Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Hallowe'en sails into Dun Laoghaire

31st May 2008

When Hallowe'en sailed into Dun Laoghaire harbour this June bank holiday weekend her Irish owners moved into the forefront of the international classic boat world with the beautifully restored vessel.

The 70ft William Fife designed and built bermudan cutter of 1926 is moored at the Royal Irish YC and its massive wooden mast towers over nearby craft. W M Nixon reports.


In 1926 Hallowe’en created a Fastnet Course Record of 3 days 19 hours and 5 minutes, which stood until 1939. That time for the 608 nautical miles was not beaten by a boat of similar size until Ted Turner took line honours with the 12 Metre American Eagle in the 1971 Fastnet. Race

It was America’s Cup legend Denis Conner – a man who knows his boats – who guided the Irish team towards this prize acquisition last winter. At dinner in the south of France, The Dennis suggested to Chris Craig of Dun Laoghaire that the St Tropez-based Hallowe’en could and should be bought. Hallowe’en was built for Scottish landowner Norman Baxendale for the second Fastnet Race of 1926. The Fastnet was an annual event until 1931, with the initial rules after the inaugural race of 1925 stipulating a maximum LWL of 50ft. That’s precisely Hallowe’en’s size, but it’s said that William Fife did not take any other ideas from the rule, he just designed and built a seagoing 15 Metre which happened to have bermudan rig.

The record stood until the 1939 Fastnet by which time larger boats were allowed, and the German Navy’s new 86ft yawl Nordwind ( a fine Henry Gruber design) recorded a marginally better time. That 1939 record stood until 1965, when the 90ft yawl Gitana IV, designed and built by Sangermani of Italy for Guy de Rothschild of France, cruised round in 3 days 9 hours and 40 minutes – only ten hours better than Hallowe’en’s time. Gitana was nearly as long on the waterline as Hallowe’en is overall. American Eagle in 1971, however, had an LOA exactly Gitana’s waterline length at 66.8ft LOA, so Ted Turner’s time of 3 days 8 hours and 11 minutes was the first significant challenge to Hallowe’en’s 1926 achievement all of 45 years later..

However, back then Hallowe’en  was a boat before her time. Basically, her hull was that of a 15 Metre, but with increased scantlings to take her offshore. Her tall mast was without a topmast, but with single spreaders it was basically a gaff mast which had been modified by the addition of a track with slides to take a bermudan mainsail – the first one in any Fastnet Race. Hallowe’en zoomed round the course, but in heavy weather on the return leg – the rising gale which caused Harry Donegan’s Gull from Cork far astern  to retire from the 1926 race into Cork Harbour – the new-fangled mainsail track gave trouble, the mainsail couldn’t be reefed, and though she reached Plymouth in one piece in an enduring record time, she was soon changed to the alternative gaff rig

But the International Rating Rule was also changed the following winter, and Hallowe’en as an overbuilt 15-Metre was trebly out of the racing scene, as she no longer really had a rating class, in any case she couldn’t compete inshore with other 15 Metres if they still raced, and her crew were reluctant to go offshore again. She languished in Europe until an American owner saw her potential, and she became Cotton Blossom IV, rigged as a bermudan yawl and a successful adornment of the sailing scene in the US.

Eventually she was laid up ashore, but was discovered and restored by a Dutch furniture designer and his wife over eleven painstaking years. The name Hallowe’en was revived, and she returned to Europe and a berth in pride of place in St Tropez some time ago – certainly it was April 2002 when your correspondent was jolted out of his Sunday evening somnolence while strolling along the St Trop waterfront and there she was, this gem of a boat, looking exactly as she did in 1926 except that the mast is now double spreader, and she has a standing backstay – gybing her in her original form was a sport in itself.

Anyway, it seems Denis Conner knew of her – his own 50ft classic Cotton Blossom II, restored in California by Dublin master shipwright Johnny Smullen and now sold into French ownership – will have been associated with the Cotton Blossom IV dynasty in America. Her mentioned the Fife boat’s provenance and unusual history, and by the Spring a Dublin Bay syndicate of Mick Cotter, Fran Rhatigan, Declan Hayes, Dan O’Connor, and John Sisk found themselves in possession of an unvivalled historic combination of Fife and Fastnet – they don’t come better than this.

Hallowe’en works for her living – at 2007’s St Tropez classics at the beginning of October, she was chartered by William Woodward Fisher of the Isle of Wight who had Harold Cudmore and Graham Walker among others on board. They raced in the “big Marconi class” where Hallowe’en would have been the senior boat, but though they were in the frame at times, the winner was the 82ft Reimers beauty Agneta, built in Sweden in 1951.

But in the coming summer of 2008, the ultimate classic regatta, the Fife 150th at Fairlie on the Clyde, will take place. It’s not as if Hallowe’en should be there. She must be there. And if she isn’t, then it really isn’t happening at all.

Photo: The boat before her time. Hallowe’en in 1926, when she established a Fastnet Record. Team

About The Author Team

Email The Author is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven't put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full-time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button