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An exciting new era in America's Cup racing has been unveiled today as the concept for the AC75, the class of boat to be sailed in the 36th America's Cup is released illustrating a bold and modern vision for high performance fully foiling monohull racing yachts.

The Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa design teams have spent the last four months evaluating a wide range of monohull concepts. Their goals have been to design a class that will be challenging and demanding to sail, rewarding the top level of skill for the crews; this concept could become the future of racing and even cruising monohulls beyond the America's Cup.

The AC75 combines extremely high-performance sailing and great match racing with the safety of a boat that can right itself in the event of a capsize. The ground-breaking concept is achieved through the use of twin canting T-foils, ballasted to provide righting-moment when sailing, and roll stability at low speed.

The normal sailing mode sees the leeward foil lowered to provide lift and enable foiling, with the windward foil raised out of the water to maximise the lever-arm of the ballast and reduce drag. In pre-starts and through manoeuvres, both foils can be lowered to provide extra lift and roll control, also useful in rougher sea conditions and providing a wider window for racing.

Although racing performance has been the cornerstone of the design, consideration has had to be focused on the more practical aspects of the boat in the shed and at the dock, where both foils are canted right under the hull in order to provide natural roll stability and to allow the yacht to fit into a standard marina berth.

An underlying principle has been to provide affordable and sustainable technology 'trickle down' to other sailing classes and yachts. Whilst recent America's Cup multihulls have benefitted from the power and control of rigid wing sails, there has been no transfer of this technology to the rigs of other sailing classes. In tandem with the innovations of the foiling system, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are investigating a number of possible innovations for the AC75's rig, with the requirement that the rig need not be craned in and out each day. This research work is ongoing as different concepts are evaluated, and details will be released with the AC75 Class Rule before March 31st, 2018.

The America's Cup is a match race and creating a class that will provide challenging match racing has been the goal from the start. The AC75 will foil-tack and foil-gybe with only small manoeuvring losses, and given the speed and the ease at which the boats can turn the classic pre-starts of the America's Cup are set to make an exciting comeback. Sail handling will also become important, with cross-overs to code zero sails in light wind conditions.

A huge number of ideas have been considered in the quest to define a class that will be extremely exciting to sail and provide great match racing, but the final decision was an easy one: the concept being announced was a clear winner, and both teams are eager to be introducing the AC75 for the 36th America's Cup in 2021.

The AC75 class rule will be published by March 31st 2018

Published in America's Cup

It has been confirmed that the next edition of the America’s Cup will see defenders New Zealand organise the racing in monohulls, after three stagings of the world’s oldest international sporting challenge in multihulls writes W M Nixon.

This will come as no surprise to those who were at the extraordinary Dun Laoghaire gathering twelve days ago when the 130-year Dublin Bay Water Wags celebrated their first race with more than thirty boats.

They partied in the Royal Irish Yacht Club with the crew and supporters of the Alex Thomson/Nin O’Leary IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss. It was a busy multi-agenda night, with the air well filled with stories old and new.

But as reported in Sailing on Saturday on September 2nd, one noted Dublin-based heavy hitter in the international sailing scene at the party was able to disclose that, with the support of top European America’s Cup interests, the America’s Cup next time round - in which Italian team Luna Rossa are the Challengers of Record – will be raced in monohulls.

The word was that they’d be skinny 73ft hulls with enormous keels, aboard which sailors will be seen to be people rather than robots. And it seems it’s all happening. But with the Mini Transat, the Volvo World Race, and the Rolex Middle Sea Race starting to come up the programme listings, there’s time enough before anyone starts losing any sleep over the next America’s Cup...

Published in America's Cup

The long months of preparation are almost at an end as seven of Britain's most talented and ambitious young sailors take on the world. The hand-picked team, including Neil Hunter, 22 year old from Scotland, who raced with Ben Ainslie in Land Rover BAR's America's Cup bid, will represent Britain in the Red Bull Youth America's Cup (RBYAC) starting on Monday 12th June on Bermuda's Great Sound.

They will step out onto the main stage – the same course used for the America's Cup racing currently underway in Bermuda – for two days of racing against five other youth teams, all comprising of sailors aged 19-24. The top four teams will go forward to the finals, scheduled right before the last weekend of racing for the 35th America's Cup.

The teams will race the foiling, wingsail AC45F used throughout the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series 2015 and 2016, and the Land Rover BAR Academy have looked strong in the practice racing so far. They continue to benefit from the mentorship and experience of the senior team, who completed their campaign for the 35th America's Cup on Thursday.

Inspired by four time Olympic gold medallist and 34th America's Cup winner, Ben Ainslie, the mission of the Land Rover BAR Academy is to find and support talented young British sailors. It's run by America's Cup Challenger Land Rover BAR, and supported by Land Rover.

The goal is to create a career pathway for British sailors into the America's Cup, and build a British team to win the RBYAC. The Land Rover BAR Academy have already competed in the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series™, coming fifth in the professional stadium racing series, supported and mentored by the Land Rover BAR Senior Sailing team.

The spectacular sailing on Bermuda's Great Sound promises to be a wonderful showcase for these talented young sailors and a great inspiration to those that want to follow them.

Rob Bunce, Land Rover BAR Academy Skipper: "We're looking forward to getting on the start line, it's going to be really exciting racing. It will be really cool on that first real race with all those boats - it's going to be epic!

"At the moment we are expecting the conditions to be a mixture of light and strong winds. We enjoy the breeze more than the light winds, but the conditions in Bermuda change so quickly, anything could happen.

"The Red Bull Youth America's Cup differs to the Extreme Sailing Series in that the course will be bigger, the boats are bigger and faster and a bit harder to sail I think there will be more of a boat handling focus and that's an area that we pride ourselves on. It's also going to be important to get off the start line well, just like the ESS."

Annabel Vose, Strategist: "It's a really cool opportunity to race on the same race course as the America's Cup and be a part of that atmosphere. It's going be really exciting having eight boats on the race course, which is more than any America's Cup World Series event so it's going to be really intense and a great spectacle as we hopefully reach some high speeds. It's definitely a new challenge for all of us; no-one has raced in these boats before so we're looking forward to getting stuck in on Monday."

Youth America's Cup Squad:

Skipper, Rob Bunce - Southampton
Helm, Chris Taylor - Buckinghamshire
Strategist, Annabel Vose - Southampton
Main Trimmer, Elliot Hanson - Macclesfield
Jib Trimmer, Sam Batten - Southampton
Jib Trimmer / Float, Adam Kay - Southampton
Bow, Neil Hunter - Isle of Arran, Scotland

Dates for the diary:
May 29th – June 3rd 2017: Pool A team training
June 5th – June 10th : Pool B team training
June 12th – June 13th : Qualifier 1 racing *
June 15th - June 16th : Qualifier 2 racing *
June 20th – June 21st : Red Bull Youth America's Cup Final Series *

* all race events include a third day of scheduled racing, held in reserve should any issues prevent racing being completed on scheduled dates

Published in America's Cup

Sir Ben Ainslie and Land Rover BAR's quest to win the 35th America's Cup came to an early end on Thursday in Bermuda when Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand sealed the British team's fate by reaching the five wins needed against Land Rover BAR to progress to the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals.

In the other Semi-Finals, Nathan Outteridge and Artemis Racing mounted an almighty comeback against their Japanese rivals, Dean Barker's SoftBank Team Japan, winning three races on the trot to take the score in their Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs Semi-Finals to 4-3, meaning they will race again on Friday to decide the second Finalist.

For Ainslie and his team, they were ultimately beaten by Emirates Team New Zealand twice on Thursday, sealing their fate 5-2 and leaving them heading back to Britain without the America's Cup they were so determined to take home.

For Burling and his crew, the incredible efforts the team made from Tuesday to Thursday to repair the boat that was so badly damaged in Tuesday's pitchpole were repaid handsomely, putting themselves into the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs Finals as the first team to reach that stage.

Turning his attention to the potential opponent in the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs Final, Burling admitted he does not have a preference between Artemis Racing or SoftBank Team Japan.

In stark contrast to Tuesday's poor performance, Nathan Outteridge and his team looked assured throughout the race, maintaining a slender lead over the pursuing SoftBank Team Japan.

While Dean Barker sailed an almost faultless race, Artemis Racing did not make the mistake the Japanese team would have been hoping for and Nathan Outteridge steered his team home with a 28 second victory, levelling the scores at 3-3 ahead of the teams' third and final battle of the day.

Race results

Semi-Final 1 Race 5: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Land Rover BAR by 31 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 5: Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 39 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 6: Land Rover BAR beat Emirates Team New Zealand 20 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 6: Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 28 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 7: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Land Rover BAR by 46 seconds
Semi-Final 1 Race 7:Artemis Racing beat SoftBank Team Japan by 1 minute and 46 seconds

Published in America's Cup

An epic day of racing unfolded on the Great Sound in Bermuda for the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Playoff Semi-finals as Land Rover BAR faced off against Emirates Team New Zealand. The first race got underway after a slight delay waiting for the wind to drop below the 24 knots average limit. Emirates Team New Zealand only just made the start after damage sustained to their wing after docking out. It was panning out to be a full on day with both teams sailing at the limits hitting speeds in excess of 45 knots.

The British team won the start and led Emirates Team New Zealand for five of the nine leg race, before getting low on oil which enabled Emirates Team New Zealand to take the lead, as Sailing Team Manager Jono Macbeth explained:

"These boats are so physical up until now we have been racing a five or six leg course, today was a nine legger. It is unbelieveable how much energy is required to get around these courses, unfortunately for us we got low on oil at a critical time, so our manouvres weren't as crisp as they have could been".

In the second race Ben Ainslie and his British team again won the start, before Emirates Team New Zealand suffered a dramatic capsize on the first reach, with the race subsequently being awarded to Land Rover BAR.

Ben Ainslie, Skipper and Team Principal: "The most important thing is that everyone is okay on Emirates Team New Zealand after their capsize. I think all four teams out there showed great seamanship to deal with these boats in these conditions. It was absolutely full on. We look forward to seeing them back on the race course."

"It was unbelievable racing in gusts up to 27-28 knots. Certainly, in thirty years of racing boats, it was the most full-on, exhilarating moment I've ever had. It was incredible out there.

"I liken it to skiing on ice. No holds barred; if you start to slow up and play it safe that's when it is worse. When you sail these boats fast it is very rewarding, but in conditions like today sometimes it is not possible. Days like today it is the ultimate team sport."

"Hopefully we will be back out on the water tomorrow and it's all to play for."

The current forecast for tomorrow is predicting stronger winds than today. The team are getting ready for another epic day of racing.

Current scoreboard

Semi Final 1
Land Rover BAR - 1
Emirates Team New Zealand - 3

Semi Final 2
Softbank Team Japan - 3
Artemis Racing - 1

Wednesday's schedule:
Race 5: NZ vs GBR
Race 5: Sweden vs Japan
Race 6: GBR vs NZ
Race 6: Japan vs Sweden

The semi-finals are first - to - five.

Published in America's Cup

There was to be no redemption for Artemis Racing at the start of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers Round Robin 2 stage, as they fell to a second defeat in as many days to Emirates Team New Zealand.

Yesterday, in what was the the most thrilling and contentious day of racing in the 35th America’s Cup so far, the Swedish team were denied a victory over their Kiwi rivals following a dramatic late penalty in the final race of the day in Round Robin 1.

Picking up where the competition left off, day four started with a mouth-watering rematch between the two nations as the Swedish team looked for revenge for their loss in Round Robin 1.

The Swedes looked odds on to achieve just that in the early stages of the race as they led from the start, building up a 20 seconds lead following a big nosedive from Emirates Team New Zealand in the lead up to gate 2.

However, the Kiwis, helmed by Peter Burling, recovered spectacularly from the set-back, chasing down the Swede and cutting their lead to just three seconds at gate 3 before wiping out the lead altogether at gate 5.

As the teams crossed paths in close proximity heading into the gate, it was Emirates Team New Zealand who emerged in front as they headed for the final turn before the race for the finish line.

With Artemis Racing in hot pursuit, they were handed a late penalty, forcing them to fall further behind their rivals and all but ending the contest. From that point, Emirates Team New Zealand coasted to the finish line and won by one minute and 31 seconds over the Swedish team.

The triumph saw Emirates Team New Zealand secure their fifth victory out of six races in the qualifying stages, equalling ORACLE TEAM USA’s point tally in the standings ahead of the American team’s race against Groupama Team France in race 2.

However, the Kiwis were not level in the standings for long, as Jimmy Spithill’s ORACLE TEAM USA restored their point advantage with a comfortable and impressive victory over Franck Cammas’ team.

Having successfully hooked the French boat in the pre-start and crossing the start line seven seconds in front, ORACLE TEAM USA set about building their lead in the early stages of the race.

Groupama Team France’s task was made even harder following a penalty for crossing the boundary mark on leg two, forcing them even further behind the American team who raced well clear.

However, the Americans did not have it all their own way. Late in the race Tactician Tom Slingsby reported over the team radio that “We have an issue”, leading to Kyle Langford having to make running repairs to their boat’s wingsail on leg five.

However, despite the issue, ORACLE TEAM USA continued to sail smoothly, meaning there was to be no late drama or shock and the Defenders of the ‘Auld Mug’ finished the race one minute and 56 seconds ahead of their opponents.

Meanwhile, Land Rover BAR secured a much needed victory in the final race of the afternoon (race 3) as they overcame Artemis Racing with a 30 second advantage at the finish line.

Having won just one race in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers Robin 1, also over Artemis Racing, the pressure was on Sir Ben Ainslie and his team heading into the encounter.

However, that pressure was not evident out on the water as the British team made a better start than their Swedish rivals, who were also racing for the second time on the day.

In a much improved performance over the previous two days, Land Rover BAR, who hit the highest speed of the competition so far, recording a top speed just over 43 knots, maintained a comfortable advantage throughout the race as they kept the Swedes at bay.

Despite a slight touch down by the British team at mark 4, they recovered quickly to ease over the finish line 30 seconds ahead of Nathan Outteridge’s team to seal a much needed victory. That win moves Land Rover BAR onto four points in the standings, and more importantly, two points clear of bottom-placed Groupama team France.

Published in America's Cup

The first day of racing at the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers started with extraordinary drama as Land Rover BAR defied all the sceptics and the pundits that had written the team off. They beat the pre-regatta in-form boat, Sweden's Artemis Racing in the opening contest. It was a wire-to-wire victory for the British challenger, with the lead yo-yoing from ten to twenty seconds, but Land Rover BAR were never threatened after taking control at Mark One.

No sooner had the adrenaline ebbed, then the team were back into the fray with a race against SoftBank Japan. On the final line-up towards the start line, SoftBank Team Japan's skipper, Dean Barker moved into an overlapping position on the leeward side of Land Rover BAR, a move that resulted in a dramatic clash as the two boats came together, the hull of Land Rover BAR being punctured by the pedestal on the Japanese team. The penalty went against Land Rover BAR, who continued racing nursing the damaged boat around the course, with SoftBank Team Japan taking the win. The foiling conditions helped keep Land Rover BAR afloat, at the end of the race the team foiled into Bermuda's Historic Dockyard to a waiting crane, with the whole team furiously bailing to keep R1 afloat.

A long night now awaits the shore team to try and fix the damage and get back onto the race course for the second day of racing in the Qualifying round of the 35th America's Cup.

At the end of the first day's racing, Land Rover BAR are joint leaders with Oracle Team USA on three points, with Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and SoftBank Team Japan all on one point.

Team wor​k saved ​R1 from ​sinking ​after co​llision ​with Sof​tBank Te​am Japan

Thoughts on the racing:

Ben Ainslie, Skipper and Team Principal: "The boat is pretty badly damaged, with a sizeable hole in the port hull. It was a great effort by the team to get the boat around the course in the state that it was in. We were better off foiling with the hull out of the water, and we tried to keep the boat on the foils right into the harbor.

"We were lucky we did, by the time we got to the dock she was on her way down. It was all hands to the pumps and bailing. It's been about 30 years since I was bailing out Optimist dinghies, and it wasn't something I was expecting to do.

"The collision was unfortunate, we had a sideways slip just as Dean came in and got the leeward overlap. No one wants that, certainly in our position as we picked up a penalty and the damage. Thankfully, the most important thing is that no one got hurt.

"It's now down to the shore team to work their magic and fix the damage and try to get us back out for racing tomorrow. They are great guys, they've got us through some pretty rough patches in the past and hopefully they can do it again.

"With regards to the rest of the day, we had a fantastic race against Artemis Racing. Going into this competition, I think a lot of seasoned observers had written us off, saying that we didn't have a chance. We came out today when it counts and beat a really, really good team. So I can be proud of our team, and where we have come from and the potential we have to move forwards, this is hugely positive for the team."

Richy O'Farrell, Shore Team Lead: "We had a coming together with Japan in the pre-start, it looks like we had a bit of a side-slip and landed on top of them. So they punctured our hull from underneath, and we have done quite a lot of damage to the hull. Over the next hour or so we'll make a plan as to what we are going to do to fix it, and see how long it is going to take us. It's quite a lot of damage. A long night ahead, I'd say.

Published in America's Cup

The America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA), and America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM), have announced that the strong winds in Bermuda has meant day one of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers and the Official Opening Ceremony of the 35th America’s Cup has had to be postponed.

Forecasts indicate that winds may gust over 30 knots during the afternoon and evening, so with the safety of the sailors and spectators as the key priority, ACEA and ACRM have decided to postpone Friday’s events. Saturday 27th May and the days following are all forecast to have significantly improved weather conditions, so the four races scheduled to take place on Friday 26th May will now be added to the race schedules for the subsequent days.

The Official Opening Ceremony of the 35th America’s Cup will now take place on Saturday 27th May, starting at 8.30pm, following the three time Grammy award winning entertainer Wyclef Jean’s performance on the Main Stage in the America’s Cup Village at 5.15pm. The America’s Cup Village will close at 9.30pm. Gates open at 11.30am on Saturday, with racing due to take place between 2pm and 5pm.

Sir Russell Coutts, CEO of the ACEA, said, “We are obviously disappointed that the strong winds mean we have had to postpone day one of the 35th America’s Cup. This is clearly a decision we have not taken lightly and appreciate the inconvenience caused to the sellout crowd. Our primary concern however, is always safety for everyone involved in the America’s Cup. We are adding an hour to the race window on both Saturday and Sunday to run extra races with the aim of getting back on schedule. There are still tickets available at the weekend, although not in all categories, so we are hoping Friday’s ticket holders will still get the chance to enjoy what should be an incredible opening weekend.”

Published in America's Cup

Despite some interruptions from either too much or too little wind, the regular club sailing programme for 2017 is now fully under way, and this weekend is additionally so well filled with major regional and national events that you could be forgiven for thinking it’s high summer already. W M Nixon tries to make sense of it all.

How on earth is anyone expected to fully understand, let alone explain, a global activity which today sees the extraordinary 1,500 boat Festival of Sail in the Morbihan in France putting in its final races and fleet manoeuvres, before everyone joins in the end-of-show Parade of Sail tomorrow?

Yet at the same time, across the Atlantic in Bermuda, the first moves in the 35th edition of the America’s Cup, arguably the world’s oldest international sporting contest as it goes back to 1851, are getting under way, involving sailing machines for which the word “boat” seems somewhat inappropriate.

americas cup2It’s difficult to think of them as anything other than “sailing machines,” but America’s Cup rules reckon they are boats
morbihan fleet3Some of the huge fleet at the current Morbihan festival. In their midst is the bisquine-rigged La Cancalaise from Cancale. In the days of piracy, smuggling and privateering in the English Channel, it was reckoned that any vessel setting this demanding high-performance rig was up to no good, and therefore a legitimate target for government ships

Then too, the world sailing community is still digesting the revelation that future generations of boats in the Volvo World Race, which now rivals the America’s Cup for international attention, will be in effect IMOCA 60s with mega-foils.

And in addition to that, at each in-harbour stopover, the world-girdling Volvo Ocean Race crews will be expected to do a series of races in smaller but very potent multi-hulls which will thrill spectators with their closeness to the watching crowds and to each other, with hair’s breadth misses – and ideally the occasional not-too-serious shunt - a central part of the action.

All these major international events then have to be fitted around the reality that, like it or not, sailing is one of those minority sports that need the Olympics more than the Olympics need sailing. In other words, we have to keep the decks clear of other major international fixtures to give total attention when the next sailing Olympiad at Tokyo comes along in 2020.

For those who would snort in derision at such a suggestion, do tell us what you were doing (if you can remember) while the rest of Ireland held its breath and watched as Annalise Murphy was sailing towards her Silver Medal on August 16th 2016?

Nevertheless, having taken all that into account, the reality is that the top end of sailing is reaching ever-higher peaks of performance in everything, and inevitably using boats and equipment of unimaginable expense. So except for the Morbihan event - whose ethos is found in going the other way, with total democratic involvement for everyone - how on earth can ordinary sailors relate to what the participants in the America’s Cup and the Volvo World Race are experiencing?

Let’s be honest. We can only do so - if at all - with some mighty leaps of the imagination. The result is that many of us are going back to the knitting. We’re going back to trusted events, and staying with sailing boats which may not be in the first flush of youth, but at least they mean something to us.

We know that with them, we can find racing which bears some relation to everyday life rather than the other-world dreamscape which is the America’s Cup or the Volvo World Race.

Over the next two weekends in Ireland, this racing of familiar boats will move up a couple of gears, as this weekend is the Bank Holiday in the North, and in a week’s time the extra day off is in the Republic. So keen sailors who see their programme on an all-Ireland basis somehow manage to convince themselves that we have two all-island Bank Holidays on the trot.

claddagh festival4Galway hookers gather at the Claddagh, while above them is the Galway City Museum, currently staging a Marine Science Exhibition.

Thus the ongoing Claddagh Festival with all varieties of Galway Hookers on show in the City of the Tribes is also managing to welcome Viking longships which have been brought overland from their home port of Ardglass in County Down. And at least the northerners have the proper claim that, for them, Monday is a free day to get their boats home again.

That equally applies to northern visitors to the Woodenboat Festival in Baltimore, which got going last night and should have good weather from midday onwards today, and through tomorrow’s colourful programme. Nevertheless for those with a day job to think about, the long haul home on Sunday night can become very long indeed.

baltimore aerial5Baltimore in West Cork - the perfect location for a friendly Woodenboat Festival

baltimore woodenboat festival6It’s not quite racing, but when a Galway hooker (left) finds competition at Baltimore Woodenboat Festival with a traditional West Cork boat, there’s certainly an added edge to the sailing. Photo Sheena Jolley

Both these events are traditional annual festivals in which racing plays only a small – if any – part. But even in competitive sailing, all the signs are that people are returning to beef up the numbers and competition in events which served them well in the past, yet had slipped in the popularity ratings owing to a change in behavioural patterns (the modern family is an extremely demanding taskmaster), and the ill-effects of the economic recession.

Everyone has been heartened by the new strength of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (to which we’ll return in a minute), but today the top of the agenda is the Scottish Series, getting up to speed at the lovely little port of Tarbert on Loch Fyne. Of course, numbers are nothing like the eventually unmanageable crowd of boats which became a feature of this series about twenty years ago. But nevertheless there’s a tidy fleet at Tarbert, and a strong Irish contingent are in with more than shout of bringing home the big prize.

tarbert loch fyne7Packing them in – the Scottish Series fleet in Tarbert

hunters racing8The Hunter 707 fleet provided some of the best racing at last year’s Scottish Series

seaword wins9Dara O’Malley (second left) and his winning crew on Seaword, which made him Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for May 2016. Photo: Marc Turner

Last year it was one of the diaspora, Dara O’Malley originally from Westport but now sailing on the Firth of Forth with his Hunter 707 Seaword, who was tops. While he may be Scottish-based, he was home among us in January to receive his Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” Award for May 2016 at the National Sailing Awards in the RDS.

He is defending this weekend, and another former overall winner is the irrepressible Rob McConnell from Dunmore East. With an almost entirely Waterford Harbour SC crew, Rob’s A35 Fool’s Gold is reportedly in particular good trim this year, so definitely a boat to watch.

Other strong performers from Ireland over in Tarbert include the Kelly family from Rush with their J/109 Storm, and that highly individualistic helmsman renowned for pulling rabbits out of the hat, Johnny Swan with his classic Half Tonner Harmony from Howth. Strangford Lough is sending the notably steady perfomer Jay Colville with his successful First 40 Forty Licks, while all the way from Cork Harbour is the First 36.7 Altair (K Dorgan & J Losty) of Cove Sailing Club, recalling the enthusiasm of a high order which used to be a feature of the O’Leary family’s years with the Corby 36 Antix from Crosshaven, an overall winner in Scotland on more than one occasion.

fools gold scotland10They might do it again......Rob McConnell (fourth left) and his mostly Dunmore East crew after winning the Scottish Series in 2015 on the Archambault 35 Fool’s Gold. Photo: Marc Turner

The continuing growth of the J/109s, which have needed ten years to become an overnight success in Ireland, is shown by the additional presence in Scotland of two of Storm’s sister-ships from home, Andrew Craig’s Chimaera and John & Brian Hall’s Something Else, while a smaller manifestation of the J Boat range’s ubiquitous nature is the participation of Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules from Howth.

It’s an interesting crew setup, as Lambay Rules’ core team, including Stephen Quinn himself, have been seen racing in the elegance of Stephen O’Flaherty’s Spirit 54 Soufriere, whose claims to fame include a role in a James Bond movie. Despite the obvious differences between the two boats, the key personnel – including Stephen O’Flaherty – moved aboard the little Lambay Rules for last year’s Volvo Round Ireland Race, and despite being one of the smallest boats in the fleet (in fact, I think she was the smallest), at several stages they were leading their class, but not alas at the finish.

Their determined involvement in Scotland says much for their continuing zest in the game, but meanwhile back home the presence of so many significant boats over in Scotland has done little to diminish numbers for this morning’s ISORA Race from Dun Laoghaire to Arklow, which will see 28 starters.

PHOTO HERE
isora starters11The lineup for today’s ISORA-Dun Laoghaire Race
Very senior ISORA contenders have a feeling that they must have raced to Arklow before, but maybe they’re confusing it with ISORA races which took in the Arklow Lightvessel as a mark of the course, and it’s undoubtedly a very long time since a lightship was on the Arklow Bank.

Certainly ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan says that this is the first time an ISORA Race has finished in Arklow, where the local sailing club has been expanding in a healthy style, while on the bigger canvas, the Tyrrell family with their succession of ever-larger and successful craft in the J Boat range – all called Aquelina – has done much to have Arklow SC punching way above its weight on the national offshore racing scene.

The Tyrrells were too far ahead of the curve when they got their first Aquelina, a J/109, shortly after the new marque was introduced. Their hopes of getting a semi-One-Design J/109 class going didn’t take off. But today, racing their current J/122E Aquelina back to their home port, they’ll ruefully observe that there are at least five J/109s racing with them, a goodly number when we remember that three of the Dublin class are in Scotland, and several others are staying in Dun Laoghaire to do today’s Dublin Bay SC race.

j109s on dublin bay12It has taken them ten years to become an overnight success, but the J/109s are now a very significant presence in Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie

However, one of the latest J/09s to join the Greater Dublin class is Indian, owned by Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles of Howth. They won the two-handed class in the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race in the smaller Elan Blue Eyes, but this race to Arklow is their first serious offshore challenge in the J/109. It will be a proper test, as the J/109 contingent includes Peter Dunlop’s Mojito and Stephen Tudor’s Sgrech, both from Pwllheli and respectively first and second of the J/109s in the Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire race a fortnight ago.

But the boat for everyone to beat is Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, whose remarkable all-round ability was demonstrated with the overall win in the increasingly breezy Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire Race of May 13th. These JPK 10.80s are superb performers across a wide range of conditions, and the simple fact of knowing they have such a good boat under them is an added encouragement for Paul O’Higgins and his crew of all the talents.

The highly technical approach of racing a boat like Rockabill VI is a whole world away from the intimate world of wooden boat adherents getting together in Baltimore, or the historical, cultural and music-laden gathering of the traditional craft and their visiting Vikings in Galway. But that’s the way it is in the very wide world of boats and sailing. In the end, we’re all members of the same exceptionally diverse sailing community.

Rockabill paul o higgins13The boat to beat – Paul O’Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI is a superb all-rounder

Published in W M Nixon

#AmericasCup - Team Oracle USA have their work cut out for them after their second capsize in as many months during training for the America's Cup in Bermuda this week.

Sail-World has the full report on the latest incident, which occurred when the team’s AC50 catamaran went into a roll at high speed after a foiling gybe.

The team confirmed no injuries to the crew and only limited damage to the vessel in the capsize this past Wednesday 10 May.

But it can’t be good for morale among the defending Auld Mug holders, coming so soon after capsize trouble a month previously.

No other AC50 has capsized in preparation for the qualifiers later this month – including Land Rover BAR, which is skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie, the man who turned around Oracle’s fortunes for their shock victory in 2013.

Published in America's Cup
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