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It's that time of the year again as the Maritime Institute of Ireland embark with their winter lecture series held in the Stella Maris Seafarers' Club, close to Busaras, Dublin city-centre. 
The first talk will be about the Vasa, Fifty Years On, presented by Cormac Lowth. All are welcome to attend tomorrow (20 Oct) evening's talk which starts at 8pm. Vasa was built for King Gustav IV and on her maiden voyage in 1628 she heels over in the middle of Stockholm and sinks. The 64-gun warship was salvaged in 1961. Over the next fifty years the vessel has been viewed by 25 million people in the Vasa Museum, to read more click HERE.

The lectures are usually held on the third Thursday of each month and mostly in Stella Maris. The club is located between the Irish Life Mall car park (ILAC), the Customs House and Busaras. It is convenient to the Luas (Busaras stop) and the Dart (Tara Street station). For more information on visit www.mariner.ie/lectures

Published in Boating Fixtures
St. Peter Line has agreed to purchase the Pride of Bilbao for €37.7m from Irish Continental Group (ICG) which has been on charter to P&O's UK-Spain route, writes Jehan Ashmore.
ICG will charter the 37,583 gross tonnes cruiseferry to St. Peter Line on a hire-purchase basis with instalments to be paid over six years, with the final payment and transfer of vessel ownership in 2016. The vessel is to undergo refurbishment and renamed Princess Anastasia before opening a new second route for St.Peter Line between St. Petersburg and Stockholm  in April 2011. The new twice weekly service will call via Tallinn, Estonia and will for the first time provide visa-free cruises from Sweden to the Russian Federation.

For the last 17 years the Pride of Bilbao has operated between Portsmouth and Bilbao under charter to P&O. Built in 1986, she was launched as Olympia for Viking Line between Stockholm and Helsinki, then the Baltic Sea ferry was one of the largest overnight passenger capacity ferries in the world. At 177 metres long the vessel can accommodate 2552-passengers, 600-vehicles and space for 77-trucks. She has a sister, the Mariella, which currently operates on Viking Line's Stockholm-Mariehamn–Helsinki service.

In 1993 the vessel was renamed Pride of Bilbao and launched a new service on the Bay of Biscay, under charter from her Scandinavian owners. The following year ICG purchased the Pride of Bilbao from Viking Line and she was re-registered to the Bahamas. The vessel was subsequently entered into a British bare-boat charter arrangement between P&O Ferries and ICG. Due to unsustainable losses the route closed on 28 September this year but rivals Brittany Ferries soon shortly announced they would reopen the route in Spring 2011.

Throughout the Pride of Bilbao's career under ICG (parent company of Irish Ferries), the cruiseferry has only once visited Ireland. In between Spanish sailings, she was sub-chartered for a three-day Christmas mini-cruise from Portsmouth to Dublin in 2004, where the Pride of Bilbao berthed at the ferryport close to the ICG headquarters.

Published in Ports & Shipping

Three intrepid young British yachtsmen, Luke Yeates, Jack Gifford and Will Shepherd, have taken up the challenge by the Scandinavian Classic Yacht Trust, SCYT, for British classic yacht owners to retrace Uffa Fox's famous 1000 mile, 1930 voyage from Cowes to Stockholm. Sailing the Vixen, a 1937 classic yacht, the team hope to be in Trosa, Sweden, between 3rd and 6th August 2010 for the start of the Trosa Tullgarn Royal Palace Regatta, part of a new classic series, the Baltic Classic Master Cup.

"This race is unique in the challenge it offers, particularly the interesting route and heritage of the trip," says Luke Yeates, "the freedom it allows for people to select their own yacht, route, stopovers etc. Is unprecedented and makes it quite an appealing adventure, especially for a young crew."

Vixen is closely related in design to the Vigilant, in which Uffa Fox made his historical journey says its skipper, Luke Yeates. "The attraction was obvious, 'it felt like the right thing to do', was my immediate reaction." All three of the crew have grown up sailing Uffa's designs and reading his books. As Luke says, "It would be an honour to follow in his footsteps and to have a grand adventure to boot!"

Environmental Twist
In addition to the facing the vagaries of the weather, the crew have agreed to help in a scientific study related to environmental issues during their journey from the North Sea to the Baltic. The crew will record and report on visibility and the presence of seaweed, plankton and debris in the water and take water samples. The study programme has been developed by the Asko Laboratory, a marine field station which is part of the Stockholm Marine Research Centre within Stockholm University. The aim is to better understand the conditions that give rise to the annual algae blooms that adversely affect the beaches in the Baltic region.

"We are delighted to have our first challenger signed up. The added environmental element means that as well as retracing Uffa's historic journey, the Vixen crew will help scientists gather data to help them better understand the nature of the algae blooms that wreak havoc each year," says Olle Appelberg, Executive Director of the SCYT.

Luke Yeates hopes that more boats will join the challenge, particularly as he is quite competitive. Olle Appelberg adds that whichever boat makes it to the finishing line first, the current owner of Vigilant, Andrew Thornhill, will be presenting the first of, what it's hoped to be an annual presentation cup for winners to keep for one year. It is clear that the Vixen crew have their hearts set on that cup.

The Vixen and its crew
Vixen was designed by Knud Reimers and built at the Kungsors boatyard in central Sweden by Oscar Schelin. Imported to the UK before the Second World War, she was one of only a handful of the elegant Square Meter Rule yachts. At the time building to the rule was prolific in the Baltic but scarcely known in the UK. As co-skipper Jack Gifford explains, "Much finer in form and lighter in displacement than her British counterparts, Vixen and her kind were viewed with suspicion by the (British) yachting establishment and with her light and efficient construction deemed as 'un-seaworthy." One famous British sailor had fallen in love with the Swedish Square Meter yachts and collaborated with Reimers to build his own yacht. That, of course, was Uffa Fox, and the boat he built at Cowes was the Vigilant. So confident was Uffa in its sea keeping that he set out to sail it to its spiritual homeland of Sweden to take part in the Swedish championships.

Now Vixen is owned by twenty five year old Luke Yeates who has been passionate about sailing since his schooldays and already has a wealth of experience behind him, particularly in multihull racing. His ambitions are to become an all-round sailor capable of competing at the top level of the sport. Both skipper and co-skipper have extensive experience of the North Sea with Luke having raced F18 catamarans through the Swedish archipelago. Co-skipper Jack Gifford, is now a full-time naval architect, with the third crew member, Chemistry student Will Shepherd having notched up many miles in the Irish sea.

About Uffa Fox
Uffa Fox is not simply known as a sailor and boat designer, he was also a philosopher and eccentric as well as a media celebrity. Uffa was the father of the planing dinghy and his International Fourteen Footer Avenger won many races including the coveted Prince of Wales Cup. For many years his designs were the most sought after. It was in Vigilant, a new 22 Sq.m design with extremely light displacement that he made his famous voyage to Sweden to participate in the Centenary Regatta of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club in July 1930. Vigilant's design and construction was substantial enough to be sailed to Sweden and back in a summer of strong winds. He made the journey in 17 days and after the racing was over, Uffa received special recognition for his sailing feat and his promotion of a Scandinavian yacht rule in Britain.

About the Scandinavian Classic Yacht Trust
The trust's mission is to preserve classic yachts as part of Scandinavia's cultural heritage by making sure that they are sailed and seen. As a non-profit organisation the trust helps to develop a strong community for classic yachting by promoting, organising events and regattas.

About the Regatta
The Trosa Tullgarn Royal Palace Regatta offers four days of championships, parades and races, running Swedish Championships for 22 square metre skerry cruisers (A22) and four classes of mälarboats, the 15,22,25 and 30 sq.m Swedish Mälarboats, one-design yachts. On 6th August there will be a sail past in front of the 18th century Tullgarn Royal Palace to select the most beautiful yacht and the best crew. On the last day of the regatta, 7th August, a spectacular international archipelago race is planned to include the larger classic yachts such as 95 and 150 sq.m as well as 8, 10 and 12 mR and is open to all classic yacht owners.

More information about Uffa Fox and the Raid is available at www.news-lab.com/press/scyt

Published in News Update
Tagged under

Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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