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Displaying items by tag: Tom MacSweeney

11th March 2011

Marine is Back

I was pleased to hear Simon Coveney tell a presenter on a Cork local radio station that he had not been appointed just Minister for Agriculture but was also Minister for the Marine. He went further to tell the programme interviewer that he had been in boats since he could stand and had a deep interest in and commitment to the marine sphere and followed his father, Hugh, a former Minister for the Marine.

It is a reminder which I hope that the media in general will note and that his tile of Marine will be used as often as agriculture is. The general media has been notorious, in my view, for disregarding the marine sector unless there is disaster, emergency or controversy involved.

The return of the title 'Marine' to a Government Department is, to put it bluntly, a kick-in-the-ass which civil servants needed. It was a betrayal of this island nation's heritage when those in charge of the former Department of Transport held a meeting which decided to remove the title marine from the Department's name, even though the then Minister had been assigned the role of Minister for Transport and Marine. The man in charge of that Department, Noel Dempsey, did not demonstrate a lot of interest in the marine, being more noted for trying to shut down the coastal radio stations at Valentia and Malin, where he was beaten off by public opposition, which also happened when he tried to remove 24-hour rescue helicopter service in the south-east and for his introduction of laws which criminalised fishermen.

Hopefully, the restoration of 'Marine' to a Department's name will be the harbinger of better things for the marine sphere.

I have heard some disappointment expressed that the marine is not a department on its own, but what the Fine Gael and subsequently Coalition Programme for Government agreed by Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore said was: "Marine responsibilities will be merged under one Department, for better co-ordination in policy delivery."

They have been, though some of the finer detail remains to be seen, such as will the ports be moved away from Transport, to where port companies and commercial interests originally campaigned to have them moved? And how will the split of marine tourism work between Agriculture and Marine and the separate tourism department? A similar issue may arise in regard to sailing and sport, but it seems to me a positive step that the disregard which Fianna Fáil and the Greens showed for the marine sector is being changed.

It was also right to end a separate department for defence. With a small army and navy, smaller than the marine sector, it was nonsense that it should have been a department of its own.

Let us therefore, hope for the future and take a positive view of the change as being for the better.

Published in Island Nation
As I write this week's blog there is still no definite word emanating from the closed cloisters inhabited at present by the leading negotiating lights of Fine Gael and the Labour Party on the future governing of this island nation. It is unlikely that the future of the marine sphere is foremost in the minds of the negotiators and I wonder what will be the priority attached to the marine when the new Government is announced.

Fine Gael can, logically from the support which the party garnered in the General Election, be expected to dominate a Coalition Government. In that context, the question arises as to whether they will deliver on their pre-election manifesto commitment to re-establish the Department of the Marine?

The promise to do so was unequivocal, a clear undertaking that the situation created by the former Fianna Fail and Green Party Coalition which had decimated maritime issues by spreading them over several Departments of State, would be changed and all would be contained in one Department.

In the event of a Coalition being formed will we hear that "circumstances" have changed and adjustments must be made in the context of Coalition arrangements?

I had the opportunity to question Joan Burton of the Labour Party, one of the party negotiators, prior to the election at an event organised by the European Association of Journalists. She accepted that politicians had not paid enough attention to the marine sphere and said that this attitude should be changed and accepted that the nation could benefit economically as a result.

I hope that I am not being overly cynical towards politicians, born of long years of journalistic experience, in fearing that pre-election promises may be subjected to change.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie
Published in Island Nation

Is there no end to the achievements of Irish boaters against seemingly impossible odds?

The winter may have been a time of hibernation for some of us but as the stories in Afloat's March/April issue will bear out Irish sailors have been battling the elements all winter long.

James Carroll competed in January's Sydney-Hobart offshore race and, much closer to home, Paul A. Kay journeyed through snow and ice in December from Dun Laoghaire to a new marina on Valentia Island.
As if to prove a point that we're down but not out, a winter of results on foreign waters includes a win in the Mirror World Championships in Australia and a top Olympic result in Florida, USA.

They are gutsy performances from youth teams that shows, if nothing else, the next generation of Irish sailors is really up for a fight. All this plus lots, lots more on news-stands next week!

Selected contents from Ireland's only boating magazine include:

News

Surveyors Issue Boat Launch Warning, Buoyant Dinghies Buck the Market, Ice Diving in Ireland, German U-Boat Rediscovered in Cork Harbour, an Historic Trophy for South Pacific Dream Cruise, MGM open in Cork, Hugh Mockler joins Crosshaven Boatyard plus lots, lots more.

News Focus

A new masterplan for Dun Laoghaire harbour is badly needed but it needs buy in from all those that use it

Going Offshore

The tenth Dun Laoghaire to Dingle offshore race was launched in style

Marine Conference

Combating the downturn was the focus of a unique marine gathering on both sides of the Irish sea.

kit

Gear Review

New dinghy gear, a new Crosshaven boot from Dubarry, a new raincoat for girls and an upgrade for Musto's MPX.

islandnaton

This Island Nation

The decision to shut down the fog signals was based on a detailed risk assessment. Tom MacSweeney on the loss of fog horns

ol

Sailor of the Year

Anthony O'Leary of Cork is the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Year" in celebration of his outstanding achievements afloat nationally and internationally.

Tall Ships

W M Nixon looks at the realities of national sail training in the 21st Century.

Screen-shot-2011-03-03-at-09.32.25

Tall Ship Conference

Ireland could yet have a tall ship to replace the Asgard II and the Lord Rank, if a new group formed to press for a replacement is successful

Racing update

Ulstermen's World Title, Topper worlds for Dun Laoghaire, Two Irish campaigns line up for Figaro Race, SB3 Sailors Cry Foul at Dun Laoghaire Parking Fees and an Irish entry in the Moth worlds in Australia, Irish Mini 6.50 Campaign in Prospect.

miamigrab

Youth Worlds preview

Results achieved abroad this Winter are the backbone for further Irish youth
success

figarobgrab

Figaro Preview

Two fledgling Irish La Solitaire du Figaro campaigns edged closer to the start line last month

Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta has taken in 22 entries six months ahead of the first race of the biggest regatta in Irish sailing.

fireballgrab

Fireball Worlds preview

Dun Laoghaire's Noel Butler intends to continue his winning run in the Fireball class this season but the year ahead doesn't look so easy as the World Championships come to Sligo

Sovereigns cup preview

Up to 30 Quarter tonners will be at the Sovereigns Cup this year including one from New Zealand.

Shiver to deliver

A journey through snow and ice from Dun Laoghaire to Valentia Island

Sydney-Hobart Race

Outside of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Sydney Hobart is one of the world's most challenging offshore races. James Carroll Raced it in January.

Inland

As the cuts begin to bite, it may be time to look at the British direction for our waterways, writes Brian J Goggin

Dubarry Nautical Crossword

Soundings

A Google aerial photo proves useful navigating for Baldoyle Estuary

Published in News Update

I am reflecting this week on a varied list of maritime issues which have arisen in my writings on marine topics.

Following recent pieces I wrote about the attitude of political parties in the General Election towards the marine sector, I had a telephone call from a senior Fine Gael politician and, lo and behold, the party included the marine sector in its manifesto, pledging to restore the Department of the Marine, abolished by Fianna Fail. I await post-election developments with interest.

It has been a good week for those interested in protection of whales and dolphins. Hundreds of dolphins were spotted off the Old Head of Kinsale, apparently following shoals of herring and sprat on which they were feeding.

In the Antarctic the Japanese whaling fleet was forced to give in to pressure to stop culling. The Japanese have killed hundreds of whales every year, claiming this was for "scientific purposes," even though it has been identified worldwide as for human consumption. The fleet was ordered home by its Government after increasing international pressure.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group published its annual report this week. It was formed in December 1990, dedicated to the "conservation and better understanding" of cetaceans - whales, dolphins and porpoise - in Irish waters through "study, education and interpretation." IWDG turnover in 2010 was around €300,000. It has dealt with up to 10,000 queries a month for information on its website. A total of 92 strandings of 128 individual cetaceans was reported to the IWDG in 2010. This compares to 137 strandings of 169 animals for 2009.

This week oil prices rose because of the unrest in Libya and David Surplus, Chairman of B9 Energy Britain's largest windfarm operator, warned that sooner or later oil will run out. BP is examining the possibility of building a fleet of carbon-neutral, wind-powered sail ships planned, to carry world trade.

On the international sailing scene the new AC 45, forerunner of the next generation of America's Cup boats was launched in New Zealand and had its first capsize. The wing-sailed catamaran is designed for speed and close racing, capable of making up to 30 knots, while intended to be handled in tight, tactical courses. An exciting boat to sail, it will also be very testing of ability. The first capsize of the new boat occurred on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, hit by what was described as "a freak gust of wind," while the crew were doing maintenance on board before a sailing test.

FIRST_CAPSIZE_OF_ADMIRALS_CUP_45

Back in dock after the capsize

It capsized fully, ending upside down. Three support vessels were needed to pick up the crew and right the boat which was sailed back to its base in Auckland. There was damage to the wing sail, but no injuries to the crew. However, helmets may be an additional precaution needed for sailing these boats, which are to be used in the AC World Series! This will be a circuit of eight regattas for which venue bids are being made at present, with fleet and match racing, to raise the profile of high-performance sailing on worldwide television. Racing is to start in July, with regattas running until May of next year, leading into preparations for the next full AC series in the bigger AC72 catamarans in 2013 in San Francisco.

As the past week showed, there is always something interesting in the sea.

This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation
18th February 2011

Now There is None

I remember the pride I felt when describing on television the Parade of the Tall Ships down the River Suir from Waterford in 2005. Three Irish tall ships led it. First was ASGARD II, Ireland's national tall ship; followed by the DUNBRODY from New Ross and then the JEANIE JOHNSTON from Kerry.

What a magnificent sight it was as the three Tall Ships, each flying the Tricolour, headed the fleet of the gracious ships of sail from all over the world.

How different it will be in July when the world's Tall Ships again parade down the Suir. There will be no Irish national sailing ship to lead the parade. A number of private Irish entries are expected at Waterford from June 30–July 3 amongst the 70 vessels from around the world when the city has the honour starting the race. In 2005 about half-a-million people visited the city while the Tall Ships were there.

The lack of a national tall ship is another example of governmental maritime neglect, directly due to the decision of former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, T.D. After the sinking of ASGARD he publicly committed the Government to its replacement, but after receiving insurance compensation money for its loss, he put the money into coffers of the Department of Finance and closed down the national sail training programme. There was a big difference between what he promised and what he did, a disregard for the maritime sphere which it is hard to forgive. I also recall how former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern did not visit Waterford during the 2005 race, when it was the biggest tourist event in the country. When I broadcast my report expressing astonishment at this snub government sources and Fianna Fail didn't like it. Truth in the news can be painful!

The organisers made contacts about the DUNBRODY, which continues to earn income at the New Ross quayside where it is moored as a tourist attraction and with the JEANIE JOHNSTON, moored at the Dublin Docklands.

However, neither will be taking part, the organisers have confirmed, tough they said that it was expected that about 100 young Irish trainees would sail aboard tall ships in the race, half of them with funding support from local authority, business and other sources. A group of Irish sailors have also indicated they are making arrangements to charter a UK-registered vessel the JOHANNA LUCRETIA for the event.

Once again the Irish Government has sunk to the bottom where maritime matters are concerned.

It was announced this week in Waterford that Fáilte Ireland has made a significant financial and marketing commitment to this year's event, though the financial figure was not disclosed .A free festival programme will feature street acts; comedy; international and home-grown artists, nightly fireworks, an artisan food village and an atmosphere which the organisers say "will thrill people of all ages and nationalities."

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation
Over the past few seasons the use of lifejackets by crews on racing yachts has increased. There was a time when jackets were bulky, awkward and difficult to use in racing situations. The arrival of lighter, collar-type jackets, with built-in, automatic gas inflation bottles changed the situation.

The wearing of jackets is not compulsory, but a decision for the individual sailor, though Skipper can insist that crews use them while racing.

In the United States a debate is underway as to whether the wearing of jackets at all times on racing boats should be made compulsory by law. Regulations here require that everyone on board any boat of seven metres or less, approximately 22 feet, must wear lifejackets. They must be carried aboard for everyone on any vessel regardless of size. Every child less than 16 years of age must wear a lifejacket or personal floatation device at all times on deck while the craft is underway.

As owners prepare boats for racing this season, these regulations should be kept in mind. Enforcing the law, or even effectively checking its application remains patchy. Introducing laws is easier than implementing them, particularly in a yacht racing situation. Sailing clubs have their own enforcement arrangements and insist on buoyancy aids for dinghy racing.

Safety on the water is an issue for each individual, but skippers/owners would be well advised to protect themselves in this litigious nation by insisting on the wearing of lifejackets by crew members during racing. Accidents will happen. Preparation is best.

The national sailing association, the ISA, is to nominate teams for this year's Nations Cup match racing. The finals will be held at the USA Sailing Centre in Wisconsin from September 13-18.

The Irish Sailing Association this week sought expressions of interest from skippers who would like to represent Ireland, in the first instance at the European Regional Finals in Gydnia, Poland, from July 19-23.

Ireland is drawn in Europe Group II in the open and women's classes. Expressions of interest are needed to the ISA by next Tuesday, February 8. Selection will be based on performance in the ISA Match Race Championships last year and ISAF ranking positions.

2-handed class" racing in this year's Dun Laoghaire Week in early July. A number of skippers have already expressed interest and there may be UK boats. He wants to know if any South Coast sailors are interested. Contact Olivier who is Sailing Manager at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, phones 012801198 or 2805725 or by Email to Olivier at: [email protected]

Vinnie O'Shea of the RCYC has been elected Commodore of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association (SCORA). Jackie Kenefick of Schull Harbour SC is Executive Officer and Michael Murphy of both the Schull and Crosshaven clubs remains as Treasurer and PRO. The Association is to discuss class bands and handicapping.

This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

More on lifejackets

http://www.afloat.ie/safety/lifeboats/item/13619-majority-of-lifejackets-fail-lifeboat-test/

Published in Island Nation
It was a sailor from Plymouth on the south-west coast of England, named Bob Salmon, who originally came up with the idea of a "mini" transAtlantic Yacht Race.

In the late 1970s he wanted to develop a "relatively affordable" solo offshore race in contrast to the trend towards bigger and more expensive boats in other trans-ocean races, such as the OSTAR.

With its strong maritime tradition it was appropriate that Plymouth should be at the forefront of the initiative. It was from there in 1620 that the Pilgrim Fathers sailed for the New World and established settlements in what became the USA. And it was on Plymouth Hoe that Sir Francis Drake is said to have played a game of bowls before setting off to engage the Spanish Armada in battle in 1588.

From Bob Salmon's initiative the Mini Transat was developed, the yachts limited to 21-feet maximum.

It is the smallest Open Class trans-ocean race and has been a breeding ground for professional ocean racers. There is now a move to get Ireland involved. This reflects the growing interest in short-handed sailing here despite the attitude of the Government which has rules in place that are regarded as discouraging this type of racing.

The Irish Double and Solo Racing Group was launched last year to develop a vibrant community of Irish solo and double-handed sailors as well as establishing a regular sailing calendar here.

In the past two years Irish sailors achieved remarkable success in short-handed ocean racing. Damian Foxall won the double handed Barcelona World Race with French co-skipper Jean Pierre-Dick on their Open 60 PAPREC-VIRBAC. Cobh man Barry Hurley won his class and finished 4th overall in the OSTAR (Original Single-handed Transatlantic Race) in his JOD 35 DINAH. Besides these victories there has been a large increase in the number of Irish sailors participating in solo and double-handed sailing. Several are travelling to events in the UK and France where this type of sailing is firmly established.

Now Michael McKeon a member of the Double and Solo Group is the man spearheading interest in the Transat here.

He has 30 years' sailing experience and, following the success of a series of "Mini open days" which he ran in Dublin aboard his own boat, HYPOMENE, Michael wants to rally "interested parties" to help campaign it as the 'Irish Mini' during the 2011 season and create the Mini Transat Class in Ireland.
"The sailing level is from pure amateur up to professional," he says. "The Mini gathers an average of 500 subscribers, most of them competitors coming from all kind of professions, from the carpenter to the engineer, the nurse to the steward, the journalist to the professional skipper. Anyone interested in the Mini 6.50 class and in sampling short-handed racing the 'French way' is welcome."

More information is available from Michael at: Email: [email protected] or Mobile 086-8494924

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Check out our Solo sailing stories here

Published in Island Nation

I had to read the figures twice to make sure that I was seeing them correctly. The second reading made me even more angry than the first.

They were, at last, a definitive figure of how much the stupidity of Irish politicians and the ignorance and disregard of the maritime sphere by the Government have cost this nation – over a billion Euros in one year.

There is no way the Government can weasel its way out of this revelation, nor any excuse the un-named civil servants responsible can make to avoid the accusation that this is a massive economic waste.

The Marine Institute is the Government's own respected authority on maritime affairs, the voice of the State on marine research and it has valued the total available catch of fish off Ireland last year at €1.18 billion, for a total of 994,155 tonnes.

That is an enormous figure, indicating huge potential wealth for this cash-strapped nation in the middle of an economic disaster. But of this total value of seafood, Ireland was only entitled to catch €0.19 billion. Foreign fishing fleets had exclusive rights to take the rest of the fish from Irish waters.

No wonder I had to read the figures a second time to make sure I was seeing them correctly at a time when the value of our food exports has been shown to be one of the top earners for the nation. How much more could have been earned if Irish fishermen could catch all that fish and have it processed in Ireland, creating onshore jobs in ancillary businesses as well as at sea?

The total value for 2010 could be even higher than €1.18 billion because the Institute prepared its figures in advance of the annual fisheries negotiations in Brussels in December. Ireland as a nation and the country's fishing industry in particular are likely to have lost out even more heavily to other EU countries.

Effectively, Ireland handed over around €1billion of its natural economic resources to other EU countries. Mark McCarthy, Editor of The Marine Times, the national fishing industry paper, described the figures as "truly frightening."

"This is a nation with some of the richest fishing grounds in the world where the coastal communities are being financially starved and frustrated through their inability to catch their own fish, because they are not allowed to do so."

It is hardly any wonder that Irish fishermen, forced to tie up their boats at the quaysides of Irish fishing ports and watch as foreign vessels unload into those ports, are bitter and frustrated.

Ebbie Sheehan of Castletownbere, Chairman of the Irish Fishermen's Organisation, asks why fishermen are "so badly treated when we look at the economic situation today?"

The Marine Institute, our national maritime scientific and research organisation, says that its estimate of the value of fishing opportunities in Irish waters is "conservative" and that, in order to prepare the figures in early December, it based them on 2009 values

That would make the total value even higher and the Institute pointed out that of the total catch of 994,155 tonnes, Ireland's fishermen were entitled to take only 18 per cent of the catch. This was only 16 per cent of the total value.

"These figures exclude valuable inshore fisheries, such as lobster and whelk which are not currently managed by total allowable catches within the Common Fisheries Policy," the Institute pointed out.

As Mark McCarthy described it, when one considers the importance of using our natural resources for the benefit of Irish people and the failure of our political leaders to see and understand this, what has been revealed is "truly frightening".

  • This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie
Published in Island Nation

My first experience of racing was in a National 18 wooden dinghy and it was rough. Inexperienced as a crewman during a race in Monkstown Bay, I slit the top of a finger across a chain plate while pulling in the headsail sheet.

Blood started to pour out of the cut. With the dinghy having only a short freeboard I did what seemed best. To avoid getting blood on the sail which is a heinous crime aboard sailing boats, I put my hand in the water to wash away the blood.
A roar from astern heralded the Skipper's response:
"Get your b....hand out of the water, you're causing drag," which meant I was being accused of the crime of slowing the boat down in a race where there was little wind and every bit of forward momentum was important.
I began to explain and made the mistake of asking where I should put my bloodied finger!
The answer is not printable, but taught me that National 18s didn't take competitive sailing lightly.
I grew to love those boats, their beautiful lines, their speed and their demands on the crew with a spinnaker up. Inevitably, with the cost of maintaining wooden boats, the glass fibre boats (GRP), took over, but the National 18 Class kept going, primarily based in Crosshaven.
Then the 1720s arrived, named after the year when the Royal Cork Yacht Club was founded, powerful new boats which were predicted to wipe out the National 18s. They didn't. Despite becoming very popular for a time, their support declined and the National 18s continued, not alone surviving, but strengthening
This week the Class has announced that it intends to host "the largest gathering of National 18s in the history of this legendary boat."
Next year's Class Championships, better known as the Cock O' the North and sailed in alternative years in Ireland and the UK, where the National 18 is also popular, will be held in Crosshaven from July 24 to 29.
"We are calling on everyone interested to get in touch and take part in what is going to be a great occasion, whether you are a former 18 sailor or someone looking for a new challenge," Class Captain Peter O'Donovan told me. "We are putting in a big effort to get former 18 sailors and their boats back on the water."
It is hoped that at least 50 boats will take part "and perhaps even more," said Peter who has been trawling class records to find former owners and boats which will be arranged in three divisions for the event.
"We decided to include a Classics section, which will encourage those who owned the beautiful wooden, clinker boats, to sail again with us. Some of these boats have reappeared in Crosshaven, we know of others in West Cork and further afield," said Peter.
There will be a section for the "Penultimates," the older fibreglass 18s which "have been hiding in garages, just waiting to be taken out again" and the "Ultimates," the modern fibreglass boats at the front of the present fleet.
"We want to make this a special event and so far there has been interest from Schull, Baltimore, Waterford, Wexford, Arklow and Lough Derg. Further afield, we expect to see visitors from Scotland, the Isle of Man, Essex, Tamesis and Chichester Harbour and we have even had a request for information from Germany."
One of the famous boat building family in Arklow, James Tyrrell, is amongst those who have owned and sailed a National 18. Another sailor of the boats was Peter Crowley, present Chairman of the Irish Sailing Association.
He sailed with Tommy Dwyer from Monkstown who is regarded as an icon of the National 18 fleet in Cobblerod. Tommy now sails Das Boot.

_MG_3053v2

Fun in the National 18. Photo: Bob Bateman

"She was recovered from the bottom of Cork Harbour and I refurbished her. said Tommy, "We named her after the U-boat which featured in the film of that name."
Tommy has been sailing National 18s for over 40 years. Every year his name has been amongst the trophy winners.
"For those interested in sailing, we would like to hear from those who would like to crew in the championships," Peter O'Donovan told me. "In addition, we are compiling a list of boats available for charter across the three divisions. For anyone not looking to sail, but just to be part of the event, we will also require assistance with rescue vessels, committee boats and other aspects of the event. It is also hoped to put together a collection of photographs from days gone. We would like to hear from anybody with material. Former 18 sailors who cannot get involved in the event could join us at the Class Dinner and renew acquaintances."
Anyone interested can contact the National 18 class by Emailing Peter O'Donovan at [email protected] or on phone 087 2491720 or Email Kieran O'Connell at [email protected]
The original idea for the building of National 18s was that of Frank Knowling of Whitstable YC in the UK, who later became known as the 'father' of the class. In 1938 he wanted an 18-foot dinghy, suitable for day sailing, yet fast enough to be of interest to racing sailors and at a reasonable cost.

The UK national sailing association and Yachting World magazine organised a design competition won by well-known designer Uffa Fox with a proposal for a clinker-built wooden boat. Another major designer, ¸, had also submitted a proposed boat. The first National 18 was named 'Hurricane,' owned by Stanley Beale and sailed at Whitstable.

It was not until after World War that building of 18s got underway. The Class Association was established in 1947 and by 1950 fleets had appeared at clubs around the coast of Britain and Ireland.

Seventy-two years after the first moves to build National 18s they still survive, a tribute to a great boat.

echo

This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation

City Quay in the centre of Dublin can be a cold place when the wind whips upriver from the open sea.

There was a 'bite' in the wind as I stood there in late November last year, recording the sounds of remembrance. Men, women and children stood in front of a monument where, on most days, traffic pours past and the great majority of people in those vehicles may not realise they are passing a hallowed spot which remembers men without whom this nation would have ground to a halt. This nation may be in a state of "economic war" at present, it was in a real state of war when those men died.

Every year, on the second last Sunday of November, this gathering takes place, when the men of the Irish mercantile marine who lost their lives at sea during the Second World War are remembered. Mass is celebrated in the City Quay Parish Church. Then there is a short walk to the Seamen's Memorial where wreaths are laid. That is followed by tea, coffee and a chat in the parish hall where it is a time of memories for former seafarers and their families. Friendships are renewed as the "family of the sea" gathers. In the afternoon, there is another Memorial Service St. Patrick's Cathedral.

These are poignant occasions which, in recent years, have been extended to embrace, remember and honour all Irish seafarers who have died at sea. The Maritime Institute of Ireland organises the event. Its Cork Branch also holds a remembrance service in November.

The month of November is an important one in the history of Irish maritime affairs.

It was on November 14, 1984 that the then Irish Government, a Fine Gael/Labour Coalition delivered a shattering blow to the Irish maritime industry. They put the national shipping company, Irish Shipping, into liquidation.

Those who took that decision have since put distance between themselves and the maritime sector. Garrett Fitzgerald was Taoiseach; Alan Dukes was the Minister for Finance in the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Government which made that controversial decision, putting the first Irish State company into liquidation. Seafarers who had rallied to the call to help save the nation when the company was set up in World War Two were abandoned to their fate. Politicians did not want to remember that, at a time when neutral Ireland was being denied vital supplies by warring nations, seafarers saved the nation from disaster. The politicians who ruled the nation in 1984 abandoned them.

Shortly after they abandoned Irish Shipping, the Government was quick to rescue Allied Irish Banks and protect shareholders over the consequences of rash investment in insurance. Banks were more important than seafarers. It seems that not a lot has changed today in the attitude the Government takes towards banks, in comparison with the way it treats the people of this island nation.

• The Annual National Commemoration Services for Irish Seafarers will be held at 11.30 am this Sunday, November 21, in the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, City Quay, Dublin. Wreaths will be laid afterwards at the Irish Seaman's National Memorial on City Quay. There will also be a memorial ceremony of Evensong at 3.15 pm in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

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