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The Olympic sailing dream is of competition on a sterile racing area with weak to non-existent tides, well clear of any special wind effects that a nearby coastline and an island or two might provide, while of course using a meticulously-set Committee Boat start line and a cleverly-designed course to test several points of sailing. That's the way they want it. Yet if that's their dream - their perfect ideal - then Howth Yacht Club's traditional sixteen nautical miles of Lambay Race must be Olympic sailing's stuff of nightmares.

The original Lambay Course – raced at least since 1904, and probably earlier - was simply though Howth Sound inside Ireland's Eye after a pier start from Howth Harbour, then nor' eastwards to the east point of Lambay. Officially, it's The Nose, but few remember to call it that, they just call it the East Point, as we've a Nose of Howth already, and that's quite enough to smell the coffee on any one day.

The classic Lambay course can serve up all sorts of conditionsSixteen miles of sailing perfection – the classic Lambay course can serve up all sorts of conditions, but on Saturday it provided record times

The north side of Lambay seems like the Far Side of the Moon for most sailors, even those from Howth which is only seven miles away. And as you head west to double the island, there are various impairments to ease of navigation, such as Carrickdorish Rock and Harp Ear.

These are matters of even more concentration if you're beating against a westerly. But concentrating purely on sailing along there is difficult anyway, as Lambay is a natural wonder where the abundant wildlife - some of it on surprisingly spectacular cliffs - is augmented by a troupe of wallabies (don't ask), and Ireland's only colony of black rats, a cute little fellow who nevertheless would make life difficult for your average gannet settlement.

Getting going for record times – Leila and Zaida (Tom Houlihan) with freed sheets, on course with a fair tide with Ireland's Eye put asternGetting going for record times – Leila and Zaida (Tom Houlihan) with freed sheets, on course with a fair tide with Ireland's Eye put astern. Photo: Annroi Blaney

However, the Fingal gannet seems a tougher proposition than those from elsewhere. Having established his first neighbourhood colony on the Stack at Ireland's Eye back in 1989, when that got crowded his descendants and relatives not only started spreading onto the main island itself regardless of its predators, but they set up an offshoot on a big rock close under the cliffs on the other side of Lambay six miles to the north.

That has prospered so much that they appear to have bludgeoned their way onto Lambay itself through being the Neighbours from Hell for poor little rattus rattus, who is now on the endangered species list. As for the wallabies, they can't be too pleased, as they used to top the Lambay attractions chart until these rock-star gannets came along.

Brian Maguire of Hyberno Droneworks follows the fleet.

All these interesting things are going on along the Far Side of the Moon, aka the north side of Lambay, making it difficult to think only of sailing - let alone racing tactics - in a locality notorious for its flukey winds and tricky tides. As a result, when the Lambay Race is on the agenda, the Howth sailing community is a bit thin on the community spirit, as the Single-minded Racing Purists think it's a very dodgy proposition in the first place, whereas the Broad-minded Historically-Concerned Philosophers think it's central to the very ethos of Howth sailing, an event which must be sailed in its traditional form each year as an Act of Worship .

Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) was first to LambayRita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) was first to Lambay, but was halfway down the fleet in the final reckoning. Photo: W M Nixon

With such contrary opinions, the Lambay Race race has sometimes been messed about over the years, with extra marks being added to make it look more like a modern course. But in the difficulties of our current situation, the 1898-founded Howth Seventeens saw an opportunity. They wanted to celebrate getting a dozen boats of their ancient 20-strong fleet finally afloat despite 2020's truncations, and the best way seemed to be a race the traditional straightforward 16-mile Lambay Course on Saturday 5th September, as the tides suited – flood going north and favourable ebb coming back - and they could do it as their own thing, without trying to make an all-comers regatta out of it. 

Gladys, owned by HYC Commodore Ian Byrne and Eddie Ferris, finds a bright spot on the north side of LambayThe dark side? Gladys, owned by HYC Commodore Ian Byrne and Eddie Ferris, finds a bright spot on the north side of Lambay. Photo: W M Nixon

It made for a busy day at Howth in the day's brisk westerly, as a race of the Fingal Series for cruiser-racers went off around 1000 hrs, the Howth 17s buzzed northwards towards Lambay – just able to carry their topsails – in a starting sequence beginning at 1130 hrs, and then towards 1430 hrs as the Puppeteer 22s and the Squibs were squaring up for their weekly Saturday afternoon race, didn't the Howth 17s come roaring back down the Sound again with the full ebb under them after probably the fastest Lambay Race the class has ever recorded.

Yet far from being left on their own to get on with it, in this most peculiar sailing season they'd had an escort fleet dominated by the local flotilla of dark blue Seaward 23s and 25s carrying various photographers and a film team from TG4. For the word had got out that in this bleak year, a dozen Seventeens racing round Lambay would be a sight to cheer anyone up. And it was vintage stuff throughout, with real power to the dense-air wind at times, and flashes of vivid sunlight interspersed with curiously rain-free passing clouds, one or two so black they had the look of The End of Days about them.

Close encounter. Rosemary (12) and Pauline in classic juxtaposition at the Taylor's Rocks buoy. Close encounter. Rosemary (12) and Pauline in classic juxtaposition at the Taylor's Rocks buoy. In March 2018, Rosemary had become the "flatpack boat" after her shed was smashed in during Storm Emma, while Pauline was almost lost in a fire. Yet in 2020 they're both fighting fit again, with Pauline winning the close-fought 2020 Nationals. Photo: W M Nixon

But for connoisseurs of Howth Seventeen sailing and the wonders of the Fingal coast, it was pure magic throughout. After an extremely fast and wet reach northward, appropriately it was the granny of them all, Howth 17 No 1 Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) which was first at Lambay. But the wind flattened almost completely at the Nose such that the eight leading boat concertinaed into a straight line abreast, and first out of the traps in a private breeze which took them very close to Carrickdorish were the Massey/Toomey/Kenny syndicate in Deilginis with Keith Kenny on the helm, and Dave Mulligan with Sheila.

Deilginis has taken the lead, and found her own flash of sunshine with it The going is good. Deilginis has taken the lead, and found her own flash of sunshine with it. Photo: W M Nixon

Thereafter, Deilginis played it very cool on the short but position-setting beat along the north coast on Lambay, not getting too far offshore where there was a boat-stopping sea running and the tides were all over the place, yet not getting too far into the alluringly smooth water inshore, where the wind might suddenly disappear completely.

They were first to reach the most northerly turn at the buoy marking Taylor's Rocks off Lambay's northwest corner, and had quite a decent gap on Sheila. But Dave Mulligan had to put in a virtuoso performance on the long reach back to Howth, as the pack were right on his tail.

Overall, they finished Sheila 2nd, Pauline 3rd and Rosemary 4thThe chasing pack are (left to right) Pauline, Sheila and Rosemary. Overall, they finished Sheila 2nd, Pauline 3rd and Rosemary 4th. Photo: W M Nixon

As it turned out, they were having enough in-fighting to let him build his lead a bit, but there was no way he could make any dent on the gap to the flying Deilginis, which was literally racing against time as her topsail – which had been setting perfectly on port tack heading north – was all over the place on starboard tack heading south, though enough of it stayed working for her crew to claim they'd been deploying a clever topsail-scandalising trick to de-power the sailplan in the stronger gusts.

With Lambay astern and the wind temporarily softening, Deilginis continues to maintain her lead on SheilaWith Lambay astern and the wind temporarily softening, Deilginis continues to maintain her lead on Sheila. Photo: W M Nixon

Whatever, they maintained their lead to finish in two hours 36 minutes and 14 seconds, which may well be a Howth 17 Lambay record. And as they tacked onto port to get into the harbour, lo and behold but wasn't the topsail suddenly setting perfectly again…..Sheila was just over a minute astern, then came 2020 champion Pauline (Shane O'Doherty, Ian McCormick and Michael Kenny) and Rosemary (George Curley, David Jones & David Potter, with the four leaders finishing within two minutes.

On handicap (a very import element in the continuing strength of the class) the winner was Echo (Bryan & Harriet Lynch) from Tom Houlihan's Zaida, with Sheila and Pauline re-appearing in the listings at 3rd and 4th. In a more complete season, it would be hoped that there would seldom be much overlap between scratch and handicap.

Deilginis storming home to win, with Portmarnock's Velvet Strand and the Pormarnock Hotel in the backgroundDeilginis storming home to win, with Portmarnock's Velvet Strand and the Pormarnock Hotel in the background. When Deilginis was being built by James Kelly of Portrush in 1907, the hotel was St Marnoch's House, home of renowned racing skipper Willie Jameson. Photo: W M Nixon

But in this weird year, the six Howth Seventeens which didn't appear in the top four under either system in the Lambay Race 2020 seemed happy to adopt the attitude of the New England whaling skipper who went clean round the world without so much as seeing a whale, let alone catching one. He said he'd had a helluva fine sail.

Howth 17 Lambay Race 2020 results (scratch)

1st Deilginis (Massey, Toomey & Kenny) 2:36:14; 2nd Sheila D.Mulligan) 2:37:18; 3rd Pauline (S.O'Doherty, I. McCormick & M Kenny) 2:37:44; 4th Rosemary (G.Curley, D.Jones & D Potter) 2:38:10. 


1st Echo (B. & H. Lynch 2:25:31; 2nd Zaida (T.Houlihan) 2:26:17; 3rd Sheila 2.37:18; 4th Pauline 2:37:44.

There were as many support boats as racers when the Howth 17s went round LambayWith sailing so restricted in 2020, every event attracted extra attention, and there were as many support boats as racers when the Howth 17s went round Lambay. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Howth 17

Howth's Patrick O' Neill and the crew of Mojo were crowned J80 Irish National Champions at the Royal St. George Yacht Club this afternoon after a closely fought seven-race series on Dublin Bay. 

14 boats competed from four different Dublin clubs that represent a building momentum for the Irish J80 class, one of the world's most popular sportboats.

In a show of strength for Howth Yacht Club entries, four of the top five places were taken by the North Dublin visitors but O'Neill's overall victory was ultimately only by the slender margin of half a point from host club runner up Jonny O'Dowd. In third place overall was 1996 Olympian Dan O'Grady sailing Jammy.

Four race wins on Saturday put O'Neill in a strong position overnight and even two protests in the final racers on Sunday could not stop the Mojo challenge.

1st Mojo IRL 1551 Howth Yacht Club Patrick O' Neill1st Mojo IRL 1551 Howth Yacht Club Patrick O' Neill

2nd JABS IRL 1609 Royal St George Yacht Club Jonny O' Dowd 2nd JABS IRL 1609 Royal St George Yacht Club Jonny O' Dowd 

J80 National Championships 2020 Results at the Royal St. George Yacht Club (Top Five)

1st Mojo IRL 1551 Howth Yacht Club Patrick O' Neill
2nd JABS IRL 1609 Royal St George Yacht Club Jonny O' Dowd 
3rd Jammy IRL 1097 Howth Yacht Club Dan O' Grady
4th Red Cloud 985 Howth Yacht Club Darragh O' Connor 
5th Headcase 1651 HYC, MSC, BYC, LRYC Ryan Glynn 

Full results are here

Published in J80
Tagged under

Although the Puppeteer 22 first appeared from Chris Boyd of Killyleagh on Strangford Lough in 1978, it was 1983 by the time some keen-to-upsize Squib sailors in Howth saw the potential of this user-friendly little sloop, with her sparse but usable accommodation, and a fractional rig that made for a much less-challenging crewing proposition than the powerful masthead -rigged Ruffian 23 to which she was inevitably compared.

By the time the Howth sailors became interested, local Puppeteer classes in the north had waxed and in some cases already waned. Yet in the best One Design traditions of the Greater Dublin area, once the Howth group became committed, they stayed committed, and while several ordered new boats, others found they already had a selection of second-hand craft to choose from to build a long-lasting local OD class

Designer and builder Chris Boyd helms the Puppeteer 22 prototype Designer and builder Chris Boyd helms the Puppeteer 22 prototype (restored to be the 2020 National Champion) on a trial sail in Strangford Lough in September 1978. Photo: W M Nixon

By 1985 the new class was up and running at its Howth base, and thriving so much that in due course an entire section of the then-new marina seemed to be filled almost exclusively with Puppeteers, ironically putting them in the berths nearest to Howth House where Herbert Boyd (absolutely no known relation to Chris Boyd) had designed the Howth 17s in the Autumn of 1897.

Yet the Seventeens and the Puppeteers happily co-exist, for each fills a very different niche in sailing, and by the turn of the Century, Puppeteer number in Howth were such that they regularly were mustering keen racing fleets of between 25 and 30 boats.

Puppeteers in strength in Howth Marina. In background at centre of photo is Howth House, where Herbert Boyd designed the Howth 17s in the Autumn of 1897Puppeteers in strength in Howth Marina. In the background at the centre of the photo is Howth House, where Herbert Boyd designed the Howth 17s in the Autumn of 1897. Photo: W M Nixon

This means that in and around the Howth peninsula, there are mow Puppeteers which are more than forty years old. And while some are still immaculate, others are showing their age and then some, such that in one well-worn case, the family donated the boat last winter to the club.

Anywhere else, this might have been seen as a landfill proposition, to be quietly dealt with making as little fuss as possible. However, HYC's Simon Knowles - owner-skipper of the J/109 Indian – is action-man in normal times. But as Ireland was clearly heading into abnormal forced inaction with the COVI-19 lockdown looming, he offered to take on the little boat as a project to help pass the time. There was just enough space for a restoration up at his house house, and the eventual result - he stopped counting after logging 300 man hours on the job - is a little boat now rather better than new.

Puppeteers club racing - in a "normal year", their numbers will push above 20 for events like this. If the COVID-19 disruption continues into next season, it may well be that the class's availability of safe totally-local racing will see others joining those who have already taken on "tired" Puppeteers to make them race-ready. Puppeteers club racing - in a "normal year", their numbers will push above 20 for events like this. If the COVID-19 disruption continues into next season, it may well be that the class's availability of safe totally-local racing will see others joining those who have already taken on "tired" Puppeteers to make them race-ready. Photo: W M Nixon

But this particular piece of rejuvenation didn't take part in last weekend's Puppeteer 22 Nationals at Howth, as the Knowles energy was suddenly re-directed into the pop-up Fastnet 450 "Offshore Race That Came Out Of Nowhere", in which Indian gave a very good showing of herself. However, that campaign meant that the new-from-old Puppeteer didn't go afloat.

But there was another Puppeteer restoration coming down the line which did hit the Nationals start on Saturday morning. This was Shiggy Shiggy, Puppeteer No 1 that Afloat Magazine sail-tested on Strangford Lough way back in September 1978, and which Paul McMahon has been quietly beavering away restoring for something like two and a half years now. As longtime Puppeteer 22 sailor and keeper of the Class Records Neil Murphy now tells us, this was a Born-Again Event which rang all the bells:

Puppeteers Get New Champion by Neil Murphy

In a season where many key sailing events classed as 'National' have been chalked off as COVID consequences, the Puppeteer Class became one of the exceptions over the Aug 29th/30th weekend. With the sponsorship of Sutton Cross Pharmacy, Howth YC hosted the Class Championships, and after 6 races in a variety of conditions, the winner was Shiggy Shiggy, owned by Paul McMahon and Laura Ni hUallachain, while the winner on handicap was Philip & Roslyn Byrne's Odyssey.

Whilst the fleet racing in Howth YC in a 'normal' year extends to 20 boats and better with the hope of some visitors from the Northern Ireland fleet for the Championships, the COVID fallout and the complexities of putting a crew together for a weekend-long series - when club evening races are proving so popular - brought the entry on Day One down to eleven boats.

The competitors were greeted on a very grey Saturday by a 20 knots-plus northerly breeze with a lumpy sea that offered the fleet plenty of challenges, but not the conditions most of the crews had hoped for. Race Officer Harry Gallagher and his management team had a choice of course configurations to draw from - Windward Leeward, Triangle plus Windward Leeward or around the Howth YC fixed marks using one of the Club's week-night courses.

Neil Murphy on the helm of Yellow Peril.Idyllic conditions on Day 2 for Neil Murphy on the helm of Yellow Peril. Photo: Harry Gallagher

To make the opening race less demanding for the less well practiced, the first race used a Club course and a pattern that was to become apparent over the weekend was quickly established – the lead being battled for between defending champions Yellow Peril (Murphy / Costello), 2019 Autumn League winners Trick or Treat (Alan Pearson & Alan Blay) and the newbies to the Puppeteer fleet on Shiggy Shiggy, sail number 1. Through dramas of broaches, fluffed gybes, gusts and place changes, the first race made its way to a conclusion with Yellow Peril taking the win and Trick or Treat and Shiggy in second and third.

Shiggy Shiggy (so good it was named twice) was purchased in 2018 by its current owners in a 'somewhat tired' condition. After being lavished with TLC over the last two winters and during the 2020 lockdown by Laser and SB20 ace Paul McMahon, she now looks as well and is certainly better kitted out than at any time in her 42-year history. with a mix of new sails from both UK Sails and North, with the latter supplying the spinnaker and no 2 jib, she is also probably going quicker than when first launched as the Puppeteer 22 prototype in September 1978.

Sunday was a day transformed

Howth's Puppeteers catch the last of the proper summer (Hybernia Drone Works by Brian Maguire)

After the excess of the first race, the wind eased enough over the following two races to allow most of the fleet hoist their larger headsails but the racing stayed just as close and the waves and temperature just as unpleasant. After three races, Trick or Treat and Shiggy had made it a three-way split of the winners' guns to leave Trick or Treat as overnight leaders with only two points covering the first three boats. However, the conditions over the day left three of the fleet out of action for Sunday through rudder loss, deck damage and mechanical problems.

The new champion confirms the title by winning the final race from Trick-or-TreatClinching it. The new champion confirms the title by winning the final race from Trick-or-Treat (Alan Pearson & Alan Blay). Photo: Harry Gallagher

Sunday brought more benign conditions – 8 to 10 knots with sunshine and a flatter sea. Shiggy was quickly out of the traps and took the win in Race 4 with Yellow Peril just behind and Gannet (T Chillingworth) pushing Trick or Treat all the way to the line before Trick or Treat grabbed third. Race 5 saw Shiggy and Yellow Peril again in the top spots, but this time Gannet bagged the third rather than see it escape at the last minute. Going into the last race, the title chase was down to just two boats, Shiggy being the favourite and only having to finish third or better to win the title while Yellow Peril had to win and rely on Shiggy having a calamity. Shiggy again led Yellow Peril home with Gannet getting another third. Four wins and two thirds from six races is a winning score in any fleet and Shiggy Shiggy was confirmed as the 2020 Puppeteer 22 Class Champion.

The winning crew on their boat are (left to right) Ronan Cobbe, Terry Rowan, owner-restorer Paul McMahon, and Graham CurranThe winning crew on their boat are (left to right) Ronan Cobbe, Terry Rowan, owner-restorer Paul McMahon, and Graham Curran. Photo: Harry Gallagher
The winner of the handicap event was Odyssey, which sailed a very consistent series and was always on the heels of the leading group on the water. Odyssey also collected the dubious honour of being the only boat called OCS at a start, despite the numerous close shaves that resulted from crews seeking to check the awareness of the Race Officer before breathing sighs of relief at the broadcast of 'Clear start'.

Grainne Costigan, Philip Byrne, Roslyn Byrne and Francis Hand Handicap overall winners on Odyssey were (left to right) Grainne Costigan, Philip Byrne, Roslyn Byrne and Francis Hand. Photo: Harry Gallagher

A socially distanced presentation of the winners' cups was carried out ashore with the Class's appreciation for the continued sponsorship of Sutton Cross Pharmacy acknowledged by Class Captain, Peter Wilson, who also thanked the Race Management team and the Jury Chairman, Emmet Dalton. Hopefully, the volume of Arnica, Voltarol and other remedies required after Saturday's bruise-inducing racing will not overly deplete the sponsor's stocks.

Puppeteer National Championship Howth Yacht Club Results

Puppeteer National Championship Howth Yacht Club Provisional Results (Scratch) as of 22:14 on August 30, 2020Puppeteer National Championship Howth Yacht Club Provisional Results (Scratch) as of 22:14 on August 30, 2020

Published in Puppeteers

Ireland's sports organisations are taking a battering during the pandemic, and the operating model of sailing clubs, in particular, makes them especially vulnerable to a downturn in all activities afloat and ashore.'s W M Nixon wrote this piece yesterday for his home club at Howth, where the mood has been dampened by the news that the J/24 Nationals - scheduled at Howth for the first weekend of September – has been cancelled, as the nationwide J/24 Class felt it didn't merit the effort of long – sometimes very long - road haulages, when everything that they hoped to do ashore in connection with the event would be severely constrained or non-existent under the latest Government guidelines. The Nixon response has been to celebrate some of the Howth achievements which have been possible during August, and to those mentioned here he would add the success of the Howth 17 Nationals

Howth Yacht Club came very well out of the Optimist Nationals at Royal Cork ten days ago, with Johnny Flynn the new champion and Rocco Wright finishing third overall. So there was a certain amount of pressure of expectation on our two entries in the weekend's pop-up 266-mile offshore race on Saturday 22nd August from Dun Laoghaire (where the National YC's 150th Anniversary plans have been mangled by the pandemic) round the Fastnet Rock and back to Crosshaven, where most of the Royal Cork's planned Tricentenary plans have also been blown clean away, with entrants for events like the socially-distanced Oppie championship being limited to the island of Ireland.

When the 2020 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow - re-scheduled by the pandemic from mid-summer weekend in June to the 22nd August – was finally cancelled on August 9th with less than three weeks before its new date, the determined Cork trio of Mark Mansfield, RCYC Rear Admiral Annamarie Murphy, and SCORA Commodore Johanna Murphy decided to see if they could put a completely new race together for the same August 22nd weekend start, but with all entrants being firmly told it was pure racing – shoreside activity of any kind would be minimal.

There was barely a fortnight to go as the clearer outline of this pop-up event began to take shape. But it soon had entries pouring in with its catchy name of the Fastnet 450, which is the 150 years of the National YC and the 300 of the Royal Cork combined, while the actual distance from Dun Laoghaire leaving the Muglins, Tuskar, Coningbeg and Fastnet Rock to starboard and the Daunt Buoy to port before finishing at Roche's Point in the entrance to Cork Harbour is around 266 miles, though nearly all entrants were to sail more than 300.

Howth almost immediately had two boats into the 20-strong entry pot, both of them disappointed Round Ireland entrants in the form of Robert Rendell's XC 45 Samatom and Simon Knowles' J/109 Indian. Samatom inclines toward the cruising end of the performance cruiser spectrum, so if the race involved a preponderance of windward work – which proved to be the case – it wouldn't really suit her, and while she was in the running at times, eventually - after getting round most of the course including the Fastnet itself - she retired into Kinsale rather than continue over the final 15 miles to Crosshaven.

Robert Rendell's XC 45 SamatomRobert Rendell's XC 45 Samatom at the start of the Fastnet 450

But Indian was in there as a frontline contender from the start, her crew of all the talents of Fingal including – in addition to Simon Knowles himself – Anthony Doyle, Frank Dillon, Jon Hartshorn, Cillian & Rima Macken, Darragh White and the key man, John Flynn, who was there under double pressure, as his son Johnny Flynn is the new Optimist National Champion.

As Simon reports, although the wind after the start at 1300 hrs Saturday was sufficiently off the land to lay the course – sometimes with sheets slightly cracked - down the Wicklow and Wexford coasts towards the Tuskar, it was gusting to 30 knots, at times it headed to make it a dead beat, and with the spring ebb running full blast, the sea state was rough and the sailing was brutal.

As for the competition, it was fierce, as their most frequent contender was the Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (John O'Gorman NYC) a sister-ship of Conor Fogerty's OSTAR-winning BAM! with the special talents of Maurice "Prof" O'Connell on the strength, and Indian was also in face-to-face competition with two newer J boats, Andrew Algeo's J/99 Juggerknot 2 from the Royal Irish YC, and James Tyrrell's J/112E Aquelina from Arklow.

After they'd put the Tuskar astern and came hard on the wind late on Saturday evening, things were looking extra good for the Howth boat. For though the tide had turned to be against them, this smoothed the sea a bit and yet they were past the area of maximum adverse flood stream, while as a bonus, they and Juggerknot 2 found a favouable if brief twist in the wind which enabled them to lay the course, putting them right into the frame.

That little twist of wind wasn't to last, but it helped to keep them well in contention in a fleet where the current top performer from Cork, the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo – fresh from winning the Kinsale-Fasnet-Kinsale Race a fortnight earlier, and with her crew including Olympian Nin O'Leary – was battling for line honours at the sharp end with Chris Power Smith's higher-rated J/122 Aurelia (RStGYC), with the very fast little new Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl (Cian McCarthy, Kinsale, with Mark Mansfield on board) never too far astern in third.

Simon Knowles' J109 Indian from Howth Yacht ClubSimon Knowles' J109 Indian from Howth Yacht Club passes Dalkey Island at the start of the Fastnet 450 Photo: Afloat

It was an unremitting dead beat the entire length of the south coast. And with more wind offshore, that was the place to be, such that some boats were 35 miles at sea before they tacked for the Fastnet. Aboard Indian, they were well in the hunt, and after the 24-hour mark, everyone had settled down to the determined routine of endless windward work with seasickness conquered, proper meals being served, and Hot Cookie and the other two J Boats kept in hand, with the only problem being that the nearer they got to West Cork, the lighter the wind became.

So it was frustrating work getting to the Fastnet Rock itself in the dark, and they rounded at 0245 hrs on Monday morning in just 8 knots of breeze, lying a good 4th on corrected time, but knowing that in a long and meandering 60 miles run back to Cork Harbour, they'd somehow to keep a lot of boats covered in a difficult downwind leg where, once again, the best of the wind appeared to be offshore.

While on the wind, they'd been able to keep Hot Cookie well in control, but this long run suited the Sunfast 3600 better. Yet with her lower rating Indian was able to keep in touch, and coming in past the Old Head of Kinsale late on Monday morning, they knew the Cookie was ahead while Juggerknot and Aquelina were astern.

But the challenge of maintaining sufficient proximity to Hot Cookie made for a tough final three hours, yet they managed it, in fact they did so well that not only did they stay ahead of the Sunfast 3600 on corrected time, but they even closed the gap on her newer smaller sister Cinnamon Girl.

Indian's crew sorting themselves for a gybe are (left to right) John Flynn, Simon Knowles, Cillian Macken on helm, and Jon Hartshorn.Those final tricky downwind miles. With the Old Head of Kinsale well astern, and the finish coming into view, Indian's crew sorting themselves for a gybe are (left to right) John Flynn, Simon Knowles, Cillian Macken on the helm, and Jon Hartshorn

At the sharp end of the fleet, Aurelia took the line honours at 1026 hrs Monday, Nieulargo was next in 23 minutes later to take an unassailable overall lead, but back down the line Cinnamon Girl was bedevilled by very light patches, and all the time Indian was taking it out of her. So when Cinnamon Girl finally got across at 1146 hrs, she still was third overall, but it was by a smaller margin ahead of Indian, which was fifth across the line behind Hot Cookie, but corrected into a good fourth overall to round out a successful fortnight for Howth Yacht Club down Cork way.

As to what virtual celebrations are like, we'll have to wait until they get back to Howth to tell us. With the remains of Storm Frances now well cleared, having gone through in all its power since the Fastnet 450 finished, Indian leaves Crosshaven for home tonight (Tuesday) after the virtual prize-giving at the RCYC.

Published in Fastnet 450 Race

The Irish Squib Class and Howth Yacht Club have made the difficult decision to cancel the Irish Squib Championships scheduled for this coming weekend, following the updated Government guidance issued on Tuesday.

In a statement, the class says "Whilst we are confident that racing could be held within the parameters of the Government and Public Health advice, it would not be possible to deliver the hoped-for on-shore activities in a socially responsible manner and in compliance with the updated restrictions announced yesterday.  We would like to thank the team at for its support in sponsoring this event and look forward to collaborating with them on events in future".

Published in Squib
Tagged under

The Howth 17 Nationals 2020 saw five good races sailed – a pier starter on Friday evening, and four committee boat open water races on Saturday – with the sunny nor’east wind holding up enough for the four open water contests to provide some cracking racing, although it never developed into the hearty sea breeze which might have been expected.

But even with the gentler conditions, there was still just enough power for proper closely-contested sport, and the best competitive showing saw everyone in the fleet of eleven across the finish line within three minutes, with some private contests separated by less than five seconds.

Aura (1898, Ian Malcolm), Pauline (1900, Shane O’Doherty & partners), Gladys (1907, Eddie Ferris & Ian Byrne), Orla (2018, sailed by Gerry Comerford) and Deliginis (1907, Massey, Toomey & Kenny)At times the wind looked like it was on its last gasp instead of developing into a decent sea breeze, but always it returned with just enough strength for close racing. Age comparison in close quarters with (left to right) Aura (1898, Ian Malcolm), Pauline (1900, Shane O’Doherty & partners), Gladys (1907, Eddie Ferris & Ian Byrne), Orla (2018, sailed by Gerry Comerford) and Deliginis (1907, Massey, Toomey & Kenny). Photo: Conor Lindsay

Pauline, Rosemary and Sheila, with topsail of Deiliginis beyond Hazy days of summer – Howth may have developed since 1898, but the Seventeens remain resolutely unchanged. Photo shows Pauline, Rosemary and Sheila, with topsail of Deiliginis beyond. Photo: Trish Nixon

Overall winner, with the final race the decider, was Shane O’Doherty sailing the 1900-built Pauline. He’s known to some as The Mountainy Man, as he runs an outfit called Shane’s Howth Hikes, which in normal times (remember them?) takes visitors to the peninsula on quite energetic walking tours (there’s an electric bike option as well) of the Hill of Howth and its more extraordinary features, most of which the locals take for granted or don’t even know about.

Yet even in the busiest visitor times in non-lockdown years, Shane always keep Saturdays free for sailing while a colleague looks after the tours, for he regards racing with the Howth 17s as an essential part of the Howth experience, and it re-invigorates his love of the place.

HYC Commodore Ian Byrne and Eddie Ferris with Gladys (14) look to have done well with the pin startHYC Commodore Ian Byrne and Eddie Ferris with Gladys (14) look to have done well with the pin start, but others had taken over the lead by the finish. Photo: Trish Nixon

For now, that love is total and unquestioning, as conditions suited the Clancy of Kingstown-built Pauline to perfection for the Championship, and she finished two points clear – after that final race decider - of the defending champion Deilginis (Massey, Toomey, Kenny) of 1907 vintage, with Dave Mulligan’s 21st Century “new” boat Sheila third, and another 1907 boat from Kelly of Portrush, the George Curley, Davy Jones and David Potter-owned Rosemary, notching fourth with a scorecard which included the win in Race 4 and a third in Race 5.

Rosemary (George Curley, Davy Jones & David Potter) wins Race 4 from Sheila (Dave Mulligan)Rosemary (George Curley, Davy Jones & David Potter) wins Race 4 from Sheila (Dave Mulligan). Rosemary looked to be a write-off after Storm Emma’s shoreside damage in March 2018, but ace Fingal boatbuilder Larry Archer worked miracles to bring her back to life. Photo: Trish Nixon

Lambay beyond – as unspoilt as the most remote Hebridean island – while light-wind flyer Rita (No 1, John Curley & Marcus Lynch) tests an ultra-flexible topsail yardLambay beyond – as unspoilt as the most remote Hebridean island – while light-wind flyer Rita (No 1, John Curley & Marcus Lynch) tests an ultra-flexible topsail yard. Rita won the first race, but an uneven performance thereafter kept her out of the frame, and she was fifth overall on scratch. Photo: Conor Lindsay

While the Howth Seventeens may be the world’s oldest one-design keelboat class, particularly when it’s further qualified by still having the original rig and with the added restriction of all the boats being in the one harbour, nevertheless their personnel lineup is encouragingly supra-national and broad-minded in its outlook.

Thus Shane O’Doherty’s partners in the boat are Michael Kenny -who couldn’t be there as he’s based in Warsaw - and Sutton Dinghy Club Commodore Ian McCormick, who was away in West Cork on a Sportsboat campaign. But being The Mountainy Man, the skipper recruited on his hillside with some heather (Wayne Heather to be precise) and some holly (his daughter Holly O’Doherty). With Brendan O’Brien on the strength to add a surname of unimpeachable Irish sailing distinction, it was all systems go for success for Pauline, with the skipper revealing further insight at the outdoor prize-giving, as his T-shirt told us “Harbours rot ships and men”.

winning skipper Shane O’Doherty (left) with crew Wayne Heather, Holly O’Doherty and Brendan O’BrienThe Mountainy Man and his heather and holly……winning skipper Shane O’Doherty (left) with crew Wayne Heather, Holly O’Doherty and Brendan O’Brien. Photo Howth 17 class
One of the secrets of the Howth Seventeens’ longevity is their determined application of a parallel handicap system to ensure that other boats emerge out of the cannon fodder division to get their place in the sun. It was very well demonstrated this time round as the winner was another Clancy 1900 boat, Anita owned by David O’Connell (Phibsborough) in partnership with helm Muige Karasahin (she’s from Istanbul), with crewing by Elizabeth Jakobson (from Latvia) and Susan Morgan (Sutton).

Anita – re-built by Paul Robert and his team at Les Ateliers de l’Enfer in Douarnenez in Brittany in 2019 after being destroyed by Storm Emma in Howth in March 2018 – was certainly finding her feet as the series progressed, and logged a scratch second in the last race. But even with that, she was sixth overall on scratch in the final tally, yet that became a clear win with the handicaps in an interesting case of sailing for Byzantium within sight of a house where the family of W B Yeats lived for two years in the early 1880s.

Anita (D. O’Connell & M Karasahin) was overall winner of the handicap divisionSailing for Byzantium…..with Muige Karasahin of Istanbul on the helm, Anita (D. O’Connell & M Karasahin) was overall winner of the handicap division. Virtually a total loss after Storm Emma in March 2018, Anita was re-built by Paul Robert’s Les Atelier de l’Enfer (The Workshops of Hell) in Douarnenez in Brittany Photo: Conor Lindsay
The clear division between scratch and handicap continued down the listing, with Tom Houlihan’s Zaida taking second, though there was then an element of overlap as Rosemary (fourth on scratch) was handicap third while scratch winner Pauline was fourth, the double results give everyone at least one good race.

As for sailing enjoyment in a summer when travel is restricted, the weather was such that you could find whatever you wanted off Howth, as the view to the east was of Irelands Eye which looks like a piece of Connemara transferred to the Irish Sea, to the north Lambay would not look amiss in the Hebrides, to the west the dunes of Portmarnock are reminiscent of the Vendee, and to the south with a fore-shortened lens against the strong sunshine, you could be looking at the French Riviera as the narrowed eyes take in the flank of the Hill of Howth and the Wicklow Mountains beyond.

Howth 17s Nationals 2020 (Scratch) Results

1st Pauline (S. O’Doherty, I. McCormick & M. Kenny): (4),3,1,3,1: 8pts; 2nd Deilginis (Massey family, M.Toomey, K, Kenny) 3,1,2,4, (5): 10 pts; 3rd Sheila (D.Mulligan) 2,(7),4,2,6: 14pts; 4th Rosemary (G, Curley, D. Jones, D.Potter) 16pts.

Howth 17 Handicap

1st Anita (D. O’Connell & M. Karasahin), (2), 1,1,1,1: 4 pts; 2nd Zaida (T. Houlihan) 1,2,2,2, (3) 7 pts; 2rd Rosemary (Curley, Jones, Potter) (3), 3,3,3,2: 11 pts; 4th Pauline (O’Doherty, McCormick, Kenny) (7), 6,4,5,4.

Hill of Howth  and sailing Who needs to go away on holiday when the view southward, from the race area past the Hill of Howth and on towards the Sugarloaf in the Wicklow Mountains, could pass as the French Riviera? Photo: Conor Lindsay

Published in Howth 17

September's Wave Regatta at Howth Yacht Club has been cancelled due to COVID19. It brings the axe down too on the ICRA cruiser-racer national Championships that were rescheduled to be sailed as part of the three-day Dublin regatta.

In a statement released tonight, the Howth organisers said: "In the face of uncontrollable circumstances and taking account of our responsibilities in respect of public health, Wave Regatta 2020 in conjunction with Howth Yacht Club and ICRA has made the difficult decision to cancel this year's event".

Chairman Brian Turvey explained: ‘Howth Yacht Club has a greater responsibility to ensure member and visitor safety and taking advice to comply with government and HSE guidelines and paying consideration to recent pandemic trends, this makes the running of the event too difficult at this time.

Wave Regatta Chairman Brian Turvey - the 2022 Regatta willl sail from Howth from 3rd-5th JuneWave Regatta Chairman Brian Turvey - the 2022 Regatta will sail from Howth from 3rd-5th June

The event must continue to be true to the Wave Regatta concept and the brand must promise a unique and memorable experience onshore, which would be impossible to achieve this year under current conditions.

I would like to thank our sponsors who are remaining onboard and the organisation team who have worked hard for the past 18 months, meeting almost every obstacle with creativity and solutions. This dedicated support and team will be now focussed on delivering Wave Regatta on 3rd-5th June 2022 and we look forward to welcoming you and your crew to an event that will be worth waiting for!”

ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell added “the decision to cancel Wave and therefore the ICRA National Championships shows that the sailing community is no different to most other sports in that dealing with the pandemic for obvious reasons takes preference overrunning a sailing event. We would like to thank Howth Yacht Club for all their efforts to try and make this happen.”

Entry fees will be refunded over the coming days and any queries should be addressed to the team in the HYC administration office (01 8322141).

Published in Wave Regatta

When your dad and your brother are out having a ding-dong against each other in a couple of J/80s in the popular annual Aqua Restaurant Two-Handed Challenge from Howth up round Lambay and back, the dutiful daughter and loving sister knows that when some rare sunshine suddenly arrives, it’s her job to hop in the RIB and take some snaps of it all, for heaven knows but we’ve had little enough sailing - and even less sunshine - this far in 2020’s truncated season.

Lynn Reilly knew where her duty lay, and captured these magic moments last Saturday as she chased brother Paul and Davy Howard in the club-owned Mission 43 (don’t ask), and her father Nobby in his own Red Cloud (again don’t ask) crewed by Ian McCormack, who is a multi-interest Howth peninsula sailor, as he’s Commodore of Sutton Dinghy Club and is also a part-owner in the vintage Howth 17 Pauline.

As already reported, in a 38-boat fleet the overall winners in the open IRC Division were Sam O’Byrne and Ryan Glynn racing the Wright/DeNeve-owned classic Half Tonner Mata, while the J/80s were won in another club-owned boat, Cryptohouse raced by Diana Kissane and Graham Curran. On down the line in the J/80s, Paul and Davy were fifth, and Nobby and Ian were sixth. But when you get a surprise present of sudden sunshine like this, placings are of minor importance - the sheer joy of sailing in sun with a warm breeze is more than enough to be going along with.

A J/80 can be busy enough with just two on boardA J/80 can be busy enough with just two on board, but Paul Reilly on helm and Davy Howard on the big sail have found the sweet spot. Photo: Lynn Reilly

Hanging in there. As the wind backs a little, it starts to get marginal to hold the course to weather's Ireland’s Eye on the way to the finish Hanging in there. As the wind backs it little, it starts to get marginal to hold the course to weather's Ireland’s Eye on the way to the finish. Photo: Lynn Reilly

 Nobby Reilly crewed by Ian McCormack on track with white sailsBack to basics. Nobby Reilly crewed by Ian McCormack on track with white sails, while it looks as though the sun may even be shining beyond the peninsula at Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Lynn Reilly

Published in Howth YC
Tagged under

When in doubt, send ’em round Lambay. That seems to be the feeling among Howth Yacht Club’s race officers as this uncertain semi-season gradually cranks into action. And with Saturday’s early-start Aqua Double-Hander Challenge seeing a greyish morning giving a fulfilled promise of sunshine to come, the trusty big island seven miles to the north of Howth Harbour came up on the course card with some windward work to get there and gentle progress back, all to fit in with the overall idea of a comfortably-finished event, well on time for a socially-distanced party.

Robeet Dix and Richard Burrows J80 Out on their own. Stephen Harris and his daughter Jenny looked to have it all sewn up with their First 40.7 Tiger, but the curse of having a big lead in the water came all too true as they sailed into a flat patch which others managed to avoid. Photo: Judith Malcolm

What with a goodly selection of cruiser-racers, and all eight of the club and privately-owned J/80s showing their faces, plus a choice selection of Puppeteer 22s, there were 38 boats racing in idyllic conditions. And in the proper order of things, as they came round the island it was Stephen and Jenny Harris in the First 40.7 Tiger who held a good lead – all of twenty minutes.

But halfway back to Ireland’s Eye, the Leader’s Curse of being first to sail into a wind-hole struck down Tiger’s formerly stylish progress, and she sat there for all of that twenty minutes and more while back along the the fleet, Howth’s nimble flotilla of Half Tonners were best at wriggling their way towards the new breeze – a summer wind from the west – which brought everyone to the finish after around four hours of racing, every minute of it hugely appreciated following the pandemic-imposed drought.

 “Great to be sailing again!” Ben Colwell and his father Richard (Commodore ICRA) on their J/109 Outrajeous, which they sailed to third place in the White Sails Division“Great to be sailing again!” Ben Colwell and his father Richard (Commodore ICRA) on their J/109 Outrajeous, which they sailed to third place in the White Sails Division. Photo: Ben Colwell

The Big Picture (left, finished second overall) showing ahead of Outrajeous“Those Half Tonners are just too nippy for their own good…..” The Big Picture (left, finished second overall) showing ahead of Outrajeous. Photo: Judith Malcolm

Sam O’Byrne and Ryan Glynn read the wind-shift to perfection in Mata to lead fellow Half Tonner The Big Picture (Mike Evans & Des Flood) by a significant margin, which in turn saw the Evans boat clear of Stephen Quinn’s attractive J/97 Lambay Rules to provide the top three in Open IRC.

The White Sails Division was good day out for Kieran Jameson and Michael Wright on the former’s slightly-modified Sigma 38 and they took the gong with second going to the Malahide McAlister crew of Fore 5, while ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell with son Ben on the J/109 Outrajeous polled well to take third.

Kieran Jameson looks after the trim while Michael Wright does the helming on ChangelingKieran Jameson looks after the trim while Michael Wright does the helming on Changeling, winner of the White Sails Division. Photo: Judith Malcolm

Diana Kissane and Graham Curran got it all together with the chartered HYC-owned J/109 Cryptohouse despite the challenges of the private sector, with brothers-in-law Ribert Dix and Richard Burrows bringing Jennie in second ahead of Paddy O’Neill’s Mojo.

The Puppeteer 22s will usually race with four or maybe five, but owners Alan Pearson and Alan Blay with Trick or Treat upped their personal work-rate to win from Honey Badger, with Neil Murphy bringing Yellow Peril in third.

Diana Kissane on helm and Graham CurranKeeping the weight amidships, and going well - Diana Kissane on helm and Graham Curran on everything else as the club-owned J/80 Cryptohouse heads for the class win

As for the Howth 17s, they decided through the week that in a fore-shortened season it wasn’t fair to squander a precious Saturday by leading half of their crew ashore, so they sailed a normal fully-crewed club race. But now they may find themselves up against a revolutionary movement to dry-sail the boats, as Gerry Comferford (who is building his own completely new Howth 17 up at his house on the hill) was sufficiently fired up with fresh enthusiasm to launch the Class Association-owned almost-new Orla with just two hours to go to the start.

And then, didn’t he go out and win, Ian Malcolm taking second in Aura with the hotshot syndicate third in Deilginis, while a frequent contender for a place in the Howth 17 frame dreamed the afternoon away in waiting for the tide to return and give sufficient thickness of water to a temporarily very thin bit out at Ireland’s Eye, but then it was that kind of day.
Not quite a horizon job, but near enough – Mata leads The Big PictureNot quite a horizon job, but near enough – Mata leads The Big Picture towards the finish. Photo: Judith Malcolm

Aqua Double-Hander at Howth Yacht Club Results 

Aqua Double-Hander All Classes IRC: lst Mata (sailed by Stephen O’Byrne & Liam Glynn), 2nd The Big Picture (Mike Evans & Des Flood), 3rd Lambay Rules (Stephen Quinn and Kieran Cotter).

White Sails IRC: 1st Changeling (Kieran Jameson & Michael Wright), 2nd Force Five (R & J McAllister) 3rd Outrajeous (Richard & Ben Colwell).

J/80 1st Cryptohouse (Diana Kissane & Graham Curran), 2nd Jeannie (Robert Dix & Richard Burrows), 3rd Mojo (Paddy O’Neill & Aaron Jones).

Puppeteer 22s 1st Trick or Treat (Plan Pearson & Alan Blay), 2nd Honey Badger (Burke & May), 3rd Yellow Peril (Neil Murphy & P Costello.

Howths 17s (Club Course) 1st Orla (Gerry Comerford), 2nd Aura (Ian Malcolm) 3rd Deilginis (Massey/Toomey/Kenny).

Published in Howth YC

A while back, the off-the-wall idea was mooted of creating a line of quality face-masks, tastefully printed or even embroidered with sailing and yacht club logos. The world of high fashion was already on to the idea of designer-labelled COVID-contesting kit, and in our more sedately-minded sport, some of us were thinking it might soon become a good idea to have logo-featuring facial covering if the pesky disease thing didn’t go away, thereby requiring us to make mask-wearing as nearly trendy as possible, with - in some cases - the useful juice of a touch of snobbery to give it spice.

Certainly, it will take something extra to get sailing folk to use the things. For us, they generally come with distinctly unpleasant associations, because for anyone who runs a boat with a touch of DIY effort, facemasks are part of the scenario, and they are inextricably linked with the most horrible jobs of all, such as getting the anti-fouling racing-smooth in under the aft end. And though you should of course also be wearing goggles, many don’t, while those of us wearing spectacles find our misery with specs is exacerbated with a mask by seeing everything through thickening mist.

The Royal Cork Yacht Club’s very elegant burgeeThe Royal Cork YC’s very elegant burgee. In these extremely challenging times, would people be more prepared to wear a proper face mask if it incorporated their club’s logo?

Of course, I’m not suggesting you should immediately use your crisp new club logo-embellished quality facemask for those nasty jobs. But that said, after this coronavirus has been stalking us for a year or two, a certain cachet will attach to arriving down to join your work team of crewmates under the mighty ship, and attacking the preparation work on the nether parts of the vessel attired with an obviously very well-worn washable Royal Cork Yacht Club face mask to protect your schoolgirl complexion, and keep those nauseous fumes and poisonous particles out of the vital tubes.

It reminds me of when I first met up with American sailors wearing the always-trendy Sperry Top-Sider deck shoes. This wasn’t until the 1960s, yet the Top-Siders had been around since 1935, when Paul Sperry had become mighty inventive with non-slip soles after slithering over the side of his boat one night in Long Island Sound while wearing the usual glorified tennis shoes which passed for deck shoes in those days.

His eventual creations, with the uppers based on moccasin design, were soon fashionable, and even in the late 1960s, they still looked so good by comparison with anything in Europe that they were the height of style, and never more stylish than when looking well worn, as though they’d notched a Bermuda Race and then a Fastnet Race as well.

No gentlemen would ever wear shiny new Top-Siders“No gentlemen would ever wear shiny new Top-Siders.” An advertisement honouring product longevity from an era when people wore yachting caps on every possible occasion, and planned obsolescence was only a gleam in some asset strippers eye

In fact, while I sometimes saw an American wearing an immaculately-polished pair of Top-Siders, there was never any doubt that this was well-loved footwear of considerable vintage, and it was virtually unknown to see anything remotely like a new pair of Top-Siders. Apparently the secret behind this was that, when you finally did have to buy a new pair, you’d get your gardener to wear them for a busy fortnight or even a month before you’d dream of using them yourself……

Royal Ocean Racing Club

We can’t of course get some obliging employee to wear our club-logo facemask to give it honourable venerability, but how the idea of such facemasks turn out will become part of the quaint world of club regalia folklore. Club cravats and bow ties are really a bit too much for most of us, but once upon a time, when people still wore ties, the seahorse-logo neck-tie of Royal Ocean Racing Club (where our own Laura Dillon is currently Rear Commodore) was quite the thing to be qualified to wear, and one evening in that wonderful RORC clubhouse in the heart of London, a fresh-faced young offshore-racing enthusiast burst into the bar and brightly announced to Douglas Campbell, the 100% proof Scottish barman, that he’d just become a member, and would like to buy a tie.

An architectural gem and a nautical powerhouse in the heart of London – the RORC Clubhouse, once ruled by the legendary Douglas CampbellAn architectural gem and a nautical powerhouse in the heart of London – the RORC Clubhouse, once ruled by the legendary Douglas Campbell

Laura Dillon, RORC Rear Commodore, is still the only woman sailor to have won the All-Ireland Helm ChampionshipLaura Dillon, RORC Rear Commodore, is still the only woman sailor to have won the All-Ireland Helm Championship

Douglas had a Scots accent so deep and growly you could have run the lighting off it, so he just looked up from under his heavy eyebrows and gruffly demanded: “Silk or Terylene?”

Younger readers, ie anyone under the age of about 60, will need to know that Terylene was the fancy new world-beating synthetic fibre which eventually became known, American-style, as Dacron. Our new young member back in the day in the RORC knew exactly what it meant, but he needed to be apprised of the full significance of the choice, so he responded: “I just don’t know Douglas, which do you recommend?”

Douglas ground out the reply, with his deep slow voice made even slower and deeper and growlier by this over-keen assumption of first-name familiarity:

“Well, if you just want to hold the trousers up, the silk will do. But if you need to start the outboard, then it has to be the Terylene”.

That was then, nowadays people need to be told that many offshore racers’ tenders carried quaint Seagull outboards which you started by winding a removable pull-rope round a wheel on top, and in extemis in the absence or breakage of that pull-rope, you were well stuck if somebody’s tie wasn’t up to the job – it was no laughing matter.

And nor is COVID-19, but heaven knows we need something to brighten our days as the full effects of this pandemic threaten to embrace us again in Lockdown claustrophobia, and we find that our news of sailing sport is increasingly reliant on local events which would probably be much happier to be left on their own to get on with their usually fairly private sailing.

Peter Courtney racing Howth 17 Oonagh – his family first became involved in the Howth 17 class in 1907   Family affair. Peter Courtney racing Oonagh – his family first became involved in the Howth 17 class in 1907

As the dates of what would have been major national and international fixtures come and go with events un-sailed in this pandemic-constrained season, we find we’re cherishing the more manageable second-tier fixtures with a strong home-club bias which can still be staged with the proper controls in place. These are events which will probably have a slightly quirky character combined with a distinct local flavour which will provide an inbuilt level of crowd-control in these strange times.

For they are indeed strange times when, for long enough, it had seemed that “Three’s a crowd” was the mantra of the day, with social-distancing providing the code. And even now when the basics seem to be that we’re allowed close groups of ten if we watch our manners, we must always remember the ultimate fallback ruling is: “If in doubt, stay at home”.

In those circumstances, how do you transfer the safety of home and its instinctively-known rules and restraints into the fluid sociable structures of the group behaviour which used to be the natural basis of sailing’s shoreside post-race gatherings?

Dublin Bay & Cork Harbour cruiser fleets

“With some difficulty, and in a mood of constant vigilance” seems to be the answer, as we see modern classes such as the Dublin Bay and Cork Harbour cruiser fleets develop a controlled form of their normally hyper-sociable programmes, while in classic labour-intensive classes such as the Dun Laoghaire Water Wags and the Howth 17s, it seems to be a matter of baby steps - for want of a more robust phrase – as acceptable crew bubbles are evolved to make racing possible.

Club cruiser racing returns to Cork Harbour and the RCYC at Crosshaven“Let there be light”. Club cruiser racing returns to Cork Harbour and the RCYC at Crosshaven on Thursday, July 9th 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

But with every race in a shortened season thus becoming more precious in an already limited programme, people will not lightly relinquish their carefully-assembled crew bubbles for initially attractive short-handed events. Thus when it was announced some time ago that Howth’s annual Aqua Restaurant Two-Hander Race’s format – formerly aimed at the cruisers – was going to be extended to all Howth classes when raced today (Saturday, July 18th), it seemed a reasonable enough idea at the time, when personnel limitations looked like being a central theme of the 2020 season.

Howth Seventeens

However, since then the ancient Howth Seventeens have been carefully building up their fleet afloat together with the maximum crew groupings qualified to race the boats, so now their attitude to the Two-Hander invitation is: “Thanks, but no thanks”.

In a normal season, the 1898-established Howth class would sail an impressive total of between 55 and 60 races. But in this shortened season, even with some add-ons if the Autumn proves clement there’ll be far fewer races, and each one will be that much more precious as a result.

The time-honoured Saturday Howth 17 contests - each one a mini-regatta with the fleet resplendent in their jackyard topsails – have become such a pillar of the class’s programme that the idea of one of them being a race in which personnel numbers are reduced to just two per boat is something which smacks of sacrilege when they’ve found that a Howth 17 will often give of her best with four on board.

Ian Malcolm won the Howth 17s last Tuesday, and then took fourth in the Water WagsClassics addict. Ian Malcolm won the Howth 17s last Tuesday, and then took fourth in the Water Wags in Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday.

In an age when modernity is such a dominant feature of popular thinking, building up such a large group of enthusiasts with their shared joy in racing boats of an ancient type is a remarkable community achievement, but it doesn’t just happen by accident. Slightly interested newcomers are gently but persuasively drawn into the net until they become totally committed class enthusiasts.

And though the boats are based on a revered One-Design concept, an assiduously maintained double-scoring system of both scratch and handicap divisions is a class-strengthening recognition of the differences in human abilities and aptitudes, as it ensures that nearly every boat genuinely wins a prize.

In some ways, this was the biggest difference I noticed when I moved from the north to the south of Ireland very many years ago. Up north, One-Design means One-Design, and the idea of having a handicap division within a One-Design class probably offended against the tenets of the majority religion.

Water Wags

But in Dublin Bay and Howth, handicapping in One-Designs was regarded as being every bit as normal as having handicaps in club golf, and it was something which contributed greatly to the extraordinary longevity and good health of many of the OD classes.

The strong historical basis of all this became evident recently when the Water Wags Honorary Treasurer David Clarke was putting some old paperwork in order, and he discovered that the yellowing documents included a copy of the Evening Herald for Friday 3rd September 1939.

At first glance, you might think the Dublin daily evening paper had been kept because its front page featured disturbing news from Eastern Europe regarding an increasing unpleasantness between Germany and Poland. Indeed, maybe that had something to do with it. But the real reason it is in there is because it includes the DBSC Handicaps for the next day’s racing, on Saturday, September 4th 1939.

The Water Wag Class’s copy of Dublin’s Evening Herald for Friday 3rd September 1939The Water Wag Class’s copy of Dublin’s Evening Herald for Friday 3rd September 1939. You might well think the interest is in various unpleasant events in Eastern Europe……Courtesy David Clarke

…..but in fact the focus was on the handicaps as they applied to the Water Wags on Saturday September 4th. Courtesy David Clarke…..but in fact the focus was on the handicaps as they applied to the Water Wags on Saturday, September 4th. Courtesy David Clarke

And they don’t half bend over backwards to keep everyone in each class involved. Few more so than the Water Wags. They may not match the mixed cruisers, where one boat – the deliciously misnamed Windward – is allowed 41 minutes. But then the Water Wags were allegedly One-Design, yet northern OD sailors would have been appalled to discover that they were so tolerant that one boat – Glanora – was generously allowed all of 15 minutes by the two hotshots, Coquette and Penelope.

26ft gaff cutter Marie (seen here in 1966) was one of the boats featured in the 1939 DBSC handicaps The 26ft gaff cutter Marie (seen here in 1966) was one of the boats featured in the 1939 DBSC handicaps list – she was allowed 39 minutes against the scratch boat, Harald Osterberg’s 14-ton Bermudan cutter Marama. Built by J E Doyle of Dun Laoghaire in 1893 and designed by his daughter Maimie (who also designed the new type of Water Wag in 1900) Marie is still with us, owned and restored by Roy Ashton of Groomsport in County Down

Olympians Finn Lynch & Annalise Murphy

Quite what handicaps the number cruncher of 1939 would have applied to Olympians Finn Lynch and Annalise Murphy who won the Water Wags on scratch this week is beyond the realms of speculation, but those seriously interested in the well-being of grass roots sailing will have noted that Ian Malcolm with the 1915-vintage Barbara (allowed 4 minutes back in 1939) placed fourth on scratch in the Wags on Wednesday in Dun Laoghaire, while on Tuesday he had taken line honours with his 1898-vintage Howth 17 Aura at Howth, a double classics performance which few if ever can have achieved before, and evidence that, truncated season or not, some people are determined to get in just as much sailing as they can in this truncated season of 2020.

Thus they’re now developing the idea that Howth’s attractive marina/clubhouse complex provides an ideal sailing sport setup in the time of coronavirus, as on the land side it’s a completely closed compound which also provides the club’s only access to moored boats in the outer harbour, a closed compound where entry can easily be restricted to one gateway, and registration and contact tracing can be rapidly developed, particularly with Wave Regatta from 11th to 13th September in mind.

Howth Yacht Club’s marina/clubhouse complex Howth Yacht Club’s marina/clubhouse complex provides a usefully-closed compound from the landward side.

Round the Kish

As it is, the sailors of Howth have been quietly putting their good fortune to proper use, with the second race of the Fingal Series being staged last Saturday to see Dermot Skehan put in a masterclass demo with his Humphreys-designed Toughnut to do a horizon job on the rest of the fleet of sixteen in a race which took them out round the Kish, and meanwhile, HYC Cruising Group Captain Willie Kearney liaised with the sailing club at Skerries (where so far as I know there’s still no harbour master) in order to ensure that there’d be enough clear quay space for his fleet of 18 Howth cruisers to berth in a social-distance compliant style, and Skerries Sailing Club obliged.

Meanwhile, we note that the Royal Irish YC is right up to speed with the continuing twists and turns of the un-winding and re-winding of the regulations, with a crisp notice issued yesterday informing members that if they want a beer or two after today’s DBSC race, they must still order food with it.

Some day, some day maybe very distant, somebody is going to set a mighty computer to work at calculating just how much weight the thirstier part of our nation has had to put on in order to be comfortably un-parched, and yet COVID-compliant….

Published in W M Nixon
Page 16 of 58

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