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2012 will mark the 32nd anniversary of Ireland's premier off-shore sailing event, the Round Ireland Yacht Race, organised by Wicklow Sailing Club in association with RORC.
For the first time the biennial Round Ireland Race counts for the same points as the Fastnet race in the Royal Ocean Racing Club events (RORC). This is a huge boost for Wicklow Sailing Club Wicklow's Chairman of the event, Dennis Noonan expects a strong Irish turnout for the event in June.
The Round Ireland Yacht Race will depart from Wicklow Bay at 12 noon on Sunday 24th June 2012, leaving Ireland and all its islands to starboard. It is the longest race in the Royal Ocean Racing Club calendar, comparable to similar Offshore Races such as the Fastnet, Malta Middle Sea, Sydney-Hobart and China Sea races. The first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. Since then, in the biennial race, the fleet has grown steadily, and some 30 to 40 yachts are expected to be at the start line in 2012.
Click this link for all the latest Round Ireland Sailing News
Sailing around Ireland poses many challenges for boats and crew, with open ocean on the south and west coasts, tidal challenges on north and east coasts apart from all the off lying rocks and sandbanks to keep navigators on their toes and not forgetting the vagaries of the Atlantic weather systems. This is very much a sailors' race but armchair spectators can follow the race on their computers, thanks to modern race tracker technology.
A Round Ireland Sail Fest (Thur 21 – Sun 24 June) will complement the race preparations and add a welcome level of fun and entertainment always provided for those travelling to Wicklow for the race start.
There are four classes in IRC in which boats and their crews can compete, including a Classic Class for the Michael Jones Trophy, classes for Sigma, ISORA, IRM, a Team Prize. 2004 saw the launch of the Two-Handed Class which has introduced a new level of competition for the more extreme sailor. In the past, boats competing have ranged from an 84-footer former 'Round the World' maxi to club boats one third the size, and all shades in between.
2006 saw the largest yacht yet to partake – Konica Minolta Zana, a 30m (98') racing machine from New Zealand, but light winds scuppered her chances of breaking the record or winning the race.
Sunday the 20th of June 2010 will be the 30th anniversary of the First Round Ireland.
There are very few human emotions left untouched by participation in the Round Ireland Race. Elation, fear, despair, and joy – they're the obvious ones. But as well there's love – love of our country and it's extraordinary coastline. Sailing the 704-mile course is an expression of that profound feeling.
Even the most hardened racer returns from the campaign emotionally enriched. But of course, as the pre-start manoeuvring builds up off the Wicklow pierheads, it's the sporting challenge of the race which is uppermost. The fine thoughts can come later for, at the start, everything is aimed at coping with the sailing, navigational and technical problems which this great race inevitable involves.
Seven-hundred-and-four miles may not seem much at first sight, but think of what it contains when its the shortest distance round Ireland and her islands. Four very different coastlines have to be negotiated as well as as a host of headlands, rocks and sandbanks.
And then there's the tides – as the ebb sluices away from Wicklow down past the banks of the southeast, that's only the beginning of it.
For immediately you're in the battle to carry that one ebb all the way south, past the Tuskar and out past the Coningbeg until you reach the slacker tides off the Waterford coast.
Getting that far might be cause for relaxation, but in the 1990 race the fleet had a beat along the supposedly gentler south coast into a near gale which sorted them out in a big way with dismastings and other damage.
At both the Old Head of Kinsale and Ireland's 'land's end' of Mizen Head, tides again become significant, while along the southwstern seaboard there's another unexpected hazard. The coastline is so spectacularly beautiful, with dramatic off-lying rock giants such as the Bull and the Skelligs, that crews can be awed and distracted by it all.
At each outcrop of the Irish land is approached, race navigation can more accurately be described as pilotage. Cutting the corners as closely as possible can save valuable time, but cutting the corners too close can result in disaster. The sheer scale of the corners you're rounding naturally inspires respect – wherever else he or she may sail afterards, few navigators will ever forget rounding the most westerly point of the race – the Great Foze Rock out beyond the Blaskets.
Because the race is outside every rock and islet, special difficulties arise at two specific points. At both Black Rock in Mayo and the most northerly point, Inishtrahull off Donegal, the safest water is actually inside the rocks in question. Thus they are marked by lighthouses which are meant to guide you through the clearer inside passages. But the rules say you take the hazardous route outside. It can be difficult on a dark and stormy night, to say the least, but such challenges are what the Round Ireland Race is all about.
And there's no rest on the open water stretches such as those between the Blaskets and Slyne Head, or from Eagle Island to Tory. There can be surprising variations in wind strength and direction crossing these great bays, even over short distances, and when it's a beat – as it was in 1986 up the west coast – the right tactical decisions paid enormous dividends.
Off the Donegal coast there's the added problem of salmon nets. Whether they're legal or not is beside the point: they're there and you have to deal with them and their owners as best you can.
Once the extraordinary island of Tory is astern, newcomers to the race tend to relax a bit, thinking that open water is a thing of the past, and rough sailing with it. Not a bit of it. For as you near Inishtrahull, the tides strengthen rapidly and all the way from Inishtrahull through the narrow seas of the North Channel until the South Rock is reached, if wind over tide occurs then you're in very rough water indeed, particularly off Rathlin Island.
It would be understandable to ease off a little once the South Rock is passed. After all, you're on the home straight, this is the griendly old Irish Sea, and there's only a hundred easy miles to the finish.
The race has been lost by such an attitude. never is it more necessary to keep up the pressure. And, as you get into strong tides from Rockabill southward, hard-gained leads which have been built up over 650 miles can simply evaporate in flukey winds and foul tides.
So it is never over until you've passed the orange buoy off the Wicklow pierheads. And after that, it's only the actual sailing which is over.
The memories become enriched as time passes, and even the parites could be said to go on until well into the autumn, when the sponsors host the prize-giving. If you want to experience the genuine camaraderie of sailing folk, then this is one event not to be missed.
Ready for Ireland (reprinted from the May 2004 issue of Afloat)
The Round Ireland is not for the faint-hearted nor the unprepared. David Nixon describes the battle to get a competitive boat to the start line
Above: Spirit will add spice to the BMW Round Ireland 2004 in Irish waters thanks to a Howth YC campaign. Photo Tim Wright
My last attempt to skipper a Round Ireland was in 1996 when, as a group of insane teenagers, we thought it would be a great idea to compile a Youth Challenge for the race. I’m happy to say we didn’t see it through, because I’m sure that if we had pursued that dream, none of us would have lived to tell the tale. I have learned since that offshore sailing is not quite as easy as it seems.
Last August, I got the call from Fred and Jim, who were in Plymouth having just finished the Fastnet Race. They urged me to put pen to paper for a significant Round Ireland entry. I began a proposal that day and now it’s finally beginning to come to fruition. The pleasant part of planning has been the support we have enjoyed. It has been really positive and uplifting for me and the team. It hasn’t all been easy but we are determined to see it through to the finish. Wicklow here we come!
Above: Lift off – At the launch of Howth's Round Ireland campaign on the GUL stand at the London Boat Show are (left to right) Spirit's owner Hamish Oliphant, Irish Olympian Tom McWilliam, Veteran Jim Barden, Ireland's Round the World Skipper Joe English, O2's Round Ireland entry Skipper David Nixon, Fred Connolly and David Howard. Photo: Mark Jardine
I missed the last Round Ireland. While it was pleasant getting into a warm and comfortable bed on the night of the start, a little drunk, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed I wasn’t taking part. The Round Ireland is a magical race, I can’t quite say why, but it is magic. I guess with so many corners to turn and fabulous landmarks to pass, you can’t help but enjoy it.
However, my favourite part of the Round Ireland is the finish, something I think I share with all other sailors. I remember on board Cracklin’ in 98, we were off Rathlin and Jeep Cherokee had finished. How we envied them – pints and steaks all round in Wicklow Sailing Club. At that stage I realised we needed a faster boat.
Drawing up my current plan, I asked myself whether I could see it through. Happily I was reassured by a number of people around me, namely Jimmy Barden, Fred Connolly and Davie Howard. My brother was also very encouraging which was important as he has nothing to do with sailing – he just knew I’d do it.
My other question was whether I could actually skipper a substantial team racing a high performance racing machine. That can only be answered during the race, but my team believe I can and, with their support, anything is possible. I’m 26, and while my knowledge and experience may be somewhat limited, it’s the team that makes a crew and the attitude and approach of that crew that can bring the boat to victory.
The plan was simple from the start; procure the best resources available to give us the best possible chance to win the race and beat the record. Fundamentally that meant attaining sound and substantial sponsorship – not an easy task. It then meant finding the most suitable boat available and recruiting an appropriate pro-am crew. Pros were a must, but so too were amateurs since that’s a major feature of the campaign.
Ireland has a wealth of amateur sailors with excellent skills, knowledge and experience. The challenge, I believe, is to develop this to compete on the international scene. Having competed in the 2002 Commodores’ Cup, I feel there is a gulf between Ireland’s available resources and that required to compete at the highest level.
I had the opportunity to learn about the level of ability among professional ranks in 1998 when Roy Dickson kindly sent me off with Cracklin’ to race with a fully professional team on Barlo Plastics. We won, and it taught me a lot.
As an amateur, I feel the best way to improve my own ability is to race with professionals any chance I get. This pro-am mix is the philosophy of the modern day Commodores’ Cup, but it costs to live it. Commercial support in the form of sponsorship is essential to pay the bills.
So our Round Ireland project has longer term relevance. It provides us with training in two very important ways – sponsorship attainment and learning from professionals.
So how did we do it? Well, as with most things, there has been an element of luck. I called a colleague to help me with the proposal document and he liked the concept, so O2 got involved. Davie Howard has the GUL agency in his ProRig store so he put me in touch there and they also liked the plan. A couple of other sponsors have come on board since.
In the meantime we were looking for a boat, a search which proved quite difficult. The web and contacts are great but amazingly there are not that many good offshore boats available for charter. In the end we were very fortunate to get in touch with Pure Sailing, a Plymouth-based charter company with a VO 60, (Tyco from the last Volvo Ocean Race). Hamish Oliphant, the owner, was very interested by our proposal and signed up to the campaign.
Left: The big one – A Volvo 60 will Race round Ireland under a Howth flag. Photo: Tim Wright
Finally the crew. We had a long list of our own guys that we wanted on the team, but it was essential to put together the right team. Jim Barden had the tough job of final selection. We got in touch with Tom McWilliam who agreed to sail with us and brought in Steve Hayles and Guy Salter, both of whom had raced on Tyco for the VOR. I also asked Joe English and Davie Harte onto the team. The owner brings three, taking the total number of pros to eight. We will compliment this with ten amateurs, most of whom would have sailed aboard Cracklin’ Rosie with Jim and I.
Time has flown in development of this campaign. Before we know it we’ll be lining up at the start in Wicklow. I can’t wait. The competition will be great, the race will be excellent. Even better, the finish in Wicklow awaits with pints and steaks all round. That’s what it’s all about!
Royal Cork stake early claim
Five of the nine entries received so far for the June 26 start of the BMW Round Ireland race are from Royal Cork in a fleet that Wicklow organisers ultimately expect to swell three-fold by the entry deadline of May 24.
The largest entry continues to be the Volvo 60 Spirit (David Nixon, Howth) but there are other big boats on the horizon according to organiser Denis Noonan.
A single entry has been received in the new two-handed class and it comes from the Isle of Man Yacht Club in the form of Andrew Bell's J105 sloop, Moontiger.
Dingle pair to take on Ireland
Co-skippers Aodhán Fitzgerald from Dingle and Frenchman Yannick Lemonnier will go head-to-head with fully crewed entries in the 704-mile Round Ireland race this year.
The pair aim to compete both in the two-handed class of the race as well as the overall fully-crewed IRC category.
Both co-skippers have impressive sailing credentials. Lemonnier competed in the Figaro single handed racing events for five years before he moved to Ireland in 2001. He has also competed in several two-handed transatlantic races as well as several Tour de France a Voile series.
Fitzgerald has been active in the Irish offshore racing scene for ten years, campaigning on the well-travelled GK 34 Joggernaut for the past eight years. Aodhan has competed in four Round Ireland races and two Fastnet races. Successes include an overall win in the 1999 Dún Laoghaire to Dingle race.
The team’s longer term ambitions include competing in next year’s Fastnet Race (two handed division) as a warm-up for the two handed transatlantic AG2R race in 2006. Further details can be found on the team’s website www.dinglesailing.com
COPYRIGHT AFLOAT 2004
Time out, round 13 (reprinted from the July 2004 issue of Afloat)
A showdown not witnessed in ten years is on the cards for the BMW Round Ireland Race as a surge of interest has seen a 60 per cent jump in entries from five countries for the 704-mile race
Above: With variable displacement, an IRC rating of 1.425, a canting keel and powerful sailplan French entry Solune’s performance is designed to match a Volvo upwind and an Open 60 offwind
Looking back over the past decade or more, it is clear that the only thing predictable about the Round Ireland race – and we are about to embark on the 13th – is it’s unpredictability. So will the 13th staging of Ireland’s classic offshore race be unlucky for some? Almost certainly, yes.
With a little over a week remaining before the start of the 704-mile BMW Round Ireland Race, entries have exceeded organisers' expectations and presently stand at 47 boats from five countries with further late entries tipping the 50 mark.
The non-stop race for monohull yachts gets underway at 14.00 hrs on Saturday June 26th 2004 from Wicklow Sailing Club and the first boats will be expected to finish just three days later following their southabout circumnavigation.
Left: Denis Noonan all set for his third and final Round Ireland as race organiser
Commenting on the entry, Race Director Denis Noonan said: "The response has been very encouraging as we had initially hoped that we might reach 40 boats. The introduction of a two-handed class is a factor and BMW’s sponsorship has helped raise the profile of the race considerably."
French giant aims to crush Irish Spirit
A war of words has broken out between the main contenders for this year’s Round Ireland title, as the fleet of 50 boats makes final preparations for the event.
Paris-based financier Jean Pierre Chomett has thrown down the gauntlet to main rival David Nixon by declaring that he has entered the record-breaking 60-footer Solune not only to win on the water but also to smash the race record.
Six years ago, Colm Barrington in Jeep Cherokee set a mark of three days, four hours and 23 minutes for the 704-mile course, (see 'Records...' below) but Chomett believes a sub-three-day time is possible.
In setting the Round Britain and Ireland record in May, Solune reached top speeds of 26 knots in short surf, but also managed to average 22 knots for long periods of the voyage. It’s all weather dependent, of course, but Chomett believes the new design – a cross between a Volvo and open 60 design – has a better upwind performance than the Volvo 60 in both light and strong winds, a key sailing angle in the Round Ireland event where up to half the race can be spent on that point of sailing.
Above: The 2002 fleet departs Wicklow. Two years later the fleet has doubled in size and stature
However, 02 Team Spirit skipper David Nixon (26), who has chartered the Volvo 60 from the UK for the event, has dismissed the performance boasts of the French prototype. "As long as there’s breeze, we'll be okay," said the Howth skipper.
Built by the same team that created the Alinghi America's cup hulls, Solune broke the Round Britain and Ireland record by more than three days and 15 hours ahead of the previous record, a month ago. It was during that trip off the Irish west coast that Chomett made up his mind to return for a second record-breaking attempt.
There’s little doubt that the La Rochelle entry is up to the job. The broad-beamed boat comes complete with powerful gennaker, twin rudders and a canting keel. For the circumnavigation, Chomett will have Playstation's weather router and navigator Chris Tibbs of Cowes on board.
A third big boat for the fleet will be Dutch entry Second Love, a Standfast 64 that’s unlikely to prove a significant threat to the other pair as this boat is a Fast Cruiser design and lacks the performance advantages of stripped out interiors and lightweight equipment.
Nevertheless, this race is not about line honours or even a new course record – both are not part of the official event programme. The overall win is based on corrected handicap time that may yet give the Dutch boat an advantage.
Records show how that between 1980s first race and Colm Barrington’s 1998 current record run that nearly 60 hours have been shaved off the circuit time. The race is on to be first round Ireland in under three days.
135:02:27 1980 Force ten-sion J.S. Morris, Pwhelli
99:45:25 1982 Moonduster Denis Doyle, RCYC
88:15:43 1984 Moonduster Denis Doyle, RCYC
84:56:06 1990 Rothmans Lawrie Smith, Royal Thames
76: 23:57 1998 Jeep Cherokee Colm Barrington, RIYC
Small may yet be beautiful
It’s all very well two big boats vying for the win on the water but as race followers know well the overall prize on corrected time typically only becomes clear once the small boats are back in Wicklow. Challenging the big boats for the race win in 2004 falls to a host of smart contenders of widely varying size; the recent light-airs RORC Cervantes Trophy Race in class zero featured three Round Ireland entries that illustrate this variety.
Royal Cork’s Eric Lisson (third from right) celebrates with the Cavatina crew after the 2002 race
Piet Vroon's 52-foot Tonnerre de Breskens, the Dutch winner of the 2001 Rolex Fastnet Race, took one hour off Anthony Richard's Minnie the Moocher, a Kerr 11.3 which in turn was 36 minutes ahead of Second Love after 110-miles of racing. For the Round Ireland, a large gap between the first, big boat finishers and the rest of the fleet finishing at Wicklow seems unlikely.
The list of handicap contenders must include another Jason Kerr design that has consistently proven problematic for bigger rivals and now has its sights set on this classic offshore course – Voodoo Chile, to be known as Calyx Voice & Data under Eamon Crosbie and his regular team from the National YC. As one of the smallest boats in the race, line honours is not an option for this 32-footer.
But Crosbie won't be the only smaller boat giving the big boys palpitations as they wait out the finishers at Wicklow Sailing Club. Eric Lisson and his Granada 38 Cavatina will be defending the 2002 title victory and, as the second-last finisher two years ago, nobody will be counting results on the basis of outside chances again.
Less predictable will be the new innovation for the 2004 race – a two-handed class that has attracted at least six entries. This will be a particularly tough challenge for some boats that range in size from 30 to 45 feet. One of the first entries came from Dingle pair Aodhan Fitzgerald and Yannick Lemonnier (see May Afloat), who have chartered Figaro Beneteau number 32, which has just arrived back from St Barths after completing the AG2R transatlantic. Entries in this class appear very competitive, with English interest centred on Thunder 2, a former winner of Cork Week class 0.
Left: Giant killer – Last time round in 2002, the Cavatina win came as such a shock that there was not even a picture of the boat available. The press had to make do with a shot of the comparatively petit and elderly Granada 38 footer on her moorings in the Curabinny river!
Overall, the revival in fortunes for the Round Ireland is to be welcomed and the increasing turnout is a testimony to the basic attraction of the race. The sheer unpredictability of the course, which fails to guarantee outright victory to the all-out racers, acts as a balance for the club crew and keeps the event within its original ethos.
Moreover, while just a handful of prizes are up for grabs, simply completing this challenging but achievable course places the event as a ‘must do’ for many crews and acts as an incentive to continue racing, often against the odds. For that reason alone, the Round Ireland has proven that reports of the death of offshore racing are very much exaggerated.
COPYRIGHT AFLOAT 2004
Here we go – Round 14 (reprinted from the June/July 2006 issue of Afloat)
The 100-foot Kiwi Pot-Hunter has arrived in search of a record. Afloat previews a 2006 Round Ireland fleet that has plenty of spice
At 4pm on July the 1st the BMW Round Ireland Yacht Race will set off from Wicklow Sailing Club. This year will be the 14th race to date and Wicklow Sailing Club officials are saying it will be one of the best and entries are still coming in well after the entry deadline so 2004’s 49-boat fleet could well be matched.
Race Organiser Denis Noonan had 41 entries as Afloat went to press (on June 16th) but is confident this figure should reach ‘in the region of the fifty mark’ as the big day draws near.
Either way, any deficiency in numbers is more than made up for in variety and this year Wicklow welcomes it's largest entry to date.
Owned by Stewart Thwaites, the record breaking yacht, 'Konica Minolta Zana' is a 30m super maxi yacht. She is due in Dublin in June with the intention of adding a Round Ireland Race record to an already formidable list of record times which she holds. The current record of 76hrs, 23 minutes and 57 seconds was set by Colm Barrington in Jeep Cherokee in 1998.
This will be the only competitive racing that the New Zealand yacht – sponsored by Lakeshore Funds – will participate in before heading down to the Mediterranean to compete in a number of events that include the Middle Sea race as well as the Maxi World Cup.
It was hoped that she could compete in Cork Week also, but this plan was scuppered by time constraints.
Konica Minolta Zana currently holds race records for the HSBC Coastal Classic Race, the Auckland to Suva race and the Auckland to Noumea race, as well as a string of top finishing positions in the Sydney Hobart.
Aboard Konica Minolta Zana will be a plethora of top class international sailors including Gavin Brady (watch captain), multiple world champion, Americas Cup and Volvo sailor, Steve Hayles, (navigator) ex-Oracle and with four Whitbread/Volvo races under his belt, Rodney Keenan (watch captain) ex-Volvo, etc., Kip Stone, first in Open 50s single handed yachts.
Among her crew will be Martin Hannon, originally from Newtownards who now lives in New Zealand. Adding a bit of local knowledge to the team will be GP champion Ruan O'Tiarnaigh.
However, size does not always matter in a race of this magnitude, with past winners including Calyx Voice & Data, Imp, and Cavatina all weighting-in at 40 foot and under.
One of the smallest boats in the fleet, Eamon Crosbie’s 32 footer Voodoo Chile (last time known as Calyx Voice & Data) is back racing as Teng Tools to retain his title.
Ireland West Tourism and Ireland West Airport Knock have joined in sponsoring an entry.
Aodhán Fitzgerald, winner of the 2004 Round Ireland two-handed class with Yannick Lemonnier, heads the twelve strong Team Ireland West, drawn from the membership of Galway Bay Sailing Club. They will be sailing a race-optimised Beneteau 40.7 yacht, chartered specially for the event, under the name ‘Ireland's West’. Well-known Galway sailor Barry Heskin will be watch leader, while Galway man Noel Butler, a former Laser 2 World Champion and helm of the winning boat in Class 1 at the UK's Cowes week last year, will be principal helmsman.
Another west coast entry are upping the ante with the charter of a Volvo 60. The group, known as the Spirit of Kilrush team, will have Simon McGibney among its crew. They have completed a number of training sessions on the boat in Cowes.
J.P. Chomette, on board Solune who holds the Round Ireland monohull record, is back and this time means business after some reworking of his canting keel 60-footer. Navigator Chris Tibbs is on board the French entry again.
This year will again be a very special one in our Double Handed Fleet, which already boasts Nunatak, skippered by Mike Jacques, and Moontiger driven by Alan Bell.
Yannick Lemonnier and Mark Greely of Dingle, Sailing Club, are fine-tuning their Beneteau Figaro 2 which they’re chartering with the support of their sponsor Southbound Group in the two-handed category.
Yannick and Mark have been sailing together for a number of years and came second in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race on board Southbound in 2005. The boat’s racing name for the Round Ireland is Southbound.ie and you’ll be able to follow the their progress and race position due to the addition of a tracking system on board the competing boats this year.
However, the BMW Round Ireland Yacht Race is not only about the intense offshore race, there is also an extensive social event for all the crew and spectators. The party kicks off in Wicklow on Wednesday the 28th and carries the whole way to the start and after.
1 The big one cometh! At over 100 foot surely Barrington’s 1998 record will fall? All eyes will be on the Konica Minolta Kiwi entry.
2 Do Dingle.com was the two handed winner in 2004, two years later skipper Aodhan Fitzgerald is heading up Team Ireland West.
3 Limerick’s Andrew Carey during training on the Western Yacht Club’s Volvo 60 entry Spirit of Kilrush
4 Sean Lemass and the National YC crew on Gallileo are keen offshore campaigners
5 A winner offshore and a winner round the cans: Chieftain’s skipper Ger O’Rourke has his eyes on handicap honours in the canting keel fifty footer.
6 Jean Phillipe Chomette already has a Round Ireland speed record under his belt. Now the Paris financier is eyeing a race record too in the Nacira 60 City Jet
7 Sarnia, a veteran S&S 36 from the National YC.
8 and 11 Yannick Lemonnier and Mark Greely of Dingle Sailing Club are entered in the double handed category. The boat’s racing name for the Round Ireland is Southbound.ie
9/13 Waiting for the start at Wicklow
10 Minnie the Moocher, a race leader til Mew island in ‘04, the Kerr 11 metre is back
Wicklow Sailing Club rolls out its 14th Round Ireland race but its appeal, though deserving of far greater international note, remains rooted in a small domestic fleet.
The club have received 41 entries as Afloat goes to press and it is likely to swell with late entries to over 45 or more before the July 1 start. Over half of the fleet is from Dublin and Cork. The balance of the domestic fleet, totalling 29, is made up from entries from the West coast, Waterford, UK and French entries, and one very large Kiwi boat make up an overseas entry of 12.
The failure to capitalise on the success of the 2004 event with a bigger fleet this time round will be seen, by some, as a disappointing outcome for a number of reasons but primarily because if it is – as so often it is claimed to be – one of the world's classic offshore races, then its fleet could, as with Australia’s Sydney-Hobart or Britain’s Fastnet fixture, number in excess of 100 boats. There are 50 Irish yacht clubs around the coast but only 11 have sent entries.
The biggest club presence is from the Royal St. George, sending five boats. The country’s largest club, Howth, has a single entry. Only three of the four Dun Laoghaire clubs are sending boats. The home of the country’s biggest sailing centre, with the Wicklow start line on its doorstep, can only muster 12 in total.
Cork's race veteran Eric Lisson was clear about club support when he lifted his overall prize in 2002. He pleaded with offshore sailors at the time to go out and canvass for it's future support.
Lisson, who took second in the 2005 Fastnet Race, knows the potential of the Round Ireland is not just as another ‘passage race’ as RORC describe it but as a symbol of Irish sailing. He suggested that if each of the 30 skippers or so could attract one more clubmate then quite simply they would double the size of the fleet. Two years later, 49 entries and a big breeze meant 2004 went down as a highlight of the race’s 28–year–history.
But now four years on, the exact reason for the lack of growth can most precisely be attributed to a clash of dates with the Commodore's Cup. Ireland is fielding three teams and with a strong entry for the Cowes event (see page 24), this has had a direct effect on Round Ireland numbers and crew availability. But even this is too convenient an excuse for a race whose true strength lies abroad.
What really is at stake for Irish sailing is much more than running a local yacht race. The Round Ireland is the perfect offshore race course and it needs to be sold as such.
Pictured left: Adrian Lee’s Beneteau Irisha passes below Wicklow head at the start of the 2004 race
The entire sailing community headed by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) or another body needs to get behind Wicklow and assist it in promoting this 704-mile offshore race as an icon of Ireland's summer sport.
Nowhere was this point more clearly made than in early June when the world's top offshore sailors called in unexpectedly to our South and West coasts.
They came principally in search of wind in leg eight of the Volvo Round the World race. They found little wind, unusually, but before they left they wrote prose worthy of a Failte Ireland copywriter.
In his log Navigator Simon Fisher from ABN AMRO TWO wrote: “Our day started sailing in and out of the mist rolling down off the hills and, as the sun rose and the mist burnt off, it gave way to spectacular views of rolling green hills and a weather-beaten rocky coastline. With castles and towers stationed on each headland, it gives you the feeling of sailing through a scene out of Lord of the Rings.”
COPYRIGHT AFLOAT 2004
More on the Round Ireland Yacht Race:
L'Aberwrac'h Light house. Image courtesy of Rush Sailing Club Photo Gallery
Rush Sailing Club was founded in 1954 by a group of local enthusiasts with no facilities and less money. Nonetheless, several of them built their own Dublin Bay Mermaids. Designed in 1933, a fleet of these beautiful clinker-built 17-foot dinghies are still the mainstay of racing in the club over fifty years later.
Since those early days, the club has developed beyond recognition, with a fine clubhouse, yard, private slipway and fenced and serviced boat park.
In addition to the Mermaids, there are now a substantial fleets of cruisers and motor boats moored in the estuary, an active Junior section sailing Optimist, Pico and Feva dinghies, and members involved in a wide range of water sports, from fishing to kayaking and diving. Courses are also organised for adult beginners and for developing more advanced skills.
New members are always welcome. The Club Bar is open to members on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. The clubhouse is also available for private hire for functions. For bookings, contact Marguerite Carthy, 087 253 7860.
Sailforce is a new campaign established by the Irish Disabled Sailing Association (IDSA) to highlight the achievements and activities of their current membership and to introduce members of the general public to the concept of sailing as a viable sport for the disabled.
The IDSA was established in the early 1980s to introduce and encourage people of all ages with physical disability to take up sailing. Funded by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) and with the assistance of the Irish Naval Service and a select number of yacht clubs, the Association developed to provide centres in Kinsale, Crosshaven, Monkstown, and Howth.
Twenty years later, IDSA members are involved in all levels of the sport, from regular club racing, through international championships, to Paralympic campaigns.
The objectives of Sailforce are initially to provide information on the current activities of the IDSA and to make contact with members of the general public interested in getting involved in the sport. With this feedback, the IDSA intend to accommodate newcomers in Introduction Days whenever practicable.
To encourage other yacht and sailing clubs to take example from the Royal Cork Yacht Club, Kinsale Yacht Club, Howth Yacht Club and Monkstown Bay Sailing Club and provide facilities for disabled sailors to participate in the sport, the Sailforce Burgee will be awarded to clubs showing a positive and tangible commitment towards access for persons with a disability. By expanding the facilities countrywide, the IDSA will be able to accommodate larger number of potential sailors.
The main source of communication for Sailforce is this disabled user friendly website: www.sailforce.ie. This website has a contact us facility for would-be sailors to get in touch. In addition, the IDSA will operate a support telephone Information Request service for those without access to the Internet: 021 438 3228.
If you are interested in becoming involved in Sailforce, either to try out sailing or to help us introduce others to your favourite sport, please do get in touch with us. We look forward to welcoming you to the team.
To quote one disabled sailor: 'Sailing is the only sport I've ever tried which actually makes me feel less, rather than more disabled.'
Irish Disabled Sailing Association (IDSA) – Sailforce
Paul Ryan, tel: 087 230 6352, email: Rhino.irl[email protected]
Kevin Downing, tel: 087 254 6880, email: [email protected]
Afloat posts on the IDSA:
There is a space for Irish boating clubs and racing classes to use as their own bulletin board and forum for announcements and discussion. If you want to see a dedicated forum slot for your club or class, click here
The IARU is the Governing Body for Rowing in Ireland and represents over 100 Clubs across Ireland. Rowing is one of Ireland's most successful sports, having won multiple World Championships over the last decade.
Irish Amateur Rowing Union Ltd. (IARU)/Rowing Ireland, Sport HQ, Block 13, Joyce Way, Parkwest Business Park, Nangor Road, Dublin 12. Tel: +353 1 625 1130. Also National Rowing Centre, Farran Wood, Ovens, Co. Cork. Tel: +353 21 743 4044.
Dinghies at the Evening Topaz Sailing. Photo: Brian McDowell
Malahide’s Three Clubhouses…
1 The Three Day Wonder!
Although the club was founded in 1958 it did not have a clubhouse until 1959.
Despite planning the club's first Whitsun Open Meeting (on the Broadmeadows) the enthusiastic early members found time to acquire and erect a de-mountable wooden chalet that had been purchased from Barney Herron Prefab Homes in Leixlip. It cost £300.
They started assembling the new clubhouse on a site on the 'Band Gardens' – more or less our current St. James's Terrace site, which the Commodore, Lord Talbot had made available to the club. Work commenced on an April Monday and by Wednesday the roof was in position.
The building served the Lower Estuary sailors well and was used as a starters retreat when Mermaid races were started and finished at a line from the flagpole to a mark off Malahide Point. The building was removed in 1979 to make way for a more substantial premises.
2 The 2nd Clubhouse
In 1962 a site was acquired at Cave's Marsh on the Broadmeadows from the local farmer, Mr Cave. A clubhouse was erected and a dinghy pen fenced off. Starting as a builders hut, it grew over the years then suffered severe fire damage, was re-built, then extended to the solid structure of to-day. See the illustration at the head of this page.
3 Back to the Lower Estuary – The 3rd Clubhouse
The club celebrated its 21st birthday in 1979 and was thriving with high levels of dinghy sailing activity on the Broadmeadows and a growing fleet of small cruiser/racers on the lower estuary.
It was agreed that a more elaborate clubhouse was needed at St. James's Terrace and so a local architect, Mr. Brendan Canning, was engaged to draw up plans. A contract was signed with O'Rourke Builders Ltd. and with the help of bank finance and interest free loans from members a £60,000 clubhouse was constructed. The new facility was officially opened on Friday 30th May, 1980.
In that year the club officers were:
President: Capt. J. C. Kelly-Rogers
Vice President: Len E. Mills
Commodore: Peter Killen
Vice Commodore: Gerry Newman
Rear Commodore: Arthur Slye
Hon. Sec.: C. W. Woodman
Hon. Treasurer: Pat O'Keeffe
Hon. Sailing Sec.: Ashley Cross
Junior Affairs: Christy Sheridan
Committee Members: John Banim, George Long, George McIlhagga, John McInerney, Tom Mythen and Jim Twomey.
Trustees: M.J. Byrne, R.S. Dix, and C.W. Woodman.
In 1980 the membership stood at 99 Family, 70 Ordinary, 35 Cadet, 10 Associate and 11 Life Members
4 And our latest
For almost a decade the Club had hopes of moving from St. James's Terrace to the marina area as it was always felt that it would be in our interests to be close to the boats moored in the marina. However, we were unable to reach an accord with any of the various parties involved over the years with the marina development project. Consequently, a general meeting of members on 17 October, 2001 authorised the Executive Committee proceed with a major refurbishment and extension of the existing premises at St. James's Terrace. The club had accumulated a substantial cash balance in recent years and the balance of expenditure was to be financed by bank borrowings and a small increase in subscriptions over the following three years.
After much drawing and redrawing of plans agreement was reached with Ray Mac Donnell Architects on extending to the East at a higher floor level to provide a large lounge with panoramic windows, extending to the South to allow for a new bar, keg room and kitchen and a complete makeover of the toilet and shower facilities. Lissadell Construction Ltd. were awarded the contract. Eventually, on 22 June 2003 the magnificent new facility was officially opened and is now being much enjoyed and appreciated by members and friends. The works cost just under €600,000 inclusive of VAT.
The Ripple, a 12 ton cutter, was built in Belfast in 1862 for G. Brett by D. Fulton, a building contractor who also built yachts. Fulton was a leading member of the Royal Ulster YC and also a member of the Clyde, Mersey, Western and Prince Alfred yacht clubs.
At Carrickfergus Regatta in 1866 there was a 12 ton cutter Ripple owned by D. Boyd of Royal Mersey Yacht Club.
The vessel was purchased by George Murney, also a Royal Mersey member, probably in 1868 because in that year he commissioned the above picture by W. Abernethy which is now in the possession of the Royal Ulster YC. At this time he also owned an 8 ton cutter Lily. Murney was an original member of the RUYC, number 13 on their list of members and their first treasurer in 1867. He remained a member until the late 1880s. His brother Dr. D. Murney was number 6 on the Royal Ulster original members list and was Rear Commodore from 1875 until 1883. George was a keen yachtsman, not only in Belfast Lough as he and Ripple appeared in Carlingford regattas in 1872, 1877 and 1878, at Malahide in 1870, 1872–1875 and the Royal Irish in 1887. Racing yachts in those days did not carry sail numbers but flew an owner’s distinctive flag at the masthead, blue or red with a white lion rampant in the case of the Ripple as shown on the painting above.
Sailing at Broadmeadows
Malahide Yacht Club has a long tradition of dinghy sailing and we’re very proud of the achievements of our sailors over the years.
The club was established in 1958, initially concentrating on dinghy sailing in the Broadmeadows estuary. The fleet comprised mainly Herons for the juniors and Enterprises, with their distinctive blue sails, for the rest. Later Optimists became very popular for the 8-14 year olds. Very large fleets of the latter two classes developed and racing was to a high standard with the club producing Olympic representatives, Irish and British national champions and many others representing Ireland internationally. With the growth of other types of sailing, especially Cruiser Class III, dinghy sailing went into a decline, mirroring a national trend. However, there has been a tremendous resurgence locally with the introduction of the Topaz class and the fleet has gone from scratch to over fifty boats in the course of the last few years with growth continuing apace. Hand-in-hand with this activity has gone a major refurbishment of the shore side facilities at Broadmeadows.
We have a busy club race calendar with races every Thursday and Saturday during the season.
Other events, such as away events where we take some of our fleet to visit other clubs are generally organised by the Dinghy committee and posted on the website.
If you’re not a 'racer' and want to sail for fun make contact as we will also be arranging fun sailing events.
If you’ve never sailed and dinghy before and would like to try, we have club boats that can be rented for a modest fee so members can experience the excitement of dinghy sailing without having their own boat.
Evening Dinghy Racing – On Thursday evenings during season with first gun at 19.30 hrs.
Saturday racing on Broadmeadows – Racing for Lasers, Topaz, Mirrors, Optimists and sundry boats on most Saturdays throughout the season with First Gun at 15.00 hrs.
Dinghy sail training – Details on 'Courses and Tuition' page.
Training courses for Juniors – As in previous years, MYC is running its ever-popular summer training courses for juniors down in the Broadmeadows. ISA Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Racing) courses will run concurrently. The first set of courses begins on Monday 3rd July and lasts for 3 weeks and the second on Monday 24th July. Full details and application form on 'Junior Courses' page.
2008-9 Officers & Committee of Malahide Yacht Club and Contacts
Commodore – Colm Fitzpatrick – 086 819 7584
Vice Commodore – Martin Clancy – 087 252 8559
Rear Commodore – Bob Sugrue – 086 804 8048
Hon. Secretary – Eddie Magee – 087 259 1418
Hon. Treasurer – Andy Deegan – 083 303 6731
Sailing Development – Brian McDowell – 087 232 7745
Membership – Deirdre Moore-Somers – 086 196 8553
Cruiser Racing – Brian Stewart – 087 329 8598
Cruising – Dave Farrell– 086 255 7120
Dinghy Sailing – Peter Cunning – 086 805 1783
Junior Affairs – Chris Shackleton – 086 820 6374
Bar – Irene Devitt – 087 699 5855
Clubhouse & Grounds – Michael McCabe – 087 245 2637
MYC 50th – Rose Michael – 087 255 2726
Dinghy Section – Optimist class Sec: Fran Thompson – [email protected]
Topaz class: Diarmuid Marron – [email protected]
Laser class Sec: Garrett Donnelly – [email protected]
Cruiser Section – Cruising: Dave Farrell – As above
Racing: Lee Douglas – As above
Membership Secretary: Deirdre Moore-Somers – As above
Clubhouse: Steward - Pat O'Keeffe – 845 3372/087 243 0646 (St. James's Terrace)
(The above information and image courtesy of Malahide Yacht Club
Below: Union Chandlery Topaz Nationals 2009, Malahide YC
The Topaz Class Association of Ireland has been formed to promote the Topaz Uno and Uno Plus as the one design Sailing dinghy of choice for the modern generation.
Please note: 2009 Events – New Rules This year it has been decided by the Class Association Committee that all of the Class Association events for Unos and Uno Pluses will be scored as one fleet, with NO handicap system.
Changing fleets during an event will only be allowed with the prior approval of the race committee. Boats that are allowed to change fleet during an event will be scored as a new entrant to the event.
Changing of crew during an event will only be allowed with the prior approval of the race committee. Permission will only be given to change crew during an event if they are of similar weight.
Afloat's Graham Smith wrote, in the February/March 2009 issue: "One of the newcomers on the Irish sailing scene, the double-handed Topaz has certainly captured the imagination of members of six clubs. In a relatively short period of time, the class has grown to almost 100 boats, putting it into the top 10 of classes by numbers.
Getting a third of the national fleet to compete at the Irish Championships at Wexford Harbour represents a singular success for the class administrators and young Richard Arthurs from Malahide (which boasts one of the biggest club fleets) will have been happy to take the title ahead of 32 rivals.
Another Malahide helm, Conor Costelloe, won the Easterns on home waters and Wexford’s Ronan Jones took the Western title (curiously held in Dungarvan in the South-East!), both with fleets in the high teens. The biggest event of the Topaz year in numerical terms was the Southerns in Baltimore where local helm Fionn Lyden was the best of 46 entries. National Champion 2009: Richard Arthurs, Malahide YC"
There is a space for Irish boating clubs and racing classes to use as their own bulletin board and forum for announcements and discussion. If you want to see a dedicated forum slot for your club or class, click here
The Wayfarer: 16 feet, with spinnaker, a family day sailer, cruiser and racing dinghy for inland and coastal waters. Stable and easily managed by beginners yet it's PY of 1099 reflects excellent Class and mixed fleet performance. Friendly and social the Class offers three annual championships, group insurance, and helpful websites. Click here for all the latest Wayfarer News.
The United Kingdom Wayfarer Association (UKWA) operate a national class association (NCA) in the UK and Republic of Ireland in accordance with the constitution of the Wayfarer International Class Association.
We are always delighted to welcome new members to the association. Wayfarer boat owners can join as an Individual (Full Member) or as a Family. We have many non-boat owners who may join as an Associate Member.
Why should I become a member of UKWA – the association of Wayfarer owners? We pride ourselves on being a very friendly association and are always delighted to welcome new members. You don't have to own a Wayfarer to be a member, and many people choose to join while looking for a boat so that they can take advantage of membership, espcially our magazine and website, in the meantime. The owner of a Wayfarer has the opportunity to join a large group of sociable and knowledgeable sailors who together know everything there is to know about this amazing dinghy.
About the Wayfarer (courtesy of the UK Wayfarer Association website)
Did you know the ideal dinghy for beginners could also cruise the rugged West Coast of Scotland, race in a near gale or while away a long summer's afternoon pottering with the family?
With a Wayfarer you can do it all:
* Learn to sail
* Day-sail with the children
* Cruise to adventure (some Wayfarer sailors tackle journeys 'big boat' cruisers would be wary of!)
* Race with spinnakers, at your local club or at open, national and international events with one of the most competitive fleets around
This 16 footer is one boat you won't grow out of.
To get the most from your boat join the United Kingdom Wayfarer Association and enjoy a full programme of racing and cruising events plus all the benefits of membership.
The Wayfarer dinghy was designed by Ian Proctor in 1957 and has since acquired an unrivalled reputation as a tough and seaworthy cruising dinghy, yet at the same time being responsive and rewarding to race.
Probably there is no other centreboard boat in the world which combines these qualities as happily; it is this great versatility that makes her so outstanding as a racing and cruising boat.
Since the Wayfarer was originally designed there have been improvements in materials and production techniques which have lead to a variety of different versions all sharing the same hull shape and sail plan.
Afloat's Graham Smith wrote, in the February/March 2009 issue: "2008 was a big year by Wayfarer standards as Ireland hosted the European Championships in Skerries in mid-September, although it only attracted a fleet of 23 boats, including five from abroad. Michael McNamara from the Norfolk Broads retained his title while Dave Kelly and Bernie Grogan of the host club were the best placed local entry and were awarded the Irish Championship to add to the Eastern regional title earned earlier in the season. The Wayfarer has its hard core of enthusiasts and while their numbers have probably never even reached the half century, there are 40 of them dotted around eight clubs. National Champions: Dave Kelly and Bernie Grogan, Skerries SC"
There is a space for Irish boating clubs and racing classes to use as their own bulletin board and forum for announcements and discussion. If you want to see a dedicated forum slot for your club or class, click here
The Irish Topper Class Association promotes the Topper Class in Ireland, both North and South, through the organising of competition and through the provision of coaching and support to topper sailors. Click here for all the latest Topper Sailing News.
The class has grown and currently has in excess of 100 sailors registered from all parts of the country.
Throughout the year, we promote a number of events that cater for all ability levels, from young sailors just starting out, to those with considerable race experience who aspire to race at international level.
Racing consists of: a Topper Traveller Championship, made up of five events at different clubs throughout the year; Provincial championship events held throughout Ireland (usually Ulster, Munster, and Leinster), and the Irish National Championships – usually attracts the cream of the GBR squad to do battle with!
2008 was an important year for the class with the very successful staging of the World Championship at Fenit – Tralee Bay Sailing Club from the 19th–25th July.
Whatever level you sail, you are sure of a warm welcome to one of the most social of sports there are!
International Topper Class Association Ireland
Whether just messing about in boats, having fun off a beach, learning to sail, flat out blasting or competitive racing, there are so many reasons for choosing the fantastic Topper! It requires little maintenance, is easily rigged in a matter of minutes, is rugged and safe for beginners and an exciting race boat too as your skills develop and it is car-toppable! It truly is the most versatile of sailboats!
The Topper was designed by Ian Proctor whose other boats include the ever popular Wayfarer. It was originally constructed in GRP but this was changed quite early on to an injection moulding construction. After well over 20 years of continuous production (approaching 50,000 boats!) it is the outstanding build quality, durability and innovative design features that have made the Topper a very popular boat. The Topper hull is injection moulded with incredible precision, reaching a level of uniformity quite outside the scope of any other production system, either hand built or mass produced in GRP or roto-moulded plastic. The material is polypropylene which has proved to combine strength and flexibility with lightness and virtually everlasting life. Because of this proven reputation resale values are extremely high.
In 1977 the Topper was awarded the Design Council Award and the Horner Award for achievements in plastics. The Topper is used in the Open University television programme to illustrate the principles of craft, design and technology, the development of injection moulding techniques and the handling and use of plastics in industry.
The two main mouldings of the Topper hull are fuse welded together to produce a robust single unit. Specially shaped polystyrene blocks are fitted at this stage to provide extra stiffness and enormous reserves of positive buoyancy in the very unlikely event of the Topper’s tough skin being holed. The hull of every Topper has a five year warranty proving that the builders have great confidence in it.
Clever design features include a clever swivelling mast gate that enables you to erect the mast single-handed. There is a brilliant rudder system that allows the blade to be set and locked in any position at the flick of a wrist. And the hull plate can survive the boat coming ashore at high speed with the dagger-board still down! The aluminium mast is un stayed and in two sections allowing the spars to be stored within the length of the boat. The sail has a luff tube which makes rigging really easy. The daggerboard is made like a rudder blade of a moulded polypropylene which never snaps. But it can sink, so you must tie it on!
John Driscoll an RYA National Sailing Coach wrote "The Topper dinghy has a unique place in the world of sailing instruction." He went on to say " It is hard to find a sailing school or holiday centre without a fleet of Toppers and here’s why: Topper’s cutting edge comes from her robustness, her simplicity, versatility and her ease of handling ashore and afloat. She’ll take all the knocks of a sailing day and bounce back smiling. Just like the students. She’s taken the fear factor out of the capsize drill. She’s made it easy to learn and fun to be with"
TOPPER – THE IDEAL CIRCUIT RACER
Because of the builder’s commitment to uniformity of hulls and specification of fittings and equipment, a Topper can race with any other Topper, older or younger, on equal terms. A true One Design. With full International recognition from the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), the Topper phenomenon is spreading around the World.
Recently the Class has adopted the option of a centre main-sheeting system with a longer tiller extension as an alternative to the established aft sheeting. This has made the boat more comfortable to sail for some sailors, whilst others are staying resolutely with their original aft sheeting arrangement – confirmation that the rigorous testing process carried out to ensure that no competitive advantage would be gained was worthwhile. In future we have in development a ‘cut down’ sail which should enable smaller sailors to enjoy the thrill of sailing Toppers without having to reef the full sized sail.
THE FRIENDLY CLASS
This reputation is well earned both by the sailors themselves and their shore-side parents and supporters.
International Topper Class Association (ITCA), ITCA Secretary: Helen Evans, 4 Dig Lane, Wynbunbury, Nantwich, Cheshire CW5 7EZ, England Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1270 567047, mail: [email protected]
The Dublin Bay Waterwag lays claim to being the oldest one-design sailing boat in the world. Founded as a class in 1887, the design was modified in 1900 and the rules are essntially unchanged since then.
Afloat's Graham Smith wrote, in the February/March 2009 issue:
You would expect that the venerable Wag would be a class at ease with itself by just trundling along with the same number of boats, year in, year out. If you did, you’d be wrong! Four or five new boats over the previous few years plus a new one this year has brought the fleet to a very respectable 40 in its 121st year of action in the Bay. A number of these are now available to charter or to buy, although the proviso is that they must be sailed in Dun Laoghaire! There was no Wag Worlds in 2008 – it’s every second year so 2009 has the next one – but Frank Guy in Gavotte (Wag no. 24) was the leading light in the Dublin Bay racing scene during the 2008 season.
Royal Ocean Racing Club 1925 – 2005
If the crew of the last boat to cross the finish line of the first ever Fastnet race did hear the cheers from the Royal Western Yacht Club of England, as the new Ocean Racing Club was formed, then the sound must have carried a long way. For the Plymouth club was situated, on that August evening in 1925, in a large Victorian building, up on the Hoe. Anyway it had a fine dining room for the crews of the seven yachts (less one) and at the end of dinner, as well as at the end of a memorable race, the new club was brought into being.
Although large yachts with paid crews (virtually small sailing ships) had raced in the open sea in the previous century, that was for private wagers or special occasions (there was a Round Britain race in 1887, the fiftieth year of the Queen's reign, for eleven yachts of between 40 and 200 tons). At the beginning of the 1920s, yacht racing in Britain meant day racing, the best talent being in the 12, 8 and 6-metre boats of the International Rule of the IYRU (renamed ISAF in 1996).
Now the Cruising Club of America was formed in 1922, along the lines of the Royal Cruising Club (founded 1880) and it held a 600-mile race from New London to Bermuda in 1923 and again in 1924. These races were open to small yachts and amateur crews. Weston Martyr, a British yachting writer, who had taken part, returned to England with enthusiasm for the new sport. There followed enough response from individual owners of seaworthy cruisers for the first Fastnet race to start from Ryde, Isle of Wight, on 15th August 1925. Contrived to be about the same length as the Bermuda race, it did not pass off without much debate in the press on the wisdom of such a venture "open to any yachtsman" over such a course in our unsettled latitudes.
The select gathering at Plymouth appointed its first commodore of the Ocean Racing Club, Lt Cmdr E.G. Martin OBE RNVR, who had already won cruising awards from the RCC and from whose committee he had resigned owing to its disapproval of 'the ocean race'. Owner of the converted Havre pilot cutter, Jolie Brise, he was no stranger to racing having won the One Ton Cup in the 6-metre class in 1912. At 6ft 5in, educated at Eton and New College, Oxford, and a county cricket player, he was evidently the kind of leader to create from scratch modern ocean racing in England. There were thirty-three other founder members, among whom were Robert Somerset DSO, R. Maclean Buckley MC and Major T.P. Rose-Richards, these three later becoming flag officers. The word ‘ocean’ was as used in America, meaning racing in the open sea rather than in confined waters as previously. The object of the club was ‘to provide annually one ocean race not less than 600 miles in length’.
Looking slightly ahead, a second race was first introduced in 1928, on a triangular course in the English Channel of about 250 miles and known as ‘the Channel Race’. As for the name of the club, an application for ‘Royal’ was made in 1929, but rejected by the Home Office. However King George V was an active yachtsman and it was granted in November 1931, when the club assumed its present title. The Fastnet race has remained a central fixture of the club. It was not always secure in the early days. There was a race each year until 1931, but in 1933 it was reduced to six starters, only three of which were British. Weston Martyr wrote in Yachting World, ‘What's the matter with us? We've got the ships, we've got the men and if we haven't got the money, neither have the Americans just now: and yet they had about fifty entries this year for their race to Gibson Island’. Today the Fastnet is still with us and Gibson Island (last race 1937) is long forgotten.
For the second race the start line had been changed from Ryde to Cowes, but the yachts were still sent around the eastern end of the island, which was thought more seamanlike. The 1935 race was unique in that it started from Yarmouth, westward, and then finished at Cowes via the forts before the beginning of Cowes Week, an experiment which was not repeated. Ryde eastward was the start again in 1937, the race being won by Zeearend, thus prompting a famous comment by one of the race's great chroniclers and participants, the American journalist Alf Loomis: ‘For once the race wasn't won by a damned Yankee; no, the winner was a blasted Dutchman’. The 1947 race had a start to the east from the destroyer HMS Zephyr off Portsmouth, but thereafter it has always been westward from the Royal Yacht Squadron line at Cowes.
In 1935 (when the race became biennial), there were 17 starters and thereafter the numbers increased with 29 in 1939, 1947 (first post-war) and 1949. Numbers then rose to 42 in 1957, first year of the Admiral's Cup, 151 in 1965 and an all time maximum of 303 in 1979. The wide international participation meant that winners came from different nations: for instance there was no winner that was both British designed and owned, from 1953 when Sir Michael Newton's Robert Clark designed Favona was first overall, until 1975 when Golden Delicious owned by Peter Nicholson, designed by Camper and Nicholsons and sailed by the Bagnall twins, had best corrected time.
Numbers for the race in later years have steadied down to the middle 200s, which is about right for the organization with, for instance, a few below 250 in 1985, 1991, 1993 and 1995. 1997 saw 260 start in light weather and the course record broken by a multihull. As quantity improved over the years, so did passage times. George Martin's Jolie Brise, which won in 1925, took just six and one half days (4.0 knots); the current course monohull record, set in 1999 is 2 days 5 hours 8 minutes 51 seconds (11.38 knots) being held by RF Yachting (Ross Field, NZL). Multihulls have raced since 1997, resulting in the outright course record also in 1999 of 1 day 16 hours 27 minutes 0 seconds (14.96 knots) by Fujicolor II (Loock Peyron, FRA). More common in the Fastnet course are long beats to windward or patches of calm. However, unlike many of the world's race courses, it is impossible to define Fastnet weather (therefore happily impracticable to design a special kind of boat to win). For instance for 1981 (next after the 1979 storm) there was light weather; 1983 had light weather and some calm, but easterlies on the way home; 1985 was the worst weather since 1979 and resulted in a higher proportion of retirements than in the storm; 1987 was generally light, but with a 200-mile beat on the way home including a short blow; 1993 was a beat to the Fastnet rock and a run home; 1995 was very light with a moderate beat, freshening later, all the way back to Plymouth. 1997 started with fog and light air and ended in calms with moderate breezes in between. 1999 was light for many boats, but the leaders carried a fresh breeze. 2001 featured fast speeds for most of the course, but light air before the finish, and 2003 turned out to be a long race in mainly light airs.
The club began by using various premises for its meetings and dinners in London; by 1935 it had the use of rooms at 3 Old Burlington Street. By February 1936, the membership at about 600 was large enough to open a club house at 2 Pall Mall. In November 1940, the building received a direct hit from a bomb, the steward was killed and the club house destroyed. It was joined incidentally by the Royal Western Yacht Club within the year, burnt down by incendiaries. That club then moved nearer the water, as found at the end of many Fastnets afterwards. In due course a short lease was taken on a house at 20 St James's Place, but it was feared that any London club house might suffer the same fate. It nearly did, as the roof was then bomb damaged. After repair work by the members themselves, 20 St James's Place was opened on 23rd July 1942 by King Haakon of Norway. Of course, the club, thanks to the foresight of those wartime members, is still there, and in 1956 was enlarged by the purchase of number 19.
A major renovation began in 1993 resulting in extensively modernized accommodation for members, with redecorated bedrooms and private bathrooms. A modern telephone system was installed throughout the building for administration and for members' areas. As for the position of the club house at its select cul-de-sac in the West End, this remains beyond price. Those who were in charge in the year 1949 also had the wisdom to buy the freehold of the property. Among wartime activities were considerable hospitality to allied navies and a 32-35ft WL ocean racer design competition for prisoners of war. It was won by an RAF Flight-Lieutenant held in Oflag IVC.
In the few years prior to 1939, the number of races started by the club had expanded considerably. In 1930 there were 4 (Fastnet, Channel, Santander, Dinard); in 1934, 6; 1937, 8; 1938,10. 1937 was fairly typical, with Fastnet, Channel, Dinard, Heligoland, Maas, Southsea to Brixham, Ijmuiden to Solent and Solent to La Baule. In the 1980s, by contrast, the number of events averaged 17 per year, not counting short parts of modern inshore-offshore circuits. As further recounted below, the 1990s were to see even more race starts.
Unfortunately there is no space here to mention all the many members who have contributed so much to the progress of the club; some have reached flag rank and some not and the reader is referred to the pages with lists of previous officers and staff. But there was one giant of ocean racing, who gave a massive push to competitive sailing in Britain: Captain John H. Illingworth RN. He raised the standard of racing; he wrote a classic text book called Offshore; he revolutionized the rating rule and design; he challenged the Americans; he galvanized the French (too effectively some might say!); he started races overseas (Sydney-Hobart, Giraglia, sail training events and others), he showed that small yachts could race as daringly as big ones and he presented, with others, the Admiral's Cup, a private challenge for a three boat team of American yachts which might be visiting for Cowes Week and the Fastnet. He won, in Myth of Malham, (Fastnet overall winner 1947 and 1949), Mouse of Malham, Merle of Malham, Monk of Malham, Oryx and other yachts, simply scores of races.
From the first RORC race after the war, the Cowes to Dinard in September 1945 (with a destroyer escort to ensure yachts kept clear of the minefields) and for twenty years after that, came the club's greatest expansion. For one reason or another, yachtsmen decided that what, for want of a better name, are called cruiser-racers were the thing for racing. The old metre boat dominance disappeared and clubs around the coast began offering races for habitable handicap boats. The apex of these events was the annual programme of the RORC. Further, both in Britain and abroad, the challenging offshore courses improved vastly the design and construction of ocean racers. For a time it appeared that they were able to keep the sea in almost any weather. Owners and crews had, for what some see as this idyllic period, an ocean racer, a cruiser, somewhere to sleep in harbour, and an inshore racing boat, all in the same yacht. Such a vessel was manned by amateurs, probably members of the club, with the galley and chart table aft and of moderate displacement, so that the sail area could be reasonably handled.
As mentioned, the Admiral's Cup began as a private challenge in 1957, but in 1959 the club was asked to run the series and although the Americans did not return that year, Holland and France took part. The story was then one of continual expansion of the number of teams, which reached a maximum of 19 (57 boats) between 1977 and 1979. After 1985, in terms of the number of three boat teams, there was a decline as the kind of yacht needed to compete both offshore and in additional specified inshore courses (even Olympic or Olympic style layouts), became progressively more unusual and expensive, as did the paid crew. Commercial sponsorship of the series by a French company, Champagne Mumm, began in 1983, while the first British boat to be sponsored, rather than privately owned, appeared in 1991. The Admiral's Cup had become at its origin almost by accident (because the allotted courses were already in existence) a novel kind of yacht racing which combined inshore and offshore racing. It steadily became a model of its kind, spawning welcome imitators including the Southern Cross (Australia), the Onion Patch (NE USA), Hawaii (Kenwood) Cup, Sardinia Cup, the RORC/IOR Ton Cups and a range of regional and local competitions.
Back in 1945, following the death of George Martin, his partner in ownership of a gaff rig yacht called Griffin, H.E. West, had presented her to the club, so that provisional members and others without berths could gain ready access to races. In 1957, Owen Aisher and his co-owners made a free replacement with Yeoman, which had won the 1951 Fastnet. She was renamed Griffin II. Since then a number of yachts, each named Griffin has been acquired in turn by the club for training purposes. Again specialization and costs meant that times changed, so that the last Griffins were run for training by the then National Sailing Centre in association with the RORC. When the Centre converted to a private trust, the system was changed to supporting training with a fund rather than a specific yacht.
In 1970 the commodore and two advisers decided to start up a substantial publication for members with the title, Seahorse. It was first a quarterly, then a monthly. It has had two changes of ownership and copies have always been for sale to non-members. Established now for more than twenty-five years, it has evolved into an organ of first class yacht racing, not merely offshore.
From the earliest days the club has found it necessary to have some form of established and practical time allowance system to enable boats to join in the races. For the first Fastnet races with their elderly cruisers built to no rules, Malden Heckstall-Smith, brother of the famous 'Bookstall', who virtually ran British inshore yacht racing single-handed, was appointed 'club measurer'. He recommended a version of the old Boat Racing Association formula of 1912. It had in fact been derived by combining two earlier American rating rules, the Seawanhaka and the Universal. As the 'RORC rule' it was developed for the club's races through the thirties. From the beginning, Martin, Somerset and others were determined to have a measurement rule of some sort and not to depend upon observed performance. One description by Somerset stated that measurement was 'a very simple matter which can be done afloat in a few minutes'.
In 1928 the CCA began using this rule for the Bermuda race, but in 1932 split away to use an entirely different form of handicapping. The RORC was then on its own and such an efficient job did it do, that from 1945 other British clubs began to specify the RORC rule for their races and insisted that boats arrived with a certificate of measurement issued by the RORC. In those more modest days, the club was at first reluctant to allow other organizations to use its rule, but by the late fifties the club's rating rule and its equipment standards were widely used in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, though not in North and South America where US systems were bound to prevail. In 1957 there were major changes to the RORC rule, including the abandonment of the necessity to be able to take all measurements when afloat (on a mooring, for there were then no marinas in Britain). These changes involved the remeasurement of some 1200 boats. Since the mid-thirties there had also been quite different methods of time allowances in America and Britain. Since 1935 the RORC (followed ten years later by all other British clubs) deduced a time-on-time system (minutes per hour) for each yacht from her rating, while throughout the USA, time-on-distance (seconds-per-mile) remained read off from nationally agreed tables.
A number of reasons in the sixties led to initiatives to try and combine the RORC and American rules. Among these were continental pressures (particularly the 'Bremen meeting') against having to choose between two rules, talk of an ocean racing class in the Olympic games, which was thought to need a rating rule and the example of the IYRU, which had in 1952, after forty-five years, at last been joined by the USA. Successful American designs were beginning to appear to the RORC rule and US designers rather liked the way it was run.
London and the club house were a main focus of this international activity and it was there in November 1968 that a new combined rule, the International Offshore Rule, was announced. RORC members taking a leading role were E.P.De Guingand, a RORC flag officer and chairman of the co-ordinating committee, David Fayle and Robin Glover, RORC chief measurers, of whom there were no equivalents in the USA, Olin J. Stephens II and Dick Carter, American designers whose yachts were winning under both the RORC and American rules and David Edwards, commodore of the club at that vital period.
From 1971, the club used the IOR for all its races. Such a 'world rule' caused for a number of years an immense expansion in offshore racing and offshore boats. A major influence on the whole process was the One Ton Cup, an award owned by the Cercle de la Voile de Paris, used previously for the IYRU 6-metre class. The CVP had transferred it in 1965 to a fixed rating under the RORC rule with a few extras such as headroom and equipment to be carried; with the arrival of IOR, it was agreed to move it under the same concept to within IOR. Under the latter rule it provided intense annual international competition from 1971 until 1994. In 1998 the famous and remarkably handsome cup was allocated to a 45ft one-design class.
In its first decade, the IOR did look very much more like the old RORC rule than that of the CCA. In a kind of repeat of 1932, senior members of the latter club set up a project to create a new rating rule in America. Known as MHS, it came into use there in 1976 and was used for the 1980 Bermuda race, which was therefore once again on a different system from the Fastnet. Even under IOR, America had used time-on-distance and the British used time-on-time, which resulted in different perceptions of the IOR itself. A committee, which sat for several years attempting to reach a single compromise on time allowances, duly dissolved itself without finding a solution.
From about 1978, there were calls for the RORC to adopt a one-design, for those who did not wish to struggle with rating rules. The club preferred to welcome classes into its races and give prizes, but leave them in the hands of their owners' associations. One-designs to have competed regularly offshore in all lengths of race have included the Contessa 32, the OOD 34, the Sigma 33 and the Sigma 38, all built in England. In 1993 the club took its own one-design initiative with a 36ft flat out racer, designed and built in the USA, and nominated it as a compulsory team boat for the Admiral's Cups from 1995 to 1999. Sponsorship was involved and the class was named the Mumm 36. Expectations that the class would have wider use in the club's races were not realized.
In 1984 the club offered a second rating alongside the IOR, run from its own rating office following a suggestion from, and in partnership with, France's Union National du Course au Large. Known as the Channel Handicap System, it had the effect over several years of increasing race entries, especially in Fastnet races from 1989 onwards. It steadily grew until some 5400 were using the Rule world wide of which over 3000 are issued in England (for UK, Ireland and some other countries), far exceeding those that were measured in the most numerous days of IOR (about 1850 in UK and Ireland). For various reasons IOR fell into disuse; it was in practice unused by the club after 1993. For some it was a pity to see it go, for it had still included in its basic formulae the elements of the old RORC rule and earlier rules within that. From 1990 until 1999 the International Measurement System, previously the American MHS was also used for rating boats in the club's races. At the end of 1997, the club, in conjunction with UNCL, announced a revised rating system to be known as IR2000. As a result CHS was simply renamed IRC, but an additional published rule called IRM, intended for flat out racers, became effective from the 2000 season. However this initiative did not seem to appeal beyond a minority of racing yachts based in the central Solent. In 2003 IRC was accorded International status by ISAF, and continues to flourish. In 2004 some 6000 boats in 31 were racing under IRC. In 2004 the adoption of IRC by a number of US Clubs has seen the expansion of this popular Rule into the USA.
After eighty years of races, memorable and otherwise, campaigns at home and abroad, club life and activities, it would be strange if there had not been unwanted incidents and occurrences. Fatalities while racing have been few, but in ocean racing everywhere casualties happen from time to time. A man was lost overboard in the 1931 Fastnet and French sailors were lost in a Biscay race in the fifties. In 1956 many yachts were in serious difficulties in the "Channel race storm". Other individual cases did occur in the club's races, though it was in the 1979 Fastnet, in which five boats were abandoned and subsequently lost in extreme conditions, that there were fifteen fatalities. Many lessons were learned, which were enumerated in a formal inquiry instituted by the club and the national authority. Linked recommendations were to have a major effect on safety and equipment rules and some aspects of the conduct of racing.
The club racing is now on a two-year cycle with the Fastnet and the qualifiers necessary for it in each odd numbered year. For a typical 'even year' such as 2004 there was a revival of a race from the Solent to Cascais in Portugal, and a series in the Solent and offshore for three boat teams from around Britain and abroad for the Rolex Commodores' Cup. Some 20 events appeared on the annual programme, climaxed by the RORC racing division of the ARC race from Las Palmas, Canary Islands, to Rodney Bay, St Lucia. In the Mediterranean there was the Middle Sea race of 630 miles from Malta, the China Sea race of 650 miles was from Hong Kong to Manila and there was a non-stop 700-mile round Ireland event. Continental ports which marked the finish of races of various lengths included St Malo, Ostend, Scheveningen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Dieppe and St Quay Portrieux. Multihulls, having been given a class briefly in the 1960s, were re-admitted in 1997 and then seemed set to continue.
It is a strange fact that the RORC has no equivalent in any other country (except possible the Nippon Ocean Racing Club, which with 6000 members and many outstations is more of an association for racing throughout Japan). Many clubs all over the world run a limited number of ocean races from their own bases, combined with other sailing activities. There is nothing with quite the appearance of the present day RORC race programme. By contrast various events spring up or are grafted on to race programmes, some being totally organized by a sponsor. When the great event is over, competitors disperse and no physical trace remains.
After eighty years, the message of the Royal Ocean Racing Club still carries a long way. With its bricks and mortar existence, its elected membership and its permanent professional staff, the club stands as a sentinel for the ideals of racing under sail at sea.
Sir Peter Johnson (d. 2004) wrote this history which has been amended up to date
RORC Race Headquarters Cowes, 82 High Street, Cowes, Isle of Wight PO31 7AJ. Tel: +44 (0) 1983 295144, fax: +44 (0) 20 7493 5252. Information: The Race Office in Cowes is only manned during races. Please try the numbers given for the London office outside otherwise.
RORC Rating Office (Seahorse Rating Ltd.), Seahorse Building, Bath Road, Lymington, Hampshire SO41 3SE, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 1590 677030, fax: +44 (0) 1590 679478
Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), 20 St. James’s Place, London SW1A 1NN, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7493 2248, fax: +44 (0) 20 7493 5252
(Details courtesy of the Royal Ocean Racing Club)
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