#youghal – The Munster Blackwater is one of Ireland's mystery rivers writes W M Nixon. Despite comparisons to the Rhine, it keeps much of its long and beautiful length well hidden. And even when it reaches the sea at Youghal, that ancient seaport town manages to be shaped in such a way, with a clutter of waterfront buildings obstructing the view, that it's often impossible to see the water, and whether it's river or sea or both.
As for seeing the boats based there, it's hit or miss. They may be hidden away in muddy little docks, or lying to moorings in the strong tidal stream, or else in the anchorage across the estuary on the east shore at Ferry Point. One way or another, they're well scattered. So anyone voicing the ambition of making Youghal "the Kinsale of East Cork" has a mountain to climb.
But a Youghal schoolboy, Adrian Lee, has come up with a good idea for promoting sailing in Youghal. And while he may not be climbing any mountains, he's planning to take a small fleet of boats – mostly GP 14s - sailing towards the hills and high lands this Saturday, going sixteen miles up the Blackwater, to Cappoquin in West Waterford nestling under the handsome Knockmealdown Mountains.
He knows it can be done, as he has tested the course himself. He bought his first GP 14 four years ago, aged just twelve, with funds he'd saved - "mostly confirmation money". That was an old ex-Naval Service glassfibre boat, which he refitted and learned to sail, mostly self-taught with regular crew Edward Coyne. More recently he up-graded to the creme de la crème, a Duffin boat, and now he's seriously into racing. But he rightly reckons the way to get Youghal interested in sailing the sea is by a cruise-in-company up the incomparable Blackwater to Cappoquin.
Looking downriver from Villierstown, where the Youghal flotilla plan to overnight on Saturday. Photo: W M Nixon
It has become a two day event this coming weekend, August 30th & 31st, with the enthusiastic support of the Irish GP 14 Association's Norman Lee of Greystones. Norman has already been down to Youghal to sail the course to Cappoquin, and the hope is that maybe ten GP 14s will gather at the waterfront at Youghal at noon on Saturday, and once everyone has got themselves organized, they'll set off together upriver to Cappoquin with a support group including visiting boats from Dungarvan, notably a cruising Mermaid.
They'll take the tide all the way upriver on Saturday afternoon, but as they can get no further with masts stepped than the old railway bridge at Cappoquin, they'll head downriver to pretty Villierstown on the east shore. There, the local sailing and boat club is into its stride with a new clubhouse and a pontoon acquired second-hand when Dungarvan SC were recently up-grading their pontoon facilility in that bustling West Waterford town.
Looking north across Youghal, the aerial view indicates how the crowded waterfront can make it difficult to see the sea. Photo Kevin Dwyer courtesy ICC.
The flotilla will overnight at Villierstown, then they'll take the morning ebb on Sunday to head on downriver, hopefully to reach Youghal at a civilised hour for lunch, while also providing plenty of time for an easy journey home for those who have bought their boats some distance to take part in what could well become a memorable annual event.
A scattered fleet – boats based in the Blackwater Estuary at Youghal are either on tide-rode moorings off the town (foregound), or in a more sheltered area north of Ferry Point (beyond) on the east side. Photo: W M Nixon