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Displaying items by tag: Shannon Estuary

There is really no reasonable comparison between Ireland’s eastern and western seaboards writes W M Nixon. The east coast is quite densely populated, and while it has some areas of impressive scenery, in general it lacks the majestic inlets and islands which make sailing the Atlantic seaboard such a joy. That said, there’s no getting away from the fact that, taken overall, the east coast leads in economic activity, and at the very least there’s no doubting it has much less rain.

But when the rain in the west clears to reveal the coastline in all its glory, the extra precipitation seems a small price to pay for such visual natural abundance. And then too, while there are fewer people, they’re all so much larger than life, and bursting with innovative and entertaining ideas, that you’re inclined to think one western person is worth a dozen easterners.

However, those of us living and doing most of our sailing on the humdrum old east coast have one inescapable and total advantage over those in the west. When our east coast life gets too stressed and samey, we can escape for a while to the big country, fresh air and crazy attitudes of the west.

If you live in the west, you simply can’t genuinely experience this moment of release. But on the east coast, if life gets tedious, all that is necessary is head west for a day or two. The moment you cross the River Shannon, the spirits lift, and as you crest the watershed between the Shannon and Galway Bay, the big generous country of the west is rising on the horizon, and all is much better with the world.

In the west, too, they operate on a different time scale. And they do it in a different time zone. Until the railways of the 19th Century made some national co-ordination of time essential, local time meant that the recognised noon was later the further west you moved. As is only natural, Galway was twenty minutes later than Dublin. It was only with the exigencies of the Great War in 1916 that an Official Act was passed making uniform time-keeping a legal requirement. Oddly enough, no-one seems to have discussed what effect this draconian measure might have had in provoking the outbreak of the Easter Rising in 1916. Be that as it may, all we know for now is that in Galway, they still operate on a local time zone which is at least twenty minutes later than everyone else’s time, and is probably nearer half an hour.

Galway hooker connemara 2Galway hookers racing hard off the Connemara coast. This is the popular image of sailing in the west, but while vivid and true, the complete story of western sailing is much broader. Photo Paul Harris

This became apparent last week when I wheeled into the car park at Galway Bay Sailing Club to give a performance of the current illustrated warblefest, which is about Ireland’s unique relationship with gaff rig and how it has emerged that Irish sailors led the switchover to Bermudan. The details of that will have to wait for another blog, but on this particular night, the immediate concern – with less than a quarter of an hour to go to the advertised start time – was that there just one other car in the car park, and that was Vice Commodore John Murphy, who was there a minute earlier to open the place up for the night.

“Oh Jaysus, Nixon” thought I, “you’ve bombed tonight, there’s not going to be a soul here.” But there wasn’t a moment to brood on the prospect of a showbiz flop, for I was with Pierce Purcell the mover and shaker of the west, and he wanted to show me the almost-finished refurb job they’ve been doing on the ground floor setup in the clubhouse, where they’ve managed to greatly enlarge the floor-space and rationalise its use for a state-of-the art changing room and multiple-use room and boat and equipment store setup.

You know the feeling you get when you’re looking at a job which is going very well indeed. It’s heartening. The re-furb in GBSC is precisely that. It’s being overseen by members Pat and Emer Irwin - he’s the Project Manager and she’s the Architect – and is being done with exemplary efficiency, on time and within a budget of only €160,000, which is the best value in building work I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Galway Bay Sailing Club 3Galway Bay SC is nearing the completion of a clever refurbishment project which is within time, within budget, and excellent value. Photo Pierce Purcell

We emerged much encouraged from seeing all this to be further cheered by the fact the club was warming up with its famous big stove in the middle of the bar getting into its stride, and the place filling up with people from near and far. For of course I’d temporarily forgotten that Galway’s in a different time zone and it wouldn’t be until around 8.30pm that we’d have some idea of the real turnout, and how effective it might be for the yellow welly collection. This is an idea imported from Poolbeg Y & BC which provides the most painless way of raising funds for the lifeboats. You just provide one yellow RNLI seaboot and request the audience to see how many €5 notes they can get into it. Usually it concludes with some worthwhile figure inevitably ending in either zero or five, but Galway being Galway, the night concluded with the boot yielded up a sum ending with six euro and eight cents……

The show became something we all had to go through with, just in order to justify being there, so it went ahead and finally got to its meandering conclusion. Then the lights went up to reveal even more people had arrived. Pierce Purcell had certainly done his stuff in the phonecall chivvying department, for despite all your modern means of instant total-cover communication, the personal phone call seems to be more important than ever, and the photo below gives some indication of the coverage he achieved, while also hinting at the conviviality of an evening in which a shared love of boats and sailing and a good club atmosphere completely obliterated any feeling of it still being winter outside.

west coast sailors 4Western gathering. In Galway Bay SC are (back row, left to right) Simon McGibney (Commodore ICRA & ISA Board Member), John Leech (Commodore, Lough Derg YC), Afloat.ie’s W M Nixon, Adrian McConnell (Royal Western YC, Kilrush), Peter Fernie (Rear Commodore Irish Cruising Club) and Richard Glynn (Commodore, Royal Western of Ireland YC). Front row left to right Elaine O’Mahony, (outgoing Hon Sec Foynes YC, 2016 Volvo ISA Training Centre of the Year), Cormac McDonnacha (Chairman, WIORA Week), and Gary Allen, outgoing Commodore GBSC. Photo: Pierce Purcell

It was good to talk again with Barry Martin of Galway who made such an impact as bo’sun on the Asgard II many years ago that he found himself being recruited into the same role for both the much larger Britsh sail training schooners Winston Churchill and Malcolm Millar, a job in which he was so successful that he ended his sail training career as a senior officer on the Churchill.

There too were Jim Grealish and Barry Heskin, against whom we used to race inshore and offshore in the days when we each had boats around the 35ft size, boats of very different type yet rating notably similar, so if the Morrisssey-Grealish-Heskin squad appeared on the starting line with Joggernaut, aboard Witchcraft of Howth we knew we were into a boat-for-boat battle in which no quarter would be given, yet everyone would be the best of friends afterwards.

But if there was ample opportunity in GBSC for memories of good times past, equally there was plenty of discussion of the here and now, and it was fascinating to meet up with Dan Mill who runs the busy boatyard in the industrial estate beside Galway Docks. Dan’s story is such that we’ll be developing it into a complete blog in due course, sufficient to say at the moment that his links to Ireland are extraordinarily complex, for although he was born in England, at the age of three his parents together with another family set off to sail to New Zealand from Lymington in the then-bermudan-rigged 43ft Tyrrell ketch Maybird, and Maybird of course is now back in Ireland fully restored as a gaff ketch, and well-known in the ownership of Darryl Hughes.

Maybird Bermudan ketch 5Maybird as a Bermudan ketch. It was under this rig that Dan Mill sailed on her from England to New Zealand while still a child

As for young Dan, growing up in New Zealand he naturally moved into boat-building in what is probably the best boat-building school in the world, the New Zealand marine industry. But then Mna na hEireann took a hand in his life-path.

It would be difficult to overestimate the influence that the charms of the Women of Ireland have had on the development of a small yet top-level boat-building industry in this country. But there’s something about marine craftsmen and Irish women which gets them together and entices the craftsmen to settle in Ireland despite the fact that, let’s face it, anyone trying to produce such top quality work here is ploughing a lonely furrow a long way from the great centres of the specialist industry, such as the Solent district, parts of the Baltic, certain places in Brittany, and particularly New Zealand.

Yet the women get them, and they get them home to Ireland, and they keep them. Thus we have the likes of Dan Mill in Galway, Steve Morris in Kilrush, and Bill Trafford in the hidden depths of the country near Mitchellstown, all three of them trying to ensure work of the highest quality in a country where “Ah sure, ’twill do” is sometimes the defining motto in woodwork.

Having arrived in Galway, Dan Mill found himself within the orbit of the formidable John Killeen, with whom all ideas are possible, and somehow they found themselves setting out to build a cruising version of an Open 60.

Nimmo yacht construction 6The galley area in Nimmo under construction

Nimmo Yacht table 7Beauty in detail – Dan Mill’s craftsmanship in evidence on a table for Nimmo.

In the end she became a very one-off 68-footer named Nimmo in honour of the great Scottish harbour engineer Alexander Nimmo, who is one of John’s heroes. When she was eventually finished after four years with Dan being responsible for virtually every bit of skilled work in her complex construction and superb finish, he was exhausted, but his reputation in Galway was well established at a very high level, and he’s now the man to go to with boat maintenance needs and problems. He’s not above undertaking a mid-level job such as putting a new deck and coachroof on an older fibreglass hull, but as for launching another project on the Nimmo scale, that would require some thinking about.

Launching day Nimmo 8Launching day for Nimmo, built in a very basic shed in Galway
Dan Mill 9Dan Mill this week in the boat yard in Galway

Nevertheless, talking with the man who built Nimmo was an eloquent reminder that there’s a lot more to sailing in the West than Galway Hookers and other traditional craft. But equally it was a reminder that the traditional skills are still being maintained and indeed nourished out beyond the Pale. So after a leisurely breakfast next morning with Pierce and Susan Purcell in their dream house in Clarinbridge, with a busy red squirrel feasting on the bird table close outside the generous window, there was time to inspect Pierce’s boatshed out the back, one of those green steel sheds which sit so well in the Irish countryside, particularly when – like Pierce – you have your 26-footer comfortably winterised in it, and a fine well-equipped workbench right to hand.

Clarenbridge Pierce purcell 10What price a facility like this at your house on the East Coast? Pierce Purcell in “the little shed out the back” at Clarenbridge Photo W M Nixon
It’s the sort of ideal setup very few can manage on the over-crowded East Coast, and I headed south musing on the east-west imbalance, and readying the thinking for something entirely different - the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick. This started as the backup service for the restoration of the Conor O’Brien 57ft ketch Ilen by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt near Baltimore, and recently in the Ilen School they’ve produced deckhouses for Ilen to the highest standard, and are currently finishing the last of the new spars.

But under the inspiration of Gary MacMahon (who personally was responsible for bring Ilen home from the Falklands) and others such as Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey, the Ilen School has become a remarkable educational and training resource undertaking a wide variety of projects such as creating replicas of the traditional Shannon Estuary gandelows, and building a class of the very handy CityOne sailing dinghies to a design by the late Theo Rye, a successful project which further revealed the multiple talents of that much-mourned expert in every aspect of naval architecture.

grand banks dories Ilen BoatbuildingCourses constructing traditional Grand Banks Dories provide popular night classes at the Ilen Boatbuilding School in Limerick. Photo W M Nixon

Another handy course which the Ilen School offers is through building traditional Grand Banks dories, simple yet effective boats which must have seemed very small indeed as you were left behind in the Grand Banks fog by the Bluenose fishing schooners to get on with the day’s business of ling-lining for cod. By the time the schooner found you again towards evening, your little dory would be dangerously laden with a great catch of wet and scaly silvery wealth.

In fact, the Ilen School is a whole host of experiences, for there in the main work-space were the mighty new spars for Ilen together with the distinctly aged original gaff which goes all the way back to Tom Moynihan and his shipwrights in Baltimore 91 years ago. And in another workspace, the Ilen team are building two very able little dinghies to the Valentine type from dimensions supplied by Hal Sisk, and they will in time be Ilen’s boats. But before you get to these sensibly–shaped little dinghies, you’ve to take on board the Hildasay, the Ilen school’s latest acquisition.

Valentine dinghy Hal sisk 12The Valentine dinghy, from plans provided by Hal Sisk, has been built at the school to be a ship’s boat for Ilen. Photo W M Nixon

Ilen gaff boom 14Ilen’s new main gaff boom (left) and the original (right), which was shaped in Baltimore in 1926. Photo W M Nixon

mainmast Ilen 13The mighty mainmast for Ilen, with topmast temporarily in place in Limerick, is ready for dismantling and transport to Baltimore. Photo W M Nixon

We all know that Limerick is a Viking city, in fact there are those who would argue that it still is, and in its rawest state too. But nevertheless it takes a while to get your head round how a boat like Hildasay, of the very purest Viking descent, should have ended up in a big shed in a trading estate in Limerick.

Hildasay was built in Shetland as a sailing development of the traditional clinker-built sixareen (six oars) in 1951, and is such a sweet little 26-footer that your heart falls for her, even if your head tells you that the slim Viking stern mean there’s very little space just where you most need it most, while the classic clinker construction poses its own special maintenance problems in a vessel which is a semi-keelboat.

Jack Hawks Shetland sixareen 15Jack Hawks with the Shetland sailing sixareen Hildasay, whuch he has donated to the Ilen Boatbuilding School. Photo: W M Nixon
She has been in and around the Shannon Estuary for abut 15 years, but owner Jack Hawks was recently seriously ill, and though he has fully recovered he felt the demands of Hildasay were getting a little too much for him, and wondered if the Ilen Boat Building School would be interested in her as a gift.

She’s an ideal gift, as she’s of a size to be very manageable, she provides special maintenance problems which, while not enormous, are very educational as part of the school’s courses, and each summer when she’s in commission she could be based either on Lough Derg, or somewhere down the Estuary.

Team Ilen School 16The “day team” at the Ilen School with their new acquisition Hildasay include Luki O’Brien, Jack Hawks, Elan Bromley, Owen Lacey, Sid Dorchenas, Matt Diss, Gary MacMahon and Luna MacMahon. Photo W M Nixon
The problem in Limerick is that though the Shannon is very much in the midst of it, access to it in the heart of town is limited, and in any case below the weir the big tides are a problem. But up on Lough Derg or further down the Estuary, there are all sorts of opportunities to get conveniently afloat, and having the use of an interesting sailing boat which is bigger than a CityOne or a gandelow is a natural add-on to the Ilen School’s activities, providing a broadening of the mind for some young would-be boatbuilders who may have spent too much time solely at the workbench without seeing what the resulting use of the end product is all about. And who knows, but they might even manage a race with the lovely gaff cutter Sally O’Keeffe built by Steve Morris of Kilrush with the community team from nearby Querrin as a replica of the traditional Shannon Estuary trading hooker.

Having seen the possibilities of mind-broadening in Limerick, the final part of this western tour took in a project which is mind-blowing. Admittedly the good people of the townland of Skenakilla would never for a minute think of themselves as being in the west, but for the rest of us this hidden spot beyond Mitchellstown in North Cork seems to be in the middle of nowhere. But then when you’ve found it, and spent a bit of time with the ebullient Bill Trafford in his remarkable Alchemy Marine boat workshop in Skenakilla, you feel you’re at the hub of the universe.

Bill is another case of Mna na hEireann reeling them in – a classic yachtbuilder and particularly an enthusiast for the International 6 Metre Class, he met an Irish girl and that was that. He made a living plying his highly specialized trade the length and breadth of our island working from a van, and then discovered his own niche in doing interesting, indeed extraordinary things, with old fibreglass boats.

Bill Trafford Elizabethan 23 17Bill Trafford’s transformation of an Elizabethan 23 won international awards last year.

Etchells 22 lengthened 20Bill Trafford’s current project at Alchemy Marine is the transformation of an Etchells 22 into a weekend cruiser by raising the freeboard, and providing a beautifully-made coachroof (foreground) Photo: W M Nixon

Bill TraffordBill Trafford – he is as enthusiastic about the full potential of glassfibre construction as he is about using classic yacht joinery work. Photo W M Nixon

He’s unusual in that he’s as enthusiastic about the wide potential of glassfibre construction as he is profoundly satisfied by working in wood to the highest classic yacht standards. While his special abilities were well known to a select few, he came to international notice last year when one of his masterpieces, the complete re-working of a seemingly tired little Elizabthan 23 into an elegant 26ft sloop with a classic New England style, was awarded a top prize in the Classic Boat annual competition.

His current project for a Cork owner is even more intriguing, the transformation of an ordinary and no longer young Etchells 22 into a 34ft LOA day cruiser of unique appearance. He has raised the topsides using glassfibre moulding to give her a completely fresh sheerline, he has transformed the stern by giving it a new-look counter with a curving transom which gives more than a nod in the direction of the unique sterns of the Friendship sloops of Maine, and he has built the most beautiful coachroof in the best Knud Reimers style to provide a boat which comes with a heady combination of Down East and Scandinavia to her.

Etchells 22 lengthened 20The lengthened stern has seen the rudder being moved aft by half a metre to provide a much roomier cockpit. Photo: W M Nixon

west sail21While compact, the accommodation provides for weekend cruising, but it’s expected to be comfortable day sailing which will be the best use of the “new” boat. Photo: W M Nixon

The stern is lengthened such that the LOA is now 34ft instead of the original 30.5ft, and the possibilities this has provided for a large cockpit to match the very pleasant accommodation (including a proper toilet compartment and a Beta diesel auxiliary) have been met by moving the entire rudder half a metre aft.

With his experience of tweaking boats this way and that, Bill reckons the sailing balance will if anything be improved by this re-location of the rudder. Personally, in the standard Etchells I’d always thought it too far forward anyway, so I could live with this change, yet found it entertaining to note that while he talked of moving the rudder aft by half a metre, when I asked him how he calculated the perfect-looking camber in the new deck, he said his rule of thumb is one inch for every four feet of beam. This is as near as dammit one in fifty, but his mixture of measurement systems makes him just like the rest of us who are mere bodgers, for when we’re measuring something we just use the side of the steel rule which comes up first, be it metric or imperial…….

deck camber 22Under the new foredeck – Bill’s rule of thumb is a deck camber of one in 48. Photo: W M Nixon

This is very much a bespoke project, so Bill has been able to introduce all sorts of quirky little features, a very attractive one being the ports for the navigation lights, which are set well into the hull either side of the stemhead, and look for all the world like the eyes put in Mediterranean boats to ward off evil spirits. In fact, they give such an appearance of good cheer to this new-old boat that when you see her from ahead, she looks for all the world as though she is smiling so much that she’s about to burst out laughing.

ports navigation lights 23The Watchful One…….it was a Bill Trafford’s idea to build special ports for the navigation lights. Photo W M Nixon

There’s still quite a bit to do before she’s ready for the water, but Bill is now in such a rhythm of working on his own that he can put in long productive hours without really noticing it, so we hope to get back to Skenakilla sooner rather than later. As for those around him, one unexpected advantage of being near Mitchellstown is you’re right in the heart of the dairy engineering industry, where the use and working of stainless steel is second nature. In fact, down there they sometimes use stainless steel which is of a superior grade to the 316 which is usually good enough for the rest of us.

Truth to tell, I didn’t know there were types of stainless steel superior to 316, but you learn many things down in Skenakilla, and it was encouraging to hear that the best workers in the stainless steel fabricating shops are happy to lend their skills in their spare time to bring Bill’s self-made stainless steel fittings up to professional standards of finish.

stainless steel yacht fittings 24Thanks to the local presence of high-grade stainless steel engineering for the dairy industry, it has been possible to make these fittings in Skenakilla. Photo: W M Nixon

Yacht coachroof 25A work of art in its own right, the new coachroof will be fitted any day now. Photo: W M Nixon

All being well, the new boat will be a star at the 25th Anniversary Glandore Classics Regatta from July 23rd to 29th, in fact Bill rather hopes the owner might consider taking her to the Classics Regatta celebrating the Bicentenary of Dun Laoghaire Harbour from July 6th to 9th as part of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

The good news here is that Cathy MacAleavey, chair of the Dun Laoghaire Classics organising committee, and Sally Wyles, who heads up the Glandore organisation, got together last weekend to see about selling their two events as a sort of package, as the clear fortnight between them makes participation in both a very realistic proposition.

Certainly the Dun Laoghaire Classics is beginning to look impressive, particularly if you go by the measuring method of counting the number of famous designers involved. The recent interest shown by Rob Mason of Milford Haven to come over with his newly-restored 36ft Alexander Richardson-designed 36ft Myfanwy brings a once-famous Liverpool designer back into the limelight. It’s where he deserves to be, for Richardson designed John Jameson’s all-conquering Irex in 1884.

Alexander Richardson 36 footer MyfanwyRob Mason with his restored 1897 Alexander Richardson 36-footer Myfanwy off Milford Haven. He has indicated interest in participation in the Bicentenary Regatta in Dun Laoghaire in July

In Dublin Bay, Myfanwy would see this Richardson creation shaping up to designs by G L Watson, Alfred Mylne, William Fife, John Kearney, O’Brien Kennedy, Arthur Robb and others, and that’s the list already with the net only newly cast.

As for what Glandore can offer, there’s at least one unique proposition. A special race will be sailed to honour the memory of Theo Rye, the fleet including the CityOnes from Limerick and a host of other boats, new and old. On each and every one of them, Theo would have had something new and of real interest to say, for that’s the kind of devoted student of naval architecture he was throughout his far-too-short life. He is much missed.

Theo Rye 27Much missed. The late Theo Rye aboard the 1887 Fife cutter Ayrshire Lass, which was restored by Michael Kennedy at Dunmore East. Theo Rye will be commemorated in a special event at the 25th Anniversary Glandore Classics Regatta from July 23rd to 29th. Photo: Darryl Hughes

Published in W M Nixon

#MarineWildlife - Conservationists want Tralee Bay and Brandon Bay in North Kerry to be declared a protected marine wildlife zone for bottlenose dolphins.

The call comes in the wake of new research by the Irish Whale Dolphin Group (IWDG) in tandem with the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation, which has identified the vast majority of bottlenose dolphins in North Kerry as members of the Shannon Estuary group that has enjoyed Marine Protected Area status since 2000.

“We knew dolphins had been regularly observed in Brandon Bay,” said the IWDG’s Dr Simon Berrow of the new research, “but did not know which population they belonged to and had no idea they were as abundant and frequent as this study has shown.”

Stephanie Levesque, senior author of the study, added that the research identified “very high numbers of Shannon dolphins present during the summer months in Brandon and Tralee Bays.

“If further surveys were to be carried out at various times of the year, including collecting behavioural data, it could help us to better understand how they are using these habitats.”

Elsewhere on the West Coast, Galway Bay FM reports on efforts in Connemara to form local groups in Oughterard and Letterfrack which are designated for the protection of pearl mussels.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#TradeReport - More than €7 billion in trade every year was handled by Shannon Foynes Port Company, according to a report commissioned by the State company that runs mid-western harbour, writes The Irish Times.

Research by W2 Consulting, based on 2014 figures from the port itself and 31 companies using it, shows that it is worth €1.9 billion to the wider economy and handles €7.6 billion in trade annually.

It also shows that Shannon Foynes Port Company and its customers plan to spend €277 million between them over the five years to 2019, which will support 3,372 jobs in the region.

The port company intends to spend €130 million on an expansion plan, dubbed Vision 2041 , that will exploit advantages such as its deep water and sheltered harbours to develop an international trade hub there.

For much more including video featuring Chief Executive, Pat Keating, click here.

Published in Shannon Estuary

The Topper Topaz National Championships took place at Foynes Yacht Club on the Shannon Estuary last Saturday, 13th August.
ISA National Race Officer David Vinnell of Galway Bay Sailing Club alongside local Race Officer Raymond McGibney of the host club were extremely effective in getting racing off on schedule and getting in the full race card of five races in westerly 8-16 knots of breeze.
Racing took place in an area east of Foynes Island and out of the main stream of the River Shannon. After a clean start in race one the fleet remained tight for all of the race until the final beat where Dingle sailors gained a small lead with the rest of the pack hot on their heels.
From the gun in race two almost all of the fleet headed to the right side of the course where there seemed to be more breeze. Just one sailor, Senan Tubridy from Royal Western Yacht Club, was a solitary looking figure on the left side, but correctly judged the sweep of the tide would carry him towards the mark and, by the windward mark had completely cleaned the fleet, holding onto his lead all the way to the finish.
The breeze picked up for race three to over 15 knots and the double handed boats (Uno Plus) started to move up the fleet in the stronger conditions with Adam Byrne & Ciarán Fitzgerald leading the way. While competitors can enter the Topaz Nationals as Uno (one person) or Uno Plus (two people) the Topaz Class Association rules score the event as one fleet, no handicap system is applied. Race four, in similar conditions, was won by an Uno sailor, Dylan Reidy but second and third place went to Uno Plus sailors Adam Byrne/Ciarán Fitzgerald and Diarmuid Desmond/Cillian Fogarty. With the final race approaching the result was still wide open with three boats in the running for the national title and the winners in the age categories still undecided. The lead changed many times throughout the race with the final result two boats were tied on points but on countback Dylan Reidy from the host club was deemed the overall winner ahead of Adam Byrne & Ciarán Fitzgerald from Dingle Sailing Club.

Topaz National Champion Dylan Reidy2016 Topaz National Champion Dylan Reidy is presented with his trophy by flag officer Patrick Finucane (left)

Racing finished well on schedule and such was the efficiency of the race team the beachmaster was caught completely off guard and asleep on his cruiser as the fleet was returning to shore after racing! Quick wakeup call required!
A notable mention must be made for Dingle sailor Ellie Cunnane, who sailed a superb event, winning three of the five races but following a technical protest was discounted from the event. A gutting decision for the fourteen year old who showed incredible strength of character and great sportsmanship respecting the decision of the protest committee and congratulating the new National Champion, Dylan Reidy.

Topper Topaz Nationals FoynesThe Topper Topaz National Championship sailors at Foynes Yacht Club
Overall Winners
ISA Gold:
Dylan Reidy (Foynes Yacht Club), who also won Topper Topaz Mainsail
ISA Silver:
Adam Byrne / Ciarán Fitzgerald (Dingle Sailing Club), also winning Topper Topaz Toe Straps
ISA Bronze:
Diarmuid Desmond / Cillian Fogarty (Dingle Sailing Club), also winning Topper Topaz Carbon Tiller Extension

Age Category Winners
Under 18 Years: Ella Fay (Dungarvan Harbour Sailing Club)
Under 16 Years: Clara Shanahan / Tadgh Shanahan (Foynes Yacht Club)
Under 14 Years: Oisín Finucane (Foynes Yacht Club)
Under 12 Years: Ross O’Shea (Foynes Yacht Club)

Foynes Yacht Club would like to thank the visitors from Dungarvan Harbour Sailing Club, Dingle Sailing Club, Tralee Bay Maritime Centre and the Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland for making the effort to attend the event. They would also like to thank the members for volunteering their time to run a great event, National Race Officer David Vinnell and Local Race Officer Raymond McGibney and finally the biggest thanks to sponsors Topper International Ltd., Ronstan (IMP Products) and UK McWilliam Sailmakers for their generous prizes.

Published in Shannon Estuary
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A new marketing drive promoting deep water marine investment opportunities along the Shannon Estuary is being undertaken by stakeholders engaged in the development and management of Ireland’s largest and deepest estuary.

The region’s local authorities, namely Clare County Council, Kerry County Council and Limerick City & County Council, have joined with IDA Ireland, Shannon Commercial Properties and Shannon Foynes Port Company in producing a prospective Marketing Brochure package that details ‘Deep Water Marine Investment Opportunities’ at 6 Strategic Development Locations deemed appropriate for marine-related investment.

The package is being distributed to potential investors around the world while a dedicated new website, www.shannonestuary.ie has been launched.

1,220 hectares of land at the 6 sites are zoned for marine-related industry in Regional and Local statutory development plans. The sites include Moneypoint (280Ha), Innismurry/Cahericon (65Ha) in County Clare, Askeaton (98Ha), Foynes Island (40Ha), and Foynes Port and adjoining lands (186Ha) in Limerick and Tarbert - Ballylongford Landbank (550Ha) in County Kerry.

The promotion of investment and development opportunities is the result of the Strategic Integrated Framework Plan (SIFP) for the Shannon Estuary, a land and marine-based plan launched in late 2013 by a multi-agency steering group comprising member organisations from throughout the wider region.

The Shannon Estuary features 500km2 of navigable water running from Kerry Head and Loop Head as far as Limerick City, a distance of 100km. The Estuary is Ireland’s premier deepwater port routinely catering for ships up to 200,000 deadweight tonnage (dwt) with key ports at Limerick and Foynes and direct connectivity to all major international shipping lanes. It is home to a number of large industries and employers, including ESB Moneypoint, Aughinish Alumina, Tarbert Power Station, Shannon International Airport and NORA Fuel Reserve.

“The Shannon Estuary Region is an attractive investment location for companies in the pharmaceutical, manufacturing and ICT sectors due to the global connectivity offered by Shannon Airport, the quality of lifestyle, and the abundance of world-class third level education facilities and graduates,” said Brian McCarthy, Senior Planner, Planning and Enterprise Development, Clare County Council, lead authority on the SIFP for the Shannon Estuary.

“The presence of large-scale marine-based facilities, 1,220 Hectares of zoned land, and the existing sheltered deep water resource presents considerable new investment potential along the Shannon Estuary,” he added.

Mr. McCarthy continued, “This multi-agency approach is aimed at sustainably accommodating future development, economic growth and employment within the Shannon Estuary. By working to attract new investment opportunities we are cognisant of the need to achieve a careful balance between promoting development, and the protection and conservation of this natural resource.”

Niall O’Callaghan, Business and Relationship Manager, IDA Ireland said, “As Ireland’s Foreign Direct Investment Agency, we at IDA Ireland very much welcome the completion of the SIFP marketing material and look forward to distributing it with our network of Overseas Teams. The Shannon Estuary is a key pillar in the potential attractiveness of the Mid-West to new forms of foreign direct investment and, aligned with IDA Ireland’s Regional Strategy through the Action Plan for Jobs I very much welcome the delivery of this project.”

“The culmination of many months work with our stakeholders within the Mid-West Region, the full potential of the SIFP can only be achieved with a coordinated delivery of infrastructure to support the 6 Strategic Sites that have been identified,” said Mr. O’Callaghan. “With this outcome, we can remain optimistic about the future potential investment in the Estuary, both land and marine based.”

The existing facilities on the Estuary are serviced by the largest vessels entering Irish waters while all commercial marine activities on the Shannon Estuary are managed and controlled by Shannon Foynes Port Company.

Pat Keating, CEO, Shannon Foynes Port Company commented “As Ireland’s largest bulk-port company and the port authority for the Shannon Estuary, Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC) views the implementation of the SIFP as vital to realising the commercial maritime opportunities afforded by the unequalled naturally occurring deep waters of the Shannon Estuary.”

“The zoning of over 1,200 hectares across the six Strategic Developments Locations identified in the Strategic Integrated Framework Plan (SIFP) for the Shannon Estuary is extremely important in that it identifies, once and for all, the necessary land to facilitate the sustainable maritime development of this national strategic asset. The SIFP is also closely aligned with our own 30 year masterplan Vision 2041, under which €38m was invested in the SFPC port estate in 2015 alone.

“It is only with the ongoing collaboration and cooperation of all the stakeholders that we can fully realise the enormous estuary potential and the implementation of the SIFP is an important step in this regard,” stated Mr. Keating.

Welcoming the collaborative stakeholder approach, Ray O’Driscoll, Managing Director, Shannon Commercial Properties said: “As part of Shannon Group plc which provides global connectivity through Shannon Airport, and through Shannon Commercial Proprieties owns one of Ireland’s largest property portfolios, we are delighted to be part of this initiative which will promote development opportunities in the Shannon Estuary.”

“Shannon Commercial Properties owns significant land banks at Ballylongford and Askeaton, two of the 6 strategic development locations and we are actively engaging with all stakeholders to realise the full potential of these assets,” concluded Mr. O’Driscoll.

Published in Shannon Estuary
Tagged under

This August Foynes Yacht Club will host the 2016 Topper Topaz National Championships. The event will run over two days, Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th August writes Elaine O'Mahoney.

This is the club’s second year hosting the event which last year had 34 entries. This year the club has set itself a target of 50 boats. The event is open to anyone sailing Topaz Uno (one person) or Topaz Plus (two people). We would like to invite the sailing schools to enter a fleet with a special offer to enter five and get the sixth entry free. The aim is to have a fun and exciting event with competitors ranging from seasoned sailors to complete beginners at this level with a number of entrants taking the step from Optimist and Toppers to Topaz’ for the first time.

The selection of date also allows for a nomination to be made to the Irish Sailing Association for the All Ireland Junior Sailing Championships which will be run the the Fastnet Marine OEC in Schull on the 25th & 26th September. The Irish Sailing Association makes the final decision on invitations to the All-Ireland Junior Sailing Championships.

Foynes Yacht Club are delighted for the second consecutive year to have Topper International Ltd. onboard sponsoring the overall prizes (1st Topaz Uno Racing Sail, 2nd Set of Hyde Padded Toe Straps, 3rd Carbon Tiller Extension) and also to have Ronstan (IMP Products), UK McWilliam Sailmakers and Hyde Sails generously sponsoring prizes in the different categories including under 18, under 16, under 14 and under 12, single and double handed.

Foynes Yacht Club has camping facilities on the grounds with 24 hr access to the clubhouse for showers and use of the kitchen etc. 

The Notice of Race and Entry Form are available to download from the club website. If you require further information on this event contact Elaine or Simon on 087 3354153.

Published in Shannon Estuary

Class two yacht Ibaraki skippered by John Collins from Galway Bay Sailing Club has been declared overall winner of the 2016 WIORA Championships after a six race series at Kilrush Marina on the Shannon Estuary. Download results below.

Collins continued his overall lead into the final two races on Sunday, emerging a clear winner with a four point margin. The modified GK34 beat Liam Burke's Corby 25 Tribal on 13.5 points with Ray McGibney's Dehler 34 Disaray from Foynes Yacht Club third on 15 points. 

In class one at the Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland event, Yannick Lemonnier's Galway Flyer, an SJ320, from Galway Bay Sailing Club, beat the First 36.7, 2 IRL1514 Zallaq (Duncan & Emmet Kerin) from the host club in a five–boat fleet.

WIORA prizegiving

The WIORA prizegiving at the Haven, Kilrush with John Collins's Ibaraki crew lifting the overall trophy. Photo: WIORA/Facebook

In a five boat class three made up entirely of J24s, Darragh McCormack's Maximus from Foynes Yacht Club was the overall winner. Simon McGibney's Carpe Diem was second ahead of third placed Jibe sailed by Fergus Kelliher of Tralee Bay Sailing Club.

In a white sails fleet of 13 boats, the overall winner was Tom Murray's Kerry Sloop, Kerry Dream, with Pat Keating on Excalibur in second. James McCormack on Alpara finished in third place. The top three were all from Foynes Yacht Club.

30–boats competed in three classes in the 40th anniversary of the event. 

Additional reporting by Elaine O'Mahoney, WIORA: 

The event took place over four days in heavy winds which even in the ‘lulls’ hardly dropped below 15 knots.

Looking ahead at the forecast the race officers made the decision to have three races on day one as a contingency in case any of the subsequent days were blown out. The IRC racing on day one was windward leeward courses west of Scattery Island where OOD Alan Crosbie and his team did a fantastic job in shifty conditions requiring moving of marks between legs to keep the beats true. Winds of about 25 knots and strong tides were a certainly challenge with some of the bigger boats reefed down and the smaller boats all with jibs but the general consensus of the competitors was hugely enjoyable racing.

It was decided to have the longer coastal race on day two which had the IRC classes beat about six miles west in the estuary towards Carrigaholt. Trusting the weather forecast the OOD handed out the race course to all competitors prior to leaving the Kilrush Marina. As the start time approached the first ‘beat’ was looking more like a ‘fetch’ but as if Alan Crobie flicked a switch just as he sounded the first warning signal the wind backed about 25 degrees to make the first beat a proper one. And for anyone not familiar with sailing in tidal waters, one boat commented afterwards it took them nearly two hours to beat to the windward mark and twenty five minutes to get back. Welcome to sailing in tides! The contingency decision made earlier paid off as Friday saw winds of between 35 and 40 knots blow though. The shelter provided in the recently refurbished, and I must say looking smashing, Kilrush Marina was much appreciated by all the boat owners.

The final day of racing winds brought winds gusting up to 30 knots and wind shifts of 30 degrees to contend with and the race organisers did very well to get in a final two races which brought a discard into play for all competitors.

Across all the classes racing was hugely competitive. In the six race series the most races won by any of the overall winners was three races, which was Yannick Lemonnier’s Galway Flyer in Class One while Emmet & Duncan Kerin’s First 36.7, Zallaq came in 2nd and 3rd place went to Liam Madden’s X332 Dexterity.

In Class Two, the eventual overall champions, John Collins’ GK34, Ibariki had two wins out of six claiming the class ahead of last years’ winner Liam Burke’s Corby 25 Tribal with the Dehler 34 Dis-a-Ray under the new helm of Fionn McGibney finishing 3rd.

In class three, an all J24 affair, there was nothing between the fleet who, no matter what tactics employed or what side of the course taken, seemed to converge together at every single mark! At the end of the first day the top three boats were level on points. With just one win throughout the series it was the consistency of Darragh McCormack’s J, Maximus, which kept them at the top. 2nd and 3rd place, who both had two wins each, finished level on points but on countback Martin McNamara on Carpe Diem took 2nd ahead of Fergus Kelliher on Jibe in 3rd.

In what has been hailed by the White Sails fleet as a huge success, WIORA for the first time brought in a second OOD, Peter Moore from Tralee Bay Sailing Club, to officiate the White Sails racing. The 13 boat fleet stayed further east along the estuary between Scattery Island and Tarbert. While at the pre-race briefing the competitors spoke of White Sails ‘going out to have fun’ nothing could be further from the truth once the first gun was sounded. The courses were Round The Cans and competition was fierce with the series leader changing many times throughout the four day event. In the end the experience of the Foynes Yacht Club boats in sailing in the strong tidal waters came through as first, second and third places all went to the Shannon Estuary based club. Tom Murray’s Kerry Sloop, Kerry Dream, was relishing the heavy weather taking first place overall with Pat Keating on Excalibur, competing in his first West Coast Championships on his Westerly Fulmar, but with a few crafty and well-seasoned sailors on board came in second. James McCormack’s Dufour 35 Alpara, finished in third place. The two White Sails boats that came down from the lake thanked the West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association and the Irish Cruiser Racing Association for their generosity in helping them get lifted and transported down for the event due to the lower River Shannon being closed at Ardnacrusha.

WIORA Commodore, Simon McGibney congratulated Adrian O’Connell and the members of The Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland and Thomas Whelan, Chairperson of the Organising Committee for hosting what was widely agreed was a fantastic event. He also thanked the OOD’s Alan Crosbie and Peter Moore and their teams for exceptional racing in testing conditions and finally thanked Kilrush Credit Union, Kilrush Marina and all the other sponsors of the event.

Overall Winners:

Class One IRC :
Galway Flyer (Jannick Lemonnier, Galway Bay Sailing Club)
Class One ECHO:
Dexterity (Liam Madden, Foynes Yacht Club)

Class Two IRC:
Ibaraki (John Collins, Galway Bay Sailing Club)
Class Two ECHO:
Ibaraki (John Collins, Galway Bay Sailing Club)

Class Three IRC:
Maximus (Darragh McCormack, Foynes Yacht Club)
Class Three ECHO:
Carpe Diem (Martin McNamara, Foynes Yacht Club)

White Sails:
Kerry Dream (Tom Murray, Foynes Yacht Club)

Full Results can be found below.

Published in WIORA

At a sitting of Kilrush District Court on 11th April 2016, Judge Patrick Durkan convicted a man of illegal netting for salmon on the Shannon Estuary. Mr John Beehan with an address at Burrane, Kilimer, Co Clare, was fined €500 in addition to costs amounting to €500.

Judge Durkan heard evidence that while carrying out surveillance on an area near Kilimer, Co Clare in June 2015, fishery officers observed Mr Beehan to be in control of a fishing net which had two salmon caught in it. The officers gave evidence and were cross-examined. Mr Beehan’s defence was that he had been curious to see what was going on in the area as he had seen an unfamiliar car and he denied that the fishing net was his.

In summarising his judgement on the case, Judge Durkan said that he was satisfied that there was a case to answer. He added that the motor car was very important in the defence of “taking a look” and the reason for this could only be that the car had a boot.

Ms Amanda Mooney, Director at Inland Fisheries Ireland, Limerick, commented: “Netting for salmon in the Shannon Estuary is prohibited. Such illegal fishing is an environmental crime and is a contributing factor to the decline of Ireland’s vulnerable salmon stocks.”

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has a confidential hotline number to enable members of the general public to report incidents - 1890 34 74 24 or 1890 FISH 24. This phone line is designed to encourage the reporting of incidents of illegal fishing, water pollution and invasive species.

Published in Fishing

The development of organised sailing in Ireland seems to have spread northeastwards from the south and southwest coasts. Although the great chieftain Hugh Maguire had a fleet of pleasure vessels including sailing craft on Lough Erne in County Fermanagh in the 1500s, while the noted scientific polymath Sir William Petty found a sailing “pleasure boatte” on Dublin Bay to test his catamaran Simon & Jude against in 1663, it was on Cork Harbour that we find the first formal organisation with the foundation of the Water Club in 1720 writes W M Nixon.

Before the advent of good roads, and long before the railways arrived, Ireland’s myriad waterways and lakes provided the best options for the inland transport both of goods and people, and inevitably some gentrifried working boats were also used for relaxation, and the next club to be formed was Lough Ree YC in 1770. By 1820, the world’s first club specifically organised to provide racing came into being on Lough Erne, then nearby on Lough Gill in Sligo, the Ladies’ Cup was first raced for in 1822, and it still is cometed for today, though now at Sligo YC’s sea base at Rosses Point.

In the pre-famine era before 1845, the relative affluence of the west and southwest of Ireland supported the landed classes in yacht ownership, and a regatta at Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary in 1828 saw the establishment of the Royal Western of Ireland YC, which at its height in 1838 had a fine fleet of 18 cutters – some of quite substantial size - based in Kilrush Creek and spreading outwards to families along the coast such as the O’Connells of Tralee, Cahirsiveen and Derrynane.

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The Game Changer. Dun Laoghaire’s first regatta in 1828 set Dublin Bay on course to be the pace-setter in yachting development.

But 1828 also saw the first regatta to be staged at the new harbour of Kingstown on Dublin Bay, and the success of this provided an unrivalled focus for the development of new ideas in sailing not only in Ireland, but at an international level. Whereas other sailing area saw the locations of activity spread across several centres large and small, in Dublin Bay there was just this one big powerhouse of sailing development through which all the recreational nautical energy of the capital city was channeled. The Royal Irish YC came into being in 1831, the Royal St George YC got going in 1838, and soon Kingstown outstripped most comparable centres at home and abroad, particularly in racing development.

Yet at this time Belfast was already the fastest-expanding city in Ireland, and it was moreover a growing centre of genuine wealth-creating manufacturing industries and ship-building enterprises. Why wasn’t Belfast Lough in the forefront of sailing development by the 1850s?

It wasn’t as though there wasn’t a small but time-honoured local recreational sailing tradition on Belfast Lough. During the 1780s and 1790s, Belfast had been a place of liberal ideas and social innovation, and a small group of recreational sailors led by Henry Joy McCracken pioneered cruising from Belfast Lough to the west coast of Scotland and the Hebrides. But then in 1798 McCracken also led the rising of the United Irishmen, and when it was suppressed he was executed by hanging in the Cornmarket in Belfast on land which his grandfather had donated to the town.

Subsequently, the Presbyterian majority in the north turned in on themselves and concentrated on commerce and manufacture and literally minding their own business. But though, as prosperity returned, a small group of McCracken’s former shipmates formed the Northern Yacht Club in Belfast Lough in 1824, Belfast’s rapid industrial expansion made the port very limited as a yacht harbour, thereby limiting their growth.

Belfast Lough may have provided splendid sailing water, but it was very poorly served by other smaller harbours, so the Northern Yacht Club members often found themselves sailing to the more congenial and well-serviced shores of the Firth of Clyde. They soon formed a Scottish branch, and by 1838 the Royal Northern Yacht Club - as it was to become, with an impressive clubhouse in Rothesay - had taken over the few remaining assets of the Belfast Lough branch, and that was the end of any club in the Lough for another quarter century.

Yet any student of sailing history will know that in 1856, Lord Dufferin from Clandeboye near Bangor on the shores of Belfast Lough made a celebrated voyage to the high Arctic with his schooner Foam. And in 1865, one of the most successful racing schooners of all time, the 99ft Egeria, was built for leading Belfast linen manufacturing magnate John Mulholland. So why wasn’t Belfast Lough sharing the sailing fame of other Irish centres such as Dublin Bay and Cork Harbour, which had shown their pre-eminence by staging the world’s first recognisably modern offshore race from Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour in 1860?

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The extremely successful racing schooner Egeria was built for Belfast business magnate John Mulholland in 1865, but she was seldom if ever in Belfast Lough

The simple answer seems to be that in its period of hyper-growth, the business of Belfast was business, and sailing for recreation was not a Belfast business. Those who expected to sail at the highest level did so elsewhere, and once the Belfast to Dublin railway had been connected in 1855, it was as handy for the more affluent would-be yachtsmen to avail of the proper facilities in Dublin Bay rather than risk their yachts on exposed moorings in Belfast Lough, where shore facilities were still woefully lacking.

But in time the rapid rise of an energetic middle class in Belfast saw increasing demand for sailing amenities and events nearer home. We know that a regatta of some sort was staged at Holywood immediately east of Belfast on the lough’s south shore in 1854, and it was at Holywood – despite the little town’s drying anchorage – that the first club since the Northern YC in 1824, the Hoywood Yacht Club – was formed in 1862, and it still exists, Belfast Lough’s senior club.

Then in 1866 a regatta was staged from the only half decent harbour on the lough, at Carrickfergus, and the organisers were pleasantly surprised by the number of boats which turned out, boats whose owners had squirrelled out bits of shelter for their craft in small places like Donaghadee, Groomsport, the tiny drying harbour at Bangor, in the open roadstead off Cultra, in the cleaner parts of Belfast docks, in Carrickfergus itself, and round the corner in Larne Lough.

From this there immediately emerged the Carrickfergus Amateur Rowing & Sailing Club, but mostly to cater for local demand. But soon afterwards in Belfast the Ulster Yacht Club was formed by a group of affluent businessmen, professionals, industrialists and landowners with Lord Dufferin as their Commodore. By 1869 he’d seen to it that they’d become the Royal Ulster Yacht Club, but it was an organisation which was resolutely to function without a clubhouse until 1899, nevertheless growing in prestige with every passing year.

Thanks to that focus of interest through the Carrickfergus Regatta of 1866, 2016 will see double celebrations on Belfast Lough with the 150th Anniversaries of both Carrickfergus Amateur Rowing and Sailing Club (which everyone knows as Carrick Sailing Club), and the Royal Ulster Yacht Club, which since April 1899 has been based in an impressive Arts & Crafts clubhouse on an eminence above Bangor’s waterfront.

Royal Ulster clubhouse4
The RUYC clubhouse was built in 18 months and opened in 1899 in order to be ready for Thomas Lipton’s first America’s Cup campaign

When the clubhouse was built, the harbour at Bangor was still rudimentary, but the sailing was great. However, since 1984 Bangor Bay has been turned into one of Ireland’s largest marinas, and now RUYC has the berthing facilities and the sailing water to stage major events with confidence.

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Befast Lough provides excellent sailing water, but until the marina were built at Carrickfergus and Bangor, it lacked sheltered berthing

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Carrickfergus Marina, with the harbour and its famous 12th Century castle beyond

Equally at Carrickfergus they also have a marina – in fact it pre-dates the one at Bangor – but as Carrickfergus was also the base of the extraordinarily productive yachtbuilder John Hilditch, albeit only from 1889 to 1913, one of the main parts of their celebration is going to be a Hilditch Regatta, not just for boats built by him such as Hal Sisk’s famous 1894 Watson cutter Peggy Bawn, the Howth 17s of 1898, and the RNIYC Fairy Class of 1901, but indeed for any classic or traditional craft, as Carrick has always been a spiritual home for the Old Gaffers Association.

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Bangor Marina, with Ballyholme Bay beyond

Royal Ulster has meanwhile taken a different track through sailing history, for between 1899 and 1931, it was the club through which Thomas Lipton made his five America’s Cup Challenges, which has tended to obscure the fact that in the 1880s and 1890s, Belfast Lough with RUYC in a key role were setting a fantastic pace in sailing development, as they were trying to get a one design keelboat class going as long ago as 1889, and by 1895 they’d brought the Belfast Lough One Design Association into being with a determined young sailing man called James Craig as Honorary Secretary. Membership of the BLODA was open to any member of one of the recognised six clubs now based round the lough, but young Craig – who later went on to become Lord Craigavon, first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1921 – was realistic in his expectations for the life of a strict one design keelboat class, and he only expected his members to be “in class” for three seasons.

By 1896 they’d the first two boats of a new 15ft LWL keelboat class designed by William Fife, no less, sailing on Belfast Lough, and before the summer was out the signs were good for a significant increase in numbers for 1897. James Craig was insisting the boats be built by John Hilditch, as he was noted for sticking strictly to the plans as drawn by the designer, whereas the builder of the first two boats for 1896, Paddy McKeown in the heart of Belfast, was always trying to improve on the designs, even if they were from Fife.

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Regatta day for the Dublin Bay 25s – their design was inspired by the Befast Lough Class I boats.

But events overtook the programme. A group of affluent Belfast Lough movers and shakers decided they certainly wanted a One-Design class to the Belfast Lough ODA rules and designed by William Fife, but they wanted a proper sea-going boats with a cabin, around 37ft in hull overall length, and 25ft on the waterline, and setting a proper gaff rig with a jackard topsail rather than the modest little gunter rig set by the 15ft LWL boats, which were still referred to as Class I.

But as the idea for the bigger boats gained traction, they became Class I, and for a while the 15ft LWL boats became Class II, but after 1900 they were Class III when a 20ft LWL class came along. But meanwhile in late 1896 and early 1897, the Hilditch yard went mad, building nine of the new 25ft LWL boats. Even Lord Dufferin and his friends Lord de Ros and Lord Bangor came round from County Down in April 1897 to the tough town of Carrickfergus to see this remarkable new class of boats being built. And once the 25 footer had their first race off Carrickfergus on May 29th , they swung into action with what today would be called a series of promotional tours, as they did all of Clyde Fortnight after a stormy crossing of the North Channel, and then after being back in Belfast Lough for long enough to race the RUYC regatta, they headed south to Dublin Bay in late July and inspired the creation of the Dublin Bay 25 class.

1898 was when they were in their prime, and by 1899 some owners were aready invoking the “three season” rule to move on, but in fact the class continued to race actively – though sometimes with very depleted numbers – on Belfast Lough until the end of the 1909 season.

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John Hilditch was very busy in 1897 – in addition to the Belfast Lough Class I boats, his yard also built this 56ft motoryacht Romance for A J Lepper, for whom he’d built Peggy Bawn in 1894.

We get some idea of the boat-building pace around Carrickfergus in the late 1890s when we realise that in 1897 John Hilditch and his men were also building a 57ft Dixon Kemp motor-yacht, the Romance, for A J Lepper, for whom they’d built Peggy Bawn so well in 1894, and no sooner was the Romance out of the way than they turned to the next job, the building of the first five Howth 17s which their owners were able to sail the 90 miles to their home port in April 1898.

So obviously there’s going to be quite a complicated programme around Belfast Lough in late June and early July this year. And as the Howth 17s are in the unique position of being a Hilditch class which is not Belfast Lough-based, they hope to be able to pay their respects at Carickfergus both to the memory of their builder and to the 150th Anniversary of the Carrickfergus club, while also being able to do full justice to the Classic One Designs Regatta, which RUYC will be staging from Friday June 24th to Sunday June 26th.

The Hilditch Regatta meanwhile is from the evening of Wednesday June 22nd to Saturday June 23rd, when the fleet heads from Carrickferus to Bangor for a sail-past as part of the Royal Ulster events, but with some of the Old Gaffers then returning to Carrick (after due celebrations in Bangor) as the Carrick event is seen partially as a follow-on to the Portaferry Sails & Sounds the previous weekend, which is very much an Old Gaffers event.

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In Carrickfergus are (left to right) Nick Massey, Roddy Cooper, Tom Houlihan, CSC Commodore Wendy Moore, and Ian Malcolm. Photo: W M Nixon

But for classes like the Howth 17s, despite their antiquity proper racing is what it’s all about, so I tagged along with a reconnaissance group of Howth 17 eminences when they went up North to suss out the scene this week. And as the group included Nick Massey who re-energised the class when it was going through a flakey period in 1972, Ian Malcolm who is playing a key role in the class’s current revival such that they’ll have eighteen boats racing this year, Roddy Cooper who owns the Hilditch-built Leila, and Class Captain Dr Tom Houlihan, you can be quite sure there wasn’t a dull moment.

First call was with Wendy Moore at Carrickfergus, where she’s Commodore for the 150th as the club settle into the new clubhouse after a disastrous fire three years ago, and as she’s also the Marina/Boatyard Manager and the newest addition to the ranks of owners in the local thriving Ruffian 23 class, everyone was on the same wavelength.

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You’ll always find it’s now in a carpark….Roddy Cooper and Ian Malcolm stand on the spot where their Howth 17s Leila and Aura were built in 1898, with Carrickfergus Castle in the background. Photo: W M Nixon

Then we swung by Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club at Cultra on the south shore of the lough, home to the Hilditch-built Fairy class against whom the Howth crowd regularly have inter-club races, and fortuitously met up with Northern Ireland Old Gaffers Association Chairman Gary Lyons for some very high-powered info exchange. As a result we round out this week’s blog with a photo which does justice to the Portaferry Sails & Sounds which he is organising in June.

Then on in haste for a sailing business lunch (delicious) at Royal Ulster YC with Vice Commodore Myles Lindsay, Rear Commodore Greg Taylor, Honorary Sailing Secretary Robin McKelvey and Press Officer Fiona Hicks, learning yet again that the RUYC clubhouse is such a store of sailing memorabilia that it’s a difffcult to concentrate on the formal agenda, but I think the Howth men and the Bangor men understood each other very well indeed.

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Myles Lindsay, Vice Commodore RUYC

Robin McKelvey13

Robin McKelvey, Honorary Sailing Secretary RUYC

The RUYC people have a lot on their plate, for no sooner is the Classics Regatta out of the way than they gear up at the beginning of July for an assembly in Bangor of cruising boats from the ICC, the RCC, the OCC, the CCC and other associated organisations, followed by a 150th Anniversary Cruise-in-Company along the Antrim coast and on to the West Coast of Scotland and the Hebrides.

But for the recce group from Howth, now it was down to Bangor Marina where manager Kevin Baird couldn’t have been more obliging, but the Howth 17 men all fell in love with the classic ketch Morna berthed right next to the marina office, so Fiona and I had to speed them on their way to the exhibition of 150 Years of sailing in Bangor Museum.

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The classic ketch Morna in Bangor Marina. Photo: W M Nixon

And then after that, duty done and work completed, I took them for the treat of the day, down among the hidden places of Strangford Lough to meet up with Kenny Smyth at his boatyard, which for any one who is into classic, vintage or traditional boats is heaven on earth. And of course it emerged that Kenny the King of the River Class, Whiterock’s historic Mylne-designed premier fleet, has recently become Commodore of Strangford Lough Yacht Club. So we headed for home into a gorgeous sunset having notched up two Commodores, one Vice Commodore, one Rear Commodore, one Chairman, one Honorary Sailing Secretary, two Marina Managers and one Press Officer. And if that’s not a good day’s work on the diplomacy and negotiating front, then I don’t know what is.

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The eternal enthusiast. Kenny Smyth of Whiterock runs a boatyard, he is also Commodore of Strangford Lough Yacht Club, he is River Class champion, and he just loves talking about boats night and day. Photo: W M Nixon

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The promise of summer – the classic and traditional season in the north starts with Portaferry Sails and Sounds on June 16th.

Published in W M Nixon

The Irish Cruiser-Racer Association (ICRA) is a unique organisation. “Run by sailors for sailors”, it is nevertheless a very land-centric administrative body whose only manifestation afloat as a group with its own identity is seen at the organisation of the annual ICRA Nationals. And the sense of it relating purely to the island of Ireland is accentuated by the fact that much of its work is essentially back-office activity, dealing with handicaps and all the other paraphernalia involved in providing the nation’s numerous and very diverse cruiser-racer fleet with meaningful racing. W M Nixon went to last Saturday’s ICRA Conference to get a flavour of what ICRA does, and came away both impressed and stimulated.

Sweeping along southwestward towards Limerick on our wonderful motorway system, while one’s body stays firmly on the dual carriageway, the mind can wander into any pathways it wishes. So we got to thinking that, in this age of increasing numbers of administrators trained to third level degrees in the running of not-for-profit organisations, it’s a bit odd to find a very successfully central organisation which is apparently run – and well run at that - on a Corinthian basis “by sailors for sailors”.

Surely in today’s climate, which favours key bodies such as this being run by highly-trained specialists on at least a semi-professional basis, a seemingly amorphous organisation which is “run by sailors for sailors” is verging on a clear case of the asylum being taken over by the lunatics?

We’d soon see. Meanwhile, why on earth hold an annual conference in Limerick? With Ireland’s population distribution changing so rapidly, skewing both towards the large urban centres and particularly towards the east coast and Dublin, surely anyone organising a national conference would find it attendee-friendly to look at the latest map of population weighting. As it happens, I’m not sure that such a map exists, but we’d like to think that with today’s computers it is possible to construct a map where, after due calculation, you could pinpoint to the exact centre of Ireland’s total population distribution.

So you set out heading for Limerick at an unfeasibly early hour thinking that maybe a central location such as pretty Portlaoise or tidy Trim would probably be Ireland’s central point in relation to population distribution. But after some smooth time on the road with the sense of the wonderful west coast coming ever nearer, you begin to wonder why ICRA didn’t make a proper job of it, and take us to Dingle where we can breathe that wonderful Atlantic air and think great thoughts of sailing the high seas.

Dis-a-Ray at Tarbert.2
Far from the pressures of the cities of the east and south coasts, Dis-a-Ray is moored in the peaceful surroundings of Tarbert, where the south shore of the Shannon Estuary has already become part of the Kingdom of Kerry. Photo: W M Nixon

As it is, though the Dubs may think of Limerick as being on the western seaboard, it’s actually remarkably central when you draw lines across Ireland between all the best sailing locations. And as we knew that the position of Commodore of ICRA was going to pass on Saturday from Nobby Reilly of Howth (the Dingle of the East Coast) to Simon McGibney, Limerick was just about spot on in terms of equal travel time. For although the new Commodore has Foynes YC on the Shannon Estuary as his home club, his Dehler 101 Dis-a-ray is actually moored at his home at Tarbert which is further west down the Estuary, so much so that Tarbert is in the Kingdom of Kerry.

We arrived in to find a virtually full house distributed around a room-circling table such as they use for international diplomatic conferences to make peace with rogue states, with the layout being planned so that everyone can be an equal participant. It was grand for those of us who had arrived in the nick of time to get a seat, as we’d the fully-equipped table in front of us (did anybody else find it the devil’s own job to open the rather good but tightly-wrapped little sucky sweets which are essential to a talking shop?), but being Ireland several people arrived late, the show was already on the road, and they’d to find a seat as best they could.

All of which meant that there was a bigger turnout than expected, which is good news for ICRA. And for those of us comfortably ensconced, it made for a fascinating throughput of information by a long list of speakers, even though the layout meant that networking was restricted to the one hour lunch break if - like many people - you were relying on the 3.30-3.45pm wrap-up to facilitate returning to Dublin or Cork or wherever for a completely different event that night.

From the beginning, the dominant theme was on how we get more people into sailing, and everyone blithely talked as though we’re offering Joe Public a warm and sunny Croatian sailing product right here in Ireland, cheerfully ignoring the fact the last two summers have been plain lousy in terms of good weather.

Certainly the sailing was great for the enthusiast, but can you imagine a newcomer to the rough and ready sailing world wondering where on earth the attraction of it all was to be found as they were blown and bashed around at what we thought of as the utterly wonderful ICRA Nationals at Kinsale in June, or took in the all-too-typical variety of Irish summer weather at the hugely successful Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in Dublin Bay in July?

Yet there is a fresh demand out there, and two of the morning’s speakers, Alistair Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire and Des McWilliam of McWilliam Sailmakers in Crosshaven, gave excellent talks on encouraging it, with Alistair showing us how his programme of moving beginners through dinghies and on into the school/club’s1720s, then became an inevitable progression into gaining experience and instruction on the school’s Prima 38 Lynx.

Alistair Rumball3.jpgThe mover and shaker. Alistair Rumball’s Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire is first port of call for many newcomers to sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

“Lynx has been a greater success than we could have ever dreamed of” he said. “She has been so booked out with people keen to learn about sailing a cruiser-racer that we haven’t been able to get as much actual racing with ISORA and so forth as we’d like. But for 2016, she’s being taken out of our Dun Laoghaire setup for long enough to be organised for a proper shot at the Volvo Round Ireland”.

Lynx sailing4
The double life of a Prima 38. The INSS’s Lynx in full racing mode in Dublin Bay (above), while below she is seen in early training mode as she takes a crew of beginners in cruiser-racing out for some formative experiences

Lynx sailing5

As of last weekend in Limerick, there were just two crew places left aboard Lynx for this year’s Volvo Round Ireland on June 18th, and they’ve probably been snapped up by now. But the Rumball presentation underlined the fact that there are people out there who are mad keen to get into cruiser-racing, and it was up to ICRA to guide its members as to how best to tap into these wannabee sailors, instead of bleating all the time about how hard it is to find crew.

Des McWilliam leapt into the same theme, and gave us a crash course in how to make crewing on your boat more attractive to strangers. Admittedly the experience of seven years of acute economic recession have understandably made those who have kept boats in racing commission more than a little stressed. But if they want to reap the benefits of having struggled to stay in the boat-owning stream, then they have to make their cruiser-racers pleasanter to sail on, and more effective racing machines.

The McWilliam message was blunt in the extreme. “As a sailmaker in Ireland, each year I will race actively at many venues on upwards of 40 boats, both evenings and weekends. I will experience many different management and sailing styles. At the end of the year looking back, I usually realise that there might be only ten to a dozen boats out of that total of forty to which I would gladly and freely return for the good sport, the efficient sailing, the successful racing, the camaraderie – the fun. The rest of them are just work, involving duty visits. Please remember this when you are setting up the running of your boat, and trying to encourage people to sail with you.”

Des McWilliam and Rory Staunton6
Des McWilliam of Crosshaven and Rory Staunton of Mayo. Des provided the meeting with some telling home truths about how attractive (or not) cruiser-racers throughout Ireland can be to sail on, while Rory Staunton led the charge in wondering why ORC and IRC cannot be amalgamated, and then went on to outline a new trailerable 33-footer he and an international group of friends are developing to make the incomparable west of Ireland a more accessible sailing area

We earned our lunch by going through an intensive session with Dobbs Davis of the Offshore Racing Congress, who had come to the conference with Zoran Grubisa to promote their measurement rule, which is used worldwide anywhere that IRC is not dominant, and in some key events such as the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, they are used in tandem, though IRC is currently the more-used system in that classic event.

It says everything about how Irish sailing punches way above its weight that these two guys thought it worth their while to come among us and evangelise for their system in a country which has a more-than-friendly relationship with the IRC and the people who run it. But it was fascinating stuff, making an input which added real spice to the day.

Davis is Chairman of the ORC’s Promotion & Development Committee, while Grubisa heads the Rating Officers Committee, and they run a system which is now the ISAF-approved rating method for the ISAF Offshore Worlds, which this year will be staged in Copenhagen in July, which as it happens is more or less the same time as the Royal Cork YC will be staging the new European IRC Championship in Volvo Cork Week at Crosshaven.

So the presence of the evangelists from the ORC at the ICRA conference could have opened up a right can of worms, but fair play to Dobbs Davis, he gave such an enthusiastic and lucid explanation of the completely transparent way in which ORC function that, for the time being at least, one’s instinctive loyalty to IRC was suspended out of intellectual curiosity.

Grubisa and Davis7
Leading Offshore Racing Congress officers Zoran Grubisa (left) and Dobbs Davis were in Limerick to evangelise for the ORC Rating system

While IRC still has one or two hidden elements – the “Black Box” factor – with the transparency of ORC, you can always see how different inputs are effecting the final figure. One-design sailors may find all this utterly yawn-making, but as Davis pointed out, although there are so many successful cruiser-racer One-Design classes in America that ORC has yet to gain significant traction there despite being first set up in the US forty years ago, elsewhere in the world more and more people are coming to ORC as they enjoy watching boat innovation and performance analysis interacting to make their sailing more interesting and the results indicative of pure sailing ability.

ORC system8
The approachability of the ORC system was presented as one of its advantages

ORC system9
The slice of the cake worldwide for the different rating systems

But as we all know, where IRC and OCR are run side-by-side, despite the IRC’s hidden elements the two outcomes are often very similar. And in Ireland where we have a soft spot for the old S&3 34s which set world alight in 1969-73, the fact that the veteran though beautifully restored S&S 34 Quikpoint Azzura was overall winner of the Rolex-Sydney Hobart Race under OCR, after so nearly doing it on IRC, caused a bit of heart-searching. But nevertheless Rory Staunton from Mayo SC spoke for many when he demanded to know why IRC and ORC couldn’t get together and resolve their small differences for the general benefit of the offshore racing fraternity. Dobbs Davis said his door was always open, but that began to feel a bit too reminiscent of the current efforts to form a government, so we were glad enough to take a break for lunch and then return to the rating topic, but from an entirely different point of view

The inevitable expense in maximizing your boat’s performance potential under either IRC or ORC made the sheer economy of ICRA’s Progressive ECHO system seem immediately attractive, and the lead-in the afternoon session by SCORA Commodore Ronan Enright even more apposite. Because the fact is, you could run the Progressive ECHO Handicap System without even knowing what a boat looks like, let alone having her dimensions measured do the last millimtre.

osullivan and enright10
Donal O’Sullivan of Dublin Bay SC, and Ronan Enright, Commodore SCORA, discussing sailing administration matters during the lunch break at Limerick. Enright went on to give an illuminating presentation about developments in Progressive ECHO Photo: W M Nixon

In the absence of ICRA’s ECHO supremo Denis Kiely - unavoidably absent for family reasons – Ronan Enright gave a quietly telling performance. It’s fascinating that though ECHO started life as the East Coast Handicap Organisation back around 1971-72, it’s now a nationwide service overseen by ICRA, and its most active area of development is in the cauldron of concentrated cruiser-racing which you find when the activities of Cork Habour and Kinsale are combined.

Basically, Progressive ECHO depends on the results of the most recent race, after which, if certain criteria have been fulfilled, the results are automatically re-computed to give boats a new rating based the supposition that they had all finished dead level on handicapped time. My own most recent experience of racing with it when it is being enthusiastically applied was in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, which was a perfect test-bed for the system, as it was a compact series with the same fleet throughout.

The result is a series-long level of commitment by boats and crews who, under a more brutal system, would have seen their interest and enthusiasm flag after Day Two or even earlier. So really the message is: If we’re trying to get people to enjoy sailing and particularly to enjoy racing which is what the non-involved most easily comprehend, then Progressive ECHO is doing more to get bums on boats than anything else in Irish sailing, for believe me you have never seen anything quite so heart-warming as the response of a crew who, under One-Design or fixed handicap systems, had not been at the races at all, yet suddenly under Progressive ECHO they find they’ve recorded a win.

Which was all good news but perhaps the most interesting revelation of all from Ronan Enright was that the top IRC racers around Cork are now taking a closer interest in their Progressive ECHO showing than there are in their IRC results. For under IRC, they know they’ll be in the top six, but each post-race adjustment of Progressive ECHO gives them a very clear message about just how well or not they were really doing on the day.

Tom MacSweeney of this parish then hosted a forum which basically came down to how sailing can present a more friendly and accessible response to people who might be vaguely interested, and could be potential sailing enthusiasts. This involved him drawing on his training as a critical journalist, for as he admitted, when he first turned up with his first sailing boat – a Ruffian 23 – in Crosshaven, everyone from Denis Doyle downwards immediately made him welcome. But we can all think of non-assertive characters who are great sailors, yet if they hadn’t been in sailing families in the first place, they might not have taken up the sport at all owing to the sometime apparently closed nature of “yachting”.

Achill yawls11
We learned that very little of an Achill yawl is showing above the water after she capsizes. This is how they look in proper order

Allied to Des McWilliam’s incisive look at boats which you like to be aboard, and boats which you definitely don’t, and it all provided food for thought, as too did John Leech of Irish Water Safety with his no-nonsense presentation about a mature approach both to safety, and to being rescued. In an interesting mix of images, he showed us a photo of what happens to an Achill yawl when it capsizes. The result is an awful lot of rather waterlogged traditional boat under the surface, and only a little bit showing with the crew perched on top. As Des McWilliam was probably the only other person present with any idea of what an Schill yawl in full health looks like, the least we can do here is show you a photo of them in good sailing order. Meanwhile, John Leech concluded by saying that when you call out the ASR helicopters, think rather of how you can prevent your mast – if it’s still standing – from interfering with the rescue. Don’t for heaven’s sake use up emotional energy thinking about how much it all costs. They’re on standby all the time, and you the taxpayer have paid for them in the first place.

We concluded with Rory Staunton seeking interest and opinions for the new 33ft trailerable One-Design. While we all hope to get down to Clew Bay to sail the prototype this summer, could I suggest that one of the most exciting projects on the Irish cruiser-racer horizon is WIORA Week 2017 in the Aran Islands. So when they’ve finally got around to fixing a date, maybe the promoters of the new 33-footers could arrange to have a flotilla of them in Kilronan in 2017 to give the class a rocket-assisted launching.

Meanwhile this year’s WIORA West Coast Championship is under the auspices of the Royal Western of Ireland Yacht Club at Kilrush from June 29th to July 2nd. There’s so much extraordinary history in being able to write that simple bit of information that I reckon we’ll have to give it a complete blog in the future.

As for the ICRA Nationals, they’re at Howth from June 10th to 12th with both IRC and Progressive ECHO being used, while Volvo Cork Week comes up in July after the Volvo Round Ireland race has been tidied away in late June.

Although last Saturday’s Limerick gathering was essentially a wide-ranging conference, it was also the changeover to the new Commodore, with Simon McGibney taking on the mantle from the energetic and enthusiastic Nobby Reilly whose own boat, the Mills 36 Crazy Horse, was seen in virtually every event, and looked like heading for the win in Class at the ICRA Nats in Kinsale last June until new big winds swept George Sisk’s WOW to the fore. During Nobby’s busy time in the top office, ICRA’s activities and its reach steadily expand, while thanks to the persuasive efforts of Anthony O’Leary, a Commodore’s Cup team was assembled which regained the trophy in 2014.

mcdonald reilly12Ross MacDonald and ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes in July 2014 after Ireland had won the Commodore’s Cup. At the ICRA Conference in Limerick last weekend, McDonald won a special award for his season’s results in 2015 with his X332 Equinox, while Nobby Reilly stood down after his successful years as Commodore, handing over the helm to Simon McGibney.

mcgibney sisk13
New ICRA Commodore Simom McGibney presents the “Boat of the Year” trophy to George Sisk of the Royal Irish Yacht Club, skipper of the Farr 42 WOW.

Work is going on behind the scenes to provide a strong defence this summer, but Anthony O’Leary wasn’t in Limerick to tell us about it, as he was away on his annual participation in America in the Viper 640 Championship, which just wouldn’t be the same if O’Leary wasn’t taking part - so much so that last year, he wasn’t present when his name came up as “Sailor of the Year” in Dublin, for he was away then too, Viper racing in the sun.

But other top sailors were there to round out the conference with the annual awards such as special performances by the likes of Dave Cullen with Checkmate XV and Ross Macdonald with Equinox and, while the ICRA Boat of the Year presentation, with warm acclamation, went to George Sisk of WOW, who not only admitted that his well-tested craft usually races with a crew of average age 53, but if he himself didn’t happen to be on board, the average age came down considerably………..And in case you think becoming ICRA Boat of the Year is all about glamour racing in sunshine, we close with a photo of WOW and the JPK 950 Alchimiste crawling towards the starting line for the Dun Laoghaire to Dingke race on the sort of damply windless evening that most folk would much prefer to spend comfortably at home.

sisk wow14
It isn’t always glamour and warm sunshine and pleasant breezes. 2015 ICRA Boat of the Year WOW on a damp and windless evening approaching the start of the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race with the JPK 960 Alchimiste.

Read also: ORC Interest From Ireland at the ICRA Conference

Published in W M Nixon
Page 3 of 15

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