#suttondinghyclub – With over two hundred in attendance, the black-tie Gala Dinner last Saturday (November 15th) marking Sutton Dinghy Club's 75 years of sailing in Sutton Creek was a Who's Who of many of Ireland's top sailors. The event, staged in the Marine Hotel at Sutton Cross where the Club has had its social home going right back to its earliest days, had been a sell-out for many weeks. And in pride of place in the hotel foyer, beside the Champions & Achievers Honours Board and a photographic history display, was a classic International 12ft dinghy, beautifully restored by former Commodore Aidan Henry, a tangible reminder of the boats raced by the Club in its early years.
In his welcome, Commodore Andy Johnston commented that the large attendance was a celebration of Sutton Dinghy Club's significant achievements and contribution to Irish sailing across those 75 years, and thanked Ciara O'Tiarnaigh (daughter of former Commodores Muriel and Riocard O'Tiarnaigh) and her organizing committee for the tireless effort in making the evening happen.
The guests included Ireland's Olympics medalists from 1980, David Wilkins and former Sutton Dinghy Club racer Jamie Wilkinson. Commodore Johnston also welcomed David Lovegrove, not only as President of the ISA, but as a former National and International champion dinghy sailor who sailed under the burgee of SDC for many years.
SDC Commodore Andy Johnston with former junior member Jamie Wilkinson, Olympic Sailing Silver Medallist 1980
Commodore's wife Jane Johnston, Olympic Silver Medallist David Wilkins, and SDC Commodore Andy Johnston at the 75th Anniversary Dinner
The Commodore made reference to the recent launch by the President of our sport's most important strategic plan in many years. Outside of the high performance Olympic sector, sailing at grass roots is struggling and dinghy sailing especially needs significant help and support. On behalf of the membership of Sutton Dinghy Club, Andy said they were very proud of his selection as ISA President, and in welcoming the new strategic plan, he assured him that the members of SDC could be counted on to provide input and support to the ISA if required.
The Commodore also welcomed 12 former Club Commodores (Roy Dickson, Padraig O'Cearbhaill, Charles Sargent, Joe Phelan, Terry Harvey, Ian Sargent, Muriel O'Tiarnaigh, Padraic Boyle, Noel Dempsey, Dick Dunne, Tony Clery and Aidan Henry), and the Club's other living Olympians Barry O'Neill and Dan O'Grady. A special cheer was given for the attendance of David Hogg, the Club's oldest living National Champion, winner of International 12 Championship in Crosshaven in 1949. Also in attendance were 17 of the Club's young and enthusiastic instructors.
Jane Johnston, ISA President David Lovegrove, and Andy Johnston. David Lovegrove attended the 75th Anniversary Dinner both as President of the ISA, and as a former and very successful dinghy sailor at Sutton Creek.
In welcoming the guests to the Dinner, the Commodore spoke about the Club's welcome return to the upper end of competitive racing with good showing in both Mirror and GP14 National and International events this year, and of the opportunity the night presented to meet and welcome many former Champions and sailors from the Optimist, Mirror, GP14, Fireball and IDRA14 fleets down the years.
A brief jog down the Club's memory lane was undertaken by former National Champion and ISA Helmsman Champion Ruan O'Tiarnaigh, one of Sutton Dinghy Club's sailing greats. He mentioned how, from its early beginnings in 1940, Ireland's first ever and still running Team Racing event, the Book Trophy, was inaugurated in 1944 between Sutton Dinghy Club and what is now the Royal Cork YC.
Sutton Dinghy Club is so highly regarded in its local community and on the national sailing scene that the 75th Anniversary Gala Dinner on Saturday night attracted an attendance of 204.
Another pioneering move was the creation in 1946 of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association (forerunner to the IYA and ISA) at a meeting held in the offices of Desmond Keatinge, the then Commodore of Sutton Dinghy Club. Ruan remarked that the Club, though very small membership-wise, has long played and continues to play a significant local community role in addition to punching well above its weight in the national sailing scene.
In listing the Club's achievements, Ruan referred to Sutton's five Olympians - Jem Sullivan, Alf Delany, Barry O'Neill, Jamie Wilkinson and Dan O'Grady - who attended Games in London, Helsinki, Montreal, Moscow and Atlanta. He also spoke of SDC's 35 Irish and overseas National Champions in 19 Classes – they have won more than 115 Championships between them. And he confirmed that the Club has provided 6 ISA Helmsmans Champions winning 8 Championships, with another 3 Junior Helmsmans Champions for good measure.
At various stages Sutton Dinghy Club have been at forefront of Fireballs (8 national championships and 6 runners-up), Mirrors (9 National Champions and 3 runners-up), Optimists (3 National Champions), GP14 (7 National Champions and 3 runners-up) and IDRA14 (30+ National Champions). Many of these former champions were in attendance on the evening.
Andy Johnston with former Olympian, dinghy champion and SDC member Barry O'Neill, and international sailing legend Roy Dickson, a former Commodore of Sutton DC who won his first international trophy under the SDC burgee in 1954.
Ruan's outline of the Club's story was completed with a reference to Sutton Dinghy Club's involvement in International events. Since 1954, when Roy Dickson and Brian Galton won an Inter-Country sailing event in YW Hornets held in Burnham-on-Crouch, UK, the Club's sailors have graced Admiral's Cup and Commodore's Cup teams, taken silverware back from Fireball, Mirror and GP14 Worlds and Kiel Week, and competed at the very top of professional sailing in the Sydney-Hobart Race and Australian 18ft skiffs.
A particular highlight was 1967, when eight Sutton Dinghy Club sailors attended the Fireball Worlds in Bendor in France, with Roy Dickson and Hugh Morton taking third, while David Lovegrove and Ian Baird were fourth. To the delight of the attendance, ISA President David Lovegrove was left speechless when he saw for the first time a snippet of video from this 1967 event including the prizegiving ceremony.
The formal aspect of the evening ended with presentation of mounted Club burgees by the Commodore and his wife Jane to all past SDC Commodores, the four Olympians (David Wilkins, Barry O'Neill, Jamie Wilkinson and Dan O'Grady), and to David Lovegrove. Then in the classic Sutton tradition, as recounted in loving detail in several pages of The Book, the evening ran on well into the early hours, with music and dancing and much reminiscing, a memorable way to celebrate 75 years, and a very special night for a very special sailing club.
More social photos from the night below