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When the Irish Squib Class signed off their 2021 season with boats from all parts of the country taking part in the successful though socially-distanced Freshwater Regatta for four national keelboat classes at Dromineer on Lough Derg in October, the parting message of hope was: “See you in Kinsale next June”.

Even then, when no-one knew what the future might bring and omicron was still only something in the ancient Greek alphabet, the sport at Dromineer had been such a booster in itself that optimism was the mood of the moment. And despite soaring adverse graphs since, there’s no escaping the feeling that Kinsale – with its new offshore challenge, the Inishtearaght Race Round the Blaskets in May, and the Bandon Co-op Squib Nationals in June (June 19th to 24th) - is emerging as a pace-setter in getting the 2022 season up to speed.

Squib action for the October Freshwater Regatta on Lough Derg. Photo: W M NixonSquib action for the October Freshwater Regatta on Lough Derg. Photo: W M Nixon

As well it might be. It just has so much going for it, in terms of the superb natural harbour and the picturesque port town, with its south-facing location in the deep south of Ireland where summer arriving earlier than anywhere else. Thus the Kinsallions (or should that be Kinsaleans?) would be letting themselves down - and everyone else too - if they didn’t realise the full potential of a port which is so complete it could comfortably be the ultimate computer-generated creation for the dream of a perfect Irish sailing centre, were it not already so very much abundantly in existence.

Yet as any observer of the national and international sailing scene will be well aware, Kinsale Yacht Club builds on the blessings of its location. It is renowned for its hospitable enthusiasm in sharing the attractions of its many sailing advantages with visitors from near and far, whether they be racing or cruising.

 Summer perfection. Squib racing at Kinsale. Photo KYC Summer perfection. Squib racing at Kinsale. Photo KYC

Under Commodore Matthias Hellstern and his team, they’ve taken on board the pandemic-compliant lessons learned during 2021 when they successfully hosted a socially-distanced Sovereigns Cup series as well as other events. And though everyone hopes that the COVID-19 situation will have improved out of all recognition by the early summer, the Kinsale YC volunteers now know well that you should plan in a way that can cope with setbacks while taking full advantage of any improvements.

Kinsale is a place where the colourful 19ft Squib keelboats seem at their happiest, so much so that almost all of Bob Bateman’s photos of them racing there seem to be in bright sunshine, with the little boats and their crews exuding joy in the sea and sailing. But then, the Squib has a built-in happiness factor, for it can be more or less just whatever you want it to be.

Bob Bateman impression of Squibs at Kinsale – you’d get a suntan from just looking at this image… Robert BatemanBob Bateman impression of Squibs at Kinsale – you’d get a suntan from just looking at this image…..Photo: Robert Bateman

For if you demand a boat around this size which provides really hairy high-speed sport and boy racers to go with it, then the SB20 is your only man. And if you need a comparable boat in which racing is the be-all and end-all of its existence, then it’s the Flying Fifteen for you. But if you want a keelboat in this size range which isn’t priced off the planet yet can provide real sit-in comfort and user-friendly options for family day cruising in addition to an excellent racing programme, then the Squib ticks all the boxes.

Thus it’s understandable that the idea of pandemic emergence for the Squibs and sailing generally could best be served by a joint Irish-British Squib championship in Kinsale was enthusiastically saluted from the moment it went up the flagpole, and it will simply be known as the Squib Nationals. Those who would be pedantic in querying the validity of this title should rest easy, for it has been done before with notable success, way back in 1996 in Howth.

The Howth Squib fleet is of modest size these days, but where else would you find a lighthouse with colourful floral window-boxes? Photo: Annraoi BlaneyThe Howth Squib fleet is of modest size these days, but where else would you find a lighthouse with colourful floral window-boxes? Photo: Annraoi Blaney

In those days Howth was the happening place for Squibs, whereas nowadays they do well to muster double figures, though the class is currently on the up again. But 26 years ago, the Peninsula was awash with the little boats. Despite the fraught political situation - for this was still two years before the Good Friday Agreement - they hunted regularly with the English and Welsh fleets, and when it was agreed that they’d run the combined championship at Howth in June, a reverse invasion took place to such good effect that on one particular day, Tuesday 25th June 1996 with key organizer Dave Murnane pushing everyone afloat, they managed a hundred boats on the starting line.

Ghosts from the past – a hundred Squibs making an excellent fleet start at Howth in 1996. Photo: Mandy Murnane, courtesy Dave MurnaneGhosts from the past – a hundred Squibs making an excellent fleet start at Howth in 1996. Photo: Mandy Murnane, courtesy Dave Murnane

At the front end of the fleet the pace was ferocious, but it was only right and proper that the overall winners should be Stuart Brewer and Paul Manning of the Royal Corinthian YC in Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex. For it’s part of Squib mythology that the concept of the boat originated from the local doctor having a couple of pints with designer/builder Oliver Lee in the pub in Burnham in late 1966. It turned into a brain-storming session, as the doctor had the complete distinctive blue sails and rig for an Enterprise dinghy but with no boat to go with it all, so he wondered if Lee could design him a little keelboat suitable for a sailor of advancing years which would make use of this redundant rig.

Just in case there was any subsequent doubt, the caption made it very clear.Just in case there was any subsequent doubt, the caption made it very clear. 

Quite how a rig of blue sails for a 13ft 3in racing dinghy designed by Jack Holt with river racing a priority became a suit of tanned sails for a 19ft keelboat designed by Oliver Lee and noted for its seagoing power is anyone’s guess. But for 2022 there’s a certain symmetry to all this, for although there were few if any Enterprise dinghies around Howth in 1996 or any other time, in their day Kinsale was a stronghold of the Enterprise class, for they were attractive-looking boats and their river-oriented rig with a huge mainsail made them extremely entertaining to race in a big seaway – sailing conditions which are not exactly unknown in the waters outside Kinsale’s glorious natural harbour.

However, back in 1996, it was two GP14 sailors from Sutton – Ruan O Tiarnaigh (who now sails an X38 from Belfast Lough) and Stephen Boyle, who were best of the Irish in the Squib mega-championship at fourth overall. But as the series was taking place at the same time as the Round Ireland Race (won that year by Michael Boyd in the J/35 Big Ears), photographers were scarce in Howth, but happily the late Mandy Murnane was there with her little happy-snap camera to get admittedly spectral proof that there were indeed a hundred boats on the starting line. And fair play to them, as a fleet they’re making a very good start.

So how will numbers stack up for 2022s Squib Nationals at Kinsale? As of today (Friday, January 14th) there are already 44 in the box.

Squib Nationals at Kinsale

It’s a list which certainly deserves examination, as it gives an excellent idea of the spread of the class and the kind of people involved, with the first sign-up being by Dick Batt, the sailmaker of Bosham on Chichester Harbour, who so enjoys racing his Squib in Ireland that he and Pamela have had their boat based here for the past couple of years.

It all started with two men in a pub…….the Squib very successfully fills a specific niche in the market.It all started with two men in a pub…….the Squib very successfully fills a specific niche in the market.

As mentioned, the most recent major gathering was the Freshwater Regatta at Dromineer in mid-October, where the overall winners were Cultra’s RNIYC crew of Gordon Patterson & Ross Nolan, while the runners-up were Kinsale’s Ian Travers and Keith O’Riordan.

But Ian Travers will be doing well if he actually races in June’s big championship, as he’s the Regatta Director, for the Travers family are a clan accustomed to putting their heads on the block for the good of sailing – his father Brendan was the prime force in persuading Shannon Development to install the vast improvements which made possible the marina and usefully-sheltered training waters at Kilrush in County Clare.

Ian Travers and Keith O’Riordan with the Squibs nicely under control racing in the Outer Harbour at Kinsale

However, in best Kinsale style, Ian Travers has assembled a team of formidable talents in support, as they include Michael O’Sullivan, John & Mary Stanley, Denis & Ger Kiernan, Frank McGowan, Fiona “The Pirate” Ward, and Class Captain Richard Calnan, while the broader Squib community is represented by NSOA Organiser Peter Richards and their Chairman Dick Batt, with the always informative and entertaining online Squib Forum being on the strength through Chairman Robert Marshall of Killyleagh.

Yet even with such a team, for complete success an event like this needs to be embedded into the community from which it is being sailed, so when I commented on the main sponsors being Bandon Co-op which you’d scarcely think of in a maritime context, Ian Travers responded that they’re very much part of the fabric of Kinsale’s life and commerce. For indeed if you head directly inland away up the narrow and winding streets away from Kinsale’s glamorously maritime waterfront, you’ll very quickly find yourself in the midst of rich and fertile farmland which would have Jeremy Clarkson eating his heart out.

Co-sponsors include Cork County Council, Holt Marine, Hyde Sails and Batt Sails, and very importantly the transport partner is Irish Ferries to get the cross-water entries across as efficiently and economically as possible.

If the pandemic does clear enough and we learn to live with whatever new circumstances evolve, the guess is we might be looking at 80 boats, as already the defending British champion Mike Budd has his name in the hat, and so too has Irish champion Ross Kearney. But with racing of that calibre guaranteed, who knows what talents from other classes might be tempted to take temporary flight in a Squib, for the sense of community of the class was such that the late and much-lamented Jack Roy – despite his many sailing commitments at national and international level – was never happier than when taking his essential dosage of Squib racing.

His Happy Place….the much-missed Jack Roy particularly cherished his time spent with his friends in the Squib ClassHis Happy Place….the much-missed Jack Roy particularly cherished his time spent with his friends in the Squib Class

For some, Squibs are for life – Dick Hewett, whose CV included being Royal Sailing Master on the International Dragon Class Bluebottle, was happily and successfully racing his Squib every Cowes Week until well into his eighties. For others, the Squib exactly fills the bill for use as the versatile tribal boat at a certain stage of family development.

Thus for the relatively brief period we were involved with the Squibs at Howth, we day-cruised en famille even more than we raced, even though the racing was a busy programme with the Lambay Race – for which the Squibs are ideal - at its peak.

That’s all rather a long time ago now. In this happily blurry family sailing snap, one of the very young sailors on our Squib Huppatee has since recorded some formidable offshore racing success, but now as a family man himself has gone into Howth 17 ownership.

Added value. The Squibs provide great racing, yet they can be used for family day cruising as well. Photo: W M NixonAdded value. The Squibs provide great racing, yet they can be used for family day cruising as well. Photo: W M Nixon

As for the one wolfing a sandwich at the helm, he now lives in a very ancient thatched house on the quay at Bosham on Chichester Harbour, just along the shore from Dick Batt’s sail-loft. The coast is very low-lying thereabouts, and thus our big son – with two very able junior sailors of his own – lives in the only house I know which is fitted with a large and very powerful bilge-pump.

But his life is easy compared to the pub just three doors along, which is even lower-lying. With rising sea levels, their back door had to be replaced with a complete door unit salvaged from a submarine which was being scrapped. It came with all the gear including the very accessible activating wheel which makes it all totally watertight. When a big tide comes surging up Bosham Creek, think Das Boot…

Published in W M Nixon
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Preparations at Kinsale Yacht Club for the Bandon Co-op Squib National Championships 2022 are off to a fabulous start with 42 teams entered to date from the UK and Ireland. Entries thus far availed of an attractive early bird entry option which closed at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Entries have been received from Squib strongholds across the UK and Ireland and include many past and present champions, together with long-standing supporters of the class, all the ingredients to serve up a top-class National Championships.

To help encourage early registration, Kinsale Yacht Club included all early bird entries into a draw, the winner of which was refunded their entire entry fee. The draw was won by Malcolm Hutchings and Andy Carley’ on “Lady Penelope” from the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club.

"It is clear Kinsale is an attractive proposition for Squib owners"

Speaking after the draw, Regatta Director Ian Travers congratulated Malcolm and Andy, and indicated “Kinsale Yacht Club is so excited to be hosting a dual championship of this calibre and it is wonderful to see such a high level of early commitment from the class. In conversation with many of the entries, the pent-up demand and enthusiasm for the event since its unfortunate cancellation in 2020 is brimming. It is particularly encouraging to see several competitive under-25 teams and helms entered, a cohort of sailors completely new to the class. The prospect of UK and Irish fleets racing together and experiencing all that Kinsale has to offer the visiting sailor is proving attractive. Preparations are well advanced, and we look forward to welcoming all our local, national and overseas friends to Kinsale in June.”

The National Squib Owners Association (NSOA), Chairman, Dick Batt, expressed his delight at the early uptake. “It is clear Kinsale is an attractive proposition for Squib owners to come together to race and socialise as one fleet. This early momentum should be a clear signal to those who have not yet entered, not to miss the party.”

The Bandon Co-op UK and Irish Squib National Championships are scheduled to take place in Kinsale from 19th to 24th June 2022. With nine races over six days, the event offers the perfect balance of close one design racing on the water with the unique shoreside experience only Kinsale can offer.

The Notice of Race, online entry and current entry list are available at Bandon Co-op Squib National Championships 2022 - Kinsale Yacht Club ( Further information is available by emailing [email protected]

Published in Kinsale
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A fleet of sixteen boats took part in the final race of the Kinsale Yacht Club October/November Series on Sunday 28th November. Northerly winds meant that the Race Officer, Donal Hayes, was able to send the fleet on a beat up the harbour to the Bostoon Buoy followed by a run out the harbour via a series of gybe marks.

Going into the final day race in Class 1 Sammy Cohen’s Gunsmoke on 17 points held a narrow lead over David Riome & Mark Leonards’s Sigma 33 Valfreya on 19 points.

In Class 2, there was a tie for first place with both Martin Hargrove’s Deboah and Albert O’Neill’s Sallybelle on 13 points each.

On the day Sammy Cohen managed to hang onto the lead in Class 1 with a fifth-place enough to secure the overall lead and the Class 1 trophy. Valfreya retained second position.

A fleet of 16 boats took part in the final race of the Kinsale Yacht Club October/November SeriesA fleet of 16 boats took part in the final race of the Kinsale Yacht Club October/November Series

In Class 2 a sixth place was enough to secure victory for Martin Hargrove’s Deboah thanks to a second discard that kicked in after race 7. Ailleacht and Sallybelle shared second position with 12 points each.

Martin Hargrove’s DeboahMartin Hargrove’s Deboah

Following the race, the Cruiser and White Sails fleets held their AGM.

The incoming class captains are Brian Carroll (Cruisers) and Albert O’Neill (White Sails). Thanks were expressed to the outgoing class captains (Finbarr O’Regan, Cruisers and Mark Leonard, White Sails).

The final cruiser race of the season will be the Gunsmoke Bell trophy race to be held on St. Stephens Day.

Full results available are here 

Published in Kinsale
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At Kinsale Yacht Club on Sunday, Stephen Lysaght’s Reavra Too an Elan 333 continued her successful arrival into Fleet 1 of the White Sails October/November Series.

Having won her first race the previous week she repeated the victory on Sunday in race 6 of the White Sails series under IRC handicap.

Samuel Cohen’s Gunsmoke II took second place and the league leader, Valfreya, Riome/M.Leonard) was third and so remains first overall on 10 points. Gunsmoke is second on 15 and Meridian (Thomas Roche) still holds third place on 19 points.

In ECHO Fleet 1 Gunsmoke, on 17 points, has taken over the lead, two ahead of Valfreya, with Cirrus (Gerard Campbell) four points further back.

ECHO Fleet 2 race winner was Albert O’Neill’s Sallybelle, with Crème de la Crème (Tom Davis) second and Ailleacht (Denis Buckley) third. Martin Hargrove’s Deboah finished fourth and is now tied with Sallybelle on 13 points at the top overall, with Ailleacht just a point behind the pair. On a tie-break Deboah has two wins against one so far for Sallybelle.

Published in Kinsale
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Kinsale Yacht Club's Freya skippered by Conor Doyle is part of an international fleet of over 40 boats expected to take part in the Yachting Malta Coastal Race tomorrow, a shakedown race before Saturday's 600-mile Middle Sea Race tomorrow.

The Yachting Malta Coastal Race starts Wednesday 20th October. The race follows one of four courses around Malta, Gozo, Comino or Fifla, and is a perfect race for boats preparing for the 42nd edition of the Middle Sea Race.

An international fleet will include last year’s overall winner, Christoph, Aaron & Maya Podesta with Elusive II. Teams from at least 16 nations will be competing including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA.

Launched in 2015, Yachting Malta is a partnership between the Government of Malta and the Royal Malta Yacht Club. The organisation’s primary role is to identify and attract high profile yachting events to the Maltese Islands. Chairman of Yachting Malta, John Huber has confirmed that Yachting Malta will be supporting the Coastal Race for the next three editions.

The Yachting Malta Coastal Race is a good training ground for the big race, where crews get to know each other, and equipment gets tested,” commented John Huber. “The Rolex Middle Sea Race is the biggest sporting event in Malta. As a government entity, Yachting Malta will do everything to promote it.”

RMYC Principal Race Officer, Peter Dimech commented. “Our intention for the Yachting Malta Coastal Race is to give the crews an opportunity for a shake-down before the main race. This race will have a target time of under five hours for all the boats to finish.”

The 606 nautical-mile Rolex Middle Sea Race will start from Grand Harbour Valletta on Saturday 23rd October.

Published in Middle Sea Race
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Four Cork divers put a full year of training and preparation to the test as they embarked on an expedition to the wreck of the Lusitania off the Old Head of Kinsale last week.

As Cork Beo reports, Timmy Carey — who had previously explored the wreck five times — was joined by three novices in the first ever all-Cork dive to the final resting place of the RMS Lusitania, the Cunard liner which was torpedoed by a German U-boat during the First World War.

For many years the wreck was owned by US businessman Gregg Bemis, who supported numerous dives to the site to learn more about its fate — which has sparked numerous theories about its demise and its cargo. Some of these were tackled in a somewhat controversial documentary by National Geographic in 2012.

Bemis signed over ownership of the shipwreck to the Old Head of Kinsale Lusitania Museum a year before his death at the age of 91 in May 2020.

Considered the “Mount Everest of dives”, the Lusitania is a challenging dive at almost 100 metres below the surface in total darkness.

But Ronan Barry, Brendan Desmond and Dick Vaughan, fellow members of the Blackwater Sub Aqua Club along with Carey, proved their mettle as they had the rare opportunity to get up close with the wreck for nearly half an hour.

Cork Beo has more on the story HERE.

Published in Diving
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As many other fleets have put their boats to bed for the winter, Kinsale Yacht Club is gearing up to host the Laser Class for an end of season event this coming weekend.

The event is proudly sponsored by James Matthews of Matthews of Cork

This event follows on from the hugely successful staging of one of the few sailing events that took place last year again, under the stewardship of Principle Race Officer, John Stallard.

The largest fleet of the event is the ILCA 4 with 26 entered, followed by 24 ILCA 6 and 11 ILCA 7

Local sailors Micheal O'Suilleabhain will be hoping to go one better than last year where is he won the ILCA 6 but this year has entered the ILCA 7 fleet; last year ILCA 7 winner Paddy Cunnane will do his best to maintain his crown.

Jonathan O'Shaughnessy, following on from his Nationals win, will hope to maintain his form in the ILCA 6 fleet but there will be stiff competition from the master section of the fleet and local sailor Dorothy Matthews.

The ILCA 4 fleet has a number of new sailors moving up from other fleets but maintains loads of experience within the ranks with Luke Turvey from Howth, Eimer McMorrow Moriarty from TBSC expected to battle against local sailors Darragh Collins, Isabel McCarthy and Daniel Mallon

Full details along with NOR and Sailing Instructions can be found here

Published in Kinsale
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The final race of the championship decided the top four places overall of the O'Leary Life Irish Dragon Nationals at Kinsale with Dublin Bay sailors Peter Bowring, Neil Hegarty and David Williams taking the title.

The race was sailed in a consistent 10 knots of breeze from the southeast with a swell.

After a general recall, the fleet started on the U flag.

At the end of the first run, the top four, Serafina, Phantom, Ghost and Little Fella, arrived at the gate only seconds apart and again chose different sides. After rounding the windward mark the second time and while Phantom, Serafina and Little Fella were covering each other on the left side of the run, Ghost came down the right side, took advantage of a slight wind shift and established a substantial lead.

Runners up - Serafina - Daniel & Sean Murphy, Brian Goggin & John O'ConnorThird overall Serafina - Daniel & Sean Murphy, Brian Goggin & John O'Connor

Fourth overall - Cameron Good, Simon Furney & Henry Kingston Photo: Bob BatemanFourth overall - Cameron Good, Simon Furney & Henry Kingston Photo: Bob Bateman

On the final beat, Ghost chose to sail up the middle of the course, followed by Phantom and Serafina while Little Fella went up the right side. Ghost could not be caught and took line honours. Little Fella took advantage of a good lift to recover from 5th to 2nd. Phantom's 3rd, however, was enough to secure Peter Bowring, Neil Hegarty and David Williams the title, Serafina came 4th.

With Phantom, the National Champion, 2nd to 4th ended on 16 points each, and it went to countback. Two wins were enough to secure Ghost - Colm Dunne, Colm Daly & Dan McCloskey 2nd overall with Serafina - Daniel & Sean Murphy, Brian Goggin & John O'Connor in 3rd. Little Fella - Cameron Good, Simon Furney & Henry Kingston had to settle for 4th.

Dragon prizewinners at Kinsale Yacht ClubDragon prizewinners at Kinsale Yacht Club Photo courtesy of Matthias Hellstern

Click here for results. See photo galleries here and day two here

Published in Dragon
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Two wins for the Royal St. George Yacht Club's Phantom skippered by Neil Hegarty put the Dublin Bay Dragon crew in the lead after day two of the class national championships in Kinsale in County Cork.

After four races sailed (and no discard), Hegarty, sailing with Peter Bowring and David Williams, has three race wins to his credit, giving the Dublin trio a four-point margin over day one leader Cameron Good of the host club. 

Brian Goggin's Serafina, also of Kinsale, is third overall. 

Lighter conditions than the first day led Race Officer John Stallard to make the decision to shorten the race at the end of the second run in race four. MarJ, Adrian Bendon KYC, secured second with Serafina 3rd and Ghost 4th.

With a discard due to kick in tomorrow, three races are left in the championship and light airs are forecast.

Results are here

Dragon Irish Nationals Day two Photo Gallery by Bob Bateman

Published in Dragon
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A lone sailor was rescued after his boat suffers engine failure and a sail blow out off the Old Head of Kinsale.

The Courtmacsherry All-Weather Trent Class RNLI Lifeboat was called out this afternoon Tuesday at 2 pm to go to the aid of a 30-foot yacht with a lone sailor on board that got into difficulties two miles south-west of the Old Head of Kinsale in West Cork. The Courtmacsherry All-Weather Lifeboat, Frederick Storey Cockburn under Coxswain Sean O'Farrell and a crew of 5 were away quickly from their moorings, after being alerted by the Coastguard that the yacht had suffered engine failure and a sail blow out on passage from Glandore to Kinsale.

Once the Lifeboat reached the causality at 2.26 pm, Lifeboat Coxswain O'Farrell assessed the situation. As the casualty was completely disabled and conditions at sea were worsening, a decision was taken to put the Lifeboat towline on board the yacht and proceed under tow to the nearest port of Kinsale. Conditions at sea today were fresh and blustery Force 5 winds with strong 3 metre swells off the Old Head. The Lifeboat proceeded to tow the causality back to Kinsale at a slow, safe speed and arrived at the safe surrounds of the Harbour Marina at 4.30 pm. The sailor was mighty pleased to see the Lifeboat today and expressed his extreme thanks to all involved in today’s rescue.

The RNLI Lifeboat crewmembers under Coxswain Sean O'Farrell after they arrived back to base in CourtmacsherryThe RNLI Lifeboat crewmembers under Coxswain Sean O'Farrell after they arrived back to base in Courtmacsherry

The Courtmacsherry RNLI Lifeboat voluntary Deputy Launching Authority Vincent O'Donovan said, “With the freshening winds today, it was great to reach the causality so quickly and give the Lone sailor the comfort that he required. Great praise is due again for the fast response of all the crew and officers who left their workplaces and rushed to the station to help a fellow seaman in distress at sea this afternoon”.

The Courtmacsherry RNLI Lifeboat Crew involved in this afternoon’s callout were Coxswain Sean O Farrell, Mechanic Stuart Russell and crewmembers Mark John Gannon, Dara Gannon, Dave Philips and Dean Hennessy.

This was the 21st callout of 2021 for the All-Weather Lifeboat Station in Courtmacsherry.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Sharks in Irish waters

Irish waters are home to 71 species of shark, skates and rays, 58 of which have been studied in detail and listed on the Ireland Red List of Cartilaginous fish. Irish sharks range from small Sleeper sharks, Dogfish and Catsharks, to larger species like Frilled, Mackerel and Cow sharks, all the way to the second largest shark in the world, the Basking shark. 

Irish waters provide a refuge for an array of shark species. Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry provides a habitat for several rare and endangered sharks and their relatives, including the migratory tope shark, angel shark and undulate ray. This area is also the last European refuge for the extremely rare white skate. Through a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) project, Marine Institute scientists have been working with fishermen to assess the distribution, diversity, and monthly relative abundance of skates and rays in Tralee, Brandon and Dingle Bays.

“These areas off the southwest coast of Ireland are important internationally as they hold some of the last remaining refuges for angel shark and white skate,” said Dr Maurice Clarke of the Marine Institute. “This EMFF project has provided data confirming the critically endangered status of some species and provides up-to-date information for the development of fishery measures to eliminate by-catch.” 

Irish waters are also home to the Black Mouthed Catshark, Galeus melastomus, one of Ireland’s smallest shark species which can be found in the deep sea along the continental shelf. In 2018, Irish scientists discovered a very rare shark-nursery 200 nautical miles off the west coast by the Marine Institute’s ROV Holland 1 on a shelf sloping to 750 metres deep. 

There are two ways that sharks are born, either as live young or from egg casings. In the ‘case’ of Black Mouthed Catsharks, the nursery discovered in 2018, was notable by the abundance of egg casings or ‘mermaid’s purses’. Many sharks, rays and skate lay eggs, the cases of which often wash ashore. If you find an egg casing along the seashore, take a photo for Purse Search Ireland, a citizen science project focusing on monitoring the shark, ray and skate species around Ireland.

Another species also found by Irish scientists using the ROV Holland 1 in 2018 was a very rare type of dogfish, the Sail Fin Rough Shark, Oxynotus paradoxus. These sharks are named after their long fins which resemble the trailing sails of a boat, and live in the deep sea in waters up to 750m deep. Like all sharks, skates and rays, they have no bones. Their skeleton is composed of cartilage, much like what our noses and ears are made from! This material is much more flexible and lighter than bone which is perfect for these animals living without the weight of gravity.

Throughout history sharks have been portrayed as the monsters of the sea, a concept that science is continuously debunking. Basking sharks were named in 1765 as Cetorhinus maximus, roughly translated to the ‘big-nosed sea monster’. Basking sharks are filter feeders, often swimming with their mouths agape, they filter plankton from the water.

They are very slow moving and like to bask in the sun in shallow water and are often seen in Irish waters around Spring and early Summer. To help understand the migration of these animals to be better able to understand and conserve these species, the Irish Basking Shark Group have tagged and mapped their travels.

Remarkably, many sharks like the Angel Shark, Squatina squatina have the ability to sense electricity. They do this via small pores in their skin called the ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’ which are able to detect the tiny electrical impulses of a fish breathing, moving or even its heartbeat from distances of over a kilometre! Angel sharks, often referred to as Monkfish have a distinctively angelic shape, with flattened, large fins appearing like the wings of an angel. They live on the seafloor in the coastal waters of Ireland and much like a cat are nocturnal, primarily active at night.

The intricate complexity of shark adaptations is particularly noticeable in the texture of their skin. Composed of miniscule, perfectly shaped overlapping scales, the skin of shark provides them with protection. Often shark scales have been compared to teeth due to their hard enamel structure. They are strong, but also due to their intricate shape, these scales reduce drag and allow water to glide past them so that the shark can swim more effortlessly and silently. This natural flawless design has been used as inspiration for new neoprene fabric designs to help swimmers glide through the water. Although all sharks have this feature, the Leafscale Gulper Shark, Centrophorus squamosus, found in Ireland are specifically named due to the ornate leaf-shape of their scales.

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