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Did we really manage it? Did we really cram all those major special and routine regular sailing events into the one season of 2022? And all that despite its three main months afloat experiencing decidedly mixed weather? And also despite the fact that many folk had simply got out of the way of packing lots of active racing and hectic après sailing into an already complicated way of life?

Yes, it was the Bounce-back Summer and no mistake, making up for the Pandemic’s lost time with major international events running back-to-back, and all that in the midst of a crowded programme on the local front, with some clubs finding that – thanks to their prime restriction-compliant place at the heart of the community – they were actually emerging into the new reality with more members than they’d had going into the plague years.

Thus we’re a bit like someone who resumes swimming after an absence, and begins by diving off an excessively high board which leaves them gasping as it is, yet they persist in swimming determinedly on with excessive speed and enthusiasm for fear that some new restrictions will suddenly bring it all to a sudden end.

BREATHLESS WITH ACHIEVEMENT

In other words, at the moment the sailing community is simply breathless with exhaustion and achievement. And it takes an extra effort to contemplate the season of 2023, at a time now - in November/December - when many of the more sociable clubs are still holding frequent functions to celebrate the remarkable amount of sailing – and successful sailing at that – which has been done at home and abroad during 2022.

So in contemplating the 2023 season at this stage, we’ll take a fairly broad-brush approach. What will be the pillar events, and what will be the main underlying themes?

 Secret waters. The usually private Shannon One Desigs went public for their Centenary in 2022Secret waters. The usually private Shannon One Desigs went public for their Centenary in 2022

As ever with Irish sailing’s long history, there’ll be significant commemorations to be marked. 2022 saw the Centenary of the Shannon One Designs, celebrated by that normally rather private class with very public festivities on Lough Ree and Lough Derg during July, following which they were able to go back into their time-honoured closed-shop mode during August’s traditional lake regatta weeks.

SAOIRSE CIRCUMNAVGATION CENTENARY

In 2023, the big One Hundred to be marked is the Centenary of the start from Dun Laoghaire on the 20th June 1923 of Conor O’Brien of Limerick’s pioneering voyage around the world south of the great Capes in his new own-designed Baltimore-built 42ft ketch Saoirse.

Conor O’Brien’s new Saoirse takes her departure for the Great Southern Ocean from “Dunleary” on June 20th 1923.Conor O’Brien’s new Saoirse takes her departure for the Great Southern Ocean from “Dunleary” on June 20th 1923

As Saoirse was to become the first sea-going vessel to fly the ensign of the newly-established Irish Free State, everyone – but everyone – quite rightly feels that they own part of this remarkable achievement. Yet as a consequence, those who have been quietly flying the O’Brien voyaging achievement banner for decades, trying to ensure that it is all properly placed in a national and global context, found that they were in danger of being swamped by new enthusiasts who wanted to make a complete circus out of the entire affair.

 The re-created Saoirse newly-launched at Oldcourt in September 2022 - looking good, but with too much work still to be completed for a full programme in 2023. Photo: John Wolfe The re-created Saoirse newly-launched at Oldcourt in September 2022 - looking good, but with too much work still to be completed for a full programme in 2023. Photo: John Wolfe

However, reality has intervened. The West Cork summer resident who has a Saoirse re-build being created at Oldcourt has indicated that the boat won’t really be in a properly tried and tested seaworthy condition for any Dun Laoghaire celebration planned for June 2023. And in any case he tends to feel that it is more appropriate to keep her in West Cork in celebration of that area’s often-overlooked contribution to the magnificent O’Brien circumnavigation of a century ago, and his subsequent success with the 56t ketch Ilen.

REALISTIC CENTENARY CELEBRATION SAILING ILEN

But as the 1926-built O’Brien-designed 56ft Ilen has been sailing again as a multi-purpose vessel for some years now, thanks to a meticulous restoration programme by Gary MacMahon of Limerick and the Ilen Project working with Liam Hegarty’s boatyard in Oldcourt near Baltimore, a more realistic commemoration scenario has been devised by the Irish Cruising Club in co-ordination with the Ilen Project.

Saoirse’s “big sister”, the 56ft Ilen, has been recruited to take on a celebratory role for the Saoirse Centenary. Photo: Gary Mac MahonSaoirse’s “big sister”, the 56ft Ilen, has been recruited to take on a celebratory role for the Saoirse Centenary. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

The ICC was not founded until 1929, but one of its first acts was to make Conor O’Brien its first Honorary Member. However, during his voyage it had been the 1880-founded London-based Royal Cruising Club which gave him enthusiastic support through the regular award of its premier trophy, the Challenge Cup.

This was done three years in a row in 1923, ’24 and ’25 as his voyage progressed to its successful conclusion in Dun Laoghaire exactly two years to the day after departure. And the RCC’s leading officer was also very encouraging in the promotion of O’Brien’s book of his voyage, Across Three Oceans, which in terms of its genre, became a best-seller.

All this was in a time of political turmoil in Ireland with Dublin/London conflict, when O’Brien, moreover, was entering the international sailing arena with a personal history of having been one of the 1914 gun-runners in favour of Irish Home Rule, along with Erskine Childers and Sir Thomas Myles. Thus it was courageous and generous to come out so openly in London in his support, and in recognition of this, the ICC will be joining the RCC with he Ilen as flagship in a Centenary cruise-in-company from Dun Laoghaire to Madeira and back, while the two clubs will be joining forces in publishing a re-introduced re-print of Across Three Oceans.

Cape Horn pioneer Conor O’Brien as portrayed by his wife, the artist Kitty Clausen, in 1930Cape Horn pioneer Conor O’Brien as portrayed by his wife, the artist Kitty Clausen, in 1930

DUBLIN BAY SAILING CLUB JOINED CELEBRATION

This neat solution to what was shaping up to be a possible clash of viewpoints as to how best the Centenary of the beginning of Conor O’Brien’s Saoirse voyage should be marked is further enhanced by realising that the major celebration should really be on the Centenary of his return, on June 20th 2025. It happened to be a Saturday back in 1925, yet Dublin Bay Sailing Club cancelled its legendary Saturday racing programme in order that its complete racing fleet could welcome Saoirse home.

That in itself was such a totally unprecedented gesture by the 1884-founded DBSC that its Centenary deserves celebration in its own right. So maybe harmony can be maintained by everyone anticipating some special celebration on June 20th 2025, when a sense of completeness might be possible with the more relaxed presence of the re-created Saoirse.

THIRTY YEARS OF THE DUN LAOGHAIRE-DINGLE RACE

Meanwhile, 2023 is already very Dun Laoghaire-focused with the 30th Anniversary staging of the biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race from the National Yacht Club on Wednesday, June 7th, and the all-clubs four day Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from July 6th to 9th. The Regatta Director this year is Paddy Boyd, whose extensive sailing experience and interaction with Dun Laoghaire and Dublin Bay are so intertwined as to be part of his DNA.

Paddy Boyd is bringing an unrivalled wealth of Dublin Bay sailing and administration experience to the challenge of the VDLR 2023. Photo: Robert BatemanPaddy Boyd is bringing an unrivalled wealth of Dublin Bay sailing and administration experience to the challenge of the VDLR 2023. Photo: Robert Bateman

Nevertheless, it will take all the expertise and enthusiasm of Paddy and his team to get the VDLR machine up and running at full blast again. It’s a formidable setup when it gears fully into smooth action, which made it a doubly-cruel blow when it all had to be pandemic-dismantled early in 2021. Back then, Don O’Dowd (who will continue as Chairman for 2023) was heading the large group of volunteers who finally learned that their already much-worked-at and intensely-sociable VDLR 2021 simply wasn’t going to happen.

SOVEREIGNS AT KINSALE WILL MAKE COMEBACK

In their racing to Dingle, the D2D competitors - with the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo of the Royal Cork YC the defending champion, having been welcomed back to Crosshaven after her victory in 2021 with a full gun salute by Admiral Colin Morehead – will be battling past Kinsale, which hosts its own battles with Sovereign’s Regatta on June 21st to 24th.

Every major regatta in Ireland – whether it be Bangor Town on Belfast Lough, Wave at Howth, the VDLR in Dun Laoghaire, Volvo Cork Week in Cork Harbour, the Sovereigns in Kinsale, or Calves Week at Schull – manages to have its own unique character, partly because those seven premier sailing centres somehow all manage to be completely different in character from the other six.

 Kinsale. Every major regatta centre in Ireland is unique, and the special charms of Kinsale are obvious Kinsale. Every major regatta centre in Ireland is unique, and the special charms of Kinsale are obvious Photo: Wikimedia

Yet the Sovereigns at Kinsale - sponsored in 2023 by Simply Blue - will have at least one significant carry-over from 2022’s Volvo Cork Week. The 1720 Euros were the highlight of Crosshaven last July with a crack fleet of 42 boats, many of them with superb restoration and re-spray jobs which belied their class’s 1994 origins. The Crosshaven-Howth team of the English and McDonald talents combined on Atara to come out tops, which means that at Kinsale they’ll be the target boat, while the other target is to push the fleet of these eternally attractive boats through the 50 mark.

Our U25's sending it last week in preparation for the 1720 Nationals in Baltimore!

Posted by Royal Cork Yacht Club on Monday, 22 August 2022

After thirty years, the Cork 1720 Sportsboat is as attractive as ever. They’ll be hoping for a fleet of 50-plus at Kinsale next June for their Euros as part in the Sovereigns Regatta

THE INTERNATONAL SCENE

We’ll be taking a much more comprehensive look at the international prospects for 2023 in a future SailSat, but anyone who thinks that the Irish representation afloat for the 2024 Olympics in Paris (with the sailing at Marseille) will be selected by the end of 2023 might be surprised when some of it goes right down to the wire in April 2024, which has happened in times past.

Be that as it may, on the offshore scene 2023 gets going early with the Caribbean 600 in February – there’s almost invariably Irish involvement, and we’ve collected more than our fair share of its silverware since it was inaugurated in 2009.

The dream of thousands – racing in the RORC Fastnet Race. 2023’s edition - the 50th – will start earlier than usual, on July 22nd. Photo: Kurt ArrigoThe dream of thousands – racing in the RORC Fastnet Race. 2023’s edition - the 50th – will start earlier than usual, on July 22nd. Photo: Kurt Arrigo

But inevitably the focus will mainly be on the Fastnet Race 2023, which unusually for this 50th Edition, will be starting in July, on Saturday 22nd July from Cowes, but taking in the new extended course to finish at Cherbourg. Presumably this timing is partly to allow the heavy brigade to take in Cowes Week itself in August, but meanwhile, looking ahead to the Fastnet Centenary in 2025, we still don’t really know if the old course to finish at Plymouth will be acknowledged and used. But either way, Ireland certainly has skin in the game as the first racing of the new course in 2021 saw Irish Offshore Sailing’s vintage Sun Fast 37 Desert Star from Dun Laoghaire - skippered by Ronan O Siochru - put in an appropriately stellar performance to take a close second in Class IV and an impressive 14th overall in a huge fleet.

Stellar performance – the crew of Desert Star (Ronan O Siochru on right) have a nano-second of relaxation towards the end of the 2021 Fastnet Race, as it becpmes increasingly clear they are second in class and 14th overall in a fleet of hundredsStellar performance – the crew of Desert Star (Ronan O Siochru on right) have a nano-second of relaxation towards the end of the 2021 Fastnet Race, as it becpmes increasingly clear they are second in class and 14th overall in a fleet of hundreds

INSS & THE DUN LAOGHAIRE PHENOMENON

The fact that Desert Star’s success was just one of many achievements being logged by the continually-developing Dun Laoghaire sailing and training scene – both commercial and in the clubs – reflects the new interest that sailing attracted as the first small easings of the pandemic began to apply in the local context.

Ultimately, it’s all about the numbers game. The Rumball family of the multi-function and high-achieving Irish National Sailing School are originally from Malahide, while Ronan O Siochru of IOS took his first serious steps afloat in Kinsale. But in facing business realities, they all realised that the population package right beside good sailing water which Dun Laoghaire and South Dublin offers made it no contest in deciding to base their locations around The Old Granite Pond, and sailing history has proven them right.

“THE HOWTH PRODUCT”

That said, the slightly quirky appeal of Howth Harbour, which prides itself on NOT being part of Dublin Bay, proved to have its new and established adherents in considerable numbers as sailing emerged from the plague years. The modern HYC clubhouse/marina reaches the end of 2022 with 2,173 members when you include all categories, and they look forward to a 2023 season which is fascinatingly book-ended by the National Youth Championship from 13th to 16th April 2023, and the ICRA Nats from 1st to 3rd September.

For those who try to take in all the information they can from developing situations, it w be fascinating in getting an overview of sailing development to see how many juniors who take part in their own multi-class championships in April then reappear in some crewing or helming capacity in the ICRA Nationals at the beginning of September.

HOWTH SEVENTEENS’ 125th ANNIVERSARY TO BALTIMORE

Meanwhile Howth’s eternal 17ft OD Class - founded in 1898 - continues to attract all ages, and they celebrate their 125th Anniversary in 2023 with many events, a highlight being a week’s “one class” regatta visit to Baltimore in mid-June.

They’re no strangers to West Cork, as master-shipwright Rui Ferreira of Ballydehob has done significant work on some of the boats, and back in 2003 no less than 15 of them decamped en masse to the Glandore Classics Regatta, dropping out of the regular programme to take in circuits of the Fastnet Rock and other eccentricities.

The Howth 17 Leila (Roddy Cooper) at the Fastnet Rock during the Glandore Classics 2003. The 1898-built Leila was already six years old when the Fastnet Lighthouse began signalling in 1904. Photo: W M NixonThe Howth 17 Leila (Roddy Cooper) at the Fastnet Rock during the Glandore Classics 2003. The 1898-built Leila was already six years old when the Fastnet Lighthouse began signalling in 1904. Photo: W M Nixon

In fact, when the Howth Seventeens are hunting as a pack, it’s really easier for everyone if they do their own thing, and even then you need to be tuned in to their system of in-class communication, which supposedly relies on a WhatsApp, but in practice seems to be utilizing some form of supernatural telepathy.

So my thoughts are with anyone with a bigger boat with an auxiliary who happens to be detailed off to be the Mother Ship to the Seventeens in June. For as we learned in in 2003, you’re called the Mother Ship because the Mother is always the last to know.

Thus the fleet found themselves on a foggy windy morning in Castlehaven when - just along the coast in Glandore - the rest of the Classics fleet were being confined in-harbour for their racing. But the Seventeens’ race plan for that day was a slightly offshore sprint from Castlehaven to Glandore, with the winner being the first boat to have a crewperson down a pint in Casey’s of Glandore, thereby throwing in a brief but intense bit of hill running to add to the sailing sport.

With the poor visibility and the brisk onshore wind, the Mother Ship was assured that they’d take the more sheltered route inside High Island. But once we’d cleared the entrance to Castlehaven, it was quite clear that the class was determined to face the more challenging seas running outside High Island.

Summertime in West Cork. The Casey’s Pint Race from Castlehaven to Glandore, July 2003, with Aura (1898, left), and Deilginis (1907, right), shaping up to use the breaking Copper Rock off High Island as the weather mark. Photo: W M NixonSummertime in West Cork. The Casey’s Pint Race from Castlehaven to Glandore, July 2003, with Aura (1898, left), and Deilginis (1907, right), shaping up to use the breaking Copper Rock off High Island as the weather mark. Photo: W M Nixon

Moreover, they seemed to have agreed among themselves that it was safe enough to chance going over or inside the submerged Row Rock, and therefore the half-tide Copper Rock southwest of High Island became the weather mark.

When you see a bunch of Howth 17s racing flat out past the Copper Rock as the seas break over it within a metre or two of the boats, you know you’re dealing with a bunch of total free-thinkers. So good luck to whoever is the Mother Ship in June next year, twenty years down the track from that first Casey’s Pint Race.

Published in W M Nixon

Is most “ocean racing” today really oceanic? Does “offshore racing” really involve going truly offshore? Are boats touted as being “cruiser-racers” ever really used for genuine cruising? And are sailing enthusiasts who like to think of themselves as being devoted adherents of some - or indeed all - of the above, surely tending to over-egg the cake more than somewhat, in order to cut a bit of a dash and enhance a reputation for seagoing toughness when they get together to socialise with other sailing enthusiasts?

It’s an effect which is accentuated when such dedicated matelots are meeting within earshot of civilians at mid-week. And it’s much more prevalent in England or Scotland or France, where many sailors live at some considerable distance from their boats, whereas in Ireland, we’d tend to regard such a situation as plain silly.

Be that as it may, in the profoundly English rural depths of the Cotswolds, there are so many weekend sailors living in the area that they felt such a need for mid-week get-togethers that they formed the Chipping Norton Yacht Club. It would meet at least once a week (and may still do so) in some totally non-nautical pub (the Pug & Ferret perhaps) in order to talk boats, and the members tended to wear their sailing clothes – or outfits, or whatever you want to call our unmistakably salty gear – at these gatherings, and chat with increasing volume about the past weekend’s experiences, and the excitements to come.

Far from the sea in the Cotswolds, clear definitions of “offshore” and “ocean” come with added significance Photo: Saffron Blaze/WikimediaFar from the sea in the Cotswolds, clear definitions of “offshore” and “ocean” come with added significance Photo: Saffron Blaze/Wikimedia

Thus any non-sailing country-living typically straw-chewing hedge fund manager or venture capitalist doing a spot of ear-wigging nearby would be increasingly impressed by the frequent use of the word “rawk”, particularly once he or she had cottoned on to the fact that it meant RORC. For its use implied that the weather–beaten speaker had just returned from a weekend’s rugged participation in some major event staged from the South Coast by the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

THE AURA OF GREAT OCEAN SAILING LEGENDS

Yes indeed, the use of “ocean” implies regularly taking on the risk-laden deep sea challenges faced by Slocum and O’Brien and Chichester and Knox-Johnston and Tabarly on a daily basis. Whereas the reality has been a cross-channel summertime sprint to northern France, and no greater risk than some allergic reaction to an over-indulgence in fruits de mer and calvados.

Don’t get me wrong. The Royal Ocean Racing Club does indeed stage some genuinely trans-oceanic events in its busy calendar. But the use of “Ocean” in the blanket title of a distinguished organisation which will begin celebrating its Centenary in just 26 months time tends to muddy the waters as to our meaning for various terms in defining non-inshore racing.

SIT-REPS FROM ISORA AND ICRA

Last weekend’s publication of what we might interpret as Situation Papers, from both the Irish Cruiser-Racer Association and the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, underlined the increasingly blurred borders, and the fact that the racing of boats with a lid – “truck racing” as dinghy sailors call it until they get involved – is going through one of its inevitable upheavals, as people’s changing commitments and societal and family expectations interact dynamically with a complex sport which is always quietly changing in itself.

Peter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire, Chairman of ISORA, at the helm on Mojito during the 2013 Fastnet RacePeter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire, Chairman of ISORA, at the helm on Mojito during the 2013 Fastnet Race

Thus names and categories which might have been completely appropriate fifty or even twenty years ago have become almost misleading in recreational sailing today, and inevitably produce an adverse reaction in those traditionalists who take the basis of their definitions from the great days of commercial sail, when “ocean-going” and “offshore” and “coasting” had clear legal meaning, and straightforward significance.

COMPLYING WITH THE DEFINITIONS OF THE DAYS OF SAIL

Consequently, when Dublin Bay’s Corinthian-emphasising Royal Alfred Yacht Club ran one of its regular races from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead in the late 1800s, it would be described as a Cross-Channel Match. No casual use of “offshore” or “ocean” there. But that said, when the ultra-pioneering 1860 race from Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour was staged, it was promoted and reported as “The Ocean Race”, a name which has such a zing to it that years later, the annual Cork Harbour to Kinsale Race for cruisers and Cork Harbour One Designs on the August Bank Holiday Weekend became known as “The Ocean Race”.

The start of a Royal Alfred YC cross-channel “match race” from Dublin Bay to Holyhead in 1888.The start of a Royal Alfred YC cross-channel “match race” from Dublin Bay to Holyhead in 1888

Cork Harbour ODs dominate the start of the “Ocean Race” from Cork to Kinsale in the 1940s – the two cruisers are Michael Sullivan’s Marchwood Maid (left) and possibly Denis Doyle’s ex-6 Metre Vaara. Photo: RCYCCork Harbour ODs dominate the start of the “Ocean Race” from Cork to Kinsale in the 1940s – the two cruisers are Michael Sullivan’s Marchwood Maid (left) and possibly Denis Doyle’s ex-6 Metre Vaara. Photo: RCYC

So in the midst of these confusing angles and interpretations, let us grasp what is tangible. The ICRA report of its many prize-winners – topped by Mike & Richie Evans with their J/99 Snapshot – reveals that 109 boats were eligible for the title. And those of us who raced with ISORA in its first defining decade in the 1970s will recall that in its peak years its annual championship – based on a minimum of seven genuinely offshore races – was contested by 107 boats.

ISORA boats in Howth in 1978 at the end of the James C Eadie Cup Race from Abersoch were (left to right) a North Sea 31 designed by Holman & Pye, a Sadler 25, the J/24 Pathfinder (Philip Watson), the S&s 40 Dai Mouse III (David Hague, now Sunstone), the McGruer yawl Frenesi, and the High Tension 36 Force Tension, skippered by Johnny Morris and line honours winner of the first Round Ireland race in 1980. Photo: W M NixonISORA boats in Howth in 1978 at the end of the James C Eadie Cup Race from Abersoch were (left to right) a North Sea 31 designed by Holman & Pye, a Sadler 25, the J/24 Pathfinder (Philip Watson), the S&s 40 Dai Mouse III (David Hague, now Sunstone), the McGruer yawl Frenesi, and the High Tension 36 Force Tension, skippered by Johnny Morris and line honours winner of the first Round Ireland race in 1980. Photo: W M Nixon

Thus ICRA is now – and has been for several years – accommodating the sport of a fleet of boats comparable to ISORA at its height. Yet when ICRA was first mooted in 2002 by Fintan Cairns of Dun Laoghaire and the late Jim Donegan of Cork in a meeting at the notably ecumenical location of the Granville Hotel in Waterford, there were many – this writer included – who felt that an association of potentially offshore sailing boats based entirely around a land-mass would be unhelpful for the development of a sport in which the enthusiastic use of definably offshore waters was surely essential.

But the ICRA promoters made the point that inshore cruiser-racing - right up to regatta level - was the fastest-growing area of interest in Irish sailing. And its adherents – particularly those who had no wish to go far offshore and most particularly had no wish to spend nights racing at sea – were a very significant sector of the sport, a sector which urgently needed meaningful representation in a dedicated national Ireland-oriented organization, rather than solely by some sea area-based setup.

With ICRA, you certainly do get to race round the Fastnet, but it’s at Calves Week out of Schull. In winning form aboard 2022 ICRA Boat of the Year Snapshot, it’s Des Flood on the trim, Richie Evans on the tiller, and Mike Evans reading the runes.With ICRA, you certainly do get to race round the Fastnet, but it’s at Calves Week out of Schull. In winning form aboard 2022 ICRA Boat of the Year Snapshot, it’s Des Flood on the trim, Richie Evans on the tiller, and Mike Evans reading the runes. 

TWO CORRECT YET OPPOSING POINTS OF VIEW

Both points of view were right. ICRA has become such a central part of the Irish sailing scene that it is difficult to imagine the contemporary world afloat without it, with its enthusiastic committee playing a key role in giving day-racing cruiser-racer sailors - with their prestigious annual regatta-style National Championship and season-long series for the “Boat of the Year” - a major role in the bigger picture.

And the growth of ICRA in turn has accelerated the decline in numbers of those prepared to dedicate themselves to the traditional offshore pattern of an extended weekend – sometimes a very extended weekend - with its time-consuming deliveries and crew-location logistics challenges, and all in order to race just one classic offshore race.

But ISORA itself is continually mutating in order to accommodate new trends in its members’ enthusiasms. Last weekend’s convivial prize-giving and celebration in the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire of its Golden Jubilee may have saluted memories of great Irish Sea offshore races of times past, and the special flavour of competitive nights at sea. Yet a straw poll indicated a preference for more coastal races, with the double implication that no nights are going to be spent at sea, and the race will end comfortably back at the home port.

And though the deservedly-lauded overall champion, the J/109 Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop, Pwllheli SC) has achieved honours in serious offshore events as various as the Fastnet Race, the Round Ireland, and the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle, she is equally at home at the front of the fleet in a regatta in Tremadog Bay.

This blurring of roles is further emphasized – in what was a very good year for J Boats – by the J/99 Snapshot’s taking of the ICRA “Boat of the Year” title in the same year as she won the “Best Irish” with a very close second in her first major offshore event, the Round Ireland.

Snapshot gliding to a seemingly effortless overall class win in the Beshoff Motors Autumn League 2022 at Howth, one of the many successes which contributed to her becoming ICRA “Boat of the Year”.Snapshot gliding to a seemingly effortless overall class win in the Beshoff Motors Autumn League 2022 at Howth, one of the many successes which contributed to her becoming ICRA “Boat of the Year”.

Until then, Snapshot had seemed the regatta boat par excellence. And though Richie Evans had sailed a couple of Round Irelands, his co-owning brother Mike hadn’t done any. Their approach to the challenge of the big one seemed to be to regard the round Ireland as a string of full-on day races with some brief but intensive June night contests in between. It certainly worked. Their impressive closing in on the winner’s lead in the last dozen miles, leaving all other opposition in their wake, was sailed with the dedication and energy of a crew who might have stepped fresh on board only that morning.

YOUNG TURKS AND SENIOR SAILORS HAVE DIFFERENT PRIORITIES

With this blurring of distinctions between long-established categories, we find other divides emerging, and some seem to relate to age and professionalism. The more senior sailors enjoy a one-race-per-day event, with an attractive coastal element. They tend to think that the excitement of just one heart-rate-accelerating start sequence in each daily programme is quite enough to be going along with, and they reckon a coastal course, with its scenery and the chance of some cunning work with tides, is what cruiser-racing should be all about.

But the Young Turks and the Pros want longer races to be kept away from coastal influences, and they’d happily charge into at least two starts every day, and more if it can be arranged. As for the senior sailors’ lack of enthusiasm for one damned windward-leeward course after another, it’s something the Young Turks and the Pros don’t understand at all – they’re gladiators when all is said and done, they can’t get enough of confrontation and very direct competition.

Classic offshore racing – a cross channel ISORA race gets under way from Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’BrienClassic offshore racing – a cross channel ISORA race gets under way from Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

And then of course there are still those who think that the only authentic competitive use of a cruiser-racer is a straightforward passage race from one port to another, with your proper social duties fulfilled at start and finish. It may be more time-consuming in the long run, but it has an attractive simplicity in planning and purpose.

FACING UP TO 2023

In looking at the diversity of all this with its new interpretations, it’s fascinating to see how the different organisations are facing up to the season of 2023. ICRA will not hold its annual conference under Commodore Dave Cullen until the 4th March next year, but that’s perfectly reasonable as it has been known for a long time that the ICRA Nationals 2023 will be staged at Howth from 1st to 3rd September 2023, and other events contributing to the “Boat of the Year” award are date-dependent on the clubs and organisations running them.

But ISORA with its cross-channel membership faces a much greater diary challenge, and the preliminary draft of the 2023 programme was in circulation before the Golden Jubilee party. No matter how you look at it, it’s quite a complicated document, and it’s interesting to note that there’s the likelihood of a northern element being involved once more through the Royal Ulster Yacht Club. 

The ISORA Draft Programme for 2023 reflects the demands made on a cross-channel organisationThe ISORA Draft Programme for 2023 reflects the demands made on a cross-channel organisation

Back in the hugely ambitious first season of 1972, Chairman Dickie Richardson was heading an ISORA organisation whose events took in venues all the way from Scotland to Dunmore East, using both sides of the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George’s Channel in addition to the Isle of Man.

Despite the many events available, as the season drew to a close, northern skipper Dickie Brown with his own-built 35ft Ruffian may have been topping the Class 1 points table, but he was still one race short of the necessary seven with no more events scheduled for the North Channel. So he brought Ruffian to Holyhead to race the southern section’s final event, from Holyhead round Rockabill to Dun Laoghaire, and I was press-ganged to join in Holyhead to make up numbers in a motley crew for this final overnight dash.

Northern star – John Minnis’s A35 Final Call II (RUYC) racing to he class win in the Wave regatta at Howth at the beginning of June. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyNorthern star – John Minnis’s A35 Final Call II (RUYC) racing to he class win in the Wave regatta at Howth at the beginning of June. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

The foredeck was being run by two legends of northern sailing, Victor Fusco and Colin Gleadhill – who were both well into their 50s, but well on top of the job nevertheless. This was just as well, as the first leg was a screaming spinnaker reach in a sou’wester, conditions in which Ruffian was unbeatable - if you could only hold onto her. But when you couldn’t as a long squall arrived, it was up to our seniors to snap the spinnaker in and then set it again as soon as possible, which they did very well, and so much better than most men half their age that when we arrived in Dun Laoghaire, the only boat ahead of us was Paddy Donegan’s lovely little 36ft Robb yawl Casquet from Skerries winning Class 3, but then her division had sailed direct, and didn’t have to make the long haul up to Rockabill and back.

Other Class I boats began to arrive in with the Class 2 winner, Bill Cuffe-Smith’s Mark 2 Arpege Leemara from Howth, successfully among them. But nobody challenged Ruffian’s lead and she took the race and the overall title, as did Leemara in Class 2 and Casquet in that race in Class 3, so we were quite the little Winner’s Enclosure that cold morning rafted against the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire.

Winners in Dun Laoghaire at the end of 1972’s first ISORA season were (left to right) Leemara (Bill Cuffe-Smith, Howth YC), Ruffian (Dick & Billy Brown, Royal Ulster YC), and Casquet (Paddy Donegan, Skerries SC). Photo: W M NixonWinners in Dun Laoghaire at the end of 1972’s first ISORA season were (left to right) Leemara (Bill Cuffe-Smith, Howth YC), Ruffian (Dick & Billy Brown, Royal Ulster YC), and Casquet (Paddy Donegan, Skerries SC). Photo: W M Nixon

Thus while ICRA and ISORA have to keep moving the goal posts in order to accommodate the changing patterns of “offshore” and “cruiser-racing”, it’s good to know that ISORA now also looks north again, where John Minnis’s A35 Final Call II is the Ruffian de nos jours. Offshore and cruiser racing formats may be changing, but the sport and the spirit and the camaraderie are as vibrant as ever.

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Following a busy and successful racing season of Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) events nationwide, the J99 yacht Snapshot in Class 1, owned by Mike and Richard Evans of Howth Yacht Club was deemed the clear winner for this prestigious Annual Award writes ICRA's John Leech.

She claimed victory by 1.75 points from her nearest rival, Samaton in Class 0. The season was blessed with good weather for most of the events, which added greatly to the enjoyment of the 109-boat fleet that competed for this award. Snapshot had a great season overall, she finished 1st in her Class in the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race, she finished 1st in her Class during CD Environmental Calves Week, 1st in the Beshoff Motors HYC Autumn League and 2nd in her Class during the HYC WAVE Regatta.

The top 3 boats in each class were as follows:

Class 0
Samatom (14.75 points)
Rockabill VI (13 points)
Darkwood (10 points)

Class 1
Snapshot (16.5 points)
Storm (8 points)
Final Call II (6.5 points)

Class 2
Lambay Rules (6.5 points)
Pyxis (6 points)
Bad Company (4.5 points)

Class 3
Dux (5.5 points)
Maxims (4.5 points)
Blue Oyster (4 points)

Class 4
Headcase (6 points)
Relativity (4.5 points)
Janx Spirits (4.5 points)

Non-Spinnaker 1
Prince of Tides (10 points)
Magnet (6.5 points)
White Pearl (4.75 points)

Non-Spinnaker 2
Shilleagh (6 points)
Demelza (4 points)
Roaring Forties (4 points)

ICRA 2023

The ICRA Committee is pleased with the keen competition and participation in the ICRA events over the season and looks forward to 2023, where we hope to see more cruisers compete in these highly competitive events.

The 2023 National ICRA Championships will be hosted by Howth Yacht Club on 1st – 3rd September.

The ICRA Boat of the Year Award will be presented by Commodore David Cullen, at the forthcoming ICRA Annual Conference, which will take place on the 4th of March in Dun Laoghaire. All cruiser sailors are welcome to this event which promises to be interesting, engaging and helpful, especially to new members that want to give that team spirit of sailing a go and enjoy the sociability; they will receive a warm welcome to ICRA from our committee and members.

Download the full set of results below

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The ICRA U25 Support Programme is now in its fourth year and currently supporting eleven U25 squads in clubs all over the country.

"The programme is showing just what is possible when the energy and enthusiasm of youth are given the financial support and mentoring they need to succeed", says ICRA U25 Officer Brian Raftery.

Following the success of the Kinsale Yacht Club U25 squad, in the cleverly named KINSAILOR, through the 2022 season, ending with an incredible third overall at the J24 European Championships in Howth. ICRA asked them to put on paper a little about the squad and their journey so far. Below is team member, Mikey Carroll's, summary of their journey so far.

In the summer of 2021, the younger members of the club took an interest in the ICRA Under 25 scheme. This scheme, between the financial support and the guiding information provided, helped us to approach our club with the idea of getting a boat. With massive support from the club and all its members, it wasn’t long before we had a J24 launched and ready to race.

The new hotshots. The final one-race day of the J/24 Euros at Howth was so damp and grey that we all need a sunny image of the new Euro J24 Youth Champions and Open Division Bronze winner to cheer us up, and this is Kinsailor in a bright mood at her home portThe new hotshots. The final one-race day of the J/24 Euros at Howth was so damp and grey that we all need a sunny image of the new Euro J24 Youth Champions and Open Division Bronze winner to cheer us up, and this is Kinsailor in a bright mood at her home port

We started our campaign in April of this year. We enjoyed some club league racing as we got to grips with the boat. We had a lot to learn in terms of boat handling and maintenance. Our first event was the nationals in Foynes in July where we placed 8th overall. This event was an eye opener for us and we quickly realized how important boat knowledge and boat handling were for this particular class. We were happy with the result but felt we still had a lot to learn and had plenty of speed left to find in the boat. Since then we have come a long way with a massive helping hand from all involved in the class and especially the boys on Headcase.

By the time the Easterns came round in late August we had improved enormously. Our boat handling was much better and we had learned a few tricks in the boat cleaning/polishing department! We achieved second place only to Headcase who had achieved a very strong set of results across Europe over the summer. The Europeans was a different experience. It was our first time racing Kinsailor in a fleet of over 20 boats. We started with an inconsistent 27th and 2nd on the first day. As the regatta progressed we improved and started to handle the bigger fleet racing better. 3rd overall was something we had wished for, but not expected. It was a fantastic reward for the time we had put into the boat over the summer.

ICRA’s Under 25 Development is without doubt, a support programme, that all clubs should look at for the development of youth sailing and offering their clubs young sailors an opportunity to run their own boat and their own campaign.

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After a packed summer of cruiser racing, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) has published the latest rankings for its annual Boat of the Year award.

As the season winds down and boats start their respective Autumn Leagues, Robert Rendell’s Grand Soleil 44, Samatom of Howth, leads the competition based on results from key 2022 events such as the Round Ireland Race, Cork Week and more.

Other contenders for the Boat of the Year prize are top inshore and offshore performers Rockabill VI, the JPK 10.80 skippered by Paul O’Higgins of the Royal Irish in Dun Laoghaire and Howth’s Mike and Richie Evans’ J/99 Snapshot.

As Afloat reported earlier, Samatom and Rockabill VI are also in the running in the ISORA offshore series to be decided in the John Eadie race from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire this weekend, which means there could be a lot at stake on the Irish Sea this Saturday afternoon.

Rockabill VI, the JPK 10.80 skippered by Paul O’Higgins Rockabill VI, the JPK 10.80 skippered by Paul O’Higgins Photo: Afloat

Mike and Richie Evans’ J/99 Snapshot from Howth in offshore mode at the start of this year's Round Ireland Race. Photo: Bob BatemanMike and Richie Evans’ J/99 Snapshot from Howth in offshore mode at the start of this year's Round Ireland Race. Photo: Bob Bateman

The full ICRA results (pre-Autumn Leagues) are downloadable below as an excel file.

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Last week's Cork Week regatta incorporated the Irish Cruiser Racer National Championships for 2022 and produced a list of National Champions that reads like a who's who of the Irish cruiser-racer scene.

As previously reported, in IRC 2, the immaculate scoreline of John Maybury's Joker II from the Royal Irish Yacht Club was the week's top performance across the six IRC classes. It made the Dun Laoghaire yacht the overall ICRA champion for 2022.

Joker II's crew at Cork were: Bow: Adrian (Jack) Mulligan, Irene Sorohan, and Sarah O'Callaghan, Mast and Nav: Ronan Verling, Pit: Michelle Fitzgerald, Trim: Brian Phelan and Nick Kelly Main and Tactics: Stefano Cherin and Helm: John Maybury.

Joker II on her way to one of nine podium finishes at Cork Week 2022Joker II on her way to one of nine podium finishes at Cork Week 2022. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Joker II's 2022 season started with a bucket list trip to the Caribbean, and it proved a good warm-up for the season with strong winds and fairly big seas every day.

Initially, Maybury didn't have enough crew available to do Wave Regatta in Howth in early June, but the last-minute availability of a good crew from another boat that had to withdraw made for a last-minute entry. Joker II took some early wins off Ireland's Eye to lead overall after day one, but a non-discardable DSQ in the Lambay Race put paid to any chance of a podium there.

J/109 Joker makes a neat job of the Cruiser One start on Howth Wave’s opening day Photo: AfloatJ/109 Joker makes a neat job of the Cruiser One start on Howth Wave's opening day Photo: Afloat

Cork Week was on Maybury's agenda from the start of the season, and the week came together well for the Dublin Bay sailors. 16 IRC Two teams had windward-leeward and round the cans courses over the five days at Cork Week, and Joker II scored four race wins, and nine podium finishes in ten races.

ICRA Overall champions -The Joker II crew at Cork were Bow: Adrian (Jack) Mulligan, Irene Sorohan, and Sarah O’Callaghan, Mast and Nav: Ronan Verling, Pit: Michelle Fitzgerald Trim: Brian Phelan and Nick Kelly Main and Tactics: Stefano Cherin and Helm: John MayburyICRA Overall champions -The Joker II crew at Cork were Bow: Adrian (Jack) Mulligan, Irene Sorohan, and Sarah O'Callaghan, Mast and Nav: Ronan Verling, Pit: Michelle Fitzgerald, Trim: Brian Phelan and Nick Kelly Main and Tactics: Stefano Cherin and Helm: John Maybury Photo: Bob Bateman

The next big event for the Maybury crew is the defence of the J109 National Championship title in September; a crown Maybury has already won five times.

ICRA National Champions 2022 (at Cork Week)

ICRA National Championship Prizes laid out at CrosshavenICRA National Championship Prizes laid out at Crosshaven Photo: Bob Bateman

ICRA Commodore Dave Cullen addresses the National Championship and Volvo Cork Week prizegiving Photo: Bob BatemanICRA Commodore Dave Cullen addresses the National Championship and Volvo Cork Week prizegiving Photo: Bob Bateman

The complete list of ICRA National Champions for 2022 are: 

IRC:

  • Class 0 Samatom
  • Class 1 Journeymaker II
  • Class 2 Joker II
  • Class 3 Headcase
  • Non Spinnaker 1 Prince of Tides
  • Non Spinnaker 2 Shillelagh

Class 0 SamatomClass 0 Samatom

Class 1 Journeymaker IIClass 1 Journeymaker II

ICRA Overall champions -The Joker II crew at Cork were Bow: Adrian (Jack) Mulligan, Irene Sorohan, and Sarah O’Callaghan, Mast and Nav: Ronan Verling, Pit: Michelle Fitzgerald Trim: Brian Phelan and Nick Kelly Main and Tactics: Stefano Cherin and Helm: John MayburyClass 2 Joker II (and overall winner)

Class 3 HeadcaseClass 3 Headcase

Non Spinnaker 1 Prince of TidesNon Spinnaker 1 Prince of Tides

Non Spinnaker 2 ShillelaghNon Spinnaker 2 Shillelagh

Echo divisions:

  • Class 0 Alpaca
  • Class 1 Jellybaby
  • Class 2 Bateleur 88
  • Class 3 Illegal
  • NS1 Hansemer
  • NS 2 Shillelagh

Class 0 AlpacaClass 0 Alpaca 

Class 1 JellybabyClass 1 Jellybaby

Class 2 Bateleur 88Class 2 Bateleur 88

Class 3 IllegalClass 3 Illegal

NS1 HansemerNS1 Hansemer

Next year's ICRA National Championships are in Howth from the 1-3rd September.

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The announcement of the IRC class bands gives a first look at the various classes for next month's Volvo Cork Week Regatta. 

Class Zero will now benefit from the addition of the new Cape 31 class, which will have six boats and will also include the inaugural Cape 31 Irish National Championships. It is the first proper meeting of the Irish boats with Ant O'Leary's Antix also joining the Irish fleet fresh from Hamble.

Anthony O'Leary's redhulled Cape 31 Antix competing at the RORC IRC Nationals on the Solent Photo: Paul WyethAnthony O'Leary's red hulled Cape 31 Antix competing at the RORC IRC Nationals on the Solent

At the other end of the scale, the well-travelled and successful Pata Negra is the largest boat in the Class which will be joined by the latest WOW, an Extreme 37, and the well-rated Ker 39 La Response.

Andrew McIrvine's Ker 39 La Réponse Photo: Rick TomlinsonAndrew McIrvine's Ker 39 La Réponse Photo: Rick Tomlinson

The J121 Darkwood competing in the Round Ireland race is owned and campaigned by Dublin’s Mike O’Donnell who is UK based Photo: AfloatThe J121 Darkwood competing in the Round Ireland race is owned and campaigned by Dublin's Mike O'Donnell, who is UK-based Photo: Afloat

In Class 1, the highest rating boat Darkwood owned and campaigned by Dublin's Mike O'Donnell has had a great season to date and will be much fancied assuming they get over the gruelling Round Ireland Race.

the First 50 Checkmate XXThe First 50 Checkmate XX from Howth Photo: Afloat

New to the fleet is the First 50 Checkmate XX who were struck with COVID on the eve of the Round Ireland and could be worth watching. Zero II, the former Mariners Cove, is still highly competitive, whilst local boat Alpaca will also be worth watching.

Class 2 is a more mixed affair with a wide range of boats and performances. Boats fancied include the half tonners, particularly the highly successful Swuzzlebubble, which has been brought to Cork by the Dwyer family whilst Jeneral Lee had good form recently. The J109s are always serious contenders, and this year's runner-up in the Round Ireland, the Evans brother's J/99 Snapshot is clearly also on form.

cSwuzzlebubble, which has been brought to Cork by the Dwyer family Photo: Afloat

Class 3 should be a battle of the Quarter Tonners, but hopefully, the Under 25 teams in the J24s should hopefully give them a run for their money. If the breeze is up, the 2019 overall ICRA Champion, Dux, could shine again.

The 2019 overall ICRA Champion, Dux, an X332 from HowthThe 2019 overall ICRA Champion, Dux, an X332 from Howth Photo: Afloat

The Coastal Fleet is a mixed fleet with a strong Cork entry who may have the upper hand when it comes to local tides and wins. Boats to watch in this Class include the latest J122, local boat Jellybaby owned by the Jones Family, whilst visitors Searcher and Prima Forte may upset the locals here. Several other boats have serious potential, and wind strength will have a lot of influence on this fleet.

Pete Smyth's Sunfast 3600 Searcher was a class winner of the National Yacht Club RegattaPete Smyth's Sunfast 3600 Searcher was a class winner of the National Yacht Club Regatta Photo: Afloat

The J122 Jellybaby owned by the Jones Family of Cork Harbour Photo: AfloatThe J122 Jellybaby is owned by the Jones Family of Cork Harbour Photo: Afloat

The Non-Spinnaker Class varies in size from the GK29 Phaeton from RCYC to another local boat, the J122 Damacle. With 19 boats so far entered, this will be a most interesting class to track results during the week.

ICRA trophies will be awarded to each of these Classes, including Irish Sailing medals and potential places at the annual Irish Sailing All Ireland Sailing Championships.

The fleets will be racing to Cork in a race from Falmouth in the UK and the brand new K2Q Dun Laoghaire to Cork Harbour race

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Several feeder races are now in place for the ICRA National Championships which form part of July's Volvo Cork Week 2022.

The entry list for the championships continues to build with over 50 boats registered to compete in the IRC class and a further 14 boats registered for the coastal class.

Promising some top-class competitive racing, the idea behind the feeder races is to encourage boats from further afield to compete in the July 11-15th Cork Harbour-based championships.

Michael O'Donnell's UK based J/121 Darkwood from the RORC is entered for the ICRA Nationals in Cork Harbour Photo: Paul WyethMichael O'Donnell's UK based J/121 Darkwood from the RORC is entered for the ICRA Nationals in Cork Harbour

Kingstown to Queenstown Race

Organised in conjunction with ISORA, The 'Kingstown to Queenstown' (which formerly ran as the Fastnet 450 in 2020 during COVID) Race kicks off from Dun Laoghaire and consists of a  260-mile race, via the Fastnet Rock, ending in Cobh in Cork Harbour.

Falmouth to Cork Race

As Afloat reported earlier, The 180-mile Falmouth to Cork Race, most recently ran in the 1990s, sets off from Royal Falmouth Yacht Club on July 7th, and it is hoped that this race will encourage UK participants for Cork Week and the ICRA National Championships to attend.

The winner of the race will be the inaugural recipient of the Prince of Wales’s 300th Anniversary Trophy”. His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, is the Royal Patron of the Royal Falmouth Yacht Club.

"Hopefully, this weekend’s WAVE Regatta in Howth will enthuse more Dublin boats to travel to what is intended to be a fantastic regatta with the old Cork Week spirit!," ICRA Commodore Dave Cullen told Afloat

A full entry list for Cork Week and the ICRA National Championships is here with the entry form here

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With less than nine weeks to go, the countdown is on to the ICRA National Championships 2022 which forms part of Volvo Cork Week from July 11th -15th.

Hosted by the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest yacht club in the world, the Irish cruiser-racer championships form part of its tricentennial celebrations, ICRA Commodore Dave Cullen says.

ICRA Commodore Dave CullenICRA Commodore Dave Cullen

Of the more modern IRC boats already entered, some high profile visitors include Hamble based Darkwood, the J121 owned by Dublin Mike O’Donnell who is London based and has been having great success in RORC racing over the last two years and is expected to be racing Round Ireland in June.

The Ker 40, Signal 8 skippered by Jamie McWilliamThe Ker 40, Signal 8 skippered by Jamie McWilliam Photo: Afloat

Cullen told Afloat that the UK based La Response, the Ker 39 will revisit Irish shores in July and is joined by the more recent Ker 40, Signal 8 owned by Jamie McWilliam, now based in Hong Kong, who promises an Irish crew reunion for this event.

Zero II, the Mills 39 also has a Cork Harbour heritage having been formerly owned by David Dwyer who campaigned her with great success as Mariners Cove and now as Zero II, still enjoys success in the Solent is also entered.

The 1720 fleet will be a star of the show at Cork Week in JulyThe 1720 fleet will be a star of the show at Cork Week in July Photo: Bob Bateman

With 36 boats entered so far, the 1720 fleet will be a homegrown success for the club that first launched the one design in 1994.

The brand new Cape 31 entries are starting to grow with an increasing interest from the Solent based class, so hopefully, they will provide the spectacle they regularly do off Cowes. As regular readers know the first Irish Cape 31s arrived in Ireland this month

Cork Week will be a launchpad for the brand new Irish Cape 31 fleetCork Week will be a launchpad for the brand new Irish Cape 31 fleet

With a current entry of 110 boats across all fleets, which is ahead of the same time two years ago, ICRA and Cork Week are shaping up to be a highlight of the 2022 Irish sailing season, according to Cullen. 

Entries can be made at the following link here

More information including info on accommodation, travel and previous results can be found on the event main website here 

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After a couple of years of remote communication through pandemic times, Saturday’s Irish Cruiser Racer Association AGM & Conference in the National YC had such an already-packed agenda - and in an inevitably socialising setup too - that getting the best value from having multiple majors winner Tom Kneen of Plymouth as star speaker seemed like a challenge too far.

Yet the affable Fastnet Race overall winner and RORC multiple champion was well up to optimising the time available. We asked a senior sailing administrator, who is also a successful offshore campaigner of more than three decades experience in trophy-winning to international level, to note his impressions. As he says himself, while he’d every intention of producing a simple list of bullet points, Tom’s performance was a swift-running story in itself, so bullet points disappeared in face of a smooth-flowing narrative. Our seasoned observer, who prefers to remain anonymous, takes up the tale:

Tom Kneen on the helm, with Sunrise closing in towards the win of a lifetime at the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021Tom Kneen on the helm, with Sunrise closing in towards the win of a lifetime at the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021

“Tom is quite a guy, and exudes a sparkle and smiling personality that I've not seen so completely anywhere before – he has charisma in spades. Not only a skilled skipper in every sense of the word, but a superb yet down-to-earth orator too, and he'll no doubt be in demand for after-dinner speaking once the word gets out.

I got the sense that he is a racing sailor only because he loves every second of it - this despite the occasional and normal discomfort of offshore sailing. He's 37 years old, lives in Plymouth, runs a green energy company called Ethical Power which is based in Exeter, and is a long time member of the Royal Western Yacht Club at his home port, having ignited his flame for the sport in Mirror dinghies.

And the fact that the Royal Western YC “lost” the Rolex Fastnet Race finish for the first time in 2021, with the fleet concluding the new-look race in Cherbourg, made it doubly sweet that a RWYC member should win it with such style.

174TH IN FIRST FASTNET RACE……..

With life focused on building his energy business which he founded in his twenties, his period of having the resources and the time to give some concentration to offshore racing has been relatively brief. He told us of his pre-race preparations for his first (2015) Fastnet Race in his Elan 360 (also called Sunrise), and how before starting the continuing campaign, he Googled 'Fastnet Rock' to discover where it was……he finished 174th.

He explained that in his ambition to improve, he had mixed experience when taking pro sailors on board, and concluded that it was better to sail with his mates - have fun, but race hard and be competitive. He bought a JPK10.80 and raced in the 2017 Fastnet, finishing in 11th place in Class 3 (two places behind Dun Laoghaire's Kenny Rumball in the J109 'Jedi').

Friends together and winning – the Sunrise crew are declared the Fastnet Race’s favourites to win as they cross the line – and they did win too. Having conserved their energy for the extra miles in the final stages of the new longer course, they swept through the fleet’s times to victory in the concluding legs to the finish.Friends together and winning – the Sunrise crew are declared the Fastnet Race’s favourites to win as they cross the line – and they did win too. Having conserved their energy for the extra miles in the final stages of the new longer course, they swept through the fleet’s times to victory in the concluding legs to the finish.

Everything seemed to 'click' in 2019 when he first started to figure significantly in the RORC results frame. and he mentioned that adding Kiwi sailor Dave Sweet to the team for the Rolex Middle Sea Race was a pivotal decision. Being Tom, he managed to enthuse the experienced pro to join the crew without paying him (at least initially), and explained how he fitted perfectly into the team without corrupting the friendship and 'fun' bond that Tom had obviously sought and skillfully crafted in his “crew of friends” up to that point.

Tom's plan and schedule centres around competing in the 'Grand Prix' offshore events – he’s clearly wanting to get his hands on a Rolex at every opportunity….. His team's experience and talent is honed during the busy RORC calendar and it was during one of the short offshore races in 2020 that they realised their limits when they lost the rig on their newest 'Sunrise', a JPK 11.80.

TEAMWORK OF STRATEGY AND RESERVING ENERGY

He explained that this was also a crucial discovery and taught the team a lesson in pacing and reserving for the long-haul. They don't hike the boat offshore. Non-active crew are instead sent below to rest and reserve energy - a tactic that he explained as being a powerful tool. They also use two navigators for the same reason, although it would strike me as being a risky strategy in a team that is anything other that completely trusting of each others’ talents while knowing their limitations. 

This was revealing and might be the secret ingredient in Sunrise's success - it is a proper team of exceptional mutual trust and understanding. This teamwork and strategy of reserving energy was to be the winning of the 2021 Fastnet Race, along with some skilled interpretation of the satcom weather data which kept them in the fresher conditions on the return leg and eventually finishing 140 miles ahead of many of their principal competitors.

Tom's humility in respect of his stratospheric rise to the top of Corinthian racing is another remarkable trait. He is quick to assert that the results follow his philosophy of 'having fun with your mates' but pushing as hard as they can. He seems motivated by a 'David and Goliath' attitude, and this was never more evident than after the finish of the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race, when victory was snatched from Sunrise by the supermaxi 'Comanche' after a less-than-glorious moment from the International Jury.

STEELY DETERMINATION CLOAKED BY ENGAGING GRIN 

While Tom was appreciative of the generous and consoling Mitch Booth (Comanche skipper), the decision to deny Sunrise the win clearly torments the cheerful Kneen, who told us that it's still a very raw subject with him. It was interesting to hear that from him, and gave me a glimpse of the steely determination and ambition that is cloaked by the cheerful grin that never seems to leave his face. He told us that he expects that most sailors will say that “the ultimate pleasure is small boats beating big boats” and that Sunrise is “comfortable as an underdog”. So perhaps that's unfinished business for him, but it's unlikely that his JPK11.80 team will be portrayed as 'underdogs' in future events, even against Goliathan opposition.

“Just a crew of friends out for a fun race……” The formidable Sunrise Team is now proven as one of the best in the world.“Just a crew of friends out for a fun race……” The formidable Sunrise Team is now proven as one of the best in the world

In fact, Tom Kneen with Sunrise and his shipmates – a regular mix of male and female - are now the team to beat, regardless of boat size. They’re world league, yet solidly locally-based. And what goes round comes round. During a chat over the mid-conference lunch in the National Yacht Club along with incoming ICRA Commodore Dave Cullen and fellow Half Tonner Class member Jonny Swan, Tom revealed that he had raced Ron Holland's classic Half Tonner 'Silver Shamrock' (World Champion 1976 at Trieste with Harold Cudmore) in her restored form, sailing double-handed with fellow West Country man Stuart Greenfield as part of his own steep offshore racing learning curve.

Silver Shamrock is now Howth-based, and owned as the family pet boat by Conor Fogerty, who is currently training in the Bay of Biscay with his Figaro 3 Raw. So it goes on. We could have comfortably shot the breeze on offshore topics and gossip all afternoon with Tom Kneen. But the conference business had to resume, while a plane was waiting for Tom at Weston to fly him back to Plymouth. He took his departure, leaving ICRA members with the glowing impression that with the right personality, attitude and skills set, all offshore racing goals are possible.”

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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

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