Displaying items by tag: sailing
#sailing – Sailing is a sport, not the qualification of a superior social standing.
Is that fully understood by everyone involved in the sport or is there still an element of elitism which needs to be eradicated?
The term 'yachting' was dropped a few years from the title of the national representative organisation which became the Irish Sailing Association, amidst an apparent belief that 'sailing' would be less elitist as a descriptive term and more acceptable to the public.
Most 'yacht' clubs did not become 'sailing' clubs, though there are more 'sailing clubs' it would seem than 'yacht' clubs around the country. Boats did not generally become described in the American term of 'sailboats' but remained yachts.
I see no major problem with the term 'yachting' though I understand the sensitivities which surround the different terminology. I have no qualms about admitting that I own a yacht and feel fortunate to do so.
What is of more concern to me is that the sport becomes truly a 'sport for all' and is not riddled with different levels of social strata.
There remains a degree of public perception that sailing is an elitist sport. This has dogged it gaining more general acceptance and bedevilled its reputation.
Sailing, or yachting, should be a 'sport for all' in an island nation where it is based on access to the magnificent resource of waters surrounding us.
The perception of wealthy people with big boats, sitting in clubs behind signs of 'strictly private', is not conducive to creating a widely popular sport. There is a dichotomy here because the growth of interest amongst young sailors, with more involvement in dinghy sailing such as through Optimists, has been encouraging. So has the advent of more interest in schools in adopting sailing onto their sports curricula.
The movement for change within the ISA came initially from the dinghy fraternity, where many of us who now sail cruisers, began their love affair with the sport.
The breakthrough which sailing needs, to gain more general popular public acceptance, has not been made.
People sail boats of all types
Why is this?
Throughout my years of being a marine journalist and when marine correspondent within RTE, it was difficult to get coverage for sailing. I did achieve it, but there was always a bit of a battle to establish acceptance that the sport was not just for the wealthier part of the population, but that it permeated across all social milieu. I did get that message across by quoting figures of how many are actively involved in a day's racing organised by major clubs, compared with the attendance for example at some Irish soccer matches which got plenty of media coverage. I also stressed that it was a participative sport more than a spectator one. More people within the broadcast service have become involved in the sport. But generally in the media, there is still an impression that sailing is a sport for which you need a lot of money and this is perpetuated by the oft-quoted unfortunate analogy of standing under a cold shower and tearing up money.
But sailing – and yacht – clubs are also contributors to this failure to get the message of sailing as a sport for all across. In my experience as a journalist, most clubs are poor at their public relations and the issuing of information to the press, but yet complain that the sport does not get enough coverage, even if they do not provide the information. There are honourable exceptions, who provide good circulation of information and websites, but there are many other clubs who are pretty bad at sending information and whose websites are dismal failures, not updated for long periods of time.
At the annual meeting of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association in Kinsale Yacht Club in the Spring one participant told the audience that "yacht clubs to most people would be the scariest places to walk into."
Another said: "It is no wonder that we struggle as a sport to keep people as lifelong participants, even though we can and do attract younger people into the sport at an early age."
The warning signs have been there for years, for those who wanted to note them. Sailing needed to widen its appeal, to get more people into the sport for lifelong participation.
To survive a sport needs an organised structure and clubs are needed to provide this, they must have members who pay to join and support them. They cannot exist if people use them without joining and therefore not giving on-going financial and volunteer support.
So there is a dichotomy here. Why are clubs not getting enough members, a situation which appears widespread?
The economy over the past few years has undoubtedly been a contributory factor. People have lacked disposable income and, amongst families in particular, expenditure on non-essential matters has had to be cutback. Some clubs have responded with different arrangements for membership, but as I wrote in this blog last week, I still think that new, flexible approaches are needed, particularly to encourage crews, of which most active racing boats are short.
There are also people who sail and who do not join clubs, either they don't want to, or can't or there are not clubs close to them or for whatever reason. But they do sail, are they outside of the system and should they be considered. How can they be appealed to because they are involved in the sport. There are the traditional boats and the huge support they get. Some are members of the ISA, some of clubs, but many not so perhaps. There is a huge level of support for sailing in this sphere and many organised events which draw big support. Should the ISA reach out to these sailors, to this area of sailing activity?
This and many other aspects merit consideration to band together all interested in sailing, in all its facets. United in approach there would be a strong force which official authorities could not ignore when improved facilities and recognition are sought or when government and officialdom has to be challenged, such as in the imposition of new regulations.
On this month's edition of my radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION, (click to play podcast above) I talked to the President of the Irish Sailing Association about his plan for a Strategic Review of the sport to deal with a decline and he accepted my suggestion that the impression of elitism is not good for the sport and has not helped its expansion and development. We also discussed whether there was too much concentration on racing and whether more support should be given to other forms of sailing, encouraging cruising.
David Lovegrove wants to get across the message that sailing is open to everyone. He would be particularly happy, he told me, if he could get that understood and accepted widely in public. We discussed how sailing can be a sport for all ages and for all people, with the uniqueness of enabling families to participate together if they wished. He recalled the time when he first got involved in sailing and the enjoyment and sense of friendship that abounded. Perhaps too, we agreed, there was less concentration then on being winners in racing and in high performance levels.
Ocean racer Damian Foxall of County Kerry
I think there is a need for Ireland to have a good presence on the international scene and that it is good for the country. It is also good for sailors to aspire to the highest levels of achievement, but have we got over-committed to competition to the detriment of the enjoyment of participation, of being on the water. Had the ISA also been too focussed on its own high performance programme and those who qualify for it and not given enough support to other sailors who may not have made it through the ISA system, but want to try on the international scene and should there be arrangements to support that. Also, for example, has the ISA been close enough to the top international sailors who have come from Ireland and sought to include them and utilise their services in promoting Irish sailing, such as Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery and where is the ISA in regard to the efforts of such as young David Kenefick making his own way onto the international scene through the Figaro Race.
All of these are interesting points to debate.
I take part in club racing, but I always try to make it clear to the crew that we are going out to enjoy ourselves and winning is not the overall aim, though it would be nice and we have been fortunate enough to do so from time-to-time. I don't like shouting on a boat, though sometimes getting something done quickly when needed can raise the vocal level. But if the enjoyment is taken out of the sport, that is not for the best.
All forms of sailing need to be engaged
Again, here we have a dichotomy, other sports are hugely competitive-oriented, why should sailing not be?
There are issues to be addressed and I wish David Lovegrove and his team every success as they try to come up with answers. He told me in our interview, that this would not be a short-term solution, but would take a lot of work and commitment by the clubs themselves. Indeed. As I wrote in this blog last week, encouraging participation is essential to arrest decline. That will mean more innovative ways of involving people, a point which Denis Kiely, who has given tremendous national service to sailing made at that SCORA meeting in Kinsale and which impressed me.
He said that often crews did not get enough of a proper introduction to the sport, didn't have enough knowledge of it and weren't given such, didn't get training, could therefore feel unwelcome and then leave the sport.
Club marinas are pretty full of boats around the country, so it is at times hard to accept that there is a decline in participation, but the meetings which have led to the new approach by the ISA have shown problems, including dissatisfaction with the national association itself. David Lovegrove has accepted this and the need for change.
He spoke to me of his enthusiasm about the work ahead to re-define the sport and his confidence in the team he has appointed to oversee different aspects of the sport and to suggested changes. These are outlined in detail in the current/Summer edition of AFLOAT magazine.
His determination to create a strong, vibrant sport, is welcome. I wish him success with his efforts. Listen to his interview in my programme here on the Afloat website (above). Everyone interested in the future of our sport should respond positively. That commitment is what the sport needs.
So – who is to blame for the decline in sailing – all of us are, if we do not make changes to encourage more people into the sport and to stay in it and if we do not adapt existing systems to ensure they feel welcome. That means all of us who want to see sailing being a sport for all accepting that sailing is just that - a sport - not a badge of social approval.
#irishsailing – After five years of economic contraction, there are signs of recovery, and the 2014 Irish sailing season has also got off to a flying start. W M Nixon looks at various signs of new energy and initiatives, and sees how they might be affecting stories which have been run on this blog and in the Afloat.ie website during the past year. But he concedes that further cost reductions will be necessary for the good of the sport.
A year ago, any talk of green shoots in Ireland was almost entirely metaphorical. And it was in the economic sphere, though even there they were still few and far between, with many soon stunted. But out in the farmers' fields themselves, out where the grass should have been growing, there was scarcely a sign of life as we were still trapped in the coldest and most miserable Spring in living memory, and all forms of growth and recovery were blighted by it.
Sailing and boating, of all sports, are the most affected by Ireland's climatic conditions. Not only is the mood among participants strongly influenced by weather which sometimes can get anyone down, but without reasonable breezes, sailing events are seriously impaired. "We got a result!" may well be the PRO's final desperate claim after pulling some sort of a points table and leaderboard out of a series bedevilled either by too much or too little wind. But it's so much better to have a series bathed in sunshine and blessed by fine breezes, with enough races sailed for the crews to go home tired but happy without needing recourse to any of those weasel words which show you're only trying to justify a weekend of frustration.
Things could not be more different this year. The Spring of 2014 has been perfection, boats are going afloat on time and in reasonable weather conditions, and the first little crop of events and results are very encouraging indeed - so encouraging, in fact, that "little crop" doesn't do them justice.
That said, two of the nearer events which gave special cause for Irish celebration did not have perfect weather throughout. The Youth Sailing Nationals at Howth may have ended on a high with a great breeze in an early taste of summer sunshine, but one day out of the four was lost to bad weather. But the sting of that was lessened by the decision for "no racing all day" being taken at 1100hrs, which allows other leisure options to kick in.
The IRC Easter Championship in the Solent concluded through Easter Monday literally with "Darkness at Noon" – the heavy clouds and torrential rain on an almost windless day saw the final races being sailed with nav lights on. But there had been excellent racing on earlier days, and a very excellent result with Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39 Antix from Cork the clear supreme champion.
Doing the business. Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39 Antix settling into the groove on the way to the top place in the Easter IRC Championship. Photo: Rick Tomlinson
That in turn augured well for Ireland's Commodore's Cup chances, which then received a further boost last weekend when the crew of another Irish team wannabe, Quokka with Michael Boyd and Niall Dowling, had a winning weekend in the Warsash series with their temporary mount Tarka in anticipation of Quokka's return from the Caribbean at the end of May.
The Colours Match team racing between UCD and Trinity served up top sport in the Liffey, with Trinity winning. Photo: W M Nixon
Meanwhile the universities racing has been brought to life, for although UCD had a convincing win in the racing with the SailFleet J/80s to become the Irish team for the Student Yachting Worlds in France in the Autumn, before April was out the Colours Match in the Liffey under the burgee of the Royal Alfed YC, team-raced in Fireflies, saw Trinity take the honours in convincing style.
But if we're looking for something which really did set things freshly alight, it was out in Hyeres where the ISAF Championship saw the northern duo of Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern take silver in the 49er, almost immediately moving them up the global rankings from 33 to 11, a quantum leap and no mistake.
The potential for serious success by these two has been fairly obvious for some time, but anyone who sails boats will know only too well how many factors have to come into alignment to get you up among the magic metals at the end of the day.
Stars of the silver sea – the Seaton/McGovern team took a silver medal for Ireland at Hyeres.
That their new global status was almost immediately acknowledged by this rankings improvement will in turn add heft to everything they do and say. Thus when, some time ago, the Ryan/Seaton equipe suggested that the 2016 Olympics sailing waters in Brazil are so off the standard as to be a health hazard, it attracted polite attention. But now that they're Number 11, and still counting down, much more notice is taken. And the fact that the Vice President of the International Olympic Committee has suggested, with something approaching despair, that the facilities in Brazil just aren't going to be ready for 2016 at any standard, all gives added legs to the statement from Ireland's 49er crew.
This in turn makes us wonder where world sailing might go in 2016 if the Brazilian setup is still Work in Progress. With tongue only slightly in cheek, we suggest they need look no further than West Cork, where Baltimore Sailing Club has been expanding its facilities to meet increased demand as a club which last year introduced something like 700 people to sailing. That BSC and current Mitsubishi Motors "Club of the Year" Kinsale YC further east along the West Cork coast have both been putting in premises up-grade during the past year, while other clubs have been having it tough, and just about hanging in there in some cases, surely gives pause for thought.
Olympic venue? The extended and up-graded Baltimore Sailing Club is ready and raring to go.
The economic shakeout of the past five years has caused a massive write-down in the value of almost all property and other assets. And in the case of yacht and sailing clubs, there has been a detailed examination of the continuing validity, or otherwise, of established yacht clubs and their traditional business model of quite high subscriptions under-writing other facilities which in turn combine to provide the complete package of an orthodox yacht club.
Inevitably, most clubs are run by officers and committee members who have been involved with the club for many years. Thus, like people who have been running a quality hotel for decades, they may have an inflated notion of what their organisation and its premises are actually worth. Admittedly there's only limited usefulness in comparing a yacht club with a hotel, but lessons can surely be learned. The fact is that hotels today are worth maybe only a third or even less of what they were reckoned to be worth six years ago. And equally, while yachts clubs certainly have a unique package to offer, is it unusual enough and special enough to charge high subscriptions when there are alternative facilities and services available?
The dilemma arises to some extent in all sailing centres. Last week we were discussing the story of the development of Howth YC. Today it is in the seemingly happy situation of having its own marina, thus it theoretically can offer an attractive all-in-one package to any potential member. But the very fact that Howth YC has done so much to help make Howth a colourful and vibrant sailing/fishing port is partly to its own disadvantage. The place has developed as a remarkable focus for top seafood restaurants. This means that the extensive club catering facilities – expected by traditional members - are constantly battling for business with a whole slew of award-winning eateries and characterful pubs nearby.
The problem is more acute in Dun Laoghaire in that the only club within the marina area is the Royal Irish YC. Thus while people may have been loyal members of the National, the Royal St George and the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, they find that after going out in the boat, it's very easy to round out the evening aboard in the marina, chatting among themselves or with other crews on boats nearby, and then head straight for home without making their number in their home clubs at all.
This situation is less in evidence at weekends and during special events. But nevertheless it was causing such a lessening in mid-week club vitality that various steps have been taken, and the Royal St George's move to take over berths in a block booking in the outer marina, and service them by a frequent ferry direct from the clubhouse, is a visionary step.
The Royal St George YC has introduced a direct ferry service from the clubhouse to its group of berths in the outer marina in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: David O'Brien
To overcome a lack of direct access to the Dun Laoghaire Marina, the Royal St George YC is running a ferry service from its clubhouse (to right of Stena Ferry, foreground) to the berths in the Outer Marina (upper left) Photo Kevin Dwyer/courtesy ICC.
Nevertheless, in all club administrations there are those who are of the opinion that, whatever the Honorary Treasurers may believe, there has to be a radical re-think of the primary subscription levels. In essence, they're suggesting that the book value of the club has to be written down such that subscriptions are halved. Personally, I haven't much of a notion of how to read a balance sheet, but the dogs in the street know that in the hospitality industry – which, in the broadest sense, is the area in which yacht and sailing clubs operate – values have been savagely slashed, and while charges may still seem high, at least the places are surviving as going concerns.
With continuing reduction in expenses across the board, one area in which there seems to be much work afoot is in the Irish Sailing Association, which in latter days had begun to seem like some hidden corner of the civil service, existing more for the benefit of staff than for the provision of services for sailors. It's amazing to learn that the ISA has sixteen fulltime staff, and a basic annual wages bill of something like €600,000. When you add in the expected benefits, it musty come in total to a very tidy yearly sum.
What on earth do they all do? While you'll invariably find the ISA logo in prominence at some top events, it has to be said that you're entirely unaware of the organisation's existence in any form at more everyday happenings, and it doesn't seem to be because they believe in doing good work by stealth. But with special study groups resulting from the major changes introduced in the ISA setup at the AGM in March, we can only hope that in time the Association will reflect the cost-cutting which has had to be introduced in the clubs, which provide the main part of the ISA's income.
While the administrative structures are rightfully being pared back in many areas of our sport, the coastal infrastructure, on which all forms of seagoing ultimately depend, continues to need maintenance and development. In this area, one very promising green shoot is the news that there are signs of movement in Dunmore East. A dredging programme is getting under way, and just this Tuesday, Minister for Marine Simon Coveney TD convened a meeting in the port to inaugurate a community approach to harbour development which, it is hoped, will help to invigorate the many places around Waterford Estuary, for which Dunmore East has the potential to be the true gateway harbour.
Dunmore East – can it fulfil its potential as the gateway leisure port for the Waterford Estuary? Photo Kevin Dwyer, courtesy ICC
In a more extreme marine environment, it has been confirmed that €6 million will be spent on improving the pier at Doolin in northwest Clare, the nearest mainland quay to the Aran Islands, which also caters for the tour boats cruising along the Cliffs of Moher. While the locals seem well pleased, I wouldn't get too excited about it. This is one very rugged part of the coast, and when you remember that it took €31 million to extend the pier at Kilronan in Inismor, the main Aran island, and another €14 million to build the little harbour at the north end of Inis Meain, the middle Aran island, then we can only hope that €6 million is going to achieve something more than a few boulders being shifted about in the roaring ocean at Doolin.
The pier at Doolin is decidedly minimalist, but it provides the shortest sea passage to the Aran Islands. Photo: W M Nixon
But then, in the west all things are possible, and along the ocean seaboard we're told that four thousand signs are being erected to guide people along the Wild Atlantic Way, the new tourism initiative using many smaller coastal roads. Quite so. Frankly, with signage at this level, it will be the Tame Atlantic Way by the time half of them are in place. I have to admit to being a complete curmudgeon in this. In many years of transitting Ireland's west coast by sea and land, one of our favourite areas while driving along the west coast has long been the coast south of Kilkee down to Loop Head, where the cliffs comfortably rival anything the vulgar Cliffs of Moher have to offer, and it is magnificently uncrowded. But not any more, if the Wild Atlantic Way movement has its way.
While I appreciate that visitor numbers have to be kept up and increased whenever and however, it has to be done in a way which appreciates that's what brings people to Ireland (rather than just to Dublin, which is a special case) is an unspoilt landscape. So, four thousand signs just for the one Atlantic Way? Ogden Nash had something to say about this:
"I think that I shall never see,
A billboard lovely as a tree.
But then, until the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all".
Be that as it may, the final sign that suggests things are on the move again is a notice I spotted recently posted at a nearby club, though language pedants might wonder how a notice which manages to mangle so utterly the plural of "dinghy", even to adding a completely superfluous greengrocer's apostrophe, could be seen as encouraging in any way whatsoever.
Well, once you've overcome your opinions about the errors, the underlying message must be good news. More youngsters are evidently coming to sailing this year. And as for the spelling mistake, even that's an improvement. A year ago, the same notice board opened by referring to something called "a dingy", but this time round we have to get to the second line before finding that. And it all comes right for dinghies in the end.
Sign of the times? Whatever about the spelling, this current notice at an Irish sailing club has an underlying message of good news. Photo: W M Nixon
#sailingclubs – Feedback is required by Government 'on the safe and sustainable commercial provision of higher risk adventure activities' including sailing. In an initiative that will be of interest to Irish sailing clubs, sailing centres and instructors, the Irish Sports Council is inviting adventure activities providers to give their feedback on safety and standards in the adventure activities sector, and the development of a register of adventure activity providers.
According to the Sports Council the consultation process provides an opportunity for the adventure activities sector to consider and comment on the means by which current good practice in the sector might be consistently achieved, to support the safe and sustainable commercial provision of higher risk adventure activities.
John Treacy CEO, Irish Sports Council "I invite providers of adventure activities to attend one of the consultation meetings to discuss safeguarding, strengthening and promoting good safety practice within the adventure sector, or to make a written submission to the Council. This information will greatly assist the Council in developing a sensible and proportionate framework to address safety and standards. "
The consultation process includes a series of six meetings with adventure activity providers, as well as the opportunity for written submissions. They will be of interest primarily to commercial adventure activity providers but also to adventure activity instructors. The meetings will take place in Dublin, Galway, Sligo, Monaghan, Macroom and Carlow and will provide an opportunity for collaboration and feedback on shaping future safety standards within the sector.
Michael Ring T.D., Minister of State for Sport and Tourism "Last year, I asked the Irish Sports Council to examine the issues associated with safety and standards in the adventure activities sector, and the development of a register of adventure activity providers. Stakeholder consultation is an integral part of the process which will enable the Council to consider a wide range of views and take account of them in whatever proposals emerge"
The Irish Sports council also welcome written submissions about how current good practice in the safe commercial provision of higher risk adventure activities might be supported through legislation. Submissions can be sent up until 9th May to: Email: [email protected]
Post: Adventure Consultation, Irish Sports Council, Top Floor, Block A, Westend Office Park, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15
#PaddysDay - After months of storm-force winds, relentless rain and flooding, and often freezing conditions, there's finally some light on the horizon - as Met Éireann says the weather will be mostly dry and settled for the coming weeks.
As TheJournal.ie reports, a persistent high-pressure system is bringing us sunshine every day this week as we head towards St Patrick's Day next Monday.
That's great news for those planning to attend St Patrick's Festival events around Ireland this weekend - not least Ireland's many boaters, who will surely be itching to get their vessels out of winter storage and back on the water to enjoy the late spring and summer season.
Landlubbers in the capital, meanwhile, can also make the most of the fine weather by taking part in the annual Harbour 2 Harbour walk raising funds for mental health charity Aware.
As always, the 25km route runs between Howth and Dun Laoghaire, with participants free to walk either direction around Dublin Bay. For details on how to take part and get sponsorship see the Aware website HERE.
And while in Dun Laoghaire, why not pay a visit to the new exhibition of sailing paintings at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland.
Of Sail and Ships, which has its official launch this Wednesday 12 March, displays some of the museum's collection of some 400 paintings, charts and other images, along with winners of the Marine Institute's recent children's art competition.
#Sailing - "Sailing as we know it is officially over" is the strongest message to emerge from the two-day World Yacht Racing Forum and Yacht Racing Design and Technology Symposium held earlier this week (10-11 December) in Gothenburg.
But as Craig Leweck writes for Scuttlebutt, that grand statement doesn't speak for the majority of sailing enthusiasts not active in the "professional layer" of the sport.
No doubt the innovations and radical changes that sailing has witnessed this year, and will continue to see in coming years, will trickle down to the smaller classes and recreational vessels - and that's aside from the expected shake-up of the ISA in the New Year - but for now, posits Leweck, evolution is purely for the pros. Scuttlebutt has more on the story HERE.
Meanwhile, what do you think of the state of sailing today? Are you seeing any benefits from developments in the professional tier? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below
In this Irish Sailing review of 2013, W M Nixon looks back on a year of the unexpected. There were reversals of fortune where some top sailors had seemed set for success, but new stars emerged to provide hope for the future. And perhaps best of all, after a gruesome start, the weather relented at mid-summer to provide one of the best sailing seasons in years.
Thanks to the diaspora of Irish sailing talent with the Paddy presence continually increasing in Australia, these days we effectively have a year-round sailing season, and major southern hemisphere events like the Sydney-Hobart are seen as an associated part of the year's events at home.
Thus New Year's Day has the useful distraction of a leisurely perusal of the results from Hobart, and January 1st 2013 was most satisfactory. Gordon Maguire may not have repeated his overall win of the 2011 race with Stephen Ainsworth's superb 63ft Loki, but he was tops of his class, comfortably out-sailing every boat of comparable size, and his second overall to Bob Oatley's hundred footer Wild Oats XI (which had also established a new course record) meant that the Irish skipper was confirmed as clear overall winner of the Australian Offshore Championship 2012-2013, a very satisfactory conclusion to the five year Ainsworth-Maguire partnership
Back home meantime, winter was tightening its grip, and even the hyper-keen Fireballs frost-biting in Dun Laoghaire found their turnouts occasionally down to single figures, though the Lasers in Howth in their 38th winter season found numbers holding up well, with prizes well spread among several Leinster clubs. The growing turnout including sailors whose fathers – and possibly even grandfathers – had sailed in that first Laser league way back in 1974. Ronan Cull won the Standards, Aoife Hopkins the Radials, and Daragh Sheridan won the Grand Masters.
But for most sailing folk, January and February are for hibernation with just the occasional emergence to honour some notable achievement from the previous season, and better still several previous seasons. So it was a very special AGM of the Irish Cruising Club in February in Dun Laoghaire when Fergus & Kay Quinlan of Bell Harbour on Galway Bay took the premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup which dates back to 1931, for the third year in a row for their exemplary global circumnavigation in the 12 metre cutter Pylades, which Fergus built himself in steel.
The homemade success – Fergus and Kay Quinlan's 12m van de Stadt-designed Pylades
Winter showed little sign of easing in Ireland in March, but the sailing in the Caribbean area was at its best, and at the Star Class 86th Bacardi Cup series in Miami, Cork's Peter O'Leary was right in the hunt for a podium place in the fleet of 63 boats. But having to carry a 27th after he'd discarded a 36th meant he finished 8th overall, despite his scorecard including a 1st, 2nd and 6th.
So it was a junior brother of the O'Leary clan of Crosshaven, young Rob, who was most in the sailing headlines in March, as he stood down from sailing in the Universities Team Racing Championship over the St Patrick's Weekend in mid-March at Tralee Bay SC in order to put all his efforts into organising this Firefly racing in Kerry for 28 teams which included international input.
Rob O'Leary was trebly rewarded for his altruism, for in a weekend when the rest of Ireland was suffering snow and storms, somehow Tralee Bay had its own very sailable micro-climate. And the crowded programme was handsomely completed, with the organiser having the satisfaction of seeing his own squad from University of Limerick, captained by Ross Murray, emerge as champions.
Ross Murray captained the winning University of Limerick team in the Irish Universities team Racing Championship at Tralee Bay over the St Patrick's Weekend in mid-March.
Then in the following month O'Leary had his chance at the helm, and he took it in style to make Limerick the winners of the Student Yachting Worlds Selection Trials, raced over four Saturdays in April in the SailFleet J/80s at Howth. University College Dublin having won the SYW in October 2012 by a huge margin, they'd a place as of right in the 2013 Worlds, thus Limerick were in theory poised to make the Irish 2013 challenge even more formidable. But as we shall see, the ephemeral nature of college sailing personnel meant that April 2013 was really when Irish college sailing was at its peak for the year.
There was no easy optimism about the new season during May, as a bitterly cold Spring hampered sailing enthusiasm. However, the big winds which often came with the low temperatures suited Olympian Annalise Murphy racing at the Delta Lloyd Spa Regatta in the Netherlands, and she won Gold in style. But those rugged conditions were daunting for others, particularly among the dedicated contingent sailing to the Scottish Series in wintry headwinds. Conditions relented during the event itself, but Irish boats missed out on the frame, though Liam Shanahan's J/109 Ruth, largely crewed by junior instructors from the National YC, was well in contention.
Summer arrived suddenly at the end of May, just in time to provide 24 boats of the Cruising Association of Ireland with idyllic conditions for a Cruise-in-Company to North Wales. Back home in Dublin Bay, that first Bank Holiday Weekend of June had fine weather for the visit of the Old Gaffers Association, celebrating their Golden Jubilee with a rolling Round Britain Cruise which came far enough west to take in Dublin and Belfast.
The Old Gaffers Race in Dublin Bay. This is Dutch skipper Rik Janssen's own-built steel Galway Hooker Cine Mara developing full power. Photo: Barry O'Loughlin
Sean Walsh of the Dublin Bay OGA won the Golden Jubilee Race Series in the bay with his Heard 28 Tir na nOg by taking third in the Leinster Plate, and then winning the Asgard Trophy. Photo: Barry O'Loughlin
Dickie Gomes' 101-year-old Ringsend-built 36ft yawl Ainmara from Strangford Lough on her way to winning the Leinster Plate race staged by Poolbeg Y & BC of Ringsend. It was the first time Ainmara had been back to Ringsend in 90 years. Photo: Barry O'Loughlin
It was Dublin Bay – thanks in part to the involvement of the 115-year-old Howth 17s – which provided more gaff rigged boats than anywhere else except the final Golden Jubilee assembly in the Solent in mid-August, and with Dublin Bay's racing tradition, they'd sport afloat, ashore, and in the River Liffey. DBOGA stalwart Sean Walsh with his Heard 28 Tir na nOg got the best overall result by winning the concluding race for the Asgard Trophy, and taking third in the opening race for the Leinster Plate, where the winner was Dickie Gomes's 101 year old 36ft yawl Ainmara from Strangford Lough, celebrating her return to her birthplace of Ringsend after an absence of 90 years.
The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race got going on Friday June 7th with a good fleet of 22 boats, and for much of the race it looked as though RORC flag officer Anthony O'Leary of Crosshaven was going to take both line honours and the handicap win with his Ker 39 Antix. But a parking lot for the leaders in Dingle Bay saw results being inverted to provide an exuberantly celebrated victory for Tralee Bay's Brian O'Sullivan with his veteran Oyster 37 Amazing Grace.
Brian O'Sullivan's vintage Oyster 37 Amazing Grace racing in the ICRA Nationals in Tralee Bay after winning the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race overall. Photo: Bob Bateman
It was ironic that Tralee benefited from this brief calm off Dingle, for the middle weekend of June saw a distinct and savage kink in the weather with some very rugged conditions for the ICRA Nationals at Tralee Bay itself. That said, when the sailing was good, it was very good indeed, and with the ICRA event moving on seamlessly from the WIORA championship, a good turnout saw some excellent sport with the new Xp33 Bon Exemple helmed by Colin Byrne of Dun Laoghaire proving best of the visitors, while the veteran Dehler Optima 101 Dis-a-Ray (Ray McGibney, Foynes YC) put in an excellent performance across the two championships combined to maintain the honour of the Atlantic seaboard.
The uneven conditions in June as the summer of 2013 slowly settled into place had also provided brisk conditions at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta at the former Olympic venue at Weymouth, and the Irish squad revelled in it, with northern duo Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern developing the promise shown at the Olympics 2012 to take Gold in the 49er, while Annalise Murphy took Bronze.
That spell of foul weather at mid-June also made things difficult for an Irish Cruising Club rally to the Isles of Scilly, but despite very unfavourable conditions crossing the Celtic Sea, 14 boats out of an intended 19 reached those enchanted isles, and the programme was largely completed. There was still plenty of breeze about when the large multihulls from France in the Routes des Princes arrived in Dun Laoghaire, but even so normal DBSC Saturday afternoon racing was busily under way when the big multis called off their racing after spectators were treated to the first of the MOD 70s' two capsizes in 2013. It was a publicist's dream, having something as spectacular as this happening on a Saturday afternoon in a natural ampitheatre like Dublin Bay, but it wasn't much fun for the crewman who sustained a badly fractured pelvis which resulted in a summer spent unexpectedly in Tallaght Hospital. And as for the jolly boaters of DBSC, they just carried on racing.
It took some time for the weather to renew its promise of early June, so there was still plenty of breeze about when a new event made its debut, RIOTI on Lough Ree on Thursday June 27th. There has been talk for years of an alternative to the biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow, but 2013 was when it finally happened. Lough Ree is as near the middle of Ireland as you can get, it's eminently suitable to race round, so the first Round Ireland On The Inside Race was staged by assorted eccentrics in some style, with Pat Mahon's Folkboat Ventus (Lough Ree YC) winning the cruisers, while Frank Browne of Portlaw in County Waterford won the Shannon One Designs, and Ian Malcolm of Howth led the Water Wags in an event which deserves to become a classic, and maybe even an annual one.
Pat Mahon's Folkboat Ventus (Lough Ree YC) won the cruiser class in the new RIOTI Photo: W M Nixon
Down on the south coast, meanwhile Commodore Cameron Good and his members opened their much improved clubhouse for Kinsale YC nicely in time for the Sovereigns Cup at the end of June, which saw a welcome return of wall-to-wall summer weather and glorious racing for crews many of whom were still licking their wounds from the rugged racing on Tralee Bay. But though it was basically an IRC and ECHO racing festival, it was the gallant veterans of the 1720 Sportsboat class who stole the limelight, with Olympian Peter O'Leary turning in a stellar performance with Spiced Beef to win the overall prize.
Superb racing in the Sovereigns Cup Photo: Bob Bateman
"They haven't gone away you know...." In fact, far from fading away, the Cork 1720s produced the winner of the Sovereign's Cup. Photo: Bob Bateman
July found the summer settling itself in comfortably over Ireland, and entries for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta accelerated as the dates approached and people realised that this "ultimate suburban sailfest" offered a very convenient opportunity to make hay while the sun shone. Which it did, and big time too, for the entire event. Though some of the 400 or so competing boats (120 of them visiting) might have enjoyed more breeze, skilled race officers used the special effects provided by tides and sea breezes to complete a busy programme for an astonishing total of 13 classes, with Nigel Biggs' classic Rob Humphreys Half Tonner Checkmate XV being best overall with a clean sheet to prepare her for victory in the World Half Ton Classics in France in September.
The vintage Half Tonner Checkmate XV (Nigel Biggs) was top scorer in the huge fleet in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in July, and then went on to win the Half Ton Classic Worlds. Photo: Aidan Tarbett
VDLR 2013 – OVERALL RESULTS.
IRC CLASS 0 1. Grand Cru II (J McGarry) 2. Zephyr (S Cowie) 3. Dark Angel (A Ackland)
IRC CLASS 1 Bon Exemple (X Yachts GB) 2. Now or Never 3 (N Sandford) 3. Rockabill V (P O'Higgins)
IRC CLASS 2 1. Checkmate XV (N Biggs) 2. Scenario Encore (S&J Fitton) 3. Tribal (L Burke)
IRC CLASS 3 1. Quest (Cunningham & Skerritt) 2. Kilcullen Euro Car Parks (Howth YC K25 Team) 3. Nyah (S Hyde)
J109 1. Joker II (J Maybury) 2. Storm II (P Kelly) 3. Jalapeno (Barrington/ Burke/ Phillips)
SIGMA 33 1. White Mischief (T Goodbody) 2. Leaky Roof (A Harper/ E&K Robertson) 3. Rupert (R&P Lovegrove)
BENETEAU 31.7 1. Levana (J Mitton) 2. Prospect (C Johnston) 3. Levante (M Leahy/ J Power)
IRC Coastal 1. Aquelina (S&J Tyrell) 2. Wow (G Sisk) 3. Mermaid IV (S Fitzpatrick)
NON-SPINNAKER 1 1. Bite the Bullet ( C Bermingham) 2. White Lotus (P Tully) 3. Orna (P Dilworth)
NON- SPINNAKER 2 1. Demelza (S Ennis) 2. Vespucci (S&K O'Regan) 3. Nauti-Gal (J&J Crawford)
Ruffian 23 1. Diane 2 (A Claffey/ C Helme) 2. Ruff Nuff (D Mitchell) 3. Bandit (Kirwan/ Cullen/ Brown)
Shipman 1. Curaglas (J Masterson) 2. Gusto (C Heath/ G Mills) 3. Whiterock (H Robinson)
SB20 1. Should Be? (M O'Connor) 2. BomChickaWahWah (J O' Driscoll) 3. Seriously Bonkers 3 (M Cuppage/ P Lee)
RS ELITE 1. Storm (J Gunning/ S Polly/ D Kelso) 2. Momentary Laps... (J Patterson) 3. Toucan (G&M Vaughan)
BENETEAU FIRST 21 1. Chinook (A Bradley/ P Morgan) 2. Yikes (J Conway) 3. Carna (S Spence)
DRAGON 1. Phantom (P Bowring/ D Williams) 2. Jaguar (M Byrne) 3. Diva (R&R Johnson/ R Goodbody)
Flying Fifteen 1. The Gruffalo (I Matthews) 2. Melliffluence (B Mulligan) 3. The Big Bow Wow (N Meagher/ N Matthews)
GLEN 1. Glenluce (R&D O'Connor) 2. Glendun (B Denham) 3. Glenariff (A Lee)
HOWTH 17 1. Isobel (B&C Turvey) 2. Oona (P Courtney) 3. Pauline (S O' Doherty/ E Ryan)
Fireball 1. Let's Get Messy (B Byrne) 2. Tipsey McStagger (C&J Clancy) 3. Goodness Gracious (L McKenna/ F Rowan)
IDRA 14 1. Starfish (A Carr/ D Kilroy) 2. Delos ii (P O'Neill) 3. Slipstream (J Ascoop/ H Keenan)
MERMAID 1. Tiller Girl (J O'Rourke) 2. Jill (P Smith/ P Mangan) 3. Endeavour (R Bannon)
SQUIB 1. Why not (D Jago) 2. Iola (F Whelan) 3. Perfection (J Fleming)
WATER WAG 1. Mollie (C MacAleavey) 2. Swift (G Kilroy) 3. Pansy (V Delaney)
Sail Fleet J80 Bay Challenge 1. More Mischief (E Doyle) 2. Katie (T Dunne/ F Fahy/ C McGuinness/ D Grace) 3. Xerxes (D O'Neill)
PY 1. IRL 171 426 (F Devlin) 2. IRL Return of the Milky Bar Kid (H Sheehy) 3. UG (R O'Leary)
After this fabulous saltwater festival of racing, the July focus turned to classic boats and then fresh water, with first the Glandore Classics in West Cork, and then the month rounded out with the Mirror Worlds on Lough Derg. The diversity at Glandore was as evident as ever, with the lovely Fife ODs from the Menai Straits making a remarkable impact, but it's in no way a down-grading of the other boats to state that the runaway star of the show was the centenarian Jolie Brise. The famous French-designed and built pilot cutter won the first Fastnet Race in 1925, and she and her crew from Dauntsey's School made a special point of coming to Glandore so that they could have a properly emotional rounding of the famous rock.
The Centenarian pilot cutter Jolie Brise, winner of the first Fastnet Race in 1925, rounds the Fastnet Rock in commemoration during the Glandore Classic Boat Regatta 2013. Photo: Brian Carlin
Fabulous sport in an interesting selection of Irish weather – the Mirror Worlds in Lough Derg. Photo: Gerardine Wisdom
As for the Mirror Worlds 2013, what can we say? Everything you've heard about this great event is true. It did indeed muster an international fleet of 93 boats. The hospitality was undoubtedly laid back yet certainly superb. The sailing was Irish sailing at its very best, with Lough Derg in a lively mood. It did indeed go right down to the wire, with the young South African siblings crew of Ryan and Michaela Robinson winning from Ridgely Ballardes and Rommel Chavez from the Philippines. And yes, they did manage to get a senior government minister to perform the official opening ceremony. They pulled off this coup by discovering that Minister for Agriculture and the Marine Simon Coveney harboured a secret ambition to sail a Shannon One Design. The word was he'd do anything, even opening a sailing event on a Sunday evening at some considerable distance from his constituency, just to achieve this. Sailing a Shannon OD at Dromineer on Lough Derg? No problem. The Minister got his SOD sail. The event got its gala opening. And the racing was brilliant.
Government minister Simon Coveney achieves his dram of a sail in a Shannon One Design. Photo: Gerardine Wisdom
August is traditional the month for sailing elsewhere. The 81-year-old 17ft Mermaids erupted from their East Coast and Shannon Estuary strongholds upon Galway Bay Sailing Club at the start of August for their week long championship, and it was encouraging that one of the youngest teams – Skerries SC's Mark Boylan crewd by Niall Collins and Aileen Boylan – emerged as winners from a fiercely contested series, with Jim Carthy of Rush second, Paul Smith of RIYC third, and Jonathan O'Rourke (NYC) fourth.
Despite the fact that Dun Laoghaire had two helms in the top four, and the excellent turnout and great Mermaid sport at VDLR when Jonathan O'Rourke had won, the word is that Mermaid turnouts in Dun Laoghaire's regular racing have become so sparse that DBSC won't be providing them with a class in 2014. Perhaps with so much energy being focussed on the Water Wags, glossy Dun Laoghaire only has enough enthusiasm for one traditional clinker-built class.
Meanwhile at other places beyond the seas, August had its time-honoured international biennial festival of the sea, when boats have long since been turned away from a rapidly-filled entry list. 350 of them went off from Cowes in the Fastnet Race on Sunday August 11th, with a goodly Irish contingent among them. But it was very much of the year of the French, with father-and-son crew of Pascal and Alexis Loison on the JPK 1010 Night and Day making history as the first overall winners racing in the two-handed division.
Best of the Irish to win the Gull Salver was Martin Breen's Reflex 38 from Galway Bay SC, which sailed as Discover Ireland under the command of Aodhan Fitzgerald. It tells us everything about how completely international the Fastnet has become by noting that the Galway boat, while 18th overall, was actually fourth overall among boats from Britain and Ireland.
The Galway-based Reflex 38 Discover Ireland was top Irish boat in the Fastnet.
While traditional August regattas proceeded apace at venues on every Irish coast, as the month rolled on the preparations were finalised for major international events in Kinsale, Crosshaven, Dun Laoghaire and Howth. With his election in November 2012 as President of the International Disabled Sailing Association at the ISAF Conference in Dun Laoghaire, John Twomey of Kinsale was soon at work knowing that he could count on his home port to provide the special support for staging the IFDS Worlds, putting in place a programme which came to brilliant fruition in ideal weather
Summertime off Kinsale – racing for the Skud class in the IFDS Worlds 2013. Photo: Bob Bateman
In a good year for global events in Ireland, it was one of the most truly international. The Skud class saw Britain's Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell win from Italy's Marco Gualandris and Marta Zanetti, while Canada's John McRoberts was third. In the 2.4s, the winner was the Netherlands' Bijlard Guus, with Germany's Helko Kroger second, France's Damien Sequin third and Australia's Matt Bugg fourth in the numerically strongest fleet – forty-five 2.4s sailing out on the blue Kinsale sea. And in the Sonar, where in times past John Twomey has himself been among the medals, the winner was France's Bruno Jourden with The Netherlands' Udo Hessels second and Australia's Colin Harrison third, while John Twomey was best of the Irish at ninth – crewed by Anthony Hegarty and Ian Costelloe – in a fleet of 18 boats.
Round on the east coast at Howth, a lengthy buildup to the BMW J/24 Worlds 2013 had seen some locals take on board the suggestion that a very reasonably priced second hand market means these iconic little sloops could be acquired for a small layout. And then with elbow grease and sailing determination, you could be in the hunt at world level in a class which prides itself on its economical approach to top class sport.
Well, as the fleet gathered, it soon became obvious that some nations' versions of "economical approach" is another nation's notion of stratospheric expenditure. Ironically, however, in view of who is currently at the top of Europe's economic tree and who is towards the bottom, the impoverished Irish found themselves most at one with the German contingent. Germany will be hosting the J/24 Worlds in a couple of years times, so three young German crews turned up with their boats in Howth to test the water. And far from renting luxury waterfront houses as accommodation for the duration of the championship, all they wanted was somewhere to pitch their old bell tents.
The J/24 Worlds 2013 at Howth – who would think this photo was taken less than ten miles from Dublin city centre? Photo: David Branigan
The word from J/24 International is that Irish race officers are held in high regard, and David Lovegrove's performance at Howth through an extraordinary variety of weather further reinforced this view. Despite losing one day completely to calms, he put through the full programme, the racing was marvellous, and the US crews were in top form, though at least the winner, Tim Healy of Newport RI, was clearly an American of Irish descent. Defending champion Mauricio Santa Cruz of Brazil was second, while another US helm, Travis Odenbach from Rochester NY was third, having fallen from the grace of overall lead on the final day. And with the last race won by Germany's Tobias Feuerherd, who knows but success for the worlds in 2015 in Germany may already be a-building for the home team.
As for other classes in late August and early September, it was the ever-young Laser all the way in both Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay. The Vodafone Laser Nationals at the Royal Cork from August 22nd to 26th produced a very healthy spread of results in the Standard Rig division, with Chris Penney of East Antrim winning from Alan Ruigrok of Rush, while Russian visitor Maxim Nikolaev was third and Philip Doran of Courtown took fourth.
Gold Medallist. Annalise Murphy is borne ashore after her mighty win.
The Laser parade then moved on to Dublin Bay, and shifted up several gears to become the Europeans hosted by the National YC. While the Men's Standard Class was limited to 120 boats, with all the different divisions afloat the fleet total was pushing towards the 340 mark, an exercise in logistics which is almost beyond comprehension. Fortunately, some good Irish results brought clarity, with Annalise Murphy triumphing to win Gold in the Women's Radials, while 17-year-old Finn Lynch won Gold in the Under 21s, Silver in the Europeans, and Bronze in the Men's Radials.
This youthful achievement in September was boosted at the end of the month in Germany on Lake Constance, where the Irish Team in the European Under-23 Match Race Final was skippered by Philip Bendon of Baltimore to the Gold Medal. His crew were James Bendon, Christopher Tiernan and Bruno van Dyke, and their good showing kept British skipper Mark Lees back in second, while the Italian crew took the bronze.
Moving into October, Irish prospects for the Student Yachting Worlds were beginning to look a bit flaky. The French hosts had greatly tightened the format, moving the event to the no-nonsense venue of Pornic in Brittany, and down-sizing the boats to J/80s. Theoretically this should have favoured the two-pronged Irish campaign, as the SailFleet J/80s were readily available for intense training, but the economic realities of discerning post-college career paths poutweoighed the attractions of endless sailing opportunities, and by August it was clear that University of Limerick would not be availing of their right to be the Irish challengers, while defenders University College Dublin had seen changes in personnel such that they had little enough in the way of crew battle-hardened by previous SYWs.
Nevertheless the UCD crew, with Philip Doran as helm, gave it their best shot, while Dublin City University, as runners-up in the selection trials, took over the Limerick place at short notice and under skipper Ryan Scott, they assembled a crew entirely from the junior membership of Howth YC. Out of fifteen teams, with the French very much in control to win overall with Switzerland second and the US third, the Irish had to be happy with 8th and 9th, while the "Howth nippers" drew some additionl concolation from the news that clubmate Laura Dillon had skippered the winning team in the British Women's Open Match Racing Championship.
Ben Duncan on his way to winning the all-Ireland. Photo: Aidan Tarbett
October saw select keelboat classes descend on Lough Derg for their traditional Autumn Regatta at Dromineer, and further lustre added to the achievements of Irish SB20 champion Ben Duncan, who had a runaway win in a class which has revived itself in Ireland with a bootstraps operation during 2013. He then went on to win the Helmsmans Championshjp raced in the SailFleet J/80s in Howth at the end of October. The weather was going haywire with the buildup to the St Jude's Day storm, so it reflects all credit on both participants and the race management team that a full programme was put through in just one day, with a break in the middle to allow a vicious little front to go through. In fact, the race officer worked the weather window so well that all the photos seem to show glorious perfect sunny sailing. Seafra Guilfoyle of Royal Cork was runner up, with FF Champion Ian Mathews of the National third.
The Autumn saw the focus shifting towards the Mediterranean, and it brought success for Cork's David Kenefick in the Figaro Solo Circus. After various ups and down throughout the season in Atlantic waters, the Mediterranean Autumn programme saw it go down to the wire for the coveted Rookie of the Year title, and the final races saw everything go Kenefick's way to be the first Irish winner.
David Kenefick was Rookie of the Year in the 2013 Figaro Solo programme.
In recent years there has been Irish success in the Middle Sea Race out of Malta in late October-early November in the two-handed division, but for 2013's race a couple of the leading Irish two-handed teams threw in their lot with the fully-crewed Maltese-owned J/122 Otra Vez. It was a shrewd career move. They won Class 4, and placed 11th overall in a fleet of 97 boats. Next best of Irish interest was Dermot Cronin's First 40.7 Encore from Malahide, which finished exactly at mid-fleet.
Into November, and interest moves even further southward and even warmer, with the 360-mile Duba to Muscat Race. Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners, overall winner of the first RORC Caribbean 600 Race in 2009, and overall winner (as Ger O'Rourke's Chieftain) of the 2007 Fastnet, goes into the Muscat race as favourite, and doesn't disappoint, with a new course record too.
Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners on her way to comprehensive victory in the Dubai-Muscat Race. Photo: Tim Wright
And meanwhile out in Australia, a new Dubai-built 60ft Ichi Ban for legendary owner Matt Allen is emerging in preparation for the Sydney-Hobart 2013, starting December 26th. Among the team involved in this ultimate racing machine is Gordon Maguire. Which seems to be where we came in...
For more on 2013's Irish sailing highlights read Afloat's Sailor of the Month Awards
#Apps - A new smartphone app developed by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) that aims to make it easy for boaters to allow contacts on shore to monitor their voyages has been launched today (Thursday 22 August).
The SafeTrx app is available free for iOS and Android powered smartphones and tablets, and lets boat owners log their voyages directly into their device - allowing them to be tracked by their chosen contacts, including the Irish Coast Guard.
It's also expected that the app will also help the coastguard to identify the location of a stricken vessel, and assess details such as craft description, contact details ashore, previous activity, where the boat was last visible to the network and where headed, persons on board and other information - all targeted at reducing the time that seafarers spend in the water waiting for a lifeboat or helicopter.
“SafeTrx helps take the search out of search and rescue," said Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds. "It encourages all sea users to plan and execute their trips better, safer and gives assurance to friends and partners ashore.”
His comments were echoed by ISA chief executive Harry Hermon, who said: "I believe that ISA SafeTrx, which has been designed by coastguard professionals and built right here in Cork, will help to reduce the number of fatalities on the water even further. I have no doubt that this will save many lives."
Also speaking at the launch today, Minister Coveney said: “The concept of safety at sea and on our network of rivers and lakes must become as commonplace as that of safety on our roads. We need to create a culture of safety first for those travelling on our waters for either commercial or recreational reasons.
"With loss of life continuing across the maritime spectrum, those who make their living from the sea and those who utilise the sea primarily for leisure purposes must ensure that safety becomes a top priority.”
ISA SafeTrx logs position reports every kilometre (or every 5 minutes if stationary). Should the user fail to return on time, their emergency contacts will be automatically alerted via SMS and advised to initiate the appropriate action.
Voyage position reports are displayed on the SafeTrx Monitoring Console so when an emergency contact calls the Irish Coast Guard concerning an overdue trip, coastguard staff will have access to the user’s location and SafeTrx trip data through a secure SafeTrx server. And as the ISA SafeTrx app periodically sends location data back to the servers, the coastguard's response team can get help directly and quickly.
However, an expert in GPS technology has warned boat users against relying solely on such apps when heading out on the water.
Writing for Afloat.ie's Have Your Say blog, Gary Delaney of Global Position Intelligence (GPI) says the GSM and GPRS location technology on which the SafeTrx app is based is "less than reliable" in Irish coastal and nearshore waters, and "can deteriorate with the weather".
"It is well recognised that in the event of a maritime emergency, lifesaving agencies need to know the current position of the casualty as quickly as possible," he writes. "An assessment of available technologies reveals that only normally approved safety communications devices, such as marine VHF, AIS, EPIRBs, PLBs, ELT, etc can come near guaranteeing that requirement."
The app developers have acknowledged such concerns, saying that ISA SafeTrx is "not intended to be used as a replacement for statutorily recognised safety devices" but is "a resource that in some instances may help to raise an alarm earlier and assist emergency services to locate casualties more accurately".
As always, Afloat.ie advises boaters and sailors to stick to a standard safety checklist, which includes informing a contact on shore of your plans and expected return time, and confirming that you have adequate means for calling for help - from a suitable VHF radio to flares for signalling distress.
In our latest Have Your Say contribution, Gary Delaney of Global Position Intelligence (GPI) expresses his concerns about the new ISA sailing app and how it might encourage boat users to be less prepared on the water
With regard to the recent marketing for the new ISA SafeTrx smartphone app, I wish to add a note of caution to those who might consider using it.
Whilst it may well be very useful as a passage plan filing tool, the element of the app which concerns itself with tracking a vessel should NOT be relied upon as it depends solely on mobile phone coverage.
It is widely known that the mobile phone coverage in Irish coastal and nearshore waters is less than reliable (and can deteriorate with the weather) and international maritime safety organisations routinely warn against reliance on mobile phones for communications in those areas.
I am sure that the Irish Coast Guard had originally intended that warnings would be associated with the marketing of the app for this purpose, but the nature of apps and social media is such that they are normally not used for promoting safety critical solutions, and therefore warnings may be getting lost in the promulgation.
In short, neither smartphones nor the GSM/GPRS network that supports them are reliable for any aspect of maritime safety, and there are more suitable technologies already available for the purpose.
As international maritime safety organisations do not normally recommend the use of mobile phone technology for any aspect of marine safety, the Irish Coast Guard must have significant justifications for deviating from this long established policy, and it would be useful if these were stated.
Similarly, it would also be useful to know if this initiative is being supported by the Irish Marine Safety Working Group in the Department of Transport, which has responsibility in this area.
It is well recognised that in the event of a maritime emergency, lifesaving agencies need to know the current position of the casualty as quickly as possible. An assessment of available technologies reveals that only normally approved safety communications devices, such as marine VHF, AIS, EPIRBs, PLBs, ELT, etc can come near guaranteeing that requirement.
These devices have gone through years of global development, advancement, testing and approvals for the purpose in a marine environment and, therefore, only these can be relied upon to minimise the 'search' element of the 'search and rescue' effort – and thereby give casualties the best chance of survival.
Whilst the ISA SafeTrx app may be aimed at those who under current legislation are not required to carry any of the approved devices, I feel that life saving agencies are better served by raising awareness about what is approved and encouraging water users to use them voluntarily anyhow, rather than confusing the message by emphasising the 'tracking' element of the app.
The fact that the app is free (airtime costs excluded), and the approved technologies are not (though very affordable, especially when personal safety is the prize), further confuses the message.
There has been much poorly informed comment in popular media about the SafeTrx app. One comment alleges that the app is particularly suited to "weekend and leisure crews who may prefer more accessible and less sophisticated communication equipment".
But it is not about what is 'preferred', and this and other similar comments are misleading and potentially dangerous, The Irish Coast Guard and the Irish Sailing Association should consider taking action to correct them and ensure suitable warnings are publicly communicated wherever the app is being promoted.
To the best of my knowledge, the Irish Coast Guard has no role in the development, testing or approval of marine safety equipment. Therefore, whatever investment or effort has gone into supporting this app may well have been better spent serving the coastguard's role of raising public awareness around the availability and use of approved marine safety equipment, including the radio and communications devices that are available for use in Irish waters – most likely in co-operation with its other partner agencies in the Irish Marine Safety Working Group.
For my own part, I strongly suggest that water users in coastal areas would use common sense when it comes to their personal safety by investing in approved technologies whether they have to or not and get themselves properly trained to use them.
If using the SafeTrx App, then do so with considerable caution – only as an addition to the approved devices, and then primarily just for filing passage plans.
#Shannon - Passages on the River Shannon in 2013 so far have fallen more than 50% compared to numbers for the same period a decade ago, according to the Irish Waterways History blog written by Afloat's inland correspondent, Brian Goggin.
Using statistics supplied by Waterways Ireland, the site plotted a graph that shows an overall decline in lock and bridge passages on the Shannon in the months from January to May each year since 2003, with a slight spike in 2007 the only buck in the downward trend.
Though the figures do not record all uses of the waterway (such as sailing, angling and other watersports) and do not account for variables such as the weather, they are indicative - the site claims - of "the Shannon's most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business".
Indeed, the figures apparently show that boat hire passage numbers have fallen from 11,440 in January-May 2003 to just 4,781 in the same months this year.
Even private boat passages have been falling from a peak in 2009 to just below their 2003 numbers, if the site's interpretation of the stats is anything to go by.
However, a source close to Afloat.ie says that the falling numbers may be skewed by a growing emphasis on larger-capacity vessels on Ireland's inland waterways, with eight- and 12-berth boats supplanting older four-berth vessels, and families and groups consolidating their recreational boating.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year turns out, and whether the overall numbers from January to December will tell a different story of the state of the Shannon and other waterways.
#SailingApps - Two new smartphone apps are just the ticket for anyone looking for an easy-to-use reference guide while out on the water as this summer's sailing season gets into full swing.
Safe Skipper - for iOS and Android devices priced €2.69 (with a free version also available) - touts itself as an "essential quick reference" app intended for everyone who goes to sea, whether sailing or in powerboats.
The app is divided into three main sections. The 'preparation' section includes details and tips on doing engine and rigging checks, overboard drills and weather and tidal updates. The 'safety' section covers necessary equipment from anchors to flotation aids, and communications guides on AIS, VHF radio and even Morse code.
Finally, the 'distress and emergencies' section details plans of action in the event of dismasting, engine failure or fire, medical emergencies and abandoning ship.
Safe Skipper is illustrated by RYA qualified yachtsman Simon Jollands, providing clear instructions for whatever issue you might have while afloat.
Meanwhile, SailingApp (for iPhone, priced €5.49) is "built from the water up for sailors by sailors".
The dual-function app is split between tools - allowing sailors to make on-the-fly calculations and checks for such things as anchor rode - and topics essential for good seamanship practices available with a single click.
Users who download SailingApp before 31 May will also receive any future updates to the app free of charge.