthed at night in Manhattan, that Typhoon’s crew and some of the sea-minded guys from Beefsteak John’s got together to celebrate Typhoon’s safe return and make positive moves to bring the CCA into being.

Section through Typhoon during one of the knockdowns, showing how the travel of stowed bits of equipment including the charts indicated the extent of the inversion. Image: CCASection through Typhoon during one of the knockdowns, showing how the travel of stowed bits of equipment including the charts indicated the extent of the inversion. Image: CCA

But nothing ever ran totally smoothly with Bill Nutting, such that nowadays it seems to be reckoned that there may well have been two or three different birth dates for the new club with its ultimately declared aim of “making adventurous use of the sea”.

This immediately suggests they were taking a slightly different approach to that of the RCC, for back in England the stiff upper lip attitude to cruising and voyaging was that anything that hinted at “an adventure” was thought of as evidence of incompetence.

There was a further parting of the ways as boats from the newly-formed CCA made up much of the fleet in 1923 for the revival of the sporadically sailed Bermuda Race of 1906 origins, and did so with such enthusiasm that by 1926 the CCA and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club were running the fully-established biennial Bermuda Race as a joint venture to successfully make it one of world sailing’s great offshore classics.

BILL NUTTING IS LOST AT SEA

But William Ashburn Nutting, the CAA’s founding Commodore in 1922-23, was already ploughing a different furrow. Having crossed the Atlantic twice along the middle and southern routes, he decided that 1924 required a following of the northern route westward to America pioneered by the Vikings, so he set off from Norway in the impulsively-bought Colin Archer-type (but not Archer-designed) cutter-rigged Liev Eiriksson.

In due course, after working the hospitality scene in the Shetlands, Faroes and Iceland, he and his convivial crew reached Julianehaab in Greenland, where their wide circle of much-socialised new friends included the Governor at Gothaab, A C Rasmussen. It was he who leaves us the last endearing but eventually tragic picture of William Washburn Nutting being very much Bill Nutting, an impression which makes us wonder how he ever met a single deadline in his picaresque journalistic career.

THE GREAT PROCRASTINATOR

It was already into September as Nutting and his shipmates prepared to leave Greenland, and Rasmussen’s account tells us all:

“They had originally intended to start at about nine o’clock in the morning, but their number of friends at Julianehaab was so great and the leave-taking took each one so long, that it was three o’clock in the afternoon before they were ready to leave. Loaded with souvenirs from Greenland and tokens of remembrance from all of us, the vessel put out from the bridge where the Danish colony had gathered to see them off, and the parting was as festive as it could be made under our primitive conditions. The ‘Vikings’ sang their gay songs at the parting. After it got out for some little distance, it (the Liev Eiriksson) made a curve back and they filmed us where we stood on the bridge waving. We then gave them three cheers and they set out on the voyage, which was to be their last”.

“She was an Archer type that out-Archered Colin Archer”. Bill Nutting bought Liev Eiriksson in Norway more or less on impulse in 1923“She was an Archer type that out-Archered Colin Archer”. Bill Nutting bought Liev Eiriksson in Norway more or less on impulse in 1923

The Liev Eiriksson and her crew were never seen again. The Greenland Sea can be vicious at any time, and its dangers in Autumn are exacerbated by ice in all sizes at its most mobile and menacing. Although the daylights is rapidly shortening, the few ships and the over-worked trawlers in the area will only be keeping a perfunctory lookout, and the meagre lights of a small sailing boat are barely visible at the best of times.

So although a US Navy search was instigated, it didn’t happen until November, and by that time most of the members of the new and growing Cruising Club of America accepted that they wouldn’t see their first Commodore again.

LEGENDARY NAMES IN THE MEMBERSHIP

But with the Bermuda Race to provide a focal point, and other members completing impressive cruises, the club under its second Commodore Herbert L Stone (another sailing journalist) was going from strength to strength with many legends of American and international sailing contributing to its vigorous progress. This had been reinforced in 1923 by the inauguration of the CCA Blue Water Medal “for yachtsmen of all nations” making a particularly meritorious seagoing achievement, with the first awardee in 1923 being French sailor Alain Gerbault with his solo Atlantic crossing of the Atlantic with the old-style English cutter Firecrest

As for the CCA’s own more special members, when you think of names like John Alden, Olin & Rod Stephens, Philip Rhodes, Paul Hammond, Carleton Mitchell, Irving Johnson, de Coursey Fayles, Jim McCurdy, Dick Nye, John Bostock, Stan Honey, Jean Socrates, Skip Novak and many others less well known because their achievements were in private voyaging rather than high profile racing, you soon realise that with this CCA narrative by Tim Murphy you’re reading through a powerhouse of sailing and voyaging in which the main actors are in a superleague of their own.

Many of the insights provided are refreshingly personal. For instance, everyone wonders why Olin & Rod Stephens’ all-conquering yawl Dorade of 1930 was so narrow, a feature which caused her to roll rhythmically when running in a seaway, regardless of the skills of the helmsman, and the rigour with which the spinnaker setting had been firmly bowsed down.

While her narrow hull’s profile was not so very dissimilar to the classic schooners she was racing against, Olin Stephens’ Dorade in her first Bermuda Race had the secret weapon of a hyper-efficient Bermudan rig created with his younger brother Rod. Photo: CCAWhile her narrow hull’s profile was not so very dissimilar to the classic schooners she was racing against, Olin Stephens’ Dorade in her first Bermuda Race had the secret weapon of a hyper-efficient Bermudan rig created with his younger brother Rod. Photo: CCA

Well, it seems that before finalising her lines, the young Olin – at that stage a tentative largely self-taught yacht designer – had been much taken by the sections of the elegant William Fife-designed 6 Metres from Scotland which had been brought over for the international racing for Seawanhaka Cup.

Then too, after grabbing a berth in the 1928 Bermuda Race, instead of joining the party at the finish, he spent the time swimming round in the warm waters of Bermuda and diving at each successful boat to assess the secrets of their hull shape.

Thus if you’ve wondered – as I have - just why the hull profile of Dorade and her 1935 successor Stormy Weather is that of a classic American East Coast racing schooner with the greatest depth at the heel , now you know. And as for Dorade’s narrowness, that’s because she has the hull section of a Fife 6 Metre.

But even though the beam was increased with her smoother-running successor Stormy Weather, the still rolling Dorade can give Stormy a good run for her money. But both boats in their time – and all Sparkman & Stephens designs of their golden era - benefitted enormously from the world-leading rigs that Rod Stephens put into them. He was the real hidden strength in the partnership’s success, which saw Dorade win Transatlantic races and two Fastnet races, while Stormy Weather then won the 1935 Fastnet Race.

BERMUDA RACE PARTIAL INSPIRATION FOR FASTNET CONTEST

Regardless of who was responsible for the winners of the increasingly successful Bermuda Race, it was immediately one of the inspirations towards the clarification of a notion towards the fulfillment of an idea that the Royal Cruising Club might run a 600-miles-plus race round the Fastnet Rock and back, starting from the English Channel.

The RCC very quickly made it clear that officially they wanted to have nothing to do with it, though Claud Worth said he’d sail his boat Tern out to Spain to time a finish at Santander, as he felt the suggested Fastnet course involved too many hazards, and anyway he reckoned such a race would be more attractive if it took the fleet south to a warmer climate.

The immortal Jolie Brise. This veteran winner of the first Fastnet Race is in good spirits for the Centenary Fastet Race in 2025The immortal Jolie Brise. This veteran winner of the first Fastnet Race is in good spirits for the Centenary Fastnet Race in 2025

But one of the main proponents of the idea, sometime RCC member George Martin who owned the impressive former Le Havre Pilot Cutter Jolie Brise, was single-minded in his determination that it was the Fastnet or nothing, and as he happened to be Commodore of a little known club called the Royal South-Western YC with a base in Devon, he started pushing the idea further with the RSWYC as the sponsoring club.

However, times were hard for this already small club, and although its Commodore was one of the heirs to the wealth of Martin’s Bank, his few fellow members were keen on amalgamating with the much stronger and more historic Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth. So when the first Fastnet Race was finally being promoted for its first staging by several including George Martin and the sailing writer James Weston Martyr who had returned from an American sojourn inspired by Bermuda Race participation, it was the Royal Western Yacht Club which was cited as the sponsoring organization.

With the Fastnet Centenary Year upon us in 12 months and two weeks’ time, it would be salutary to remember the RWYC’s orginal pivotal role in 1925, for in looking at the current Fastnet Race’s configuration with a start at Cowes and a finish in Cherbourg, the only surviving major element of the original Fastnet Race course of 1925 is now our own dear Fastnet Rock.

It is our rock, after all. Ireland’s own Fastnet Rock is the only significant element of the first Fastnet Race that is still a key part of the courseIt is our rock, after all. Ireland’s own Fastnet Rock is the only significant element of the first Fastnet Race that is still a key part of the course

But while success is an orphan, success has many fathers. The race was soon successfully set in place in August 1925 with Jolie Brise the winner from seven competitors including Gull, and immediately there was another father in line with the new Ocean Racing Club being established in Plymouth by all those present, including the ever-visionary and generously-minded Harry Donegan from Cork.

Unlike some fellow sailors in Ireland who felt that any major international race round the Fastnet should finish in an Irish port, he was both a realist and a keen sportsman, so he’d felt that the race as envisaged would provide the frequently-raced Gull with wonderful competition with real seagoing experience, and his podium place in third placed Gull for ever in international offshore racing history.

Powering along. Aboard Gull during the first Fastnet Race, when she was never out of the top three, and was leader during at least one stagePowering along. Aboard Gull during the first Fastnet Race, when she was never out of the top three, and was leader during at least one stage

Not that he’d been on the back pedal in sailing development in Ireland. During a 1922 cruise to West Cork (despite the ongoing but by now very localised Civil War), he’d met up with a like-minded skipper, Billy Mooney from Howth cruising the cleverly converted ship’s lifeboat ketch Lil. Like Donegan, Mooney was a keen club race – he was a successful Howth 17 owner-skipper – but he shared Donegan’s enthusiasm both for the notion of an Irish cruising club, and for the promotion of offshore racing once he personally had moved up to a more performance-oriented cruiser.

But they put the idea on the back burner for a while as the times were restless, people had absorbed just about as many new ideas and situations as they could, and anyway Conor O’Brien and Saoirse were in the process of carrying the torch for Irish cruising very successfully indeed.

Instead, in 1926 when the Fastnet was still in its initial yearly schedule, Harry Dinegan went back to race it again, and at the last minute heeded the entreaties to do the race from a newly-arrived young American enthusiast called Warwick Tompkins, later known to everyone as the multi-voyaging Commodore Tompkins and a CCA stalwart with his 1932-bought world-girdling former pilot schooner Wander Bird.

Five years after his Fastnet experience with Harry Donegan, “Commodore” Warwick Tompkins bought this former pilot schooner which became Wander Bird to be his world-girdling family homeFive years after his Fastnet experience with Harry Donegan, “Commodore” Warwick Tompkins bought this former pilot schooner which became Wander Bird to be his world-girdling family home

Although Gull failed to complete the race as her part of the fleet was caught in a damaging sou’easterly gale off the Irish coast, Tompkins has left us a vivid account of what it was like to race aboard Gull. And though they’d to retire into Cork Harbour, Domegan made it his business to take the young American by ferry and train to Pymouth in time for the post-Fastnet Dinner, when new Ocean racing Cub members would be signed in from among those who had completed the second Fastnet. Thanks to an entertaining and persuasive speech by Harry Donegan at the dinner, Warwick Tompkins was added to their number.

Warwick Tompkins’ recollection of being with Harry Donegan on Gull. He’s a bit unfair in describing Gull as “a plank-on-edge cutter of ancient vintage” when she was an unextreme reasonable Charles E Nicholson hull design of 1896 to provide a fast cruiser. And she was just 29 years old at the Fastnet Race 1925, though Harry Donegan did drive her so hard she spewed her bow caulking. Also, the wind Tompkins describes as Nor’easter was actually a Sou’easter. But he certainly gets the flavour of the great man, and “flying a kite” has multiple meanings.Warwick Tompkins’ recollection of being with Harry Donegan on Gull. He’s a bit unfair in describing Gull as “a plank-on-edge cutter of ancient vintage” when she was an unextreme reasonable Charles E Nicholson hull design of 1896 to provide a fast cruiser. And she was just 29 years old at the Fastnet Race 1925, though Harry Donegan did drive her so hard she spewed her bow caulking. Also, the wind Tompkins describes as Nor’easter was actually a Sou’easter. But he certainly gets the flavour of the great man, and “flying a kite” has multiple meanings.

A further direct link to the CCA was established by purest serendipity in July 1929, when the Irish Cruising Club was finally brought into being with a five boat cruise-in-company culminating in the foundation of the ICC on the balmy summer’s evening of July 13th 1929 in Glengarriff.

The perfect place to bring the new Irish Cruising Club into being – Glengarriff in West Cork at the head of Bantry BayThe perfect place to bring the new Irish Cruising Club into being – Glengarriff in West Cork at the head of Bantry Bay

Neither Harry Donegan nor Billy Mooney was personally ambitious in promoting the new club, as they wanted the leading RCC member in Dublin Bay to take on the role of Commodore. This was Herbert Wright of the RIYC who - having started his cruising with his new Ringsend-built Dublin Bay 21 Estelle in 1904 – had since moved up to the handsome 12-ton gaff cutter Espanola, which proved an admirable Commodore’s yacht while Herb Wright provided proper Commodorial gravitas allied to a nice line in acerbic wit in his elegantly-written cruising logs.

A proper serious sailing man. Herbert Wright of Dun Laoghaire became the first Irish Cruising Club Commodore in July 1929A proper serious sailing man. Herbert Wright of Dun Laoghaire became the first Irish Cruising Club Commodore in July 1929

HARRY DONEGAN’S INGENUITY

Thanks mainly to Harry Donegan’s remarkable ingenuity in bringing people together in a pleasing setting, the ICC came into being in a much more suitable way than the other cruising clubs, through this purposeful and highly entertaining Cruise-in-Company which was almost immediately blessed with the accompanying presence of a leading Cruising Club of America boat.

This was the much-loved ketch Seven Bells (Tom Cooke) which was on an Atlantic circuit cruise with a largely family crew which in time won the Blue Water Medal for 1929, bringing the beginning of a long-standing ICC relationship with that supreme trophy. For by the 21st Century, the ICC had a remarkable four Blue Water Medallists on its membership list in the form of Bill King of Oranmore in Galway, John Gore-Grimes of Howth, Paddy Barry of Dun Laoghaire and Connemara, and Jarlath Cunnane of Mayo.

Tom Cooke’s Blue Water Medal-awarded ketch Seven Bells CCA became part of the ICC founding cruise in 1929 by pure serendipity after a Transatlantic passageTom Cooke’s Blue Water Medal-awarded ketch Seven Bells CCA became part of the ICC founding cruise in 1929 by pure serendipity after a Transatlantic passage

As for links to other clubs, at the end of 2025 Conor O’Brien had received his third RCC Challenge Cup award on the completion of Saoirse’s circumnavigation in Dun Laoghaire, and in celebration of the success of his very special book on the voyage, Across Three Oceans, he crossed the path of the Ocean Racing Club with Saoirse’s sporting participation in the 1927 Fastnet Race, before which Uffa Fox had entered the picture again by taking off Saoirse’s lines in Cowes. This resulted in a precise set of lines which showed that O’Brien’s own almost-freehand original set of lines was pretty well spot-on, which suggests considerable skill on the part of Conor O’Brien and Tom Moynihan in 1922.

The ingenious increase in Saoirse’s sailplan which Conor O’Brien created with her existing main and mizzen masts for the 1927 Fastnet RaceThe ingenious increase in Saoirse’s sailplan which Conor O’Brien created with her existing main and mizzen masts for the 1927 Fastnet Race

CONOR O’BRIEN ON THE STRENGTH

One of the first acts of the new Irish Cruising Club was to make Conor O’Brien the first Honorary Member, and occasionally when he’d returned to live in the cottage of Barneen on Foynes Island, he’d go “into Ireland” to attend the club’s annual dinner. As for dining guests from other clubs, as the ICC still had passage and offshore racing as part of its activities until 1980, and it even organised Ireland’s early Admiral’s Cup teams.

So back in the 1930s, it maintained links with what had become the RORC, together with the RCC and the CCA, by having leading offshore sailor Bobby Somerset at the dinner, as he’d become the owner of Jolie Brise with which he won a Fastnet, and then when he went across the pond to do the Bermuda Race, his remarkable gaff-rigged boat showed she was no slouch against the CCA’s slick-looking Bermuda-rigged racer, but his race to Bermuda ended when a nearby schooner went on fire and he made a brilliant rescue of her crew under sail, bringing him the Blue Water Medal for 1932 and Honorary Membership of the CCA.

After the success of his round the world voyage, Conor O’Brien became the ICC’s first Honorary Member in 1929After the success of his round the world voyage, Conor O’Brien became the ICC’s first Honorary Member in 1929

Thus although world wars and other disturbances at times hampered progress, as the 20th Century drew towards its close the leading cruising clubs on both sides of the North Atlantic had developed a comfortable understanding of each other, and a readiness to function together in shared enterprises such as cruises-in-company at select venues, or joint meets to mark major anniversaries.

For Ireland and the Irish Cruising Club, this meant that in 1969-70 there had been a massive gathering from both sides of the ocean in Cork and along the coast westward to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club and the 40th Anniversary of the Irish Cruising Club. And then in 1979, there was a big-fleet multi-club Cruise-in-Company from Cork to Glengarriff to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the ICC.

In 1975, there had been a significant Irish presence in the Golden Jubilee Fastnet Race with Hugh Sherrard’s 1904-vintage former Clyde 30 Brynoth – for years a boat associated with the ICC, the RORC, and the RCYC – winning the Iolaire Block for the best-placed pre-1905 classic in the fleet.

The late Hugh Sherrard at the age of 75, hard-driving aboard the 1904-built Brynoth, winner of the Iolaire Block in the Golden Jubilee Fastnet Race of 1975The late Hugh Sherrard at the age of 75, hard-driving aboard the 1904-built Brynoth, winner of the Iolaire Block in the Golden Jubilee Fastnet Race of 1975

And nowadays, there is so much interaction between the clubs for exchanged information, social events and shared cruises to such places as the ICC’s Galician outpost in northwest Spain that it is wellnigh impossible to keep close track of them all. But it is made possible by a mutual level of understanding which was neatly demonstrated by current CCA Commodore Chris Otorowski, who is from the American club’s Pacific Northwest Station, well illustrating just how far the now 1,400 membership of the CCA has spread and expanded from those eccentric New York gatherings in Beefsteak John’s more than a hundred years ago.

Commodore Otorewski decided to give the ICC a special piece of silverware at the ICC’s annual dinner in Sligo in March 2023 to mark the CCA’s Centenary and the international goodwill between the cruising clubs. But then he bethought himself that as Dublin is the home of some of the very best antique silverware in the world, it made sense to buy the appropriate piece in silversmiths Weir’s of Grafton Street in Dublin when he got here on his way to Sligo.

So he and the ICC’s Vice Commodore Alan Markey made it a morning of proper retail therapy to head into Weir’s in best purposeful vacation mode, and in time emerged with a remarkably lovely Dublin silver friendship cup which drew a suitable breath-taken response of approval when it was unveiled in Sligo.

Irish silver at its best – the Friendship Cup presented by the CCA to the ICC in March 2023Irish silver at its best – the Friendship Cup presented by the CCA to the ICC in March 2023

And then Commodore Otorowski put it all firmly in place with his declaration on behalf of the CCA:

“By All Presents Known:

The Cruising Club of America and the Irish Cruising Club have a long standing and close relationship founded in their shared love of challenging the elements, cruising the world’s oceans and sharing seafaring experiences. A foundation of both clubs is the mutual respect, friendship and camaraderie of their shipmates.

In recognition of the relationship of both clubs, the “Friendship Cup” is hereby deeded, in perpetuity, to the Irish Cruising Club to be awarded annually by the ICC, in its sole discretion, to members or their spouses, who best exemplify the highest values of the ICC”

OFF TO MADEIRA

After that, it was with buoyant spirits that ICC Commodore David Beattie and Southern Rear Commodore Seamus O’Connor set to with fresh energy to bring together the Conor O’Brien Saoirse Centenary cruise to Madeira for July 3rd, which despite the very mixed weather of the summer of 2023, went very well indeed.

DUBLIN LAWYERS - THE REAL STORY

And if you’re still wondering about “Dublin Lawyer”, it’s the classic lobster in vast quantities with rich cream sauce, but with brandy instead of whiskey, as that latter variation is what only m’learned friends down from Dublin on circuit could possibly have afforded in the olden days.

Published in W M Nixon
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