Your days are numbered – key events 2009
Very few are lucky enough to be able to take the whole year off for sailing, so now’s the time to prioritise the key events, writes Conor Byrne
Just a few words of warning before you throw your eye over the events designed to distract you in 2009. You may need to sit down with your employer before signing any entry forms, and consultations with spouses are at your own risk.
Volvo is making its mark on Irish sailing in 2009. Few people need reminding about the Galway stopover of the Ocean Race in May, and Volvo has retained its title sponsorship of the Dun Laoghaire Regatta.
Apart from these two mammoths, there are no international events taking place in Ireland, giving clubs and members a welcome break after many years of hosting, but the ISA see this as a problem. Ed Alcock explains that the ISA has received Sports Council funds for years for these events, and “not taking up an allocation of money can mean that we don’t get it the following year.”
Our home and away competitors are getting ready early in the season. Five Irish Flying Fifteens are competing in the World Championships in Melbourne in January, and as they leave, three Irish teams land in Perth for February’s Team Racing Worlds. Also heading Down Under are one, maybe two Etchells keelboats for the Worlds in Sydney in March.
As frostbite races begin to thaw out around the country, the biannual IMF Allianz Dublin Boat Show is back to pique our interest in February. It would be foolhardy to expect a turnover compared to previous years in this interesting period. “It’s not exactly the best time to be in the boat business,” says Steve Conlon of the Irish Marine Federation. “There won’t be as many big boats there as there has been in the past, simply because the industry cannot afford it. But there will still be a lot of boats.”
Conlon is taking a tack away from the traditional boat show as we know it.
“We’re trying to persuade more people to get involved, more emphasis on extreme sports - kitesurfing, surfing itself - rather than just opening the doors, pushing big boats in and letting people view it. We are expecting a good show, a slightly different show, a lot of new people, a whole new emphasis on getting people started in water sports.”
One of the bigger dinghy events on the calendar hits Galway this year and needs little introduction. The varsity team racing circus visits Oranmore in March for their Nationals. Hosted by NUI Galway and Galway Bay SC, 24 teams are expected, plus now regular visitors from Scotland.
Rather than put off what you cannot varnish tomorrow, skip the spring cleaning and take the once-in-a-long-time opportunity to see the ‘Everest of Sailing’ arrive in Galway from May 23 to June 6. Let’s Do It Galway expects 140,000 visitors in the smallest stopover city of the race, and once the weather is kind, the city is a worthwhile trip for any person, hardened skipper or otherwise.
Competitors at the Bell Lawrie Scottish Series (May 22–25) will miss some of the Galway celebrations, but no better place than the Clyde to sit out the chaos. Another event that has some of its limelight, and its sailors, taken away by the Volvo is the Rolex Fastnet Race starting on August 9.
An adventurous season is ahead for cruiser racers. For their sixth season, ICRA are organising their national championships on the west coast, at Tralee Bay SC (June 10-14), and are expecting 80 to 120 boats at the event.
“On Saturday, June 6, we’ve three feeder races coming in from across the country,” says Brian O’Sullivan of WIORA. “One is the Dun Laoghaire–Dingle Race, we’ve the OSM 100-mile race from Galway to bring the west coast boats down, and we’ve a SCORA race coming from Kinsale to Fenit.”
The Galway Bay/NORA Regatta (June 3-5) takes place as part of the Onesails McWilliam West Coast Super League, along with the 100-mile race, some of the ICRA nationals, and three other regattas in Foynes, Cliften and Kilrush. The OSM 100 mile race is briefed in Galway as the Ocean Race boats head for Sweden; the €50 entry fee is donated to the RNLI.
Chair of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, Martin Crotty, is quick to point out that it’s a race in its own right. “As it happens this year, it feeds into the ICRA nationals. It’s part of a scheme of things that allows boats to position themselves down in Kerry to go either to the ICRA nationals or the Sovereign’s cup and still have time to get back to Dun Laoghaire week.”
WIORA organisers are arranging skippers and crew to deliver boats the 6-8 hour trip from Dingle to Fenit. “There’s a great end of race atmosphere, boats tend to stay on a couple of days… there’s a great buzz, a great atmosphere, a great deal of craic in Dingle,” says Crotty.
Fintain Cairns of ICRA is confident of a good turnout at the 2009 nationals. “Fenit will be socially quite good, it’s going to be fairly well self-contained, but the main thing from our point of view is the racing. From the original doubts about going there, people are looking forward to something different.”
Brian O’Sullivan is aware of the geographic problems posed by the event. “This is going to be the biggest cruiser event ever on the west coast of Ireland, by a long shot. Getting boats from Dublin will be the big issue.”
There is enough of a break after Fenit to see if your loved ones still love you and go to work if there is any for you, before the south coast’s more competitive regatta of the season, Kinsale’s Sovereign’s Cup (June 24–27).
When the bulk of keelboat racing is over, it’s time for the dinghy sailors to perform abroad.
The intrepid 505 class is hoping to get five boats, and maybe seven, to the European Championship in Kiel in June, and also that month, eight Optimist sailors travel to Lake Garda, Italy for the Europeans. Five helms will have already qualified for the World Championship in Turkey in July.
July and August are busy months for Irish representatives at the Topper Worlds in Austria, the Mirror Worlds in Wales, ISAF youth worlds in Brazil, Laser Radial Worlds in Japan, and the Standard rig worlds in Canada.
Love it or hate it, Dublin Bay will always try and lure you back, but Ciara Dowling will make sure you come back on July 9. The Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta organisers have been listening carefully and have proposed many bullet points of alterations, developments and improvements, the most notable being the inclusion of Howth as a venue in the four-day regatta. From getting discounts in hotels and on ferries, to encouraging early entries by dangling rewards on our computer screens, event organisers everywhere should take note of the effort going into the Dun Laoghaire Regatta.
If you have any money, holidays or crew left, and Skandia Cowes Week (August 1–8) isn’t your thing, West Cork’s Calves Week tempts from August 1-10. The party kicks off the day before with a race from Crosshaven to Schull, taking in the Fastnet. A novel way to see the best of one of the best parts of Ireland, this sailing marathon will haul you over to Baltimore, out to Cape Clear Island, take in Crookhaven regatta and finally complete the Schull Regatta the next day. Organiser Jackie Kenefick coaxes us with “lots of sailing, lots of regattas, craic, anybody who has ever been to it always comes back. The fleet increases every year without fail.”
At the same time as Calves, the Shannon-One-Designs host one of their two-week regattas in Lough Ree, their national championships alternating this year as the week-long Lough Derg regatta. Sticking with clinker, the Mermaid class is returning to one of its favourite haunts this year - and back to a seven-day regatta in Sligo Yacht Club - and the ‘Wag Worlds’ props up the profile of Dun Laoghaire week.
Fireball sailors will finish out August on the west coast of France, at the European and World Championships in La Rochelle, where they expect a dozen boats to attend. Another class that visits an envious venue is the SB3 fleet for its World Championships in Cascais, Portugal. Talk has been rife since the Dublin Worlds - it would be a surprise if many boats didn’t make the trip.
After CIT’s nail-biting finish in the Student Yachting Worlds in France, Ireland can send CIT plus another team to the event to defend in October. The qualifiers are to be held in keelboats over a weekend in April.
One of the last regattas of the season is the Shannon One Design Wolf Regatta in Terryglass. We leave you with news from the 2008 Notice of Race, that “Racing will commence at 11.00am(ish) sharp”. There is no expectation that this will change in 2009.
This article appeared in the print edition of Afloat's 2009 annual