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After the second night at sea in the RORC Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race, the fleet find themselves still slugging to windward in the area west and northwest of the Isles of Scilly writes W M Nixon.

They’re in the frustrating position of knowing that those who can get quickest to southwest Ireland will find more favourable westerly winds. But in the Isles of Scilly area itself, the wind has stayed doggedly in the northwest, and while progress is reasonably good, the prospect of easing sheets and getting to better speeds remains tantalisingly elusive.

Conor Fogerty and Simon Knowles of Howth Yacht Club in the Sunfast 3600 Bam! In the Two-Handed Division found themselves in loose formation with their sister-ships southeast of the Isles of Scilly at 0100 hrs today, with the Sunfast 3600 Game On (Ian Hoddle & Ollie Wyatt) coming in on seaward on port tack and passing five miles ahead of Bam, which had been working to windward further north.

Game On then elected to leave the large Traffic Separation Zone to the south of the Scllies to port, but Bam and sister-ship Tigris (Gavin Howe), which was four miles astern, held on starboard out into open water south of the separation zone in search of the elusive backing of the breeze.

At this morning’s 0800 position fix, Bam was making unspectacular but steady progress at 5.3 knots on a course of 264 degrees, while Tigris was seven miles astern at similar speed and course. Game On in meanwhile well to the northeast with a slightly better breeze to give 5.8 knots, though with little difference in course at 260.

Overall, the fleet leaders on the water continue to be the large Class 40 contingent, with the new Corum (she made her successful debut in the Volvo Round Ireland race in June) skippered by Nicolas Troussel in a battle for line honours with Phil Sharp’s Imerys Clean Energy, When you consider the speeds they’re capable of, their current progress around the 7.7 to 8.5 knot rate is modest enough. But Corum is now the most westerly boat in the fleet, sailing on port tack, and with a course of 323 finally laying the line to take her round the still distant Mizen Head.

Equally, Bam is the most westerly of the smaller boats, and it will be intriguing this morning to see when Fogerty and Knowles call their tack to start making serious progress towards southwest Ireland.

Race tracker here: http://yb.tl/rbni2018

Published in Rd Britain & Ireland

#RB&I - Conor Fogerty and Simon Knowles in the Sunfast 3600 BAM! were yesterday evening narrowly leading the two-handed division in the RORC Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland’s 1,805-mile marathon, writes W M Nixon.

The Howth Yacht Club duo were trying to keep cover on the Figaro 2 El Velosolex SL Energies Group (Bejamin Schwartz & Chen Jin Hao) close to the north of them, and Sunfast 3600 sister-ship Game On (Ian Hoddle & Ollie Wyatt) to their southeast as the fleet approached the massive tidal gate of Portland Bill, sailing hard on the wind.

El Velsolex to the north found freshening breeze in under Portland Island, which also got her more quickly into the Bill’s beneficial tidal shadow.

With the local sharpening of the breeze, she was able to make a clinical of job of rounding Portland Bill within a stone’s throw of the shore in slacker water, and then lengthening away into Lyme Bay on port tack.

This left BAM! with the least bad option of following, and though she too was right in on the shore at the point itself, the spark had gone from the breeze and for a while she was hung up at only 2.2 knots over the ground.

El Velosolex, meanwhile, got away into a lead of thee miles before the Irish boat got going again, but at least Game On had been left well astern, so much so that she opted to go well offshore.

Any beat westward in the English Channel will find a varying pattern of wind strengths, and through the night as the fleet slowly neared Start Point with the Mach 40.3 Corum (Nicolas Troussel) leading narrowly on the water from Phil Sharp’s Class 40 Imerys Clean Energy, at times those inshore were favoured.

But then those offshore began to get better breezes, and when the group to the north closed with the southerly group off Start Point around 7am this morning, El Velosolex had lengthened further to eight miles ahead of BAM!, but the latter was now neck-and-neck with Game On.

The two Sunfast 3600s — less than two miles apart — elected to continue the offshore tack on starboard, but at 10.29am El Velosolex tacked onto port.

This was the state of affairs at the noon position, with the Figaro still heading for the distant shore, while Game On and BAM! are holding on starboard and having a right dong, Game On ahead by 1.7 sea miles and sailing at 6.3 knots, and Bam! on her weather quarter shown as sailing at 6.4 knots. And they still have 1,670 miles to go.

Crossing the Celtic Sea from the Isles of Scilly to southwest Ireland will be interesting, as the wind is forecast to be bang on the nose at first, but backing through tomorrow. This suggests that keeping to the left will be a strategic imperative, but for how long will be anyone’s guess.

Race Tracker here: http://yb.tl/rbni2018

Published in Rd Britain & Ireland

Ireland’s current “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty of Howth Yacht Club has a mind-bogglingly busy programme to fulfil during 2018 writes WM Nixon. But the intrepid class winner of the 2017 OSTAR is well able for it. He has a good-humoured yet strong personality which enables him to keep cool when under pressure - whether it be of tight-knit schedules, a closely-fought fleet race, or severely challenging oceanic sailing conditions - and his fitness and stamina are legendary.

Then too, for this summer he is able to spread his talents and time-demands across at least three different boats. For although his beloved Bam! arrives back into Southampton aboard a Transatlantic ship this morning after a successful Caribbean season - in which the highlight was successfully defending his 2016 Class 4 victory in the 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 - Fogerty doesn’t have to face the daunting logistics challenge of getting her race-prepared and crew-trained for the 2018 Volvo Round Ireland Race on June 30th.

olympic tigress2This First 40.7 will race the Volvo Round Ireland as Olympic Tigress with Conor Fogerty as co-skipper

That’s because he has already signed up for the 704-mile circuit to be co-skipper on noted offshore campaigner Susan Glenny’s First 40.7 Olympic Tigress. Glenny is – like Fogerty - mega-busy in several directions, as she has recently been named to skipper the veteran global racer Maiden, formerly of Tracey Edwards campaigns.

susan glenny3Busy sailor – in addition to campaigning the First 40.7 Olympic Tigress, Susan Glenny has recently been named to skipper the veteran world racer Maiden

But for now, attention remains with Olympic Tigress in Class 2 in the Round Ireland. This actively-sailed boat is well-known to the Howth international offshore brotherhood, as the likes of the Wright brothers Michael & Darren, together with Kieran Jameson and others, have raced her in major events in the past.

However, the Wright-Jameson focus had moved to the 45ft Pata Negra, which they raced to second in Class 2 in the Caribbean 600 2018, when Susan Glenny lit on Conor Fogerty in his post-victory euphoria in Antigua, and signed him on for the Round Ireland.

It was a blessing in disguise, as his main interest in getting Bam! back to Europe was the RORC Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race 2018 in August. Ireland has successful form in this four-yearly 1800 mile marathon, as the previous staging in 2014 saw the two–handed division and three classes won by the First 36.7 Lula Belle, campaigned through ferocious conditions by Liam Coyne of the National Yacht Club, and Brian Flahive of Wicklow.

flahive coyne4 1Brian Flahive (left) and Liam Coyne, on their return to Dun Laoghaire in September 2014 after winning the two-handed division and other classes in the RORC Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. Photo: W M Nixon
This year’s SRB&I is set for Sunday August 12th from the Solent, and with four Sunfast 3600s already in the lineup, the pressure is on Conor Fogerty big-time. But in one area at least he is in a good place, as fellow Howth sailor Simon Knowles, longtime shipmate in many Bam! successes including the two Caribbean 600 wins, has signed on as co-skipper.

knowles doyle fogerty5Simon Knowles (left), crewman Anthony Doyle and skipper Conor Fogerty in Howth Yacht Club in April, when they’d finally got their RORC Caribbean 600 trophies safely back to the home club for celebration. Photo: W M Nixon

With such a compatible yet competitive duo, Bam! will go into the start of the big one on 12th August well-rated in expectations. But as anyone who followed the 2014 race will be well aware, if August comes in unsettled, conditions throughout this varied race – and particularly in its northern sections at the Shetland Islands – can be challenging in the extreme.

Meanwhile, just to keep himself busy, Conor Fogerty has also been racing his much-loved and decidedly veteran “home boat”, the Ron Holland-designed 30ft Silver Shamrock which won the Half Ton Worlds in 1976 – with a measure of success and much enjoyment in Dublin Bay and Irish Sea events.

This weekend, however, Silver Shamrock and Conor Fogerty set off for Cork on a very special and decidedly historic mission. More on that here in Afloat.ie on Saturday.

Silver shamrock 1050 1Conor Fogerty’s classic Silver Shamrock – on another mission this weekend. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Published in Rd Britain & Ireland

Irish Sailor of the Year Conor Fogerty has launched a Vendee Globe 2020 campaign, bringing to four the number of Irish sailors now working towards the non–stop solo round–the–world race in two year's time.

'Boat selection, physical training and preparation has begun' says the Howth Yacht Club sailor on his campaign website. He begins his round the world bid this August with an entry in RORC's Round Britan and Ireland race.  

'You don't just wake up in the morning and decide you want to do the Vendee Globe'

The launch pad for Fogerty's campaign was last season's win in a tough edition of the OSTAR Race where Fogerty won the OSTAR and TWOSTAR fleets in the North Atlantic in early June. The solo sailor survived a mid–ocean storm, an achievement that subsequently led to his crowing as Irish Sailor of the Year Award in February at the RDS in Dublin.

'You don't just wake up in the morning and decide you want to do the Vendee Globe', Fogerty says in his promo video below in which he confirms, after sailing some 300,000 miles, that he is 'getting to the point where I'm ready to do the Vendee Globe'.

As well as Fogerty, also bidding to make the Vendee Globe 2020 startline from Ireland are the separate campaigns of Nicholas O'Leary, Joan Mulloy and former Clipper skipper, Sean McCarter.

Along with his Vendee ambitions, this season sees Fogerty also launch a vintage Half–Tonner to contest ISORA Irish Sea races. Read more on Fogerty's Silver Shamrock here

Conor Fogerty's Countdown to Vendee Globe 2020: 

08/2018 ROUND BRITAIN AND IRELAND RACE - CIRCUMNAVIGATION - DOUBLE HANDED​

11/2018 ROUTE DU RHUM - FRANCE TO CARIBBEAN- SINGLEHANDED

​08/2019 FASTNET RACE - DOUBLE HANDED​

11/2019 TRANSAT JACQUES VABRE - FRANCE TO BRAZIL DOUBLE HANDED​

05/2020 NEW YORK-VENDEE RACE - NEW YORK TO FRANCE SINGLE HANDED​​

06/2020 VENDEE GLOBE - FRANCE TO FRANCE - SINGLE HANDED CIRCUMNAVIGATION

Published in Vendee Globe

The latest addition to Howth’s vintage fleet, Conor Fogerty’s ‘new’ boat is something of an old favourite and one that should be very familiar to Afloat.ie readers.

Silver Shamrock, the Ron Holland-designed and Cork-built Half Tonner that took its class world title in 1976, is still a winner four decades on — putting in a particularly strong showing last summer with then owner and skipper Stuart Greenfield.

But how did Silver Shamrock end up in the hands of Afloat’s latest Sailor of the Year, and ‘come home’ to Ireland? As Fogerty explains it to Afloat.ie, there was more than a little fate involved.

Silver Shamrock 1045With a special green Shamrock emblazoned on her spinnaker, the half–tonner competes on Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat.ie

“The short story is my partner, Suzanne Ennis, wanted a cruising boat for the family, as Bam! wasn’t ideal,” he says of the Sun Fast 3600 he raced to victory in the 2017 OSTAR.

“[Suzanne’s] father Francis Ennis owned the Club Shamrock ‘Moon Dance’ and her sister Stephanie Ennis and Windsor [Lauden] own the Club Shamrock ‘Demelza’. So the only natural course of action was to follow the family’s love of Shamrocks, but with a twist on the ‘Club’.”

After some research, Fogerty became intrigued about the air of reverence around the yacht Harold Cudmore skippered to the Half Ton World Championship in 1976.

“I knew the owner, Stuart Greenfield, who had been racing her in the SORC; he had saved her from a death of neglect in Falmouth a few years earlier.”

The appeal of a boat like Silver Shamrock was too much to ignore for Fogerty, who started “tyre-kicking a few Golden Shamrocks” in search of the right fit. 

But little did he expect that the holy grail herself would pop up for sale on his Facebook feed.

Silver Shamrock 1093Silver boat for silver seas – Silver Shamrock is back on Irish waters and contesting coastal races and other Irish fixtures this season Photo: Afloat.ie

“I flew down to Cowes to meet Stuart and his proudly dry-sailed Shamrock,” Fogerty says. “As Stuart is a neighbour of Harold [Cudmore], I think there was an element of satisfaction in the deal, knowing that Silver Shamrock was returning home after some 40 years abroad.”

And what a return it’s been, as our own Winkie Nixon wrote yesterday of the splash Silver Shamrock has made in her new home waters of Dublin Bay — most recently coming first in class and third over all in the ISORA warm-up race last weekend.

“So to all my ISORA friends: beware of the boat lurking on the horizon!”

“In hindsight, I’m pretty sure, I would rather cruise Bam! than a stripped-out, death-rolling Shamrock,” Fogerty says. “But sure that’s the romantic notion of families sailing versus reality!”

With Bam! currently being shipped back from Antigua after Fogerty’s class win in February’s Caribbean 600 — and sponsorship pending a commitment to the Round Britain & Ireland double-handed race — all focus is now on the Silver Shamrock.

“The plan of action over the next 12 months or so is to train in some crew, modernise her deckware and rig and see if we can get Silver Shamrock back up to her former glory,” Fogerty says of the family cruising project that’s already become so much more.

“So to all my ISORA friends: beware of the boat lurking on the horizon!”

Published in Howth YC

Less than a fortnight after he’d been declared the Afloat.ie/Irish Sailing/Volvo Sailor of the Year 2017 in Dublin, Conor Fogerty of Howth Yacht Club was back on the podium in Antigua, having been declared runaway winner of Class 3 in the RORC Caribbean 600 2018.

Fogerty had experienced exceptionally heavy weather when he achieved his outstanding solo success of 2017 in winning the Gipsy Month Trophy in the OSTAR with his Sunfast 3600 Bam!. But far from being sunlit therapy to counteract memories of that experience, the 2018 sailing of the RORC Caribbean 600 was the toughest yet in all its ten years. However, Fogerty and his crew of Howth clubmates battled on to a huge class win and an exceptionally good overall placing for the second-smallest boat in the fleet in what was undoubtedly a big-boat race.

conor fogertys bam2Conor Fogerty’s Bam! during one of the gentler stages on her way to a very clearcut win in Class 3 in the mostly rough RORC Caribbean 2018

Published in Sailor of the Month

With winter still clinging like a hyper-cold limpet in northern latitudes, the prospect of balmy breezes and warm seas in the tenth annual RORC Caribbean 600 in late February seemed like the perfect prospect for escape and sport writes W M Nixon. After all, Irish sailors look on it with a certain proprietorial pride, with Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners (Royal St George YC) winning the inaugural race overall in 2009.

Sea, sun, scenery and sailing – you have all that guaranteed for starters, even if only to enjoy it vicariously in following the event on many information streams. But then, as the start time approached at 11am local time Antigua on Monday 19th February, the growing entry list indicated an increasingly high quality lineup, with many powerful big boats and a swathe of professional crew.

Yet even if names of legendary fame and achievement were going to be competing, these was still a place for club entries with the necessary amateur experience to send forth crews, either on members’ own boats, or on judiciously-selected charter boats.

The “judicious selection” came in finding boats suitable for a rather specialised cat’s cradle of a course which can include a lot of power reaching, and takes in 11 island in order to have topped the 600-mile mark when the fleet finally returns to the finish line off the southern headlands of Antigua.

rorc caribbean 600 course2The RORC Caribbean 600 – the start and finish is at the south end of Antigua

With every sign that this year’s staging of the race would experience the northeast tradewinds in stonking form, we were encouraged a week ago to predict that George David’s mighty Rambler 88 might repeat her dramatic showing of line honours and a new mono-hull record, just as she did in the Volvo Round Ireland race of 2016.

Well, Rambler 88 did that, and she did it well, knocking more than two hours off the record her predecessor Rambler 100 set in 2011. But then as the rest of the fleet battled the course, it became increasingly likely that the big silver bullet could repeat her astonishing Irish success of the treble – line honours, course record (one day 13 hours and 41 minutes in the case of the Caribbean 600), and IRC overall win.

Several of Rambler 88’s challengers seemed within an ace of it, but the final 35 miles beat from Redonda back to the race’s focal point at the south end of Antigua saw them fail one after another to make the target, until by Wednesday only American Ron O’Hanley’s keenly-campaigned Cookson 50 Privateer – with Kinsale’s Ben Fusco as mastman - was in with a realistic chance, but that also faded on the final windward slugfest.

rambler 88 winning3Trebles all round! Rambler 88 on her way to matching her Round Ireland triple success

It means that overall the Americans have dominated the podium for the top results even if Kinsale has a share of it, with Rambler a clear first, Privateer second, and the Volvo 70 Warrior (Steve & Stephen Murray Snr & Jnr) third. So why then is there a considerable element of RORC Caribbean 600 celebration this weekend on a certain peninsula on Ireland’s East Coast?

Well, the slightest delving into the more detailed class results shows that between them, the National YC in Dun Laoghaire, and Howth Yacht Club on the eastern peninsula, can come up with 1,2,3 in class places, and in an event of the calibre of the RORC Caribbean 600, those are placings which are very special indeed.

The third place (it was in Class 1) came from Irish-American Kevin McLaughlin’s J/44 Spice, skippered by his son Sean with former Irish college sailing stars Will Byrne and Chris Raymond of the National YC in a key role in the crew.

As for the second place, it was also in Class 1 and went to the interesting Marc Lombard designed IRC 46 Pata Negra, chartered by Michael Wright of Howth under the guidance of Kieran Jameson, and crewed by an almost entirely Howth YC team.

pata negra4Marc Lombard’s interesting and stylish design for Pata Negra. There wasn’t a spinnaker left intact when she finished, but she still took a good second in Class 1

And the first place was a peach. It was in Class 3, and went to Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 36 Bam! HYC, which filled the same position in the 2016 race, but has since been away on other business such as winning the east-west Single-Handed Transatlantic Race of 2017. Yet although she was the second-smallest boat in the race, the potent Bam! was by no means the lowest-rated, so she had to work for her placing in conditions which tested everyone.

For it has been something of a Demolition Derby. Of 74 monohull starters, only 40 finished. And while the ten multi-hulls recorded a better finish rate, one of their exits was the most dramatic of all – a capsize by the catamaran Fujin, fortunately without any serious outcome other than one inverted multi-hull, with her crew safely on top, near the island of Saba.

fujin capsizer5She looks better right way up – the catamaran Fujin exited the RORC Caribbbean 600 in spectacular capsize style

While the possibility of such things was always present, the traditional pre-race festivities were special for the Howth contingent, as their own ex-Pat superstar Gordon Maguire arrived in from Australia to race aboard George Sakellaris’s much-fancied Maxi 72 Proteus. That the pre-race betting on Proteus was well-founded seemed justified after the first nine hours, as she narrowly had the overall lead on corrected time coming into the turn at Saba. But then an equipment failure led to her rapid retirement, and that was one favourite down, and others to follow.

michael and gordon6Local boys made good. Michael Wright and Gordon Maguire in Antigua before the start of the RORC Caribbean 600

Last year’s overall winning navigator, Ian Moore, was aboard the German-owned Elliott 52 Outsider, a canting keel entry which certainly looked the part. But as an outsider bet she would have been a disastrous investment, as nothing seemed to be going right from the start, and she retired at the north end of the course.

By that stage, the retirals were coming thick and fast as sails and gear – and maybe crews too - failed the test. But the key Irish boats were hanging in, even if the crew on Pata Negra were going through spinnakers at such an alarming rate that by race’s end they didn’t have a single spinnaker left in the locker.

But the preponderance of miles of power reaching, and the presence of some beats which provided opportunities for sound tactical choices, enabled Pata Negra to offset her lack of downwind sails. In the two final beats – one along the much indented south coast of Guadeloupe, and the other from Redonda to the Antigua finish – it was a pleasure to watch how navigator Colm Birmingham was calling it spot on, reading the shifts to perfection and skillfully using any bit of lee in the shelter of headlands to enable Pata Negra to gain an extra fraction of speed and out-perform much larger boats around her.

pata negra crew7Pata Negra’s crew start the celebrations on their return to Antigua

kieran and sail8Once upon a time, this was a sail – Kieran Jameson with a battle memento from Pata Negra

Heaven only knows how many peninsula people were following the tracker on Thursday afternoon as Pata Negra got within ten miles of the finish, with the mid-day wind at Antigua really getting up a head of steam. And then, with 9 miles to go, her speed was shown as down at 4.3 knots, her heading straight towards the harbour…. Was she disabled and motoring?..... A great collective sigh of relief as the next position showed her back up towards 8 knots and better, fairly thrashing along to the finish and that second place, achieved despite the spinnaker eliminations.

It was all part of a choreographed and slightly emotional series of happenings put together by Brian Turvey, starting with a send-off party for the two crews in Howth YC. That had to be held on February 2nd as the Volvo/Irish Sailing/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” and “Sailor of the Year” awards were to be held in the RDS the following weekend, Friday February 9th, and after that there was an HYC Achievers Celebration hosted by Commodore Joe McPeake on Saturday 10th February, following which it was Antigua all the way.

kieran and conor9The choreography gets under way. Kieran Jameson and Conor Fogerty at the Caribbean 600 Goodwill Party in Howth YC on February 2nd. Within a week, Conor Fogerty was to become “Sailor of the Year 2017”, and within three weeks they’d recorded a second and first in class in the RORC Caribbean 600. Photo Brian Turvey

But by the time that Achievers Party came around, Conor Fogerty had become “Sailor of the Year” the night before, so he was doubly feted in his home club, and gave a moving little speech in which he frankly admitted that when he bought the boat new in 2015, he hadn’t a clue how to make her go well, but it was the encouragement of fellow Howth members which helped him up from being an also-ran to a winner.

Such thoughts were much in everyone’s mind through Thursday night as Bam! battled up that final beat to the finish, for another of the crews at that early-February party in Howth had been the combined National YC/Malahide YC team of Bernard McGranahan and Dermot Cronin, who were going to off to Antigua to race the J/122 Noisy Oyster, but they’d had to pull out with just 115 miles to sail, a really bad moment for Team Ireland.

But the Bam! supporters concerned about that final beat were heartened by some thoughts voiced in Conor Fogerty’s video from his OSTAR win:

“There you are, out in the ocean in the night in this light little boat in a gale, climbing up the side of a big sea that seems to go on up for ever in the darkness, and then you shoot out the top and become airborne for what seems a lifetime, and you’ve time to think that there’s no way this little plastic thing is going to survive hitting that very hard bit of water way down in the bottom of the trough, and then comes the crash which surely nothing can survive….but she does, she does survive without splitting open. And then she picks herself up, and just sails on, climbing the next mini-mountain that you know is right there in the dark”.

bam redonda10Bam! and Liquid with a serious turning mark, the steep and deserted rock of Redonda. Photo RORC/Tim Wright

bam in sunshine11Nearly there. Bam! at Redonda, with just 35 miles to go – but it’s going to be a dead beat. Photo RORC/Tim Wright

Set against that, the Redonda to Antigua beat was a walk in the park. But Bam! fans fretted until their boat was safely home around 4.30 am our time yesterday morning, and then it was time to relax and savour the moment. As for the Howth crews who have done the job and given their club such credit, aboard Pata Negra they were: Michael Wright, Kieran Jameson, Darren Wright, Colm Bermingham, Johnny White, Karena Knaggs, Sam O’Byrne, Ronan Galligan, Emmet Sheridan and Richard Cullen.

Aboard Bam!, in addition to skipper Conor Fogerty there was Simon Knowles and Anthony Doyle from the 2016 win, and the other three were Rob Slater, Robert Rendell and Damian Cody.

Here it is, still February, and they’ve had a season’s sailing and success already. It certainly blows away those winter blues.

bam final beat12They’re absolutely knackered, but there’s still work to be done – the reefed Bam settles down for the final beat to Antigua. Photo: RORC/Tim Wrigh

Bam crewThe Bam! crew roll out the banner dockside in Antigua....

Published in W M Nixon

The Afloat.ie sailor of the year Conor Fogerty is among Irish crews in a record entry of 88 yachts has entered the tenth edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 which has grown both in stature and entries since the race was first contested in 2009. Read Afloat.ie's Irish race preview by WM Nixon here

For the 10th anniversary, in excess of 800 sailors from six continents and over 22 nations, will compete in the thrilling race around 11 Caribbean islands. Winners from the Olympic Games, America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and multiple world champions have gathered in Antigua and will be competing alongside passionate corinthian sailors, both young and old.]

Ireland's newest sailor of the year, Howth's Conor Fogerty, in his Sunfast 3600 Bam!, returns to the West Indies with victory on his mind. He won his class in Antigua in 2016. In a recent interview with Afloat.ie, he has credited his sails for some of his success here

Start: Antigua, West Indies - Monday 19 February 2018 Course: 600nm non-stop around 11 Caribbean Islands

In its ten year history, American yachts have dominated the race, winning the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy on six occasions, setting both the current monohull and multihull records. For the 2018 race, 13 American teams will be competing including, George David's Rambler 88, George Sakellaris' Proteus, and Peter Aschenbrenner's Paradox. The trio are amongst the favourites for the top prizes. However there is strong competition from Australia, France, Great Britain, Germany and Ireland.

American Maxi Rambler 88 is back and skipper George David will be taking part in his sixth race. David has taken line honours on three occasions and with Rambler 100, won overall under IRC in 2011, setting the monohull race record (40 hours 20 minutes 2 seconds). Rambler 88 is the hot favourite to be the first monohull home this year and has world class crew in every department, including three time America's Cup winner, Brad Butterworth. Ludde Ingvall's Australian Maxi CQS will make its debut in the race after successfully taking line honours in the 2017 RORC Transatlantic Race. Philip Rann's British Maxi La Bête poses a threat to Rambler 88 and CQS. Race founder and long-standing RORC member John Burnie will be taking part in his ninth race on board La Bête.

George Sakellaris American Maxi 72 Proteus is one of the favourites for the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy, won by the yacht with the best time after IRC time correction. Should Proteus win, Sakellaris will lift the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy for an unprecedented third time. Proteus has an all-star cast, including Stu Bannatyne who is on leave from Dongfeng Race Team in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. Bannatyne has competed in eight round the world races, winning on three occasions.

"It's the warmest of the classic 600 races so always an event to look forward to," commented Bannatyne. "The race has a lot of corners and waypoints so the whole team is usually far busier than the typical 600 mile race; especially navigators. It is a great race for crews because there are so many manoeuvres and sail changes required, good crew work really makes a difference and the guys don't mind being woken up or nudged on the rail for another change because it is always so warm."

IRC Zero is the largest class competing this year with 24 teams. The mighty superyachts, Danneskjold and Farfalla represent the two largest yachts in the race, both in excess of 100ft (30.48m) and equipped with racing systems, as well as luxury refinements below decks. Ron O'Hanley's American Privateer and Adrian Lee's Irish Lee Overlay Partners are both previous winners. Two new boats to the race will also be among the favourites; Eric De Turckheim's French Nivelt-Muratet 54 Teasing Machine and Jens Kellinghusen's Ker 56 Varuna. British Infiniti 46 Maverick, skippered by Quentin Stewart and Stefan Jentzsch's German Carkeek 47 Black Pearl, represent the two smallest yachts in the class, but both are capable of punching above their water line length.

A record number of multihulls will be racing this year, including 2013 class winner Paradox, skippered by Peter Aschenbrenner. Designed by Nigel Irens, the 63ft American trimaran hit a top speed of 38 knots in the 2013 race. "French Tech Caraîbos will be quick in big breeze," commented Paradox trimmer Jeff Mearing, referring to Giles Lamire's Multi50, which won class in the 2010 Route du Rhum. Both boats are capable of breaking the multihull race record (31 hours, 59 minutes, 04 seconds Lloyd Thornburg's MOD70 Phaedo3). Greg Slyngstad's Bieker 53 Fujin returns and includes Olympic gold medallist Johnathan McKee as part of the Seattle-based crew. Competing for the first time will be Jason Carroll's American Gunboat 62 Elvis, with Irish Volvo Ocean Race winner Justin Slattery on board. The smallest yacht in the race is the modified Seacart 30 Morticia, skippered by Shaun Carroll with an all-Australian crew.

The RORC Caribbean 600 is part of the Class40 2018 Championship and a record seven pocket rockets are competing this year from France, Germany, Sweden and the United States. The Class40 race record is 2 days 16 hours 26 minutes 29 seconds, set by Gonzalo Botin's Tales II in 2016. Catherine Pourre's Eärendil returns after a terrific battle in last year's race and 2016 runner-up, Mikael Ryking's Talanta from Sweden will also be amongst the Class40 fleet. Mathias Muller von Blumencron's German Class40 Red debuts after winning the RORC Transatlantic Race and Marc Lepesqueux's Class40 Sensation will be racing under IRC.

In IRC One, Olympian Per Arne Nilsen's Norwegian Swan 66 Enigma VIII is the largest yacht. Philippe Frantz's Nivelt-Muratet 43 Albator has a mixture of highly experienced veteran and young talented Figaro and Tour Voile sailors, all from France. German Swan 56 Latona will have three generations of the von Eicken family on board and representing the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary. German Andrews 56 Broader View Hamburg, winner of IRC One for the 2017 RORC Transatlantic Race will be skippered by Georg Christiansen. The smallest yacht racing in IRC One will be last year's class winner, Antiguan RP37 Taz, skippered by Bernie Evan-Wong who has competed in every edition of the race. Giles Redpath's Lombard 46 Pata Negra was third in class in last year's race and has been chartered by a team from Dublin, with Oliver Heer as skipper.

In IRC Two, the largest yacht will be Oceanis 55 Julia, skippered by Louie Neocleous who is just 20 years old and sailing with his father Richard. Back year after year are several yachts owned by charter companies offering the golden opportunity to compete in the race. Performance Yacht Racing have three entries; Grand Soleil 43s Quokka 8, Jua Kali and Beneteau First 47.7 EH01. The three teams are expected to have a close battle within the class. Another charter boat duel will be between two First 40s. Susan Glenny's Olympia's Tigress will be sailed by Richard Preston, against Sailing Logic's Lancelot II, sailed by Trevor Drew. Pamala Baldwin's J/122 Liquid will be proudly flying the Antiguan flag, as will the Antigua Sailing Academy's First 40.7 Ortac, sailed by Amanda Mochrie.

The largest yacht racing in IRC Three will be the 50ft Bermudan Cutter Gemervescence owned by RORC Commodore Steven Anderson. Jonty and Vicki Layfield's Antiguan flagged Swan 48 Sleeper won the class last year and will be defending their title. Andrew Eddy also returns with Oyster 48 Gaia and a young crew including both his son and daughter. "My daughter is flying in from Kenya and my son has put together a group of his sailing friends, so I am going to be the grown-up on board," laughed Eddy. "Our goal is to finish before the prize giving on Friday as we did not manage last year, so we are hoping for good winds." RORC Transatlantic Race Class winner, Richard Palmer will once again be racing his British JPK 10.10 Jangada Two Handed. Richard has teamed up with his partner for the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race, Jeremy Waitt and Jangada is the smallest monohull racing this year.

The 10th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 starts on Monday 19th February from Fort Charlotte, outside Nelson's Dockyard. The first start is at 1100.

RACE MINISITE here 

FLEET TRACKER here 

PAST RESULTS: RORC CARIBBEAN 600 TROPHY - IRC OVERALL

(Best best corrected time under IRC)
2017 - Hap Fauth, Bella Mente, JV72 (USA)
2016 - George Sakellaris, Maxi 72, Proteus (USA)
2015 - Hap Fauth, JV72, Bella Mente (USA)
2014 - George Sakellaris, RP72, Shockwave (USA)
2013 - Ron O'Hanley, Privateer, Cookson 50 (USA)
2012 - Niklas Zennström's JV72, Rán (GBR)
2011 - George David, Rambler 100, JK 100 (USA)
2010 - Karl C L Kwok, Beau Geste, Farr 80 (HKG)
2009 - Adrian Lee, Lee Overlay Partners, Cookson 50 (IRL)

Published in RORC

#NorthSails - New Volvo Irish Sailor of the Year Conor Fogerty has hailed North Sails Ireland’s role in his offshore success.

Following his award win last Friday, the Howth Yacht Club stalwart said: “North Sails have been a part of the Bam! story since her first launch in 2015.

“The new J2 and J5 played a key role in the OSTAR 2017 and I am looking forward to racing with the new 3Di main for the RORC Caribbean 600 Race.”

North Sails Ireland supplied the first inventory for Conor Fogerty back in 2015 with which he won his class in the 2016 RORC Caribbean 600 race. These sails were a mix of 3DL and 3Di plus nylon downwind sails.

In early 2017, for his epic OSTAR-winning attempt, North Sails Ireland supplied a new 3Di Code 2/3 reefing jib and a No 5 Radian jib for exceptionally heavy upwind work.

These sails sails did the business for Conor and Bam! as she took first place in the Gypsy Moth Class in the OSTAR.

North Sails also just supplied a new 3Di offshore main for Fogerty’s 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 Race, which starts next Monday 19 February.

Published in North Sails Ireland

#SailorOfTheYear - Conor Fogerty has been named Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year for 2017 for his astonishing performance in the Single-Handed East-West Transatlantic Race last summer during what was a particularly strong year for Irish offshore sailing.

June’s Offshore Sailor of the Month was presented with his prize by Minister of State Mary Mitchell-O’Connor at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin’s RDS Concert Hall this evening (Friday 9 February).

The accolade comes nearly eight months after the corinthian sailor from Howth Yacht Club found himself in definitive trophy contention, when a storm ravaged the OSTAR and TWOSTAR fleets in the North Atlantic in early June.

Irish Sailing Awards 2018 FogertyConor Fogerty, Howth receiving the Overall Volvo Irish Sailor of the Year Award from (L/R) Jack Roy, President Irish Sailing, Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD, Minister of State for Higher Education and Patricia Greene, Head of Communications Volvo Car Ireland at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards 2018. Photo: Irish Sailing/David Branigan

With attentions immediately and understandably turned to the plight of those sailors and vessels worst affected by the extreme conditions, it was only in the aftermath that those not already on the Fogerty tip realised Ireland’s lone entry in the 2017 OSTAR was some ways west of the storm before it hit.

Make no mistake, this was no fluke. “[Fogerty] had been sailing his Sun Fast 3600 Bam! with such skill and determination that he had sailed beyond the worst of the weather,” Winkie Nixon writes.

That put Fogerty second only to clear race leader Andrea Mura’s Open 60 Venta di Sardegna in the OSTAR division, before the winds ruined the party behind them. What’s more, in the hours and days that followed, Fogerty was sailing Bam! in near-contact with TWOSTAR entry Rote 66, an Open 40 significantly larger than his own boat.

Indeed, even with a depleted fleet, it was remarkable that Fogerty was able to keep up with those bigger boats and take Bam! all the way to Rhode Island amid persistent tough conditions. As Winkie says: “His victory was no joyride.”

But a victory it certainly was. When Bam! crossed the line at Newport on 19 June to take that prize of prizes, the Gipsy Moth Trophy, Fogerty’s closest competition was 500 miles astern — and his only company in port were boats with far more muscle and speed potential. It was a prime example of a skipper making all the difference.

The hero’s welcome bestowed upon Fogerty on his return to Howth at the end of the month, as Winkie observes, was richly deserved.

Accepting his award this evening, Fogerty said it was great to see offshore sailing reaching new heights, and recognised the importance of having such a platform as the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards to share his and fellow ocean-crossers’ passion.

The Sailor of the Year for 2017 also extolled the virtues of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association as a learning ground.

“For anyone who wants to get involved in offshore sailing, I’d recommend ISORA to get their feet wet,” Fogerty added.

Fogerty bested a worthy field of nominees in 2017, among them such offshore luminaries as Vendée Globe stalwart Alex Thomson, his Fastnet Race partner Nin O’Leary, and Volvo Ocean Race veteran Damian Foxall.

The ‘Flying Irishman’ Tom Dolan flew the flag for Ireland in France and the Mini Transat series, while recently retired RORC Commodore Michael Boyd finished in the top 10 of the Fastnet Race.

In the wake of Annalise Murphy’s big award last year, younger sailors featured prominently in 2017.

Trinity sailing team captain Richard Roberts and his UCC counterpart Liam Manning; Youth Pathways champ Ewan McMahon; Finn class Olympic hopeful Fionn Lyden and fellow Tokyo 2020 challenger Finn Lynch in the Laser; super junior Michael O’Suillebhain; and Dun Laoghaire all-rounder Lorcan Tighe were all in contention.

Saskia Tidey found a fruitful new 49erFX partnership with Great Britain’s Charlotte Dobson; while Aoife Hopkins, winner of the European Women’s U21 Laser Radial title, sat her Leaving Cert just a month after that achievement and gained a whopping 605 points in a testament to her dedication.

Stewart Hosford (who shared with Thomson); Pacific voyager Daragh Nagle; tactician Ian Moore; Rush’s Kelly family; cruiser John Maybury; Safehaven Marine powerboat specialist Frank Kowalski; Michael O’Connor and his Sin Bin crew; offshore duo Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop; Rockabill VI campaigner Paul O’Higgins; Sydney-Hobart partners Gordon Maguire and Jim Cooney; and Clipper Race skipper Conall Morrison rounded out this year’s slate of Sailor of the Year nominees, with two notable exceptions.

The organisers flew in Santiago Alegre from Spain and Simon Hoffman from Australia to thank them for saving the life of Johnny Durcan, one of Ireland’s leading high performance sailors, who got into difficulty at the 29er World Championships in California last summer. The pair were special winners from Afloat last August for their efforts, and received the President’s Award tonight — as well as a standing ovation from the full house in attendance.

Irish Sailing Awards 2018 hoffmanSimon Hoffman, Australia with Santiago Alegre, Spain, Johnny Durcan, Crosshaven, Jack Roy, President Irish Sailing, Jay Stacy, Schull and Colin Byrne, Dun Laoghaire receiving the President's Award

Also recognised was Jay Stacy, who received the President’s Award for his actions that saved the life of one of his crew a rogue wave hit their boat off the Waterford/Wexford coast. Accidents like this are rare, but tonight was an opportunity for the sailing community to recognise their bravery and say thank you.

“IrishThe ‘fireside chat’ with lifesavers and President’s Award winners who received a standing ovation

In the night’s other prizes, the Senior Instructor Award went to Kate Caldwell of Mullaghmore Sailing Club, who recently left her role at the Co Sligo club after three years to study for a Master’s degree.

Training Centre of the Year for 2017 is Crookhaven Harbour Sailing Club, which since 1979 has specialised in training junior sailors in West Cork close to the sailing mecca of Schull.

Irish Sailing Awards 2018 8332Harry Hermon, CEO Irish Sailing presents Peter O'Leary, Commodore of Crookhaven Sailing Club with the overall Volvo Training Centre of the Year award with Patricia Greene

From the South West to the North Channel, Ballyholme/Donaghadee’s Dan McGaughey was named Youth Sailor of the Year for his incredible podium performance in the gold fleet at the Topper World Championships in Loctudy, France last August, where he finished third amid a top-class junior field.

Special recognition was made to Matt McGovern and his brother Russell for their storied performance careers, just days after Matt abandoned his Tokyo 2020 plans and announced his Olympic retirement.

The 34-year-old from Belfast Lough was one half of Ireland’s most successful skiff duo in the 49er dinghy with Carrickfergus helm Ryan Season, the pair competing at London 2012 and Rio 2016. McGovern was most recently mounting a new campaign with 2013 Laser youth champion Robbie Gilmore.

Irish Sailing Awards 2018 8346Carmel Winkelmann, Dun Laoghaire receives the President's Award from Jack Roy, President Irish Sailing

In his address earlier in the evening, Irish Sailing president Jack Roy emphasised that as much as high achievements in sailing have a place in the sport, “for most of us it’s about getting on the water, whatever your level of expertise.”

Citing the so-called ‘Annalise effect’, Roy noted “a bounce in the number of people sailing around the country last year.” In Irish Sailing’s Try Sailing initiative for 2017, half of those participating were women, and more than half were aged under 18 — showing the potential for growth is there.

Roy also took time to thank “the everyday heroes who don’t always get recognised by awards and trophies: the volunteers who dedicate so much time, energy and passion to our sport, and who share their knowledge and expertise with other sailors. Quite simply, our sport cannot function without them.”

Hosted once more by master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger, the night as always welcomed guests from Irish club and high performance sailing, including Irish Sailing's youth and Olympic squads, national champions at all levels, class captains, club commodores, previous Sailors of the Year, and world and Olympic competitors.

Among the hundreds of guests were Colm Barrington, vice chair of the Olympic Council of Ireland, and Robert Dix, chair of the Government’s national marine strategy.

Royal cork Sailing awardsRoyal Cork was well represented

There was a stron turnout from Royal Cork Yacht Club, now under new Admiral Pat Farnan. RCYC flag officers Colin Moorhead, Kieran O’Connell and Gavin Deane were in attendance, while Howth Yacht Club Commodore Joe McPeake was in attendance with Brian Turvey, chair of Howth’s New Wave Regatta.

Representing Dun Laoghaire’s waterfront was National Yacht Club Commodore Ronan Beirne with Vice Commodore Martin McCarthy and club archivist Frank Burgess, as well Alistair, Muriel and Kenneth Rumball of the INSS.

Nobby Reilly, formerly of ICRA; Peter Ryan of ISORA; Chris and Sandra Moore of the DBSC; and ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney were also in attendance, as was Irish Coast Guard chief Chris Reynolds following his return in 2017 from secondment to the Horn of Africa.

“IrishAnother successful year for the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards

Hosted by Irish Sailing with Afloat magazine, the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards aim to highlight the breadth of sailing across the country.

Afloat’s awards have been running since 1996, recognising over 500 Irish sailors in that time, says editor David O’Brien.

“[The awards] were originally formulated to bring a bigger profile to sailing achievements that do not get their fair share of the media coverage,” he adds. “Now these achievements are reaching a wider audience than ever before.”

Afloat.ie topped over 1.2 million visitors in 2017 — an audience the publication is eager to share with Ireland’s sailing community.

“Afloat.ie wants to work with every club and every class in the country,” says O’Brien. “Please get in touch.”

Published in News Update
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