With its wide range of facilities, Dromineer took all this comfortably in its collective stride, and LDYC Commodore Jack Bayly and his team headed by Susie Coote and Eleanor Hooker hosted an event of style. The Committee Boat was the ultimate vintage, John Lefroy’s 58ft Phoenix, built of Lowmoor iron by Malcolmsons of Waterford in 1872 – Phoenix was already forty years old in 1912, the year of the Titanic.
For the first time in a Waterways Ireland Classic Boat regatta, one of the Howth Seventeens was persuaded onto fresh water. Ian Malcolm and his family brought the 1898-vintage Aura to Dromineer by road to provide the first appearance of a proper jackyard tops’l on Lough Derg in maybe fifty years. They were awarded the first prize in the keelboat class, the runner-up being Mick Whaley’s Lough Erne Fairy Maeve from Enniskillen, which was overall winner in 2006 when Maeve’s class were celebrating their Centenary.
Overall winner last year was Ross Galbraith’s Peter Dunne-built Mermaid The Message from Skerries Sailing Club, but at Dromineer the Mermaid racing was won by Jonathan O’Rourke’s Tiller Girl from Clontarf, with The Message second. Aidan Henry’s International 12 Dorado from Sutton was another class prize-winner, as was Alan Carr’s Starfish in the IDRA 14s, but for sheer numbers the big impression was made by the Water Wags from Dublin Bay, and the quintessential class of the Lakes, the Shannon One Designs.
An impressive fleet of seventeen Water Wags of various vintages going back to 1904 road-trailed across Ireland, and award winners included Alfie & Frank Guy, Vincent Delany & Noel Breen, Guy & Jackie Kilroy, William & Linda Prentice, and Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavy, whose four year old boat, built by Jimmy Furey down in Roscommon, is a masterpiece.
Jimmy Furey is also noted as a leading Shannon One Design builder, but this time round it was a classic Walter Levinge boat of 1961 vintage, the Dickson family’s No 73 from Lough Ree, which set the pace among upwards of 25 boats. Other place-winners at Dromineer included Damian Maloney (no. 75), Mark McCormick (No. 50) and Cathal Breen (No. 155). But the Dickson campaign in 2008 has been in a class of its own. Former Lough Ree YC Commodore David Dickson helmed the boat to overall wins at both Lough Ree and Lough Derg weeks in August, thereby becoming current class champion, then at the classics his son Cillian – aged 15 – was on the helm, and emerged clear ahead.
In every way. At the prize-giving, it was announced that No 73 was regatta overall winner, and awarded the Waterways Ireland Trophy in addition to the class prize. It made for quite a raid southward for Lough Ree YC, as current Commodore Eileen Browne took away the Display Vessel Trophy with her “mini-barge” Rudeile. In her working days, Rudeile was indeed something else - she delivered paraffin to the towns along the Barrow Navigation. At 40ft, she’s a much more manageable size than the traditional Shannon barges, yet provides much comfort. She was back home in her handy berth at Lough Ree YC – current “Club of the Year” - by Tuesday evening, the very spirit of the classic boats on the inland waterways.
Photo below: John Lefroy’s “uber-classic” Phoenix of 1872 vintage at Dromineer during the Waterways Ireland Classsic Boat Regatta in the midst of Dublin Bay Water Wags, which trace their class history back to 1887. Photo: W M Nixon