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We all know sailing fast in a straight line is very important. That is where, as sailmakers, our products shine and our technical background can be leveraged for your benefit writes Graham Curran. But races are won and lost at the corners. You can be the fastest boat on the water but if your critical manoeuvres are not dialled in then one bad hoist or drop could have your advantage erased immediately.

Let’s take a look at look at leeward mark rounding techniques and present some top tips for perfecting your manoeuvres. With that said; there is a lot going on at the leeward mark with a lot of elements in play, including conditions, spinnaker setup, boat size, course layouts etc, so this list is no means exhaustive, but if you can work on these general points then you will be many steps closer to that elusive perfect leeward mark rounding.

UK Sails 1896A leeward mark at July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Afloat

We are going to break our tips into light air tips and heavy air tips. As we will see, the wind speed plays a major role in how you should approach your drops.

Light Airs

  1. Keep your spinnaker flying as long as possible. In light airs, it is easy to be over-cautious with your spinnaker drops – dropping the spinnaker early and slowing boat speed significantly. We need to keep the spinnaker driving the boat for as long as possible to get us to the leeward mark at maximum speed. As the wind is light we will have plenty of time to get the sail down as we turn around the mark.
  2. Partially hoist your jib but not so much that it affects the spinnaker. Getting the jib up is good, you’re certainly going to need it, but timing is everything. When the jib is in the air it immediately begins effecting the airflow onto and across the spinnaker with the potential to collapse it early – we’ve all been there and it isn’t fast. Half hoist the jib so the first couple of battens are clear of the guard rails – this keeps the spinnaker clear while also ensuring there are no issues with the jib hoist itself. Once the drop (and the mark) are imminent – hoist the jib fully. Make sure the jib sheet is loose. This will help keep the kite going to the very last second. When rounding trim the jib constantly as the boat turns – do not ram it in early to save yourself some grinding on the other side!
  3. Manage your crew weight. I cannot stress this point enough – especially in light airs. Once the spinnaker is down and not in the water – sit down. Get to leeward if the conditions require it and stop moving. The best drops can be ruined by a bouncy crew on the deck. At this point, it is critical for the boat to build speed and exit the mark as fast as possible. Generally, at this point we are trying to escape the fleet or get to the favoured side – boat speed is of utmost importance. An over-eager bow crew preparing for a windward mark that is 40 minutes away is simply not helpful. Sit down, settle, let the boat accelerate, and then pick your time to do your jobs.
  4. Keep your trimmer focused. There is a lot going on at the leeward mark. Boats approaching, likely plenty of shouting, sails going up and down. It is critical for your spinnaker trimmer to stay 100% focused at this point. As the jib goes up the spinnaker behaviour will change and trim will need to be adjusted to keep it drawing. Active trimming here is worth its weight in gold. As the old saying goes – “if in doubt, leave it out”.
  5. Plan ahead to optimize your crew work. Ideally you want to drop the spinnaker on the side which it will hoisted at the next mark. This is not always possible but it is what we should be aiming for. This results in less work for your bow team and pit crew, which means less running of gear, more weight effectively placed for longer. Know your course and know what drop option will suit you best – then try to make it happen.

Spinnaker Drop 1349A Spinnaker drop at a leeward mark in a Beneteau 211 Photo: Afloat

Heavy Airs

  1. 1. Manage the spinnaker halyard. It should go without saying that the spinnaker halyard should be flaked and ready to run. The pit crew, when the drop is called, should smoke ¼ of the spinnaker halyard to instantly depower the sail and allow the bow crew to get a good handful of the sail into the boat. Once this is done the halyard should then be eased gradually to ensure the sail does not end up in the water. The faster this first portion of the halyard is blown the better – you want to shock the spinnaker into submission!
  2. Get the pole away early. In moderate/heavy airs there is plenty of pressure in the spinnaker to keep it set. The pole can be cleared early to make the drop much cleaner and give you more options for manoeuvring during and after the drop. If flying a symmetric spinnaker use a crew member to “human guy” the spinnaker to help the trimmer maintain control. If flying an asymmetric spinnaker “clearing the pole” is as simple as un-cleating the pole outhaul rope before the drop so that when the spinnaker unloads and is being recovered the pole is automatically pulled in – just keep an eye on your tackline so it doesn’t go under the bow!
  3. Get hiking! Similar to light airs, crew weight management is crucial. Get the weight on the rail as soon as possible. If the kite isn’t at risk of going in the water and the boat is clear to tack then your weight should be hiking – not tidying. There is an entire windward leg to prepare for the next hoist or coil your sheets. Hike first, housekeep later.
  4. Drop early and gain. Much the opposite of the above – push to your limits, not beyond them. An early drop doesn’t hurt boat speed significantly in a heavy air situation – having the spinnaker still in the air as your turn upwind however very much does. Get the spinnaker down early and safely and get the crew to where they need to be as you turn the corner.
  5. Avoid a leeward drop. In heavy airs, leeward drops are just asking for trouble. Sometimes it is unavoidable but if at all possible use any other option.

Put in the time

UK Sails 3792

“Time on the water is king” – there is no denying this. The more you and your crew sails together the better your manoeuvres will be. And its time well worth spending. Put in the practice before racing begins and give yourselves time to learn.

On top of this – know your limits. It is tough, when in the heat of battle, to take a step back and assess the situation. It is crucial to know what you are capable of as a crew. This will allow you to push your drops to the limit, but not beyond them, and by doing so you will gradually improve as the manoeuvre becomes smoother.

Get out on the water and make the most of the upcoming Autumn Series! See you on the water!

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Olympic sailor Mark Mansfield who is an agent for UK Sailmakers Ireland offers his five top tips for those looking at buying new sails this year.

1. Correct Size Sails

Make sure the new sails are the correct size. IRC rule changes are happening all the time and good advantages can be had from optimising the sail sizing, sometimes by just a small amount. Make sure you get advice from your sailmakers about what is best. We had one Class One boat this year that ended up with the same size sails as before but dropped two points by changing the shape of their sails a small amount.

black velvetBlack Velvet Beneteau 34.7 with her Uni Titanium Main and Headsail. Black Velvet recently converted to non-overlapping headsails

2. Seasonal Discounts

Make sure you take advantage of any discounts that might be available. Autumn is traditionally a quiet time for production facilities and so discounts are offered for orders at that time. At UK Sailmakers, we have just introduced a new discount arrangement. More details here

3. Sailmaker's Knowledge

Make the best use of your Sailmakers. People working with sailmakers have a wealth of knowledge about what makes boats go fast. Whether it is helping you with your rating optimisation, helping you tune your rig or other areas, make use of them. Sometimes this can be added as an included extra in a sails purchase deal.

4.  Loft Facilities

Ensure the sailmakers you are thinking of has a proper loft to be able to service and adjust your sails. Ordering from a sailmaker with no proper loft facilities means adjustments or repairs are extremely difficult to organise. We recently had a customer who twisted his Code 0 cable and was unable to untwist it himself. It went down to our loft in Crosshaven where the 17-metre sail was hung up, untangled and refitted. This would be very difficult to achieve without proper facilities.

5. Sails to Suit Requirements

Make sure you are being quoted the material in the sails that suit your requirements and not some lower-tech and cheaper material that looks fancy but actually will stretch very quickly and not last long. For racing boats over 30 foot or even a bit smaller, the go-to material for quite a few years for low stretch is Carbon. The problem with not having Carbon in high load sails is if you exceed their normal wind range, they will eventually stretch, and once that has happened, you end up with turned in leeches and baggy sails. They will not last competitively for the same number of years as Carbon-reinforced sails.

WOW XP 44George Sisk's new X Yachts XP 44 Wow on way to winning the 2019 Sovereign's Cup with her Carbon Uni Titanium Main and Headsail Photo: Bob Bateman

So, Why Carbon?

A quick history lesson on sail materials.

Up to the ’70s, nearly all sails were made from Dacron (Polyester) and were 'crosscut'. Fairly cheap, stretchy material, but lasted a long time.

In the late ’70s, new materials such as Mylar emerged with much less stretch and were used for quite a few years.

In the early ’80s, Kevlar became the go-to material. Originally used for bulletproof vests, it had good stretch resistance but was more expensive. The first Kevlar sail I ever sailed with was on Moonduster in 1981, her first year, when she did the Admiral's cup. Kevlar sails in those days were still crosscut.

In about 1982, tri-radial sails, using a combination of Mylar in the low stretch areas and Kevlar in the high stretch areas(such as the leech) changed the way sails were made forever. Kevlar, however, has low UV protection and stretches after a lot of flogging and wear.

In the early 2000s, Carbon was introduced to sails and this was another game-changer. Much less resistant to UV damage and significantly less stretch. It has become the option of choice for the racing community. It is more expensive, however, which is why some sailmakers when in a competitive situation, sell sails without Carbon.

At UK Sailmakers, our Race sails (X drive Carbon, Titanium and Uni Titanium) are all Carbon-reinforced sails. The latter two options are moulded sails.

The graph below shows the strength differences 


If you are buying new sails, here is what you should be looking at:

  • Fully Cruising - Dacron is fine
  • Cruising and occasional races on Echo - Dacron is still fine
  • Racing mainly and occasional cruising - Carbon-reinforced sails such as UK Sailmakers 'X drive Carbon'
  • Racing mainly, club level - Carbon-reinforced sails such as 'X drive Carbon'
Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland

Returning from (attempted) racing last night on Dublin Bay, one of the crew reminded us all that there are only two Thursday evening races left in the DBSC season writes Graham Curran of UK Sailmakers IrelandSummer 2019 has gone by quick – although there is still plenty of sailing to be done throughout the country.

As the summer season draws to a close it is time consider what can be done to improve your sailing for the 2020 season. Take advantage of the autumn sailing season to assess your sail wardrobe needs.

Bolster your sail wardrobe for maximum performance

banner (From left) “Outrajeous” Sovereigns Cup Champion – “Rockabill VI” Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Champion – “Mermaid IV” Dun Laoghaire Week Coastal Champion

New sails make a big difference to your boat’s performance both on and off the race track – especially when coupled with the expertise of a professional who can show you how to use them for maximum effect.

The UK Sailmakers Ireland team of Barry Hayes, Mark Mansfield, Graham Curran, Yannick Lemmonier and Andrew Steenson have vast experience to share with our customers.

And there is no better time to buy than during the autumn period with up to 15% off retail pricing. Make the most of your autumn sailing and get one of our team out to assess your wardrobe and advise on areas for improvement.

Contact any of our expert team for advice, guidance, and a quote today. See contact details below

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Olympic keelboat helmsman Mark Mansfield of UK Sailmakers Ireland discusses headsail options 

If you go back 20 years, or even 15, most designs coming out had large overlapping (headsail goes outside the shrouds) headsails to give them power in the light airs. Many of these designs were fairly heavy and needed the extra sail. However some were built lightly and even though designed with Overlapping headsails, are able to convert very successfully to non-overlapping (headsail is forward of the shrouds and spreaders).

It was the likes of designers John Corby, Jason Ker and Mark Mills who highlighted in their designs that non overlapping was all that was needed, even in light airs, as long as the boats were not too heavy and the masts were placed well back in the boat to allow a generous foredeck size, which in turn allowed a fairly large Headsail to be set forward of the spreaders.

What designs work well as non-overlapping?

There are a number of factors to be taken into account when looking at a boat to see if non-overlapping is worth doing. Here are some—

  • Does the Sail area/Displacement ratio show that this design can work well in light airs with a non-overlapper?
  • Was the boat designed first day with a fairly large foretriangle—with the mast well aft?
  • Does the design have a low wetted surface area, as in light airs, a low wetted surface area helps to survive with a smaller headsail?

What designs do we know of that can be converted?

Likely the most successful design that is able to be adapted, without any work, from Overlapping to non-overlapping Headsails, is the J109. These boats were designed originally in the US for lightish air conditions and had big 135% headsails. However, they were also built quite light (about 5000Kgs) and had quite a large foredeck (j-- about 4 metres). As IRC penalizes sail heavily, it was found about 12 years ago that to just change from a 42 sq metre headsail to a 31 sq metre, non-overlapping headsail saved about 15 points in rating. It was also found that in only under about 9 knots of wind would the smaller sail boat be slower. As a result, most J109’s now rated on IRC, are with the smaller headsails.

J109 something Else J109 Something else, owned by John and Brian Hall, with non-overlapping furling headsail Photo: Afloat

If you take a similar weight boat, like an Elan 333, it doesn’t work well with them, as their foredeck measurement is only about 3.6 m. In addition, their forestay is not that high, so even with an overlapping headsail, they only have about 32 sq metres of Headsail. If they were to go non-overlapping, they would need to come down to circa 22 sq metres and that would make them very vulnerable in light airs.

What other designs are suitable for conversion?

At UK Sailmakers this year, we have assisted in the conversion on many designs from Overlapping to non-overlapping. Normally this happens when the overlapping headsails get to the end of their life and the option to move to non-overlapping is suggested. The benefits of making the move, if it works for the boat, are:

  • Less expensive headsails
  • Easier and faster to crew—Less sail to winch in after every tack. Easier to Hoist and drop.
  • more competitive on IRC.
  • The Boat normally points higher as the smaller headsail is set further inboard.
  • Boat is more manoeuvrable with the smaller sail

Designs we have done this year are:

  • X362 sport—Similar weight and sail area as a J109
  • Beneteau 44.7. We converted both Lively Lady and White Tiger this year to non-overlapping.
  • Starflash Quarter tonner—Superhero—Won Icras class 4 this year
  • Formula 28
  • Beneteau 34.7

leslie parnellLeslie Parnell's, Beneteau 34.7, with UK Sailmakers non-overlapping furling Uni Titanium headsail and mainsail  Photo: UK Sailmakers Ireland

In the case of the two Beneteau 44.7’s this decision was made easier by seeing how a similar design had done in the Solent a few years ago, including winning the RORC overall points championship. When we look at a possible conversion boat, we see how similar conversions may have worked on similar designs, before making the decision with the client.

The Beneteau 44.7’s and Beneteau 34.7 all use Roller headsails, so conversion can happen both with Roller headsails boats as well as boats with Headfoils

Lively ladyThe Dublin Bay Beneteau 44.7 Lively Lady with UK Sails Photo: UK Sailmakers Ireland

Large builders like J boats, X yachts, Beneteau and others have been building lightish displacement cruiser racers for quite a few years. Their older designs are very often suitable for conversion. Their newer designs already are all non-overlapping.

Quarter tonners and Half tonners benefit from conversion, but only when their masts and keels have been moved aft to allow a larger non-overlapping headsail to be set. This can be an expensive operation. In larger cruiser racers this is rarely an alternative.

In nearly all cases when a boat converts from overlapping to non-overlapping, an inhauler needs to be fitted to pull the headsail clew further inboard. This allows the new non-overlapping headsails to be designed with fullness in the sail, and also allows the sail to be flattened easily. Normally the new non-overlapping headsail would be designed to go from 0 to about 16/18 Knots. Then the boats existing no 3 can be used. In some cases, owners will ask for two headsails to fill this 0-17 knot range and a full light air sail (J1) will bring the boat up to 10/11 knots, then a J2 will be used from about 12 to 17 knots.

Maybe this is twice the cost, but bear in mind that the two sails will likely have only half the use, and so will last twice as long.

Do you need to change to non-overlapping?

As discussed above, some designs just don’t work as a non-overlapper. If you have a design that would work as a non-overlapper, you can still opt to sail, at a higher rating, with the big overlapping sail. I recently competed in the J109 UK Nationals in Medium to strong winds. In the J109 class over there, they allow both non-overlapping setups, and overlapping setups to be used, with no difference in rating. It's just first across the line. Problem is, if you choose the big sails, you must stay with them for the whole regatta. Likewise, if you choose the smaller non-overlapping sails, you must stay with them.

In our case, we only had the Overlapping headsails and in a medium to strong wind regatta, we had to carry the big overlapping headsails right up to 20 knots. What we learned from this, is if you have the Rig correct, you can still compete very well, even in conditions that were regarded as too much wind for the sails. The trick is to try and keep the forestay straight by tightening the Lowers and intermediate shrouds a lot. This allows you to apply extra backstay to keep the headstay tight. In conditions that should have suited the Non Overlapping boats, we ended up winning the Nationals by 10 points. Lesson learned was that non-overlapping isn’t always necessary, but bear in mind this was not under IRC. If it was, it might have been a different story.

JukeBox J109 Jukebox coming off the line at Uk J109 nationals—Notice large overlapping headsail. Photo: UK Sailmakers Ireland

Can a boat be assessed to see if it is suitable for conversion?

At UK Sailmakers Ireland, we have a number of very experienced sailors and Sail designers that can look at individual designs and give a very good opinion on whether it is worth doing or not. If an owner wanted, we also have the services of an expert Naval Architect Consultant who can assist, on a fee basis, and do an individual report on a boat.

So, whether you are racing at the top end of ICRAs or sailing for fun in club racing, it is always best to get the advice of your sailmaker and UK sailmakers Ireland have been around helping clients for 50 years. Give us a call or an email if you want any help or advice (contact details below)

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Barry Hayes, Director of UK Sailmakers Ireland highlights some recent successes for Boats flying UK Sailmakers sails from Ireland, both around the country and in the Solent

Following on from considerable inshore successes for UK Sailmakers Ireland (three IRC class winners at ICRAs, four IRC class winners at the Sovereign's Cup in Kinsale) UK Sails are thrilled with the results being achieved in the uber-competitive offshore and coastal racing around Ireland and elsewhere.

Last weekend, Jackknife, the J125 owned by Andrew Hall from Pwllheli Sailing Club, was the overall winner of the Dun Laoghaire to Pwllheli ISORA race and now holds a 34-point lead in the overall season's ISORA standings from Paul O'Higgins' JPK 10.80 from the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Jackknife has a full UK Sails Inventory, including specialist offshore sails such as a flying Jib and a Code 0.

UKSailmakers Code 0 on J125 JackknifeUK Sailmakers Code 0 on J125 Jackknife

Rockabill, the overall 2019 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race winner also carries UK Sailmakers Spinnakers and a Code 0 A sail.

Rockabill UK Spinnaker Paul O'Higgins' Rockabill VI, running square with her UK Sailmaker's S2 running spinnaker

Over in the Solent, the newly built one-off 36-footer, Erik van Vuuren's Dutch W36 Hubo, was the Class Three winner of the RORC Channel race. This boat, built only one year ago, has a full suit of sails from UK Sailmakers Ireland, designed and fitted by Barry Hayes. She carries, along with her Uni Titanium headsails and mainsail, offshore specialist sails such as a Code A0 and a staysail.

Hubo UKHubo with her S2 spinnaker, staysail and Uni Titanium mainsail

Other recent coastal and offshore successes include George Sisk's XP 44 Wow (RIYC), counting all first places, winning the Offshore Division at the Sovereign's Cup. Wow, among her full UK Sailmakers inventory, utilised her flying Jib and Code 0 to great success in that event.

WOW UK SAILS George Sisk's Wow, With her Flying Jib off a sprit and her headsail off her forestay

At Dun Laoghaire Regatta, Seamus Fitzpatrick’s elegant First 50 Mermaid IV (RIYC), sporting new UK sailmakers Titanium Mainsail and furling Headsail, counted all wins to take the coastal division crown from a strong 30 boat fleet. Wow finished third also in this class. Seven of the top 13 boats in this class used UK sails.

Mermaid 4436Mermaid IV, sporting her new UK Sailmakers Titanium Main and Furling Headsail. Wow is in the background on port tack

UK Sailmakers offer a bespoke, hands-on service to their clients and will, and can, assist in all aspects of boat preparation and setups from IRC optimisations, rig tuning, sail selections. Our top race teams include Barry Hayes and Graham Curran, UK Sailmakers Directors and Olympian, Mark Mansfield, who is a UK sailmakers agent. Recent additions to the UK team include agents Yannick Lemonnier from Galway, a very well known offshore sailor. Also added to the UK Sailmakers team is agent, Andrew Steenson from Strangford Lough.

Contact us now to discuss your proposals for 2020 sails.

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"Twist" is one of the many buzzwords in sailing. We might know what it is and when it's needed – and when it’s not – but why do we need twist in the first place? And what effects does it have in our decision making process all around the race course? Graham Curran of UK Sailmakers Ireland takes us through his thoughts on sail twist.

Walking through Dublin Airport arrivals, fresh off the plane from Southampton after the weekends’ RORC Channel Race, I was going through the events of the previous day and night. I was sailing aboard Chris Frost’s Swan 36 “Finola” in preparation for our Fastnet Race starting next weekend.

We crossed the line at 0800 on Sunday morning after 23 hours of racing – finishing 2nd in our class about four minutes behind the winner. As is usually the chase when you finish second; I was going through the race in my head to find where we could have gained those four minutes of corrected time. There were several occasions where there were gains to be had or losses that could have been avoided, but there is one in particular which we found interesting – and which leads into the topic of this article.

Critical Sail Selection

At 0200 on Sunday morning we were in the last 40 mile stretch of our course – approaching the Owers turning mark before heading back for the Solent. We had been flying our S2 spinnaker (symmetric runner) since the start of this long downwind leg in 12-15 knots of breeze. As we rounded St Catherine’s point and made our way to Owers the breeze began to steadily clock right; making our sailing angle tighter and tighter.

Eventually, we ended up tight reaching with our pole just off the forestay with our log reading around 6.8 – 7.5 knots with a significant load on the helm and lots of active mainsheet trimming needed to keep the boat on her feet. Something needed to change. Finola’s set up left us with three options – continue as we were, unfurl our 145% overlapping genoa and set up on an outboard lead, or swap to our Code Zero. There were several things to consider when making this decision including the late hour, the breeze, sail sizes, effective ranges etc.

"Something needed to change"

Our decision was to drop the spinnaker and unfurl our genoa and set up an outboard lead for effective sheeting, and then consider launching our Code Zero after evaluating the situation. As always the lads on the bow played a blinder; the drop and swap was done seamlessly without issue. We gave ourselves ten minutes to settle and evaluate and found the boat was much easier to handle with little or no undue pressure on the helm, but our speed was down to 6.0 knots – time to try the Code Zero. After a short period of bow work and cockpit setup we had the Code Zero flying and our genoa furled up once again. Settle and evaluate. Finola was now cruising along at 6.8 to 7.5 knots once again, as we were with our S2 spinnaker up, but the difference in her behaviour was dramatic. No significant heel and a wonderfully balanced helm. A valuable lesson learned (several lessons in fact) – but what does all this have to do with twist you ask? Let me explain.

What is Twist?

Twist in its raw form is a difference in your sails’ angle of incidence when measured at points of increasing height up your sail. Simply put; it is the amount the sail “twists open” at the top when compared to the lower sections.

"We increase twist in light winds, we take it out as the wind increases"

Most of us think of twist in the context of sailing upwind with a mainsail and jib/genoa. We increase twist in light winds, we take it out as the wind increases. This has a lot to do with how the wind is behaving at different heights. Wind that is closer to the surface is slowed due to friction and, as a result, its angle is changed. Wind which is higher (farther from the surface) does not experience the same amount of friction, so its angle is not changed as much. As such we have varying wind angles at increasing heights so we, in turn, need to twist our sails to make sure our sail is trimmed correctly to the changing wind angles at the different heights. This is particularly important at low wind speeds where the wind angle difference is significant. As the wind speed increases the surface friction has less of an effect on the wind angle – there ends up being little difference in angle between the top and bottom of your mast (depending on your mast height of course) – so less twist is needed to trim your sail correctly.

The above applies to sailing upwind – and we are familiar with it as a sail trim fundamental – but there is another more intrinsic way of looking at twist which applies to all modes of sailing. In essence twist gives us the ability to control the lift and drag produced by our sails.

twist 2W36 “Hubo” on her way out of the Solent. Hubo went on to win the IRC Two-Handed Division and IRC Class 3 overall Photo: RORC/Rick Tomlinson

The Lift and Drag Compromise

Life is all about compromise. Sailing is no different. Where there is lift, there is drag. Our goal as sailors is to maximise and harness lift while minimizing resulting drag. Lift gives us the power to move forward, above and below the water. Drag is what slows us down, usually manifesting itself as heel and stall.

So lift and drag are intrinsically linked – they go hand in hand. In some cases drag is a good thing. There is a tipping point where having a relatively high amount of drag is good as its corresponding lift is more beneficial to the entire sail plan. But for the vast majority of our sailing drag is bad, lift is good.

So how does this tie in with Sunday morning’s lesson aboard Finola?

Drag Bad, Lift Good

Let’s keep it simple, primal as it were – down to caveman style “drag bad … lift good”. When we were reaching with our S2 spinnaker we had plenty of lift. The boat was moving through the water at hull speed or above it. We had all the lift we needed. The problem was that the spinnaker was causing too much drag, which manifested itself as heeling moment. To keep the boat on her toes we need to use a lot of rudder and ease the mainsheet. More rudder means more drag below the waterline – slowing the boat as a result. All of this making the crew work much harder than is needed at 2am in the morning.

This is not the spinnaker’s fault. A running spinnaker will simply, by design, not reach effectively. It has a deep profile with wide shoulders. Great for running downwind. Not so great when sheeted in hard while reaching. The shoulders close in behind the mainsail, hook, and stall, causing drag and heeling the boat.

So we opt for the genoa instead of instead – dramatically less drag as the sail can be trimmed perfectly for the angle of sailing with the ability to get the twist correct without causing any hook (drag) in the leech – but the sail did not produce enough lift to keep us at the speeds we were doing with the spinnaker. This is mainly due to the drop in sail area, the genoa; even at 145% overlap, is less than half the size of the spinnaker. So on the whole it was more effective having the spinnaker up, despite its drag downsides.

Enter the Code Zero. At 58sqm it splits the difference in size between the spinnaker and genoa but, far more crucially, it is designed with much more twist in the leech. When we trimmed our Code Zero on the log instantly jumped back to the 7ish knots we were looking for – but without the excessive heel we had with the spinnaker. A Code Zero is designed to sail with a lot more twist in its leech when compares to a running spinnaker. Although the Code Zero will produce less lift, mostly because it has a smaller sail area, it will also produce less drag than a hooked stalling spinnaker. The Code Zero produces more net lift, despite its smaller size, and it all comes down to what? – twist.

twist1Code Zeros set at the start of the RORC Channel Race 2019 Photo: RORC/Rick Tomlinson

Conclusion(s) about twist

To be very clear, this is not a pump piece for Code Zeros. They are great sails and they have their place, and are much more versatile than they are given credit for, but that is not the point here.

We used twist to reduce drag and increase lift. We did it in the form of a sail change. But this is not always the case. Next time you’re sailing and you’re fighting the helm, or your boat speed is slow and you don’t know why, or you need to accelerate to avoid being rolled – consider the lift and drag relationship and use twist to tip the balance in your favour.
Before I sign off I want to share two more quick notes on this particular situation.

Firstly – we used the Channel Race explicitly for the purposes of learning ahead of the Fastnet. I would certainly consider not swapping to the Code Zero straight away as a mistake in the context of the Channel Race alone. It may not have cost us the four minutes needed to win but it certainly contributed. But in reality – that is exactly what we were there to do – that was the time to be conservative and learn the lesson. The minute or so of lost time during the 2019 Channel Race could potentially yield many more minutes of time gained in next week’s Fastnet Race as we now has a very clear understanding of where and when the Code Zero becomes effective in our inventory. These lessons need to be learned some time – best to do it before the big one rather than during it! As always – time on the water is key!

Secondly and finally – a note on sail area. It is not the be-all and end-all, as we’ve just proven. Bigger is not always better. Design and effective application are far more important. So next time you think “throw up the biggest one we have!” stop and consider the situation – you may just find the net gain elsewhere.

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Barry Hayes of UK Sailmakers Ireland goes through the options for racing boats to go Symmetrical or Asymmetrical with their spinnakers. Barry sailed aboard George Sisk's XP44 WOW from Royal Irish Yacht Club at this year's Sovereigns Cup, where WOW won all races in the Coastal Division. UK Sailmaker's boats also won Class One, Whitesail One and the 1720 Sportsboat divisions at the Cup.

In the past 10 or 15 years, spinnaker options have increased considerably. Prior to that, it was fairly straightforward. You bought a light air symmetric spinnaker, a heavy air version of the same and maybe a reaching spinnaker.

In recent years, however, Asymmetric spinnakers have become a lot more efficient and some yacht builders, particularly J boats, feature them almost exclusively on their models. Below we are going to do an analysis of which option is better for racing inshore/offshore.

First the pros and cons of each option:

Asymmetric Spinnakers


  • Easier trimmed and handled
  • IRC rating allows larger asymmetric spinnakers for the same rating, relative to symmetrics
  • Very efficient when reaching as shape allows better exhaust of the air.
  • Code 0 models (very flat Asymmetric) is a must for offshore boats


  • Needs a sprit or prodder to set them properly away from the bow.
  • They don’t run as deep and efficiently as Symmetric spinnakers.
  • In Heavy air, they sometimes can wrap around the forestay when gybing
  • Time is always lost gybing, compared to boats with poles

WOW XP40George Sisk's XP 44 WOW from the Royal Irish, with her Matrix A2 Asymmetrical spinnaker and Uni Titanium main Photo: Bob Bateman

Symmetric Spinnakers


  • Once above 12 knots, they are very efficient running with pole pulled back.
  • Tactically, they offer a better crew, greater options downwind.
  • Very little time lost while gybing.


  • Expensive on IRC rating—On a J109 it costs about 7 points if you want the same sized spinnaker
  • Not as efficient when reaching due to shape
  • much more difficult to hoist and trim properly

Outrajeous j109 The J109 Outrageous - the spinnaker pole is fully back in 18 knots Photo: Bob Bateman

At UK Sailmakers Ireland, we had a J109 client this year that opted to go for Symmetric spinnakers on a boat that is designed for A sails. Before we went down this route, we did extensive testing and trial certs to see what the benefits would be. The bottom line is that there is no perfect answer. Were you able to have two IRC certs (one Symmetric, one Asymmetric), and be able to select which one, each race, then you would have both set-ups.
However IRC does not allow this and most regattas insist you don’t change your cert in the last 10 days before a regatta, as long-range weather forecast details may play a part in your decision.

A number of other sprit boats have moved to Symmetric this year, including Anthony O'Leary’s converted 1720, Antix Beag from Royal Cork and Stephen Quinn’s J97 Lambay Rules from Howth. 

yandy179929Andrew Hall's Jackknife, winning in ISORA with his UK Sails Matrix A4 Asymmetric spinnakers and Uni Titanium Main

Bottom Line —A sails are generally more efficient on normal cruisers in less than 12 knots than symmetric spinnakers. Why?

Up to 12 knots, most symmetric boats struggle to get their spinnaker poles back that far, as the spinnaker will collapse. So an A2 Asymmetric boat will likely be able to run as deep as an S2 Symmetric boat, but the A2 Asymmetric usually will have a larger spinnaker area and a lower rating. IRC, it appears, penalises a boat with a pole by about seven points (on a J109), for the ability to be able to pull the pole back and go deep.

In light airs, if you can’t get the pole back, then you are at a disadvantage. Add to that, an Asymmetric sail is more efficient going at higher angles, than boats with symmetric spinnaker.

Bottom Line—Symmetric spinnakers are more efficient running in more than 14 knots. Why?

Once a symmetric boat can get its pole fully back, it can normally nearly run square, or maybe 10 degrees off square. A similar designed boat with an Asymmetric spinnaker will likely go the same speed, but be 10 degrees or more higher. When the two boats get to the bottom mark, the Symmetric boat has likely pulled out 30 to 60 seconds. Add to this, the symmetric boat can throw in gybes easily to stay in wind or get away from other boats' wind shadows, and the gain becomes even larger. If the wind gets up to 20 knots or more running, the symmetric boats have an even bigger advantage.

Rockabill VI UK SailsPaul O'Higgins's JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI from the Royal Irish, winner of this year's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, running square with her UK sails Matrix symmetric spinnaker

Bottom Line—Asymmetric boats are generally more efficient offshore and on Coastal racing.

This is because the two scenarios above relate to running square downwind, as you would have in Windward Leeward racing. On offshore and coastal races, often there is a lot of reaching and broad reaching. The A sail boats then have their rating advantage, and the efficiency of the A sail when reaching.

Sovereigns Cup Coastal1George Sisk's XP 44 Wow on the way to winning Sovereigns Cup—Coastal with his Uni Titanium sails

What are the crewing considerations?

Trimming a symmetric spinnaker is considerably more difficult to do well, than trimming an Asymmetric spinnaker. A symmetric spinnaker needs the sheet adjusted constantly, the guy adjusting the angle of the pole is constantly being adjusted, as is the pole height and the spinnaker tweaker.

On an Asymmetric sail, it is generally just the A sail sheet that is adjusted. You may move the tackline in and out a bit, but not that much. As a result, to get the best out of a symmetrical spinnaker, more good crew are needed to trim it well.

What about boats having both sail setups?

Any boat opting for a symmetric setup should also be planning to take some Asymmetric spinnakers as well. To do this efficiently, it needs a small sprit or prodder, to use with the A-sail for reaching conditions. The IRC rule allows a prodder (or sprit) on a symmetrically configured boat, as long as the prodder does not extend out further than the pole does.

However, the A sail size (SPA) on these A sails cannot be any bigger than the largest symmetric spinnaker. So in the case of our J109 this year which went Symmetric, we opted for a 102 sq. metre Symmetric spinnaker, which is six sq metres smaller than the Class A sail size. This saved us two points off the rating,  so the seven-point hit for the pole was lessened to five points overall. The new A sails added, to cover her reaching requirements were a code 0 for light air reaching and an AO, for light air running. The AO can be used off the prodder, or can also be transferred to a lowered pole, with the pole being pulled back to allow further depth.

Hague UK YachtIn these photos you can see the Warship 36 using both the pole (above) and Asym set up (below) with her UK Sails A0 and S2 spinnaker

Hague UK yacht1

Cost Considerations

For an existing Symmetrical boat, changing to No pole and just using A sails would require,

  • A sprit
  • New Spinnaker specific A sail sheets
  • New Asymmetrical spinnakers
  • A tack line to attach the A sail to the Sprit

For an existing A sail boat, to go to Symmetrical configuration requires,

  • A pole
  • A track on the mast
  • additional Blocks etc. to cover sheets and guys and pole downhaul
  • Symmetrical spinnakers and perhaps some A sails as well.

For someone ordering a new boat—Best to try and incorporate both options from day one, even if only opting for one setup.

So –Which option to go for?

As I said in my opening paragraph, there is no perfect choice, but here is a quick plan.

  • For Light planing boats - Go A sail, as you will always be going higher angles
  • For short-handed - A sail is a lot easier for Handling
  • For Offshore/Coastal - A sail will likely be best, as more reaching than running
  • For Inshore, in lighter air areas, go A-sail
  • For Inshore in stronger wind areas - Go Symmetric.
  • For Inshore in mixed conditions -Either works, but Symmetric with a good crew might just have the edge if you also have some good A sail options as well.

UK Sailmakers Ireland Have a highly experienced and Knowledgeable team to assist you in any sail choice or query you may have. Please feel free to contact any of the below to discuss your needs.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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The XP44 'WOW' stormed home to win the Coastal Class of Sovereigns Cup 2019 this month. The prize giving ensued after which began the bar talk debrief of the week between sailors from all boats writes Graham Curran of UK Sailmakers Ireland.

Some of this chat focused on WOW’s ‘secret weapon’ – her Flying Jib (FJ).

Flying Jibs, although new to Irish waters, have become common sights on offshore and coastal racers worldwide over the last couple of years. An FJ provides speed and stability while filling a tricky gap in the sail inventory between code zero and heavy reaching spinnaker. So what is involved? And what are the tangible benefits?

Flying Jib WowXP44 “WOW” with her Uni-Titanium Flying Jib deployed. Photo: UK Sailmakers Ireland

Bow Down; Power On

A common issue with a modern non-overlapping sail plan is an 'unbalance' when broad reaching – sometimes resulting in a broach to windward. This usually occurs when the breeze is up. Imagine broad reaching in 18 knots – you are too tight and pressed to hold your code zero, but not deep enough to set your A5 heavy reacher – so what do you do? Two sail the leg with your jib and main (hopefully with the jib on an outboard lead). At this point the boat is out of balance – the headsail will never produce as much power in front of the rig as the mainsail does behind it – unbalanced.

flying Jib UK Sails

Enter the Flying Jib

Flown off a bowsprit, to clear the forestay, the flying jib adds additional sail area to the front of the boat, encouraging the bow down. This extra force counteracts the power of the mainsail – thus balancing the boat. More than just sail area, the flying jib also creates a third ‘slot’ in the sail plan. More slots equals more power. More power, when correctly balanced, equals more speed.

This advantage became very apparently off Kinsale last Friday when WOW, trailing her bigger sister FREYA, was able to close the distance and catch the opposition with her flying jib deployed. The flying jib gave WOW an extra 1.5 knots of boat speed.

Ease of Use, Plug and Play

WOW’s flying jib and code zero are both set on anti-torsion cables which plug into her Ubi Maior ratchet furler. Both sails can be ready to hoist in seconds, quickly deployed, and safely recovered with the ratchet action of the furler preventing accidental deployment.

The sail is designed to sheet to the same point as the code zero so no additional sheets or hardware are needed. It is very much a complementary plug and play sail system.

WOW was the only boat in her fleet with a flying jib – she is equipped with a versatile modern performance sail plan for optimum sailing on all points of sail – bring your sail plan into the future with a UK Sailmakers Flying Jib.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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A busy June period drew to a close this weekend; concluding with the ever-popular biennial Sovereign's Cup Regatta – writes Graham Curran of UK Sailmakers Ireland. The weather did not make life easy for competitors over the four-day regatta but it certainly made for interesting sails. A mix of downwind surfing, a mythical sunny lay day, maritime hide and seek, and topped off with a day of glorious Kinsale weather which keeps us coming back year after year.

We had a busy couple of days in the loft with the hum of sewing machines running into the late hours of Wednesday and Friday evenings repairing torn sails to keep our customers, and all competitors, on the water with a full inventory.

XP44 “WOW” romps to Coastal Class Victory

XP44 WOWGeorge Sisk's XP44 Wow. Photo: Robert Bateman

George Sisk’s new WOW showed blistering pace throughout the series to claim overall victory with three wins from three races. Coming off the back of a disappointing end to their Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race the team were fired up and ready to attack the week on Wednesday. The long coastal courses allowed George and his long-standing crew to stretch the boat’s legs upwind and down.

She showed blistering pace at times, particularly on a long return reaching leg into Kinsale on Friday afternoon. WOW is equipped with a bowsprit mounted flying jib on an Ubi Maior furler which she used to great effect on this final leg. Crew member Red Power, commenting on that leg, said “The flying jib was the key on the last reach of the second race. With it we sailed higher and faster than with our zero. WOW had the only flying jib in the fleet and it was noticed.”

Outrajeous Seals Class One Victory

The Murphy/Colwell led J109 “Outrajeous” campaign held their nerve to claim victory in IRC Class One on Saturday. After a dramatic end to Friday’s racing, resulting in a DSQ in race five, the team refocused to win the first windward-leeward race of the day and second in the final race of the series to claim overall victory.

Richard Colwell, ICRA Commodore and owner of Outrajeous, commented “It’s a fantastic win for us, and reward for the hard work put into boat prep, teamwork, and sail development of the last six months. This hard work means we have the speed and ability to compete at the top end of a very competitive class. We are delighted with the progression made by a great team in such a short space of time.”

J109 Outrajeous J109 Outrajeous sailing downwind with her UK Sailmakers branded Matrix Spinnaker. Photo: Bob Bateman

Mark Mansfield, agent for Uk Sailmakers Ireland and tactician on Outrajeous, added “The Outrageous Project has been coming along very well, and we have been working with John and Richard since last winter, trialling and testing shapes. We were very quick at Sovereigns in a range of conditions with our Uni Titanium Main and headsails and in particular, very close winded. It is great to be able to perform so well against 7 other similar J109 class boats as it shows we have a very good fast product, able to win against the best. Our win in the 1720 class shows we are able to perform at a top level in one design fleets, as well as on IRC.

J109 Outrajeous sailingThe Outrajeous team (L to R): Bryan O’Donnell, Richard Colwell, Robert Kerley, David Cotter, John Murphy, Stuart Harris, Neil Spain, Mark Mansfield

Looking forward to the next challenge, as always, Mark continues “On Outrageous, we will be making some small changes again before Dun Laoghaire week, to tweak the sails even further. We are now seriously giving owners a proper choice when they are making a decision on who to go for when choosing their new sails. When we work with a client, it is very much a hands-on situation and we help with rig set up, crew training, helm coaching as well as working with the trimmers on how to set up the sails, and what rig/mode changes are needed in different conditions.”

The team celebrated a deserved win in style on Saturday night with family and friends sharing in the victory. Outrajeous now shifts focus to the upcoming Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

Not So “Slack Alice” triumphs in White Sail One

Slack Alice Shane StathamGK34 “Slack Alice” sailing upwind with her Tape Drive Silver Mainsail and No 1 Genoa. Photo: Bob Bateman

Shane Statham and Trudy O’Leary’s GK34 “Slack Alice” claimed victory in White Sail IRC One with four wins from four races this week. Slack Alice is well known in the waters of Cork and is no stranger to victory here either. Shane and his crew opted for the white sails class for competitive racing while also being friendly to the flexible crew roster throughout the four-day series.

Rope Dock Atara Strikes Again; Crowned 1720 European Champions

1720 Rope Dock Atara Ross (helm) and Aoife (bow) McDonald’s Rope Dock Atara – 2019 1720 European Champions. Powered by UK Sailmakers Ireland. Photo: Bob Bateman

Aoife and Ross McDonald’s “Atara” has successfully defended her 1720 European Championship. Incorporated as a three day series within the 2019 Sovereigns Cup the 1720 Europeans produced tight racing throughout the fleet. Atara set the tone early; winning the first race of the series, and only one of the day, on Friday. They continued with another race win on Saturday and three thirds to clinch the European title three points clear.

Hard work Rewards

It is usually this time of year, after the major events of the year that the hard work of our customers – supported by the UK Sailmakers Ireland team – rewards them with the results they strive for. We are very proud of all our customers this week, and we are honoured to be your sailmaker.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
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UK Sailmakers Ireland has teamed up with Spinlock to bring sail making to the next level in Ireland for our racing customers writes Barry Hayes.

We have two of Spinlocks new Sail Sense trackers on John Murphy’s J109 Outrajeous on the clew of the J1 Uni- Titanium headsail. And on George Sisk’s XP 44 Wow J 2 Uni -Titanium Headsail So we can bring sail development to the next level.

Photos B Sail-Sense is a revolutionary new sensor which helps you be smarter about your sail management
As UK Sailmakers Ireland is a sail production loft and as we build sails here in Ireland we needed to get the lowdown on what usage our sails get on the water. So we teamed up with Spinlock to get the low down on it.

The tracker system details here brings the sail usage right to my phone in an app so I can refine the development and design of each sail.

The tracker tracks how much UV, tacking, flogging, usage, and mileage is in play so we get an in-depth view on each sail and how much its use is getting on an app on our phones.

Photos C
This data will go directly back into the designs of our Uni- Titanium Racing sails. So we can build the sails even better for you.

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland
Page 4 of 8

Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.


Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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