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Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 Should Be In–Harbour For The Bicentenary

25th March 2017
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The spirit of Dun Laoghaire. J/109s giving it all they’ve got on Dublin Bay. For 2017’s festive Dun Laoghaire Regatta event from July 6th to 9th, the J/109s have very sensibly decided to opt for participation in the open division, adding the interest of racing against boats of other types while being secure in the knowledge that their own stand-alone National One Design Championship (2016 edition pictured above) will be held later in the year. If their “most serious series” is thus planned to be at another place and another time, why not allow them to finish at least one VDLR race within Dun Laoghaire Harbour? The spirit of Dun Laoghaire. J/109s giving it all they’ve got on Dublin Bay. For 2017’s festive Dun Laoghaire Regatta event from July 6th to 9th, the J/109s have very sensibly decided to opt for participation in the open division, adding the interest of racing against boats of other types while being secure in the knowledge that their own stand-alone National One Design Championship (2016 edition pictured above) will be held later in the year. If their “most serious series” is thus planned to be at another place and another time, why not allow them to finish at least one VDLR race within Dun Laoghaire Harbour? Photo: Afloat.ie

For the summer of 2017 at least, it looks as though Dun Laoghaire Harbour is going to remain free of the threat of the installation of a new liner berth. W M Nixon reckons this provides a unique opportunity for town and harbour to come together as they may have done once upon a time, but have failed to replicate for many years. He provides the background, and makes some suggestions.

The trouble with Dun Laoghaire is that there’s nowhere else quite like it. There isn’t really a truly comparable totally artificial harbour anywhere else on this scale set on the edge of a city, in the midst of an area of general affluence and recreational expectations. It is arguably unique. Nowhere in the world is there a similar setup from which those who hope to manage Dun Laoghaire Harbour effectively might learn lessons on how to make a viable proposition of their port and its future.

Although the original asylum harbour was built by engineer John Rennie and others in majestic style, at the time it had only one simple purpose – to provide shelter for unwieldy sailing ships when Dublin Bay was storm-beset and Dublin Port with its very shallow bar entrance was inaccessible.

The original plans show a sublime indifference to the existence of the little old harbour of Dunleary immediately to the west of the proposed location of the vast new structure. And the little port there has long since disappeared under high value property development to an extent which the early harbour planners cannot have begun to imagine.

dun laoghaire old plan2The original plan for the new harbour deliberately excluded the little old harbour of Dunleary to the west, as the new harbour was not intended to provide ship to shore access.

For the idea was not that this would be a port. On the contrary, it would only be a place of temporary shelter in which vessels of importance – particularly those on British government business - would be secure until conditions improved. It was not envisaged that there would be any significant shoreside contact during their short time in what very quickly became Kingstown Harbour.

For of course, no sooner was a harbour under construction, than a town began to develop beside it. It was notoriously un-planned, so much so that fifty years later a critic mocked its name of Kingstown – conferred with a Royal visit in 1821 – by pointing out that far from being a King’s town, it was rather more of a republic of selfish building anarchy.

At the beginning – which we now date to 200 years ago, with the first stone officially laid on May 31st 1817 - significant shoreside development had not been intended. As historian Hal Sisk has pointed out, at no time did the official plans include anything so basic to a proper port town such as warehouses, let alone shipyards or even boatyards. But the basic existence of the harbour in its earliest form by the late 1820s saw the first regatta being staged in 1828. Recreational sailing and the harbour have been intertwined ever since. And the irresistible growth impulse of Kingstown was underlined by the arrival of the railway from Dublin in 1834.

carlisle pier area3The eastern part of Kingstown harbour at its Victorian high point as a ferry port. The area in the centre, immediately east of Carlisle Pier, will be used for berthing Classic and Traditional Vessels in July during the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017.
We take that date of 1834 for granted, but in terms of world railway history, it was very early indeed. And it in turn roped Kingstown into other unplanned developments. As long as the entrance to Dublin port remained dangerously shallow, Kingstown had all the advantages for the rapid development of the cross channel ferry trade. It was all done initially on an ad hoc basis, but it worked for the ferries, while the already proven attractions of the place as an innovative recreational sailing location made it central to world sailing development by the 1860s and 1870s.

So for most of the two hundred years whose history we’ll be celebrating in July, Dun Laoghaire/Kingtown has been struggling with the fact that the basic concept of the harbour - which by its monumental and historic scale still dictates what can be done with it today – was planned with virtually no attention paid to the sea/land interface.

rstgyc regatta 1870s4Despite the restrictions on waterfront space, Kingstown Harbour had become a leading sailing centre by the latter half of the 19th century, as shown in this painting by Richard Brydges Beechey of a Royal St George YC regatta in the 1870s. Courtesy RStGYC

Ideally, when the harbour was being built, at least as large an area ashore should have been set aside on the adjacent land to provide for a proper harbour town. But nothing remotely like this was done, and the railway was brought in by the easiest possible shoreside route, thereby putting another barrier between the growing town and the harbor. As a result, the town/harbour relationship has always been problematic. This is particularly so when allied to the fact that areas of conspicuous affluence are almost cheek by jowl with what seem like semi-deprived areas by comparison.

On top of all this, there’s the eternal problem of paying for the harbour’s maintenance. It was superbly built in the first place, but it would be an insult to those early engineers, and their incredibly industrious workers labouring under dangerous conditions, if we failed to maintain the harbour properly in a manner which respects its original concept, while continuing to give it validity for contemporary life.

viceroy wins5The good old days……..It is the summer of 1901, and the Viceroy Lord Dudley is finishing in-harbour after threading his course through moored yachts to take the win with his new Dublin Bay 25 Fodhla in company with some boats of the new version of the Water Wag class. In second place in the DB 25s is Nepenthe (No 4, Sir H Robinson). Both Dublin Bay 25s were built in Dun Laoghaire by J E Doyle. Photo courtesy Theo Harris

Since the ferries pulled out to re-locate entirely in Dublin Port, taking their guaranteed income stream with them, the struggle has gone on between those who wish to develop any potential the harbour might have for a cruise-liner port of call, and those who feel it should be seen more as a sort of maritime version of the Phoenix Park. They envisage it as a vast breathing space, ultimately maintained by public funds if there’s a shortfall between the income generated by recreational use, and the routine maintenance and administration expenses.

But for the moment, any further development has been postponed awaiting a court case. In it, the point is to be made that making the harbour accessible to functioning liners, with emission-spewing machinery working on a 24/7 basis, will have the effect of polluting the atmosphere in and around the harbour - particularly along the East Pier, the regular promenade for thousands of Dubliners in search of fresh air.

Apparently this point had not been made in the original hearings, so the result is that for the summer of 2017, Dun Laoghaire Harbour will continue as it is at present, with new areas of open sailing space available following the removal of the Stena installations.

dun laoghaire6Dun Laoghaire Harbour as it is at present, offering ample space for finishing races. Photo Peter Barrow

In the circumstances, surely this is a golden opportunity for the organisers of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 to take a look at any section of their enormous and very varied entry list, and select classes which could be given the treat of having at least one of their races finish within the harbour?

Increased ferry traffic was just one of the reasons why the racing for larger craft was obliged to take place outside the harbour. For national and international events, the obsession with committee boat starts and finishes further dictated the move seaward. In Dun Laoghaire, it meant that the connection between the town and active highly-visible sailing became more tenuous than ever.

Yet if we look back to old photos of Dun Laoghaire when it was in the full pomp of its years of Kingstown yachting glory, it was the action in the harbour which brought the whole show to life, and gave everyone a sense of involvement. So let’s hope that the powers-that-be realize that the deferring – permanently we hope – of the proposed liner berth offers an opportunity. Liners Out, Sailboats Back In – that could be the slogan for 2017.

national yc7The accessible area off the National YC (photo pre-Lexicon) will provide berthing for Classics and Traditional craft Photo: Peter Barrow

Of course we don’t expect that the really hot classes will agree to finish in-harbour. But there’s something about the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta which attracts a significant segment of participants for whom a bit of fun is central to the sport, and indeed there are many who think that the real sport would be in having to make an in-harbour finish.

The Classics and Traditional Craft will be playing a significant role in this special year. In addition to a dedicated berth with lots of pontoon length being provided for them in the area off the National Yacht Club, the word is that on one day at least, they will have their start in the harbour, highly visible from the East Pier in the area immediately beyond the Carlisle Pier.

temp pontoon8Plan of the proposed pontoon location off the National YC to berth “boats with bowsprits”.

With boat types such as Drascombes coming as a fleet, the notion of the potential accessibility of sailing could be given an enormous boost. What could seem more approachable than the presence of Drascombe man Jack O’Keefe and his mates in friendly competition within the harbour, along with all sorts of other exotic craft such as the Shannon One Designs?

jack okeeffe9Jack O’Keeffe’s Drascombe is usually seen in distant ports of the west… .Photo: Pierce Purcell

Jack OKeeffe10….but in July 2017 he and his fellow enthusiasts are headed for Dun Laoghaire’s Bicentenary. Photo: Pierce PurcellNot least of such exotica will be the Water Wags, more than ever a part of Dun Laoghaire sailing and Dun Laoghaire Harbour. At this week’s launching of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta ing of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 in the National Maritime Museum, there was something very touching about the way that the only surviving boat of the original Water Wag class of 1887, the world’s first One Design, had been moved to the centre of the former Mariners Church. The little boat was there in pride of place as the great and the good of Irish sailing networked with each other as plans were revealed of the remarkable amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into ensuring that this largest of all Irish sailing events runs smoothly.

In the 1890s, there must more than a hundred of these little boats in and around the Greater Dublin area. Even Erskine Childers, with part of the summer of 1894 unfilled in his plans, arranged to have one carted up into the Wicklow Hills to the mountain lake of Lough Dan near the house of his mother’s family, so that he could go sailing when the mood took him.

Yet with the new larger boats introduced in 1900, the little old double-enders just faded away. Fortunately, someone noticed that an odd-looking little canoe-sterned dinghy with a centreplate case on the beach at Malahide was one of the original Water Wags. She was being used for the occasional fishing trip, and it had been a long time since the centreplate had been used for sailing.

She was saved in the nick of time, and is now kept fully rigged in the Maritime Museum. But as the Wag Class historian Vincent Delany assured me at the Volvo reception, she really is absolutely the only surviving original example of a boat which was once so numerous, and fundamental to the global development of sailing.

water wags11The original Water Wags of 1887, the world’s first One Design class. Despite being numerous in the 1890s, the original boat on display in the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire is now thought to be the only survivor of this historic type.

Wag Mariners churchAt the heart of things. The sole surviving Dublin Bay Water Wag of 1887 in the midst of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 launch reception in the National Maritime Museum on Wednesday night.

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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Dun Laoghaire Harbour Information

Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the second port for Dublin and is located on the south shore of Dublin Bay. Marine uses for this 200-year-old man-made harbour have changed over its lifetime. Originally built as a port of refuge for sailing ships entering the narrow channel at Dublin Port, the harbour has had a continuous ferry link with Wales and this was the principal activity of the harbour until the service stopped in 2015. In all this time, however, one thing has remained constant and that is the popularity for sailing and boating from the port, making it Ireland's marine leisure capital with a harbour fleet of over 1,200-1.600 pleasure craft.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Bye-Laws

Download the bye-laws on this link here

FAQs

A live stream Dublin Bay webcam showing Dun Laoghaire Harbour entrance and East Pier is here

Dun Laoghaire is a Dublin suburb situated on the south side of Dublin Bay, approximately, 15km from Dublin city centre.

The east and west piers of the harbour are each of 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) long.

The harbour entrance is 232 metres (761 ft) across from East to West Pier.

  • Public Boatyard
  • Public slipway
  • Public Marina

23 clubs, 14 activity providers and eight state-related organisations operate from Dun Laoghaire Harbour that facilitates a full range of sports - Sailing, Rowing, Diving, Windsurfing, Angling, Canoeing, Swimming, Triathlon, Powerboating, Kayaking and Paddleboarding. Participants include members of the public, club members, tourists, disabled, disadvantaged, event competitors, schools, youth groups and college students.

  • Commissioners of Irish Lights
  • Dun Laoghaire Marina
  • MGM Boats & Boatyard
  • Coastguard
  • Naval Service Reserve
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution
  • Marine Activity Centre
  • Rowing clubs
  • Yachting and Sailing Clubs
  • Sailing Schools
  • Irish Olympic Sailing Team
  • Chandlery & Boat Supply Stores

The east and west granite-built piers of Dun Laoghaire harbour are each of one kilometre (0.62 mi) long and enclose an area of 250 acres (1.0 km2) with the harbour entrance being 232 metres (761 ft) in width.

In 2018, the ownership of the great granite was transferred in its entirety to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council who now operate and manage the harbour. Prior to that, the harbour was operated by The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, a state company, dissolved in 2018 under the Ports Act.

  • 1817 - Construction of the East Pier to a design by John Rennie began in 1817 with Earl Whitworth Lord Lieutenant of Ireland laying the first stone.
  • 1820 - Rennie had concerns a single pier would be subject to silting, and by 1820 gained support for the construction of the West pier to begin shortly afterwards. When King George IV left Ireland from the harbour in 1820, Dunleary was renamed Kingstown, a name that was to remain in use for nearly 100 years. The harbour was named the Royal Harbour of George the Fourth which seems not to have remained for so long.
  • 1824 - saw over 3,000 boats shelter in the partially completed harbour, but it also saw the beginning of operations off the North Wall which alleviated many of the issues ships were having accessing Dublin Port.
  • 1826 - Kingstown harbour gained the important mail packet service which at the time was under the stewardship of the Admiralty with a wharf completed on the East Pier in the following year. The service was transferred from Howth whose harbour had suffered from silting and the need for frequent dredging.
  • 1831 - Royal Irish Yacht Club founded
  • 1837 - saw the creation of Victoria Wharf, since renamed St. Michael's Wharf with the D&KR extended and a new terminus created convenient to the wharf.[8] The extended line had cut a chord across the old harbour with the landward pool so created later filled in.
  • 1838 - Royal St George Yacht Club founded
  • 1842 - By this time the largest man-made harbour in Western Europe had been completed with the construction of the East Pier lighthouse.
  • 1855 - The harbour was further enhanced by the completion of Traders Wharf in 1855 and Carlisle Pier in 1856. The mid-1850s also saw the completion of the West Pier lighthouse. The railway was connected to Bray in 1856
  • 1871 - National Yacht Club founded
  • 1884 - Dublin Bay Sailing Club founded
  • 1918 - The Mailboat, “The RMS Leinster” sailed out of Dún Laoghaire with 685 people on board. 22 were post office workers sorting the mail; 70 were crew and the vast majority of the passengers were soldiers returning to the battlefields of World War I. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat near the Kish lighthouse killing many of those onboard.
  • 1920 - Kingstown reverted to the name Dún Laoghaire in 1920 and in 1924 the harbour was officially renamed "Dun Laoghaire Harbour"
  • 1944 - a diaphone fog signal was installed at the East Pier
  • 1965 - Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club founded
  • 1968 - The East Pier lighthouse station switched from vapourised paraffin to electricity, and became unmanned. The new candle-power was 226,000
  • 1977- A flying boat landed in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, one of the most unusual visitors
  • 1978 - Irish National Sailing School founded
  • 1934 - saw the Dublin and Kingstown Railway begin operations from their terminus at Westland Row to a terminus at the West Pier which began at the old harbour
  • 2001 - Dun Laoghaire Marina opens with 500 berths
  • 2015 - Ferry services cease bringing to an end a 200-year continuous link with Wales.
  • 2017- Bicentenary celebrations and time capsule laid.
  • 2018 - Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company dissolved, the harbour is transferred into the hands of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

From East pier to West Pier the waterfront clubs are:

  • National Yacht Club. Read latest NYC news here
  • Royal St. George Yacht Club. Read latest RSTGYC news here
  • Royal Irish Yacht Club. Read latest RIYC news here
  • Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. Read latest DMYC news here

 

The umbrella organisation that organises weekly racing in summer and winter on Dublin Bay for all the yacht clubs is Dublin Bay Sailing Club. It has no clubhouse of its own but operates through the clubs with two x Committee vessels and a starters hut on the West Pier. Read the latest DBSC news here.

The sailing community is a key stakeholder in Dún Laoghaire. The clubs attract many visitors from home and abroad and attract major international sailing events to the harbour.

 

Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Dun Laoghaire's biennial town regatta was started in 2005 as a joint cooperation by the town's major yacht clubs. It was an immediate success and is now in its eighth edition and has become Ireland's biggest sailing event. The combined club's regatta is held in the first week of July.

  • Attracts 500 boats and more from overseas and around the country
  • Four-day championship involving 2,500 sailors with supporting family and friends
  • Economic study carried out by the Irish Marine Federation estimated the economic value of the 2009 Regatta at €2.5 million

The dates for the 2021 edition of Ireland's biggest sailing event on Dublin Bay is: 8-11 July 2021. More details here

Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Offshore Race

The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race is a 320-miles race down the East coast of Ireland, across the south coast and into Dingle harbour in County Kerry. The latest news on the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race can be found by clicking on the link here. The race is organised by the National Yacht Club.

The 2021 Race will start from the National Yacht Club on Wednesday 9th, June 2021.

Round Ireland Yacht Race

This is a Wicklow Sailing Club race but in 2013 the Garden County Club made an arrangement that sees see entries berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for scrutineering prior to the biennial 704–mile race start off Wicklow harbour. Larger boats have been unable to berth in the confines of Wicklow harbour, a factor WSC believes has restricted the growth of the Round Ireland fleet. 'It means we can now encourage larger boats that have shown an interest in competing but we have been unable to cater for in Wicklow' harbour, WSC Commodore Peter Shearer told Afloat.ie here. The race also holds a pre-ace launch party at the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

Laser Masters World Championship 2018

  • 301 boats from 25 nations

Laser Radial World Championship 2016

  • 436 competitors from 48 nations

ISAF Youth Worlds 2012

  • The Youth Olympics of Sailing run on behalf of World Sailing in 2012.
  • Two-week event attracting 61 nations, 255 boats, 450 volunteers.
  • Generated 9,000 bed nights and valued at €9 million to the local economy.

The Harbour Police are authorised by the company to police the harbour and to enforce and implement bye-laws within the harbour, and all regulations made by the company in relation to the harbour.

There are four ship/ferry berths in Dun Laoghaire:

  • No 1 berth (East Pier)
  • No 2 berth (east side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 3 berth (west side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 4 berth  (St, Michaels Wharf)

Berthing facilities for smaller craft exist in the town's 800-berth marina and on swinging moorings.

© Afloat 2020

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