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When Howth Yacht Club hosted the 1981 Optimist Worlds, it was while the harbour was in the midst of a major redevelopment project writes W M Nixon. Yet young sailors from 26 nations provided a fleet of 130 boats, and getting them afloat each morning from a special slipway at what was then the Claremont Hotel on the beach to the west of the harbour was a major logistics challenge writes W M Nixon.

Tomorrow, the Irish Optimist Nationals get under way at Howth, and there’s a fleet of 185 boats – seven more than at Kinsale last year – and their young and sometimes very young helms come from eleven nations. Clearly, our Optimist Class is in great good health.

In 1981, some of the competitors from warmer climes complained about the rugged weather, but being the Worlds they knew they’d to take what was on offer. However, the fact of eleven nations – including a strong squad from the US - taking part in the competition over the next four days tells us much about the current strength of the Irish class, which is on something of a roll these days.

justin lucas2Defending champion Justin Lucas (Royal Cork YC). Photo Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Back in the 1981 Worlds, the overall winner was Guido Tavelli of Argentina, while the top girl was Ireland’s Denise Lyttle of the Natinal YC, who was 17th in the open division. The Argentines were on top form in 1981, the last year before the Falklands War, and they also won the Team Prize, while the folk in Howth were drily informed by one of the sophisticated people accompanying the squad that your classic Argentine is an Italian who speaks Spanish and thinks he is English. This would seem to be at odds with the efforts of a certain Government minister, who spoke Italian to the Argentina-born Pope on his visit to Ireland last year, under the impression that this was his native language.

With Oppie sailors being exiled into the big bad world when they become 15, the turnover of talent is inevitably very rapid, and it’s more than difficult to keep tabs on the fact-moving production line of winners.

Defending champion is Justin Lucas who currently lists Royal Cork as his home club, and also well in the frame of serious contenders is James Dwyer Hickey of Crosshaven and Kinsale, while the host club’s Rocco Wright is progressing so rapidly in major events at home and abroad that any overall contemplation of the front runners in the Senior Fleet is akin to ranking a gladiatorial contest, and it’s a gladiatorial contest in which the obtuse August 2019 weather seems determined to make things even more difficult.

rocco wright3Rising star – Rocco Wright of Howth YC
Meanwhile, in these times of tight budgets and shy sponsors, it’s intriguing to recall that back in 1981, after the Claremont Hotel had been returned to normal on its waterfront site and Howth Yacht Club was able to resume its battle towards having an in-harbour marina which finally opened in its first sections in July 1982, it was discovered that staging the 1981 Optimist Worlds had left HYC Events Ltd with a surplus of just over 5,000 pounds. It was used to buy a new rescue boat.

Published in Howth YC
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The 2019 ILCA Laser Radial Youth World Championships in Kingston, Canada concluded with a win for Howth Yacht Club’s Eve McMahon in the U17 division of the Girls fleet.

As Afloat previously reported, McMahon entered the final day in second place in the U19 category, but two race wins by the Australian sailor dropped McMahon to third overall. Clare Gorman (NYC) retained her overall fifth place.

In the Boys fleet, Tom Higgins finished strongly to gain three places on the final day to finish fifth overall, while Michéal O’Sulleabhain ended the regatta in 13th place and Jamie McMahon jumped from 34th to 19th overall.

Girls Gold Fleet:

3. Eve McMahon

5. Clare Gorman (NYC)

Boys Gold Fleet:

5. Tom Higgins

12. Michéal O’Suilleabhain

19. Jamie McMahon (HYC)

Silver Fleet:

53. James Delaney (NYC)

Bronze Fleet:

49. Sam Rutherford

Full results here

Published in Youth Sailing
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Noel Butler and Stephen Oram (NYC) have retained their Fireball National Champions title after nine races at Howth Yacht Club.

The pair scored seven first places discarding a third and a fourth to take the title in style in a three-day event which featured a good variety of sailing conditions. The event started with light and patchy winds on Friday progressing to decent if shifty breezes on Saturday and to full on wind by Sunday.

Second place was won by Niall McGrotty and Neil Cramer (SSC) who sailed consistently well and counted a string of second and third places in their scores to consolidate their second overall.

Butler OramNoel Butler and Stephen Oram (NYC) Photo: Frank Miller

Third were the up and coming youth team brothers Daniel and Harry Thompson from Wexford who were noticeably fast on the water. Just one point behind veteran Mick Creighton with crew Hermine O’Keeffe showed he hadn’t forgotten any tricks. Winners of the silver fleet prize were Cariosa Power and Marie Barry and the Classic Boat Trophy was taken home by Nick Miller and Cearball Daly of SID in the class loan boat.

Fireball McGrottyHowth Vice Commodore Paddy Judge (left) with Niall McGrotty (right) and Neil Cramer (SSC) Photo: Frank Miller

The theme of youth and experience was a feature of the event, with veterans and new teams both jumping into the fray in the run up to the #Howth2020 World Championships in August next year. Thus we had Robin Nash (15) helming with her father Glen on the wire, the youthful Thompsons (17 and 14 respectively), and young bloods Josh Porter and helm Conor Twohig from Newtownards.

Fireball thirdDaniel and Harry Thompson from Wexford

Besides Mick Creighton Eddie Ferris made a welcome return to action with another veteran Francis Rowan on the wire.

Also returning was Owen Sinnott with Paul Horst crewing.

International Race Officer for next year’s Worlds David Lovegrove agreed to take on PRO duties for this Nationals and he and his team ran things like clockwork, seamlessly getting in three races on a difficult and patchy first day and moving marks quickly and efficiently to keep courses square throughout the weekend. David is actually a veteran Fireballer himself and his name crops up on several key trophies including the National Championships of 1967.

Friday’s painful memories of patchy shifty airs were wiped away with perfect conditions on Saturday in breezes between 10 and 18 knots and Sunday presented the most exciting conditions with full-on 20-knot breezes at times and very exciting planing conditions both upwind and down. Another feature of the event was a coaching day on Saturday run by Barry McCartin. After helping people with optimum rig set up for the conditions Barry videoed the racing, gave tips between races and gave a debrief after racing which provided much food for thought for the Irish teams competing in these same waters for next year’s Worlds.

Among the challenges on the Saturday was judging which side to take on the beat, how far to go towards shore to pick up sometimes better offshore winds and the odd wind bend and even a slightly hooked tide in the sweep of the bay.

Although everyone had their ups and downs there was no disputing Noel and Stephen’s dominance over the nine races. With a little more speed and height on the beats and carving high angles down the runs the pair remained in control for most races with just the odd breakthrough by Niall and Neil and Mick and Hermine snatching the top spots.

There were signs however that the young pairings, in particular, were improving rapidly and may present a challenge by the time the Worlds land in Howth next year. After an exciting and brilliantly run event it’s championships everyone is relishing.

Published in Howth YC
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Howth Yacht Club's Ewan McMahon leads Irish hopes of Irish Olympic Qualification in the Laser class after four races sailed at the Laser World Championships in Japan.

Out of the 44 countries seeking a Tokyo berth, Ireland is currently 12th in the hunt for one of five-nation places on offer this week. See overall results here

After a faltering start, Finn Lynch returned to more familiar form earlier today by placing tenth and eleventh in his flight. The results move him from 78th to 46th place overall with two more races on Saturday set to decide the Gold fleet split before the final series of six races begins on Sunday.

Conditions were windier than Thursday with a warm sea breeze of 12-17 knots.

"Finn definitely looked better this morning and he definitely performed although he is still off what he is capable of," commented Vasilij Zbogar, the Irish Sailing head Laser coach. "He needs to stop thinking of the overall result and just sail race by race."

"I tried to tell him that he doesn’t have to do anything special, just do as he knows and not over-think; if you have too many things in your head then everything can fall apart."

Meanwhile, McMahon moved up to 42nd overall after scoring a 17th and 22nd places for the day. Liam Glynn dropped from 35th overnight to 65th after two mid-fleet results.

Saturday's races will now be critical to overall Irish hopes for the championship and qualification for Tokyo 2020. After the sixth race, the top 50 boats overall will form the Gold fleet.

Once the Gold fleet is decided, the task facing Irish sailors who reach this standard will be clearer in terms of what nations have already qualified and those remaining for the five countries to be allocated at this event but already there is work to be done to move up from 12th country in the overall standings.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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After Storm Emma wrought extensive destruction through the seven Howth Seventeens stored in their much-damaged shed on Howth’s East Pier at the beginning of March 2018, it was feared that several of the boats – which since 1898 have been the very heart of Howth sailing – would be written off writes W M Nixon.
But in the end only one – David O’Connell’s Anita built in 1900 by James Clancy of Dun Laoghaire – was assessed as needing a complete re-build.

anita 2018 march2Definitely a re-build…….Anita as she was on 5th March 2018. Photo: W M Nixon

Anita is a very special Seventeen - for very many years from 1965 onwards she was the personal boat of the late Brendan Cassidy, the long-time Honorary Secretary of HYC. So the Howth Seventeen Association set about making resources available for her re-build, and the class’s action man Ian Malcolm negotiated a deal in France through the Government boat-building school scheme, whereby the customer has only to cover the cost of the materials, while the school provides the premises and the trainee labour under the direction of qualified instructors.

The boat-building schools like to test their pupils and staff through building a variety of boats. So although Skol ar Mor near the Morbihan has already built the new Howth 17 Orla, for Anita’s re-birth the Howth 17 Association went to Paul Robert’s Les Ateliers d’Enfer in Douarnenez in Brittany.

anita rebuild3 The re-born Anita taking shape in January 2019. Photo Ian Malcolm

Howth 17 AnitaSecond life. The re-born Anita emerges from the Workshops of Hell. Photo: Paul Robert
It is called the “Workshops of Hell” through its location in the midst of what was formerly the fish-smoking area of this ancient fishing port, where for centuries at least 25 massively malodourous smokeries used to make the place seem truly hellish. But today the boat-building school is a little piece of heaven, and when the re-born Anita emerged this week to spend a symbolic day afloat in the bay, she was clearly a divine bit of work.

The re-born Anita is to return to Howth via road trailing and ferry, and all being well she’ll be back in her home port by Saturday evening.

anita rebuild team5Anita would originally have been built by two men and a boy (at most) in 1900, but in 2019 it took this team of apprentices (Ian Malcolm on left) to do the job. Photo: Judith Malcolm

Published in Boatyards
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Howth Yacht Club hosted nineteen boats for the Squib Eastern Championships sponsored by Provident CRM last weekend writes Ronan MacDonell, HYC Squib Class Captain.

The event was run alongside the J24 Easterns which made for a busy clubhouse. While the weather played ball for the most part, wind conditions did offer a stern test for the race management team, ably led by Derek Bothwell. We had a series of shifts on Saturday which caused delays but the fleets were very grateful that the race management team were patient.

As Afloat reported previously, the Squibs sailed trapezoid courses for the weekend which was a change from the normal windward/leeward. Crews felt it the most as there was a lot of kite work over both days. We completed five races.

Race 1 got away clean and was dominated by Inshallah (Dave Eccles and Michael Wright). Volante (Simon Watson & Jordy Winters) took 2nd which was a great result for them, followed by Quickstep (Gordon Patterson and Ross Nolan).

After a delay, Race 2 got underway with a much-changed wind direction. There was a strong ebb now flowing and the Squib fleet was jumpy. We pushed the line and ended up with two recalls. Derek was forced to whip out the U Flag, followed by the Black Flag, which claimed three deserving victims. Game over for them! There was a robust tussle for the race win finally claimed by Outlaw (Ian Travers and Keith O’Riordan). Allegro (Collie Dunne and Fiona Ward) and Quickstep completed the podium positions.

Within minutes of the completion of the second race, Race 3 was in sequence, with everyone starting to look forward to a beer after a long day on the water. A Howth boat Tears in Heaven sailed by Peter Wallace and Martin Weatherstone burst out of the blocks and led from the traps to the winning post. Peter couldn’t wait to get to his usual tipple of “Howth Gin and Slimline”. Inshallah and Allegro made up the podium and we all faced a robust sail back to the marina.

The weather on Sunday was as good as it has been on the East coast of late. Light conditions with frequent sunny spells. Race 4 started in a fickle breeze which died off considerably downwind. The leading boats got around the bottom mark before the worst of the lull. The calm lasted about 10 minutes and soon there was breeze enough to get us upwind again. The race management team had the experience to shorten us up and tick Race 4 as “Done”. The race was won by Prodigal followed by Quickstep and Firecracker (Stephen Bridges and Kyle, Killyleagh YC).

A brief pause ensued before Race 5 got underway. The increasing breeze brought with it a modified direction, so the mark layers were busy again. The wind remained fickle at times, so tidal flows made the downwind legs tricky and then it steadied again to get us home. Outlaw got the gun followed by Periquin (Noel Colclough and Vincent Delaney) followed by Quickstep.

Congratulations to Gordon Patterson and Ross Nolan taking the Championship trophy back to Royal North of Ireland YC. 

The Silver fleet was won by 3point9 Emmet Dalton and Peter Malone from HYC (Peter in his first Squib event!). Howth was represented by 9 boats, one of which was sailed by a crew from RNIYC. It is the best Howth representation at a regionals for quite a while. Results did not go our way but the positive is the re-emergence of the fleet on its 40th Anniversary in HYC. After a few years off the circuit, we will need a little time to get back up to speed!!

The event was awarded Silver Level Certification by Sailors For The Sea. The Sailors For The Sea Award for Sustainability went to Noel Colclough for retrieving more plastic from the sea than any other competitor.

Full Results here

Published in Squib
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The J/24 Eastern Championships took place last weekend at Howth Yacht Club writes Elaine O'Mahoney. The two-day event was run in conjunction with the Squib Easterns which made for a very busy lifting schedule for the cranes at HYC with thirty-five boats between both fleets.

The weekend brought challenging weather conditions for OOD Derek Bothwell and his team and wind shifts of 20 to 40 degrees were commonplace throughout day one keeping the race team very busy. While the seventeen J/24s taking part were racing windward-leeward courses the OOD was also laying a trapezoid course for the Squib fleet with a rolling start, Squibs followed by J24s.

1. J24 EasternsThe J24 Easterns fleet at Howth

After a brief delay waiting for the wind to settle race one got off in just over 10kts westerly breeze. Mark Usher on Jumpin Jive IRL3060 took the early lead which he held all the way to the finish and left the battle for places to the remainder of the fleet behind him. The changes in wind direction meant there was a considerable delay before the next race. When race two eventually got underway the J24 fleet had the benefit of seeing the strengthening tide push the Squib fleet over the line for two general recalls and were on their best behaviour to get a clear start first time. In race two and three, Fergus Kelliher’s Jibe IRL4252 from Tralee Bay Sailing Club and JP McCaldin’s IRL5219 El Rico from Lough Erne Yacht Club traded the first two places. After seven hours on the water, the fleet was happy to head for home and a well-earned dinner in Howth Yacht Club.

2. J24 Easterns Jibe ahead of Gala RacingJibe ahead of Gala Racing at the J24 Easterns at HYC

Sunday brought sunshine and more settled wind direction from the south but this time the challenge was wind strength. Race four started in a steady 6-knots but was shortened on the second beat as winds lessened. Simon McGibney’s Gala Racing IRL5278 took first place. Thankfully wind, as forecast, increased to 8 to 10 knots as the morning progressed enabling the OOD to complete two more races. Steve Atkinson’s Bád IRL4628 from Carrickfergus Sailing Club won race five. The final result for the overall winner came down to the final race between JP McCaldin’s El Rico and Fergus Kelliher’s Jibe. While Headcase IRL4247, helmed by Killian Dickson, won their first race of the event, Jibe’s third place finish ahead of El Rico’s sixth was enough for them to take their first regional championship win in the Gold Fleet.

This was a hugely competitive event with no boat dominating the series and six different winners in each of the six races. All participants complemented Howth Yacht Club for hosting a fantastic event and in particular the crane operators for their efficiency and the OOD Derek Bothwell for completing all six scheduled races in extremely challenging conditions.

The next event in the J/24 calendar is the J/24 National Championships at Lough Erne Yacht Club from the 23rd to the 25th August. The fleet are pushing for thirty boats to take part. Any boats needing crew or logistics to do with the event are encouraged to contact Lough Erne Yacht Club or the J/24 Association who will assist in any way they can.

Results:
Gold Fleet:
1st Jibe Fergus Kelliher Tralee Bay Sailing Club
2nd El Rico JP McCaldin Lough Erne Yacht Club
3rd Headcase O’Byrne, Ryan & Others Howth Yacht Club/Lough Ree Yacht Club/Mayo Sailing Club

Silver Fleet:
1st Gala Racing Simon McGibney Foynes Yacht Club
2nd Jana Colm O’Flaherty Sligo Yacht Club
3rd Gossip Brian Rafferty Sligo Yacht Club

Full results here

Published in J24
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The new Howth Yacht Club J109 campaign OutraJeous (Colwell & Murphy) HYC were the winners of a nine-boat IRC One division at the club’s annual Regatta and Lambay races, sponsored by Provident CRM at the weekend. Second in the big boats was the Royal Irish JPK10.80 Rockabill (P O'Higgins) with Richard Colwell's clubmate Indian skippered by Simon Knowles third. 

The Lambay race is the last tune-up before the Frank Keane BMW ICRA Nationals at the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire this coming Thursday.

IRC one LambayThe IRC one fleet on the outer course in the HYC Lambay Race Photo: Conor Lindsay

In class two, Dave Cullen's Half Tonner Provident CRM beat Equinox R McDonald HYC with Nigel Biggs Checkmate XVIII third.

In class three IRC Dux (A Gore-Grimes) won the X332 sistership battle from Pat Kyne's Maximus with Vincent Gaffney's Alliance II third.

A flat calm foggy morning was what the competitors arrived down to for the annual Regatta and Lambay races. Luckily the wind gods delivered in time for a midday start on both the inshore and offshore courses, with the Howth 17’s setting off a half an hour earlier from the pier to start the long run towards Lambay. The strong ebb tide pushing the boats over the start lines made it challenging for the competitors to time their approaches but the fleets on the inshore course managed to get away cleanly. The fleets on the offshore course had to go into an AP due to a wind shift shortly before the Class 1 start but the delay was brief.

"With 95 boats competing, it was a credit to the course management of the Race Officers"

With 95 boats competing, it was a credit to the course management of the Race Officers, Harry Gallagher and Derek Bothwell afloat and Peter McKenna on the pier, that almost the entire Howth 17 Class and the leading boats from both the inshore and offshore fleets arrived at Lambay around the same time. The requirement was to leave the Island to port, setting up the lottery numbers decision of staying too close the back of the Island, with the risk of losing the wind in the lee of the northern cliffs, or taking the slightly longer off shore option, where some strong gusts made it challenging to hold spinnakers on the tight reach. By the time the boats reached the Taylor Buoy at the north western tip of the Island, the lottery results were known but the long upwind leg back to Howth in the steady 15 to 16 knots, with a few further marks and short reaches to sort out on the way, kept up the hopes of those who found that their choice for the Lambay transit was sub-optimal.

With 95 boats competing, it was a credit to the course management of the Race Officers, Harry Gallagher and Derek Bothwell afloat and Peter McKenna on the pier, that almost the entire Howth 17 Class and the leading boats from both the inshore and offshore fleets arrived at Lambay around the same time.

A great race was had by all with even those who may have misread the course, or indeed found themselves at the start line of the wrong fleet, enjoying a sparkling day afloat and a quick race, with most of the fleets finished within 3 hours. The happy crews enjoyed a great apres-race gathering at Howth Yacht Club, where the war stories were shared, excuses offered, bad luck bemoaned, poor choices ignored and the refreshments enjoyed in the sunshine.

The Lambay Lady was awarded to Steffi Ennis and Windsor Laudan’s timeless Shamrock, Demelza, and the Longerbyn Cup for best Howth YC boat went to Alan Pearson and Alan Blay’s Puppeteer 22, Trick or Treat.

For full results see the HYC website, here.

The evening continued with a great party which included the Champion’s League final, a great meal and dancing late into the night.

In 2020 the Lambay Races will form part of the WAVE Regatta but the Lambay will be raced again in its traditional format in 2021.

Published in Howth YC

It’s party time afloat and ashore this weekend at Howth Yacht Club, with the two-day Lambay Regatta – sponsored by Provident – featuring the historic Lambay Race itself on Saturday, while Sunday continues with a Family Day and Fun Race.

The race round Lambay Island – with an extended course for larger craft – dates back to 1904 or even earlier, and is one of the premier annual fixtures in the Howth programme. With a fleet including everything from the 1898-founded Howth 17s (which continue to restore and even increase their numbers after shore-stored boats were damaged in Storm Emma in March 2018) right across the board to hotshot offshore racers recently returned from success in the Scottish Series, the theme is diversity afloat.

And there’s diversity ashore too. The party mood actually starts to build on Friday night, and the weekend programme of barbecues, dinners, and entertainment continues with the Donal Kirk Band providing the highlight on Saturday night, while the family-themed Sunday programme is then rounded out with a Bank Holiday Monday brunch which will be available from 10.0am to 4.0pm.

One of the significant factors in Howth Yacht Club becoming the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year 2019” is the high value the club puts on environmental awareness through its “Green Agenda”, which was launched last year with the Club’s inauguration of the biennia Wave Regatta. This theme will continue – if anything with added emphasis – through the sport and socialising of Howth Lambay Regatta 2019.

Published in ICRA
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Environmental awareness and sailing success to top international level were dynamically intertwined at this week’s official presentation of the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year 2019” award to Howth Yacht Club writes W M Nixon

The announcement that Howth had received the accolade may have been made back in January. But the 40-year story of this unique informal contest sees the vintage Ship’s Wheel trophy traditionally being handed over in the winning club’s premises as the new season gets underway.

In Howth this week, out in the racing area off the harbour, the club’s inshore keelboat classes - the classic 1898-founded Howth 17s, the closely-contested Puppeteer 22s, and the Squibs – were having their first evening race of the season, albeit in rather damp conditions. And within the bright and warm clubhouse, the great and the good had assembled with top Howth-based sailors and members to celebrate HYC’s remarkable level of continuing activity and success.

forecourt image2There isn’t a power source more environmentally-friendly than a sail as represented here by a J/80 and a Howth Seventeen, but the new generation of Mitsubishi PHEVs are leaders in the reduction of emissions. Photo John Deanewheel group3The Ship’s Wheel trophy passes into HYC custodianship with (left to right) Irish Sailing President Jack Roy, Frank Keane (Mitsubishi Motors), W M Nixon (Adjudicating Panel) and Ian Byrne, (Commodore HYC). Photo: Brian Turvey

For of course the “Club of the Year” award is only a marker along any successful club’s steady line of fulfilment as one year follows another. The adjudicators do not seek a surprise flash-in-the-pan year of sudden success. Rather, they look for a continuity of progress and sailing achievement, a readiness to initiate or adopt new programmes and ways of doing things, and a genuine enthusiasm to interact with the community around them, and with regional, national and global sailing in all its many aspects.

The challenges which the leaders of Howth YC’s 1600 members face in helping their sailing community to get the best use of a large marina/clubhouse complex and develop it into sailing success at home and abroad will be obvious. In these competitive times, all sporting bodies need vision, energy and dedication to maintain a healthy existence in a hectic environment where other recreational interests are always clamouring for attention.

conor fogerty4Former Afloat Sailor of the Year Conor Fogerty discussed some of his plans for his new foiling Beneteau Figaro 3 at the party in Howth YC this week. Photo: Brian Turvey
But during the past 18 months, HYC members have received the national Sailor of the Year award twice in a row – noted international offshore campaigner Conor Fogerty receiving the honour in February 2018, while in February of this year it went to HYC’s Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove for their Gold Medal in the International 49er U23 Worlds.

dickson waddilove5Current Afloat Sailors of the Year Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove have a busy current programme…
rob sean6…but they still freed up a day or two for a return (back row) to help HYC celebrate becoming “Club of the Year” Photo: Brian Turvey
These supreme prizes have been the peak of achievement in a comprehensive range of success which we reviewed on January 4th 2019 when the Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year recognition was announced. But in a successful club, nothing stands still - since then, the pace has been maintained with the top achievers heading a list of winners at all ages, including Optimist International Stars Rocco Wright and Luke Turvey, while just days before this week’s ceremony, siblings Jamie and Eve McMahon of Howth took the top places in the boys and girls divisions in the Laser Radials at the Irish Sailing Youth Nationals in Cork, with the Howth squad also very well represented in the top ten in the Optimists.

luke rocco7The new wave – Luke Turvey and Rocco Wright are two of Howth’s most promising Optimist stars. Photo: Brian Turvey
All this is happening at a time when environmental awareness is rightly moving top of the agenda in sailing as elsewhere, so there was a very effective synergy in that Mitsubishi Motors featured their notably environmentally-friendly Outlander PHEV in the club forecourt in company with a classic Howth 17 and one of the HYC multi-use J/80 flotilla, while during the past year the Club has twice been honoured for its high level of environmental awareness, as evidenced during the highly-successful Wave Regatta last June which received international recognition, and as one of just two winners – the other was the Royal Cork – of Irish Sailing’s Club Environmental Award.

sara william lacy8Rear Commodore Sara Lacy with husband William, a third generation Howth sailor. Photo: John Deane
Running a club of this size with its multiple activities from sailing introduction to high-performance achievement means that being Commodore is virtually a full-time job. But current incumbent Ian Byrne, with international business experience and broad sailing interests which range from cruiser-racer campaigning with his Sunfast 32 Sunburn to involvement in the cut-and-thrust of the Howth 17s, where he is a part owner, is very much the man for the job.

During 2018 as Vice Commodore he was the right-hand man to Commodore Joe McPeake, and by the time he took over the senior position in December, it made for a seamless change, though each Flag Officer with their individual styles and strong personalities had made major individual contributions to the club’s continuing success.

paddy judge jason byrne9HYC Vice Commodore Paddy Judge with Mitsubishi Motors National Sales Manager Jason Byrne. Photo: John Deane
This level of input became clear after Jason Byrne, National Sales Manager of Mitsubishi Motors Ireland, opened proceedings by telling of how pleased as sponsors they were to see the trophy go to a club which so energetically shared their own enthusiasm for environmental concerns. And then after the trophy had been handed over to Commodore Byrne and his fellow Flag Officers, it provided Ian Byrne with an opportunity to outline the multiplicity of activities and initiatives which are under way at Howth Yacht Club - some of them new, and some of them long-running projects which are now coming to full fruition.

jason byrne10Jason Byrne of Mitsubishi Motors at the lectern. Photo: Brian Turvey
quinn flynn byrne11Laser Class leader Dave Quinn (left) with Committee Member John Flynn and HYC Commodore Ian Byrne. Photo: John Deane
Howth YC in unique in Ireland in that it is the country’s largest club in terms of membership and amenities, yet at its heart is all the friendliness and readiness for voluntary work of a small neighbourhood club. This is because the two major Howth Harbour developments which made expansion possible both occurred well within living memory, and the club still has many active senior members who can remember how constrained Howth sailing could be in times past by limited space in an overcrowded and very basic fishing port.

Now all that is changed. But the hugely expanded scale of a harbour in which every area is utilized brings its own challenges. Not least is the infrastructure, with dredging of some areas an increasingly urgent requirement which fortunately is now well and truly in the Public Works pipeline.

But equally, for the club to continue its high level of activity and success, maintaining a vibrant and involved membership requires an outreach programme to make boats and sailing accessible and attractive to a wider public. In this area, HYC with its Quest Sailing School and other programmes - including an expanding Junior Training scheme - is currently setting a cracking pace.

ian byrne12Commodore Ian Byrne outlines the very wide range of activities covered by Howth Yacht Club. Photo: Brian Turvey

While there is a level of professional input, voluntary work plays a very important role, and Ian Byrne was eloquent in his praise and thanks for people like Paddy Judge, Peter McKenna, Derek Bothwell, Ian Malcolm and many many others who devote much of their spare time to seeing that the proper attention is given to the hundred-and-one things which always need doing in and around a busy clubhouse/marina setup in an active fishing/sailing harbour.

Irish Sailing President Jack Roy then took over the microphone to give generous praise to Howth on behalf of the larger sailing community in which HYC plays such an active part. The sheer breadth of the club’s activities came in for his special praise, and its enthusiasm for making sailing more accessible and user-friendly for the general public was something he particularly shared.

jack roy speaking13Irish Sailing President Jack Roy was generous in his praise for Howth YC’s outreach approach to the local community and a wider public. Photo: Brian Turvey
While he was delighted for Howth’s wide range of success right up to the top international level across a broad range of classes, he was also encouraged by the fact that at grassroots level, it was clear that Howth YC realised that for many participants, sailing was as much about having fun and quiet enjoyment afloat, and it is a fact that the largest single sector in the varied Howth membership is the Cruising Group.

By the time the speeches were concluded, guests and members alike had a fresh insight into what makes a large club run smoothly and successfully, and it was then an opportunity for further renewals of old friendships and added insights into the workings of the club.

Mitsubishi Motors have been the sponsors of the “Club of the Year” since 1986 – it may well be the longest-running sponsorship in Irish sailing – and the first awardee under their stewardship was Howth Yacht Club as they were moving into what was then their brand new clubhouse, plumb in the middle of what had formerly been a rather muddy part of the harbour, and all set to serve the adjacent marina.

group pic14Keeping it in the family – the Ship’s Wheel trophy is welcomed back to Howth for the fifth time. Photo: John Deane

The Mitsubishi support came in through the enthusiasm of that legend of the Irish motor trade Frank Keane, who had brought the brand to Ireland as he had brought BMW many years before. Frank Keane Holdings have continued their support of sailing, so at any gathering such as that in Howth YC this week, you’ll find the most unexpected friendships going back many years, and as the evening drew to a close the mood was good while outside the sky cleared to bring the Howth 17s, the Puppeteer 22s and the Squibs back into port in the beginnings of a sunset. It hinted at the summer to come when - as ever - Howth Yacht Club will be busy.

orla mooring15The sky clears as the evening advances, and on the eve of Mayday with the Club of the Year party continuing in the HYC clubhouse, the Howth 17 Orla returns to her moorings after the first evening race of the new season. Photo: David O’Connell

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