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Irish cruising under sail and power is being celebrated and developed this weekend. Last night’s AGM of the Irish Cruising Club in the National YC in Dun Laoghaire saw this 1929-founded organisation moving its many activities forward on all fronts while also distributing its annual awards – some of which date back more than 85 years – to honour a range of remarkable seagoing achievements.

And today, Irish Sailing’s Annual Cruising Conference - with the involvement of the Cruising Association of Ireland – is taking place in the larger venue of the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown in south Dublin, a day-long information-packed gathering which is providing an unrivalled selection of expert topics and informed discussion groups in an atmosphere which evokes the special camaraderie of the sea. W M Nixon casts an eye over the current Irish cruising scene.

The interesting and attractive harbour town of Dungarvan in West Waterford would not be the first place that springs to mind when thinking of major sailing achievement. While it has a busy sailing club with a welcoming in-harbour pontoon for visitors and locals alike, much of the anchorage in the inner harbour dries, and the entrance channel from Dungarvan Bay requires careful negotiation.

Yet last night in Dun Laoghaire, the two top trophies in the Irish Cruising Club’s historic list both went to Dungarvan sailors.

The Faulkner Cup, which dates back to 1931, and the Strangford Cup, which was presented many years ago as an alternative to the Faulkner Cup when that season’s adjudicator couldn’t make up his mind when choosing between two superb cruises, will both be at home for the next year in Dungarvan, on display in that south coast town where the Comeragh Mountains and the Colligan River come to the sea at the broad east-facing bay in the lee of the Ring Peninsula.

dungarvan harbour2Dungarvan Harbour at high water. Despite the fact that much of the anchorage dries, the hospitality makes it a popular port of call

Not only that, but these remarkable award-winning sailors are sister and brother. And both their cruises in their respective boats were to the Arctic. To go north when your home port faces south, and has ancient trading links with France and most especially Spain, takes some extra determination.

Particularly so as Maire Breathnach, awarded the Faulkner Cup, and her brother Donal Walsh - who now holds the Strangford Cup - are the children of the late Gerry Walsh, a pioneer of Dungarvan sailing development, who was a junior crewmember on the only Dungarvan cruising boat of note in the 1950s, Reveille Farrell’s powerful 34ft 1936-built Bermudan cutter Susanna.

gerry walsh3Gerry Walsh with some successful fishing aboard Susannah in 1957

Susanna was later to acquire added distinction by winning the 1961 RORC Beaumaris to Cork Race under the ownership of National YC Commodore John McConnell. But in 1957 while still Dungarvan-owned, she cruised to Spain and back with the young Gerry Walsh on board, and family memories of that then-considerable venture have propelled the new Walsh generation on to stratospheric heights of seagoing achievement.

Donal built his reputation for some time with extensive cruising with the Moody 31 Lady Kate, while Maire – having started by cruising round Ireland single-handed in a Hurley 22 – then teamed up with Andrew Wilkes from the south of England, and they cruised round South America in the Swan 44 King of Hearts in 2004, an epic voyage which saw Maire being awarded the ICC’s Faulkner Cup for the first time.

Maire and Andrew married un due course, by which time they were sailing a very different boat – the steel-hulled gaff yawl Young Larry, a robust replica of an Edwardian cruising yacht with which they circumnavigated North America, Northwest Passage and all, and for this they were given the ICC’s supreme international accolade, the occasionally-allocated Fastnet Award, in 2014.

young larry dungarvan4Young Larry over-wintering in the pool immediately below the bridge at Dungarvan

At home, Young Larry could just fit into the pool beneath the bridge at Dungarvan for a winter berth, but when they moved on to their current boat, the powerful 64ft steel gaff cutter Annabel J which is broadly a development of the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter type, they found that her sheer size meant they had to use the Waterford City Marina – an hour or so up the road – as the winter berth.

Despite the massive nature of Annabel J’s gear and sails, there are times when this remarkable couple cruise quite extensively with just the two of them on board. And even when they are joined by sailing friends and relatives, Annabel J is never over-crewed.

annabel j5The 64ft Annabel J – quite a proposition for a crew of two, a real test of skill and experience.

aboard annabel j6Traditional sail - Annabel J developing full power

But she and her gallant sailors certainly do the business, for in 2017 they cruised north first to Iceland, and then on to Scoresby Sund in northeast Greenland before returning south westward of Iceland to complete a circumnavigation of that dramatic land, and on the way home in Westmanna – a place of historic Irish associations – they met up with brother Donal doing a “simple” round Iceland cruise with his alloy-built Ovni 385 Lady Belle which, thanks to its lifting keel, can comfortably berth where wished back home in Dungarvan.

donal and maire7The seafaring children of Gerry Walsh – Donal and Maire met aboard Annabel J in Westmanna in Iceland

Both boats then returned to Dungarvan via the west coast of Ireland, so round Iceland and round Ireland circuits were part of the two projects, and on Lady Belle they even managed to take in a sighting of Rockall while homeward bound, a surprisingly small rock pinnacle which admittedly is more easily found with the latest SatNav gear.

Donal at rockall8Donal Walsh takes his Ovni 385 Lady Belle past the elusive pinnacle of Rockall on passage from Iceland to the West Coast of Ireland

lady belle at dungarvan9Lady Belle is welcomed back to the Pontoon in Dungarvan on her return from Iceland, Donal Walsh on the helm, and Clare Morrissey on the foredeck

The season over, Maire’s work was only starting, as she had voluntarily taken on the Honorary Editorship of the Irish Cruising Club Annual, which her predecessor Ed Wheeler had raised to fresh heights of quality during his five years in the job. The new Edition, Maire’s first and covering the 2017 season, is a superb production, and it was comfortably with the membership at home and abroad in time for Christmas. But it was only last night in Dun Laoghaire that the annual awards could go fully public, as the annual distribution of prizes is now the concluding highlight of a very crowded and busy gathering.

It’s a gathering which reflects the truly all-Ireland nature of the club, which was one of its central aspirations when it was founded with an assembly of five cruising yachts at Glengarriff in July 1929. The current Commodore, Stanton Adair, cruises from Bangor on Belfast Lough. The Honorary Editor of the Journal, Maire Breathnath, is in Dungarvan. The Honorary Secretary, Alan Markey, sails from Howth. The Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions – which cover the entire coast in two continually-updated volumes – is Norman Kean, who cruises from Courtmacsherrry on the south Cork coast and is comprehensively supported in his efforts by Geraldine Hennigan. And the Honorary Awards Adjudicator for 2017 was Derek White, who cruises from Strangford Lough in a Fastnet 34 which was built in Limerick. So when we talk of an “Irish” Cruising Club, we really do mean it in the broadest sense.

And of course although Derek White chose to give the two main prizes to cruises to the High Arctic, there were many other extensive ventures to warmer places, although another noted high latitude project was the cruise to Svalbard by Michael and Ann Madsden of the NYC in Dun Laoghaire with their Starlight 35 Gabelle, for which they were awarded the Rockabill Trophy for Seamanship.

In complete contrast to all these icy wanderings, the ICC’s core organized event in 2017 was the Rally in the Rias of Northwest Spain in July. Organiser Peter Haden of Ballyvaughan in County Clare and his team thought they might get as many as thirty boats. But it proved so popular they had to cap the number at sixty.

icc spain rally10Fleet assembly during the ICC Rally in Galicia. In the foreground is Alex and Daria Blackwell’s Bowman 57 ketch Aleria from Clew Bay, and they’ll be speaking this afternoon about their ocean-sailing experiences at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference. Photo Tansey Millerick

And an extraordinary selection they were too, coming from every direction, for the ICC now operates in an international way. So not surprisingly some of the cruises to get there were award-winning in themselves, a good example being by Portuguese-based John Duggan with his Castro 40 Hecuba, winner of the Strangford Cup in 2013. He’d a crew of all the talents with Daragh Nagle (winner in 2016 Faulkner Cup for his extensive Pacific islands cruise with his West Canada-based Moody 376 Chantey V) and that noted Dun Laoghaire sailor Ailbe Millerick.

hecuba crew in azores11Seasoned ocean voyagers – Hecuba’s crew of Ailbe Millerick, Daragh Nagle and John Duggan in the legendary Peter’s Bar in Horta in the Azores.

Ailbe hadn’t contributed to the ICC Annual before, so he was detailed off to tell how Hecuba got to the Spanish Rally from Cascais by first sailing out to the Azores, cruising those islands in some informative detail, and then shaping their course back to join the party. He tells the story so well that Hecuba and Ailbe Millerick are awarded the Perry Greer Bowl for the best first log, and as for the party in Spain, it was epic.

Most of us cannot even begin to guess at the level of background work which is needed to cater for the needs of 60 boats (many of them quite substantial craft) and their decidedly diverse crews as they make their way from one choice port or anchorage to another along one of Europe’s premier cruising grounds. So very deservedly Peter Haden was last night honoured with the Aran Islands Trophy of the ICC’s Western Committee for his quietly brilliant work in putting this marvellous happening together.

The accounts of its crowded events in the Annual are in total contrast to another log which Maire Breathnath has included in what she hopes will be a feature of future Annuals, a log from the archives. She has started it off in style with the story of her father and his shipmates from Dungarvan sailing the Susanna out to northwest Spain and back in 1957, and it perfectly captures the atmosphere of 61 years ago, when the world was very different, and boats were very different too, but the spirit of cruising was essentially the same.

susanna in spain12As it was then – Reveille Farrell’s 34ft Susanna from Dungarvan in northern Spain in 1957

celtic spirit spain13As it is now – Michal Holland’s 70ft ketch Celtic Spirit in in the ICC Rally, July 2017. Photo: Trish Phelan

Of course, not all the logs in the 200-page Annual are about distant ventures, and with 13 awards for cruising, the Honorary Adjudicator is spoilt for choice. But one which continues to be very special for the ICC is the Round Ireland Cup, and for 2017 it goes to Alan Leonard of Strangford Lough, whose elegant circuit with the Starlight 35 Ariadne was gently made in detail by not actually declaring that he was on a clockwise round Ireland cruise until be noticed that his home port was nearer if he just kept gong the way he was, calling at many interesting places along the way.

At one of them, Rutland Harbour near Burtonport in Donegal in July, he met up with Charlie Kavanagh of Wicklow in his Sadler 34 Stravaiger, likewise on a leisurely round Ireland cruise, but this time anti-clockwise. Alan asked him when he hoped to get home. “October” said Charlie. Now that definitely is cruising.

Other definitions and aspects of cruising will be part of today’s busy agenda at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference in the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown in Dublin. There’s a comprehensive all-day programme, and the interaction between the various organisations in cruising is reflected by the fact that the speakers include the ICC’s Norman Kean from Courtmacsherry, together with another ICC couple, Alex and Daria Blackwell from Clew Bay, while a third speaker, Galway’s Aodhan FitzGerald who is Research Vessel Manager with the Marine Institute, is likewise ICC.

Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan’s devotion to furthering cruising knowledge was neatly indicated in 2017 when they located their 40-footer Coire Uisge in northwest Spain well in advance of the ICC Rally, as they felt the available sailing directions were inadequate for some of the more detailed channels. As a result all participants were presented with crisp new ICC-quality directions filled with local knowledge which enabled them to take some very interesting routes.

However, Norman’s two presentations this afternoon are on New Developments in Infrastructure, which will provide real inside track material, as he’s a fellow of the Royal Institute for Navigation, while his second talk will be a real cry from the heart, as he’ll be moderating an open discussion on obstructive Fishing Gear.

His boat Coire Uisge experience a total and expensive foul up with submerged lobster gear a couple of seasons ago, so we can expect a detailed and heartfelt Norman Kean exposition and proposals for improvement in classic style.

As for Alix and Daria Blackwell, they’re also leading figures in the Ocean Cruising Club, and their experience of rough ocean weather with their Bowman 57 Aleria and other craft is extensive and varied. But sometimes it’s far from blissful. In the rough Atlantic weather of July 2016, Alex sustained broken ribs while helping a friend deliver a substantial American yawl from the Azores to Ireland, so even home runs can sometimes prove to be distinctly other than a cakewalk.

Certainly by the time the conference closes by 5.0pm this evening, we can expect to have taken on board some real quality information on the current state of Irish cruising. The knowledge is undoubtedly there, and organizer Gail MacAllister of Irish Sailing has provided the means of tapping into it.

Published in W M Nixon
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His many friends in international sailing and the global mining industry will be delighted to hear that the legendary Dave FitzGerald celebrated his 90th birthday at a very convivial gathering of family and close friends in the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire at the weekend, hosted by his daughter Grainne writes W M Nixon.

Dave FitzGerald is best known as a legend of west coast and particularly Galway Bay sailing, but these days he lives in Dublin to be near his daughters, and old shipmates from the west coast came across country to join the great man as he entered his tenth decade.

His careers in mining and sailing - and indeed sports generally - are all decidedly high-powered. He is renowned for his utter fearlessness in the hunting field, and he brought the same total enthusiasm to his sailing. When he owned the 40ft sloop Partizan in the early days of the Round Ireland Race, he was a committed supporter of this new event starting and finishing in Wicklow. This meant that in order to participate, Partizan had to sail round Ireland twice, but it was the sort of thing the great men and women of west coast sailing could take in their stride.

When sailing took over from hunting for the summer season, if not racing he would go cruising – sometimes very extensively - and he was a popular member of the Irish Cruising Club, elected in 1966. In those days, cruising boats were few and far between on the Atlantic seaboard, but Dave encouraged others to take part in a sport which is now thriving in that challenging area. Meanwhile, he became part of the ICC administration, moving up through the committee and various offices until on the advent of the new Millennium in 2000, he became the ICC’s first Commodore from the west, hosting many memorable events.

Dave FitzGerald’s long and very active life has encompassed several eras of sailing, and seen many changes in design and boat use. When he returned to Ireland after very impressive experiences in some extraordinarily remote mining operations in many parts of the world, it was to develop Tynagh Mine near Loughrea in County Galway. Having decided that the area would be his longtime base of operations, and that Galway Bay would be his new sailing home, he bought his first cruiser in Dun Laoghaire, a little Snapdragon 26 which he called Pegeen.

Being impatient to start sailing in Galway Bay as soon as possible, he researched the best way of having the new boat delivered across country, and discovered that owing to some clerical oversight,  the freight rate charged by CIE Rail for such a boat from Dun Laoghaire station to Galway by flatbed rail-truck was precisely 7/6d – seven shillings and sixpence, or about 38 pence in today’s pound sterling.

Apparently, no boat had been moved in this way for a very long time, and so the freight charges were still at 19th Century rates. So Pegeen - conveniently a twin keeler – was moved across Ireland to Galway Bay with no trouble at all at a pocket-money price, and Dave FitzGerald was launched into a new chapter of his remarkable sailing career which, with his many other adventures, was celebrated in proper style at his 90th birthday party.

Published in Cruising
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Published in North Sails Ireland
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The third Irish Sailing Cruising Conference 2018 returns to Dublin on 17 February 2018, at the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown, just off the M50 in South County Dublin.

The conference is a popular event on the sailing calendar for cruising sailors to swap stories and catch up on new ideas before they plan their destinations for the summer and beyond.

The carefully chosen talks for 2018 include:

As previously reported by, The Adventures of Rogue Trader with sailors Claire McCluskey and Nick Russel telling us about their journey to buying, restoring and registering a 56ft wooden ketch and then venture off sailing west in the ARC in the Autumn and returning the following year.

An Taisce will be talking about their Clean Coasts programme and we take a look at what sailors can do to make a difference.

The Wooden Boat Project with Evie Conway and her one woman restoration of Saoirse, her beloved 26ft mahogany folk boat

The Irish Marine Weather Buoy Network will be explained and how the Marine Institute meets the needs of mariners, forecasters and researchers with Aodhan FitzGerald, Research Vessel Manager, Marine Institute

Managing Offshore Storms demonstrated by experienced offshore sailor and author Alex Blackwell

New Developments in Infrastructure presented with navigator Norman Kean of ICC Publications

Fishing Gear Marking open discussion on the problems and ideas for solutions with Norman Kean

To give an opportunity for small group discussions, workshop and discussion stations are organised with the speakers and marine professionals, while Teas and Coffees are served.

'Thanks to Sponsors Union Chandlery and support of Cruising Association of Ireland we can keep our entry fee down to a reasonable rate. Irish Sailing Members €25 and Non Members €30, includes a Carvery Lunch at the Clayton, Irish Sailing's Gail McAllister told

Tickets are here

Published in Cruising
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3rd December 2017

David Whitehead 1942-2017

Irish sailing is mourning the loss of someone very special with the death of Dave Whitehead of Kinvara. In his close and strong family circle, throughout an international circle of friends, and among many more in the Galway Bay area, the loss is made more poignant by the fact that he was a very active 75–year-old, brimming with plans for the future, and keenly interested in every aspect of the world today, both within and beyond sailing.

His life story is a tale of our times. From Monkstown in County Dublin, he was of a technically-minded family – a great-grand-uncle had invented the Whitehead Torpedo, the first in the world. Young David had started his sailing in Dublin Bay, but after graduating in geology from Trinity College, his career path was in mining, which eventually took him to many corners of the globe, some of them very remote, and others also very far underground.

However, an early position in the late 1960s was with Tynagh Mines in the southeast of County Galway, headed by Dave FitzGerald who shared his love of sailing. For a while they were much involved with the little sailing club which functioned at the time on the lake at Loughrea. But the call of the sea and the possibility of a club being established on Galway Bay drew their sailing interests westward, and during the early 1970s David Whitehead contributed much to the early life of Galway Bay Sailing Club, which was being spearheaded by determined enthusiasts like Pierce Purcell and others.

Dave had maintained his friendships with Dublin Bay sailing, and through John Bourke with Jack McKeown’s S&S 34 Korsair, he was able to introduce the new sailors of Galway, who at that time were experimenting with being based on Lough Atalia immediately east of the city, to the invigorating realities of offshore racing with ISORA.

Dave himself was soon to go on to become elected to both the Irish Cruising Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club. But meanwhile in Galway the neophyte club accepted his and David FitzGerald’s advice that they should locate their main sailing base at Renville near Oranmore at the head of Galway Bay, and soon Dave Whitehead was making an active input to the GBSC as a sailor who introduced some interesting craft to the growing fleet at Renville, and as a member of the committee.

david whitehead1aAlways absorbing information. Dave Whitehead taking on board some new facts while on passage from the Azores to Ireland in 2008. Photo: Ed Wheeler

The Honorary Secretary in those early days was Marie White, and in each other they found kindred spirits, and were married. They shared the hope that they would live in due course on the shores of Galway Bay, but to achieve that Dave first had to see through a very concentrated international career in mining. In this, with Marie’s support, he was very successful, working extremely hard both in the field and in board-rooms, rising rapidly through the ranks to achieve positions of significance in the leading global commodities firm Billiton – at the time of his death last week, he was chairman of a number of Billiton’s London-based subsidiaries.

He and Marie had long since also succeeded in returning to Galway Bay, buying The Glebe in Kinvara and turning it into an idyllic family home. As for sailing, his interest was if anything greater than ever, and though he had always made a point of finding the best sailing within reach of wherever his various mining jobs took him, his heart was with Galway Bay, where he went though an intriguing array of boats ranging from the Quarter Tonner Frantic aboard which many young GBSC sailors took their first steps afloat, to the classic miniature S&S 27 Shemite – all of them boats which have remained with the Galway Bay fleet under new owners.

One he’d achieved his dream of finally settling in the west (where, during his and Marie’s absence abroad, the members had built the first GBSC clubhouse at Renville in 1979) Dave Whitehead was able to put experience gained at many other sailing centres to good use. Though he’d never had any formal training in race management, Pierce Purcell fondly recalls that he proved a natural as a Race Officer, providing his services with enthusiasm, and running things afloat very competently and without fuss.

But by now his main enthusiasm in sailing was in cruising, while in life generally it was about learning even more to add to the huge stock of knowledge in his already well-furnished brain, and its deployment on the lively discussions which he relished. Fellow Irish Cruising Club member Ed Wheeler, himself no slouch when it comes to conversations in depth, recalls a voyage home from the Azores crewed by Dave: “The wind-driven autohelm was working very well, so inevitably at mealtimes, and indeed at many other times, there were discussions as we sailed along. You might think you had talked Dave around to your way of thinking, but then he would come up with some totally unexpected but indisputable and perfectly-remembered scientific fact from his warehouse of mental information, and the argument was back to square one”.

david whitehead2The unusual dreamship. While Dave Whitehead’s smaller gunk-holing craft were often of traditional appearance, much of his offshore cruising was done with the highly-individual Oyster Mariner 35 Joyster, a Holman & Pye design which packed an astonishing amount of accommodation into a compact hull which performed very well

Typically of Dave Whitehead, when making a Transatlantic passage as crew with Marie aboard La Contenta in the ARC of 2003, the very fact of the boat being well equipped with the latest in electronic navigation aids prompted him to bring along traditional bits of gear to calculate their position, and by the end of the voyage not only was he getting his calculations absolutely spot on, but he had worked out ways of simplifying the time-honoured methods used by the likes of James Cook and other great voyagers.

For his own principle cruising boat, he was for many years content with the ingeniously-laid-out Holman & Pye-designed Oyster Mariner 35 ketch Joyster in which he voyaged near and far, and was rewarded with ICC and GBSC trophies. But from the moment he settled in Kinvara, he was also fascinated by the miniature cruising possibilities – the “gunk-holing potential” – of the much-indented southern and eastern shores of Galway Bay. To explore them properly, he went through an almost bewildering variety of small specialist cruisers with lifting keels and easily-handled rigs which enabled him to get to places where no cruising boat had ever been seen before.

With his base now in Kinvara, he could also contribute to the changes in the perceptions in the rest of Ireland of the level of sailing in the west, and together with Dave FitzGerald, he was much involved in a major re-balancing of the structure of the Irish Cruising Club. This began with an increase in western-based Committee members, then there was a western Rear Commodore, and eventually Dave FitzGerald served as Commodore from 2000 to 2002, while Dave Whitehead was Rear Commodore from 2006 to 2008, and Vice Commodore from 2009 to 2011.

In his later years, he made the shrewd judgment that the unpretentious but very cleverly-designed Moody 27 was the ideal boat for his main cruising needs, while continuing to work with specialists like boat-builder Tiernan Roe of Ballydehob in West Cork towards creating the perfect gunk-holing cruiser for places “where the water is very thin”.

In sailing the Moody 27 Mystic, he found an ideal crew in the equally individualistic Peter Fernie who lives on Tawin Island, which is well out in Galway Bay, though connected by a causeway to nearby Ireland. As matched spirits, they moved into an ownership partnership which worked very well, and a round Ireland cruise with an extended visit to the Hebrides in 2016 saw them being awarded GBSC’s David Baynes Cruising Award in the face of some formidable competition.

david whitehead3David Whitehead’s last seagoing cruiser was the Moody 27 Mystic, which he latterly co-owned with Peter FernieIt is Peter Fernie’s response to the death of David Whitehead which best captures the essence of this remarkable man, and with his permission, even though it re-phrases some of what we’ve already said, we are honoured to publish it here:

“David Whitehead: A memoir by Peter Fernie

David Whitehead was never lost for words. Whether it was boats, or maritime history in general, mountaineering or rugby, climate change or electric cars, you could be certain that David would have a well thought out position. More often than not, his was a contrary one to the accepted or establishment view, but a position backed up by his incomparable memory.

Despite his losing keys and mobile phones like the rest of us, I often wondered whether David had ever forgotten anything he had read or seen in the past. His prodigious recall was exemplified once when sailing up the Cleddau River in Wales, above Milford Haven. This location was not part of our plan, but we had ended up there en-route to Brittany, owing to a number of engine-related difficulties. David spied a moored wooden cutter, and we sailed across to get a closer look. Triumphantly he said: “That’s Driac” and proceeded to give me a detailed history of the 1930s Nicholson built boat: her original owner and cruises, as well as various assorted related ephemera comprising the establishment of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and the evacuation of the B.E.F. from Dunkirk. I always assumed that he had this stuff printed on the back of his eyelids. In the event I googled Driac when I got back home – he was absolutely accurate.

Moving to Galway in the ’60s, he had sailed up and down the west coast and further beyond with David Fitzgerald (ICC). His training as a geologist found him working with mining concerns around the world but wherever he was, he found time to sail. He was a founder member of Galway Bay Sailing Club and became a member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Irish Cruising Club in 1972. He became a member of the Royal Cruising Club in 2008.

He had raced and cruised many different boats since his days in Trinity College, Dublin. He had owned boats large and small from his first, a 16 foot Paul Gartside designed gaffer to his latest, Goblin, a 16 foot Chesapeake Bay microcruiser which he adapted for gunkholing around Galway Bay creeks.

In 2009 whilst Vice Commodore of the Irish Cruising Club, he was diagnosed with lung cancer which he attributed to working in an Australian uranium mine. Nevertheless, and despite major surgery he was sailing his Oyster Mariner 35 Joyster three months later to Tory Island and Lough Swilly. Despite a continually compromised respiratory system, David never let this get in the way of his sailing, with cruises to Wales, Brittany, the Isles of Scilly and the Aeolian Islands as well as the south and west coasts of Ireland. In 2016 we sailed from Galway to the Hebrides and back around Ireland clockwise to Galway in our Moody 27 Mystic.

This year, he was sailing in Galway Bay several days before a forthcoming hip replacement operation. Next year was to be an extended cruise to Galicia, as well as a gunkholing cruise in Roaring Water Bay.

He was an excellent shipmate and a great companion. He could be uncompromising and pedagogic but was never boring. He was unremittingly positive about life and dwelt always on the future whilst enjoying the past. He will be missed by many”.

Our heartfelt condolences are with David Whitehead’s wife Marie, his son Duncan, his daughters Jennifer and Siobhan, his daughter-in-law Kerry, his grandchildren, and his extended family and very many friends. May he rest in peace.


david whitehead4The last major cruise. Dave Whitehead at the helm of Mystic in June 2016, emerging from Broadhaven in Mayo, bound for the Hebrides with Eagle Island to seaward. Photo: Peter Fernie

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The only Irish registered yacht in this year's Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) is Eamon Crosbie's Discovery 55, Pamela. 

As reported earlier Crosbie set off from Dun Laoghaire on the adventure with Dublin Bay Sailing Club's Brian Mathews on board. Mathews will be absent from Dublin Bay racing for about a year, having joined Crosbie, a former Round Ireland Race winner, in what is the start of a world cruise.

An international fleet of yachts taking part in the 32nd edition of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) set sail on Sunday from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, beginning an amazing transatlantic journey to the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.

It is a particularly diverse fleet this year with boats from 30ft to 95ft setting off on the same transatlantic course, including 156 monohulls, 28 catamarans and 2 trimarans. The sailors themselves are just as varied, aged from 3 years old to over 80.

While the ARC is a cruising rally, there is a start and finish line, and the boats are split into divisions according to size, type and competition. The first start today was for the multihull division, led over the line by American flagged Lagoon 42-4 Libelula, followed by Seawind 1160 X86 and the fleet's largest trimaran, Rapido, living up to her name coming over the line third before storming off down the Gran Canarian coast.

Following on, 27 boats in the ARC Racing Division were equally eager to stretch their sea legs and sail out into the Atlantic. Regular ARC Skipper and Class winner Ross Applebey brought through Scarlet Island Girl hot on her heels swiftly followed by Valerio Bardi's Swan 46 Mk II Milanto.

The first boats to cross the line in the Cruising Division were Norwegian Arcona 400 Tiffin, Swedish Najad 460 Ellen and British Grand Soleil 56 Mad Monkey.

Of the 186 boats sailing on the ARC direct route, 4 are still in Las Palmas with technical problems delaying their departure.

The majority of boats will take 18-21 days to make the 2700 nautical mile Atlantic crossing, arriving in Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia.

Tracker here

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Any cruising enthusiast or would-be cruising enthusiast who has ever dreamt of sailing away in their own boat to the balmy climate and sheltered islands of the Pacific and other warm and sunny destinations is welcome at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire on Thursday December 7th at 7.30pm writes W M Nixon.

The Club is hosting a talk by one of the most remarkable couples in Irish sailing, Myra Reid and Paraic O’Maolriada of Kinsale. When their retirement was approaching, they had a plan. They’d buy a boat, and sail round the world. They hadn’t done much sailing, if any, before. But they felt confident that with research and good advice, they could source the right boat, and once they’d learnt the basics of sailing, their skills would improve as they sailed along.

They started extremely well by buying a 1996 Amel Super Maramu 54 ketch - the gold standard in trouble-free ocean cruisers. They called her Saol Eile, and off they went. They’d thought they’d be gone maybe two years, but it took six because they were enjoying themselves so much. And then when they slipped quietly back into Kinsale in July 2016, it was a while before the Irish sailing community fully realised the wonder of what they’d done.

But now the word is getting out that Myra and Paraic have lots to tell, and the RIYC is keen to help them share their experiences with others. So all interested cruising and sailing folk are welcome at the club on Thursday December 7th, and for €27 you can have supper afterwards, an ideal opportunity to continue to exchange ideas on fulfilling the dream

Officially, the show is titled:


“How a couple late in life with zero knowledge of sailing learnt to sail, and went on to do a circumnavigation of the globe. They experienced six years of unexpected pleasure and thrills, and made many new friends. Myra Reid and Padaric O’Maolriada with their yacht Saol Eile”

It sounds like an ideal opportunity to get a few like-minded friends together for an informative and entertaining evening, but be warned that what you hear may be life-changing……..If you want to have supper in the club afterwards, contact RIYC catering through [email protected]

saol eile2Paraic and Myra in Kinsale with their sailing home for six wonderful years

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The Cruising Association of Ireland held its summer cruise to Belfast Lough in early July 2017.

Fourteen boats comprising over forty sailors of varying ages gathered in Bangor Marina, County Down and were welcomed there by David Meeke and Betty Armstrong from the Royal Ulster YC, who acted as local organisers and publicists of events for the cruise. The marina manager, Kevin Baird, provided a barbecue for the participating sailors and supplied wine and beer for the evening. The following day the sailors visited the Walled Gardens in Bangor and afterwards met the Ards and North Down Mayor, Councillor Robert Adair, who welcomed us to Bangor and explained his duties as Mayor and the functioning of the town council. Afterwards we were treated to lunch and were given a guided tour of the town hall. The sailors were invited to the Royal Ulster Yacht Club for a splendid buffet that evening. The Vice Commodore Nigel Hamilton and Honorary Treasurer Phil Davis welcomed us to the magnificent clubhouse and the excellent dinner was enjoyed by all. One of our young sailors, Caoimhe McCormick, addressed the group to explain her fundraising for the Rapunzel Organisation. This group supports cancer patients with hair loss due to their treatment. Caoimhe explained that she would have her long hair cut short and that her tresses would be used to make a hair replacement wig for a victim of cancer. She raised a large sum of money in donations from our sailors.

The fleet proceeded the next morning to the Belfast Harbour Marina located in the Abercorn Basin. On the afternoon of our arrival we had a guided tour of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners Offices. The next day many sailors visited the local attractions in the Titanic quarter. HMS Caroline is the only surviving vessel from the Battle of Jutland and this new attraction is now open to the public – it is an amazing ship and well worth the effort. Titanic Belfast also proved popular and the Nomadic tender vessel has been refurbished which adds to the visitor experience. In the afternoon there was a civic reception with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister. She welcomed us to Belfast City Hall and the commodore of the CAI, Clifford Brown, presented her with a CAI burgee. In his address to the Lord Mayor he stressed the importance of maintaining open sailing waters between the North and South of Ireland so that sailors can enjoy the many amenities in Irish coastal waters. The sailors then enjoyed a guided tour of the magnificent Belfast City Hall.

After two days in Belfast, the fleet proceeded to Carrickfergus Marina. We were welcomed there by the Harbourmaster, Nigel Thompson, and the Commodore of Carrickfergus Sailing Club, Trevor McCaig, and the members of the sailing club. An evening of traditional music was enjoyed in the clubhouse and some of our sailors participated in the entertainment. The next morning was the deciding match in the Lions rugby Tour of New Zealand. A large group of sailors watched the match in Ownies Bar and enjoyed an Ulster fry for breakfast. That evening the proprietor of the bar, Jack, hosted a barbecue for the group in the beer garden. A musician was in attendance to entertain us as we ate and a sing- song developed as the evening progressed. Many talented sailors regaled the group with renditions of popular and less known songs.

The next morning the fleet of boats departed Carrickfergus with some continuing to cruise further north, some going to Scotland and the Isle of Man and some returning home. The cruise was a great success and everyone was made very welcome in the places we visited. New friendships were established and the CAI is very indebted to David and Betty who did so much to facilitate the visit. Belfast Lough is a very beautiful place with many amenities to be enjoyed and the facilities in the marinas are excellent. Sailors will be sure of a friendly welcome and the CAI will definitely return in the future.

John Leahy

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The Irish Cruising Club’s 2017 Rally in northwest Spain begins its stately progress southwards today from the fleet assembly point of Portosin writes W M Nixon With its organisation ably led by experienced Galician cruiser Peter Haden (whose home port is Ballyvaughan on Galway Bay), the event has far exceeded expected fleet numbers in reaching the 60 mark for a very diverse assembly of cruising yachts.

This has meant that although the notably talented ICC team running the event have put together a formidable information package and programme for those taking part, the sheer numbers mean that they’ve had to very definitely restrict participation in the carefully rationed special shore event and anchorage assemblies only to those who have officially signed up.

Rally chartlet2One of Europe’s most attractive cruising areas is being put to good use for the ICC’s 60-boat Galician Rally, which starts heading southward this morning on a ten day programme

A successful cruise-in-company is a decidedly finely-judged affair, as you have to organize sufficient specific events to give the fleet movement a sense of coherence, yet at the same time you have to allow for the fact that genuine cruising enthusiasts will want time to themselves, while others will want to form small mini-groups having their own cruises-within-the-cruise.

With the rally making full use of one of Europe’s finest cruising areas, the experiences of the next ten days should provide a unique opportunity for those new to Galicia to get to know one of the most interesting corners of Europe. And as for the local people who live there in the many and varied coastal villages and small towns, quite what they’ll make of 60 Irish boats and their enthusiastic crews making their way along their fine coast remains to be seen. But we’ve no doubt that many new and enduring friendships will emerge.

rally flag3Far into the future, the 2017 Galician Rally flag will be a treasured souvenir

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The Cool Route Project, funded by the EU’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme and led by Cork Institute of Technology, commenced in June 2015. Since then, as reported previously, project partners in Ireland Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Faroe Islands and Norway have been working hard to study and develop strategic initiatives to build the route, covering all of the cruising grounds between Cork and Tromsø, as a world recognised cruising area.

The project workpackage to develop a Route Marketing strategy was led by project partner, The Royal Cork Yacht Club, based in Crosshaven, Co. Cork. Before developing the strategy, The Royal Cork, in the almost complete absence of statistics on sailing in Northern Europe, had to undertake a number of different studies.

The first study undertaken was a Cruising Preferences Study, with over 500 highly qualitative responses received, mainly from Ireland and the UK - the study highlighted the needs preferences and priorities of cruising sailors. A key finding being that the preferred daily journey was 25 nautical miles.

Cruising folk also like very much to have a dry step ashore, be that on to a marina or a pontoon. If they have to moor offshore, they are slightly in favour of anchoring rather than using a public mooring, stating reasons of distrust.

donegal cruisingNew pontoon facilties in Killybegs in County Donegal are important to the establishment of the Cool Route. Photo: WM Nixon

An interesting finding of the comprehensive study was that 65% of respondents stated that they would consider chartering as an option to explore different areas of the route.

Equipped with the preferred daily cruising distance, partner Glasgow Caledonian University, was then positioned to complete its Route Logistics Study and Gap Analysis. The logistics study clearly demonstrates that, with the exception of the west coast of Ireland, there are no distance gaps of over 25mnm, other than the sea crossings from Northern Ireland to Scotland and Scotland to the Faroe Islands and Norway. There are a number of facilities gaps in terms of showers and toilets.

Ideally the project would like all stopovers to have these facilities. Waste disposal is also an issue, and failed to find a suitable solution, as areas around local bins were consistently being used for fly-tipping. The project has also researched, and made recommendations, on a modular design for a toilet and shower block, which is manufactured from recycled shipping containers, easily transported and installed.

The next research task completed towards the finalisation of the marketing strategy was to undertake a Route Traffic Study. The study estimated the total numbers of cruising vessels located throughout the route and also calculated the numbers and locations of vessels within a two day voyage of any part of the route. In all there are in excess of 150,000 vessels capable of voyaging different parts of the route.

Gavin Deane, General Manager at The Royal Cork, stresses that: “The Cool Route is not about sailing from Cork to Norway, but enjoying all of the cruising grounds along the route. UK Boats may likely just come to the South Coast of Ireland for a week, or Northern Ireland and Scottish boats may make reciprocal trips. The project is firmly focussed on bringing new marine borne business to local enterprises and it does not make a difference if the visiting boat originated its voyage 10 miles or 100 miles from its destination. The important aspect is that a visiting craft bring business to local harbours.”

Superyachts KinsaleSuperyachts moored at Kinsale in County Cork

During the summer of 2016 partners in Ireland and Scotland witnessed a growth in the numbers of superyachts visiting. A focus group of 25 superyacht skippers was assembled and the feed-back was clearly to immediately market the route to these craft, who were actively looking for new voyages. Superyachts do not require any additional facilities than ordinary cruising craft with an emphasis on a dry step ashore and facilities to take and recycle waste.

Visits to areas of the route by small liners with 100 or so passengers was also a developing trend.

The Royal Cork Yacht Club, as part of its Cool Route marketing brief, has now produced a very high quality Superyacht Marketing Brochure, containing both generic information on the overall route, as well as a set of national inserts on reach of the participating coastal areas. The brochure is available in hard copy for circulation to superyacht and small liner operators, owners and skippers and also in an online version which can be downloaded here

In publishing the Route Marketing Strategy, which can be downloaded here, the partners are calling on higher levels of proactivity by local ports to encourage visitors.

Dr Breda Kenny, Head of the Hincks Centre for Entrepreneurship Excellence at CIT, who is leading the project said
“The strategy involves action by the main beneficiaries. This may involve organising weekend events at ports, perhaps including a barbecue or music and entrainment.Twenty visiting boats can bring between 60 to 100 visitors, the presence of boats in your harbour will bring as many day visitors and this combined effect can have significant economic benefits for local shops, cafes, restaurants, museums etc.”

One of the main strategic actions proposed is for national yachting associations and clubs in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland to organise a Cool Route stand at International Boats Shows. The shared stand will have a much greater impact that any one of the individual stands – It will market all of the Cool Route as prime world cruising grounds. National interests will still compete for the business – but to a significantly larger audience.

All of the Cool Route research and studies to date can be viewed and downloaded here.

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