Displaying items by tag: Dinghy
#dognosetrophy – 'Fast, very fast' that's the verdict on the new Phil Morrison National 18 that made its Cork Harbour debut for the 'Dognose Trophy' for mixed dinghies on Saturday afteroon writes Claire Bateman. Bob Bateman captured the action below.
The Dognose Trophy Race, (No. 5 Buoy a replica of which is a magnificent piece of silverware from the olden days), was sailed in a cloudy but very breezy southerly wind. What made this event different was the fact that the new National 18s participated.
Race Officer, Mike Dwyer, set up the committee boat off Whitegate assisted by his Godfather none other than T.E. Crosbie. They set a beat out to Dognose. Tom Crosbie in his beautiful red new 18 succumbed before the start and did not participate. The race got under way with a mix of the old and the new National 18s and a sole Laser participant.
The bulk of the fleet went up the left hand side of the course and Tommy Dwyer, hoping to catch the stronger tide in the channel, went up the right side. As the fleet met at the weather mark it was the two new lead boats were in the lead with Colin Chapman ahead. On the run they headed for Spike Island before gybing to make the No. 13 Buoy. In the gusty conditions Chapman capsized but did not take long to right the boat again but not before the dream boat of Tommy Dwyer got past him reveling in the conditions with her bow up and planing very fast. A 90 degree turn to port brought a two sail reach up to the Cove Sailing Club mark, a 180 degree turn back and spinnakers were hoisted again on a shy reach as they sailed past Cobh and past the No. 14 buoy before heading to the finish at Aghada where they availed of the facilities of the fine new pontoon to come ashore to partake in the usual get together after this old and well loved race.
#laser – Eighteen of our regular fleet plus another few guests (who sportingly ducked out at the finish) from the ISA Laser Academy made for a busy start line and top notch racing in Scotsman's Bay last night. Plaudits also to DBSC yet again. RO Suzanne McGarry set great courses, switching from W/L to Olympic triangle for the second race and calling it just right with a shortened course late on. How fantastic it is to see these young sailors engaging with the local racing infrastructure. It just goes to show that if the product and format is right at a local level, young racers will join in with the older sailors and get valuable race practice to supplement their hours of dedicated training.
To the racing and Kinsale Radial hotshot Ross O'Sullivan took Cian Cahill's full rig and pretty much controlled Race 1 in a challenging Force 2-3, working the left side of the beat where pressure was best and holding the pack off with good speed downwind. Behind him came Patrick Cahill and Luke Murphy, followed by Liam Glynn in a Radial in fact. With a triangle set up for Race 2, the Lasers looked forward to catching a few waves down the reaches but, ultimately the clock caught up with us and Flag S went up after just one lap as the breeze turned off. Luke Murphy took the gun and with it the "Boat of the Night" accolade, followed by RCYC's Cian Byrne sailing the O'Beirne Laser tonight. Older lads Coakley and Craig were next in line, putting a few of the young pups in their place at least, which is kinda important for senior morale !
#gp14 – Always be apprehensive of a GP14 venue described as picturesque... Lough Erne was described as the most picturesque venue one would ever sail and it definitely delivered on that promise. I got to see every nook and cranny of the beautiful venue as we tried to navigate our way around the very trying race course. We arrived Saturday morning with the sun splitting the slipway and the breath-taking views were teeing up a very exciting event in Rory McIlroy's second favourite venue for golf. A great turn out of boats meant a large fleet would make any defending champ (in this case, Alan Blay) nervous at the prospect of holding onto a title. We rigged and launched eager to get around the corner to see the sailing venue for the racing.
A chilly breeze was an early warning sign to anyone who thought this was going to be another sailing event. The Race Officer got the racing off to a quick start and it was clear from the outset that the training Shane MacCarthy and Damian Bracken had put in over the winter was paying dividends and provided them with the extra boatlength required when situations were tight around what was set to be the most tricky racing in the GP's this year.
Lough Erne was a venue where consistency and patience were currency, and no amount of money in the bank would have bought you a race without them. Keith Louden (our lake specialist) was also on form and determined to topple the Macarthy winning streak. Alan Blay, the defending champion, was fired up and ready, staying for the weekend with local tactical genius JP McCaldin to increase his chances of a successful defence. The leader in every race came from the left hand side, crossing the fleet and using the right hand side to approach the top mark. The wind shifted ferociously and the 'bold child' that was Lough Erne laughed as the rest of the fleet sailed in circles trying to deal with the shifting conditions. Tim Corcoran had left himself a lot of work after being over the line in the first race. Over the weekend the naughty GP fleet were to try the patience of the race officer on more than one occasion with multiple restarts because they could not stay behind the line.
Day two launching was similar to day one with gorgeous sunshine guiding our way - however everyone had gritted teeth this time and for good reason. The difficult shifty conditions were to continue and stringing a couple of consistent results together for anyone was rare. Everyone had glimpses of the front of the fleet but hanging onto a lead was virtually impossible. The positions throughout the races were yo-yoing to say the very least except those of Shane and Keith who had set themselves up for a deciding match race in the natural amphitheatre that was Lough Erne. The rest of the fleet could only marvel as two gladiators of Irish GP's wrestled their way through the pack to try and win the title of Ulster champion. The title swapped and changed between the two several times contending with bonkers shifts that literally tacked boats uncontrollably at times. Keith had the lead at the top mark and Shane kept him in his sights throughout the race. Pile ups at three of the marks meant getting around the race course unscathed was a skill in itself, (Not something yours truly managed to do).
A nail biting last broad reach decided the championship and Shane was a well deserved champion, the wind had shifted to favour the chasing pack and filled in from behind, Shane was to leeward and in front of that same pack and chose to use his last ace card to hold the inside lane on Keith at the leeward mark and clinch the title, the boat length which himself and Damian had worked so hard to gain over the winter had been the small inch required to win. The rest of the fleet had to watch and enjoy the spectacle going on around them as they tried to make sufficient sense of the conditions to finish the race.
Special mention must go to the youth sailors in the bronze fleet who showed some of the gold and silver fleet how it's done - Gareth and Richard Gallagher and Peter Boyle sailing with dad Stephen put in a great performance over the weekend. It was also fantastic to see the return of Richard Street - Richard, we've missed you. And thanks again to the event organisers and members at Lough Erne Yacht Club for providing a warm welcome and great racing.
#dinghycapsize – Volunteer lifeboat crew with Kilkeel RNLI launched yesterday evening at 6.30pm following reports of two people in the water off Killowen Point on Carlingford Lough. It is understood a member of the public raised the alarm on seeing two people in the water after their dinghies capsized.
Conditions at the time were choppy with a force four north westerly wind and good visibility. On arriving at the scene the lifeboat crew recovered the two exhausted casualties onto the lifeboat and took the two dinghies, which were drifting, under tow. The two were very cold but conscious. The lifeboat crew returned to Killowen Yacht club and was met by members of the South Down coastguard team and awaiting ambulance.
Commenting on the rescue John Fisher, Kilkeel RNLI said; 'This was a challenging callout for the lifeboat crew. The capsize happened near a sandbank and the lifeboat helm had to manoeuvre the lifeboat very carefully to safely recover the two people. The casualties were exhausted and very cold and our crew gave them warm blankets before returning them to shore.'
#royalcork – The Organisers of August's Cork Dinghy Fest 2015 have introduced an Optimist fun fleet to this year's event. This fleet is for the sailors that do not qualify for the main optimist fleet. The Royal Cork Yacht Club idea is that this fleet will take part in some point to point fun races, like a race around Spike Island or a race up the Owenabue River at high tide. The young sailors will also be involved in fun shore side activities if the weather does not permit them to take to the water on any given day. This is seen as a great way to include as many sailors as possible in the festival without compromising the racing of the other fleets.
The new format dinghy week runs from 20th – 23rd of August.
The main Optimist fleet has also been limited to the first fifty entrants. Sailors must be ranked in the top fifty, from their Junior or Senior National rankings 2014.
Event plans are now well under way and it is shaping up to be a unique sailing experience, with four main race areas as well as two point to point race areas.
Here is a quick look at what's on, according to the RCYC:
1. Fun activities for all after sailing, (Stand up paddle board races, adult Optimist racing etc.)
2. Aprés sail music,
3. Anto's Famous BBQ.
4. Special guest speakers,
5. Dinghies on display.
6. Invitational sailing by other classes after racing.
7. Tidal Briefing for the next day on each race area.
8. Night time bands and DJ's.
9. Dedicated camping
#jobsinboats – The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, one of the oldest sailing and rowing clubs in Hong Kong, is looking for a talented and youthful dinghy sailor to fill the post of Race Coach / Bosun.
This is a full-time contract based in Hong Kong commencing July or August 2015. Reporting to the Middle Island Sailing and Marine Manager, the successful applicant will coach up and coming cadets to higher levels of racing expertise. Classes of boats include the J80, Optimist, Laser, 420 and 29er. Coaching and mentoring at international events will be involved. Off-water there will be basic fibreglass repairs and maintenance of sailing craft and RIB's to be completed. Middle Island has a clubhouse, sailing academy, hardstand, marina and launching areas serviced by a regular club ferry.
We are looking for people with:
- Extensive dinghy racing experience.
- Graduation from an internationally recognised sail training academy.
- Race Coach qualification is essential with Keel Boat Instructor preferred.
- Excellent interpersonal, team and leadership skills.
- Fibreglass repair experience and confidence to install small boat rigs and deck equipment to a professional standard.
- Flexibility to work weekends and midweek shifts.
We offer attractive remuneration and excellent fringe benefits to the right candidate. Closing date for applications is 15 June 2015. Interested parties should submit a comprehensive CV together with a recent photograph to The Human Resources Manager, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Kellett Island, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong or e-mail to [email protected]
You can see any number of reasons why this unique class, celebrating its 80th birthday in just three years time, is in a league of its own. A three-man boat with one of the crew on a trapeze, its crewing set–up requires a level of sociability which is further emphasised ashore, where their après sailing is the stuff of legend.
At all the centres where it is sailed, and at places upon which the National 18s have descended for a championship, we know they've left behind a formidable reputation for determined but good humoured conviviality, combined with great sportsmanship.
Yet while it is easy to understand the class's popularity among its adherents when you see them in high spirits as a group, there's no getting away from the fact that in today's dinghy terms, 18ft is a lot of boat. The mood of the National 18s may often seem light-hearted. But keeping one of these boats in prime condition and well crewed is not something for the casually-interested.
It requires real commitment, yet that is something which National 18 sailors seem to have in spades. And now the class has taken on a new lease of life with the development of a fresh take on the National 18 parameters by legendary designer Phil Morrison. But rather than being launched as a commercial venture, the new boat is being developed from within class resources, which has involved several imaginative fund-raising ventures. W M Nixon found himself being drawn into one of them.
It's official, The Cork Harbour National 18 Class are brilliantly capable of running a booze-up in a distillery. And just to make it even more challenging for their supportive members and many friends, they ran this particular fund-raiser for the new Phil Morrison boat in the Jameson Distillery in Midleton in East Cork on the first Saturday night of Lent.
Of course, like all Ireland on St Patrick's Day three weeks later, they got a special dispensation for the partying to continue unhindered by thoughts of Lenten piety. There was plenty of time for that next morning. But meanwhile, right there in the heritage and high tech splendour of the Midleton facility where tradition and new science are dynamically allied, the National 18 crews went at it good-oh, and the class's Development Fund was greatly enhanced.
In fact, I'm told the financial targets were comfortably exceeded, but as Class President Dom Long and the ever-energetic Tom Dwyer didn't tell us the targets in the first place, we'll happily take their word for it. All I know is that it was one helluva night, and only the National 18s could have done it.
Let's party! Colman Garvey's vintage National 18 welcomes guests to the Midleton Distillery for yet another event in a series of fund-raisers which have supported the development of the new boat from within class resources. Photo: W M Nixon
It's a class which – thanks to being a restricted design rather than a hidebound one-design – is able to wallow happily in its history as it thrusts towards new designs which keep up the spirits of its established sharpest sailors, while also encourage the vital new blood.
So how did it all come about? Well, thanks to a prodigious book written by Brian Wolfe of the boat's history, published in 2013 to mark the class's 75th Anniversary, we get some idea of the inevitable complexity of the story. The class started in 1938 in the Thames Estuary where there'd been several local one design or restricted "large dinghy" classes around the 18ft mark and soon – under a National Class imprimatur from the Yacht Racing Association – it spread to several other centres.
Needless to say, World War II from 1939 to 1945 brought any further growth and most sailing activity to a halt, but by 1947 things were looking up again, and in the straitened post war circumstances, the National 18 found its niche. Back in 1938, Yachting World magazine had sponsored a design to the class's rules by Uffa Fox, and that became the clinker-built Uffa Ace, which continued to be the backbone of the class for many years after the war.
It was Whitstable in the far east of Kent which produced most of the initial impetus for the class, and local builders Anderson, Rigden & Perkins made a speciality of it. In fact, ARP-built Uffa Aces were soon virtually the definitive National 18. Yet ironically we cannot confirm at the moment if the oldest National 18 still sailing – Richard Stirrup's 1938-vintage Tinkerbelle which races with the classics divison at Bosham SC on Chichester Harbour – is an ARP boat.
It's ironic because Tinkerbelle's first home port was Howth. It wasn't until I was writing the history of Howth YC for its Centenary twenty years ago that awareness surfaced that there'd been the nucleus of a National 18 class in Howth in 1938.
There were just three boats – John Masser's Wendy number 14, Tinkerbelle number 15, and Fergus O'Kelly & Pat Byrne's Setanta, number 16.
Tinkerbelle (15) being sailed by Aideen Stokes in 1939, with John Masser's Nat 18 Wendy (later Colleen II) astern, and the Corbett family's Essex OD Cinders abeam.
Tinkerbelle as she is today, the oldest National 18 still sailing. Her home port is Bosham on Chichester Harbour. Photo courtesy Richard Stirrup
Tinkerbelle seems to have been owned by a syndicate in which the Stokes family was much involved, though in the class history her earliest owner is listed as Bobby Mooney, son of the renowned Billy Mooney of Aideen fame. However, around Howth, Tinkerbelle was best remembered for being raced with considerable panache by a non-owner, Norman Wilkinson.
But when Norman returned from war service in 1946 determined to sail just as much as humanly possible, he found that the National 18s had faded away, and the only way he could get regular racing was by buying the 1898-built Howth 17 Leila, which he duly raced with frequent success right up to the end of his long life in 1998, by which time Leila was a hundred.
It's intriguing to think that, with one or two twists of fate in Howth, Norman Wilkinson might have been renowned as a star of the National 18s taking on the likes of class legends such as Somers Payne and Charlie Dwyer of Cork, where the class – having started with just two ARP boats in1939 - held fire for a while, but got going big time in the late 1940s and early '50s with several builders all round Cork Harbour creating them in local workshops.
That was one of the attractions of the National 18s. They were big enough to appeal to people who didn't fancy skittish little dinghies, yet they were small enough to be constructed by artisan boatbuilders who could produce lovely boats. But the owners – having laid out what were considerable sums of money at a time when Ireland seemed to be in a state of permanent economic depression – were disinclined to go the final stage of having the boats properly measured and registered with the class. This caused increasing problems, ultimately solved by a high level of diplomacy as the National 18s' popularity grew, and the opportunities arose for the Cork boats to go across the water to race in big-fleet competitions.
At one stage, class numbers were so healthy at many centres that in Britain they had Northern and Southern Championships, reflecting the primitive state of road movement of boats. Dinghy road trailers – particularly for hefty big 18-footers – were still in their infancy, so all sorts of ingenious methods were used to get boats to distant events, with a Whitstable boat on at least one occasion getting to Cork as deck cargo aboard a Coast Lines vessel on its regular route which took in Rochester in Kent and eventually Cork among several ports.
The National 18s in their classic prime, with immaculately vanished clinker-built hulls, and setting lovingly-cared-for cotton sails. Here, Crosshaven's greatest National 18 sailor Somers Payne (Melody, 206) is being pursued by Alan Wolfe in Stardust 63), while up ahead Charlie Dwyer with Mystic (208) is doing a horizon job, with the legendary Leo Flanagan of Skerries lying second at the helm of Fingal. The photo was taken during a Dinghy Week at Baltimore, and it is memories like this which inspired Brian Wolfe (son of Stardust's owner-skipper) to undertake the mammoth task of collating and writing the class's history.
In Ireland, centres which saw interest in the National 18s included Dunmore East, Clontarf and Portrush, but as Dun Laoghaire was committed to the 17ft Mermaid, the only place on the East Coast with really significant National 18s numbers was Skerries, where the incredible Leo Flanagan set the pace driving his Jensen Interceptor ashore, and racing his no-expenses-spared ARP-built National 18 Fingal afloat in somewhat erratic style.
Leo was a ferocious party animal, and when the Skerries and Crosshaven National 18s united in going to the big class championship at Barry in South Wales in the mid 1950s, Leo was very disappointed to discover that, just as the party was really getting going, the club barman had every intention of closing at closing time. The very idea....Leo solved the problem by buying the entire bar for cash on the spot.
As far as Leo was concerned, sailing was for parties, so when he heard of the highly-organised Irish Olympic campaign towards the 1960 Olympics in Rome, he got himself to Rome, as Olympic sailing promised Olympian parties. To his distress, he was ordered out of the Olympic Village by the Irish squad, who wanted no distractions. But to their distress, the bould Leo then turned up next morning for the first day's racing, officially accredited and highly visible in his new role – he had become manager of the Singapore team.
It seems that in a harbourside bar the night before, he'd met the helmsman of the Singapore Olympic Dragon (as it happened, the only Dragon in Singapore), who was racing in the Olympics as a personal venture. As the biggest rubber concessionaire in Malaya, he could well afford to do so. But this meant he was also Team Manager, and when Leo met him, the Singapore skipper was much upset, because with his sailing duties and need to get a good night's sleep before each day's racing, he was simply unable to take up all the official invitations which any Olympic Team Manager received.
He felt he was badly offending his hosts, and completely failing the Singapore sailing community So Leo, out of sheer kindness, agreed to be the Singapore Olympic Sailing Team Manager, giving selflessly of his time, energy and great wit in the front line at all the best and most fashionable parties throughout the 1960 Olympic Regatta.
All of which has little enough direct connection with the story of the National 18s, but it gives you some idea of the style of the people who have been involved in a long tale which will soon have been going on for eighty years. Yet beyond the parties and the many scrapes they got into, there was also much serious sailing and boat development going on, for although the Uffa Ace was the most numerous design in the growing fleet, anyone could have a go provided they fitted within the class rules.
But by the mid-1960s, it was clear that the traditional concept of a clinker-built National 18 was losing its appeal, and in 1968 the Class Association asked Ian Proctor to design a National 18 to be built as a smooth-hulled fibreglass series-produced boat, with bare hulls to be available for owners who wished to finish the boats themselves.
However, being mindful of keeping existing wooden boats competitive, the new boats were built much heavier than their glassfibre construction really required. Yet they looked good, and the first one Genevieve (266) was delivered to class stalwart Murray Vines, who sailed with the Tamesis Club on the Thames. There, the river may have been pretty, but it was so narrow that when the Tamesis people secured a major championship, they took their entire race management team down to the coast to attractive sea venues where the National 18s could do their thing with style and space.
That said, it was far from style and space they were reared. Murray Vines' son Jeremy – who is proud owner of the very first production version of the Phil Morrison Odyssey design which the class has been developing for the past two years – recalls his own earliest experience of championship competition with the National 18s in 1949 aged 11. He and his brother crewed for their father in 18/51 in a championship on the Medway in Kent, and they lived afloat on the boat, for in those days many National 18s lay to moorings.
Perhaps as a reward, the father built the two young Vines brothers their own International Cadet Dinghy the following winter. But Jeremy has remained loyal to the National 18 class to the point of being the pioneering owner for the new version of the design despite being at a certain age which you can work out yourself from that data given for the Medway in 1949. That said, he has given himself more space for his sailing as he has moved his base from Tamesis to Lymington, and in addition to the National 18, he cruises and races the Dufour 34 Pickle, a sister-ship of Neil Hegarty's award-winning Shelduck which featured in this column a week ago.
That the new wave of glassfibre 18s was not going to outclass the existing boats was forcefully demonstrated in 1970, when the class held its first combined all-British & Irish Championship in Cowes, after twenty years of separate Northern and Southern events. Despite the new glassfibre boats, the classics from Cork Harbour – where they'd been in the midst of celebrating the Quarter Millennium of the Royal Cork YC - were dominant, with Somers Payne right on top of his form sailing Melody (206) to win going away, notching only 1.5 points to second-placed clubmate Dougie Deane on 14.
Cork Harbour boats took the first six places in a crack fleet of thirty-one of all the best from every top National 18 centre, and the spirit of it all was best captured by the Thames Challenge Cup for a family crew going to Royal Cork's Dwyer family – Charlie and his sons Michael and a very young Tom – who placed sixth in Mystic.
The furthest flung fleet is at Findhorn in northeast Scotland, but the huge distance involved doesn't stop Royal Findhorn YC boats competing with the rest of the class. This is top RFYC helm Stuart Urquhart's Howlin Gael racing in the Solent, and every so often the class – including those from Cork – make the long trek to Finhorn for an annual championship.
However, in terms of championship success the movement towards overall victory by glassfibre boats had begun, and 1977 saw the last championship win by a wooden boat, with Mike Kneale's Maid Mary (183) from the Port St Mary fleet in the Isle of Man. This was a hotbed of National18 racing for a couple of decades, and after Mike had completely renovated the 23-year-old formerly only so-so Maid Mary, he clinched the 1977 title at Findhorn in northeast Scotland "just before you get to Norway", as I was told in Midleton last month. There, the Royal Findhorn YC is a byword for warm hospitality ashore and hot sport afloat, but despite a strong challenge by a formidable Cork contingent, the Manxmen won out.
But having done his duty by the classic wooden boats, for 1979 Mike Kneale and his team took a different tack – they commissioned a new National 18 design from ace ideas man Jonathan Hudson, which they composite-built around Airex foam whose use other Manx DIY boat builders such as Nick Keig had been deploying for long-distance multi-hulls.
The Airex boat....Mike Kneale's innovative Woodstock on trials off Port St Mary in the Isle of Man in 1979.
Woodstock from the Isle of Man sails back into Crosshaven in 1979 with all the look of a boat which has just won the championship.
Despite – or maybe because of – her composite materials, the new boat was called Woodstock. And as Brian Wolfe's history of the class recalls, when she appeared for the well-supported 1979 championship in Crosshaven, "there was much debate", not un-related to the fact that Mike and his crew of Rick Tomlinson and Ross Thomas swept the board, taking the championship for Mike's fourth time in a clean sweep with the top boat from the home Cork Harbour fleet being Albert Muckley's Eastern Promise (323) in second overall for East Ferry SC.
So where was Somers Payne? Well, after dominating the national championship leaderboards since 1958 with the wooden Melody, in 1979 Somers was making his first foray into campaigning a glassfibre boat, and while he may have been third, the writing was on the wall, and the class was moving to class.
And there was new life at Royal Cork. The Royal Cork YC's National 18s were having one of their periodic re-births, and while Woodstock may have won the title, her designer reckoned it was only by extra skill that they stayed ahead of a new wave of young talents whose helming skills had been honed in events like the Admiral's Cup and many national and international championships in all sorts of boats. Their zest for international competition was buoyed up by the knowledge that, back home in Crosser, they had ready-to-go racing in the National 18s which was not only great sport, but somehow much more fun than sailing in other boats.
This continued level of enthusiasm at all ages meant that when the National 18 pace showed any signs of slackening, the Cork Harbour division could be relied on to get things up and moving again. Thus when the changeover to glassfibre had become complete at the front of the fleet, with many other owners happy to race their vintage boats in a classics division, some of the Corkmen questioned why new glasfibre boats were still being built overweight in order not to out-perform boats which now saw themselves as a different part of the class in any case.
The National 18 fleet in Cork Harbour was mustering serious numbers with the lighter GRP boats from O'Sullivan's of Tralee. Photo: Bob Bateman
So the Crosshaven people got the moulds from England, and encouraged the moving of them to O'Sullivan's Marine in Tralee (incidentlally just about as far west on land as you can get from Whitstable in Kent), where they were used to build a whole new wave of lighter boats which became the National 18 class as most of us have known it until this year. Now, the new moves into the Phil Morrison boat are providing a fresh direction for a class which nevertheless takes careful steps to ensure that older boats have their place in the sun with a chance of realistic racing against similar craft.
Although Jeremy Vines of Tamesis and Lymington is the owner of the first of the new boats (she's number 401, and is called Hurricane in honour of the very first National 18 built by Anderson, Rigden and perkins in Whitstable in 1938), he is untinting in his praise for the energy and vision of the Cork harbour division of the class in having the idea and then promoting the new Phil Morrison boat, and he makes a particular point of applauding the very tangible support which has been given to the project by the Royal Cork Yacht Club.
Into the blue.....Hurricane (number 406) is unveiled a fortnight ago at the Dinghy Show.
It's almost unfair, in such a community-based grass roots project, to single out anyone for special praise, but I got the feeling that folk like Colin Chapman, Dom Long and Tom Dwyer have been right there in the thick of it from the beginning.
The prototype having been tested and approved every which way, the moulds were made and the first dark blue hull emerged early in the New Year in one of the workshops which Rob White runs at White Formula Boats at Brightlingsea in Essex. So having been built at Tralee on the shores of the Atlantic for more than a decade, National 18 production is now back on the shores of the North Sea, but the spirit of the class at every location, regardless of where it might be, seems keener than ever.
The first of the new boats - of which sixteen have now been ordered – was Jeremy Vines' Hurricane, number 406, which was unveiled at the recent Dinghy Show in London. For a new generation which has been raised on the Phil Morrison-designed RS 200, this latest variant on the continuing National 18 story will speak volumes, and with eloquence. But it says everything about the spirit of this exceptional class that she rings a bell with seasoned National 18 sailors too.
The gang's all here. The new boat celebrated at the Dinghy Show with a group including many of those actively involved in its development, notably Colin Chapman, Tom Dwyer, Dom Long and Jeremy Vines.
The movers and shakers are (left to right) Tom Dwyer of the Cork Harbour National 18s, designer Phil Morrison, Cork Harbour Class President Dom Long, Jeremy Vines (owner of the first boat to the new Morrison design), and Rob White of White Formula Boats
#420 – Irish 420 dinghy sailors got the 2015 sailing season off to a great start with two top 5 results for Irish boats in the UK this weekend.
6 Irish 420s travelled to Rutland Water Sailing Club in Leicestershire for the 2015 420 Inland Championships.
For the UK sailors, this was the first in the 2015 Worlds and Europeans qualifying series, so racing was of a high standard in the two-day event, with a fleet of 49 competing.
Four races were completed on day 1 in sunny cold conditions with winds of 15 knots. Sunday was duller, and winds had dropped slightly, but an earlier start meant that the remaining three races of the series were completed.
UK youth pairing Clapp / Banham led from the beginning, but the Irish boats gave the home teams a run for their money, with Elmes / O'Sullivan (RCYC/HYC/MYC) finishing in second place overall, the UK's Burns / Shorrock and Davies / Keers in 3rd and 4th places, and RCYC's McCann / Whitaker taking 5th.
#mirror – The Irish Mirror Dinghy Association's winter training started this weekend in rather tricky weather conditions. 14 hardy sailors headed out on to Lough Ree in gusts of 20 knots on Saturday morning, under the excellent coaching guidance of Olympic 470 sailor and Mirror Sailing Champion, Ger Owens. The fleet were flying their spinnakers and Ger had them sailing some fantastic tight circles to keep warm and blow out those winter cobwebs. After a short break for lunch a couple ventured out, but some fierce 30 knot gusts came in and with a few young crew in the team it was quickly decided to head back to the warmth of Lough Ree Yacht Club for tactics coaching.
Sunday started at 9am rigged and ready to sail with blue skies and calm waters, then it soon picked up to gusts of 20–knots across the lake and just as quickly dropped to back light winds, heavy showers, then an incredibly thick snow blizzard. Those hardy sailors were having a ball out there, but coaching had to be called off due to poor visibility - they couldn't see the coach or the next mark! A return to base for snow ball fights and hot chocolates completed a rather "fluky" weekend.
Lough Ree Yacht Club (LRYC) host the Mirror training every year, offering free shed storage between training weekends and a warm welcome with log fire and wifi for the parents and essential hot pasta for the sailors. A massive thank you has to go to them for their support of the Mirror coaching.
The professional coaching by Ger Owens there each year really helps the Mirror sailors to develop their racing skills and the young sailors look forward to it extending their sailing season. Everyone is welcome and the storage facilities provided by LRYC for the boats makes training more accessible for sailors throughout the country and it less wear on the boats from travelling.
#irishsailing – Ireland's national sailing authority has been going through turbulent times in recent years. With unprecedented expansion of ISA staff numbers as the country revelled in the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, the arrival of the inevitable and abrupt financial downturn found an Association bloated, unfit to cope, and out of touch with ordinary sailors.
High profile events, top level training and international participation had become so dominant in the ISA's range of activities that many of the ordinary sailors of Ireland already felt the Association was no longer relevant to their own low key personal pursuit of friendly sport afloat.
When the crash came, it led to a marked decrease in active sailing numbers as disposable incomes fell away. People focused on keeping their jobs and businesses afloat rather than their boats sailing, while many promising young sailors were forced to emigrate.
This new reality was reflected by the growing disillusion of club officers, who saw their membership subscriptions decreasing even while the ISA – which is largely reliant on subvention from the clubs for its own income – seemed always to be looking for more money. And at the height of the boom years, when all the major clubs had put through significant expenditure in developing their facilities to international standards, the ISA had shown its lack of contact with the reality of club life by proposing its own stand-alone National Sailing Centre in Galway, a facility which would in effect have been run in rivalry to the main clubs. To the mutterings in the grass roots were added the rumblings from above as major clubs threatened to withhold their annual payment to the ISA unless real reform was initiated. W M Nixon takes up the story.
In a classic grass roots revolution, club sailors Norman Lee from Greystones in County Wicklow and Bryan Armstrong from Sligo were at first rebuffed when they tried to voice their concerns about the ISA's increasing irrelevance to the needs of the vast majority of sailing enthusiasts, people at local level who were doing their very best to keep the sport alive through torrid times.
The Irish sailing community now owes these two men and their supporters a debt of gratitude, for they believed in what they were saying and they refused to be turned aside. Eventually, in November 2013 moves were in place to establish a Review Group for the urgent analysis of all ISA activities, and its personnel drew comprehensively on Ireland's remarkable pool of people with hands-on experience of running successful sailing events and organisations.
It was chaired by Brian Craig of Dun Laoghaire who has headed up the organising team on more major and notably successful international sailing events in Dublin Bay than probably anyone else, and its able personnel included two former ISA Presidents - Roger Bannon of Dun Laoghaire and Neil Murphy of Malahide and Howth - who had both been noted for their skill in running a tight ship when they were in charge. With them was highly regarded International Race Officer Jack Roy of Dun Laoghaire, and renowned sailmaker/activist Des McWilliam of Crosshaven, who each year is inevitably seen in busy involvement afloat in more Irish sailing centres - large and small - than anyone else in the boat world.
Bryan Amstrong of Sligo on the helm for a Mirror race
Also on board was one of the men from the barricades, Bryan Armstrong of Sligo. His background in a relatively remotely-located club which nevertheless has a long and distinguished sailing history made him uniquely qualified to voice the concerns of the grass roots. And we have to remember that all these people were giving voluntarily and generously of their time to this project in a period when Irish life was largely a matter of just getting through each day, while staying economically afloat was something of an achievement.
Primarily, the Review Group's function was to analyse the Association work on behalf of ordinary club sailors, as it was agreed that the Olympic and High Performance Divisions of the ISA's activities – which receive direct Sports Council grants – were in effect functioning as a different entity.
The Strategic Review Group was still work in progress when the ISA acquired a new President in David Lovegrove in March 2014, but by August the SRG published proposals which led to the setting up of a more formal body, the Planning Group. If this seems like a case of kicking the can down the road, it was anything but - these were people in a hurry, they'd got through the first stage of analysing areas where action was required, now they had to be more structured in coming up with clearcut ideas and concrete proposals.
This new Planning Group, which went into action in early Autumn 2014, was chaired by Neil Murphy, and its members included ISA President David Lovegrove, ISA Board Member Brian Craig, Ruth Ennis, Peter Redden, Sean Craig, and ISA CEO Harry Hermon, with noted Dun Laoghaire events administrator Ciara Dowling to provide administrative support.
They had their draft plan ready by mid-December 2014, and on January 21st 2015 Neil Murphy and his group publicly unveiled their analysis and proposals for the first time at a well-attended and very representative meeting in the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire.
Neil Murphy is a former ISA President who, in addition to extensive experience as a Race Officer, is a typical club sailor, racing a Puppeteer 22 out of Howth. Photo: W M Nixon
While those involved in setting the ISA on a healthier course are mostly working on a voluntary basis, it has to be said that the PowerPoint presentation and the printed material was of the highest professional class. In fact, it was much better than many professional shows I've been to, and the level of thought which went into a wide range of questions from the floor answered by Neil Murphy, Brian Craig and David Lovegrove generated a growing level of goodwill which concluded with Norman Lee voicing his congratulations and good wishes for this continuing process in which he and Bryan Armstrong had played such a key role.
So now we move on to the next stage – taking the ideas to the rest of the country. Doubtless you'll have noted the double meaning in titling this piece 'Just Who Do The ISA Think They Are?' In a first interpretation, that question is the one for which, let's hope, we are all now involved in working together in providing and implementing a satisfactory answer.
But equally, as the ISA Road Show gets out of Dublin to take this excellent presentation to a public meeting in Cork next week (it's in the Rochestown Park Hotel on Tuesday, Feb 17th, 7.0 pm to 9.0 pm) and then Galway the week after (Galway Bay Sailing Club, Tuesday 24th February 7.0 pm to 9.0pm), they'll be taking themselves into areas where experience of sailing administration long pre-dates the establishment of organised sailing on Dublin Bay.
Crosshaven in the summer time. When we look at the natural advantages to be found here, it's little wonder that structured recreational sailing on Cork Harbour long-pre-dated any organised sport on Dublin Bay. Photo: Robert Bateman
So you might well ask just just who do they think they are, these people from Dublin, going down to Cork to try to tell them how sailing should be organised? The nerve of them, doing it in a place where they've had organised sailing since 1720, and where the two biggest clubs – the Royal Cork and Kinsale – are both mighty establishments of international sailing repute which would remain so even were the ISA to disappear overnight in a puff of smoke...
And as for going west along the road to Galway, that will take them through Athlone where the Lough Ree Yacht Club dates back to 1770, while on the west coast the Royal Western of Ireland YC at Kilrush traces its origins back to 1828. Equally, further north along the Atlantic coast Sligo YC dates back to 1821, and in Lough Erne the club began in 1820. Yet the first club on Dublin Bay, the Royal Irish, only began as recently as 1831, and even then it barely hung in and had to be revived in 1846, with the pace being set in the meantime by the Royal St George YC, founded 1838.
Kinsale is another harbour which seems to have been designed with sailing primarily in mind. Photo: Kevin Dwyer/courtesy ICC
Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary had a club in being before there were any sailing institutions on Dublin Bay. Photo: W M Nixon
So in terms of sailing administration history, Dublin and Dun Laoghaire are only Johnny-come-lately places by comparison with just about everywhere else in Ireland. Yet thanks to the inevitable dominance of economic development, population growth and the strengthening centres of political power, we now find that sailing administration and decisions of national import are emanating from a place that, in terms of natural sailing advantages, lags far behind the rest of the country.
Oh for sure, Dun Laoghaire Harbour is a fabulous artificial amenity, and the advent of the new marina at Greystones has already been seized upon as greatly increasing the "cruising" options of Dublin Bay. But let's face it, Dublin Bay is really only good for racing, specific day sailing and training, whereas Cork Harbour and Kinsale provide such a variety of opportunities for interesting race courses, mini-cruises with multiple destinations and what have you, that in effect they're not just in a different part of the country – they're a different country altogether.
Dun Laoghaire is a totally artificial facility, and sailing options on Dublin Bay are limited. But it's inescapable that this is the primary point of leisure access to the sea for Ireland's largest and most affluent population. Photo: Kevin Dwyer/courtesy ICC
All of which adds to the difficulties of creating a meaningful national authority with which every sailing person can identify.
This business of Dublin v The Rest is not unique to sailing, of course, but when you have a specialist sport with multiple sub-branches of activity, the problem is exacerbated.
So please bear this in mind if you take yourself along to the meetings in Cork or Galway during the next ten days. This really is a genuine attempt to base the ISA within the sailing community at an everyday level of usefulness to all, with scope for growth while enhancing existing structures, and input from the sailing community at this stage will help in developing the ideas and initiatives proposed.
While the draft ISA Strategic Plan 2015-2020 very definitely puts the emphasis back on to the need for healthy well-run clubs as the basis for the sport, there was initially a feeling at the meeting on January 21st that the new-look ISA is not supportive of commercial sailing schools. In fact, what the new-look ISA hopes to do is encourage training schemes within clubs, while at the same time supporting commercial sailing schools where the demand is such that no club could realistically cope while maintaining its essential club ethos.
Going into this in more detail in a personal meeting this week with Neil Murphy, who is a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, we talked around the fact that a thriving club scene is central to the spirit of Irish sailing, and he was musing on the success of Sutton Dinghy Club where Hugh Gill heads up what is in effect a commercial sailing school within a club setting.
In fact, what Murphy would hope to see emerge at larger population centres is sailing's equivalent of the public golf course. Anyone who has used a public golf course will be aware that the proprietors are usually mustard keen to encourage the formation of a "club" within their customer base, and there is no reason why this shouldn't eventually take root in Irish sailing, providing access to sailing at a fraction of the cost of joining an established club.
It's not something which can realistically be objected to by established clubs trying to protect their own membership, as the people who would use a "public sailing club" would be those who simply couldn't afford to go sailing at all in the current traditional club setup.
Nevertheless support for the established club setup is central to the new Strategic Plan, and the provision of Regional Development Officers to serve clubs directly is very much to the fore in the new thinking. But in looking over the figures published with the report, it's good to note that the ISA works with no less than 80 recognised training centres, while an encouraging statistic is that there are now 24 secondary schools in Ireland which include sailing as a regular part of their curriculum. Admittedly it's a long way from the French setup where every schoolkid is entitled by law to one week of sailing and one week of skiing per year, but in a country where an aversion to being on the water used to be thought inevitable, it's a step in the right direction.
All these considerations of inexpensive sailing are a whole world away from the stories of recent weeks and days about the ISA's High Performance Division seeking a fund-raising executive who will be tasked with finding €2.75 million per annum through philanthropic and other donations in order to help the funding of top level campaigns which we're not allowed to call Olympic campaigns, as apparently that is copyrighted by the Olympic Council, so we call them High Performance instead.
But apparently Government departments aren't restricted by this limitation on the use of the word Olympic, for it was bandied about like nobody's business in this week's news that the government is spending mightily through the Sports Council, with sailing being number three in all Ireland in terms of current Sports Council funding, with a total tag of €1,289,900.
Of course it's not all for specifically Olympic sailing, but it covers 103 sailors from Optimists to the Olympics. Which is fine and dandy for those who are mad keen to race at the highest level, but most sailors in Ireland are much more interested in performing well within their chosen area and boat class, but with sailing being just part of a reasonably civilised and well-balanced life.
And as became evident at the meeting on January 21st, there's an increasing number of people who feel that sailing needs to realise that there's a sizeable population out there of folk who'd like to go sailing, but don't feel the almost religious vocation to own a boat.
With the rapid expansion of sunshine sailing holidays with boats and equipment readily available for hire at the destination, there's a strong feeling there's a real need for more of this in Ireland, even if we can't guarantee the sunshine. The suggestion brings us back to both the "public sailing club" concept, and the growing realisation by established clubs that they have to reach out to potential members by having boats available for sailing on a trial basis.
The Affordable Sailing Team – Norman Lee (right) with his brother Ken beside their campervan at last year's GP 14 Worlds at East Down YC on Strangford Lough. Photo: W M Nixon
With their own very high can-do standards of boat maintenance, Norman and Ken Lee can keep their GP 14 in the competitive frame. Photo: W M Nixon
That said, the need to own one's own boat and tune and tinker with her to your heart's content is what sailing is all about for many of us, and Norman Lee is a classic case in point for this approach. He claims that his sailing costs him just €600 per year, though that of course is after he has paid for his well-tuned GP14, and he has long since written off the cost of the vintage camper-van which is home to the Lee Equipe when they hit the campaign trail.
Nevertheless the entire setup has to be outstandingly good value, and doing it in such economical style is part of the fun of it all. So when someone with Norman Lee's approach to sailing is prepared to get up at the big ISA public meeting in Dun Laoghaire and congratulate the team who have been working on the reforms which he and Bryan Armstrong set in train, then that is approval of a high order.
And as for just who or what is the ISA, can we maybe agree that ideally we all are the ISA, every last one of us who goes sailing or is even just interested in the sport, and it's up to us to keep it in line and encourage it to identify with and serve the ordinary sailor every bit as much as the high-flyer.
Private pleasure.....the 2014 GP 14 Worlds at East Down YC is about as high as many Irish sailors would expect or want to aim, and many are content with much lower-key regular club sailing. Photo: W M Nixon