This event features a fleet of Sigma 33 yachts in a sailing race from Dun Laoghaire harbour, down the coast to Dalkey Island, and back again. What sets this race apart from others is the face that the yachts are crewed by people with little or no sailing experience, along with two experienced sailors per boat. Now in it’s third year, it has raised over €35,000 for the Hospice through donations and sponsorship raised by the participants.
The Nora Barnacle challenge started in 2006 when three local sailors were challenged by the local cliental of Fitzgerald’s pub in Sandycove to settle a score - “who was the best Sigma 33 sailor in the establishment”. The challenge was accepted and the event was organised by the three sailors - Bobby Kerr of “Leeuwin”, Paul Mc Carthy of “White Mischief” and Maurice Byrne of “Miss Behavin”. To ensure fair play and that no one boat would have a competitive advantage, the rules of the event stated that five members of the crew of each boat would be made up from people with no sailing experience whatsoever, along with two experienced sailors, and that the race should be used as an opportunity to raise sponsorship in aid of a designated charity - the Blackrock Hospice.
That year in glorious sunshine but little wind, the race around Dalkey Island took place. However, with the boats becalmed off Dalkey Island, the race was abandoned and the thirsty sailors retired to Fitzgerald’s pub to sample the hospitality of Tom Fitzgerald and attend the prize giving. The winner was decided by a draw, and went to Bobby Kerr on Leeuwin - who just happened to be last on the racecourse when the race was abandoned. This of course led to some minor argument among the crews and it was decided that the race would have to be run again the following year to settle some old scores. And so the Nora Barnacle annual challenge was born. With just three boats participating in that first race, the event raised €4,000 for the Blackrock Hospice.
August 2007 saw the second year of Nora Barnacle challenge, this time with seven Sigma 33 boats competing. News of the previous years race had spread and local businesses provided additional support by donating prizes that were raffled to help raise funds for the Hospice. Over fifty people participated in the event and through support from family, friends and work colleagues, over €15,000 was raised. Paul Mc Carthy and crew on White Mischief won the race fairly and squarely, and a great night was had in Fitzgerald’s of Sandycove where the prize giving and raffle was held.
2008 saw the event go another level with ten Sigma 33 boats participating. The original rule still applied which stated that each boat must have a minimum of five crew with no sailing experience. With over seventy people participating in the race, safety was as always, a top priority, and a safety rescue boat was on station, manned by David Crawford. Brendan Farrell of the Sigma Class was on hand as official photographer, supported by Darragh Lawless of Fitzgerald’s, and Paddy Boyd was the race official. The day was a resounding success and the racing was very competitive. In great sailing conditions, skipper Maurice Byrne won the race on Miss Behavin’.
In keeping with tradition, all participants retired to Fitzgerald’s of Sandycove for refreshments and the official prize giving. An auction was held to raise additional funds, and official Nora Barnacle Challenge T-Shirts were available to purchase – all of which contributed to raising over €16,000 for the Blackrock Hospice.
In three short years, the Nora Barnacle Challenge has raised over €35,000 for the Blackrock Hospice. Next years event is already in the planning stage, and hopes are that it will be bigger and better, such is the interest shown as news of the event has grown over the last three years. Photographs of the event can be view here
If you would like to participate in next years race or would like to receive more information, e-mail [email protected]