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For everyone who gets on board a yacht to go racing as clubs return to competitive sailing, the core issue of a successful resumption is going to be personal responsibility.

That applies to cruiser/racer skippers and to every member of their crews. It also applies to solo sailors in their racing and will impact on race management teams. In sailing, the mantra ‘we are all in this together’ applies very strongly.

There is another aspect of ‘Responsibility’ as racing returns and clubs open and that is of club members in supporting their clubs. There are clubs around the country whose income has been hit by delayed membership renewals. Members have been waiting to see what level of sailing would be possible.

Now the situation is clearer.

Following extensive discussions, the statutory authorities dealing with COVID 19 have accepted that the sport of sailing has shown a lot of responsibility in seeking a return of the sport. Irish Sailing, clubs, individuals and commentators including myself, pointed to the difficulties on a crewed boat of applying social distance requirements. The easing of restrictions allows resumption of racing.

The Chief Executive of the national sailing authority, Harry Hermon, has stressed that personal responsibility is going to be of major importance in a successful restoration of racing.

Renew club membership

He has also warned that, if members don’t support their clubs by renewing membership, there could be a situation ahead, where some clubs won’t be able to continue. “Your clubs need your support now more than ever,” he said.

What does “pods” mean?

He is my guest on this week’s podcast where we discuss - What does the system of “pods” mean? What are the implications for offshore racing, involving overseas boats? What is the new situation for cruising yachts, motorboating and powerboating?

This week’s Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Following the Commodore’s Conference on Zoom yesterday (Thursday) evening to analyse the lifting of COVID-19 Lockdown restrictions, the basic reality is that club racing is allowed to resume from next Tuesday (June 30th) provided that crews comply with much-relaxed social distancing requirements, while most clubhouses will be open and functional within the same limitations.

It’s a complex situation, and it’s unreasonable to expect a long list of official does and don’ts as sailing and boating try to get back towards some sort of normality. After all, everything to do with boats and their use is supposed to be ultimately about self-reliance afloat, it’s supposed to be what seamanship is all about. So if people lack the savvy to apply common sense to a changing public health situation and how it affects our sport, then perhaps they shouldn’t be going near boats in the first place.

For ours is a robust and healthy sport, with the action taking place in the brisk open air, just as fresh as fresh air can be, while the sailing population, in general, will surely prove to have been significantly less affected by the Coronavirus than the population at large. So maybe it’s time people just got on with it, and stopped waiting for cast-iron official directives before making any move, showing instead an ability and readiness to apply personal responsibility and a capacity for initiative.

J80 Racing on Dublin BayNow, after three and more completely blank months of negativity and bewilderment and severely constrained existence, it’s time for us to get out and about and sailing again Photo: Afloat

When sailing fans demanded to know when they could go sailing again as the Coronavirus receded and Lockdown was eased through its various phases, it soon becomes clear that there’s much more to their concept of “going sailing” than simply getting into a boat with one or two others who comply for a bubble or pod within COVID-19 regulations, and then just going for a sail within five kilometres from their home port, and returning to it at the end of a mini-voyage.

Yet anyone prepared to accept that as an interim stage in the process back towards normality could have got sailing of sorts. Not perfect by any means, but sailing nevertheless. And if they felt the need for some competition afloat, they could very quickly have arranged informal matches with just one other boat sailed by friends, through the VHF or over a mobile. And they could then talk of having had a “race” as they returned in a social-distance compliant manner to the marina or mooring.

If people had been prepared to accept that as the beginning of the process, they could have been “going sailing” and having had racing of sorts since May 24th. And certainly, the Sailing Schools who are in it for more than simply enjoyment have been organising sailing of the new type for weeks now.

But in today’s very structured world, it seems that the ordinary punters want much more than just “going sailing” in order to tempt them afloat again. The truth is, they want the full monty, with an intense highly-organised racing programme, and hearty socializing afterwards. And even with cruising folk, the freely sociable element is an important part and often essential of the mix.

Either way, this “all-or-nothing” attitude was becoming much too prevalent. So maybe it’s time we grew up. None of us in Ireland among current generations has ever experienced anything remotely like this Lockdown, with its inevitable implementation of what seemed very like a high-powered version of the Nanny State.

For sure, it was necessary at the time, and the nation is to be commended for generally accepting the onerous restrictions which were imposed. But now we have to accept that the threat is receding, and it’s time to become responsible adults again. For, after three months of Lockdown, there are signs of creeping infantilism throughout society, and an expectation of complying with detailed directives at every stage.

That isn’t the way life should be in the real Ireland. We should be showing more spirit. And while it’s clear that the official and governmental authorities are risk-averse as public and semi-public authorities are programmed to be, the yacht and sailing club Commodores are showing a spirit of adventure and entrepreneurship. For in effect, they represent the vital and key private enterprise sector of our sport, and they have to get their clubs back to a level of economically-viable activity just as soon as is humanly possible.

Thus there never has been a time when the yacht and sailing clubs of Ireland have more urgently needed the full, enthusiastic and understanding support and involvement of their members. And there has never been a time when it is essential for everyone to resume sailing – albeit within limits which may in some cases seem niggling – just as soon as possible.

Several clubs are showing commendable initiative in offering significant discounts and the opportunity for late entries in order to get the complicated yet truly remarkable Irish sailing infrastructure back up and running again. The least that the sailing community can do is be supportive in backing their efforts. Sailing is ultimately a complete community activity, and as with all community activities, in the last analysis, you only get as much out of your club and your sailing as you are prepared to put into it.

Dublin Bay Sailing Club Committee Boat FreebirdSailing is ultimately a complete community activity Photo: Afloat

Now, after three and more completely blank months of negativity and bewilderment and severely constrained existence, it’s time for us to get out and about and sailing again. And okay, maybe, for now, it’s not truly sailing as we know and love it in all its full sporting and socially-carefree complexity. But what’s now becoming possible is a massive step in the right direction, and every journey starts with one step.

Each club is providing clearcut guidance towards taking that step in accordance with the special setup and circumstances which obtain at each club. And as I happen to sail from Howth, which has been in the forefront of the process of getting sailing going again, it’s timely to conclude with the letter to members issued by Commodore Ian Byrne this (Thursday) evening:

Howth Yacht Club reopens

Dear Member,

Many of us have enjoyed the recent spell of good weather pottering responsibly in our wonderful sailing area. The Irish Sailing Return to Sailing Phase 3 plan brings us closer to a new normal, and their meeting today gave us guidance on getting back to racing.

Club racing can start from next Tuesday with full crews. In line with the Government strategy the guidelines are relaxed and emphasis has shifted to prioritising contact tracing with a recognition that, where physical distancing cannot be reasonably achieved in a sport, each individual must assess the risks and minimise them whilst trying to follow hygiene, etiquette and distance recommendations. The term ‘pod’ is used to describe a virtual household that is a crew, race committee, safety RIB etc. with each individual pod remaining socially distant from others on the water and ashore.

This also has positive implications for Junior courses and safety boat crews which the Sailing Committee will work on in the coming days.

You will already have received an email announcing that club racing fees are waived for 2020. Online entry is now available on hyc.ie. The Fingal League starts on Sat 4th July and our clubhouse will open next Monday with a special menu and our usual array of beverages served by Frank and the team inside or on the balcony in our comfortable, spacious and safe surroundings.

There is plenty of summer left to enjoy your sport through July and August. A perfect lead into Wave, Ireland’s best Regatta this year, on 11th Sep followed by the Autumn League on 19th Sep to 24th Oct. Almost 4 months of top class racing! There are a few good days to get the boat ready for next week so enter online and get racing.

Your class captain will have more details related to your class after the Sailing Committee meeting tonight including keelboat skipper responsibility to email crew and any changes details in advance each race day.

Ian Byrne
Commodore

If you’re a proper Irish sailing enthusiast and you’re not going crackers at the moment, then there’s something seriously wrong with you. For here we are, in as perfect an early summer for sailing as anyone has seen in a long time, and we’re right in the midst of the weekend when we should all be hedonistically immersed in the Wave Regatta 2020 at Howth. Yet anyone who tries to get any sailing whatever in these Coronavirus times finds that instead, they have to be ever-alert for compliance with social-distancing regulations, shared household bubble requirements, and staying within five kilometres of home, while somehow managing not to sneeze, feel feverish, have a rasping cough or worry that you’re losing your senses of taste and smell.

Dave Cullen’s Classic Half Tonner Checkmate XVIn normal times, Dave Cullen’s Classic Half Tonner Checkmate XV would be defending champion (as seen at Wave 2018) in Day 2 of the Wave Regatta at Howth today (Saturday), racing in weather just like this. But with Covid-19, Wave 2020 has been postponed to 12th to 14th September 2020

Nevertheless, the fact that today sees the annual boat lift-in at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire is something for quiet celebration. Postponed from late March, it will be a carefully-choreographed socially-distanced operation, but while face masks are de rigeur for those on boats, it’s a serious business. A masked ball it is not, but a supply of new masks will be available at the club for those who may have had sourcing difficulties

Next door at the Royal St George YC, the postponed lift-in day is in a week’s time, on Saturday, June 6th, a launching date they share with Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, while across from the DMYC the Coal Harbour Boatyard lift-in is next day on June 7th, as is traditional even if it is around two months later than usual.

The National Yacht Club Dun Laoghaire HarbourThe National Yacht Club. This morning (Saturday), it’s social distancing and masks all round as the club implements its annual lift-in, which had been postponed for two months

Meanwhile, the Royal Irish YC has been quietly getting on with its phased lift-in since May 18th, and this week it announced that as from Tuesday 2nd June, the boat storage space will be available for those who dry sail and the shore parking of Dun Laoghaire’s rare if not unique classes of classic clinker-built sailing dinghies.

The same situation will have been achieved at the National YC by Thursday, June 4th, resulting in that very Dun Laoghaire display of the hottest dry-sailed offshore racers and inshore keelboats cheek-by-jowl with ancient masterpieces of the classic wooden boatbuilder’s art and craft in a fascinating mini-Boat Show which is taken for granted.

Which is just grand, but what will we able to do afloat? With the technicalities of compliance by sailors with the official guidelines testing some of the finest analytical minds in our sport while the rest of us just nod like car rear-window donkeys as though we fully grasp what’s going on, the ins and out and what we can actually do afloat at the moment are a minefield.

So for those who keep beating the drum about DBSC needing to give a very clearcut lead about actual dates, we can only say that you should cut these guys a bit of slack. The Commodore has a newly-acquired Puma 42 which he is mad keen to race, the Honorary Secretary is a stalwart of the J/109 Class and loves the sport, so you can be quite sure they’ll have racing under way just as soon as the time is right. 

J/109 sailing action in Dublin BayJ/109 action in Dublin Bay. With Honorary Secretary Chris Moore a keen member of the class, he’s as keen as anyone to start racing, but he and his officers and committee have to steer a careful course between enthusiasm and permitted activity. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Meanwhile, we’re in the situation that if a sailing couple from - let’s say Killiney - decide to go down together to Dun Laoghaire and hop aboard their boat in the marina and go for a sail, it’s fine and dandy if they put out to sea and head for the Muglins. But if instead, they go up Dublin Bay bay towards Poolbeg, they might find themselves being spotted by one of those hawk-eyed observers with which Dun Laoghaire seems to be so well furnished, and the next thing is an official-looking boat with a peaked-cap ship’s complement will have hove into sight to tell them they’re breaking the law, as they’re taking exercise more than five kilometres from home.

Just which statutory or non-statutory body is supposed to be in charge of such patrols still seems to be an open topic, but across in Howth where Commodore Ian Byrne tentatively but successfully inaugurated a regulation-compliant sailing programme last weekend – a sensible programme which will see gentle expansion as time goes by - the see-everythings-and-complain-about-it brigade are rather more pre-occupied by the fact that the local fish & chips trade provided by the Burdock and Beshoff outlets seems to be getting going again.

For sure, it’s not everywhere that you can get from the city centre into the heart of a thriving and picturesque fishing port within half an hour as a day visitor, and once there nonchalantly enjoy fish and chips provided either by a company with direct links to Dublin in the very rare and extremely auld times, or alternatively a company with a direct link back to the mutiny on the Tsar of all the Russias’ battleship Potemkin in Sevastopol in the Crimea in June 1905. 

The Russian Battleship Potemkin doing her bit for the ozone layer The Russian Battleship Potemkin doing her bit for the ozone layer – your fish & chips from Beshoff Brothers in Howth provide an unusual historical link

But neither of these historic links brings with it any obligation whatsoever to feed the rapacious herring gulls which strut their stuff around Howth Harbour. During the depths of the lockdown with visitors and fish & chips in extremely short supply, the gulls – normally the very picture of glowing rude health, with “rude” the operative word - actually started to look slightly scrawny.

And then their numbers declined to such an extent, as they sought sustenance elsewhere, that those of us who live in the village and find our rooftops plagued by the breeding super-scavengers dared to hope we might even have missed a complete breeding season. But now, in a sure sign that normality is returning, they’re starting to become more noisily conspicuous again.

Lovely isn’t it when a sure sign of some sort of returning normality is your television signal being interrupted by huge nesting seagulls atop and around the television dish on the chimney stack, just when you want to focus on Miriam O’Callaghan or Emily Maitlis grilling some twisting politico, or savour how the subtleties of Normal People remind you of some episodes in your well-spent youth?

The herring gulls of Howth“You lookin’ at me?” The herring gulls of Howth seemed to be developing as an instrusive and noisy super-species, a nuisance and menace for everyone, but two foodless months of Lockdown definitely softened their cough

But on the water in our many harbours and anchorages, getting the boats afloat only means that we move into move into a whole new area of quandaries as to what we can do or not do, and how soon we can expand our activities to achieve something like that ‘Freedom of the Sea’ we dream of in the depths of winter.

Key officers in central organizations like Dublin Bay Sailing Club get unduly pestered by people demanding to know when real racing is going to start, when the fact is that to a considerable extent we have to make it up as we go along, for society has never dealt with a pandemic of this scale and aggression while at the same time having access to our modern means of communication and treatment.

Analogies with a war are simplistic, but if you insist on comparing it with a war, you’d do well to study The Master of Warfare, Sun Tzu, who was right there with his study of The Art of War about 500 years BC (and that’s Before Christ, not Before COVID). In it, he places great emphasis on patience and letting the enemy wear himself or itself out, while avoiding destructive battle.

Sun Tzu. His treatise on The Art of War still provides strategic and tactical guidance Sun Tzu. His treatise on The Art of War still provides strategic and tactical guidance in many challenging situations despite being written 2,570 years ago

That means with Covid-19 you take all reasonable steps to avoid catching it. This fundamental rule of warfare was blithely ignored with disastrous consequences in our neighbouring island both by the Dear Leader, and his Eminence Grise. But while you avoid destructive direct confrontation with the enemy, equally you have to ensure that he (or it) doesn’t lay waste to your own territory.

This means that in a Lockdown, planning should be continually under way for the minimization of ill-effects, and the earliest reasonable resumption of a civilized, sociable and healthy way of life which - for readers of Afloat.ie - means going sailing or boating as much as possible, just as soon as it is reasonably safe to do so.

Note that we say “reasonably safe” and not “totally safe”. We’re back to Voltaire's notion of perfection being the enemy of the good here. It all comes down to judgment, and while it’s fortunate that we didn’t bet the farm on my prediction that the Coronavirus would be gone “like snow off a ditch” for the time being from Ireland at the end of May, it looks like a notion that won’t be too far off track.

But this week brought a nasty reminder that even if we’re clear for a while, continuing vigilance is essential, as the sudden outbreak in recent days in poster-boy COVID-clearance nation South Korea came about from something as every day as an infected postal package being delivered to an apartment block with a central post room.

The ideal way for sailing through the COVID Conundrum at first glance seems to be through solo boats. But they carry an inevitable close-up-and-personal risk if they require the services of the crash boat. Yet two-handed sailing, with a Corona-compatible crew, is more self-reliant, and Ireland’s Sailors of the Year 2018, Olympic 49er contenders, Sean Waddilove of Skerries and Robert Dickson of Howth, read the developing situation to perfection as they made arrangements to share the same house as the Lockdown loomed, leaving them totally Sailing Ready as we start to come out the other side.

Derek & Conor Dillon of Foynes in 2014, when they won the Two-Handed Division in the Round Ireland raceDerek & Conor Dillon of Foynes in 2014, when they won the Two-Handed Division in the Round Ireland Race, the first of many major event two-handed campaigns

So while there was that little nasty bit of news for everyone from South Korea this week, Irish sailing was much brightened by the news that father-and-son team of Conor and Derek Dillon of Foynes Yacht Club have thrown their hat into the Round Ireland Two-handed ring yet again with their Dehler 34 Big Deal for the re-scheduled SSE Renewable Round Ireland Race from Wicklow on August 22nd.

It’s now all of six years since the Foynes duo won the Round Ireland two-handed division in 2014, but they’ve continued to battle the two-handed scene in what is often the smallest boat in the doubles division in the Round Ireland and other majors, including the Rolex Fastnet and the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle.

To do the Round Ireland from Foynes involves them in sailing in total a distance which is virtually twice round Ireland, but they still carry the enthusiasm which the entire two-handed scene was enjoying back in 2014. For not only did Big Deal make a mighty job in that year’s Round Ireland in getting in ahead of many fully-crewed boats, but in 2013 when the notion of two-handers in major events was even more novel, the world of sailing lit up with the news that the Rolex Fastnet Race had been won overall for the first time by a two-handed crew, the French father-and-son lineup of Pascal and Alexis Loison from Cherbourg racing one of the smallest boats in the fleet, the 33ft Night & Day, which entertaningly had the music of the Cole Porter classic printed over her topsides.

French JPK 10.10 Night & Day“Night and Day, you are the one…..” Anyone racing in the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race near the successful French JPK 10.10 Night & Day who felt inclined to sing the Cole Porter song after which she is named had the musical score provided for their convenience on the topsides
That may in turn have distracted people from noticing that this was history in the making, as Night & Day was one of the new JPK 10.10s. Thus 2013 was Jean Pierre Kelbert making a major mark on the big time offshore racing scene, something which has continued ever since with a very satisfactory circulatory achievement being logged in the 2019 Fastnet, when JPK himself – co-skippered with “young” Alexis Loison – won their class in the new JPK 10.30 Leon.

In our current weird world, it may well be that the two-handed scene is the best way to go to get competitive sailing re-introduced, and with Howth having put its first sailing toe in the water last weekend, so to speak, maybe we’ll see the Aqua Two-Handed Race there coming up as one of the first majors in the truncated season of 2020.

Son and father two-handers Alexis and Pascal Loison with the Fastnet Challenge Cup “Two will do…” Son and father two-handers Alexis and Pascal Loison with the Fastnet Challenge Cup after their overall win of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2013 with the JPK 10.10 Night and Day. It had taken some time to persuade the powers-that-be that there should be a Two-Handed Division allowed in the Fastnet, despite the added challenge of racing short-handed against fully-crewed boats. But few – of any – thought that one of the Two-handers might win overall. In all, Alexis Loisin has now won his class in three Fastnet Races, and the overall win is a bonus. If more could follow the Loison example, it might make emerging from Covid-19 restrictions on sailing races a less problematic process

Just don’t count on it getting much publicity. While the popular Aqua Restaurant at the end of the West Pier is currently in shut-down like most other eateries, it holds a special place in Howth sailing hearts, as it was the HQ of Howth Yacht Club until the award-winning design for the new clubhouse was opened in 1987. Thus while a meal there is something special in every way and is the first prize for the Howth Two-handed Race, it seems the locals only want one of their own to win, as the two-handed event is kept very much in-lodge.

Yet for now, all of us are still pretty much in-lodge for most of the time. But be of good cheer. If you can just somehow persuade your mother-in-law’s daughter with whom you share your locked-down residence to give you a modest but much-needed haircut, it feels like immediately shedding about 15 pounds in flab without any extreme dieting or advanced Yoga exercises required at all. It’s wonderful……

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Walking along the riverside in Cork Harbour in the past few days of good weather the harbour waters looked inviting, but as I thought of the pleasure of having the sails up, helm in hand, boat moving through the water, the sound of a bow wave ... the emptiness of the harbour waters told another tale… Along the river walk, I saw boats still lying fenced in.

While Irish Sailing negotiated the difficulties of a return to the water and drafted a plan for discussion with clubs, I pondered over why canoeing had been named as the only waterborne sport included in the initial suggestions for a return of watersports.

So I pursued that with a ‘contact’ of mine, as journalists are wont to have, within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. That single-handed sailing was not mentioned surprised me. My ‘source’ told me that canoeing had been considered because it was “a safe, individual sport, hence social distancing would not be a problem.”

So, why not single-handed sailing – Lasers, Toppers, Optimists – even giving younger sailors a chance to get on the water … The response was that ‘crewed yachts’ had been the focus of concern, where ‘social distancing’ could not be observed…

Now, the core of deciding to go afloat in sailing is based on a combination of self-assessment - of safety, responsibility and risk and that has been put forward by Irish Sailing. I understand the problems of ‘close quarters’ aboard a racing or cruising yacht. As the national sailing authority has suggested, however, what about enabling double-handed sailing, households, family sailing, solo sailing. They should surely be considered, otherwise, a season of little opportunity is ahead.

"overall decisions about local sailing are on hold depending upon what arises from Irish Sailing’s updated plan"

From clubs around the South this week the only positive indicator was that the annual Cobh-to-Blackrock Race, always a well-patronised event, has the best prospect of going ahead because it is not scheduled until September. Decisions are awaited in regard to Glandore Classic Boats in July, but the present uncertainty may affect overseas entrants. Calves Week is still scheduled for August, but overall decisions about local sailing are on hold depending upon what arises from Irish Sailing’s updated plan.

Chief Executive Harry Hermon told me that “the anticipation is that we will be able to go afloat to some degree in Phase 1 of restrictions.”

Hopefully, that will happen but, while not being critical of canoeing as a sport, I’d like to see to more recognition from the Department of Sport of the strong support for sailing and its widespread opportunities.

Listen to the podcast below:

Published in Tom MacSweeney

Ireland now has a roadmap to the easing of restrictions from Covid-19 but as Afloat has heard from sailing organisers there is still clarity needed as to how we can return to sailing. Copying what New Zealand is doing as it prepares to get back on the water may point the way for Ireland to implement the 'bubble' concept that permits increased close quarters activity in sport, including sailing.

As well all know now, the only thing that is definite in these troubled times is change – what the World looked like in early March is very different to early May and early July will, no doubt, see even further changes.

Speculation on what the “new normal” will look like occupies much of the media space right now. Countries and regions that are leading the race away from lockdown restrictions are being watched carefully to see their measures and the success or failure of those measures. New Zealand and Australia’s isolation has given them a head start on the rest of the world – it is likely that New Zealand’s 4 alert level plan informed many aspects of Ireland’s 5 phase roadmap.

New Zealand has today, May 4, recorded no new cases. This suggests that a move from the current level 3 to level 2 could happen as early as May 11, allowing boating again, which was not permitted under New Zealand's level 3. There is more on the NZ Bubble in the Evening Standard here.  And as Afloat reported previously, the model is something that Professor Sam McConkey, head of the Royal College of Surgeons’ department of international health and tropical medicine, has pointed too. McConkey believes specific sports like single-handed sailing can return to the water soon.

The “bubble” concept is now widely practised – we are largely confined to the household bubble here in Ireland, but as they emerge from strict lockdown protocols, New Zealand and Australia (and some other areas) consider the extension or joining of bubbles to include wider family groups. Indeed, Australia and New Zealand are considering a trans-Tasman bubble to allow travel to resume between the two countries.

It may be possible to use the bubble concept, aligned to testing and tracing, to permit increased close quarters activity in the area of contact sports. A bubble of people, all of whom are Covid-free, could play with another bubble of Covid-free participants.

In sailing, if we can ensure that our crewmates are all Covid-free, then activity could resume. And while this may seem far-fetched right now, the constantly changing environment may permit this in a few month’s time?

There's no doubt the Government publication of its five-level Covid-19 lifting restrictions was well received on Friday because it gave certainty and an idea about the future reopening of Ireland's economy and society.

The roadmap will start from 18 May, from which point the country will re-open in a slow, phased way. Clarity is still needed on some aspects of the 'live plan' but where does it leave sailing and boating and other watersports in Ireland? How the lifting plan is interpreted by the sport's national governing bodies appears to be key to this.

The map sets out five stages for unlocking restrictions, at three-week intervals. As we ease restrictions, the rate of the virus in the community will be constantly monitored by the National Public Health Emergency Team and the government.

The framework sets out how we can keep the level of transmission as low as possible while balancing continuing restrictions proportionately with the positive social and economic benefits which will be brought about by lifting restrictions.

Irish Sailing concluded in March that social distancing is 'not only difficult to achieve onshore from an organisers’ perspective but also difficult to achieve at a personal level on the water'. The National Governing Body submitted a plan on a return to sailing requested by the Department of Sport in mid-April. This submission document was not published but an 'overview' of IS recommendations are here.

Peter Ryan of ISORA told Afloat this morning that the lifting looks like it has some 'conflicting conditions' which will be hard to work with. He cites, for example, the sport of Rugby with social distancing? The offshore chief, who redrafted the 2020 Irish Sea calendar last week (that has its first race now scheduled for June 13), says ISORA will have to see how Irish Sailing and the Royal Yachting Association interprets the lifting conditions.

 The Irish Marine Federation has lobbied for a resumption to recreational boating at the earliest possibility and Friday's roadmap has been given a thumbs up by many in the industry who were otherwise looking at a season with zero activity.

We are in lockdown for another fortnight to contemplate all of this but here's a first look at what it might mean from a sailing and boating perspective.

Government's five-phase roadmap & what it might mean for sailing & boating

  • Phase 1 (18th May) Outdoor spaces and tourism sites (for example car parks, beaches, mountain walks) will be opened where people can move around freely and where social distancing can be maintained. Public sports amenities (for example pitches, tennis courts, golf courses) can be opened where social distancing can be maintained. This has largely been taken by many of the marinas around the country as a date for reopening in a phased way. Will it allow people to go out on their boats, in small groups? Will the five-kilometre travel restriction that also applies mean those that are outside that limit be unable to attend their boat?
  • Phase 2 (8 June) People can take part in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving team sports training in small groups (but not matches) where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact. This puts boats back on the water for sailing and training with limited crews to comply with social distancing.

  • Phase 3 (29 June) Sporting activities and events can resume “behind closed doors”, where arrangements are in place to enable participants to maintain social distancing. Does this allow racing to begin but with a smaller crew number to comply with social distancing?

  • Phase 4 (20 July) Competitions for sports teams (for example, soccer and GAA) can resume, but only where limitations are placed on the numbers of spectators and where social distancing can be maintained. Restaurants to open. 
  • Phase 5 (10 August)

    Close physical contact sports, such as rugby and boxing, can resume. Gyms, dance studios and sports clubs can re-open, only where regular and effective cleaning can be carried out and social distancing can be maintained. Spectators can begin to attend live sporting events only in accordance with both indoor and outdoor number restrictions and where social distancing can be complied with. Festivals, events and other social and cultural mass gatherings can take place only in accordance with both indoor and outdoor number restrictions and where social distancing can be complied with.

Govt planStaying the course – the Government Roadmap (downloadable below in a higher resolution format)

2020 Sailing Fixtures & Events

While we await clarification on the above, Regatta organisers will no doubt be poring over the fine print. With so many fixtures already cancelled, what will the timing of these phases mean for the main 2020 sailing events? What is the date that multi-crewed boats can go back sailing? Is it at Phase Five or could it even begin at Phase Three where Government says "Sporting activities and events can resume behind closed doors”, where arrangements are in place to enable participants to maintain social distancing?

Dublin Bay Sailing Club 

DBSC Commodore Jonathan Nicholson wrote to members last month advising them to be 'ready to race' when restrictions are lifted. Does this mean the DBSC summer racing could start by Phase Three at the end of June with small crew numbers participating or will it be later? There are obvious problems for two-handers and day boats to sail, however. The club, the largest racing club in the country, surveyed its members on attitudes towards racing this season, a summary of which has been posted on the club website, shows that there is a clear appetite to go racing, regardless of the start date. In response to questions from Afloat in light of the Government roadmap, Nicholson said on Sunday, "DBSC awaits guidance from Irish Sailing as to when [DBSC] racing can commence."

and it will be interesting to learn of the results from over 1,200 members from DBSC's combined 250-boat fleet.

ISORA

Irish Sea offshore racing could also commence at the end of June keeping alive the revised 2020 fixture just published by the offshore association. Then, with small crew numbers, would it allow the Dun Laoghaire to Cobh race at the end of July? ISORA Chair Peter Ryan intends to ask Irish Sailing and the RYA for their interpretation of the lifting conditions. 

Dun Laoghaire 'Solidarity' Regatta

The proposed three day Dun Laoghaire Combined event at the start of August could go ahead on the water, but club bars and restaurants will not be not open at that stage. It would be nice to think that given the nature of the set up in Dun Laoghaire (with four separate waterfront clubs) that some outdoor shoreside social could exist with social distancing in place?

Calves Week

West Cork's Calves Week on from Tuesday 4th August to Friday 7th August is a week the wrong side of Bars opening so although this regatta can happen on water alternative arrangements would need to be made for festivities ashore?

Round Ireland Race 

Round Ireland's postponed date of August 22nd looks OK for the 700-mile biennial race that despite the COVID-19 setbacks looks like it might gather a record fleet. But will it now occur with smaller crew numbers, perhaps working two watches with only one watch on deck at a time?

Wave/ICRA Nationals

As Afloat reported yesterday, Howth Yacht Club's Wave Regatta that incorporates the ICRA Nationals from September 11-13 is gaining in appeal. The inaugural regatta in 2018 attracted a large crowd and while festivals can return, social distancing will continue. Chairman Brian Turvey has told Afloat "it appears to me that all going well, August 10th might be the date where we can all go back sailing and racing on multi-crewed boats. That would give us a month to refine our already evolving COVID-19 preparations. We’re already looking at doing temperature control checks, online crew symptom checking and branded face masks for all competitors".

Crew numbers on yachts & keelboats?

With contact sports like GAA and Soccer being allowed to train and play matches, it means there is scope for sailing too. Should crew numbers on boats be kept to a minimum? How can this be achieved? Perhaps a scale like this might be useful for cruiser-racers:

  • 45 footers - allow 7 max
  • 40 footer - allow 6 max
  • 35 footer - allow 5 max
  • 30 footer - allow 4 max
  • 25 footer - allow 3 max

Day keelboats and two-man dinghies will have bigger problems, however, as it is hard to separate/reduce crew in the likes of sports boats and one-design keelboats.

Comments

Afloat is interested in all comments on the 'Return to Sailing & Boating' either below in our comments section, on Facebook or directly to our web editor here. Stay Home. Stay Safe.

Comment from John Giles, Yacht Artemis, Dun Laoghaire: Certainly, the overall lobbying to remove the lockdown to commence racing at DL is well managed. However, the plight of the non-racing solo or small boat sailor seems ignored. These people's boats are swinging at their moorings (or in the marina), single-handed sailed they are low risk in social terms and there is no good reason why owners could not be allowed access.

Comment from Ruth Walsh, crew Cruisers One, DBSC. I did not participate in the [DBSC] survey. As a crew, I would love to go sailing and take a break from the coronavirus regime. Boat owners have a duty of care to their crew and all families and colleagues of essential workers who cannot work from home associated with their boat. Also, safety ribs and RNLI crew have the same duty of care. The above was not mentioned in your [DBSC] survey. 2020 will be a year of onshore training at best. Swimming the sea has been my preferred option. 

Comments

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The Government is preparing for a 'controlled and gradual return to sport' and the 2020 sailing fixtures are being tentatively redrafted by yacht clubs across Ireland as the country enters a new phase in dealing with the Coronavirus.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil this week that the Government would like to set out a roadmap before 5 May on how the COVID-19 restrictions might be eased. In turn, as Afloat reported, Sport Ireland has asked national governing bodies for information on the challenges they face.

In further good news in the fight against the disease, in an interview on RTÉ's The Late Late Show last Friday night (April 17), Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that the COVID-19 curve has now been flattened and that there is no 'peak' coming. Report here.

Scroll back through Afloat's original 2020 sailing fixtures preview published last November here and you will find most of the early summer events are wiped out. Even Afloat's article, What will happen to this Summer's Sailing Events? dated March 18th seems very old now, so much has happened in the meantime. One month later, we certainly have some answers to that question and only last Friday (April 17th) the Fireball World Championships slated for Howth in August became the latest casualty to be scrubbed, organisers citing 'the impossibility of getting any fix on the timing of a return to normality'.

Like all sports, sailing is trying to work out what happens next in 2020 and if there can be a return to activities and what shape it can take.

Flag officers and regatta organisers are beginning to lay out new plans, formulate COVID-19 protocols and put a new calendar in place. It's far from plain sailing but the fact that clubs, industry and sailors are all talking about a return is evidence of progress as we enter a new phase in dealing with the disease. Maybe there is a chance of a competitive and rewarding season, after all? 

National Yacht Club Commodore Martin McCarthy in Dun Laoghaire told cocooned members this week that the 'end is almost in sight'. McCarthy says the NYC continues to 'scenario plan' and 'hopes to be back in the water in June or July'. 'After the storm is at its worst, the new weather starts coming into sight', he said in this week's NYC email update.

Coming up with a tailored approach to what can be done safely within the government guidelines and communicating that strategy to get the sport through 12 to 18 months while we wait for a vaccine seems the right thing to do.

Dublin Bay Sailing - "Be prepared and ready to race"

Chris Moore, the Honorary Secretary of Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC), the country's biggest racing club, says the emphasis is definitely on going sailing this summer. "We are looking at various scenarios, and it's still tough to call". There could be no sailing at all, or it could be a hectic second half of the season!"

DBSC Commodore Jonathan Nicholson told members 'before racing can commence, clearly, the restrictions imposed by our government must be lifted, approval is given by our national governing body Irish Sailing and the lift-in of the boats from the various waterfront clubs completed. When these preconditions have been met, it is our intention to commence the revised programme immediately. Please be prepared and ready to race".

There have already been great sacrifices in the sailing calendar as big events move to the end of the summer to give them the best chance of happening. Even with that, some are saying, 'it is still very much 50:50' and shoreside gatherings are very much in doubt.

WAVE Regatta & ICRA Nationals

As regular Afloat readers know, ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell has been forced to move the cruiser-racers from Cork to Howth for its Championships after Cork Week was cancelled. 'It's prudent in the current environment, to delay the important National Championships until as late as possible to try and ensure it goes ahead this year, so we have taken up the offer from Howth Yacht Club to combine the event with the WAVE Regatta in September.'

The Irish IRC season has always been very front-loaded, with nearly all the significant events completed by mid-July. This year, if we are lucky, the season will only likely be starting then.

Even if the season extends into October, many classes will be trying to run championships. Hence, there is a need to rationalise what can be done and avoid congestion in the remaining squeezed timeframe.

Round Ireland Race

The news that the Round Ireland Race has been postponed for two months until 22nd August is excellent news for owners concerned this classic offshore race would be running at all.

With a good run-in needed for the Round Ireland due to qualification requirements, it was doubtful that the race would ever have gone ahead in June anyway. The fact that the new date was greeted with such enthusiasm is, as Afloat's WM Nixon points out, a measure of the 700-mile race's importance to Irish sailing.

Some other significant events were not so fortunate, however, and they were not in a position to postpone to a later date. The Scottish Series is gone in May and following events like Bangor Week in June and Cork Week in July have both been lost. Cowes Week in the UK has confirmed it is still planning to go ahead in August as has the Welsh IRC Championships.

Call it wishful thinking but based on what is currently being talked about, here are some non-exhaustive 'thoughts' to get value from boats this season and some competitive racing to boot.

  • Dublin Bay SC racing -  twice weekly in July, and after that, right through to late September is a scenario being considered.
  • Dun Laoghaire Club Regattas  - A new date for a three day combined event for all waterfront club regattas is currently being hatched for July or August. This could include the National Yacht Club's Sesquicentennial event. UPDATE:  July 31st has been announced for the 'Dun Laoghaire Club's Solidarity Regatta'.
  • ISORA racing - in June, July, August and September would still produce an excellent series even though losing early coastal and offshore races mean ISORA will rejig its calendar. 
  • Glandore Classic Regatta - Glandore, West Cork (July 18th)
  • Dun Laoghaire Club's Solidarity Regatta (31st July-3 August)
  • Calves Week, Schull West Cork (4th to 7th August)
  • SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race (22nd August)
  • Dragon Gold Cup - Kinsale, (September 3rd)
  • WAVE Regatta, incorporating ICRA Nationals (13th September)
  • Autumn Leagues - Howth and Royal Cork Yacht Club (October)
  • Dublin Bay SC Turkey Shoot - November 1st

That's an outline of the season, without even mentioning class championships or the one design calendars at this early stage.

There seems to be plenty of options depending on whether crews want to stay local or are keen to venture further afield.

If ISORA rejigs its programme, as expected, and reschedules the Kingstown to Queenstown race for July 31st, it would, as Afloat's WM Nixon points out here be a way of getting boats to Cork and then on to Calves Week in West Cork.

For those not wanting to go to Cork, there looks like there will be club regatta options on Dublin Bay and there is the Welsh IRC Championships in Pwllheli from the 14th to 16th August. The following week there is Abersoch Keelboat Week but this date clashes with the Round Ireland Race.

On the West coast of Ireland, WIORA will have their popular week at Tralee Bay, presently scheduled for late June, but this may also need to be moved to a later date.

As WM Nixon says here, if the ISORA Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour Race is implemented, crews could be campaigning almost continually from July 31st until the conclusion of the ICRA Nationals in the Wave Regatta at Howth from September 11th to 13th.

It is certainly shaping up to be a season like no other. With luck, if planning and new protocols are successful, sailing will be back and there can still be a rewarding season ahead.

Published in News Update

Government is seeking input from sports bodies – including sailing – as to how a 'gradual and controlled' return to activities can be achieved.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that the Government would like to set out a roadmap before 5 May on how the COVID-19 restrictions might be eased.

Leo Varadkar said that this would be done on the understanding that the plan could change and steps could be reversed.

At the same time, the 2020 sailing fixtures is being redrafted by yacht clubs around the coast in anticipation of a resumption sometime this summer.

Already single-handed sailing could return 'relatively soon', according to experts, but does anyone know what sailing in Coronavirus Ireland will be like in 2020?

There is going to be a 'new normal' in society, and the Government expects the practice of social distancing will be with us until we find a COVID-19 vaccine.

It could be over a year or more before a vaccine is widely available and before people begin to feel safe again.

"what will sailing in Coronavirus Ireland be like in 2020?"

But we are moving into the next phase of co-existing with the virus and a key task for the government is managing the return of sport.

On Wednesday, Sport Ireland wrote to national governing bodies, including Irish Sailing, asking for their views on how a 'gradual and controlled return of sport' can be completed.

Minister of State for Sport Brendan Griffin told stakeholders he wants to know the specific challenges that sports face, the possible scenarios sailing will confront and its key concerns.

The government also wants to see draft protocol proposals on how sailing is planning to get back on the water.

The request says it would also like relevant guidance and intelligence from international bodies, in sailing's case this is World Sailing. 

Harry Hermon of Irish Sailing said here that for 'double handers and/or keelboats requiring two or more crew, it is not possible [to practise social distancing]. Even for organised activities involving single-handers requiring safety cover (with two people in the safety boat), it is not achievable'. So if the practice of social distancing will continue after restrictions are eased, how is it possible to go yacht racing or double-handed dinghy sailing at all?

It's a question both government and sailors themselves would like an answer to because 80% of all sailing in Ireland is on crewed boats. 

Meanwhile, Professor Sam McConkey, head of the Royal College of Surgeons’ department of international health and tropical medicine, believes specific sports like single-handed sailing and horse racing can return "with a two-metre social distancing rule in place very soon". McConkey also says, ideally, Ireland should follow the 'bubble' strategy pursued by New Zealand. His full interview with Gavin Cummiskey is in the Irish Times here.

Update 18/4/20: The Irish Marine Federation (IMF) has called on the Government to consider easing some restrictions. In a letter to Brendan Griffin TD, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, as seen by Afloat.ie, IMF chairman Paal Janson says boating is one of the more 'responsible and acceptable forms of enjoying the outdoors'. Janson outlines a series of protocols to enable boating here

The request from Sport Ireland to the NGBs is reproduced below:

sport ireland letter

Published in News Update
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The yacht pictured above this week is definitely not aground, though it is at a critical angle.

It is a Sigma 33 racing at Quoile Yacht Club on Strangford Lough.

“We do have these interesting moments with spinnakers on these boats. This boat is definitely not aground,” says Peter Mullan in response to my recent Podcast about spinnakers and my own Sigma 33 experience. “You have a somewhat reluctant view of the glory of kites” and “that’s a lot of aversion to spinnakers” were amongst responses.

There are certainly mixed views about spinnakers, though “there is no doubting the “enjoyment and thrill they give, living on the edge, it’s great!” said another Email.

Peter Mullan’s photo recalled for me other moments with a spinnaker flying.

"there is no doubting the “enjoyment and thrill they give, living on the edge"

Off-watch in my bunk on the West Coast aboard John Killeen’s 44ft. ‘Mayhem’ out of Galway Bay Sailing Club in the Round Ireland Race. As she rose to a wave with the kite up there would be a great cheer from the Galwegians I was sailing with as Mayhem raced forwards, downwards it seemed to me braced in the bunk, then poised or shuddered, which was my impression of the moment as she picked up, the spinnaker gave her more power and she was away again, the Galwegians repeating the process time and again!

peterson mayhemMayhem, a Doug Peterson 40 of 1981 vintage

I’ve been trying to trace the origins of spinnakers, about which there seem to be several views. The origins of the name are lost in time, it seems to me.

There is one view that the spinnaker, described as “the colourful sail that can lead to equal amounts of delight and dread onboard yachts,” was first carried by a yacht in Cowes, off the Isle of Wight called Sphinx, or in some places named as ‘Spinx’ and that this new style of sail was then set in the Solent. That is contradicted by claims that the first boat to use a spinnaker was Niobe, owned by William Gordon and that one of his crew when they saw it said the sail would “make the boat spin” and so it became known as a spinnaker and William was called “Spinnaker Gordon”.

But then, Thames sailing barges used the term spinnaker for their jib staysails.

So, there’s no clear agreement about the origins.

There were spinnakers from Code Zero upwards on yachts that I have sailed on …. which took plenty of grabbing to get them down and even falling on top of at times in high winds to smother as they whirled like dancing dervishes about the bow`. And I remember the regular warning shout from the deck of NCB Ireland as we raced across the Atlantic in the Whitbread Round the World Race when the spinnaker was downed and, in your bunk you’d hear a shout as it was dumped down the hatch, spray often flying everywhere, followed by bodies grabbing it to rebag and ready it for the next launch. I remember it well as I learned how to bag the kite quickly and pray that when it went up again it was without a twist!

And I still remember those whoops of the Mayhem crew which convinced me that sailing on the West Coast was an “entirely different process.”

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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This weekend two years ago, Storm Emma was sweeping Ireland, with onshore hurricane-force winds attacking much of the East Coast and wrecking a shed on Howth’s East Pier where, for decades, boats of the 1898-founded Howth Seventeen Foot class had been kept for winter storage.

Seven boats had varying degrees of such extensive damage that it was initially feared it could be a mortal blow for a historic class which was seen as a symbol of its characterful home port, for seven boats meant that pessimists feared that a third of the fleet had been wiped out.

But the class’s collective spirit - its instinctive sense of community - saw a group of 20 owners and crews and friends being assembled on the strength of their range of talents and access to lifting machinery. As soon as the storm had subsided, they were at work saving the boats from further damage by removing them from a place now in danger of total collapse. When darkness fell at the end of that “Day of Saving”, the seven boats were in a place of safety.

storm emma2On this day two years ago, Storm Emma had arrived. Somewhere under that wave breaking over Howth’s East Pier is the shed housing seven of the classic Howth 17s

howth 17s wrecked3The aftermath. Yet in just one day, all seven boats had been removed to safety, and only one was a total loss

Just one was a total loss, while the rest needed various levels of work – admittedly including major projects - to bring them back to full seaworthiness. But now the class is restored to fuller health and greater numbers than it has ever enjoyed before, with the “total loss” boat re-built thanks to some brilliant management by Ian Malcolm, and new enthusiasts are keen to join a class which so obviously provides such a vibrant sense of community.

However, we do not need such a specific yet ultimately manageable setback to demonstrate an attractive sense of community within most sections of the sailing and boating population. It’s to be found in all successful classes, this community spirit which - to put it at its most basic - can be a very successful marketing tool for those concerned with maintaining and maybe increasing numbers in sailing. But an extreme example such as the effects of Storm Emma emphasised just how important these communities, these “small platoons”, are within society as a whole.

howth 17 oonagh4 Back to normal. The Howth 17s are now back to full strength, and much of their racing is done from a convenient pier–based start line. This is third generation Howth 17 owner-skipper Peter Courtney racing Oonagh in Howth Sound. Photo: David O’Shea

Yet it is a mistake to think that a sense of community is something to be aimed for along some tunnel-vision route. On the contrary, it is surely more realistic to accept that a sense of community is a valuable by-product, the attractive evidence of shared enthusiasms and a welcome result of working together and taking part in group activities which are enlivened by a level of healthy competition when the boats are afloat.

It’s something which can be found in all areas of life, and in sailing and boating it manifests itself in many ways. One of the most clear-cut in Ireland is the class associations, which are as various in their character as their boats are in their types. All share a sense of community that is as natural as breathing which - while vitally important - exists as something almost incidental.

The Gold Standard in class associations is probably set by the GP 14s, who are seeing an increase in activity with the 2020 Worlds being staged in Skerries from July 25th to 31st. The Lasers may be bigger numerically, but they are solo sailed to create their own simpler dynamic, whereas the two-handed GP 14s have the need of added sailing abilities as they set a spinnaker, together with the demands of extra social skills and crew recruitment logistics.

gp14s racing5The Gold Standard in Irish class associations – hard driving for the GP 14s

There are many other One Design classes which share the powerful community ethic of sailing which lends itself to promoting this Sport for Life. Anyone who has ever seen the group activity which is the thriving Flying Fifteens at the National YC in Dun Laoghaire operating their purpose-designed launching and retrieval system will be impressed and aware of the vigour of this particular setup.

In the end, it is the prospect of regular quality racing which is the real engine in keeping any class motoring along. Yet even here, realistic local expectations are much more relevant than high-flown aspirations towards course-setting perfection in yacht racing.

flying fifteens6Flying Fifteens in Dublin Bay. Their co-ordinated launching and retrieval system at the National Yacht Club is a wonder to behold. Photo Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

The mantra in business schools is Voltaire’s statement that Perfection is the Enemy of the Good. You’ll achieve much more overall if you’re happy enough with 85% achievement than if you’ve busted your gut and driven everyone crazy in getting to 97% of the arbitrary ideal, and back in Sailing on Saturday at the end of last August we were warbling on along these lines.

Some cheeky but unpublishable personal emails showed we were hitting the target for some folk, but we’d felt a bit like a voice crying in the wilderness until North Sails recently published the musings of their President Ken Read, which put the whole matter with much more authority

kenny read galway7The President of North Sails in Galway during the Volvo Ocean Race. Ken Read is one of sailing’s great sports. Photo: VOR

Ken Read is a good sport who can put the fun back into sailing when the opportunity arises, so let’s hear it for modern sailmakers for the great work they do in making Irish classic boats look much more attractive. In the old days, boats such as those two Dublin Bay specials, the Mermaids and the Water Wags, tended to have an unattractively starved look to their sails, which were no bigger and generous than was necessary, and were often unmatched and of different generations.

mermaid new sails8Suits you, sir…..The new style North Sails work wonders for the look of a venerable Mermaid. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

But today’s sails have freshened things up no end. A contemporary and stylishly complete suit with a loose-footed main with its own ample curve in the foot has given these old girls a new lease of life. And in the case of the Water Wags, the boats have the bonus of being the height of fashion in Dun Laoghaire, so much so that specialist builder Rui Ferreira of Ballydehob in West Cork is bringing new Water Wag No 51 to immaculate completion for noted Dragon sailor Denis Bergin.

For those who complain that these boats are of a concept which is ancient - the Water Wags date back to a 1900 design in a class which originated in 1887, while the Mermaids are from 1932 - we’d point out that, astonishingly, the Laser is now past the Golden Jubilee mark.

swift water wag9Full and generous. Modern sails go well on Guy Kilroy’s Dublin Bay Water Wag Swift. Photo: W M Nixon

And one of the most useful International One Designs in Ireland, the J/24, is not only 55 years old, but she was right up to speed in being created by designer Rod Johnstone and his co-builder brother Bob in their parents’ garage in Stonington, Connecticut in 1975. The boat become 24ft LOA because that was the biggest they could build her without actually knocking out an end wall, and the use of a Stonington garage on America’s east long pre-dated the American garage’s sacred role in the creation of Silicon Valley out west.

But here again the vitality of the J/24s, as with the other classes mentioned, is dependent on personally-owned (or in the case of the J/24s, syndicate-owned) craft being campaigned in a satisfying season-long programme, which may not appeal in the modern age with its fondness for life in a tasting menu. So the clubs are providing club-owned boats for occasional sailors who fear total commitment, and while there’s an element of “What’s everybody’s business is nobody’s business” about these communally-owned craft”, every so often they attract a rush of enthusiasm.

Another approach in attracting people towards boats and the sea is that it should all be part of a complete process including the building of the boat, which was seen with the 2012 completion of the absolutely charming 25ft gaff cutter Sally O’Keeffe designed by Myles Stapleton for the Seol Sionna group in West Clare, with Sally being constructed in a community effort guided by master boatbuilder Steve Morris in a large barn obligingly provided by a farmer at Querrin down towards Loop Head.

sally okeeffe10 The community-built gaff cutter Sally O’Keeffe has introduced hundreds of people to the sea and sailing at Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary

 Since she started sailing, Sally O’Keeffe has turned heads the length and breadth of the mighty Shannon Estuary, and has impressed with appearances at Cruinnui na mBad at Kinvara on Galway Bay, the Baltimore Wooden Boat festival in West Cork, and the Glandore Classics further eastward on the south coast of Cork, having gallantly sailed to all these places along the challenging Atlantic seaboard.

Back at her home port of Kilrush, she has been used for sailing and seafaring courses which have involved getting hundred of people afloat, the most senior being 90-year-old Miss Josephine Glynn of the long-established Kilrush family.

As the years have passed since Sally was first commissioned, it has become increasingly clear that another instructional boat-building project at Kilrush would be useful, and the opportunity to provide this has arrived through the BIM (Bord Iascaigh Mhara) FLAG scheme, which is operational from 2016 to 2023.

Most will know of it, but FLAG is Fisheries Local Area Group Development Scheme. The idea is to make funds available to smaller coastal ports and communities which have suffered economically and socially from the decline in small craft fishing activity, thanks to factors as various as the salmon netting ban, limitations on size of catch, and ever more efficient larger boats taking the small boats’ catch in a more economical style.

In Kilrush, they’ve got the idea that Seol Sionna should broaden its remit to include coastal rowing and the building of one of the Iain Oughtred-designed St Ayle’s Skiffs. They have proven a success around Strangford Lough as they’re just 22ft long, light and handy to built by the edge-glued marine ply method, making them a much more manageable proposition than the traditional and majestic 32ft-plus LOA traditional clinker skiffs which are the backbone of much Irish coastal rowing.

sally okeeffe crew11 Members of Seol Sionna aboard Sally O’Keeffe in Kilrush (Steve Morris is second from left in bow). Their next project is building a St Ayle’s Skiff. Photo: W M Nixon

With Luke Aston and Gerard Concannon putting Kilrush’s case for a complete St Ayle’s Skiff project which will comprise a complete building kit and a purpose-designed road trailer from Jordan Boats, they find they’ve hit the button spot on with a 100% grant from FLAG.

The first boat will be built as a proper Training Project under the direction of Steve Morris, James Madigan and Dan Mill, and while it’s for members of Seol Sionna, new members are very welcome and membership fees are a reasonable €60 for family, €40 for single, and concession for €20.

For those interested, try phoning Steve Morris at 087 799 0091 for details of what will assuredly be a rewarding and satisfying process ashore and afloat, as the St Ayle’s Skiff has so perfectly hit the target that they’re now being built worldwide.

St Ayles Skiff constructing australia12Their popularity is spreading worldwide – a St Ayle’s skiff under construction in Australia

As for BIM’s FLAG scheme, its applications can be very wide indeed, and it was of course used late last year to fund the six new Fireflies with which Irish Sailing is putting on Team Racing Instructional Roadshow under the direction of Rory Martin. We hasten to make the point that this is not done with the intention of holding a team racing tournament at each venue visited, rather it’s to give instructional insight into the tricks of the team racing trade.

The first instructional demo by the new Firefly squad took place in Dun Laoghaire last November, and in a week’s time they’re in Howth. This is a bit ironic, as it’s the high-powered fishing craft that frequent Howth which have done so much to change the face of the industry.

Not that there are many Howth owners involved these days. The sons and daughters of the old Howth fishing families are as likely as not to be found trawling documentation as corporate lawyers in the IFSC rather than trawling fishing nets through Ireland’s seas. But what goes round comes round, and it could well be that sons and daughters of those same corporate lawyers will be attracted to sailing thanks to the availability of it through Irish Sailing’s Team Racing Fireflies.

st ayles skiffs racing13Close racing among St Ayles skiffs – their basic design origins are Viking by way of the East Coast of Scotland

Published in W M Nixon
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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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