Displaying items by tag: Howth Yacht Club
Sheila Morrison of Howth, who has died aged 92, had a natural talent for sailing. But in her many years, she demonstrated that her greatest gift was as a supportive and loving wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend who brought out the best in a remarkable extended family for whom boats and sailing – both on the sea and on the inland waterways - were a natural part of their way of life.
She was a Maguire, a daughter of Cecil Maguire who was originally from the inland waterways town of Enniskillen, but in the golden years just before World War I had found the best outlet for his engineering and mechanical talents in Dublin, where he was a pioneer in the rapidly-expanding motor trade.
This meant that his primary interest afloat was in developing motor-boats. But as the family home from the 1930s was beside the north shore of Dublin Bay where Kibarrack is veering into Sutton, his four children - Neville, Sheila, David and Romaine - were able to learn their sometimes self-taught sailing in dinghies in the sheltered inner waters of Sutton Creek inside Bull Island with the nascent Kilbarrack SC.
However, as Cecil’s own sailing base was Howth, where he’d the 26ft 1894-built gaff cutter Marie and then after 1945 the comfortable 40ft Thorneycroft motor-cruiser Cirrus (which he bought at Lucan on the Royal Canal), he was keen that Howth Motor Yacht Club should share in this encouragement of young dinghy sailors, and seventy-seven years ago Sheila became the first of his children to join the club.
She was able to do so because she was at school in Dublin while her older brother Neville was away at school in Cork. He joined a few weeks later when he came home for the summer holidays, but it remained a matter of quietly amused satisfaction to Sheila for the rest of her life that she was senior to her renowned older brother Neville – subsequently a multiple champion - in terms of Howth sailing membership.
She was further drawn into the Howth scene with marriage in 1950 to Jim Higginbotham, whose wider family were involved with both HMYC and Howth Sailing Club, and they soon had two daughters – Gaye and Judy – while their sailing developed with Jim going into partnership in the Howth 17 Mimosa with a Dublin-based airline pilot from Cork, Paddy Kirwan, who later was to be President of the Irish Yachting Association.
Meanwhile, in Howth the major dredging of the harbour in the mid-1960s provided an opportunity to amalgamate the two clubs, an epic story in which Jim and Sheila found themselves playing a key role, as Jim became the Commodore of Howth SC (only the third one since its foundation in 1895) only on condition that HSC and HMYC continued with active negotiations to become one as Howth Yacht Club.
This was duly achieved in 1967-68. It may all seem a straightforward amalgamation in retrospect, but conservative feelings ran deep in the old guard in HSC, a notably purist organization, and Sheila’s kindness and charm as the Commodore’s wife - combined with her own family links to HMYC where both her daughters were in the Junior Training Programme – quietly played a key role in achieving a successful outcome.
Family life afloat and ashore continued with the notably fit Sheila keeping trim as a regular swimmer and badminton player in addition to sailing, and in time she and Jim had two sons-in-law with the inevitable connection to boats developing, airline captain Derek Bothwell who married Gaye and lived in Howth, and architect Stuart Hamilton, married to Judy, whose main interest was in the inland waterways – he was one of those who developed the private marina at Gortmore on Lough Derg.
In 1975 Jim and son-in-law Derek went into partnership with the Folkboat Mistral, and contributed greatly to the growth of this then-very-active class in Howth, which at its peak was pushing towards two dozen actively raced and cruised boats. But it was a sadly short-lived arrangement, as Jim Higginbotham died in 1979. It was a personal tragedy which left the extended family bereft, yet in time was to show Sheila’s remarkable powers of resilience while reinforcing her lively and mutually entertaining interest in her growing extended family.
The vitality of the family was such that by the time of her death, Sheila had seven grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren, with all of whom she maintained a busy and informative relationship. She kept herself well up to speed with the latest communication technology not because she felt it was the right thing to do, but because she was a Maguire and the interested and intelligent use of technology was in her DNA.
She cherished personal independence and continued driving herself to the end, while in her eighties, during a visit to family in Australia, she did an extensive self-drive tour of South Australia with a hired camper-van.
Meanwhile, her sailing had moved into another area with a second marriage in 1985 to the widowed Ian Morrison of Howth, a former offshore racing and cruising veteran with whom Jim Higginbotham had sailed, and whose sea-going interests were now taken up with the Mediterranean-based Halberg Rassy 42 ketch Safari of Howth aboard which they cruised extensively before Ian’s death in 2004.
That was a cruel year for Sheila as her younger sister Romaine Cagney – like all the Maguires a hyper-keen sailor and parent of sailors - also died, but in due course the Sheila Morrison resilience reasserted itself, and life went on afloat and ashore.
By this stage she was a lead figure in a very large family sailing scene, with son Derek Bothwell serving as Howth YC Commodore from 2002-2004, a role also filled by her nephew Roger Cagney, while another nephew was, of course, international sailing superstar Gordon Maguire, Neville’s son.
Yet for Sheila Morrison, all relatives were of equal interest, while her own direct and now-large family were her sustaining passion in an extraordinary global mutual-support system of constant communication and encouraging and loving interest.
Her funeral in Howth was an inspiring mixture of sadness and celebration, a true expression of the place and the people who are in it and sail from it. As for Sheila Morrison, she may have been 92, but it would entirely miss the point to describe her as being 92 years old. Sheila Morrison was never old.
Heralded as a ‘regatta wrapped inside a three-day party’, Wave Regatta takes place in Howth on the 29th-31st May (the June Bank Holiday Weekend) and the organising team at Howth Yacht Club would appear to have accumulated all the ingredients to replicate the very successful event that was first held in 2018.
The schedule offers keelboat classes the options of racing in the 3-day regatta that commences on Friday 29th May or a single-day entry for Saturday’s Lambay Races.
The 3-day event invites IRC and ECHO Classes to participate in the highest quality racing that Howth affords, with a race management team led by International Race Officers, David Lovegrove and Peter Crowley. There will also be a mix of local one-design classes taking part, including the Sigma 33s, J/80s, Squibs, Puppeteers, Ruffians, E-Boats and Howth 17s.
Wave Regatta’s Race Director, Dave Cullen explains ‘utilising a mix of round-the-cans, windward-leeward and coastal race courses, the mix of racing will be of the very highest standard and we want to enthuse entries across a wide array of boat types and sizes. We will also be using the latest ICRA ECHO algorithm that revises handicaps between races and consequently allows relative performance to be adjusted throughout, ensuring every entrant has a chance at winning. For teams that might struggle to commit to the 3-day event, we’ve again included the option to compete in the Lambay Race on the Saturday only with an open invitation to enjoy the hospitality ashore in Howth Yacht Club for the whole weekend.’
Describing the overall event, Chairman Brian Turvey explained: ‘Built on a platform that sets out to provide the highest quality racing, this year’s Wave Regatta unashamedly strives to use many of the resources that Howth has to offer so that it will be an unforgettable weekend for all competitors and visitors to the town on the June Bank Holiday. With the backing of Fingal County Council and generous support and expertise from Michael J Wright Hospitality, we have created an event that is much more than a sailing regatta and one that is designed to thrill a wider audience ashore, including visitors to Howth that weekend.’
The entertainment line-up for that weekend includes Howth locals Vogue Williams and the Guilty Party who will be joined by an array of live music acts each evening including guest DJ, yachting commentator and 6-time world champion (Etchells and 5.5m) and Olympic silver-medalist Mark Covell.
Notice of Race and Online Entry are now live on waveregatta.com and the discounted ‘Early Bird’ entry expires on 27th March.
It all came down to the eleventh and final race of the Australian Optimist National Opens 2020 in Melbourne, with a total fleet of 255 boats from eight nations racing. Howth Yacht Club's Rocco Wright was overnight leader by just one point from the USA’s Samara Walsh, and in today’s first of two races he consolidated this with a third, with Walshe in fourth. But French star Zou Schemmel had got himself back in contention with a win, while the hopes of Australia were raised by 12-year-old Joel Beashel of Sydney back in the frame with a second.
At the start of the final race, things looked very good for the Irish and French campaigns, as Wright and Schemmel got clear away in the lead, and thus were able to take the usually favoured right hand on the first beat. But conditions were becoming increasingly volatile, and boats on the left began to show ahead, with completely new names emerging at the head of the fleet. In the end, the winner of the final joust was New Zealand’s Joe Leith, whose best placing until then had been a fourth. As it was, even with this final win, he still placed back in 12th overall.
Meanwhile the top contenders saw their final complete re-shuffling get Beashel a sixth in this last race. But as Wright was out of it with 37th while Walshe was 13th and Schemmel 25th, Beashel emerged as winner with Wright second by just one point, and in turn one point ahead of Walshe with Australia’s Matty Goss fourth and France's Schemmel fifth.
This notable placing by Rocco Wright (who won two major regattas in Sydney in December) continues a remarkable period for the Irish Optimist Dinghy Class, as James Dwyer Matthews of Royal Cork won the British Spring Opens 2019, the British Opens 2019, and the 185-boat 11 nations Irish Opens 2019, while Rocco Wright took tenth in the Worlds 2019, second in the North Americans 2019, and now second in the Australians 2020.
Ireland’s proposal was made at the 2019 World Council Meeting in Miami on 28 October 2019 and voted on by the European NJCA’s with the announcement made this week.
The Irish J/24 Fleet and Howth Yacht Club will rekindle a previously successful partnership which saw the North Dublin club host both the J/24 Europeans in 2011 and J24 World Championships in 2013 that Afloat's W M Nixon reviewed here.
Irish J24 Class President Mark Usher said: "The Irish J24 fleet is once again indebted to Howth Yacht Club. We are fortunate to have a club with their experience, expertise, facilities and infrastructure as our host club. I would like to recognise those who led the bid, Commodore Ian Byrne, Vice-Commodore Paddy Judge and Neil Murphy who were assisted by Flor O’Driscoll. We look forward to working with Howth Yacht Club to organise and deliver a top-class event both on and off the water.”
HYC Commodore Ian Byrne welcomed the news and said "Howth Yacht Club is delighted that our proposal to host the 2021 J/24 European Championships has been successful. Our continued support of the Irish J/24 Class and our team's previous success running national and international championships was instrumental in bringing this major European regatta to Fingal County. We will now set to work to provide world-class racing in our stunning setting and make the event memorable with our Howth hospitality ashore."
The Irish J24 Fleet is undergoing a period of significant growth demonstrated by 32 boats entering the recent Irish National Championships at Lough Erne Yacht Club.
The growth has been accelerated by a commitment to an Under 25 development programme which has been supported by Irish Sailing, Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) and West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association (WIORA) who have both provided grants to clubs for development of Under 25 teams.
In previous years, the hosting of international events has acted as a catalyst for new entries to the Irish fleet seeking to challenge themselves against top-class international competition.
Back in 1991 when the world seemed a much simpler place, a three-crew Irish team - using shrewdly-selected offshore racing boats chartered in Australia - took part in the then-popular International Southern Cross Series, which was built around a programme of inshore and offshore races of varying length culminating in the 630-mile Sydney-Hobart Race itself.
Australian ex-Pat John Storey (he was born in Meath) was at the heart of it with his own Farr 43 Atara, where his skipper and the Team Captain was Harold Cudmore. In fact, Cork provided much of the muscle, as the late Joe English skippered the “small boat”, the David 36 Extension – a former Sydney-Hobart overall winner - while the mid-sized team member was known as “the Howth boat”, as her crew was built around Kieran Jameson and Gordon Maguire.
The boat herself was the Davidson 40 Beyond Thunderdome, a name expressive of way-out Australian culture at the time – think Mad Max when Mel Gibson was in his popular prime – and the very fact of having an Irish team in the Southern Cross challenge on the other side of the world also caught the mood of the moment, for back home the economy was starting to get a move on after the glacially sluggish 1980s.
And the Irish Southern Cross team certainly got a move on. They were leading, with Gordon Maguire in particular at the helm of Beyond Thunderdome on top form. But then in a windward slugging match in the final pre-Hobart Race inshore event, an Australian boat on port collided with them, dismasting Thunderdome so totally that her series was over.
Yet victory was pulled from the wreckage. Gordon Maguire was immediately transferred to Atara to be top helm under Harry Cudmore’s command for the race to Hobart. As for Beyond Thunderdome, eventually she got complete points redress for the crash and for missing the race to Hobart. And meanwhile, Atara won the Sydney-Hobart race overall to make sure that Ireland won the 1991 Southern Cross Series.
It was all a life-changing experience for Gordon Maguire. The young Howth sailor – already a multiple champion at home – was soon swept up into the vibrant Australian sailing scene, such that while he has achieved success all over the world – including several Whitbread/Volvo Race victories – Australia is now his home, and he is best known for further top performances in many majors including more Hobart success with his overall wins currently totalling three.
But he has maintained his strong family links with Howth where his father Neville – a champion sailor now in his sprightly nineties – continues to be an active member. Thus twenty-one months ago in February 2018 with two Howth-crewed boats racing in the RORC Caribbean 600 from Antigua when Gordon Maguire turned up with his top lieutenants to race an American Maxi 72, there was something of a club reunion.
Much came out of that Caribbean 600 campaign after the Howth YC squad had secured a first in one class (for “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty with his Sunfast 3600 Bam) and second in another (with the Lombard 46 Pata Negra chartered by Michael Wright for a programme managed by Kieran Jameson).
But what didn’t emerge was a 2019 campaign to return to Antigua, for the Wright team had set their sights on the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race starting on December 26th 2019, and Kieran Jameson was set the task of securing a suitable boat in Australia.
It says everything about Kieran Jameson’s enduring enthusiasm for offshore racing that, 28 years after organising the Beyond Thunderdome campaign, his zest for it all is undiminished despite the fact that the charter market in the countdown to the 2019 Hobart race has been much more challenging.
Researching for a suitable boat was well under way by September 2018, but after years of the annual classic seeing entry levels hovering around the hundred mark and sometimes not even rising to that figure, 2019 is the 75th Anniversary. Entries have shot up to the 160 mark. And the greatest increase is in the 35 to 45ft size - precisely the range Jameson was targeting.
There were sleepless nights in trying to close a deal on a First 40, the Howth team’s ideal target. For although the marque has been in Australia for ten years now after making a mighty debut by taking first and second overall in the 2009 race, like their predecessor the First 40.7 they’ve proven to be continually competitive, and in size terms they’re a very manageable proposition for a team coming from the other side of the world, and the Howth team have been campaigning chartered First 40s in major race – with silverware to show for it - since 2014.
Fortunately through EastSail, the Australian charter mega-agency, they linked up with the First 40 Breakthrough, originally called Chancellor, which acquired her current name when she came under the ownership of medical research professors Matthew Vadas and Jonathan Stone, who had recently made a significant shared discovery in their field of research.
In the 2014 Rolex Sydney-Hobart, she was raced under the command of Matthew Vadas, but a strong Irish link was established as the sailing master was noted Malta-based offshore racing talent Barry Hurley (originally of Cobh) sailing his fourth Hobart challenge. He, in turn, had recruited Dun Laoghaire’s Kenneth Rumball (on his third RSHR) and his brother Alexander together with Catherine Halpin, and for a while, they were right in contention for the overall prize.
But the eventual winner, the Farr 43 Wild Rose (Roger Hickman), somehow got away from them down at Bass Strait, and while Breakthrough finished with a praiseworthy 12th overall, Hurley – who in November 2014 had taken a first in class in the Middle Sea Race – felt it was something of a missed opportunity.
These days, the two professors no longer contemplate doing the decidedly rugged race to Hobart personally. But they like the boat so much they’ve kept her on for personal cruising and less demanding races in the Sydney area, and it seems they were ready to be persuaded that a crew from Howth would be acceptable to take Breakthrough – re-named HYC Breakthrough for the duration - on a bareboat basis for the 75th Anniversary RSHR 2019.
But getting the boat in place is only the beginning of it. In today’s fast-moving world, people who felt sure they’d be available on the date to go to Australia find personal circumstances suddenly changing, and Kieran Jameson has found himself sorting and re-sorting a personnel roster which has only been completely finalized this week.
Heading the list is Darren Wright, current Irish Half Ton Champion with Mata, while Kieran Jameson fulfills the role – as required by the RSHR – of Sailing Master. Colm Bermingham and Rick de Neve (a co-owner of Mata) are listed as navigators, while Simon Knowles - in addition to other roles – is on the strength as tactician. The rest of the crew are Johnny White, Luke Malcolm, Emmet Sheridan and David Wright, and while they’re all proven sailors in Irish waters, although the boat has already been passed as fit for the big race by the regulators, the crew will have to put in 24 hours together sailing hard at sea on HYC Breakthrough as soon as they’ve all assembled in Sydney.
Because of the significant increase in fleet numbers over the usual RSHR turnout, demands on waterfront facilities and services are at a premium, but a high priority has been put on getting the sail wardrobe sorted, using the services of UK Sailmakers and Ian Short sails in Sydney.
And the fleet increase does mean that there will be much improved boat-for-boat racing featuring in the Hobart campaign, so Breakthrough will find herself being kept up to speed by the presence of five First 40s and seven comparably-rated Sydney 38s. Regardless of the overall picture, they’ll have the extra interest of a race-within-a-race.
Nevertheless, the feeling of very extended lines of communication is sensed as you realize that the entire crew is making the journey from Ireland. But a marker has already been put down by 28-year-old Luke Malcolm – a product of the HYC & ICRA Under 25 scheme who is now a full-time sailor – going out ahead two weeks early to start sorting the boat, and last week he sensibly sent back a basic but very real photo of Breakthrough just to reassure everyone that their boat for the big race was ready and waiting exclusively for them.
In Sydney, he soon linked up with Shane Diviney with whom he used to campaign a Fireball on the European circuit, who likewise has gone professional, and for the RSHR is aboard the Australian Judel Vrolik 62 Chinese Whisper (David Griffith) which has further Irish interest as the navigator is Offaly-born Adrienne Cahalan doing her 28th race to Hobart.
There’s continuing Irish interest through the super-maxi Comanche whose owner Jim Cooney proudly proclaims his Meath connections (Ballivor to be precise) while from an international point of view Comanche’s credentials are further reinforced by having “The Navigator’s Navigator”, Stan Honey of California, on board to call the shots.
As for Gordon Maguire, he is of course well immersed in finalizing RSHR preparations with Matt Allen’s turbo-powered TP 52 Ichi Ban. But on a visit back to Howth in the Autumn, he’d a brainstorming session with the HYC Breakthrough team, and while his every word of advice was pure gold, the most cheering thing they were told was that the hard men of Ichi Ban wouldn’t dream of keeping themselves at peak performance with anything as crude as freeze-dried food. Thus when HYC Breakthrough get their shore management set up, Gordon will see that they’re guided with the proper introductions to the secret source of Ichi Ban’s magic victuals.
This vital shore management side will be looked after by Ian and Judith Malcolm, the parents of Luke, who are taking time out from the countdown to the Fireball Worlds 2020 in Howth to ensure that the HYC Breakthrough squad are protected as far as possible from the inevitable hassle which a long-distance management operation like this inevitably involves.
Because as with any great endeavour, no matter how careful and detailed you are in your planning, events will inevitably conspire to knock things astray. In all those years in which the organising Cruising Yacht Club of Australia realized they were in the countdown to the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart race, and in all the many months – running into well over a year – through which the increasingly determined HYC Breakthrough team were pulling all their threads together, who on earth would have thought that as the start time approached for the Races of Races, the city of Sydney - with its unrivalled natural harbour the perfect arena for the start of a classic sailing event – would find itself under increasing threat from raging bush fires?
Everyone is continuing with their plans, and when they staged a very special regatta last weekend for classics which had taken part in the Sydney-Hobart race before 1976, the wind obligingly was nor’easterly and the harbour was looking more like itself.
It was a wonderful occasion, for with every passing year Australia is becoming more of a world leader in the preservation of great classic boats. And when we realize that the attendance at last weekend’s event included such legends as Jim Hardy (87) and the immortal Gordon Ingate, full of beans at 93 and invigorated by being back on board the superbly-restored Caprice of Huon which he raced with such style during the 1960s, it gives us yet another excuse to use that classic Cowes Week photo from 1965.
It shows Caprice slicing through the crowded water accompanied by a launch filled with admiring RYS alickadoos, beating towards the finish line and an overall win in the Britannia Cup at a time when the boat was already 17 years old - and she’d been built in 1948 to a Robert Clark design which was basically pre-World War II in its origins.
But then on Tuesday as the final countdown continued with the day allocated to the Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge – traditionally a superb in-harbour spectacle involving legendary maxis – the wind has swung to the northwest, the smoke rolled over and the air became almost unbreathable while visibility was at times down to 0.1 nautical miles, so though an attempt was made at racing, it had to be abandoned.
It may seem utterly trivial to be concerned about smoke-impaired visibility for the start of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race on December 26th when so many people’s very existence and way of life and property is under the bush fire threat. But as the recent typhoon-plagued Rugby World Cup in Japan reminded us, life is going to go on regardless unless circumstances conspire the wipe out the entire human race, in which case no-one will be bothered either way.
So for those who find contemplation of the classic dash to Hobart a refreshing change from the suffocation of the Festive Season, the word is that the defending champion for the overall win is a Tasmanian boat, Philip Turner’s canting keel Reichel Pugh 65 Alive, while the line honours win is being defended – not for the first time – by the Oatley family’s frequently-altered Super Maxi Wild Oats XI skippered by Mark Richards.
After the perfect weather of the sunlit two-race programme on Saturday, October 12th in the Beshoff Motor Autumn League in Howth, there were those who suggested the series should have been declared finished there and then, as it just couldn’t get any better as far as idyllic conditions were concerned, and didn’t they have seven good races already in the bag, with a handful of boats in the 18 racing categories already secure in a place in the Winners’ Enclosure?
How right they were…..For last Saturday’s final day, a particularly unpleasant low-pressure area, which was going to bring both calm and gales and lots of rain and poor visibility, squatted down in potentially deepening mode over the western Irish Sea. And as the Day 6 start time had been deferred to allow the sailors to watch the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, while Ireland’s chances faded in Tokyo, the wind had time to strengthen.
By the full-time whistle, a cold and rising northerly had built an angry-looking sea and it was raining heavily with the forecast emphasising the volatility of expected conditions. When the N over A was displayed at the Clubhouse, even those with aspirations of a good final race bringing them up the results table were muted about their disappointment at not going afloat to get cold and wet as they returned to the comfort of the warm bar to resume their analysis of that quarter-final.
At the well-attended prizegiving, Commodore Ian Byrne thanked the competitors, the race management and particularly the sponsors, Beshoff Motors, for making the 2019 Autumn League a resounding success before Jeremy Beshoff distributed the prizes. Results here
Trick or Treat, the Puppeteer 22 of Alan Pearson and Alan Blay, was crowned the overall winner of the event and thereby retained their 2018 title, a noteworthy achievement for a boat racing in the Class with the biggest entry – clearly the imminent arrival of Hallowe’en has something to do with it. In seven races they were only once outside the top two places despite the variety of conditions experienced.
The winner of the team prize was the ‘Harlequin Bites Isobel’ combo composed of a Howth 17 (Isobel – Brian & Conor Turvey), Puppeteer 22 Harlequin (David Clarke), and Cruiser 4 Bite the Bullet (Colm Bermingham). Their individual consistency within their respective Classes left the opposing teams struggling in their collective wakes.
The conclusion of the Autumn League leaves only the long-running HYC Brass Monkeys keelboat series and the even-longer running Laser Frostbites – first race Nov 3rd - to complete before 2019 is put to bed and the new one arrives.
The 2020 keelboat season at Howth YC will kick off with the Spring Warmers in April and then lead on quickly to the WAVE Regatta over the weekend of May 29th – 31st. WAVE promises to build on the fantastic success of the 2018 event and plans are already well advanced for what promises to be the ‘must do’ regatta of the 2020 season.
Day Five of the Beshoff Motors Autumn League at Howth Yacht Club on Saturday saw races six and seven completed, but even with a race still to go, with no further discards, some of the class leaders have already secured their passes to the Winner's Enclosure.
The two Windward-Leeward races were sailed in pet conditions, with the sun beaming down and a mild 7-11 knot south-westerly breeze, oscillating in a way that challenged the sailors’ mental dexterity in anticipating where it might next come from, rather than testing their stamina.
The circumstances could not have been more different from an experience which had been commemorated in HYC the previous day. Veterans of the 18 Irish boats which survived the Fastnet Storm of 1979 had gathered to meet again for lunch forty years later, and personally thank Commodore John Kavanagh of the Irish Naval Service, Kieran Cotter of the Baltimore Lifeboat, and Gerard Butler, Lighthouse Keeper on the Fastnet Rock, for all that they and their colleagues had done to help four decades ago. It brought back vivid memories of the sea in a very different mood from Saturday’s idyllic conditions, but that’s how it is with sailing.
In the Autumn League, Classes where the podium top spot is already secured include Class 4: Tiger (Stephen Harris & Frank Hughes HYC) on IRC and Raging Bull (M & S Davis, Skerries SC) on ECHO; Class 5: Demelza (Steffi Ennis & Windsor Laudan HYC) on IRC and Voyager (Joe Carton) on ECHO; Howth 17s: Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) on scratch, and Zaida (Tom Houlihan) on handicap; Squibs: O’Leary (Simon Sheahan) on scratch; J80s: Jammy (Dan O’Grady) for both scratch and handicap; Puppeteers: Trick or Treat (Alan Pearson & Alan Blay) on scratch.
Day 6 will feature a single race to determine the other final placings to bring the main sailing programme of 2019 to a conclusion, and in some classes it’s so close that the series will end on a high to be matched by a Carnival prizegiving with entertainment in the style of last year’s successful Wave Regatta, while for those who can’t give up their sailing completely, the annual Laser Frostbite Series – a Howth feature since 1974 – gets going on November 3rd.
In the Howth 17s on Saturday, Zaida (Tom Houlihan) added another two wins on handicap while Rita (Lynch / Curley) did likewise on scratch to consolidate their leads in both divisions. Absolutely Fabulous (M Flaherty) lived up to its name with two firsts on handicap in the Squibs and Fantome (Ronan McDonnell) and O’Leary (S Sheahan) took a win each in the scratch fleet, moving Fantome up to second overall behind O’Leary.
In the Puppeteer 22s, Gold Dust (Walls/Browne) took their first win in Race 6, but it was Trick or Treat (Pearson / Blay) back on top in Race 7 to ensure an overall victory. On handicap, Odyssey (P&R Byrne) has found its groove and added a pair of wins to its earlier success, but Flycatcher (M Dunne) remains in the lead with a comfortable but not invincible margin over their challengers.
Jammy (Dan O’Grady) dominates the J80 Class on both scratch and handicap, winning both races in both categories on the day and thereby securing overall success in both series. Red Cloud (Nobby Reilly) holds second overall from Jeannie (Robert Dix) on both scratch and handicap.
In the White Sails, Bite the Bullet (Colm Bermingham) took first on IRC in both races of Class 4 to move up to second overall, behind Tiger helmed by Stephen Harris, who has already secured the series win. On ECHO, Spellbound (Burrows/Skeffington) won race 6, whilst the Spirit 54 Soufriere (Stephen O’Flaherty) added a win in Race 7 to her unchallenged lead in the ‘Most Elegant Boat of the Series Award’ (if there was one). The consistency of The Sigma 400 Raging Bull (M & S Davis) sees them far enough ahead on the ECHO points table to be uncatchable.
In Class 5, Demelza (Laudan / Ennis) took another two wins to give them the IRC victory in the series and added an ECHO first in Race 6 to their trove while C’Est La Vie ((Flannelly / Spain / Staines) took race 7. White Sails stalwart Voyager (Joe Carton) has sailed a consistent series to ensure that the trophy winner for the 2019 series is already determined.
In the IRC spinnaker classes, the J/109s returned from their visit to the J/109 Nationals at Dun Laoghaire the previous weekend, and Storm (Pat Kelly - runner-up in Dun Laoghaire)) and Outrajeous (Colwell/Murphy) got back to battling for the lead of Class 1, each taking a race win on IRC and ECHO to leave Storm ahead of Outrajeous in both divisions, by two points on IRC and one on ECHO.
In Class 3 IRC a three-way battle is underway between Alliance II (V Gaffney), Insider (S&D Mullaney) and Viking (Patterson/ Darmody), currently lying in that order with three points spanning them. Insider took race 6 while Animal (G. O’Sullivan) won race 7 with Viking’s DSQ result providing a setback to the campaign for an overall IRC win. On ECHO, the wins on the day were taken by Insider and Animal, but the X302 Viking retains the overall lead.
The twelve boat Class 2 fleet continues to feature two mini competitions. Half Tonners are dominating on IRC with the Checkmates of Nigel Biggs (XVIII) and Dave Cullen (XV) never far apart on the results sheets, each taking a win on Day 5 to leave XVIII with a two point lead over XV and both comfortably clear of The Big Picture (M&R Evans) and Harmony (J. Swan). The X302s are hogging the top spots on ECHO but the lighter conditions of Day 5 allowed the Half Tonner contingent some solace with Checkmates XVIII and XV each getting a win. However the ECHO leaderboard shows the X302s of Dux (A. Gore Grimes) ahead of No Excuse (Wormald/Walsh /O’Neill) with Maximus (P. Kyne) in third.
Detailed results here
Gordon Maguire (58) may now be recognised as Australia’s leading all-round professional offshore/inshore keelboat skipper - his World Sailing Code Number is unmistakably GMA#1 writes W M Nixon. But somewhere in there is the exceptionally talented sailor, son of renowned all-round winner Neville Maguire, who cut his racing teeth in Howth and the Irish Sea.
It was in 1991 that he was first was introduced to Australia, when he and Kieran Jameson organised “the Howth boat” for the three-boat Irish Southern Cross Team with the charter of the 40ft Beyond Thunderdome in Sydney. Beyond Thunderdome was putting in a superb performance in the early contests, but then she was dismasted in a collision (the other boat was adjudicated at fault) in the final inshore race before the series culminated in the Sydney-Hobart.
While Thunderdome was given total redress, there was no way she was going to race to Hobart. But in some pretty ruthless crew re-allocation, Team Captain Harold Cudmore dropped one of his people from John Storey’s 43ft Atara for the Hobart challenge, and took Maguire on board.
Cudmore and Maguire….It looked like the Dream Team. And it was the Dream Team. They won the Sydney-Hobart race overall, Ireland won the Southern Cross Trophy, and Gordon Maguire began a love affair with Australian sailing which eventually saw him taking out citizenship, though his career afloat had taken him all over the world in many boats, including participation in something like five Volvo Ocean Races with success at one extreme, and showing people how to go down the mine good and proper with Lough Derg YC’s Jocelyn Waller on the BH 41 Silk in a Solent gale-force squall during Cowes Week at the other.
In Australia he has become involved in the campaigning of such stellar owner-skippers as the successful Stephen Ainsworth of Loki (Hobart Race overall win 2011) and more recently that extraordinary bundle of energy Matt Allen, whose boats called Ichi Ban (Japanese for Number One) have been so numerous that on occasion there have been two Ichi Bans of different sizes on the entry list for the Rolex Sydney-Hobart, with the decision on which to take being made as late as possible.
With his engineer’s training and incredible natural sailing skill, plus the fact that he was reared in a household where his father was always innovating something, Gordon Maguire has provided the prefect mind-set to match Allen’s restless experimentation, but in recent years they’ve focused increasingly on a boat which, by the standards of the fleet with which she sails, is multi-purpose.
The resulting Botin 52 Ichi Ban has so successfully encompassed the requirements off the most rugged offshore racing with a configuration which can be reasonably quickly modified to give peak performance in a regatta series with a more inshore orientation. It has meant that during the past year her results list has been truly stellar, such that she has been short-listed down to the final three in World Sailing’s 2019 Goslings Boat of the Year Award.
This ambitious global contest was introduced as recently as last year, when the 2018 winner was Niklas Zennstrom’s latest boat, the Carkeek-designed Ran VII which brought so many ideas with success to the Fast 40+ circuit that it will take time – years, indeed – for the best of them to percolate through to the wider sailing scene.
Unfortunately the fact that Ran VII won last year will militate against Ichi Ban’s chances of success in 2019, as they cover broadly the same area of high end IRC racing, and Ichi Ban is up against two very different boats, the F50 high-performance catamaran which is aimed at sailing as a high-drama spectator sport, and the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300, which is aimed at the affordable end of offshore racing.
The Sun Fast 3300 is in some ways a scaled-up Mini Transat Boat, and the prototype made a successful debut by coming second in the two-handed division in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, beaten only by the formidable Jean-Pierre Kelbert with his new JPK 10.30 Leon, a boat which probably costs very much more then the target figure for the Sun Fast 3300.
Thus in the way of these annual competitions, the odds are against the “Gordon Maguire Boat” getting the nod at the 2019 World Sailing Conference in Bermuda on October 29th. But nevertheless we very much hope she will, and if she doesn’t, then we’re all for the interesting Sun Fast 3300.
Whatever way it turns out, the next stage in the process is the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2019 on December 26th, when the Sun Fast 3300 will be making her Southern Hemisphere debut against a fleet which will, of course, include Ichi Ban. Meanwhile, before you look at the circus photos below, take a thoughtful read of this interview from 2010 which continues to be valid for explaining why Gordon Maguire holds such a special place in world sailing:
“If the wind holds up you can live with the rain” was one stoical comment after Saturday’s increasingly brisk fifth contest in the Beshoff Motors Howth Autumn League on Saturday afternoon. But there was no escaping the fact that by the time sailing was completed with most classes pushing towards a nice regatta-length two-hour race under their belts, it was getting very fresh indeed, and the rain was starting to be serious.
That said, the sailing had started in gentle enough rain-free conditions, albeit with visibility distinctly less than crystal clear. But for some classes, it was pushing towards the upper limit of their full sail racing power by the conclusion. And as for the rain, it was only getting started – west coast folk who are fed up with hearing how rain-free is the east coast will be delighted to learn that the Leinster seaboard experienced a good old-fashioned drain-blocking downpour on Saturday evening.
But by that time the racing was well finished, with the results in one class in particular reflecting the rising wind. IRC 2 has hitherto been dominated by the fancy flyers of the Classic Half Ton group in Howth. But on Saturday as the wind went up and up, the Gore-Grimes family and friends in that seasoned warrior, the X302 Dux, just got better and better, and they won with by 55 seconds from Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV, with another X302 – the Bourke/McGirr/Ball team’s Xebec - coming third, while the series overall leader, Nigel Biggs half Tonner Checkmate XVIII, had to be content with 6th.
In IRC1, it was Hamlet without the Princes, as the two Howth J/109s were absent at the J/109s Nationals in Dublin Bay at the RIYC. But at least that expedition went okay with Pat Kelly’s Storm of Rush and Howth lying second overall after the first day’s racing. However, it meant that back in Howth it was all clear ahead for Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 (RIYC) to register a useful win, making next Saturday’s prospects – with the schedule for two windward-leewards – even more interesting.
IRC 3 saw the much-modified Bolero Viking (Patterson/Darmody) enjoy the rising breeze to get the win by almost two minutes from Vincent Gaffney’s Laser 28 Alliance II with Ger O’Sullivan’s Formula 28 Animal third, while in the White Sails, IRC 4 saw Stephen Harris helm the First 40.7 Tiger to her accustomed win, this time with Dermot Skehan’s MG 34 Toughnut second and last week’s winner, the Sigma 400 Raging Bull from Skerries (M & S Davis) taking third. IRC 5 meanwhile saw Windsor and Steffi in Demelza (Club Shamrock) get the win again from Joe Carton’s Dehler 34 Voyager, this time by more than two minutes.
After the racing of September 28th’s notably close finishes (the tightest margin was 8 seconds), the rising breezes of Saturday October 5th saw some larger gaps, and even in the One Designs this was often the case, with the Squibs seeing Killyleagh visitor Rob Marshall in Slipstream right on top of his game to beat Simon Sheahan’s O’Leary by four minutes, with Ronan McDonnell’s Fantome another 2 minutes 15 seconds being that.
The Puppeteer 22s found themselves in a Redress Given situation, and from it Dave Clarke with Harlequin emerging as winner with Scorie Walls in Gold Dust equal second with Alan Blay and Algy Pearson in Trick or Treat, thereby keeping ToT in the overall lead from Neil Murphy and Conor Costello in Yellow Peril.
As the wind piped up for the Howth 17s, it was no surprise when the hard men in Deiliginis (Massey brothers, Mikey Toomey and Keith Kenny) marched into the lead, finishing first with more than one and a half minutes on Peter Courtney’s Oona, who was in turn one minute and 33 seconds ahead of the Turvey brothers on Isobel.
As the breeze flexed its muscles, the J/80s came to life, and Dan O’Grady planed into a clear lead on Robert Dix’s Jeannie, with Nobby Reilly’s Red Cloud a bit closer in third.
There are still three races to go over two weekends, and with the prospect of next Saturday’s intensive back-to-backs concentrating minds more than somewhat, in most cases there’s still all to play for, but at the moment with the halfway stage well passed, the overall leaders are:
IRC1: Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins, RIYC).
IRC 2: Checkmate XVIII (Nigel Biggs, HYC & RIYC).
IRC3: Alliance II (Vincent Gaffney, HYC)
IRC4: Tiger (Stephen Harris & Frank Hughes, HYC).
IRC 5: Demelza (Windsor & Steffi, HYC)
Howth 17s: Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch, HYC)
Puppeteer 22s: Trick or Treat (Alan Pearson and Alan Blay, HYC).
Squibs: O’Leary (Simon Sheahan, HYC).
J/80s: Jammy (Dan O’Grady, HYC)
Get yourself a sponsorship partner of intriguing Russian descent, and you can hardly be surprised that an element of Russian Roulette enters the staging of your annual Autumn League writes W M Nixon. With the presence of hurricanes past and present in the Atlantic making weather prediction a matter of dealing with unknowable unknowns, deciding to pull the trigger to set a day’s racing in action could have unwelcome outcomes.
Certainly that was the feeling beforehand a week ago among the seasoned race officers at Howth Yacht Club, particularly those in charge of the smaller boats and One Design classes on Saturday in the Beshoff Motors Autumn League. The series had opened the previous weekend in idyllic racing conditions despite the hugely damaging Hurricane Dorian self-destructing somewhere out in the Atlantic towards Greenland, and the bar had been set high for good quality sailing for subsequent contests.
But as the days counted down towards Saturday, September 21st, the decidedly erratic wanderings of Hurricane Humberto were creating prediction confusion. Humberto battered the hell out of Bermuda and then went missing for a while. How an entire hurricane – albeit a rapidly decaying one - can apparently disappear for a while is a matter of mystery. But it meant that last Friday, so many extremely pessimistic strong wind strength forecasts were being doled out for Ireland that at one stage it was was even considered cancelling the entire day’s racing for the little ’uns, with an announcement on Friday night, which would thus allow people plenty of time to make alternative arrangements for the day’s entertainment.
However, jaws were soon firmed up, sinews were tightened, and the East Coast effect was brought to mind. It’s not always beneficial – think of the East Coast damage in Hurricane Charlie in August 1986, or Storm Emma in March 2018. But on balance, while the weather can be going down the tubes in the western two-thirds of the country, on the east coast they can often slip a day’s racing in under the radar before things go haywire on the wind-strength front. And last Saturday was a classic case in point, with things blown out in Kinsale, yet in Leinster they’d marvellous sailing in a brisk but warm southeast to east breeze.
In Howth, it was a double get-out in the Russian Roulette, as the programme for all classes was two windward-leewards back-to-back, and it all went through in style and with sunshine most of the time. But the venerable Howth 17s had a modest turnout, for two windward-leewards isn’t quite their thing, as many of them think that just one race with plenty of reaching so that they can discuss matters other than sailing is enough for any one day, thank you very much.
And they also had the problem of it being marginal topsail weather. Only two set topsails, but as the breeze sharpened through the afternoon, the majority decision proved right, for though the topsail-sporting Isobel (Turvey brothers) won the first race, she was back in fourth for the second when the bald-headed Sheila (Mulligan/Johnson) took the bullet.
Looking towards this weekend, tomorrow (Friday) looks like being a complete wind-and-rain-sodden duvet day. But at the time of writing, peninsular positivity reckons that if Friday is sufficiently horrible, Saturday might surprise everyone with another good sailing day, and with only one race scheduled with all sorts of attractively quirky courses a possibility, the traditional appeal is there for the taking.
Plus that, if a race can be managed on Saturday, the four-race discard kicks in, which opens things up a bit and gives an injection of life for the final three weekends. Currently among the heavies in Class 1, Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm (Rush SC) and Paul O’Higgins’s JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) are neck-and-neck on 4 points apiece with the Howth J/109 Outrajeous (Richard Colwell & Johnny Murphy) third on 5, while in Class 2’s hot Half Tonners, Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate XVIII has opened out two point on Dave Cullen’s Checkmate XV, which in turn has two points in hand on the Evans brothers with The Big Picture.
In Class 3, two wins last Saturday have brought the Patterson/Darmody team on Viking into the overall lead, with Vincent Gaffney’s Laser 28 Alliance second and the Mullaney brothers in the Sigma 33 Insider third. Class 4 (whitesail) has the First 40 Tiger (Stephen Harris & Frank Hughes) in the lead from Dermot Shehan’s Humphreys 34 Toughnut, with Colm Bermingham’s Elan 333 Bite the Bullet in third, while Class 5 (whitesail) is led by Gordon Knaggs’ First 32 Jokers Wild with the evergreen Club Shamrock Demelza (Windsor & Steffi) second and the McCoy/Creegan First 38 Out and About third.
The One Designs saw the top-turnout Puppeteer 22s watching their National Champion 2019 Yellow Peril (Neil Murphy and Conor Costello) give something of a master-class with two wins in the back-to-back, they’re now equal first on 8 points with the two Alans - Pearson & Blay - in Trick or Treat, while Scorie Walls helmed Gold Dust towards a couple of fourths last weekend to get them into third overall.
The Howth 17s likewise have a tie at the top, with the Turveys on Isobel matching John Curley and Marcus Lynch in Rita on 7 points, while Deilginis (Massey brothers, Mikey Twomey and Keith Kenny) is back on 12.5 in third, so they’ll be looking for a good one on Saturday and a useful discard.
The Squibs are coming to life again, with the arrival of hotshot Rob Marshall from Killyleagh in Strangford Lough a wake-up call last Saturday, as he took a first and second with Slipstream. But HYC’s own Simon Sheahan stays ahead on 1,4,1 with O’Leary, second being Derek Bothwell with Tears in Heaven while third is Ronan McDonnell in Fantome.
Dan O’Grady has leapt into the lead in the J/80s with a second and first on Saturday, while the class’s senior rockstar Robert Dix had to make do with a couple of fourths, which kept him at second overall on countback, as Nobby Reilly in third matches him on points at 7.0.
No matter which forecast source you rely on, tomorrow weather is going to be plain horrible, but the hope in Howth is that it will all – gales and rain and everything - have cleared away eastward in time for another meteorological miracle on Saturday afternoon in this ongoing Russian Roulette. Whatever it brings, the Howth Seventeens hope for a breeze which clearly indicates whether it’s a topsail day or not, and stays steady, for the lowering of topsails in mid-race is not something to be undertaken lightly…
Detailed results here