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“Irish people of the sea have called for generations on the Blessed Virgin Mary as a guiding spirit while they are at sea.” That aspect of Irish maritime tradition refers to the use of the name Stella Maris on boats. However, I had not seen the name used before on an English boat, so I was particularly interested in an unusual-looking boat on Crosshaven Boatyard Marina in Cork Harbour. The stern was open as was the bow area. Her midships had a canvas/tarpaulin cover. To me, she seemed very much an open boat.

At the bow and stern and along the hull, she had an appearance reflecting design aspects of Galway Hookers and Irish currachs.

“That’s exactly what I think,” her owner Michael Hart, who likes the ‘open’ concept, told me: “Stella Maris is a Northumbrian coble, built in 1971 and one of the last of that 200-year-old tradition of building cobles in Yorkshire and Northumberland. She fished off the Northumbrian coast for the last 50 years. She is a big open boat at 32 feet LOA, though she does have that quality of indeterminate scale bestowed on certain boats by their designer/builders.”

Michael had brought her from East Anglia along the River Thames, through the Kennet & Avon Canal down to Bristol (the canal is 87 miles long - 140 kilometres - linking London with the Bristol Channel) then along the Welsh Coast, crossing to Kilmore Quay in Wexford and worked his way South to Crosshaven, en route to Rosbrin in West Cork, where she will be laid up. In Suffolk, where he lives, he is involved in running river trips with another boat from the Snape Maltings.

The Stella Maris coble is clinker built – the planks slightly overlap each other. The planking is made of larch timber and the frames of oak. In traditional fishing Northumbrian cobles often used sails and could also be rowed. The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre says the name ‘coble’ is “thought to be rooted in the Celtic 'Ceubal' or the Breton 'Caubal', both of which meant 'boat'.

Mike told me that he is particularly interested in the relationship of the coble design to the Galway Hookers and the currachs. He has “an abode” in Rosbrin and intends to be back in West Cork in September to do a bit of local cruising and lay Stella Maris up.

The connections between Northumbria and Ireland are interesting. Northumbria was an early medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland. The name derives from the Old English Norþanhymbre language meaning "the people or province north of the Humber.” Those people were once known as the ‘Celtic-Britons’. The area has a strong maritime, fishing tradition and Irish connections. One of the region’s harbours is Whitby, to the south of the Tees and north of the Humber, which will be known to followers of the Heartbeat television series. In 664, King Oswiu called the Synod of Whitby to determine whether to follow Roman or Irish customs. Northumbria had been converted to Christianity by Celtic clergy and the Celtic tradition for determining the date of Easter and Irish tonsure were supported by many clergy, particularly at the Abbey of Lindisfarne. However, Roman practice won out and those who favoured Irish customs refused to conform. Led by the Celtic Bishop Colman of Lindisfarne they moved to the island of Iona in Scotland

More from Michael Harte on my Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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After a miserable 48 hours of fog and rain, the weather gods finally cast a benevolent eye on Schull on Wednesday. Calves Week competitors were greeted with a clear blue sky and steady 15 knots of westerly wind.

Race Officer Alan Crosbie started all seven fleets in the inner harbour with a short cross harbour beat to the weather mark before the fleets split into various courses before all rounding the Fastnet Rock.

The Calves Week 2022 fleet in Schull Harbour The Calves Week 2022 fleet in Schull Harbour Photo: Mary Malone

In Class 0 IRC, ISORA champion Paul O'Higgins' JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI held off the challenge of Royal Cork's Jelly Baby, with the Jones family having to settle for the ECHO prize.

Irish Sea Offshore champion, Rockabill VI leads Class Zero at Calves Week after the Fastnet Race Photo: Bob BatemanIrish Sea Offshore champion Rockabill VI leads Class Zero at Calves Week after the Fastnet Race Photo: Bob Bateman 

Two Cape 31s are racing at Calves Week, including Anthony O'Leary's striking red-hulled Antix Photo: Bob BatemanTwo Cape 31s are racing at Calves Week, including Anthony O'Leary's striking red-hulled Antix Photo: Bob Bateman

The pace of the new high tech Cape 31s is clearly seen in this drone image of Antx leading Dan O'Grady's blue-hulled Aja from Howth Photo: Tom NewmanThe pace of the new high tech Cape 31s is clearly seen in this drone image of Antix leading Dan O'Grady's blue-hulled Aja from Howth with Afloat's photographer Bob Bateman in pursuit by RIB Photo: Tom Newman

The visiting J121 Darkwood from Cowes (left) and the Jones family's J122 Jelly Baby from Royal Cork Photo: Bob BatemanThe visiting J121 Darkwood from Cowes (left) and the Jones family's J122 Jelly Baby from Royal Cork Photo: Mary Malone

In Class 1 IRC, it was an all-east coast affair with the Parnell family on Black Velvet from the Royal Irish YC coming home ahead of Snapshot of Howth.

Leslie Parnell's Beneteau First 34.7 Black Velvet wins the Calves Week Class One start for the opening race round the Fastnet Rock Photo: Bob BatemanLeslie Parnell's Beneteau First 34.7 Black Velvet (3471) wins the first Calves Week 2022 Class One start for the opening race round the Fastnet Rock Photo: Bob Bateman

In ECHO, victory went to Gabby Hogan's Growler, followed by another local Schull boat crewed by the O'Brien family in Tighey Boy.

Gabby Hogan's Growler Photo: Bob BatemanGabby Hogan's Growler Photo: Bob Bateman

The O'Brien family's J109 in Tighey Boy is a local West Cork entry Photo: Bob BatemanThe O'Brien family's J109 in Tighey Boy is a local West Cork entry Photo: Bob Bateman

Class 2 saw Joe Kiernan's Gambit representing Foynes YC on the Shannon Estuary, winning both divisions from the Royal Cork's Bad Company.

The Collins family Dehler 34 Ealu from Baltimore Photo: Bob BatemanThe Collins' family Dehler 34 Ealu from Baltimore Photo: Bob Bateman

In Class 3 IRC, the Collins family from Baltimore sailing their Dehler 34 Ealu took the trophy, while in ECHO, victory went to Martin Lane's Chatter Box.

 Rob O Reilly's Dynamo 25 BonJourno! Part Deux from Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob BatemanRob O Reilly's Dynamo 25 BonJourno! Part Deux from Monkstown Bay Sailing Club Photo: Bob Bateman

Class 4 saw a runaway victory for Rob O Reilly's Bon Journo in both divisions.

In White sail 1, it was back to winning ways for the Murphy family in Nieulargo, sailing this time in an unfamiliar fleet. 

Royal Cork's Yacht of the Year, the Grand Soleil 40, Nieulargo, is competing in the White Sails Division Photo: Bob BatemanRoyal Cork's Yacht of the Year, the Grand Soleil 40, Nieulargo, is competing in the White Sails Division Photo: Bob Bateman

The loudest cheer of the evening presentation went to the old lady of the fleet when Simon O Keefe was presented with the White sail 2 Trophy for sailing the Schull-based 120-year-old Lady Min to victory, passing the finishing line on the beach from which she was originally launched in 1902.

An early decision is expected on Thursday morning on whether to schedule an additional series of races to compensate for Tuesday's cancellation.  

Bob Bateman's Calves Week 2022 Photo Gallery Day Two (Fastnet Race)

Results are below

Published in Calves Week
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The pace of this first full post-pandemic sailing season in Ireland has been such that when we reached what might be thought of as the mid-point around July 15th, there was a real need for a rapid re-charging of the batteries or whatever it is that keeps your personal boat show energised and on the move.

And yet again the Afloat.ie Spiritual Renewal Service came up trumps with a special rapid-revitalising item. However, we don’t mean the piece about zapping through the tunnel in the Bull Rock under power in a RIB or under sail in a Laser. That certainly stimulated a lively response on an otherwise somnolent day. But it was an outpouring of righteous indignation that we should suggest in our first mistaken version of the story that the Bull Rock is in Kerry, whereas it is the last pinpoint of West Cork in an area where the boundaries between the Republic of Cork and the Kingdom of Kerry are somewhat fuzzy.

The majestic sea inlet of Kenmare – is it a river or is it a bay?The majestic sea inlet of Kenmare – is it a river or is it a bay?

And another line of attack was our reference to the Kenmare River. There may well be a growing movement down in the southwest to revert to that magnificent inlet being re-named Kenmare Bay like all the other rias of West Cork and Kerry. But the fact is that it has officially been the Kenmare River since around 1655, when the remarkable polymath William Petty was the Surveyor-General. 

HAVING THE RIGHT PLACE NAME MAKES MONEY

In travelling through and mapping out Ireland for his comprehensive Down Survey (so named because absolutely every snippet of property information acquired was written down) he came upon Kenmare, aka Neidin – the Little Nest.

He saw that it was good, and he saw that everywhere about it was good, so he promptly allocated vast swathes of the area to himself. And in a stroke of genius he renamed Kenmare Bay as the Kenmare River. For had it remained a bay, he would only have had ownership of the fishery rights close along the shores. But when it was accepted as a river, he acquired exclusive fishery rights the whole way to the open ocean, down towards the dentally-challenged Bull Rock.

The “dentally-challenged” Bull RockThe “dentally-challenged” Bull Rock

It may well be that in the furthest areas of the Beara and Iveragh peninsulas, there is a movement afoot to revert to the Kenmare Bay name in line with a de-colonisation programme. If we accept this, we wouldn’t be obliterating the memory of Sir William Petty in the world of sailing, for by the 1660s he was comfortably set up in the considerable lands he’d also found to allocate to himself in what is now largely Dublin 4.

Eternally curious and energetic, he was experimenting with the catamaran Simon & Jude, built for Petty in 1663 in Arklow, successfully tested that year in Dublin Bay against a couple of representative local craft of renowned performance, and re-created in 1981 by current “International Classic Boater of the Year” Hal Sisk of Dun Laoghaire in the midst of what is now a lifetime of historic maritime projects.

Hal Sisk’s re-creation of the 1663-vintage catamaran Simon & Jude racing against a Bantry Boat in 1981. Photo: W M NixonHal Sisk’s re-creation of the 1663-vintage catamaran Simon & Jude racing against a Bantry Boat in 1981. Photo: W M Nixon

Model of the Simon & Jude. This 17th Century line of development by William Petty came to an end when a much larger version, The Experiment, was lost in stormy weather in the Bay of BiscayModel of the Simon & Jude. This 17th Century line of development by William Petty came to an end when a much larger version, The Experiment, was lost in stormy weather in the Bay of Biscay

WEST CORK FESTIVAL AFLOAT

We could go on for the rest of the day along this line of thought. But invigorating and complex as all these many lines of semi-nautical notions may be, it was a much more straightforward Afloat.ie item that raised the spirits, and that was Bob Bateman’s comprehensively-illustrated preview of the upcoming Calves Week 2022 & West Cork Festival of Yacht Racing from Saturday, July 30th until Friday, August 5th at Baltimore and Schull.

It gets underway with a SCORA day passage race on Saturday, July 30th from Kinsale to Baltimore, where they’ll find the brilliantly revitalized International 1720s and the locally-based Heir Island Sloops already into their three-day Baltimore Bank Holiday Championship.

A 30-year-old idea finds new life. With David Love leading the class organisation, the much-revived 1720s were stars in Cork Week 2022. Photo: Rick TomlinsonA 30-year-old idea finds new life. With David Love leading the class organisation, the much-revived 1720s were stars in Cork Week 2022. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Heading west for a re-charging of energy levels in the second half of the season has been part of Irish sailing ever since the early days of the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork in the 1700s, and the local regattas the length of the Atlantic seaboard – all the way from Kinsale to Moville in Donegal – are an integral part of our shared sailing experience, with arguably the most characterful being the Cruinniu na mBad – the Gathering of the Boats – at Kinvara in the southeast corner of Galway Bay, which is marked in for the weekend of August 13-14th after two years in abeyance.

The mighty boats of Connemara – Galway Hookers racing at KinvaraThe mighty boats of Connemara – Galway Hookers racing at Kinvara

Nevertheless, it is the bizarre world of West Cork – which is as much a state of mind as a place – where most sailing thoughts will be re-locating as August makes in. There is something about sailing and racing in the waters of Roaring Water Bay and the seas out toward the Fastnet Rock under the eternal presence of Mount Gabriel that gives you the feeling of being at the very heart of existence, with the rest of the cosmos rotating around certain connoisseurs’ bars in Schull.

You can live for the moment or allow the past to intrude. After all, what’s happening at the beginning of August goes back to 1884 and the first Schull Regatta. In doing so, you have to acknowledge a very grim era of Irish history, as Schull was one of the places worst hit by the Great Famine. It arguably wasn’t over until 1854, and its long term ill effects were still much in evidence in 1864, yet just twenty years after that enough life had returned to stage the first Schull Regatta.

We went to the Schull Centenary Regatta in 1984 with the 30-footer I had at the time, getting there after an entertaining cruise to southwest Wales, Lundy, west Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly. And in Schull, there was a real sense of a very meaningful Centenary.

The ultimate summer place – Schul Harbur with Roaringwater Bay and Carbury’s Hundred Isles beyondThe ultimate summer place – Schull Harbour with Roaringwater Bay and Carbury’s Hundred Isles beyond

Admittedly Schull in 1984 wasn’t the hyper-prosperous “Dublin 38” it is now, but it was doing very nicely and was glad to have long since moved on from the horrors of the mid-19th Century. And the very fact of staging the Centenary Regatta was such a quietly joyful occasion that it didn’t really matter that the wind fell away completely at mid-race.

THE ALL-MOVING FINISH LINE

For lo, the Race Officers looked out from the Committee Boat and saw that the legendary Imp – at that time owned and skippered by Michael O’Leary of Dun Laoghaire – appeared to have a handsome lead. So they moved the Committee Boat and the pin mark out to a location about fifty yards ahead of the almost totally stationary Imp, and when the slight tide carried Michael and his Merry Men & Women through this ad hoc finish line, they celebrated this winner of the Schull Centenary Regatta with a fusillade of gunfire.

Imp will of course be back in Schull in August thanks to the restoration by George Radley of Cobh. And in the event of total calm, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the finish line to be re-located precisely as it was 38 years ago.

Schull from Mount Gabriel, with Cape Clear and the Fastnet Rock in the distanceSchull from Mount Gabriel, with Cape Clear and the Fastnet Rock in the distance

Published in W M Nixon
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Data from the M3 and M5 buoys off the South Coast is being recovered for analysis by the Marine Institute to ascertain whether it can explain the cause of a tidal drop of 70 cms reported at Union Hall and Courtmacsherry in West Cork last Saturday afternoon.

Local people described the tide level dropping in a few minutes and then flooding back in.

There have been further reports of similar happenings on the Wexford coast and in Wales.

As Afloat reported earlier, descriptions of what happened in the area of Glandore Harbour where Union Hall is located have varied, from some people describing water levels leaving boats temporarily touching bottom where they were moored, to others who claimed the tide “came in and out several times…” and another comment: “the tide was going the wrong way…”

A fishing boat in Glandore HarbourA fishing boat in Glandore Harbour

Amongst reports of seismological activity on Saturday were a 2.6 magnitude earthquake before noon near the Azores. That was logged at the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

Historical context records a 1755 earthquake off the coast of Portugal, which was reported to have caused damage on the Irish South Western coast.

Amongst suggestions for the cause is atmospheric pressure, northerly wind and known water actions at the areas involved. Oceanography sources have tended to discount the incidents in West Cork being associated with the seismic action off Portugal. “It would not be big enough to have that effect,” I was told. “Rare, unusual, possibly driven by a number of factors that may lead to an unusual event, but in this case the cause is so far not clear, so examining date from the buoys at sea may help to indicate it.”

No other Cork coastal areas have reported anything similar.

A Marine Institute statement said: "An unusual tidal event was observed on Saturday 18th June 2022 at Union Hall (West Cork) at 14.40 (UTC) with a low water of -2.629m measured by the Irish Tide Gauge Network.”

Published in West Cork
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Martin Lane’s Chatterbox won the May Cruiser League at Schull Harbour Sailing Club (SHSC) in West Cork.

Michael Murphy’s Shelly D was second and Frank O’Hara’s Samphire third.

The Summer Series begins at SHSC on Saturday, June 11th.

Published in West Cork

“There was a lot of work, hull planking, fitting the stem post, caulking, filling, fairing, sanding, priming and painting. We lost over two years on the project due to Covid and this old girl was in a worse condition than we initially realised. It was a big undertaking for us but we have got there.”

So say the members of Allihies Men’s Shed on the western tip of the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, who will launch the ‘Dursey Clipper’ this weekend.

It is a seine boat, sixty to seventy years old, which had lain unused for about eleven years on nearby Dursey Island. It was given to them by the oldest resident of the island, Jimmy Harrington, who will be 81 years old next month.

Dursey is the island which made headlines earlier this year when Ireland’s only cable car service there had to be halted for maintenance works. This led to controversy as the island had two permanent residents and farms owned by mainland residents. After discussion, the cable car was replaced by a State-funded ferry.

Allihies Men’s Shed is a strong part of the Beara community. From its maritime tradition, former fishermen are among its members.

Putting the final touches to the Dursey Clipper Seine Boat in the Allihies mens shed in West CorkPutting the final touches to the Dursey Clipper Seine Boat in the Allihies mens shed on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork

“We were looking for a project and the boat was given to us. We have members who are former fishermen and were delighted to get it,” David Dudley of the Shed told me on my maritime programme/podcast, Maritime Ireland. “Seine boats were used extensively around West Cork for netting, potting and other traditional fishing activities.

The boats would have been up to 27 feet long. This one is shorter at 18 feet. Inshore fishing was strong when they were in use. Herring and mackerel were caught.”

Historical records describe “huge shoals of pilchards that came to the comparatively warm, sheltered waters of West Cork islands during the summer months. There were curing stations in villages to prepare the fish for sale. There was a lot of employment in a vibrant fishing industry and there could be two boats using a seine net, such were the catches.”

Painted in blue with a topside broad, black line. the restored boat is impressive and will be launched this Sunday at 2 pm at a community gathering on Garnish Pier.

It took a bit of discussion to decide on the name!

“We pondered and mulled over the name for the past month and couldn't agree. Then we whittled it down to a shortlist and put it to a vote. ‘Dursey Clipper’ won out,” David Dudley told me. “All are welcome at the launch.”

Listen to him on the Podcast here.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Baltimore RNLI was called out to provide assistance to a yacht with four people on board that got into difficulty 52 miles off the coast of Baltimore, West Cork, yesterday (Sunday 5 June).

The volunteer lifeboat crew launched their all-weather lifeboat just before 1 pm, following requests from the Irish Coast Guard and the UK Coastguard to go to the assistance of a 36-foot motor yacht, with four people on board, which had encountered difficulties and was 52 miles south of Baltimore.

The Baltimore all-weather lifeboat crew arrived at the casualty vessel at 3.22 pm. After making sure all four people on board were okay, Coxswain Aidan Bushe assessed the situation and decided that undertaking a tow was necessary and the safest way to assist the casualties.

Crew members from the lifeboat passed a tow to the yacht and the lifeboat and casualty vessel were underway by 3.30 pm. The lifeboat then proceeded to Baltimore Harbour, the nearest safe and suitable port, and secured the casualty vessel at the pontoon at 10.14pm. The lifeboat then returned to the station, arriving at 10.25 pm.

There were six volunteer crew onboard the lifeboat, Coxswain Aidan Bushe, Mechanic Micheal Cottrell and crew members Pat Collins, David Ryan, Colin Whooley and Jim Griffiths. Conditions at sea during the call were choppy with an easterly force 3-4 wind, a 1.1m sea swell and good visibility.

Speaking following the call out, Kate Callanan, Baltimore RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer said: ‘It was a long callout for our volunteer lifeboat crew who spent over 9 hours at sea, but the occupants of the yacht did the right thing in requesting assistance. We wish them well with the rest of their journey. If you get into difficulty at sea or on the coast, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Funds to help regions 'adjust' to Brexit will be used to fund major improvements at 14 harbours across West Cork it was announced earlier this week.

As Afloat reported earlier, the grant is the largest ever funding announcement of its kind for local authority marine infrastructure for piers and harbours right around Ireland's coast.

As a result, many West Cork piers, slipways and pontoons are set to undergo major improvements with 14 out of 15 projects submitted getting green-lit for funds from the Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme 2022-2023.

The funding will go into marine amenities in Kinsale, Courtmacsherry, Glengarriff, Baltimore and some other areas too.

 Glandore Pier - safety improvement works and repairs to the existing slipway are to be carried out(Above and below) Glandore Pier - safety improvement works and repairs to the existing slipway are to be carried out Photos: Bob Bateman

(Above and below) Glandore Pier - safety improvement works and repairs to the existing slipway are to be carried out Photo: Bob Bateman

Minister Charlie McConalogue T.D.announced the approval of €32.7m in funding for 110 projects around the Irish coast (see table below) which will fund projects worth over €40m in total. The scheme is proposed for funding under the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

Cork South West Deputy Christopher O’Sullivan said it was a very welcome boost for the harbours that will see investment that will benefit all who use them. "I’ve consistently said west Cork’s potential in terms of marine activities is completely untapped," Deputy O’Sullivan told media.

"A way of accessing that is by funding and improving our small piers and harbours, the provision of extra pontoons and more. This will benefit the inshore fishing sector and marine activities such as boat tours, whale watching and kayaking", he said. 

Brexit Adjustment: West Cork's Marine Infrastructure Scheme 2022-2023

  • Kinsale - Fisherman's pontoon €1,291,492
  • Courtmacsherry - dredging for the reinstallation of the pontoon. €552,000
  • Baltimore - Safety improvement works €170,000
  • Laheratanvally pier - €202,000
  • Turk Head pier - remedial works to pier deck €82,429
  • Kinsale Slipways - improvement to various slips €179,254
  • Glengarriff - dredging works €212,500
  • Cunnamore pier - various works including storage area, handrails, signage, line marking - €90,607
  • Glandore Pier - safety improvement works - €84,487, repair to the existing slipway, a new concrete section at toe €68,406

Baltimore Harbour - Safety improvement works to the value of €170,000 will be carried out(Above and below) Baltimore Harbour - Safety improvement works to the value of €170,000 will be carried out Photos: Bob Bateman

Download the full Brexit Adjustment: Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme 2022-2023 here

Published in West Cork
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Union Hall RNLI in West Cork launched to a speedboat in difficulty in Glandore Harbour on Saturday, March 2th.

The 16-foot speedboat with three persons on board had lost power between Adam and Eve at the entrance to Glandore harbour.

The Atlantic 85 Christine and Raymond Fielding under helm Michael Limrick with crew Darren Collins, Liam Limrick and Sean Walsh launched in South East force 5 moderate to rough sea conditions,

Within a few minutes of the pagers being activated, and were on scene where the vessel was drifting ashore. A tow was established and the vessel was escorted to the safety of the pier in Union Hall.

Following the call out, John Kelleher, Union Hall RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager said: ‘With the unprecedented fine weather we are experiencing currently, remember the following; wear a life jacket and carry a means of communication.

Union Hall RNLI also welcomed new volunteer Niamh Collins on her first call out as shore crew.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Schull Harbour Sailing Club is already preparing for Calves Week in August and has issued the Notice of Race for the West Cork major annual event.

“After all the uncertainty which the pandemic created for the past few years, we want to get our arrangements across with certainty to everyone for this season, providing the planning for the year ahead which, we hope, will be a much better one for sailing than the difficulties the sport had to overcome for the past few years,” says Schull Commodore Sean Norris.

Within a few hours of the NOR being issued, entries had started to arrive. The event will run from Tuesday, August 2 to Friday, August 5.

“We look forward to welcoming everyone to Schull in the first week of August where old friendships can be renewed and new ones made,” says Commodore Norris who is my guest on this week’s Podcast where we discuss the success of the West Cork club’s efforts to popularise sailing in both cruisers and dinghies.

Club cruiser racing will begin in May and Saturday morning dinghy racing and tuition in June.

Podcast below

Notice of Race document downloadable below

Published in Calves Week
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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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