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Displaying items by tag: Sailing Club of the Year

The selection of Howth Yacht Club as Ireland’s latest MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year Award” represents a remarkable harmony of achievement between the competition winners and the sponsors, with Howth Yacht Club becoming “Sailing Club of the Year 2023” as the all-electric MG4EV is acclaimed as Ireland’s “Car of the Year 2023”.

Howth YC came rocketing in style and readiness out of the global pandemic’s frustrations to find itself in a 2022 season of remarkable achievement at home, on the national scene, and abroad at the top international level. And it has been a time of record club membership, with numbers totalling 2,173 in all categories undertaking a hugely varied range of activities afloat and ashore at all stages of competitiveness.

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This vividly reflects the club’s dynamic interaction both with the community on its home peninsula, and with a more widely-spread membership, some of whom are happy to travel significant distances to get to Howth – in several cases internationally - in order to enjoy the special “Howth sailing and boating product”. This has developed so successfully over the years that 2023 is the sixth occasion on which Howth YC will be holding the top club title in the 44 years of this informal inter-club contest’s existence, a record of achievement matched only by the National Yacht Club of Dun Laoghaire and the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven.

MG4 EV “CAR OF THE YEAR 2023”

Like Howth Yacht Club, sponsors MG Motor enter 2023 on a real high. The international company has been facing the challenge of developing an affordable electric car for some years now, and while impressive progress had been made with several models, it has only been in recent months that the real breakthrough has come with universal approval for the MG4 EV family saloon.

The Howth Yacht Club marina/clubhouse complex was initially created literally “out of nothing” in the empty and dry-at-low-tide southeast corner of Howth Harbour between 1981 and 1987, with additions and improvements continuing ever sinceThe Howth Yacht Club marina/clubhouse complex was initially created literally “out of nothing” in the empty and dry-at-low-tide southeast corner of Howth Harbour between 1981 and 1987, with additions and improvements continuing ever since

This “hot-hatch” variant of the award-winning MG4 EV will become available during 2023This “hot-hatch” variant of the award-winning MG4 EV will become available during 2023

In Ireland, this breakthrough first came late in 2022 with lavish praise from the Sunday Business Post. But it was in December that the “we’re walking on air” level of recognition was reached, when all The Irish Times motoring writers enthusiastically agreed that the MG 4EV was The Irish Times “Car of the Year 2023”.

Sailing people are more aware than most of the benefits of clean air and the potential of different environmentally-friendly and relatively noise-free methods of generating motive power for vehicles afloat and ashore. So this happy coincidence of mutual acclamation for two outstanding organisations is a matter of special celebration in a world in which good news seems to have become a rare commodity.  

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HOWTH’S SENSE OF CONTINUITY KEY TO SUCCESS

In announcing Howth YC’s success today, we have to take a snapshot of the club as it is now. But of course, like all successful sailing organisations, it is a strong sense of continuity in administration afloat and ashore, combined with sailing enthusiasm and success on the water, that keeps things humming smoothly along, with the regular Changes of the Watch at the Annual General Meetings reflecting the quietly renewing pool of people willing to serve an organisation of this size, complexity and energy.

Incoming HYC Commodore Neil Murphy has participated and served in sailing in Howth, in Ireland, and internationally for many years. Photo: W M NixonIncoming HYC Commodore Neil Murphy has participated and served in sailing in Howth, in Ireland, and internationally for many years. Photo: W M Nixon

Thus it was as recently as December 13th that Vice Commodore Neil Murphy – who for very many years has put even more into sailing than he takes out of it -  succeeded cruiser-racer skipper Paddy Judge as HYC Commodore. But it was the end-of-year announcement of Afloat.ie’s December “Sailor of the Month (Services to Sailing)” national award to Paddy Judge which was able to highlight the fact that his period of service had gone way beyond ascending the ladder in the officer ranks, as he had been the club’s voluntary General Manager for the difficult years as HYC – like clubs everywhere – dealt with and then recovered from the massive problems posed by the economic recession of 2009-2012.

In doing this he was ably supported throughout by Honorary Secretary Bernie Condy, who continues with her customarily under-stated yet very effective dedication to HYC. But the running of the club on a day-to-day basis was restored to normality with the appointment of Aideen Doran as General Manager in September 2020 in time for Paddy Judge to take over as Commodore in December of that year.

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HOWTH PENINSULA GEOGRAPHICALLY DEFINED ITS OWN PANDEMIC RESTRICTIONS

He succeeded Ian Byrne, who had drawn the short straw in being Commodore during the most intense periods of pandemic lockdown. But Ian had provided exemplary leadership through personally acquainting himself with each and every last detail of the new regulations and limitations in order to permit sailing at Howth whenever possible.

Ian Byrne (Commodore 2018-2020) and Paddy Judge defining the two metre inter-person pandemic limit at the clubhouseIan Byrne (Commodore 2018-2020) and Paddy Judge defining the two metre inter-person pandemic limit at the clubhouse

The Howth peninsula came into its own as a clearly defined naturally distance-limiting compliant area for in-bubble activity, and one of the fascinations of it all – as the vaccination programme got under way – was the discovery that the peninsula had more healthy inhabitants over the age of 85 than the authorities had fully realised. Of course they were all on some GP’s register, but as the fittest of them never bothered their doctors very much from one year to the next, it was an agreeable surprise to discover just how many sprightly ninety years olds there were about the place.

RAVE AT THE WAVE

This spirited attitude is reflected in the fact that Howth Yacht Club doesn’t behave like a 128-year-old organisation burdened by its long history. On the contrary, if you’d been at the rave night or some other special during the club’s nationally-contested biennial Wave Regatta at the beginning of June (when the overall winner was Howth’s own Demot Skehan with his vintage MG34 Toughnut) you could have been forgiven for thinking this was some volume-enhanced pop-up setup which would be completely gone by Monday. 

Overall wnner Dermot Skehan with his successful Toughnut crew and Commodore Paddy Judge at the Howth Wave Regatta in JuneOverall wnner Dermot Skehan with his successful Toughnut crew and Commodore Paddy Judge at the Howth Wave Regatta in June

Equally, the club’s senior class - the 1898-established jackyard tops’l toting Howth 17s, designed by founding Commodore Walter Boyd, do not see themselves as sacred relics to be lovingly preserved by their owners on a curator and caretaker basis. On the contrary, the key people in keeping the class thriving down the years, mad keen sailors such as Nick Massey, Peter Courtney and Ian Malcolm, have done so on the basis that the Seventeens are all there to provide first class one design racing,

The 17ft Class Association members expect to have at least 60 races per year, with the 125th Anniversary in 2023 being enhanced by the fleet upping sticks in late June and taking themselves to Baltimore in West Cork – led by Class Captain Dave O’Shea - for the special 125th birthday bash, and much racing.

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COMMUNITY SPIRIT

The perfect topsail set on a Howth 17 by Peter Courtney’s 1911-built Oonagh (right) in close competition with the 2019-built Orla. Photo: Neil MurphyThe perfect topsail set on a Howth 17 by Peter Courtney’s 1911-built Oonagh (right) in close competition with the 2019-built Orla. Photo: Neil Murphy

The Seventeens personify the community spirit of Howth sailing, seen at its best back in March 2018 when Storm Emma flattened the shed on the East Pier in which seven Seventeens were in winter storage. In a first pessimistic assessment, it was reckoned maybe five were write-offs. But in the end, only one was a complete re-build, the rest were restored through the skills of boatbuilder Larry Archer, and a happy dream came true in August 2022 when the 1907-built Rosemary – dubbed the IKEA boat after being found as little more than a flat-pack after Emma came to call – went so well in her restored condition that helmsman Davy Jones won the closely-contested National Championship for his co-owners George Curley and David Potter by a whisker, at something like the fifth stage of a points countback.

Davy Jones and crew celebrate their extremely close win of the Howth 17 Nationals in August 2022 with Rosemary.  Photo: Patricia NixonDavy Jones and crew celebrate their extremely close win of the Howth 17 Nationals in August 2022 with Rosemary.  Photo: Patricia Nixon

“The IKEA Flatpack Boat” – Rosemary as she was in March 2018, after Strom Emma had swept through Howth“The IKEA Flatpack Boat” – Rosemary as she was in March 2018, after Strom Emma had swept through Howth

Meanwhile the Boat of the Year on a season-long points basis was Davy Nixon’s Erica, unusual for having been built in a shed at Howth Castle in 1988 when the St Lawrence family were still in residence after 817 years. As it happens, one of Howth’s significant occurrences in 2022 was the departure of the St Lawrence family after 851 years in the castle. But there are four very ancient Howth families which pre-dated them still in residence in the village, and as like as not you’ll find one of them sailing against or in the Brains’ Trust, which campaigns Erica, where the crew panel includes Fred Connolly who is both the HYC Marina Superintendent and the Howth Lifeboat cox’n, while another notable on the strength is the Peninsula’s computer genius and AI expert, who’ll have the answer to your high-tech query before you’ve even thought of the question.

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HOWTH MOVES TO WICKLOW

This sense of a supportive Howth community emerged in an unusual way at the start of the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow on June 18th. Mike & Richie Evans of Howth had entered their successful little regatta-winning J/99 Snapshot for what was to be her first major offshore race. But though Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules from Howth has been an impressive Round Ireland performer in times past, the old salts on the waterfront wasted no time in telling the Evans brothers that they were taking on a notoriously tough race in what was little more than a glorified day sailer.

Where else would you get a lighthouse with flower-filled window-boxes? The reassuring presence of HYC Senior Committee Boat Star Point - aka “The Men’s Shed Afloat” -  entering Howth Harbour. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyWhere else would you get a lighthouse with flower-filled window-boxes? The reassuring presence of HYC Senior Committee Boat Star Point - aka “The Men’s Shed Afloat” -  entering Howth Harbour. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Thus in his report of the race for the HYC Website, Mike Evans noted how reassuring it was to find that HYC’s senior Committee Boat Star Point had been recruited down to Wicklow to start the Round Ireland Race in the absence of the usual Naval Service vessel. In Howth the more irreverent may refer to Star Point as the “Men’s Shed Afloat”, but for Snapshot’s crew it was almost as though they were going off on an evening race at home rather than taking on the world and the largely unknown challenge of the Atlantic.

The Evans brothers’ J/99 Snapshot under Wicklow Head at the start of her successful Round Ireland Race, which contributed to her becoming ICRA Boat of the Year. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O/BrienThe Evans brothers’ J/99 Snapshot under Wicklow Head at the start of her successful Round Ireland Race, which contributed to her becoming ICRA Boat of the Year. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O/Brien

They soared through the race, frequently leading overall, and though the cards hadn’t fallen their way in the final stage, the masterly way in which they short-tacked along the beach inside the worst of the foul tide in the final miles to the finish saw Snapshot move up the rankings to a close second overall and comfortably first of all the Irish entries, an achievement which made a major contribution to her being declared the “ICRA Boat of the Year 2022”. 

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INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT

With a regularly-competing international lineup which includes Rob Dickson contesting the 49er to World Champion level with Sean Waddilove of Skerries as crew, plus Eve McMahon, Rocco Wright and Luke Turvey leading the charge as very junior yet seriously competitive  ILCA/Laser contenders, Howth finds itself sharing their success with all Ireland. But either way, there’s no denying that Eve brought back at least two Gold Medals from world level contests, while Rocco had at least one and many other successes at home, so the future for Howth and Ireland looks bright, with new talent such as Harry Dunne coming up through the Optimist ranks.

ILCAWorlds Gold Medallist Eve McMahon welcomed back to Dublin Airport by her parents Vicky and JimILCAWorlds Gold Medallist Eve McMahon welcomed back to Dublin Airport by her parents Vicky and Jim

That said, more senior campaigners should be given every credit when success is achieved, and Howth’s leading J/80 international campaigner -Pat O’Neill who had already carved out big wins in Europe  - went to the US in 2022 for the J/80 worlds at Newport, and returned with the Bronze, a notable success wrested from the core of the J/80 heartlands.

J/80 World Championship Bronze Medallist Pat O’Neill (second left) with his crew in Newport, Rhode IslandJ/80 World Championship Bronze Medallist Pat O’Neill (second left) with his crew in Newport, Rhode Island

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FORTY YEARS OF THE MARINA

At home meanwhile, Howth was quietly celebrating the 40th Anniversary of its marina in the best possible way, by using it at full capacity for a continuous programme of sailing training for all ages, an intense fixture list of club racing events, and the hosting of majors. Among these, the J/24 Europeans was a highlight, with Howth’s own David Lovegrove officiating in his role as an International Race Officer at one of several majors which resulted in his spending 25 days during 2022 afloat and actively administering significant championships.

Race Officer David Lovegrove at his work. Commodore of Howth Yacht Club for its Centenary in 1995, he is busier than ever these days, spending a total 25 days afloat in 2022 running major sailing events. Photo: Judith MalcolmRace Officer David Lovegrove at his work. Commodore of Howth Yacht Club for its Centenary in 1995, he is busier than ever these days, spending a total 25 days afloat in 2022 running major sailing events. Photo: Judith Malcolm

But for most folk, the marina is a friendly and rewarding place to keep a boat, and ever since it came into being, the club’s largest single section has been the Cruising Group. First convened in the 1980s by Gary McGuire, and larger and more active than ever these days with its record of achievement since 1982 including Pat and Olivia Murphy’s really excellent nine-year global circumnavigation with their 40ft cutter Aldebaran, in many ways the Cruising Group is what HYC is all about.

As for the future, 2023 is already well set up with the Howth programme book-ended by the National Youth Championship in April and the ICRA Nationals at the beginning of September. Looking at Howth’s busy and well-filled sailing and fishing harbour today, you might well think the basics of it have been there for a very long time. But the fact is that only forty years ago what is now the highly active and successful clubhouse/marina setup was no more than an enormous pit in the harbour, and filling it in the most useful possible way required a very special club and community effort whose spirit is happily stronger than ever today.

Howth Yacht Club and Marina today. Forty years ago, this was empty space, and still a dream whose fulfillment required enormous club and community effortHowth Yacht Club and Marina today. Forty years ago, this was empty space, and still a dream whose fulfillment required enormous club and community effort

Published in W M Nixon

The Afloat.ie-administered “Sailing Club of the Year” award has been running continuously and successfully since 1979, yet in all its 43 years of honouring outstanding achievement across a wide range of criteria by Ireland’s diverse and nationally-spread yacht and sailing clubs, the title has had only three different main sponsors.

But times change, and even though the basic tenets of club success remain the same, the clubs themselves are now functioning in a very different world in which environmental considerations are taking centre stage, a factor which is fundamental to the new arrangement.

This week it is announced that, with immediate effect, MG Motor Ireland are taking over the sponsorship, and thus the joint winners for 2022, Lough Ree Yacht Club and the Shannon One Design Association - announced on New Year’s Day – are now sharing the title of the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year 2022”.

Award-winning sport for all the family – the Shannon One Design Association is celebrating its Centenary in 2022, its first race having been hosted by Lough Ree YC in August 1922Award-winning sport for all the family – the Shannon One Design Association is celebrating its Centenary in 2022, its first race having been hosted by Lough Ree YC in August 1922

MG is of course one of the most distinctive and historic brands in international automotive history. During the past decade, however, it has been completely re-directing its product range towards an eventually total use of EVs (Electric Vehicles), and the latest 2022 range, with its further advances in design and technology, has been favourably received by the market in Ireland.

Personal and family transport for the times we live in - the new all-electric MG ZS EVPersonal and family transport for the times we live in - the new all-electric MG ZS EV

The company enthusiastically confirms its new sponsorship with today’s announcement:

‘‘Here at MG Motor Ireland, we are delighted to announce our 2022 sponsorship of the Sailing Club of The Year Award, with Lough Ree Yacht Club and the Shannon One Design Association named the joint winners of this prestigious award. MG Motor Ireland is a forward-thinking, innovative brand that strives to provide electric for all through its family-friendly electric SUV range, and is proud to have a great affinity with Sailing, a progressive and inclusive sport.’’

The remarkable diversity of the sailing clubs of Ireland is reflected in the many factors which are taken into consideration in assessing the winners, and back in 1990, the special nature of the Irish sailing scene was further acknowledged by including One-Design Class Associations in the overall eligibility list.

This has enabled added depth to be added to the 2022 awards, as Lough Ree Yacht Club was restricted in celebrating its 250th Anniversary in 2020 because of pandemic restrictions, yet the club set an example under Commodores Garret Leech and his current successor John McGonigle in complying with the regulations while still having meaningful sailing.

The fresh new image of a long-established story both afloat and ashoreThe fresh new image of a long-established story both afloat and ashore

That included providing carefully-regulated yet still very competitive racing for the popular and decidedly special Shannon One Designs, which in 2022 - under the Chairmanship of Philip Mayne - are celebrating their class Centenary, the first race having taken place in August 1922 with Lough Ree YC.

Despite the pandemic, sailing in Ireland continued as much as possible, and in 2020 the holder of what is now the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year” title was the Royal Cork YC in its Tricentenary Year, making it – at six times winning - the most frequent title holder of all.

The Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven, most frequent winner of what is now the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year” title.The Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven, most frequent winner of what is now the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year” title

Then in 2021 Dublin Bay SC had been exemplary under Commodore Jonathan Nicholson and Ann Kirwan to become “Club of the Year”, with every major trophy (and it has dozens of them) properly competed for despite socially-distanced circumstances, such that their success was an encouraging example for the whole country.

Thus the Afloat.ie MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year” award emerges from the pandemic stronger than ever, its role paramount in highlighting the best of Ireland’s many, varied and successful sailing clubs in a strong and time-honoured tradition with a new eco-friendly foundation.

Lough Ree Yacht Club and the Shannon One Design Association are sharing this year’s MG Motors Sailing Club of the Year Award. It’s the well-deserved honouring of a dynamic combination that provides a core contribution to the Athlone area’s reputation as a hotbed of Irish sailing advancement and was recognised back in 2008 when they previously were joint winners.

At that time, Shannon OD numbers were expanding at an unprecedented rate, while Lough Ree YC was settling into an enlarged clubhouse which facilitated the club’s growth as a national focal point for sailing in Ireland, both as a venue afloat and a meeting place ashore.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

In this new award some fourteen years later, there are two vital extra elements to add to the healthy combination which was so outstanding in 2008 and continues today. In 2020, Lough Ree YC should have been celebrating its Quarter Millennium in exuberant style, but the fact that - with its foundation in 1770 - the Club is possibly the second-oldest in the world had to be marked in a COVID-muted way, and thus 2022 hopes to see LRYC celebrate Quarter Millennium + 2, if anything with added zest.

Lough Ree Yacht Club at Ballyglass. The club has steadily increased its land-holding, and with activity and membership increasing on a strongly family basis, it is contemplating further extension of the premises and facilities afloat and ashoreLough Ree Yacht Club at Ballyglass. The club has steadily increased its land-holding, and with activity and membership increasing on a strongly family basis, it is contemplating further extension of the premises and facilities afloat and ashore  

But for the Shannon One Designs, 2022 is it - the Centenary Year. In making the award, we will be celebrating one of the most remarkable classes in the world, a class which - thanks to its classic clinker-built construction - is now recognised as being of special Heritage Significance, with official UNESCO recognition of this ancient-yet-updated method of boat-building.

Walter Levinge of Lough Ree YC built many of the Shannon One Designs in the early days of the class from 1922 onwards, and was active in boat-building and sailing until the 1960s. His clinker construction of these classic boats was of a quality well deserving of the recently-awarded UNESCO Heritage Status.Walter Levinge of Lough Ree YC built many of the Shannon One Designs in the early days of the class from 1922 onwards, and was active in boat-building and sailing until the 1960s. His clinker construction of these classic boats was of a quality well deserving of the recently-awarded UNESCO Heritage Status.

In fact, so much of long-term sailing heritage is to be found in and around the southeast corner of Lough Ree that perhaps the entire area should be declared a UNESCO Heritage Site, for in addition to the Lough Ree YC complex, it includes the location where the legendary Walter Levinge built many of the early Shannon One Designs in addition to other classic clinker-built designs, and it also includes the newly re-configured headquarters of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.

MGM Motors Sailing club of the Year

LOUGH REE YACHT CLUB

It’s probable that organised sailing of some sort was taking place on Lough Ree long before 1770, but the records from 1770 prove beyond doubt that something was under way by that time. And though the name Lough Ree Yacht Club was not always the title being used, it’s the one that has lasted, even if within the past hundred years the club activity had sometimes become thin enough.

That said, dedicated families like the Murtaghs of Athlone kept the flame alight, even though - in the very thin years of the 1950s - if it hadn’t been for Sid Shine of Athlone making his houseboat/barge The Fox available for use as a clubhouse when required, LRYC might have become an idea rather than something tangible.

Jimmy Furey and Sid Shine. The late Jimmy Furey of Leecarrow on Lough Ree took over the Levinge mantle as the leading builder of Shannon ODs of the highest standard, while Sid Shine of Athlone was a dedicated sailing enthusiast who played a central role in keeping Lough Ree YC going through the thin years of the 1950s. Photo: W M NixonJimmy Furey and Sid Shine. The late Jimmy Furey of Leecarrow on Lough Ree took over the Levinge mantle as the leading builder of Shannon ODs of the highest standard, while Sid Shine of Athlone was a dedicated sailing enthusiast who played a central role in keeping Lough Ree YC going through the thin years of the 1950s. Photo: W M Nixon

That is something difficult to imagine as we contemplate the contemporary thriving clubhouse/dinghy park/boatyard/marina complex at Ballyglass. As proof of the club’s thriving good health, it has managed to keep a busy if truncated COVID-compliant programme going during the regulation periods under current Commodore John McGonigle, who incidentally is Ireland’s leading classic watch-maker. And before that in 2020 itself with his predecessor Garrett Leech, there was as much activity afloat as possible, and a continuing programme of acquiring extra land which has led to LRYC having a total site of six acres. This will facilitate the re-routing of the access road and other amenities, thereby making the interaction between the clubhouse and the on-water facilities more user-friendly, while providing a launching pad for further clubhouse expansion.

The secret life of yacht club flag officers…..John McGonigle, Lough Ree YC Commodore, is Ireland’s leading creator of customised classic wrist watchesThe secret life of yacht club flag officers…..John McGonigle, Lough Ree YC Commodore, is Ireland’s leading creator of customised classic wrist watches

Virtually all of this has been done with voluntary effort as far as the actual running of the club is concerned. Yet that’s something the members take in their stride as they focus on sailing, with one of their peak interests being the Olympic 49er duo of Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove. Although the pair are generally associated with the east coast Fingal clubs of Howth and Skerries, Rob Dickson’s total passion for sailing was basically shaped around family holidays on the Shannon with the focus on Lough Ree YC, and while his head may be in Fingal or at some major international venue, his heart is on Lough Ree.

Lough Ree is renowned for its big skies, seen here making shapes over the LRYC SB20 Class.Lough Ree is renowned for its big skies, seen here making shapes over the LRYC SB20 Class.

There, the LRYC fleet is eclectic, with a strong emphasis on family and junior sailing through Optimists, Mirrors and 420s in addition to the Shannon ODs, while they’re also a stronghold of Cruisers and the SB20 Class, having provided the SB20s with their exuberant “Pandemic President” John Malone, who enthusiastically led his fleet both at LRYC and nationally into as much activity as was permitted, making them one of Ireland’s busiest classes.

LRYC is noted for its encouragement of youth classes, and while the 420s can enjoy its best summertime racing condition………LRYC is noted for its encouragement of youth classes, and while the 420s can enjoy its best summertime racing condition………
….there are many times when the lough reminds them that is basically an inland sea.….there are many times when the lough reminds them that is basically an inland sea.

But like all LRYC classes, the Lough Ree SB20s’ first loyalty is to their own home waters, and the way that they and all the sailors of Lough Ree YC interact in the most positive way with their own local community is an aspect of the club which the adjudicators find particularly inspiring. This soothing vid of a lone Shannon One Design sailing on the lake at Ballyglass tells us much about why the LRYC approach works so well:

 

SHANNON ONE DESIGN ASSOCIATION

Any organization which was founded in Ireland a hundred years ago will have found its earliest experiences coinciding precisely with the birth throes of the Irish Free State, which between 1919 and 1922 included a War of Independence, and the Civil War fought over the Treaty which resulted from the Independence conflict.

Thus the establishment of the Shannon One Design Association between the members of the North Shannon YC on Lough Bofin in Longford, Lough Ree YC at Athlone, and Lough Derg YC at Dromineer took place in a sort of parallel universe in which many people were trying to get on with some sort of normal life, while others in relatively confined areas were prepared to fight to the death for their objectives.

An early Shannon One Design clearly revealing the class’s noted hull flexibility.An early Shannon One Design clearly revealing the class’s noted hull flexibility

The ability to live with parallel situations was already almost normal in Ireland, for after the Sinn Fein victory in the 1918 General Election, an alternative government to that ruling from Dublin Castle was established under the new and “illegal” Dail, such that in many parts of the country, it was quietly if almost invisibly accepted as the real administration which either got things done, or prevented the supposedly official government from performing its more mundane functions.

MGM Motors Sailing club of the Year

In such circumstances, and with the River Shannon available to provide them with the means of travel should various roads and railways be blocked by felled trees or detonated bridges, the task of setting the Shannon One Design Association in being was put in motion, the key meeting being a gathering in the Prince of Wales Hotel in Athlone on January 20th 1920.

It may have started with a tentative January meeting in Athlone in 1920, but since then the Shannon One Designs have become one of the wonders of Irish sailing, as seen here with the class making a boisterous start in racing at Dromineer on Lough Derg, with John & Sandra Lefroy’s 1873-vintage iron-built Phoenix as Committee Boat. Photo SODAIt may have started with a tentative January meeting in Athlone in 1920, but since then the Shannon One Designs have become one of the wonders of Irish sailing, as seen here with the class making a boisterous start in racing at Dromineer on Lough Derg, with John & Sandra Lefroy’s 1873-vintage iron-built Phoenix as Committee Boat. Photo SODA

We get a fascinating insight into the mood and attitude of those involved through the 1972-published Golden Jubilee History of the class by L. M. “Bunny” Goodbody. For the most part, those originally involved lived in big house on the lakes and along the river, or were top professional and business people in the Shannon port towns. Nicknames were almost the norm – Bunny Goodbody had a formidable female relative, Posie Goodbody, whose most famous of many achievements was to set off at dawn from Killaloe in her hyper-fast motor-powered hydroplane, and by sunset she was at Lough Key, having power-boated in one span of daylight through the length of the Shannon.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

Then as the Shannon ODs – or Sods as everyone called them – got going after many discussions, their long-serving timekeeper was one Henry R Newland MA (TCD), whom you might expect to be called Harry or even Hal, but you’d be wrong. Everyone knew him as Tulip.

With noted longtime Shannon sailing families like the Delanys, Murtaghs, Hogans, Lefroys, Levinges, Lysters, Moerans, Devenishes, Handcocks, Wallers, Goodbodies and Boltons involved from the start, it’s not surprising to learn that some of these talented individuals expected their own self-created designs to become the standard boat for the new 18ft una-rigged class, so perhaps it was a peace-making ploy to go to the English designer Morgan Giles of Devon for the designs.

He produced something whose hull looked in profile like his recently-created clinker-built Essex One-Design, but the proposed SOD was much narrower and this – with the una rig - changed the character of the boat completely to make it truly expressive of the classic Irish lake boat with a substantial sail added.

Shannon OD designer Frank Morgan Giles of Devon created some noted dinghy classes. However, when his original plan for a dipping-lug mainsail for the Shannon One Designs in 1921 was soon changed by the class to a much neater gunter lug, they only told him after it had been done, resulting in frosty relations for 35 years.Shannon OD designer Frank Morgan Giles of Devon created some noted dinghy classes. However, when his original plan for a dipping-lug mainsail for the Shannon One Designs in 1921 was soon changed by the class to a much neater gunter lug, they only told him after it had been done, resulting in frosty relations for 35 years.

The sail immediately caused trouble. Giles had designed it as a lug sail, and despite the increasing presence in Ireland of the International 12 dinghy with its very effective standing lug, the Shannon sailors seem to have been provided with a dipping lug.

This was an infernal nuisance, so they quickly changed it to a gunter lug, and almost as an afterthought, they sent a letter about the change to Morgan Giles. He replied in such a frosty style that there was a stand-off in friendly relations for something like 35 years before any sort of client-designer harmony was properly restored.

This may have been something to do with the Irish situation, for while the new class merrily went ahead with Walter Levinge building seven boats to the new design for the 1922 season, the Civil War was causing sporadic violence in Ireland, and increasing hostility and incomprehension in England.

Yet those who were determined to get the new class going and continue to live in Ireland knew well the mood of their people among whom they lived, whatever their own political views. A certain mutual tolerance, understanding and respect was needed.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

Thus when the new class was finally lined up for its first proper race on Wednesday, August 23rd 1922 at Lough Ree YC at Ballyglass, as the L. M. Goodbody Shannon OD History of 1972 records: “Wednesday brought the news of the death in action in West Cork of General Michael Collins, the Commander in Chief of the National Army, and in consequence all racing that day was suspended”.

Referring to the former guerilla leader as General Collins was something which had first emerged from Winston Churchill and F E Smith - of all people – during the long and tedious Treaty negotiations. But the fact that it should have appeared as a natural part of the first history of the Shannon One Designs tells us much about how the class’s members – as natural conservatives – were already anticipating di Lampedusa’s philosophy that those who wish things to stay basically the same must give a subtle lead in controlled change.

Consequently, when an invitation was extended to the expanding new class to take part in the Tailteann Games in 1924 to celebrate the new Irish Free State, it was accepted with enthusiasm, with seven SODs going to what all those involved still thought of as Kingstown. Part of the attraction was that this offered the chance to prove their mettle against the Dublin Bay Water Wags, who apparently didn’t think very highly of this new take on the traditional Shannon sailing boat.

When the Shannon One Designs first raced on the sea with their participation in the sailing events of the Tailteann Games in 1924 at Dun Laoghaire, the big seas of Dublin Bay revealed their readiness to plane when conditions suited. It takes a bit more effort to do the same on freshwater lakes, but here we see Olympic sailor Cathy Mac Aleavey’s boat – which she built herself working with Jimmy Furey – getting up to planning speed on Lough Derg.When the Shannon One Designs first raced on the sea with their participation in the sailing events of the Tailteann Games in 1924 at Dun Laoghaire, the big seas of Dublin Bay revealed their readiness to plane when conditions suited. It takes a bit more effort to do the same on freshwater lakes, but here we see Olympic sailor Cathy Mac Aleavey’s boat – which she built herself working with Jimmy Furey – getting up to planning speed on Lough Derg.

We tend nowadays to think that Shannon One Designs look slightly out of place on the sea, but in their 1924 expedition to Dun Laoghaire where they were based at the Royal Irish YC, they very forcefully demonstrated otherwise. On one particularly rough day when the Water Wags refused to go out of the harbour, the Shannons sallied for with gusto and revelled in the planing opportunities which the big seas of Dublin Bay provided.

Edgar Waller of Lough Derg YC sailing SOD No. 47 (they’d started their numbering at 30) won the Tailteann Sailing Gold Medal after they’d out-performed the Water Wags boat-for-boat. It was a very satisfied group that returned to their home waters, with their new boats delivered back to the Shannon in due course on flat-bed rail trucks in a joint exercise by the Dublin South Eastern Railway and the Great Southern & Western Railway.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

This very convenient facility was available at Dun Laoghaire until 1961, when the entire Firefly Class, having raced their DBSC Tuesday evening contest, was transferred by launching trolleys to the waiting flatbed trucks on the waterfront railway, and on Friday evening their crews re-claimed them in West Cork in Baltimore Station nicely in time for Dinghy Week. It the last year in which they could so such a thing with the West Cork Line soon closing, though not all was lost - in time, the quayside Baltimore Railway Station became the first Glenans Base in Ireland.

The swans in the evening – Shannon One Designs return to portThe swans in the evening – Shannon One Designs return to port

Meanwhile, the Shannon One Designs built steadily through the 1920s and ’30s, with all transport needs between regattas being provided by sundry motor-cruisers when the wind didn’t suit. The North Shannon Yacht Club on Lough Bofin more or less expired after 1929, but this enabled a more compact programme between Lough Ree and Lough Derg to be devised for August, when many of the Shannon OD sailors returned on leave from remote postings in distant places – it’s said you could find photos of Shannon One Designs displayed on walls in District Offices in dusty places up towards the Khyber Pass.

Thus the user-friendly system of a week on Lough Ree followed by a week on Lough Derg developed, with additional spice being added to the summer’s doings with a long-distance race from Athlone down-Shannon to Lough Derg, with a midway stop at Shannonbridge and sustenance from the house speciality of hot rum and chocolate at Killeen’s pub.

They’ll always be trying something new – as August approaches, in distant parts of the world people will be dreaming of getting home to Ireland and trying a new trick or two in Shannon OD racing.They’ll always be trying something new – as August approaches, in distant parts of the world people will be dreaming of getting home to Ireland and trying a new trick or two in Shannon OD racing.

With class numbers continuing to expand as the challenge of building boats to the required high standard passed from Walter Levinge of Athlone to Jimmy Furey of Leecarrow and then since his demise (at a great age) to Dougal MacMahon of Athlone – thereby retaining Lough Ree’s reputation as the heartland of SOD construction - new names have emerged to the fore both in the racing and in the class administration, with the tradition of family involvement being stronger than ever.

Thus in 2021’s racing, the top overall prize, the Transom Trophy, was won by the Guy family of LDYC with number 142, second place going to the Mannions of Lough Ree with number 97, while third was another LRYC boat, number 73 sailed by David Dickson, uncle of Olympian Rob.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

Facing into the Centenary, the Class Chairman is Philip Mayne of Lough Ree who, like many other top Shannon OD sailors, has more to his sailing CV than just this one class, for among many other achievements he did a successful two-handed Round Britain and Ireland race in 1985 with Lough Derg’s Jocelyn Waller in the latter’s slim but slippy First Class 10 Silk.

The Shannon One Design Association Honorary Secretary is Naomi Algeo of Lough Ree YC, where her father Alan – a SOD sailor of many decades - has played many roles, including being Commodore.

Family matters…..SODA Hon. Sec. Naomi Algeo and her father Alan, former Lough Ree YC Commodore and longtime Shannon OD sailor.Family matters…..SODA Hon. Sec. Naomi Algeo and her father Alan, former Lough Ree YC Commodore and longtime Shannon OD sailor.

The programme to celebrate the Centenary will be developed as it becomes clear how the pandemic is moving and what becomes possible, though we can be sure that if it’s at all permissible, the Shannon One Designs will be doing it, and in considerable numbers too. Meanwhile, there’s a group effort in hand to publish the Centenary History before the magic hundred years are fully upon us all. Our thoughts are with the pictures editors in particular. The word is that they have 4,000 images - and counting – to choose between.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Lough Ree Yacht Club and the Shannon One Design Association on becoming the MG Motors Sailing Clubs of the year for 2022. Their joint achievements are so very special that if this informal and uniquely Irish contest hadn’t already been in existence for 43 years, it would be imperative to invent it immediately…….

The Guy family’s SOD No 142, Transom Trophy winner in 2021.The Guy family’s SOD No 142, Transom Trophy winner in 2021.

Published in W M Nixon

We’re into the last weekend in which the popular figure of James Horan will be making regular appearances on the Dun Laoghaire waterfront, and at national sailing occasions, as Commodore of the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Next week at the RIYC Annual general Meeting, he stands down from the top post after two hugely productive years in which he has guided and inspired one of Ireland’s – and indeed the world’s – premier clubs through an accelerating programme of development and success, afloat and ashore, writes W M Nixon

Commodore Horan will hand over to his successor a thriving club which is emerging from an outstanding year which resulted in it being acclaimed as the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year” 2016 at the National Sailing Awards in Dublin in February. And the RIYC faces confidently into this new season of 2016 - which will see it celebrate its 185th Anniversary – with the staging of several special events in addition to being well represented afloat, both nationally and internationally, at all levels right up to the Rio Olympics themselves.

Meanwhile, from the club’s elegant and well-equipped waterfront complex, the RIYC Training Division – current holder of the ISA’s Eastern Region Best Training Establishment Award – will continue to provide willing recruits to a fine sailing tradition in line with a club history which few comparable organisations anywhere in the world can match.

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The evening sunshine helps to match the neo-classic style of the Royal Irish YC’s 165-year-old clubhouse with the new Mitsubishi Outlander

But before next week’s significant change of the watch, there was one final and very appropriate celebratory event with which to mark the end of the James Horan Years. For many years now, it has been a tradition that although the Sailing Club of the Year Award is nationally announced early in the year, the process is not completed until a reception is held in the winning clubhouse for a final formal handover of the famous ship‘s wheel trophy “on site”, a tradition which facilitates all members of the club to share in its success in their home clubhouse, while also allowing the Commodore to highlight those who have made special effort or achieved great results to bring about the win.

As the RIYC’s beautiful building is the world’s oldest purpose-built sailing clubhouse still precisely intact as originally designed – for it was completed in 1851 to the plans of John Skipton Mulvany – there’s no denying the sense of history kept alive with its elegant interior and impressive exterior. But while respecting its heritage in every way, the RIYC can live lightly enough with its ever-present history, operating on the principle that it respects and cherishes the past, lives keenly and efficiently in the present, and looks enthusiastically, with vision and planning, towards the future.

So although you find yourself in what might seem to some to be a museum – albeit a stylish and very much living museum - this past Tuesday, when the ship’s wheel trophy was finally lodged in its new home for the next twelve months, it was definitely party time. Even the weather obliged with a hint of a spring evening, and with the clocks put forward (albeit by barely a wet week) there was just enough of the day left to have the club flagpole fully dressed in celebratory bunting without infringing on flag etiquette for the lowering of colours at sunset.

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A flash of sunshine highlighted the dressing of the club flagpole, while still allowing for proper regard of flag etiquette at sunset. Photo: W M Nixon

Within, the mood was warm, friendly and relaxed. And when we consider the RIYC record in 2015, being warm friendly and relaxed was the only option. Where to begin with a year’s sailing which successfully encompassed every aspect of our sport?

In fact, it’s scarcely fair to begin with just one year, as in recent decades the Royal Irish YC has been very much at the heart of Irish sailing, but in the past season one of its most dedicated owner-skippers, George Sisk, campaigned his 42–ft sloop WOW to become the Irish Cruiser-Racer AssociationBoat of the Year” after victories at national championships on the east and south coasts.

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George Sisk and Fintan Cairns

The longterm devotion of the club to its own and national sailing development was reflected in the fact that ICRA was co-founded in 2002 by another leading RIYC member, Fintan Cairns. He has also given distinguished service to Dublin Bay SC, and he was there on Tuesday with many of WOW’s decidedly senior crew (they say the acronym stands for “We Ould Wans”) to celebrate their own superb year, and a great year for their club.

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Michael Boyd, Commodore Royal Ocean Racing Club, puts the world to rights with Tom Power, who skippered the boat which won the 1987 Fastnet overall, and is now one of WOW’s crew with George Sisk

Another leading member, Michael Boyd, serves as Commodore of the global offshore racing organisation, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and his boat Quokka was top-placed Irish boat in the Fastnet Race 2015 to win the Gull Salver, and on Tuesday night he entertained us with awesome stories about the extreme conditions experienced during the RORC’s recent Easter Challenge Series in the Solent, when the fleet was frequently hit by huge 40 knots-plus mini-storms of the blackest hue, yet the harder it blew, the better the Irish boats seemed to do.

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Tim Goodbody, a former RIYC Commodore and Fastnet Race winner in 1987, who chaired the Dun Laoghaire Regatta Committee in 2015 and also won many prizes afloat during the past year, with Jacqueline McStay (Rear Commodore RIYC)

Back home in Dublin Bay, longtime RIYC member Tim Goodbody had served as Chairman of the Organising Committee for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in July, Ireland’s biggest event in 2015. But he also continued to win trophies when racing his own boat, and emerged as a top performer at the ICRA Championship in Kinsale, and as overall top scorer in Dublin Bay Sailing Club’s season-long championship. And all this from a sailor who in times past was a winning helmsman in the Fastnet Race, way back in 1987.

As for ocean cruising, Ireland’s premier national trophy - the Faulkner Cup which dates back to 1931 - has been awarded to Alan Rountree of the RIYC for his skill and determination in dealing with a severe storm in 2015 while returning single-handed from a voyage to the Azores in his 34ft yacht Tallulah, which he built himself. But then, when an RIYC member builds himself his dreamship at his remote house and workshop in the Wicklow Hills, you can be sure that the results will be a vessel superior to many professionally-finished craft.

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Rio qualified Olympic sailor Saskia Tidey, Brendan Farrell, and RIYC Marine Manager (and Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat cox’n) Mark McGibney

The news that Alan Rountree was the latest recipient of the Faulkner Cup only came towards the end of the year, but this sense of the Royal Irish Yacht Club being on a continuous and active journey which lasts for twelve months of every year was reinforced in the days leading up to this week’s ceremony, with the news that the club’s Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey had qualified for a place in the Rio Olympics 2016 in the Women’s Skiff. Saskia herself was there to join a celebration which was further enhanced by the latest news, that young Tim Norwood of the RIYC had qualified over the weekend in some challenging weather for the ISA Junior Pathway.

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Commodore Jim Horan, classic boat pace-setter Chris Craig, and Vice Commodore Paul Sherry

So Tuesday night provided a welcome and congenial breathing space in which to reflect on great achievements afloat in all sorts of condition, at all ages, and in all sorts of boats, while at the same time permitting refection on what makes one of Ireland’s many remarkable sailing clubs just that extra bit special in any particular year.

Billy Riordan of Mitsubishi Motors Ireland – himself a keen sailor, he’s an Oppie dad and an SB20 campaigner – outlined his company’s long association with the basically informal “Club of the Year” contest. It was actually first staged in 1979, but Mitsubishi Motors came aboard in 1986 - “We’ve been together since before the Berlin Wall fell” he quipped – so this year we’ll be celebrating a thirty year connection. While becoming Club of the Year may seem a light-hearted business with the fun of the hand-over ceremony, underneath it all there is serious thinking about what ensures a club is successful through providing the services required by its members while maintaining its traditions and updating them to modern needs.

At the same time, the club has to interact dynamically and successfully within the community – both the local community, at national level, and in the sailing community in general – and all this before it can devote its main energies to sailing, its promotion, its encouragement of newcomers, its training of juniors at whatever level, and ultimately all of it leading on the to the skilled and competent staging of major events, while on top of that there’s the quest for success and satisfaction by members in their own sailing and racing.

So running a major club is not for the faint-hearted, but in his thoughtful acceptance speech, Commodore Horan gave us much to reflect on about how he had sought to build on the sense of community of interest within the club at all levels both afloat and ashore, with a genuine interaction between the two, among members and staff alike. In achieving this, he had been greatly assisted by the RIYC’s Marine Manager Mark McGibney who – as the Commodore remarked – has succeeded in removing the mental barriers between sea and land within the RIYC complex. “The club no longer ends at the quayside, and the marina no longer ends at the quayside – the two now interact in the most healthy way, and we are all part of each other’.

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A Commodore relaxes – Jim Horan with Jill Gibson Holman and Hugh Cunniam

Quite how Mark McGibney manages all this with such seemingly effortless success is a matter of wonder, as he is also the Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat cox’n. But he does, and the contribution he and the staff have made to the success and hospitable reputation which the RIYC has built up in the sailing community, while still functioning as a club whose ultimate responsibility is to its own members, is a wonder to behold.

All this is taking place in and around a 165-year-old building which is immaculately maintained in authentic style, for after all the Commodore – who has his own very quiet but extremely effective way of getting things done – is one of Ireland’s leading conservation architects. But he’s a keen sailor too, so he knows the needs of those who sail the sea, and as someone who appreciates the finer things in life, he is supported by a very keen house staff who ensure that the hospitality provided by the RIYC is in keeping with its great traditions and current prestige.

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That end of term feeling. Shortly to retire RIYC Commodore James Horan (right) who stands down next week, is congratulated by ISA President David Lovegrove (left) whose AGM is today (Saturday) but he still has another year to serve

With the formal business out of the way, the official party could then mingle with the members, many of whom had already taken up that evening’s mainbrace and begun splicing it with considerable vigour. With a gathering of that calibre, the range of boat and topics, plans and techniques, and news and gossip being covered was mind-boggling, while at the same time hugely informative. Just as you’d expect, in fact, when the Club of the Year is contentedly and convivialy at home.

Published in W M Nixon

In the three decades and more of the Mitsubishi Motors/Irish Independent "Sailing Club of the Year" assessments, there has never been an organization only seven years old winning the title.

In fact, seniority has often won the day, though in a country in which the oldest sailing clubs date from 1720 (Royal Cork) and 1770 (Lough Derg), it's difficult to find clubs and associations which are anything less than centenarians, let alone not yet in double figures.

But it was only as recently as June 2003 that the Irish Cruiser Racing Association came into being. It was at the biennial Sovereign's Cup series in Kinsale that Fintan Cairns of Dun Laoghaire, enthusiastically supported by the late Jim Donegan of Cork and other key personnel, successfully launched the idea of a nationwide organisation to co-ordinate the racing sport of "boats with lids".

At the time, it was a leap of vision. Having successfully headed Dublin Bay Sailing Club at a time of rapid growth, he was able to see the picture more clearly than those who reckoned that offshore racing organisations should be related to bodies of water rather than a land mass, for all that we're on an island.

Then too, the new association was envisaged as using established clubs and their facilities to stage its championship. In other words, the ICRA organising team would be the travelling people of the Irish sailing scene. On top of that, handicap competition with cruiser-racers was derided as "truck racing" by the white hot one design and dinghy sailors.

Yet the idea took hold, and the annual championship was successfully staged at venues as various as Crosshaven, Tralee, Howth, Kinsale and Dun Laoghaire, with Denis Kiely the essential ace number-cruncher in the back office. And in May 2010, with the mighty machine of the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire providing the administrative centre, the Liebherr Irish Cruiser Nationals in Dublin Bay attracted a fleet of 117 boats, with great sailing.

On that event alone, ICRA would have been among the front runners for Club of the Year. But the best was yet to come. In recessionary times, getting a three boat team together to make a worthwhile challenge for the biennial Rolex International Commodore's Cup was a matter of making the best of limited resources. But ICRA – currently under the leadership of Barry Rose of Cork - was up to the job.

The team of Anthony O'Leary's Antix, Dave Dwyer's marinerscove.ie, and Rob Davis and Andrew Creighton's Roxy 6, had a convincing win. Thus ICRA in one season had catered very well for general run of boats and crews at home, and had come out tops at the top level internationally. It doesn't get better than that, and we salute them as Sailing Club of the Year 2011.

Published in ICRA

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