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Shannon One Designs Nostalgia Night by Zoom on Saturday

3rd March 2021
Such were the days…..the 2017 fleet getting locked through at Athlone in the Shannon One Designs' 2017 Long Distance Race downriver from Lough Ree to Lough Derg
Such were the days…..the 2017 fleet getting locked through at Athlone in the Shannon One Designs' 2017 Long Distance Race downriver from Lough Ree to Lough Derg Credit: Garrett Leech

Many people who visit Ireland's sea coasts under sail are unaware that they're really only seeing half of the story. For the unseen inland Ireland is a vast watery place of myriad lakes and winding waterways, so much so that it's said of Fermanagh - the most completely watery county of all - that for six months of the year, the lakes are in Fermanagh, but for the other six months, Fermanagh is in the lakes.

Be that as it may, in times past, the waterways played a key role for the transport of goods and people. So inevitably, as some folk became more affluent than others, their personal transport boats began to reflect this, and before anyone really knew where they were, they'd become yachts. Then, Ireland being Ireland, yacht clubs soon followed, with Lough Ree Yacht Club formed in 1770, Lough Erne YC in 1820, and Lough Derg YC in 1835.

Thus the inner Ireland, far from being a vague reflection of coastal Ireland, is a thriving sailing world complete unto itself. But while its very varied sailing accommodates many boat types, there is one unique craft that symbolises its special character - the una-rigged Shannon One Design. 

Shannon One Designs in a "One-Reef Breeze". The long slim clinker-built hulls are so flexible that it's said "they can turn round and look at you".Shannon One Designs in a "One-Reef Breeze". The long slim clinker-built hulls are so flexible that it's said "they can turn round and look at you"

The class may or may not be celebrating its Centenary in 2022, for as I recall from crewing with the class deity Alf Delany at Dromineer in a special regatta in 1972 to celebrate the SODs' Golden Jubilee, there were those there who argued they were a year out, as it was all to do with whether or not you count the first year as zero or one…..

Either way, they're gorgeous boats which may have been seen sailing on the saltwater at classics regattas at Dun Laoghaire and Glandore, but somehow they never look completely right except when sailing on their own great lakes, or else taking part in the 40-plus miles Long Distance Race from Lough Ree down the Shannon to Lough Derg.

Though the prevailing south to southwest wind will make it a beat down Shannon from Lough Ree to Lough Derg, every so often some meandering of the river will provide a brief few moments of fair windThough the prevailing south to southwest wind will make it a beat down Shannon from Lough Ree to Lough Derg, every so often some meandering of the river will provide a brief few moments of fair wind

This involves an overnight stop at Shannonbridge, where the hot rum and chocolate at Killeen's bar & grocery at the top of the street is renowned for bringing exhausted SoDs back to life, for in getting there from Athlone, they may well have made more tacks than could be counted, and in all, there are only two locks to provide a break.

A class like this evolves its own mythology, often comprehensible only to those closely involved. But fortunately, over the years, people like Douglas and Ruth Heard and others were recording it on film from a time well before everybody had a film camera whenever they took out their mobile phone.

Thanks to those pioneers, the class are having a closed Zoom session on Saturday night for a showing, commentary and discussion around Ruth Heard's 8mm movie of the 1988 Shannon One Design season, a show which will then be available to the world at large on YouTube in due course.

While the 1921-designed Shannon One Design may not have a standard planing hull, given enough breeze a helm with nerves of steel can get her riding the bow-wave with the best of themWhile the 1921-designed Shannon One Design may not have a standard planing hull, given enough breeze a helm with nerves of steel can get her riding the bow-wave with the best of them

While the 1921-designed Shannon One Design may not have a standard planing hull, given enough breeze a helm with nerves of steel can get her riding the bow-wave with the best of them.

Published in Inland Waterways
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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