Displaying items by tag: Wicklow Sailing Club
Following an outboard motor theft from their boat park in the small hours of Monday morning, Wicklow Sailing Club are advising other clubs – particularly those with stand-alone locations like WSC – of the risk of organised equipment theft even when every precaution has been taken.
It is known from limited CCTV footage from a camera on the clubhouse that those responsible arrived with a car and trailer. But having broken into the boat park from the side away from the clubhouse by accessing the barrier from the lifeboat slip, and then cutting through the fence, the in-yard CCTV camera was then bent away so that it recorded little of the crime.
The club had three RIB engines stolen from the boat-park. They had outboard locks on, were chained and padlocked to the ground, and thought to be safe inside a locked boat yard. But within minutes the thieves cut through the chain link fence, then cut through the padlocks and everything else.
The outboards stolen include are a Mariner 40 (new last season), a Suzuki 25 and a Yamaha 15. The Gardai are now liaising with other CCTV camera owners on the approaches to the club to see if any further coverage is available.
Irish sailing’s informal inter-club competition has named a “Club of the Year” annually since 1979, and since 1986 the title’s steadfast sponsorship support from Mitsubishi Motors has made it an integral part of the national sailing scene. Yet it has proven to be something which does not lend itself easily to imitations elsewhere. Other sailing countries have tried to establish versions of it. But somehow it has never worked as effectively as it has in Ireland, where the size of the country, the number, size and variety of our clubs, the sense of community within our sailing, and our very long history of having clubs in some form at the heart of our sport - all these factors contribute to making this special competition viable in Ireland.
These elements combine to contribute to a continually developing awareness of how a successful club must play a key role in its local community as well as making a contribution of significance to the national sailing programme, while at the same time encouraging new boat talent and interest at every level. At the same time, club officers and committee have to be acutely aware that they are functioning in a constantly changing socio-economic environment in which the “business model” of a sailing club has to be continually monitored, regularly modified, and sometimes radically changed if it is to continue operating successfully. W M Nixon tries to capture the mood of Wicklow Sailing Club as it takes on the mantle of “Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year 2017” with the new sailing season getting into its stride.
There’s something about Wicklow Sailing Club that makes everyone lighten up as they step through the front door of its friendly little clubhouse. It becomes a characterful little place where people of many backgrounds from a wide swathe of the Garden County and beyond express their shared enthusiasm for boats and people and those who sail them – and more particularly, for those who would like to sail them, but need encouragement to enter what is a strange world for people from a completely different landbound background.
For it was Wicklow Sailing Club’s energetic and imaginative ways of encouraging their own youngsters afloat, together with others from a non-sailing background, which contributed greatly to its becoming the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year 2017” at a very relaxed summer’s evening ceremony this week.
Of course the club’s continued and determined staging of the biennial 704-mile Volvo Round Ireland Race, which attracted a record and very international entry of 63 boats with records tumbling every which way in 2016, was an important consideration in the winning of the award.
But those involved in the adjudication quietly kept tabs on Wicklow SC’s levels of more ordinary activity after the big event had been tidied away at the end of June. Its successful staging had seemed to involve just about every member of the club in some voluntary function, led by Race Organiser Theo Phelan and his Chairman Peter Shearer, so you might have expected Wicklow sailing to relax for a while.
Not a bit of it. Junior sailing and introductory courses under the direction of the likes of Dave Ballesty and Mark Redmond were up and running again within days, the local dinghy racing and cruiser-racing programme was back in action with Jason Moran scoring tops in the latter in Hydrogin, and on the national and international front, Wicklow’s own Barry Byrne – now Commandant Barry Byrne – skippered the Defence Forces’ J/109 Joker 2 to a convincing victory in the new Beaufort Cup, the inter-military and maritime agencies offshore sailing competition which, in its inaugural year in 2016 in Cork, attracted an international entry of 32 boats and crews.
Such achievements, and those of other renowned Wicklow offshore sailors such as Brian Flahive, Simon Greenwood, Charlie Kavanagh and Alan Rountree, speak of a well-balanced club whose friendly premises - in the very maritime setting down at the beginning of the East Pier clustered close with the Wicklow lifeboat HQ, they’re in a sort of citadel of the sea – are popular for hosting events of local organisations which may have no connection with the sea whatever.
It was this particular sense of welcome which was most evident for those arriving for this week’s presentation, with Wicklow Sailing Club represented by new Commodore Denise Cummins and also by 2016 Commodore Hal Fitzgerald, while WSC’s national and international partners were there with Jack Roy, President of the Irish Sailing Association, and leading ISA Board members including Brian Craig of Dun Laoghaire and Sarah Byrne of Greystones as well as CEO Harry Hermon and members of his staff who deal directly with Wicklow, notably Eastern Region Development Officer Sarah-Louise Rossiter.
The leading international organisation with which Wicklow is most closely involved is of course the Royal Ocean Racing Club who provide massive support for the Round Ireland race. Although current Commodore Michael Boyd – a round Ireland winner in 1996 and top Irish boat in 2016 – couldn’t be there personally, he ensured he was very ably represented by his brother Paddy Boyd. Paddy is a veteran of several Round Irelands but is also, as it emerged on the night, a veteran of a certain event which made Wicklow Sailing Club the very first Sailing Club of the Year way back in 1979, in the brief pre-Mitsubishi Motors years - more of that later.
Today, the Mitsubishi Motors team are still led by Chairman Frank Keane, who has been involved since 1986, and Frank and his son Brian and their group arrived into WSC to find themselves being welcomed not just by the great and the good in national and international sailing, but also by leaders of other Wicklow marine, business and administrative bodies whose presence very effectively demonstrated how WSC is at the nexus of the little commercial and recreational port’s interaction with the sea.
Mitsubishi Motors involvement with sailing continues to have a decidedly personal element, as Billy Riordan, CEO of Frank Keane Holdings, the parent company, is both a keen SB20 sailor in Dublin Bay and beyond, and an Optimist dad at major competitions all over the country. His group included Mitsubishi Motors MD Gerard Rice and their Wicklow agents, Dale Moran and Gavin Moran of the Morans of Avoca group, something which meant they were inevitably described in the course of the evening as being the Mitsubishi Motors agents for Ballykissangel – that’s showbusiness for you.
Keeping us all on the right track was Roseita Burke, Mitsubishi Motors Marketing & PR Manager, who is now renowned in sailing for getting good weather for this annual event. It’s usually staged early in the summer just as the “proper” season is getting into gear, and the winning clubs get into the spirit of it all by dressing overall as though it’s Regatta Day. But it all wouldn’t quite work unless we’d a sunny evening, and despite the week’s decidedly mixed weather, once again Roseita worked her magic, and the sun shone.
But if all this organizational effort goes unrecorded it’s soon forgotten, and an ace photographer is needed, so when key WSC administrator Peter Shearer - a former Commodore and Round Ireland Chairman who has now taken up the reins as Honorary Secretary - assured us that in Angela Higgins the club had its own amateur photographer who could produce work of professional standard and was very good at getting the right people into the right groups, it all seemed too good to be true. But as the results show, it was true, Angela was brilliant, and her huge contribution to the success of the evening speaks volumes for the voluntary spirit of Wicklow SC.
Inevitably in such a surge of life there were those who couldn’t be there, and ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan, whose organization had already run its first race of the year from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow on April 22nd, and is personally a great fan of what Wicklow does for offshore racing, was absent with the sad death of his mother - our thoughts were with him. And our thoughts were also very much with WSC President and very long-serving and active member Gerry Nolan, who was over the moon about his baby being Club of the Year, but he’d been kept in dock in hospital under doctor’s orders. So good wishes were conveyed directly to him through his wife Angela, who was there for him at the party, and it was quipped that, being Gerry, he’d probably re-organised the hospital’s CCTV cameras in order to follow events in WSC.
It was such a remarkable gathering of so many viewpoints from within Wicklow and beyond that it was an ideal opportunity for new Irish sailing Association President Jack Roy to tell us, in his speech, of his hopes and plans for Irish sailing. This is a President for us all. He’s not just a President for the top international medal-achieving sailors, but a President for whom the interests of the ordinary club sailor or indeed anyone who’s interested in sailing - whether they race a bit or limit their activities to cruising or simply day sailing – merit close attention and support.
His parents were founder members of Greystones Sailing Club, and the President reckons the smaller clubs such as big-hearted Wicklow (it has about 160 members with all categories included) are the true life blood of sailing, “the core strength of our sport around the coast”.
During his Presidency he intends to visit absolutely every club in Ireland , which knowing Jack means in several cases it will be many times. His exuberant enthusiasm, shown through his many race officer duties and personal Squib sailing and cruising with his Halberg Rassy cutter, is an inspiration to his members, and it enables him to voice strong opinions on re-shaping sailing for its own good.
Despite being a commited boat owner himself, he is more than ready to welcome those who just want to taste sailing without financial commitment, and he particularly commended Wicklow’s club ownership of sailing dinghies which are made readily available for public use.
Jack Roy had many other fresh and invigorating ideas, but as we’ll be shortly doing a full interview with him for a future Sailing on Saturday, we’ll give those views and others a proper airing in due course. Meanwhile, this week he brilliantly conveyed the goodwill of the entire Irish sailing community to Wicklow SC in their success, and the gratitude of all involved to Mitsubishi Motors for their continuing support of an informal but important competition which helps us all to understand and support Ireland’s sailing clubs in a positive way.
On behalf of Mitsubishi Motors, Billy Riordan, CEO of Frank Keane holdings, spoke particularly if his own enthusiasm for the way in which the “Club of the Year” competition encourages clubs to re-think their relationship with the larger community around them. Sailing clubs are a vital interconnector between sea and land, and their unique position enables them to provide lines of communication which are of benefit to everyone, while the use of their premises for non-maritime events has contributed greatly to mutual understanding.
But as mentioned at the beginning, simply being in Wicklow Sailing Club makes everyone lighten up, and Billy went cheerfully off script to talk of his own experiences in taking part in the Round Ireland Race. This is a rite of passage for every Irish sailor, and for most of us - as in Billy’s case - the memories can be of great amusement as much as they are of more serious stuff dealing with the challenges of racing on the Atlantic Ocean.
In response to all this, Wicklow Sailing Club Commodore Denise Cummins made a speech which so perfectly encapsulated the spirit of the club and the mood of the evening that it’s only right and proper to reproduce its key messages:
“It is my pleasure to welcome you all to Wicklow Sailing Club tonight. We are delighted to see so many friends from near and far joining us on this special evening. In particular we welcome the Club of the Year adjudicators, and are honoured to have Frank Keane and Billy Riordan and their team from Mitsubishi Motors.
We welcome Jack Roy our new ISA President, and also Paddy Boyd – well known to many of us – representing his brother Michael, Commodore of our very good friends at the Royal Ocean racing Club.
We welcome too the representatives from our local community, who give us as a club so much support. Representatives from the RNLI, from Wicklow Chamber & local businesses, from Sailfest, from the County Council, from local Sports Partnership, from nearby sailing clubs, from other water-sports clubs, and so on - it’s great that you are all here.
Our club President, Gerry Nolan, was really looking forward to this evening’s reception, but unfortunately as you have heard he is unable to be here. We are delighted to see that Angela could make it here tonight. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him again as soon as possible. But now that I think of it, he has remote access to our security cameras so I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he was keeping an eye on me right now!!
I have been a member of this sailing club for a number years now, not that long, but I certainly wasn’t here when WSC was first awarded the Club of the Year back in 1979, the first club to receive the award. However, we do have a photograph of the presentation of the award in 1979, a photograph which includes a bearded & only slightly younger-looking Winkie Nixon!
As Commodore of WSC, I would like to thank Mitsubishi Motors for this award, the Mitsubishi Sailing Club of the Year 2017. We are both delighted & very proud to accept this wonderful award. It will be displayed with great pride of place in our club.
I would also like to thank Mitsubishi Motors for continuing to sponsor this award and we acknowledge their contribution, reflected in the ethos in that company, not just to us as a club, but indeed to the local community. It underlines the recognition of the hard work of volunteer club members and the community. Our club is firmly based in the community and we receive a lot of support from the local community here in Wicklow.
The ethos and spirit of the club has evolved over many years and on my watch I want to ensure that this continues on into the future.
Last year’s Committee Boat, as we might call our club administration, started with an able crew of many helpers. This honour of running Wicklow Sailing Club is now bestowed on our 2017 group.
It is easy to take over when a ship has been running a good course, and sailed with skill and good judgment. A special thank you to Peter Shearer, Gerry Nolan and Kevin Desmond for working hard as our anchors, while Hal Fitzgerald was on helm as Commodore, and provided a steady hand on the tiller .
Theo Phelan as Race Organiser of the Round Ireland is our kite, our spinnaker, always on a run leading us ahead. Our mainsail handlers and trimmers - Dave Ballesty, Roisin Henessy and Mark Redmond - have organised and trained many sailors for years, and last year in particular the dinghy section was one of high achievement - they are the power house of sailing from the root up.
Brian Malone and Eugene Lynch are our headsail and foredeck men, converting the juniors and turning them into Cruising Adult Sailors.
Angela Higgins and Fergus Sommer are our telltales, helping us to pick up the change in wind and ensure we are in tune with our community, environment and surroundings.
Kyran O’Grady is our mast and boom, supporting every facet of the club while ensuring the sheets and halliards don’t get tangled, yet in addition he is the glue which holds the club together.
David Ryan is our bow-sprit, always looking at least eight feet ahead, always looking outward and forward. Not all clubs have this vision, let alone a visionary like Farmer Ryan with his practicality combined his direction and passion.
Yet the boat whch is the club cannot sail without the wind, and our wind is our volunteers and our sailors, all our members who keep us moving forward, pushing us, carry us through the course, across the line to every finish.
Thank you to our friends in the local community who give us such great support. It is wonderful to have an opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone, who turn out week after week throughout the year, and who make the club the great place it is.
It is very fitting that the award is made during this week, which is National Volunteer Week. This deserves celebration. So while the club is all about sailing and fostering the community and getting people on the water, ultimately the club is also about having fun. Tonight is one of those many fun occasions. So now you know what you have to do for the remainder of this evening, which I hope you will enjoy.”
Which they most certainly did. And during it, Paddy Boyd reminisced about Wicklow’s first win back in 1979, when they got the trophy for organizing a sailing rally open to everyone. He was one of the few present this week who had taken part all of 38 years ago, and it showed Wicklow SC what it could do if it spread its wings. It certainly gave Wicklow the Great Idea. The following year in 1980, the Round Ireland Race was inaugurated. The rest you know.
The sun shone on a crowded Wicklow Sailing Club last night as one of the country’s smallest clubs was celebrated with the presentation of the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year 2017” award to WSC in recognition of its remarkable achievements during the past year and beyond writes W M Nixon.
These annual (and unique) award ceremonies, and the assessments which precede them, have now been sponsored by Mitsubishi Motors for 31 years. Over the years, the ceremony has developed from being a trophy handover event into a series of thoughtful and entertaining speakers, each of whom provides a considered insight into what makes for a successful sailing club in today’s rapidly-changing world.
We’ll be exploring some of the ideas put forward last night in this weekend’s Sailing on Saturday. But with the considered input from sailors of the calibre of Jack Roy (President of the Irish Sailing Association), Billy Riordan of Mitsubishi Motors (an active sailor and Opty dad), and Denise Cummins, Commodore of Wicklow SC, it was both an entertaining evening, and one with much food for thought.
In a big sailing week for County Wicklow, New York Yacht club has announced Kilbride's Mark Mills will design its brand new IC37 One-Design IC37 One-Design fleet, and tonight Wicklow Sailing Club will be awarded the coveted Mitsubishi Motors Ships Wheel Trophy at a special Irish Sailing Club of the Year ceremony at its South Quay clubhouse in Wicklow Harbour.
Best-known as the big-hearted little organisation which keeps the iconic Volvo Round Ireland Race show on the road with such style that it is now one of Europe’s premier events, with a stellar international entry list of 63 boats – many of them world famous – in June 2016. But where some other smaller clubs might find their own members’ sailing activities distorted or diminished through the voluntary organisational effort which is required to keep a biennial mega-event on this scale running smoothly, in Wicklow the reverse is true.
Read W M Nixon's full review of Wicklow Sailing Club's achievements here.
Wicklow Sailing Club are best-known as the big-hearted little organisation which keeps the iconic Volvo Round Ireland Race show on the road with such style that it is now one of Europe’s premier events, with a stellar international entry list of 63 boats – many of them world famous - in June 2016. But where some other smaller clubs might find their own members’ sailing activities distorted or diminished through the voluntary organisational effort which is required to keep a biennial mega-event on this scale running smoothly, in Wicklow the reverse is true writes W M Nixon.
The big race – at 704 miles it is nearly a hundred miles longer than the other classics such as the Fastnet, the Sydney-Hobart, the Caribbean 600, the Bermuda Race and the Middle Sea Race – is run with the full co-operation of the RORC, and back-up support from the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire. Yet in Wicklow the club spirit is such that not only are there volunteers ready and willing to provide further assistance to key personnel such as the Volvo Round Ireland Race Organiser Theo Phelan and his team, but there is ample evidence that this high level of voluntary effort spreads into every corner of club activity. This is particularly the case with a thriving junior training and racing programme, in which the leading figures have been Dave Ballesty and Mark Redmond.
Anyone who has been in Wicklow for the impressive, crowded and colourful Seafest which is clustered around the Volvo Round Ireland Race start at the midsummer weekend will have naturally tended to assume that, after the big event has been tidied up and its week of long-distance racing rounded out with the Friday night prize-giving, Wicklow sailing takes a well-earned rest.
Not so. The Round Ireland tents are folded away, and the real Wicklow, la Wicklow profonde, will have emerged within days. Toppers, Lasers, Picos and other two-handed dinghies will flock seaward for training, accompanied by busy instructor RIBS zooming about to encourage yet another new generation into proper sailing in a club which has produced notable sailors on the national and international scene such as Round Britain and Ireland two-Handed winner Brian Flahive, Commandant Barry Byrne the winning Skipper of the inaugural Beaufort Cup at Volvo Cork Week in 2016, award-winning international cruising man Alan Rountree who self-built – to an immaculate level – his much-travelled 34ft sloop Tallulah, and the popular Charlie Kavanagh, whose abilities as a seaman and sailing teacher are deservedly renowned.
But being Wicklow, these kids coming up through a club which has been producing distinguished sailors since its foundation in 1950 will have voluntarism in their genes. Wicklow SC has only around 160 members, of whom barely a hundred are full adult members. Yet not only most of the adults, but many of the young people too, see voluntary work for the club - both in keeping its activities at a high level while maintaining its fabric and the fleet of club-owned training boats in proper order – as part of the Wicklow way of doing things. And of course among all sailing folk, whether racing or cruising, dinghy or offshore, Wicklow Sailing Club is a byword for hospitality and making newcomers welcome to our sport.
With a thriving club life, it also plays a key role in its local community. Yet at the same time, every two years since 1980 it has organised the Round Ireland Race. And though there have been years when the entry has been thin enough, in 2016 everything came together with glorious success for a club which simply never gave up on the idea that a proper Round Ireland Race was central to the entire Irish sailing scene.
To say that the race organisers down the years since 1980 have beavered away behind the scenes to keep the show on the road only hints at the effort sometimes required to enable an event of this stature to fulfill its true potential. But since 2012, current organizer Theo Phelan has been working with a special statesmanlike dedication – some would call it Machiavellian skill – to raise the event onto a new plane. By 2016, with the full support of the RORC and its Irish Commodore Michael Boyd, together with the discreet assistance of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire in order to provide a pre-race base for larger yachts, and the added involvement of superstar multi-hulls to make full use of a package which now included sponsorship from Volvo Car Ireland, the Round Ireland Race came of age and entered the big boys league.
Yet this all was done from one tiny club in a workaday commercial and country town whose small port has a very strong commercial bias. But when something is functioning as perfectly as Wicklow Sailing Club and the Volvo Round Ireland Race in 2016, perhaps it’s better not to dissect it all in too much detail. You might break the magic spell. So instead, we’ll just try and tell you who does what, and hope the story speaks for itself.
Wicklow Sailing Club has learned to live with the biennial appearance of the big one by ensuring that the Commodore’s two year term sees that the Round Ireland Race – which has to be in a non-Fastnet year – will be happening in the second year of office, when he or she is well settled into the top role. But even this was something which had to be learned, and the club is eternally grateful to a former Commodore Johnny Johnson, who gallantly served three years in order to get the sequence right.
However, when you’re drawing on such a small membership, the succession has to be carefully planned to make best use of the limited pool of talent, and when Wicklow Sailing Club’s officer and committee board underwent its usual total biennial change just ten days ago, Hal Fitzgerald stood down after his two year term as Commodore to be succeeded by Denise Cummins, who had been Honorary Secretary and thus will be tuned to every nuance of club life and administration when the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018 comes roaring over the horizon.
Last year’s full list gives an idea of the many talents needed to keep any club operating smoothly:
Wicklow Sailing Club - 2016
Officers, General Committee and Sub-committees
President: Sadie Phelan
Commodore: Hal Fitzgerald
Vice-Commodore: Brian Malone (Lead for Try Sailing - Cruisers)
Rear Commodore Sailing: David Ryan (lead for Berthing Round Ireland)
Rear Commodore House: Gerry Nolan (Long standing, long serving member, came to cruisers after many years on the GP 14 circuit)
Hon. Treasurer: Fergus Somers (Lead for Finance Ctte)
Hon. Secretary: Denise Cummins
Membership Secretary: Joanne Logan (& Finance Ctte)
Dave Ballesty (ISA Training Centre Principal, Try Sailing – Dinghies, & lots of other work), Eugene Lynch (Communications & VRIYR Official Race Programme), Roisin Hennessy (Lead for Dinghies), Paul Hennessy, Kyran O Grady (Lead for boat maintenance & house fabric), Peter Shearer, Angela Higgins (Ballesy) (Lead for Grants & Club Development).
Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race Organising Committee:
Chair & Secretary: Peter Shearer
Race Organiser: Theo Phelan
Asst Race Organiser: David Ryan
Commodore ex officio: Hal Fitzgerald
Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race Catering Committee:
Sandra Fitzgerald, Liam Whitty, Paul Hennessy PLUS many, many volunteers, particularly those who fed the returning boats.
ISA Training Centre Principal: Dave Ballesty, assisted by Mark Redmond and Roisin Hennessy
However, in a club of this size it would be very counter-productive if people insisted on a clear job description, and stuck rigidly to their own interpretation of the brief. A delicate balance has to be drawn and maintained between recognizing who is ultimately responsible for some task, yet being prepared to leap in to do the job or at least assist with it during periods of particular stress.
And of course in a town like Wicklow – which mercifully is just far enough from Dublin to be its own place, healthily clear of rigid metropolitan attitudes – there’s interest in how people spend their time in their day jobs, and the lineup keeping the Wicklow SC machine moving along includes the talents of one of Ireland’s leading thatchers, Kyran O’Grady, who in 2017 takes on the additional role of Honorary Treasurer, whole another key figure is David “Farmer” Ryan who organised the participation of the Volvo 70 Monster Project in the 2014 Race, and is getting his sailing off to an early start this year with participation in the RORC Caribbean 600 in February.
As for the season of 2016, everyone will be well aware that in the Volvo Round Ireland Race for mono-hulls, the overall winner, line honours winner and establisher of a new record was George David with Rambler 88, while the multihull winner – by a matter of seconds – was Oman Sailing (Sydney Gavignet), which also established a new record.
But for aficionados, perhaps the most popular prize was what might be called the Corinthian Award, which doesn’t actually exist, but if it did who would have gone to RORC Commodore Michael Boyd who took third overall in the standard First 44.7 Lisa after sailing a virtually faultless race, a race which incidentally he won overall in 1996, racing the J/35 Big Ears.
Once it was all over, Wicklow life resumed, and local racing saw Jason Moran with the David Thomas-designed Hyrdo 28 Hydrogin win the cruiser classes, while the dinghy events were dominated by the annual Junior Regatta which produced a wide spread of results, and here’s a photo of the winners:
Wicklow Sailing Club last won the “Club of the Year” award in 1979. In those pre-Round Ireland days, they were experimenting with events which would make sailing more accessible, and Irish ports more welcoming, to sailors from elsewhere. So they staged a sort of cruising rally open to absolutely everything which floated, and from anywhere, and it worked very well to be the highlight of a busy season for a club which was starting to find its feet.
They’ve certainly found their feet very well indeed now. The entire Irish sailing community owes a mountain of gratitude to Wicklow Sailing Club for never losing the faith on the Round Ireland race, and bringing it to its present eminence through sheer dogged persistence, and an awesome amount of hard work, nearly all of it voluntary. They become the very worthy Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year” 2017.
At 704 miles long, with a course along coastlines of almost infinite variety, the Round Ireland Race was always a complex event for post-race analysis even when fleets amounted to only three dozen or so. But for 2016 in the first year of sponsorship by Volvo Car Ireland, the number of starters soared to 63. And the inclusion of multi-hulls for the first time since the initial pre-RORC race of 1980 added further depth to the eclectic nature of the fleet, which was already an extensive array, as it ranged from small craft like a J/97, a First 31.7 and a Sunfast 3200, to one of the current superstars of world sailing, George David’s Juan K-designed canting-keeled Rambler 88. Having provided us with 17 up-dates during the six days of the race, W M Nixon takes a final overview.
Here’s to Yellowbrick, the friend of armchair sailors everywhere. In the old days, trying to analyse or explain the unfolding story of the biennial Round Ireland Race was a formidable challenge. And you could be talking about it to people very few of whom had ever sailed round Ireland, while others didn’t even know it from the land, as they have been availing of sunshine holidays ever since cheap air travel arrived.
Thus there are many who know more of the coasts of Spain, Portugal and Greece – or even the Scottish Hebrides and the Isles of Scilly - than they do of Mayo and Donegal. And having experienced both those Irish counties in their more perverse meteorological moods in the course of several races round Ireland - not to mention many non-racing cruising circuits – I have to admit that I can see their point of view.
The Yellowbrick tracker for the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 wraps Ireland in its web. TriLogic went furthest east after the start, the three MOD 70s went furthest south off the south coast and furthest west off the west coast, Rambler 88 went furthest northwest, and Pegasus of Northumberland went to the Isle of Man but came back to cross tacks yet again with Teasing Machine, this time at Skerries as the Machine came south from Dundalk Bay.
"Round Ireland 2016 is in a special league of its own"
Yet the round Ireland race is addictive, and for those who have done it in the past, particularly those who have done it several times, it’s a bit of a pang to see the fleet go off and not be part of it. Even with all the modern equipment and boats which are obviously faster, it’s still a very worthy challenge. And it induces a special post-race camaraderie among crews who, in racing terms, have been at each other’s throats since the start.
After each biennial staging, something new has always turned up to add to the sailing history books. But the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 is in a special league of its own in this category, so much so that far from just adding something to the history books, it probably deserves a book of its own.
In fact, you could write a book about the fantastic start in which Rambler 88 gave a Masterclass in discerning emerging gaps beginning to appear in a melee of sometimes confused smaller bats. Despite her huge beam she came cleanly through to a peach of a start right on the committee vessel LE Aisling, bettered only by Eric de Turckheim’s A13 Teasing Machine while smaller craft which thought they’d done better found they’d been OCS, which led to a slow and painful return against a strengthening ebb to re-start.
Rambler’s miraculous start, finding gaps where none had existed ten seconds earlier. Photo: W M Nixon
Fortunately in making some sense of what happened afterwards, we can take a precise positional overview by looking at the Yellowbrick tracking as it was at virtual completion yesterday afternoon. It may look like a right cat’s cradle of lines all eventually getting back to Wicklow, but there are stories to be drawn from every part of it.
In the first beat from Wicklow Head down to the Tuskar Rock, very few boats tended to the east, and it certainly didn’t pay off. The one who went furthest east was the 50ft Trilogic, Hugo Carlsson-Smythe’s trimaran, which ultimately retired during the course of the race with gear and sail problem, so we don’t know if ultimately she would have overcome this initial tactical error.
The mono-hull which tacked furthest east was Chris & Patanne Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia (RStGYC), but she then put in a good showing in the long beat along the south coast and got herself back in the hunt, although off the north and east coasts things didn’t go quite so well, but in the end she placed 3rd in IRC 2 and 18th in IRC overall.
"Teasing Machine made a proper job of tide-dodging"
While the bulk of the fleet were still struggling against foul tides down the Wexford coast with Teasing Machine showing how to make a proper job of tide-dodging inside the Wexford banks, out ahead the biggies were splitting into their two parts of this fleet of four parts.
Although the reckoning was that conditions might just fall the right way for a new record, the three MOD 70s first had to find a breeze to raise them above the 12 knots which they occasionally fell back to as they came on starboard out past the Coningbeg Light. Thus it’s Musandam-Oman, Phaedo and Concise which are those three tracks which go way to the south. As they were so close to each other in performance, they sailed as a pack, so there was an element of covering as much as strategy in this, but in these early stages it was Ned Colllier Wakefield aboard Concise who was making the pace, with Phaedo next in line, while Musandam seemed to find it difficult to obtain quite the same speed.
The first hint of light in the east in the sky as the MOD 70 Musandam-Oman closes in on the Wicklow finish for a last-minute takeover of the line honours lead on the water, after her sister-ship Team Concise had led for most of the race. Photo: Mark Lloyd
Perhaps Irish sailing superstar Damian Foxall aboard Musadnam was slightly over-awed by it all, as he hadn’t been aboard Musandam when she set the new open Round Ireland record back in May 2015, and in an interview before the race (see below), he revealed that he and Justin Slattery – who was on Lloyd Thornburg’s Phaedo - were both Round Ireland virgins. They’ve been so busy building their international careers in other parts of the world that racing round their home island had never come up on the radar.
Whatever the reason, it was Concise which was least fazed by the challenge, she stayed closely in the lead, and after they’d tacked and started ripping up the west coast in the rising sou’west winds of Sunday, it was Concise which recorded the MOD 70’s best speed of 41.56 knots. But as they admitted afterwards, they weren’t right on the edge when they his that mega-speed in a growing Atlantic swell – they were beyond it.
Just outside a two day elapsed time, George David's Rambler looked every inch a winner in her debut Round Ireland race. Photo: Afloat.ie
After her glorious start ten minutes ahead of the MOD 70s, Rambler was going so well in the moderate southerly that she was past Arklow before the trimarans came through, but soon they’d disappeared ahead, and thus for the reminder of the race Rambler 88 was entirely on her own, thereby providing Part 2 of our four part round Ireland fleet. Although she’d been holding the IRC overall lead for a while, at various stages she’d dropped back as smaller craft got clear of foul tides. But once she was past the Fastnet and beginning to build her speed up the west coast in rising breezes, she was soon featuring among the front runners on all counts.
If anything, the weather felt almost Autumnal off the west coast, it had seemed slightly spring-like as warmer weather spread in while the leading big boats were far at sea seeking breezes off the south coast, and there was decent sunshine while the larger boats of the fleet were shuttling from Dun Laoghaire down to Wicklow on the Saturday morning for the start. But on the Thursday night in Dun Laoghaire when it was open house at the Royal Irish YC to meet the heavy hitters, a local weather anomaly was giving a temperature of 9 degrees Celsius which had been winter by anyone’s standards, it was certainly experienced but fortunately it wasn’t to occur again.
With the leading big boats zapping up the west coast on Sunday as south to sou’west winds continued to freshen, records were once again top of the agenda. But this was all of academic interest to the main part of the fleet bashing its way along the south coast, for as Sunday went on, conditions became increasingly rugged. Yet it was not without its local oddities – for a period on Sunday afternoon, there was very little wind indeed in an area close in on the entrance to Cork Harbour, and the spread of breeze was so uneven that the tracker revealed some boats taking rather desperate gambles to try and find steadier conditions.
Mark Mansfield and Maurice “The Prof” O’Connell on Dave Cullen's J109 Euro Car Parks, the IRC3 winners. Photo: Afloat.ie
One boat which did notably well during this stage was Dave Cullen’s J/109 Euro Car Parks. With Corkmen Mark Mansfield and Maurice “The Prof” O’Connell calling the shots, they gave a masterful demonstration of how to work the bays slugging west beyond the Old Head of Kinsale.
“Working the bays” doesn’t necessarily always pay off, and in fact it didn’t work so well for other boats near Euro Car Parks. So clearly an important factor in the successful use of this ploy is to have a boat which is out-sailing everyone else in any case, and it was noticeable by this stage that Euro Car Parks had worked out a formidable lead on all the other J/109s while she herself was in hot pursuit of Paul O’Higgins new JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, racing with the noted talents of Mark Pettit and Brian Mathews on board.
"Rockabill VI was a very slippy performer"
As Sunday evening and night went on, the Fastnet became increasingly difficult to get past as the area of steadier fresher breeze moved to the north. Thus while bigger boats such as Alan Hannon’s Reichel-Pugh 45 was making hay up past the Blaskets with a performance which suggested that she a going better and better as her Lough Swilly YC crew became accustomed to her ways, back down the line off the mouths of the great rias of the southwest at times the wind was all over the place, and Euro Car Parks was one which suffered, head off south of Dursey Dound, and forced to tack seaward in unspeakably lumpy sailing conditions.
By this time Rockabill VI was showing she was a very slippy performer, and the long run up the west coast was brilliantly sailed by her talented crew, so much so that by Tory Island she’d opened out a lead of 40 miles on Euro Car Parks, which looked unassailable.
But for others even thinking about Tory Island was still way off the radar, as many boats reckoned they’d taken a ferocious battering through the latter part of Sunday, and there were retirals at all levels of the fleet. Meanwhile away to the east the oldest boat in the race, Darryl Hughes’s 1937 Tyrell of Arklow 43ft–gaff ketch Maybird was making only very slow progress and she’d sustained damage aloft and to sails, so she went into Dunmore East and kept the crew strictly on board and out of contact with the shore while they made repairs and then, most gallantly, they put to sea again and eventually after another two days of slow progress to windward they had the freeing of sheets at Mizen Head within sight, but then it was discovered that there was a major problem with the engine, so they retired regretfully into Baltimore.
By this time the great dramas of the record finishes at Wicklow had been played out through Monday. So long as there’s breeze your ordinary North Channel fair or foul tides aren’t the major consideration for he MOD 70s, it’s the presence of wind which is the primary consideration.
Sunday evening found the MOD 70s shaping themselves into the North Channel and fetching through with all still close together and Concise still just leading, but from the South Rock on it was hard on the wind or beating to get to Wicklow. Musandam was still trailing the other two, so she took a brief slant towards Dundalk Bay and then went on to starboard to pace with them about two mioles further westward, bringing her in closer to Howth than Concise or Phaedo, and putting her in a better breeze as the wind started to play tricks in the dark of the small hours off Bray.
Everything was gettingly nail-bitingly tense, and south of Greystones, Phaedo and Concise were slowing markedly, so Musandam came up from astern and took a bit of an offing, finding better breeze only a short distance offshore which carried her right to the line at Wicklow to finish ahead and created an absurd new record of 1 day 14 hours and 37 minutes, with Phaedo 3 six minutes astern, and Concise – which had so gallantly led for most of the race – coming in another minute later.
Follow that, as they say, but somehow Rambler 88 managed to outdo the drama, as she did the final stage from Rathlin Island to Wicklow in just part of the one span of daylight on Monday. But by the time she came calling the wind had veered and thus she was able to lay the whole way down the Irish Sea to the finish, and was travelling at full chat as she came into the line.
While a mono-hull record within two days was no longer possible as she’d sailed 790 miles in all thanks to that long tack to the south in search of better breeze through Saturday night and Sunday morning, nevertheless she still made an almighty dent in every other mono-hull record by finishing in a time of 2 days 2 hours 24 minute and 9 seconds.
There was still some bite to the winds, but even in a poor summer such as we’re currently experiencing, the fact that the sou’west to west breeze had now been blowing moderate to strong and more for more than three days was increasing the likelihood of calm patches, and a general falling away in wind strength.
So gradually the crazy notion took hold that not only would the popular Rambler 88 be lauded as the new all-out mono-hull record holder, but she might even manage to win the race on corrected time. Certainly the holes in the wind now began to appear with increasing frequency, and none more so than for Rockabill VI as she rounded Inishtrahull, the most northerly point of the course, on Tuesday.
Rockabill VI – a new JPK 10.80 design. Photo: Afloat.ie
The O’Higgins crew came up against what was soon known as the Great Glass Wall of Inishtrahull. Rockabill and the three other boats in her immediate neighbourhood all came to such a complete halt that tracker-followers assumed they must all have fouled lobster pots. But they were simply and totally becalmed. They made no progress for three hours, yet boats close to the east were still bustling busily towards Rathlin Island, while boats close to the west were trundling merrily in from Tory.
So after the episodes of winter and spring and autumn, Rockabill was experiencing a brief bit of summer she could have well done without. Finally she got going again, but by this time Euro Car Parks had sliced a huge 20 miles out of Rockabill’s 40 mile lead, and thereafter it was Euro Car Parks ahead in IRC 3 on corrected time. In other classes, solid performances and reliability in strong winds had been rewarded, and in IR2 the beautifully-prepared Cornish-based Swan 47 Sarabande (Rob Mabley) had a lead she held to the finish, while in IRC 4 we were witnessing one of the great performances in the race, with Patrice Carpentier’s Sunfast 3200 GROUPE V tenaciously staying in front throughout, quite a showing as she was also leading the two-handed division.
As the race drew to a close through Wednesday and Thursday for this main part of the fleet, other consistent performances were being rewarded. Eric de Turckheim’s Teasing Machine was both consistent and brilliant, and on Wednesday tacking down the southern part of the North Channel, she was neck and neck with Ross Hobson’s two-handed canting-keeled Open 50 Pegasus of Northumberland.
French entry Teasing Machine was both consistent and brilliant. Photo: Afloat.ie
But while Pegasus elected to continue on starboard right over to the Isle of Man as can be seen on the tracker plan, Teasing Machine’s crew took a completely different choice, they went right to the southwest, and then tacked to curve across Dundalk Bay close past Clogher Head until the two boats met again at Rockabill, following which they paced together down to Wicklow where a bit of slick tacking saw Teasing Machine finish ahead, but by this time it was akin to bear-baiting, as the crew of the big Pegasus were boggle-eyed with exhaustion.
Teasing Machine’s time put her behind Rambler 88 on corrected, so the crazy dream was becoming reality, but that is in no way to detract from the de Turkheim crew’s performance, it was a superb playing of the hand they’d been dealt, They were comfortably ahead of Class 1 and 2, and soon out of sight on the determined little battlers of Classes 3 and 4, who until then had been snapping at their heels.
Meanwhile, between the big’ uns well finished, and the little’ uns still battling far at sea, there were several Steady Eddy performances whose reward was on its way, and none more so than for RORC Commodore Michael Boyd of the Royal Irish YC. His Fist 44.7 Lise was always there or thereabouts, and on Wednesday evening she was off Dublin Bay as the tide turned foul, but she kept beating on steadily towards Wicklow and got finished before midnight with the bonus of a local breeze, and was immediately sitting pretty at second in Class I well ahead of Katsu in third, and looking good for third overall behind Rambler and Teasing Machine.
Midnight encounter. Race organiser Theo Phelan with RORC Commodore Michael Boyd after the latter had brought the First 44.7 Lisa across the Wicklow finish line to take third overall. Photo: David Branigan
But that third overall needed a bit of waiting, as the Class 3 front-runners of Euro Car Parks and Rockabill VI were still in with a chance, while Class 4’s GROUPE V and Stephen Quinn’s gallant little J/97 Lambay Rules were also in contention, but it was not to be. The minutes slipped away, the hours ticked by, and in the end over a course of 704 miles it was waterline length which counted as a fading breeze and much windward work saw the little ‘uns lose out. But my word, they had one impressive race amongst themselves.
The results are still being analysed as we write this, and it was only on the Friday that Rambler was finally confirmed as overall winner, with Teasing Machine second and Lisa Third. As for Class winners, they were (1) Teasing Machine, (2) Sarabande, (3) Euro Car Parks, and (4) GROUPE V, but GROUPE V lost her two-handed class lead to Begian Michael Kleinjans’ Open 40 Roaring Forty 2 which was another steady performer.
"All credit to Wicklow Sailing Club’s Theo Phelan and his team"
In all, it was a wonderful race, a magnificent sporting event from which any keen sailor can take much of interest and even more of entertainment and excitement. All credit to Wicklow Sailing Club’s Theo Phelan and his team who have kept this event going through the thin times, and have been ready and waiting to see it come to a new flowering with sponsorship from Volvo Car Ireland.
But all the background organization would have been meaningless without a fleet of boats and their crews game to take on the 704-mile circuit of an island set in an exposed location on the lee side of the Atlantic ocean, and in following this race it has been particularly encouraging to see the improving performances of certain boats as their relatively novice crews get to grips with the challenge they’ve taken on. Needless to say it was also a case of the Old Dog for the Long Road, and Ian Hickey’s Granada 38 Cavatina was again in the frame at the fiish in Class 4.
Top of the class - a notable performance by the sailing school crew from the INSS in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Afloat.ie
Notably outstanding was the Irish National Sailing School’s Reflex 38 Lynx from Dun Laoghaire, skippered by Kenneth Rumball. She was always in competition, but as the race went on she seemed more in competition than ever, until at the finish she clocked in at fourth among all those hotshots in Class 3, close astern of Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam at third, and placed tenth overall in fleet. The crew of Lynx have had one excellent lesson in offshore racing.
The essential post-race de-briefing – the crews of Euro Car Parks and Rockabill VI, leaders in Class 3, get together in Wicklow SC on Thursday afternoon after five days of racing against each other round Ireland. Photo: W M Nixon
Volvo Round Ireland 2016 selected results
Hello and welcome aboard this week’s edition of your maritime programme Seascapes ... we have music from Starboard Home and an exclusive wide ranging interview with the Chief Executive of Dublin Port Company – Eamonn O’ Reilly on the life of the port and its ongoing development ………….……we have music from Andy Irvine who headlines this weekend’s Fastnet Maritime and Folk Festival in Ballydehob in West Cork as Molgoggers head for the Falmouth Festival we wish them fair sailing ….……..more on that competition where you can propose a youngster for a Sail Training Bursary this Summer courtesy of Sail Training Ireland and Seascapes ; we congratulate Royal Ulster Yacht Club on their 150th Anniversary with the celebrations starting this weekend …….first this week as the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race vessels and crews gather in Wicklow Sailing Club. David Branigan went along for Seascapes to Dun Laoghaire this week to have a word with record holder Brian Thompson, first we hear from Justin Slattery.....
David Branigan talking there to Justin Slattery and Brian Thompson ..the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race begins this weekend from Wicklow Sailing Club ..we’ll have a full report on next Friday's edition of Seascapes …
Further north on the East coast …………… Greystones Sailing Club will officially open its new premises this Sunday when Minister Simon Harris will perform the official opening………. The Club, originally established in 1968, caters for over 350 members and is very much a family club, rooted in the Greystones community. Initially sailing was confined to Mirror dinghies launched from a rubber mat rolled out on the shingle on North Beach with boats transported to and from the harbour on the tops of cars. The old clubhouse was built in the early 1970’s and has continued to be a part of the Greystones community since then. Now with the opening of the new facility, the club boasts over 100 dinghy’s and 20 keelboats and has one of the strongest junior sections of any club along the East Coast and is set to grow.
This weekend one of our great musical troubadours and treasures plays the Fastnet Maritime and Folk Festival Ballydehob here is the man himself Andy Irvine with this classic “Banks of Newfoundland” taken from his album Abocurragh…..
Next here on Seascapes to Dublin Port Company where we recently met up with the Chief Executive Eamonn O'Reilly and talked about the current dredging of Dublin bay to facilitate the expansion of the Alexandra Basin Container Ferry and Cruise Liner traffic and his perspective on spoil being dumped at the Burford Bank and the Starboard Home Concert in the National Concert Hall as part of the 2016 Commemorations which is on next Wednesday and Thursday…….
Finally Seascapes talked with Eamonn O Reilly about the port’s dredging spoil which is deposited on The Burford Bank in Dublin Bay since the beginning of the last century……
Eamonn O Reilly Chief Executive of Dublin Port we’ll hear more about the brand new Dublin Port Company Seafarers Centre which houses the Mission to Seafarers and Stella Maris and we’ll also be talking to Dermot Desmond Ships visitor for the Mission to Seafarers…..if you are attending the Starboard Home concert we hope to see you there also they’ve added an extra night on Thursday next …. tickets on sale now www.nch.ie
Starboard Home Features new works by Paul Noonan, James Vincent McMorrow, Cathy Davey, Duke Special, Gemma Hayes, Jape, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Lisa O’Neill, Declan O’Rourke, John Sheahan Paul Cleary and novelist Caitriona Lally.
Royal Ulster Yacht Club are celebrating their 150th anniversary …
The first event of the 150th Anniversary celebrations for the Club will take place this weekend ……………The Randox Health Sigma 33 UK & Irish National Championships has attracted twenty boats from throughout the UK and Ireland. From Lough Swilly to Waterford, from the Clyde to Falmouth taking in Liverpool and the Isle of Man on the way. The visitors will join the local boats for three days of racing on the open waters of Belfast Lough.
On next Saturday 25th June there is to be an Anniversary Sail Past of all the competing boats and visitors from the other Club in Belfast Lough. This should be quite a sight with the old and the new processing past the RUYC Clubhouse along with . The Sail Past will commence at 12.00 midday and will be followed by the Club’s Annual Regatta supported by Templeton Robinson.
The fortnight of celebrations concludes on Friday 1st July with a gala dinner. The RUYC acknowledge the support of Ards and North Down Borough Council in running these special events.
“Well that’s all folks for this weekon the sound desk this week Niall O Sullivan ………….. next Friday night here on your maritime programme Seascapes we meet some Sail Training Ireland sail trainees aboard the brig “Morgenster” in Cork and Waterford and hear about their experiences at sea we talk to the Captain of the vessel Harry Muster and speak with the Chairman of Sail Training Ireland Seamus McLoughlin ………………….. we’ll have music from Fairport Convention with “A Sailor’s Life” and a report from the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race ….plus we visit the Seafarers Centre in the heart of Dublin Port all that and much more until next Friday night tight lines and fair sailing.”
Ireland's only multihull entry in the 2016 Round Ireland Race is skippered by Dun Laoghaire sailor Hugo Karlsson-Smythe and crewed by Bowen Ormsby. The Trilogic is a record setting Multi 50 Trimaran and pulled into Wicklow Harbour for Saturday's race after an 1800 mile shake down trip from Gran Canaria.
After this first ocean race on the Tri, Hugo's long term objective is the single handed Route du Rhum transatlantic race 2018.
Having bought the boat in April this year Hugo has been busy recommissioning her and getting her back into racing spec. The trip up from Las Palmas gave him the opportunity to shake her down a little however, but he was 'hampered somewhat' as the sail wardrobe was not complete.
The Trilogic is a record setting Multi 50 Trimaran
Hugo told Afloat.ie 'At the moment we are just getting used to sailing fast and recalibrating ourselves to a new normal, 10 kts now feels slow, a pause for coffee at 16kts is comfortable and 25kts feels like we are just getting going!'
'The Round Ireland is the perfect opportunity for us to get a better feel for the boat in a competitive environment before we move to France later this year for an optimization program to prepare the boat for the challenge ahead, he said. You can follow Trilogic at www.trilogic.ie
Today sees the start off the Wicklow Pierheads of largest and most varied fleet in the 36-year history of the biennial Round Ireland Race from, which in its 19th edition takes on board sponsors Volvo Car Ireland for the first time. The fleet ranges in size from a trio of boats around the 31ft to 32ft band, right up to the 88ft–Rambler, with the three exceptional trimarans of the MOD 70 class next in size. But while attention will inevitably focus on the super-machines at the top end of the fleet, many of those taking part are club sailors from Ireland and overseas, racing standard craft which have only been modified where necessary to comply with the strict R0RC regulations which a race of this calibre requires. As well, the re-birth of local offshore racing in Irish waters is well-reflected with the presence of boats which have been giving a very good showing of themselves in weekend passage races, while boats which performed well in both last year’s Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race in June and the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015 in August are also very much in contention. W M Nixon gives his take on the mood of the moment, and shares a few pointers for possible top performers.
The international sailing superstars who have come here for the Volvo Round Ireland Race will have experienced many kinds of sailing weather - much of it glamorously and spectacularly sunny stuff - during their hectic careers afloat. But by the time the super-fast leaders are approaching the Wicklow finish line in the early days of next week, they’ll have been able to savour just about everything the Irish climate throws at us, summer and winter……
With most of the top boats assembling as pre-arranged within the ambit of the Royal Irish Yacht Club through this past week, they’ll have shared with the Irish people an almost freakish drop in the temperature as the low pressure area over England, which was in turn sending even worse weather into France for the European Football Cup, began to bring to us here in the Emerald Isle a wet and windy northerly airstream of quite remarkable coldness.
Thursday June 16th – Bloomsday by happy accident – was selected for the evening in which we all could get to know the legends of sailing at an evening reception at the Royal Irish. When the date was being set, you can so easily imagine the organisers visualising a balmy summer evening, with the scene augmented by the DBSC fleet returning to port from their regular Thursday fixture, while on the waterfront terrace of the elegant old yacht club, people could stroll in their summer finery – perhaps we’d even have a Bloomsday veteran or two still properly garbed – and it would be just such a perfect June evening.
But things happened otherwise. Within the already cold northerly airstream, through Thursday a small but always measurable balloon of hyper-cold air between 9 and 11 degrees appeared at the north end of Ireland’s east coast. It spent the day moving southward, remaining remarkably intact in size, and by party time on Thursday at the RIYC it was sitting plumb over Dun Laoghaire, with the temperature at its cold heart now persistently down at 9 degrees.
One of the favourites. Alan Hannon’s clean-lined Reichel-Pugh 45 Katsu in Dun Laoghaire on Thursday evening. Photo: W M Nixon
But anyone who reckons that such a situation would be the ultimate party pooper just doesn’t get it with the kind of people who do the round Ireland, and particularly those who come a long way to take part. They had themselves a ball, they had themselves a blast, and there more were twists and turns to the potential of the Dun Laoghaire-Dublin setup that even the locals would now of.
For instance Brian Thompson, sailing master of Lloyd Thornburg’s all-conquering MOD 70 Phaedo 3, is up to speed on matters Irish, having been a crew-member when Steve Fossett’s 60ft trimaran Lakota established the Ireland circuit record of 1993 which stood for 22 years. So on Thursday night when he heard it was Bloomsday and that that Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man was on at the Pavilion Theatre just across the road, he showed his face for just long enough to be polite at the party in the yacht club, and then skedaddled across the road for a night of high culture.
Meanwhile, RORC Commodore and longtime RIYC member Michael Boyd was settling in very well in the midst of this throng in his home club, working the room and savouring the moment, for nearby on the pontoon was the First 44.7 Lisa which he’ll be skippering round Ireland. He already won the race in 1996 with the J/35 Big Ears, but for the 2016 race he definitely has the more comfortable boat with all mod cons.
The Volvo Round Ireland fleet in stopover mode at the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire. In the foreground are Michael Boyd’s First 44.7 Lisa, and Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI. Photo: W M Nixon
So when it was mentioned that the start of the race at Wicklow is exquisitely timed to exactly match the kick-off in the European Cup’s Ireland-Belgium match in Bordeaux, it didn’t take a feather out of the Commodore, as he cheerfully accepting that the first two hours of the race would be a little slow for Lisa “because only the helmsman will be on deck, the rest of us will be below watching the match”.
His brother Paddy, home from Canada and almost straight into the Round Ireland, will be sailing with Michael together with a formidable crew which incudes the likes of Barry Hurley and Tim Greenwood, so with Lisa well in the frame in the RORC points table, we can be sure that the points weighting of 1.4 which the Round Ireland provides will be treated with the seriousness it deserves.
Nevertheless the idea of watching football matches on a yacht in mid-race just wouldn’t go away, and Paddy recalled the race of 1994 which he did with Mark Mansfield as skipper aboard Brian Buchanan’s Frers 49 Hesperia (overall winner in 1988 with Dickie Gomes as skipper), the boat having become AIB for the duration of the race.
As it happened, that duration wasn’t very long. On the Saturday night they were pacing nicely with Moonduster with the Tuskar astern, both boats turning pleasantly to windward in classic Frers style in abut 15 knots of wind, and all well with the world with the watch off duty (and some of the watch on duty) glued to a little screen in the saloon, where Ireland could be seen playing Italy in the World Cup in the US.
Ireland scored a goal…... From the depths of AIB/Hesperia’s saloon, there erupted a mighty road of approval. And the mast fell down. Just like that. For no clear reason. This has led Paddy to develop a theory that just as an opera singer can shatter a wine glass with a particularly note, so the wild shout of Irish approval for a goal score can bring down a perfectly-tuned mast.
When you’re getting theories like that being learnedly discussed, you get the gist of the party, but there was much more to it than that. Every so often a blast of cold air would erupt into the clubhouse as some new international crew from some boat of legend swept into the party, and I have to tell you that top modern sailors are getting very tall. Not beanpole tall, either. Just big strong tall – maybe they have special breeding programmes to improve the line in France and the US, which is where most of them seem to have originated.
Thus it says much about the size and presence of George David of Rambler 88 that he still stood out in the midst of this crowd of sailing giants in the rather august setting of the RIYC’s stately rooms. He is some piece of work. It’s unlikely he’ll ever apply for the free bus pass for which he qualified a year or two ago, but if Wall Street was ever blown away, he could turn a bob or two as a stand-up comedian. Another option would be a writing a book abut his personal fitness regime, if he has one, for although he’s a big fellow he moves with the grace and ease of someone half his age. And while he’s at that stage in life when most us look at the world through a network of veins, his eyes are as clear as an Optrex ad.
Modern building, very modern boat – Rambler 88 in her Dun Laoghaire berth at the Ferry Terminal. Photo: W M Nixon
George David, owner-skipper of Rambler 88
As to the business of Rambler 88 breaking the Leopard (Mike Slade) Round Ireland course record of 65 hours from 2008, George David reckons it’s very much on the cards. 2008 was a messy race, with more wind than was useful, and Leopard’s average was only 10.8 knots. But for 2016, Rambler’s skipper figures that if they can make a reasonably efficient job of the uphill sailing to get to the Fastnet, they’ll be looking to average 25 knots along the western seaboard and north coast in strong sou’west to west breezes, and there’s even a chance than once they get near the Irish Sea, the wind will have veered a little more to give them a slant down to Wicklow.
“In most of our races, we expect an average of 13 to 15 knots, and though this can be a difficult course, it’s looking quite good at the moment”. With the Rambler 88 crew including sailors of the calibre of America’s Cup winning skipper Brad Butterworth and Andrew Cape on board, it is indeed looking good.
Musandam-Oman in record-breaking form
While Rambler is odds-on to be the first mono-hull to finish, it’s highly likely the oldest boat in the race, the beautifully-restored 43ft Tyrrell ketch of 1937 vintage, Darryl Hughes’ Maybird, will finish last on the water. He found himself in Dun Laoghaire marina berthed just ahead of Sidney Gavignet’s MOD 70 Musandam-Oman, and in the whirl of people up in the clubhouse, the Number One aboard Musandam, Derrynane’s favorite sailor Damian Foxall was relaxed in one of those constantly changing groups which at one stage included Darryl Hughes and northern sailing journalist Betty Armstrong, who is one of the few sailing journalists who has ever actually helmed a MOD 70.
Maybird looking tiny amongst assorted exotica in Dun Laoghaire Marina on Thursday evening. Yet once upon a time in the late 1940s, her sister-ship Aideen (below right) was one of the biggest yachts about the place.
Normally journos are padded up with safety gear like a sack of potatoes on the Mod 70s, for as we learned when one of them capsized in Dublin Bay in 2012, they’re so wide it’s dangerous to fall off them (the MOD 70s, that is…). But out in Valencia, when Betty was the journalist on board Musandam Oman for an inshore race, and she’d found herself a safe spot on the forward netting. Bur there was a straightforward sail back to the harbour, and Damian made his way forward and asked her back to the cockpit, and when she was there, he asked her would she like to helm: “There’s nothing to it”, said he.
So there was Mrs Armstrong of Bangor in County Down helming this wonderful machine at a very smooth 25–knots, and as she says: “Do you know what, there really was nothing to it. The boat was going so smoothly and there was so little feel in the helm that it was only the speedometer which could persuade me I was steering a sailing boat at 25 knots”.
In today’s Volvo Round Ireland 2016 race. they’ll be expecting more than 25 knots and conditions way beyond the “very smooth” once the big multihulls get the Fastnet astern and start to get a bit of north in their course. The weather pattern has moved on a bit from the conditions we were anticipating here on Wednesday, when there was talk of nor’easters at the start giving way to sou’westers by tonight. It now looks as though the ridge which was expected to cross Ireland during today will be slightly earlier than expected, and losing strength in its push to the northeast, thus at start time the underlying wind at Wicklow will be a slack nor’wester
Very soon, however, the weather will be dominated by a big wet low out in the Atlantic, though some comfort can be taken from the fact that pressure won’t become excessively low over Ireland. But the isobars will be close enough together to provide freshening breezes, and well before midnight tonight, the sou’westers will be established at the Tuskar, becoming strong during tomorrow all along the South and West coasts.
Thus getting to the turn in the Fastnet Rock/Mizen Head area is crucial (as it always is), but this year it’s especially the case. And of course while the MOD 70s and Rambler will be looking to have it ticked off well before noon tomorrow, anything much smaller will inevitably be facing a slugging match all the way from somehere north of the Tuskar Rock right down to Ireland’s great southwest capes.
BOATS TO WATCH
With a fleet of 64 boats, it’s impossible to give a complete form guide, so we’ll take ten from the body of the fleet which provide the winning combination of good all-round boats with able crew:
KATSOU (Alan Hannon, RORC & RUYC) This Reichel-Pugh 45 attracted much favourable interested in one of the premier berths at the RIYC on Thursday night, and rightly so. She comes with a good track record, and for this race she has a formidable crew built around the very best of the northwest from Lough Swilly YC, with Richie Fearon navigating (he navigated the winner Tanit in 2014) the winning Clipper Race Skipper Sean McCarter (he also was awarded the Cruising Club of America Rod Stephens Trophy for seamanship last year after successfully dealing with a man overboard in the North Pacific), and also Diarmaid MacAuley, one of the north’s best offshore helms.
Sean McCarter of Lough Swilly YC receives the Cruising Club of America Roderick Stephens Award from CCA Commodore Tad Lhamon in New York, March 2015. McCarter will be sailing on Katsu during the Volvo Round Ireland Race
LISA (Michael Boyd, RORC & RYC). RORC Commodore Boyd has form in the round Ireland, he won in 1986, and Lisa certainly has form this year in beingin the frame in the RORC Championship. A First 44.7, she should cope well with the expected conditions.
EURO CAR PARKS (Dave Cullen, HYC). Also known as the Kelly family’s J/109 Storm, she has been chartered for this race by World Half Ton Classics Champion Dave Cullen and he has assembled a crew of six champions (himself included) from last weekends ICRA Nats. When you’ve the likes of Mark Mansfield, Maurice “Prof” O’Connell and Johnny Murphy sharing boat space, then good results are expected.
MOJITO (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC) They’d a good second in last year’s Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, they’re one of the most consistent J/109s around, and they draw their crew from both sides of the Irish Sea in the best traditions of ISORA.
ROCKABILL VI (Paul O’Higgins, RIYC). Still something of an unknown force in her own right, Rockabill VI has the flawless pedigree of being a JPK 10.80 (Fastnet Race winner, Hobart Race class winner etc etc), so as they settle in the O’Higgins crew should move up the rankings
TEASING MACHINE (Eric de Turckheim, France). One of the world’s most sporting offshore racers, this 13m Archambault hs a go at everything from the Commodore’s Cup to the Sydney-Hobart, with a Fastnet thrown in for good measure. She’s always in the frame, she’s an amazing boat, and she and her crew will give of their best.
DESPERADO OF COWES (Richard Loftus, RYS) This vintage Swan 65 would be a good heavy weather selection. And she has a surprisingly competitive rating. She’ll be able to keep going with her crew in relative comfort while smaller craft are bouncing around with crew fatigue becoming a major problem.
AURELIA (Chris & Patanne Power Smith, RStGYC). The Power Smith’s J/122 is the Steady Eddy of the Dun Laoghaire fleet. She was the top-placed non-J/109 in last year’s Dun Laoghaire-Dingle in a race which might have been designed with the J/109 in mind, she has already won ISORA’s biggest race this year, and in all she is a boat which exudes competence.
BAM! (Conor Fogerty, HYC) Athough the Sunfast 3600 Bam! won her class in the RORC Caribbean 600 in February, with her owner subsequently sailing her single-handed from the Caribbean to the Azores when homeward bound, she is not a boat which is suited to the restrictive Irish Sea courses. But the wide open spaces of the Atlantic with winds abaft the beam will enable her to fly – it’s just getting down to the Fastnet that will be the hard bit.
CAVATINA (Ian Hickey, RCYC) The veteran Noray 38 Cavatina is the multiple Round Ireland winner most associated with Eric Lisson, but with her low rating and renowned staying power, if a flat patch happens to slow the whole fleet back, she’s always there, ready to pounce. While it seems unlikely this year, people have got Cavatina’s results prediction wrong before now.
Ian Hickey’s Cavatina (RCYC) off Wicklow Head. She probably holds the record for most Round Ireland races sailed
The Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 with its record fleet has the task of prediction made more complicated by the many sub-divisions, one of the busiest being the Open 40 Class which is within IRC, yet also races on its own, and for good measure some of the boats are fully-crewed while others are in the Two-Handed Division.
One of the most interesting of the latter is Roaring Forty 2, doing this race as Visit Brussels under the command of Belgian skipper Michael Kleinjans, who also happens to be the holder of the Round Ireland Single-Handed Record, which you can’t really compete for any more, as single-handed record sailing is now officially illegal in Irish waters. But it may well be that Kleinjans and his crew Ian Wittevrongel will set a two-handed Round Ireland Record in this race which will be worthy of future attention.
Michael Kleinjens’ Open 40 Visit Brussels will be a favourite for line honours in the two-handed division. She is seen here zapping between two Figaro Solos
Meanwhile, we’ll be carrying regular updates and comment on Afloat,ie HERE as the race progresses, based on the Race Tracker. We very much hope that by the time the time the prize-giving comes round in Wicklow on Friday evening, we’ll have mentioned every boat in the fleet at least once. But now, after partying on Thursday night (and a very good party it was too), there’s work to be done today, both off Wicklow and southward down the coast.
And in the end, it will all be in honour of the memory of the great Denis Doyle and his crew for their beautiful 1984 win and course record.
Denis Doyle and his crew aboard Moonduster after their great win in 1984. This photo was taken through glass in Wicklow SC, where it is on display in the Round Ireland Room. Has anyone any idea where the original neg might be sourced?
Round Ireland Race competitor Phaedo3 came through Dalkey Sound under full sail this morning, touching speeds of 17–knots. The MOD70 skippered by American Lloyd Thornburg was on a training for Saturday's Volvo Round Ireland race start off Wicklow Head. Scroll down for 30–second video clip.
Onboard for Phaedo3's race is Justin Slattery, a Cork offshore sailor who is a double winner of the Volvo Ocean Race. Also onboard the giant trimaran is British sailor Brian Thompson, the first Briton to break the Round the World sailing record twice. He is also the first to sail non stop around the world four times.