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Following a busy and successful racing season of Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) events nationwide, the legendary Half-Tonner Farr-designed yacht, Swuzzlebubble, raced by David and James Dwyer under the burgee of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, was deemed the 'clear and comprehensive winner 'of the ICRA Boat of the Year Award.

ICRA say the Swuzzlebubble campaign claimed victory by 4.25 points from her nearest rivals, Rockabill VI and ValenTina in Class 0, “Snoopy” in Class 3, and Black Velvet in Class 1.

The winning yacht has a fascinating history and story, from near abandonment in Greece in 2012 to being the top yacht in Ireland in 2023. 

ICRA Yacht of the Year 2023, the Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble, pictured winning Class Two of the ICRA Nationals at Howth Yacht Club in September 2023 Photo: AfloatICRA Yacht of the Year 2023, the Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble, pictured winning Class Two of the ICRA Nationals at Howth Yacht Club in September 2023 Photo: Afloat

The season produced mainly changeable and unsettled weather for most of the events, which made this competition more challenging and added greatly to the competitiveness of the fleet.

The ICRA Committee says it is disappointed with the overall participation in the ICRA events during the season, mainly due to poor weather and a full sailing calendar of events nationwide. But they look forward to 2024, where we hope to see more cruisers compete in these highly competitive events, in hopefully better weather.

2024 ICRA season

As previously reported by Afloat, the 2024 National ICRA Championships will be hosted by the Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC) between Friday, 30th of August, and Sunday, 1st of September. This will be followed by the “Key Yachting J Cup Ireland” championships, from Friday the 6th of September to Sunday the 8th of September. For the more determined and intrepid cruiser sailors they will further enjoy the IRC European Championships from the 12th to the 15th of September, all in the RIYC. "What a wonderful carnival and festival of cruiser racing, seldom seen in one club on our island nation, don’t miss it. Something for all of us cruiser sailors to look forward to in 2024," ICRA's John Leech told Afloat.

ICRA Commodore David Cullen is looking forward to a busy 2024ICRA Commodore David Cullen is looking forward to a busy 2024

 2024 ICRA Conference

Commodore David Cullen will present the annual ICRA Boat of the Year Award at the forthcoming ICRA Annual Conference, which will take place on Saturday, February 10th 2024, kindly hosted by the Royal Irish Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire. Further details will follow.

ICRA say all cruiser sailors, crews and skippers are welcome to this event, which promises to be an interesting, engaging and motivating event, especially to new members who want to give that team spirit of sailing a go and enjoy the sociability that cruiser racing enjoys, they will all receive a warm welcome to ICRA from our committee and members.

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After a weather-challenged year for events in 2023, ICRA Commodore David Cullen is looking forward to a busy calendar in 2024.

Key events for ICRA members include the Wave Regatta at Howth Yacht Club over the weekend of 24-26 May, the WIORA Championship (12-15 June) and Round Ireland Yacht Race (22 June), followed by Cork Week from 15-19 July.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the ICRA Nationals (30 August-1 September) and the IRC Europeans will be hosted by the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, which will also host the 2024 IRCA Conference on Saturday 10 February (details to come).

Cullen expressed his appreciation for the “great response” to the ICRA survey earlier this year “and there are certainly learning and suggestions that we will be tabling at the ICRA Conference”.

He added: “We believe that we need to be more inclusive of non-spinnaker and Corinthian racing together with reviewing what types of boats are eligible to be an ICRA boat”

“We look forward to representing all cruiser racers and always welcoming Committee members if you are interested in joining.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all on the ICRA Committee for their time and efforts put in behind the scenes.

“It just leaves me to wish you a very happy Christmas and great sailing New Year.”

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As the 2023 season draws to a close with the news of three major keelboat events in Dun Laoghaire in September 2024, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) is seeking members’ view on cruiser racing and events during the past year.

ICRA says the feedback will help it ensure that the association represents the views of its members, participants and non-participants alike, and makes targeted efforts to improve cruiser racing in Ireland.

Click HERE to access and complete the short online survey, and share with your crew and any other interested parties.

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One of the most popularly acclaimed victories in sailing in Ireland in 2023 was Johnny Murphy’s September winning of the “Champion Boat” award at the conclusion of the ICRA Nationals at his home port of Howth with his J/109 Outrajeous. With only one good – admittedly very good – day of racing out of a schedule of three, it was a nerve-racking contest, and Outrajeous has been having difficulty in showing the kind of success which her owner-skipper had shown in campaigning an Albin Express and a 1720. But with emotionally-acknowledged crew support – particularly from first mate Neil Spain – Outrajeous emerged victorious to achieve well-earned and tumultuous applause at the prize-giving.

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"Schizoid" or "Schizophrenic" are not words you'll find to describe weather conditions in any meteorological textbooks. But how else are we to convey the flavour of the racing situations which ran through the gamut of experiences in the three-day Monday.com ICRA Nationals at Howth?

Waiting for the wind on the half tonner Mata on day one of the ICRA Nationals in Howth when the wind didn't blow for the IRC classes Photo: AfloatWaiting for the wind on the half tonner Mata on day one (Friday) of the ICRA National Championships in Howth when the wind didn't blow for the IRC classes Photo: Afloat

Goldilocks Conditions they were not. The only thing lacking in excess - or often in any form at all - was wind. Oh for sure, Saturday - with its four races - was wellnigh perfect. Yet it was only when the sea breeze finally cooked itself into action that it happened. And it took a long time to do so. For by mid-September, the sea is approaching its warmest to lessen the disparity with the relative heat ashore, and while the sun was indisputably glaring, it seemed so because it was at an angle rather than providing the ultra-power of direct sunlight.

Brendan Foley's First Class 8, Allig8r from the Royal St. George in Dun Laoghaire, finished third in IRC Three at the ICRA Championships Photo: AfloatBrendan Foley's First Class 8, Allig8r from the Royal St. George in Dun Laoghaire, finished third in IRC Three at the ICRA Championships Photo: Afloat

As for the cloudbursts of the final day, you could have been forgiven for thinking of donning scuba gear. Miraculously, the deluges were of sudden and very clearly defined brevity, otherwise the Howth Peninsula would have reverted to island status. And miraculously again, the hard-done-by race organisers did manage to get in just one race, but it was only for the already multi-blessed plutocratic denizens of Class 0.

The biggest boat of the regatta - Nigel Biggs and Dave Cullen's Class Zero First 50 in fine set up in Saturday's four race day Photo: AfloatThe biggest boat of the regatta - Nigel Biggs and Dave Cullen's Class Zero First 50 in fine set up in Saturday's four race day Photo: Afloat

However, their solitary and slowly completed Sunday race did provide a popular winner Class Zero winner for the day that was in it, with Paul O'Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI having her one moment at the peak of the ICRA podium. And as she notched the ISORA Championship 2023 a week ago, we need not allow excess emotion to overflow on the O'Higgins crew's behalf.

ICRA Class Zero IRC Champion 2023 - The Brian Jones skippered J122 Jelly Baby from Royal Cork Yacht Club. Jelly Baby had a narrow one-point win over John Treanor's ValenTina from the National Yacht Club.  That result reversed under the ECHO Performance handicap result Photo: AfloatICRA Class Zero IRC Champion 2023 - The Brian Jones skippered J122 Jelly Baby from Royal Cork Yacht Club. Jelly Baby had a narrow one-point win over John Treanor's ValenTina from the National Yacht Club (below).  That result reversed under the ECHO Performance handicap result Photo: Afloat

Two National Yacht Club boats, Valentia (left) and Searcher, finished second and third, respectively in Class Zero IRC Photo: AfloatTwo National Yacht Club boats, Valentia (left) and Searcher, finished second and third, respectively in Class Zero IRC Photo: Afloat

But it was the overall winner which brought it all up in lights. Admittedly seasoned observers casting an eye over the pre-prize-presentation results suggested the smart money would be on the J/109 Outrajeous (Johnny & Suzy Murphy, Howth YC). But nevertheless when it became official, the wave of shared emotion was off the scale. 

Despite the challenging weather conditions, the monday.com ICRA National Championships at Howth saw four races with all podium results delivered by John and Suzie Murphy's Outrajeous to crown the local boat as the overall event winner. In Class 1, Murphy's Howth team was also crowned IRC champion in their ten-boat division Photo: AfloatDespite the challenging weather conditions, the monday.com ICRA National Championships at Howth saw four races with all podium results delivered by John and Suzie Murphy's Outrajeous to crown the local boat as the overall event winner. In Class 1, Murphy's Howth team was also crowned IRC champion in their ten-boat division Photo: Afloat

For as Johnny told us in a deeply felt few words, he'd had such difficulty in getting the J/109 to show the kind of performance he used to get out of the Albin Express and the 1720 that he was seriously thinking of jacking it in. But fortunately helmsman and shipmate Neil Spain persuaded him to keep going. Sailing in Ireland needs as many Neil Spains as it can get. Meanwhile, there'll be celebrating in the Murphy stronghold in the Hills of the Naul tonight.

John Minnis's A35 Final Call II made a strong challenge for Class One ICRA Honours but ended up as runner-up in the cut-short championships Photo: AfloatJohn Minnis's A35 Final Call II made a strong challenge for Class One ICRA Honours but ended up as runner-up in the cut-short championships Photo: Afloat

Class Two

James Dwyer's classic New Zealand half-tonner Swuzzlebubble won the championship after Johnny Swan on Harmony from the host club couldn't match the all-podium scoreline from Saturday's four races that comprised the championship for the bulk of the fleet.

ICRA Class Two IRC Champion 2023 - James Dwyer's Half-Tonner Swuzzlebubble from Royal Cork Yacht Club Photo: AfloatICRA Class Two IRC Champion 2023 - James Dwyer's Half-Tonner Swuzzlebubble from Royal Cork Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

Class Three

The Class 3 championship went to the Quarter Tonner Snoopy from Courtown Sailing Club, owned by Joanne Hall and Martin Mahon, which counted two race wins and all podium results in their scoresheet for this, the largest class after the J24's with 13 entries.

ICRA Class Three IRC Champion 2023 - Martin Mahon and Joanne Hall's Quarter Tonner Snoopy from Courtown Sailing Club Photo: AfloatICRA Class Three IRC Champion 2023 - Martin Mahon and Joanne Hall's Quarter Tonner Snoopy from Courtown Sailing Club Photo: Afloat

A Class Three battle saw the X-332 take second overall at the ICRA Nationals Photo: AfloatA Class Three battle saw the X-332 take second overall at the ICRA Nationals Photo: Afloat

White Sails

Dermot Skehan's MG34 Toughnut of the host club won the White Sails fleet.

ICRA White Sails Champion 2023 - Dermot Skehan's MG34 Toughnut from Howth Yacht Club Photo: AfloatICRA White Sails Champion 2023 - Dermot Skehan's MG34 Toughnut from Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

The event, which saw 70 boats representing 27 clubs from all coasts of Ireland plus inland venues, witnessed Royal Cork and Howth Yacht Club boats each winning two of the five individual championship titles.

J24 National Championships

The 24 National Championships was raced as part of the 2023 ICRA National Championships Photo: AfloatThe 24 National Championships was raced as part of the 2023 ICRA National Championships Photo: Afloat

David Bailey and partners with Hard On Port from Bray Sailing Club won the J24 national championship title over five races in their 20-boat fleet that also comprised many of the Under 25 crews.

The U25 trophy was won by the crew on Kinsailor hailing from the West Cork club who also placed second overall and were just three points off the overall win.

ICRA says next year's championship will be hosted by the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

See all Afloat's coverage of the 2023 ICRA Championships in one handy link here

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Dermot Skehan's MG34 Toughnut of the host club leads the White Sails fleet at the Monday.com ICRA National Championships at Howth Yacht Club.

After no racing on the first day of the Championships, clouds cleared to allow a perfect sea breeze to develop, with four races completed on all three-course areas on Saturday.

Windsor Lauden in the vintage Shamrock, Demelza, also of Howth, is lying second after four races sailed. Third in the seven-boat fleet is the North Dublin Club's Splashdance (John Beckett Andy George).

Racing continues on Sunday.

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After four races sailed with no discard, Snoopy, the 2021 Champion ICRA Class Three Champion, is currently leading the 2023 Monday.com sponsored ICRA Championships in Howth, according to provisional results.

The Courtown Sailing Club Quarter Tonner, co-skippered by Joanne Hall and Martin Mahon, is in the lead with two race wins on their scorecard, giving them a 3.5-point lead over Nico and Caroline Gore-Grimes in the X332 Dux from the Howth Yacht Club, who are currently in second place with 11.5 points. 

Nico and Caroline Gore-Grimes in the X332 Dux made the best of the sub-ten knot conditions in Howth to lie second overall in the Class Three fleet of the 2023 ICRA National Championships 2023 at Howth Yacht Club Photo: AfloatNico and Caroline Gore-Grimes in the X332 Dux made the best of the sub-ten knot conditions in Howth to lie second overall in the Class Three fleet of the 2023 ICRA National Championships 2023 Photo: Afloat

Brendan Foley's Allig8r from the Royal St. George Yacht Club is currently in third place with 14 points.

Brendan Foley's Allig8r from the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour is currently in third place in the Class Three fleet of the 2023 ICRA National Championships 2023 at Howth Yacht Club Photo: AfloatBrendan Foley's Allig8r from the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour is currently in third place in the Class Three fleet of the 2023 ICRA National Championships 2023 at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

Despite the favourable southeast breeze of seven knots, Snoopy had to work hard for their lead. In the 13-boat fleet, Hall and Mahon were scored with a DPI2 in Race three, a two-point discretionary penalty.

Snoopy has had previous successes, including becoming the ICRA Divison 3 National Champion in September 2021 after a superbly sailed series on Dublin Bay. More recently, in July 2023, Snoopy was the top Irish boat at the Royal Cork Yacht Club hosted Quarter Ton Cup.

The racing will continue on Sunday.

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Half Tonners dominate the Class Two fleet in the Monday.com ICRA National Championships in Howth.

After no racing on the first day of the Championships, clouds cleared to allow a perfect sea breeze to develop, with four races completed on all three-course areas on Saturday.

Among the eight participating boats, Swuzzlebubble, a vintage Half Tonner from Royal Cork skippered by James Dwyer, is leading the pack with two sisterships close behind.

Johnny Swan's Half Tonner Harmony was the first race winner in the 2023 ICRA Nationals at Howth Yacht Club Photo: AfloatJohnny Swan's Half Tonner Harmony was the first race winner in the 2023 ICRA Nationals at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

This Crosshaven crew has already claimed victories in the Sovereign's Cup and Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta earlier this season, and they are determined to add the national title to their list of achievements.

Despite having a three-point lead, John Swan from the host club won the first race in a light south-easterly wind, securing second place overall with 10 points. Mata, the Half Tonner owned by Wright, Sheridan, and De Neve from Howth, is currently in third place.

Mata, the Half-Tonner owned by Wright, Sheridan, and De Neve from Howth, is currently in third place in the 2023 ICRA Nationals at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat Mata, the Half-Tonner owned by Wright, Sheridan, and De Neve from Howth, is currently in third place in the 2023 ICRA Nationals at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat 

Racing continues on Sunday.

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ICRA Class I is billed as John Minnis's A35 Final Call II from Belfast Lough being in with more than a shout against the "monstrous regiment" of J/109s. But in the end today, she had to be content with reaching the evening in second overall, as Johnny and Suzy Murphy moved out on their own both in class and against their sister-ships, ending the day for the J/109 Outrajeous (Howth YC) on just 8 points from 1,3,2,2 against Final Call's 14pts from 2,1,3 and 8 (ouch!).

Class One leader J/109 Outrajeous (Howth YC) starts on port in race two of the ICRA Nationals at Howth Photo: AfloatClass One leader J/109 Outrajeous (Howth YC) starts on port in race two of the ICRA Nationals at Howth....

...and gets an early advantage

John Minnis's A35 Final Call II from Belfast Lough goes downwind in the first race of the ICRA National Championships at Howth Yacht Club Photo: AfloatJohn Minnis's A35 Final Call II from Belfast Lough goes downwind in the first race of the ICRA National Championships at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

Obviously, that fourth race is in line for the discard if we can get it tomorrow, but meanwhile, Saturday night sees defending champion Joker II (J/109, John Maybury, RIYC) third on 9,2,7,1, with Mighty Mouse, aka Mike & Richie Evans' J/99 Snapshot (HYC) in fourth after logging 6,8,1,3.

Downwind in class one of the ICRA Nationals 2023 at Howth, with the J109 Joker II (John Maybury) lying in third overall on port gybe Photo: AfloatDownwind in class one of the ICRA Nationals 2023 at Howth, with the J109 Joker II (John Maybury) lying in third overall on port gybe Photo: Afloat

Racing continues on Sunday.

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With a building breeze promising livelier conditions later in the day, you might have expected the slipper, smaller craft to set the pace in the opening salvo of Class 0's delayed series of the Monday.com ICRA National Championships at Howth Yacht Club. But it was the comfortably proportioned First 50 Checkmate (Dave Cullen & Nigel Biggs) of the host club which put down the bullet marker in the initial race of four completed, though times were close - sometimes very close.

The J122 Jelly Baby beats the J111 Ghost Raider to the line in the first race of the ICRA Nationals Championships at Howth Yacht Club Photo: AfloatThe J122 Jelly Baby beats the J111 Ghost Raider to the line in the first race of the ICRA Nationals Championships at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

 John Treanor's J112E ValenTina from the National Yacht Club is lying second overall at the ICRA Nationals Championships at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat John Treanor's J112E ValenTina from the National Yacht Club is lying second overall at the ICRA Nationals Championships at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

However, Brian Jones and family from the Royal Cork in Crosshaven with the J/122 Jelly Baby were clearly in the process of familiarising themselves with the mysterious waters of the Fingal coast, and after taking third in Race 1, they were never off the top three, carding a total of 3, 1,3,1 to total 8 points and have it overall by close of play to the 12 points from 2,5,1,4 of John Treanor's newer J Boat ValenTina (National YC).

The First 50 Checkmate (Dave Cullen & Nigel Biggs) was the first race winner in Class Zero of the ICRA Nationals Championships at Howth Yacht Club and lies third overall Photo: AfloatThe First 50 Checkmate (Dave Cullen & Nigel Biggs) was the first race winner in Class Zero of the ICRA Nationals Championships at Howth Yacht Club and lies third overall Photo: Afloat

Checkmate XX stayed in the hunt to finish the day on third OA with her opening win followed by 7,5,2, taking it on countback after tieing on 15 points with Pete Smyth's Sunfast 3600 Searcher (NYC & RIYC) which scored 5,2,2,6. As for Jelly Baby, she'd quite the day of it, as she won overall on ECHO too.

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