Displaying items by tag: Howth Yacht Club
The 2017 Spring Warmer series sponsored by Key Capital Private came to a conclusion at Howth Yacht Club on Saturday. The final day of the season opener provided the sailors with some champagne sailing conditions with 15–knots of breeze and glorious sunshine.
In the Cruiser Class Paddy Kyne’s Maximus with two race wins took the honours by one point from the very consistent Flashback (Patterson/Paddy Gregory /Don Breen). In third place was Stephen Quinn’s Lambay Rules.
The J24 racing was dominated by Steve Atkinson’s Bad with three first places and a fourth. Second was Jumpin Jive (M. Usher). The new K25 team completed the podium. It was great to see three K25 youth teams out competing.
Howth Yacht Club’s “Taste of Sailing” initiative goes from strength to strength. The programme sees experienced sailors racing with those new to the sport or new to HYC. Five teams took to the club J80s for the Spring Warmer this year.
The SB20 fleet was the largest fleet with 10 boats. Locals Shane Murphy, Daragh Sheridan and John Phelan on Two Men & Their Monkey won the event with a race to spare from Colin Galavan’s Sacrebleu who scored a race win in the final race with a fantastic first run setting them up for a big lead which they never relinquished. Third place was Dave Barry on Lia.
The SB20s are staying in the same venue for their Eastern Championships to be held in two weeks’ time on 21 & 22 April.
The prizegiving took place with Vice Commodore Emmet Dalton on hand to present the prizes.
A lifetime of enthusiastic and effective dedication to voluntary work in international sailing administration has very deservedly resulted in the award of World Sailing’s Gold Medal to Ireland’s Helen Mary Wilkes writes W M Nixon.
She is originally from Scotland while her husband Robert is from England. But when they settled in Ireland in 1969, Howth became their home, sailing became their family sport, and both their sons Tom and Rupert sailed – and still sail - for Ireland.
However, the fact that Helen Mary and Robert together provided a brilliant administrative and creative team was quickly recognized locally and nationally, and it was recognition which became international when Howth Yacht Club took on the staging of the Optimist Worlds in 1981.
That would be a relatively straightforward business with today’s modernized facilities. But Howth in 1981 was in the throes of harbour re-development, yet bits of it still functioned as both a sailing and fishing port.
Thus the staging of the worlds was based on the beachside Claremont Hotel immediately west of the Harbour (it has long since disappeared into a large complex of up-market apartments), and much of the running of this huge event had to be developed from scratch.
But with Helen Mary Wilkes in the key position as Secretary to the Organising Committee and Robert in several other roles, the racing for hundreds of Optimists - in what was then the most international sailing event ever seen in Ireland - was successfully completed. The overall winner was Guido Tavelli of Argentina, while the top girl (and best Irish at 17th overall) was 13-year-old Denise Lyttle of the National YC.
For most folk in Howth, that was enough involvement in international sailing administration until the new HYC marina and clubhouse were fully functional by 1987. But Helen Mary and Robert Wilkes had been spotted by the powers-that-be as talents that could usefully be deployed on the world stage, and Helen Mary’s subsequent rise through the global and national ranks of sailing administration has been so all-encompassing that it’s best summarized in a basic list:
International Sailing Federation (now World Sailing)
1982 - 1998 International Classes Committee
1990 - 1994 CPOC
1994 - 1998 Events Committee
1994 - 1998 Vice-chair, International Classes Committee (elected)
1998 - 2000 Match Racing Committee
2006 & 2008 Nominated for IOC Women & Sport Award
2008 ISAF President’s Development Award (jointly)
2008-2016 Vice-chair, ISAF Classes Committee
International Optimist Class
1978 - 1982 Secretary, IODA of Ireland
1982 - 1987 President, IODA of Ireland
1982 - 1985 Regatta Committee, IODA
1985- 1989 Vice-President
1989 - 1998 President
During that presidency the Class became the largest in the world:
- national membership rose by 78% to 87 countries
- participation at international events rose by 50% to 57 countries
1998 - 2005 Member of Honour
2005 - President of Honour
In 1996 Helen Mary was asked by Paul Henderson (ISAF President) to promote women’s match-racing towards Olympic status and became the first president of the Women’s International Match-Racing Association. The number of active teams and countries increased by nearly 50%.
Irish Sailing Association
1990 - 1998 Council
1992 - 2000 Olympic Committee/Group
March 2017 Gold Medal awarded to Helen Mary Wilkes by newly-elected World Sailing President Kim Andersen
While Helen Mary Wilkes’ many significant roles have made her the more prominent of this remarkable couple, Robert has been busy behind the scenes, and among other things - in addition to being Secretary for 35 years to the International Optimist Class Association - in 2007 he produced a profusely-illustrated history of the first sixty years of this incredibly successful little boat, with additional input from Clifford McKay Jr, who was the first Opty sailor in Florida way back in 1947.
Being the sons of such busy and interesting parents made for a special up-bringing for Tom and Rupert. It’s all of a piece that Tom should be involved on the technical side of sailing – he runs a carbon spar-making business in the Netherlands which, in honour of home, he calls Ceilidh Composites. As a result he is a veteran of several Fastnets and Sydney-Hobarts. Rupert has elected to work ashore, but it’s something equally interesting – he restores classic and antique buildings.
However, this week it’s their parents and their enormous contribution to national and international sailing which is deservedly top of the agenda. Our heartiest congratulations to Helen Mary Wilkes on her newly-awarded World Sailing Gold Medal.
17 RS Feva dinghies participated in the latest round of coaching for the class at Greystones Sailing Club at the weekend writes Garett Donnelly. Conditions were perfect with coaching provided for all the sailors ranging in age from 11 to 17 years of age.
Sailors from Greystones, RStGYC, RIYC, Bray SC, Malahide YC and Howth YC took part.
The Eastern Championships follow on 22 and 23 April. Entry for the Easterns is here.
Howth Yacht Club's traditional Key Capital Private Spring Warmer Sailing Series at Howth Yacht Club will run over two consecutive Saturdays with four Windward /Leeward races, starting on Saturday, 1st April with cranes and storage all included in the regatta entry fee.
There are starts for Cruisers 1, 2 & 3, SB20’s, J24’s, Puppeteers, Squibs and J80s. 'It’s a fantastic way to start the season and to get your crews back into full race mode, ' says HYC organiser Daragh Sheridan.
As last year, there will be particularly strong competition in Class two. The SB20s will also be looking to get in some time on the water with their Eastern Championships also being held in Howth later in April. More information in the notice of race downloadable below.
The 42nd year of Howth Yacht Club’s Laser Frostbites came to a conclusion on Sunday on a fresh morning with a moderate Westerly breeze. On the last day of the Spring series, the race officers took the opportunity to sail three races bringing the series total to 13. Five of the scheduled 18 races were lost due to the unpredictable weather, providing no wind or too much wind.
In the Standard Rig fleet, Daragh Kelleher took to the water knowing that he had the series in the bag, with Ronan Cull not available. Daragh finished with a flourish though and took three bullets - making four in total for the series. Daragh's consistant and smart sailing over the whole series made him a clear winner, he was 18 points ahead of Stephen Quinn in second. Darach Dineen pushed Stephen all the way though and there was only one point between them on the last day with Darach having to count a seventh in the last race. Fourth and fifth in the Spring series went to Dave Kirwan and Dan O'Grady.
In the Winter series, (pre-Christmas) the fleet sailed 12 of the scheduled 14 races in very mixed conditions with very little extreme conditions to excite (or scare) competitors in strangely warm temperatures. Paul McMahon took the series without even showing up on the last day, seven points clear of Daragh Kelleher in second. Paul showed his usual impressive form with five firsts in the 10 races he sailed! Stephen Quinn, Darach Dineen and Mike Evans (in that order) fought it out for third to fifth places with only 3 points between them.
In the Radial rigs, the Spring series was won by Aoife Hopkins followed by Alan Blay and Daniel Hopkins. On breezy days, Aoife demonstrated that she could push the leading standard rig sailors with her downwind speed and althletic upwind sailing. In the Winter series Shane O'Brien was the clear winner with a string of firsts followed by Aoife and Ewan McMahon.
In the 4.7s, Dylan McEvoy won the Spring series ahead of brother Rory in second and Ella Hemeryck third. Pre-Christmas, Eve McMahon and Sam Crawford battled it out for first place with six and five firsts respectively in the series. Third place went to Dylan McEvoy.
Class Two is certainly heating up and expanding this year writes Dave Cullen, Skipper of championship winning half–tonner Checkmate XV. The quality of the fleet must make it one of the most competitive with boats ranging from €15k to €150k all in with a fighting chance of the podium.
At the bottom of the rating band, Sigma 33s make up the numbers and the top end is dominated by J97s and Elan 333s.
Such are the numbers that a number of boats might find themselves unhappy participants in Class One which happened in Sovereigns Cup two years ago.
The fleet is diverse and includes a sizeable X302 fleet from Howth YC including the stalwart podium winner DUX, Maximus and Viking to name but a few.
The Half Ton class is formidable and apart from the locals of Checkmate XV, Harmony, King One and The Big Picture, visiting boats planning on basing campaigns here include Nigel Biggs latest Checkmate XVIII ex Dick Dastardly, Paul Wayte from Swansea's HB31 Headhunter and the highly optimised Miss Whiplash returns to Dublin owned by Paul Pullen visiting from Swansea. Demolition from Falmouth is also likely to appear. George Radley adds his latest 'half' Cortegada to the pile of quality competitors.
Throw in DB1s, J80s, Corby 25 & 26s and the start line really shapes up with a sharp competitive fleet.
It's easy to predict the half tonners as dominating with light to medium conditions suit them for sure. The same applies with the Corbys. Throw in an extra few knots and the X302s pick up their heels as do the Sigma 33s which are never too far behind. Movistar Blue and Lambay Rules like a breeze too so the field is really wide open.
On Dublin Bay, there will be a reported 19 boats in this year's DBSC Cruisers two fleet boosted by eight Sigma 33s who join the division.
As to predictions, any of the boats in the class can win but need to arrive on the line in good shape and well prepared. Rub your hand over the bum of any of the Class leaders and you will see the efforts put in as the best winning ingredient for race wins is boat speed.
I think a prediction is futile without a weather forecast so I would say for lighter traditional Dublin summer conditions, any of the half tonners or the Corby 25 will feature in a windward–leeward race, Lambay Rules (J97) prefers a reach round the cans races whilst a well sailed Sigma 33 has a real chance if they can stop the mighty Dux in breezy conditions.
Having answered the question like a politician would, if it was predictable none of us would bother, so place your bets and see how it fared out in October. I'll put a tenner on Biggsy though!
Dave Cullen of Howth Yacht Club is Skipper of Half–Tonner Checkmate XV and won the 2015 Half Ton Classics Cup with a race to spare
On the other hand, ICRA could equally mean 'Ireland’s Cool Runnings Assembly'. In the week in which the Travelling Community was granted Ethnic Minority Status, W M Nixon finds himself among two groups which might be equally deserving of such recognition.
You know how it is as we swing into Spring and its embarrassment of Saturday choices. There it was, Saturday 4th March coming up on the busy agenda, and the inevitable dilemma. Should we be in Cowes for the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Yachting Historians in the Squadron castle? Or was appearance mandatory at the Irish Cruiser Racing Association’s day-long Annual Conference in Limerick, followed by a mysterious awards ceremony that night in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire?
The old Learjet being no longer airworthy, it was a case of staying on the Irish island rather than that of Wight, and trusting that our car-of-a-certain-age-of-a-Swedish-brand-which-is–no-longer-manufactured would be up to the rigours of the M7. For the fact that trains go only to railway stations rather than your actual destination made the car the only option for a trans-island logistical challenge in very limited time.
I know some people do double journeys like this five days a week as part of their working lives, and take it for granted. However, as one who rates long-distance commuting right up there with wind farms as one of the crazier things about modern life, it’s quite an effort to get the body there and back again, and the soul takes even longer.
What on earth can it all be for? But then you step into the Conference Centre in the Castletroy Park Hotel with everyone – most of them acquaintances and many old friends - sat in companionable comfort around a mega-table as though we’re negotiating peace in Syria. And it’s like stepping into a judiciously-drawn bath of the perfect temperature. For these are kindred spirits, upwards of seventy of them from all parts of Ireland, and we’re going to talk about boats and sailing matters all day. Bliss.
For an outsider, though, I can see that this must seem like a separate species talking in their own language. The thought of Travellers rattling away in Shelta at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair springs to mind. So yes indeed, let’s give ICRA enthusiasts Ethnic Minority Status. After all, like Travellers, ICRA people’s special enthusiasm in life is to pack themselves into crowded damp spaces and try to move around and possibly get somewhere else at least as soon as the others. And when they do get there in any significant numbers, it disturbs the peace of the neighbourhood and creates nervousness in parents with daughters of a certain age, fearful that they might be attracted to the nomadic life.
But enough of such dreaming, there was serious business to be done. And with people of the calibre of ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney of Foynes YC and ICRA number-cruncher Denis Kiely of Kinsale as joint MCs, the pace was impressive.
Simon is the leaping-about man, making his points here, there and everywhere, and when he reckons he isn’t everywhere enough, his fellow Foynes yottie and sailing instructor Elaine O’Mahoney dances in to give assistance.
Denis by contrast is Buddha-like. He sits in the one place with a commanding view of everyone, and orchestrates proceedings and Q&A sessions with a natural authority which makes you think he should be right there in Geneva or wherever it is, bringing order and peace to the Middle East.
For people for whom sociable business conferences are a regular part of life, I presume all this is all run-of-the-mill. But I’m the single spy who works alone in a rat’s nest of an office with a clutter of material within arms reach when it’s not available on the proper-size screen which rules my life, so experiencing human interaction at this level is bracing, to say the least.
And the ICRA annual gathering is such a clearcut focal point for a certain type of sailing enthusiast that it attracts international attention. Last year, we had Dobbs Davis and Zoran Grubisa of the Offshore Racing Congress promoting their measurement rule. As one had travelled from America while the other had come from Croatia to spread the message, I suppose the fact that the man from the International Rating Certificate office had only come over from Lymington to talk to ICRA wasn’t such a big deal. But Mike Urwin is such an obliging bloke, and an entertaining speaker with it, that we can’t help but nurture a secret hope that the possible discussions under the aegis of the RORC about amalgamating the two systems go on for ever, for their success might deprive us of entertaining speakers….
I’d an insight into the special role Mike fills in the international offshore racer community one summer’s evening a year or two back, when I’d an email from a guy on quayside in the Mediterranean where he’d found himself looking at the Ron Holland-designed Irish Mist II of 1975 vintage, and that very special boat had a Se Vende notice. She was built in Cork for Archie O’Leary to come out as a distinctly potent machine around 40ft long, and our man on the quay guessed that he might have a worthwhile performer for the Committee International Mediterannee (CIM) vintage IOR class, if only he could be sure that an IOR Rating for Irish Mist II from the 1970s could be given full provenance.
When you get such a message outside of what used to be called working hours, time was when you’d put off dealing with it until the next morning. But I simply fired off an email to Anthony O’Leary whom I knew to be doing Cowes Week in Antix at the time, and from the midst of some après sailing pub came the message: “Mother of God, does this guy think I carry a filing cabinet around with me? And anyway, in the 1970s I’d better things to do than look after the paperwork”.
But then half an hour later from another pub came the message “Rob Jacob says we should signal Mike Urwin, will let you know”. And believe it or not, before the night was out, we had the word that Mike had been able to access an IOR Rating Certificate for 1978 for Irish Mist II, and all was well with the world.
As to matters in Limerick, the conference got off to an energetic start with former Commodore Nobby Reilly of Howth analyzing what the new generation seeks in cruiser-racers to guide us into a theme of the day, the ever-present need to make the world aware that cruiser-racing – whether inshore or offshore - can be great sport. And the tinkering with your boat to maximize your rating is not a drawback - on the contrary, it’s part of the technical interest of the sport in its broadest sense. On top of that, there’s funding available from ICRA for clubs which want to develop cruiser-racing as part of their local programme, and there’s a wide range of support material which will raise the ICRA presence in your area and prove mutually beneficial.
Particularly interesting was the presentation from Colin Moorehead with useful interjections from Denis Kiely about how the Training Grant scheme and the promotion with the ISA of the Try Sailing project in the context of Colin’s own club, the Royal Cork, had been so successful that at Afloat's and the ISA's National Sailing Awards at the end of January, Colin was singled out for an award himself.
Simon McGibney then took over for an energetic outline of the working of the Crewpoint scheme, to let people know that the most important thing – as in so many areas of life – is simply to turn up, ICRA and other volunteers will take it from there, and you’ll get your introduction to sailing.
Sensibly refreshed by lunch, we found any tendency to a post-prandial zizz completely blown away by Maurice the Prof O’Connell’s presentation on Embarr’s world championship win. It was riveting stuff, with the effort involved generally – and not just the superhuman dedication to achieving maximum fitness and optimum crew weight – giving a vivid illustration of the utter diversity of our sport, which takes in everything from gentle sailing in a local classic class to the Worlds of specialist boats like the Melges 24.
It’s easy to complain that the existence of more than 150 recognised World Championships in sailing dilutes the impact of the sport. But the truth is that this diversity is central to the whole picture, and sailing benefits by so many valid prizes being available for the wide range of One Design classes.
And that’s before we moved on to Mike Urwin’s presentation on the added level of diversity which is dealt with through the IRC. Of particular interest in Ireland was his assertion that “protecting the existing fleet” is at the core of the IRC’s functioning, for the fact is many of us are optimising and actively racing boats which would be older than those found elsewhere.
We do so through a crowded programme of events. ICRA tries as far as possible to take the mission to as many clubs as possible, thus it prefers to maintain the independence of its National Championship, rather than subsuming it into some larger regatta. So special attention was paid to Paul Tingle of Royal Cork, as he is organising the ICRA Nats there on from June 9th to 11th. It’s a time when the activity levels are soaring throughout sailing, but the lure of the Nationals carry their own appeal against what might be seen as rival events.
Certainly regular readers of Afloat.ie will be well aware of the energetic levels of discussion as to how the annual sailing programme might be better structured. But if you insist on amalgamating events and championships, you reduce the significance of the prizes involved. Not everyone aims to win a World championship, but it’s encouraging to any crew to finish with their name up in lights just now and again. So in tandem with the continuation of a crowded programme, the development of ICRA’s Progressive ECHO performance handicap system is another important part of this significant organisation’s contribution to Irish sailing.
As ever, the conference ended on the highlight of ICRA “Boat of the Year”. On Afloat.ie in the week from Monday February 27th until the conference itself on Saturday March 4th, we ran an online poll which had a very gratifying response. But as with other awards, it was done in the knowledge that such polls are only advisory, as judges have a job to do to keep populism under control.
Thus in the Afloat.ie poll. Jonny Swann’s Half Tonner Harmony from Howth topped the votes at 949 (39.9%) while John Maybury’s J/109 Joker 2 from the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire logged 831 votes to come in at 35%. Yet it was Joker 2 which became Boat of the Year 2016, and rightly so, but maybe somebody should have come up with an award for Boat Which Most Stylishly Survived A Port Tack Mark Rounding Event During A Major Championship Trophy for Harmony…
Taking the road home for that night’s awards event at the Royal Irish, the thought processes were at first dominated by ideas put forward by Peter Ryan the chairman of ISORA, and John Hughes who has now taken on the mantle in Wicklow of running the Round Ireland Race, as I’d been sitting with the two of them during the Conference.
Both as ever were bubbling with ideas, but John particularly has one which will be of interest, as on the same day as he starts the next Round Ireland Race in June 2018, he will start a much shorter co-event, from Wicklow to Cork Harbour, with the Royal Cork at Crosshaven hosting the finish.
The debate was whether or not he should start the shorter race before or after the main event, but it was somewhere in the midst of zooming through a rainshower in Laois that I realized he should start them together. Boats would be invited to enter both races (at the full entry fee, of course) and then as they’re slugging to windward off Cork Harbour on Sunday night and in the small hours of Monday morning, when some sad and seasick crewman says he or she wishes they were racing to Cork Harbour, the kindly and generous owner-skipper can say: “We are!”, he then throws a right into Cork Harbur, but they still have a result…..
It was all a suitably daft scenario to get oneself in the right frame of mind for dinner through an evening and night in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, an establishment of which a notably acerbic observer of Irish sailing has remarked: “Irish sailing is divided into those who get the Royal Irish, and those who don’t, and that’s all there is to it”.
Definitely a case for Ethnic Minority Status here too, one might think. But anyone who reckons this unique establishment is above the hurly burly of every day competition afloat would already have been put right by being in Limerick, and realizing that both Conor Clarke’s Embarr and John Maybury’s Joker 2 are part of the Royal Irish fleet. Nevetheless I’d received an invitation that could be interpreted ever which way, so the best thing was to hide oneself in a table of very good friends among whom the classic boat ownership included two Water Wags, three Howth Seventeens, and an indeterminate number of Dublin Bay 21s, two of which may have changed hands during the course of the evening.
Next door to us was the much larger and more boisterous assembly of George Sisk’s crew apparently - as since revealed in Afloat.ie - deciding they were by no means past it yet, and working towards supporting their skipper in a decision for a new Class Zero boat. The evening drew on, and then with classic laid-back RIYC style, Rear Commodore (Sailing) Patsy Burke oversaw the awards which saw the following honours:
Boat of the Year: Jim McCann & Paul Cadden (Peridot)
Cruiser of the Year: Des Cummins & Storme Delaney (joint winners)
Best International: Saskia Tidey and Andrea Brewster (49erFX)
Best IRC: Colin Byrne (Bon Exemple)
Best Cruiser-racer ECHO: George Sisk, WOW
Traveller Award: Paul Smith & Pat Mangan (Jill)
Best One Design Result: Ger Dempsey & Chris Nolan (Venue’s World)
Best White Sail Result: David Clarke (Fortitudine)
Contribution to Sailing: Henry Leonard
Most improved boat: Derek Butler (Borraine)
Best Big Boat Performance: Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager)
Volunter of the Year (House): Winifred McCourt
Volunteer of Year (Sailing): Tim Carpenter & Kevin Leonard (joint winners)
Most improved Adult Sailors: Katherine Sheehan & Tony Barlow
Somewhere in the midst of it, your reporter received an award for scribbling, And as you’ll note the intrepid Enda O’Coineen was honoured for his astonishing achievements against the odds during 2016 in his Open 60 Kilcullen Voyager, for it was a cruel swipe of fate that his mast should come crashing down on January 1st 2017.
Thus your reporter was left looking like a stunned mullet, as for some reason I’d got it into my head that there was a literary dimension to it all, and the reason I’d been invited was to honour Enda O’Coineen’s best contribution to Irish sailing in 2016. We highlighted it here on Christmas Eve. But it’s well worth looking at again:
The RS Feva class is seeking to repeat its great turnout of 38 boats at the 2016 Greystones Sailing Club hosted National Championships. 'There is no reason why we can’t achieve similar numbers at our events this year', according to upbeat class officers.
The opening Feva event at Howth Yacht Club in April will also have the RS200, RS400, SB20 and National 18 fleets taking part.
2017 Irish RS Feva Events Calendar
April 22,23 Easterns Howth YC
May 13,14 Northerns RNIYC
July 1,2 Southerns RCYC (as part of Dinghyfest)
July 14,15,16 Nationals RStGYC
July 21-27 Worlds Holland
Aug 12,13 Inlands Blessington SC
Howth Yacht Club in north Dublin is now offering boatyard services at competitive rates.
The new services offered include yacht polishing, boat wash-down, boat check and an unattended scrub.
According to a note on the club website prices advertised are intended to compare closely with private direct labour charges but are now offered through HYC by 'fully insured employees'.
Based on a 10m boat costs for a full restoration polish, including materials is €300.00. A wax coat is €150.00. A Crane lift & cradle €100.25
The cost to collect the boat and return to berth is €40.00
Other services to HYC members are detailed here.
Otto Glaser of Howth Yacht Club, who has died at the age of 90, had been closely and personally affected by much of the trauma engulfing 20th Century Europe. Yet he emerged as the embodiment of a civilised, cultured and highly intelligent Irishman and European, a remarkable innovator, an achiever and creator of major enterprises, and someone who was in the forefront of the economic re-birth of Ireland from the late 1950s onwards.
He was also in the forefront of Ireland’s development as a significant force in international offshore racing in the late 1960s and 1970s. Although not a cradle sailor, he brought to his new interest an intellect and energy which he found fulfilled by the challenges and technicalities of sailing and of yacht design, and it was equally fulfilling for those who sailed with him as shipmates on his variety of interesting boats.
For unlike some who might take up sailing with all the zeal of the convert on the cusp of middle age, and then move on to other activities after only a few years, he retained and fulfilled his close interest in boats and sailing and sailing people until the end of his long and extraordinary life.
Born in Vienna into a family at the heart of metropolitan life in a society which was still imbued with the reasonable and liberal values of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, his father – also Otto – was a Austrian government minister of Jewish descent, while his mother Anna was a devout Catholic.
The Hitler-led Anschluss or annexation of Austria while young Otto was still only 11 in March 1938 saw the rapid destruction of the way of life of leading families like the Glasers. By September 1938, aged just 12, he was cut off from his family by being sent for his safety with a group of other children in what may have been the last “Children’s Train” out of Vienna in a renowned humanitarian rescue mission which took him right across Europe and England, until he found safe haven with the Holy Ghost Fathers in Blackrock College in Dublin. There, his notable intellect was soon being appreciated by the teachers trying to instill some elements of culture and learning in pupils for whom the main interest in life was rugby.
What might have become of him had he been kept in Vienna scarcely bears thinking about. His father was eventually traced by the German authorities and sent to Dachau, but miraculously survived World War II of 1939-45, while his mother likewise survived through the kindness of friends and a religious network. But in Blackrock young Otto had only his aptitude as a student and a circle of friends from a completely different background to keep him going.
And he was by no means safe, for once a year the German Embassy requested a meeting “with the German boy Otto Glaser”, ostensibly to check his welfare. But the Blackrock College authorities were under no illusion that if they let him anywhere near the German Embassy they probably would never see him again, so they devised the system whereby an official appointment would be made for a representative of the Embassy to call at the college. But lo and behold, owing to some clerical error, every year on the very day when the Embassy man called, Otto Glaser would be absent for a week at the College Retreat House in Bray, and it was against all rules to take boys out of their assigned period in Retreat.
However, young Otto had his own yearly assertions of individuality when he had to report to Dublin Castle to have his visa renewed. Each year, the normally strict official would welcome him into the office and make the routine enquiries, and when he demanded of the boy what nationality he was, the answer was always the same clear and crisp: “Austrian”. And thus “Austrian” would be patiently renewed in the documentation without comment for all that, at the time, Austria no longer officially existed.
By the time Europe was emerging from the total horror of World War II in 1945, Otto Glaser’s days at Blackrock College were drawing to a close, and he won a place at University College Dublin where he took a science degree – eventually an MSc – in physics and chemistry. Amongst the College friends against whom he enjoyed sharpening his intellect was future Taoiseach Garrett FiztGerald, and one of his main leisure interests was the UCD Literary & Historical Society, aka the Debating Society.
Eventually he became its Honorary Secretary, but as he was to disarmingly reveal later in life, that was to secure access to the telephone numbers of the more attractive and interesting female members of the Society, particularly one Patricia Delamer. Once he’d made his mind up, Otto’s mind stayed made up, and in time he married Pat Delamer and they’d been married more than six decades by the time of his sudden but peaceful death last Friday.
With Europe returning to some sort of normality after 1945, Austria re-emerged as an independent nation, and after he’d graduated with MSc at UCD, it was a source of special satisfaction to Otto that he was able to take his doctorate in Atomic Physics in Vienna, where his parents were re-building their lives. But although he always retained the strongest links with the land of his birth, Ireland was now his home, such that in the 1970s his parents joined him. And within Ireland, the Howth peninsula had become the focus of his home life after Pat’s brother Peter married Ida Lacey of a long-established Howth family.
The notion of living in Howth and building a technological manufacturing company in Ireland soon became the core of Otto’s lifeview, and though he initially brought his energy and intellect as an employee to other companies and institution such as Posts & Telegraphs, by the mid 1950s he was running his own scientific manufacturing research company Technico, and in the early 1960s that developed the Telectron company, the true pioneer of the electronics industry in Ireland.
By the late 1970s and early ’80s, Otto and his team had built Telectron into a giant by Irish standards, as it employed 800 people. And thanks to the fact that it produced small-volume high-value products, it gave him special pleasure that he could locate environmentally-friendly and compact production units in places like the Aran Islands or Gweedore in Donegal, where the sudden influx of fresh income from this totally new source made a very significant difference to the local economy.
Keeping such a show on the road required prodigious energy, but Otto had it in spades. Indeed, while busy building one of Ireland’s key companies, he somehow also found the time to be a director of Coras Trachtala - the Irish Export Board – he was also a founding board member at Dublin City University, a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies, a board member at the School for Cosmic Sciences, and one of the earliest and most active members of the European Institute in Dublin, while also being a very effective President of the Irish Austrian Society.
All this, you might think, would be enough for ten men let alone one, but in the 1960s, having settled in Howth in the house where he and Pat lived for the rest of his life and joyously re-named Thalassa, Otto Glaser had come to sailing, and an entire new area of interest and achievement was opened.
It was initially through family links, and it was called the GOLD syndicate, being Glaser, O’Reilly (Barry), Lacey (Billy) and Delamer (Peter). There was quite a busy little Dragon class in Howth at the time, so they bought themselves a vintage Dragon to see how it might all work out. But this wasn’t any old Dragon – this was Ceres, with which Eric Strain of Royal North of Ireland YC had won the Dragon Gold Cup in 1947 on the Clyde when both the Clyde and the Gold Cup were at the height of their prestige. By the 1960s, Ceres was showing her age a bit, but nothing daunted, the syndicate sailed her home to Howth from Belfast Lough, for that was what you did with a Dragon in those days.
And being as tough as old boots (he was almost immune to cold), Otto was soon hooked on sailing, so much so that within a very few years he’d persuaded the GOLD syndicate to move up to the International 8 Metre Cruiser/Racer Debbie, a lovely varnished McGruer creation from Scotland, which brought a bit of real class in a boat type which was already familiar to Howth sailors.
But for Otto Glaser, Debbie was the introduction to more – much more. With this boat, he began offshore racing, in which he found a new and particular passion in navigation. And she also introduced him to the intricacies of the of the various measurement rules, a happy hunting ground for someone with his genius-level mathematical bent.
On top of that, with his Viennese sensibilities setting his tastes, he found Debbie’s exquisitely varnished hull a thing of special beauty, while in George McGruer of Clynder on the shores of the Gareloch in Scotland, he found an innovative designer and boatbuilder with whom he could work in creating potentially world-beating offshore racers which were to be built in exquisite style like the highest-quality wood furniture, and varnished throughout, inside and out.
Yet Howth by this time meant so much to him that he was determined to base his future racing boats there, and to crew them as much as possible with fellow Howth sailors, some of whom were former members of the now defunct GOLD syndicate which had been amicably wound up after its most energetic member launched himself on a ten year career through the 1970s as sole owner of three notable offshore racers.
The first result of the Glaser-McGruer combination came in 1971 with the 43ft Tritsch-Tratsch, her name emerging because there was so much talk in conceiving her and bringing her to completion that tritsch-tratsch – the Viennese dialect for “chit-chat’ – was the only name that would do. That first Tritsch-Tratsch was in some ways an evolution of the 12 Metre designs which were emerging in the America’s Cup at the time, and though her steering was augmented by a trim tab, her tiny rudder could make her a wayward thing off the wind.
But she was unbeatable to windward, and she loved a breeze of wind, for by today’s standards, she was under-canvassed. The story is told that she was once slugging to windward in a Force 7 to 8 in an RORC Irish Sea Race, and a ship passing nearby altered course to keep company. Suddenly suspecting that the ship’s crew might think there were in trouble, Howthman Pat Moore – one of the many special people whose unseen talents were encouraged by Otto in both sailing and business – called on the VHF to tell the ship they were okay. To which came the reply:
“We can see that. It’s just that your boat looks so marvellous the great way she’s sailing, we thought we’d take a little diversion to enjoy the view for a while”.
But while the first Tritsch-Tratsch was a success and the highest-scoring boat in the 1971 Irish Admiral’s Cup team, taking part in that then-supreme series gave Otto another line of interest, and for 1973 he ordered a very different sort of Tritsch Tratsch with the Admiral’s Cup again in mind. By this time the International Offshore Rule was well set in place, and trim tabs and the like were penalized out of existence, so he and George McGruer plotted another varnished beauty, the very different Tritsch-Tratsch II, 47ft long and designed to be as good off the wind as on it.
Yet although she became the first Irish boat to win an RORC race overall in the English Channel overall, T-T II always seemed to be on the brink of some greater achievement, yet never quite made it. But she was a fantastic well-mannered boat to sail, a joy to be aboard with the most beautiful teak construction much in evidence. And she brought Otto much pleasure, for those of us who sailed with him at the time can remember him arriving aboard with only hours to go to the start of the next RORC Race, and he’d be utterly grey with exhaustion after some world-girdling business trip. Yet after an hour or so of power-napping, he’d be right as rain and ready to keep awake all night as he worked the then-much-greater mysteries of the navigator and tactician’s art.
There were successes, but as the seasons of 1973 and ’74 progressed, other boats continued to improve in their speeds, yet Tritsch-Tratsch seemed to have hit some sort of ceiling on her performance. Nevertheless she had her moments, and a noted achievement was in a harsh RORC Cowes to Cork windward race in 1974, when Otto called the tack in a very slowly backing wind south of Land’s End to such perfection that we remained hard on the wind all the way to the finish at the old Daunt Lightvessel 155 miles away off Cork Harbour, and hadn’t raced one unnecessary foot by the time we got there, with all the hot Cork boats a long way astern.
Despite this experience of featuring in the frame, T-T II was increasingly relatively weak in light breezes, so Otto and George spent much of 1975 tinkering with a taller mast and re-trimming of the boat to an almost absurd degree to lower the rating, but there was no way she was going to make it onto the Irish Admirals Cup team. The Fastnet Race provided considerable consolation in that he beat all the Irish AC team in the overall scoreline, but he decided that T-T II had had her day, and she was sold to Sweden.
But although work was taking up even more of his time, Otto decided to re-join the fray for 1977 with a nearly-new Frers 47, Red Rock, which just happened to be in Argentina. For Dr Glaser, such logistics problems were simply there to be overcome, so he arranged to have her shipped to Europe immediately.
However, as Red Rock in her cradle proceeded up the Atlantic on the decks of a ship, a dock strike at her destination threatened to derail her entire planned season. Again, no problem. Otto got on the radio to the ship’s captain and – I’m not making this up – he persuaded him to divert his ship through the Solent, and further persuaded him to activate his little-used derricks and lower the unmanned Red Rock III, complete with cradle and all, into the waters off Cowes where she was met by Groves and Guttridge’s launch and towed, admittedly with some difficulty, into Cowes where the entire caboodle was lifted out and Red Rock was prepared for a season’s racing.
Alas, it did not include gaining selection for the Irish Admirals Cup Team, but it did include getting into the very sharp end of the finishing score of the Fastnet Race fleet, so the whole crazy season was dubbed a success. And it was done despite the increasing demands of business, for by this time the top end of the electronics industry was getting to be a very warlike place.
By Irish standards, Telectron going into the 1980s was an impressive company – the R & D budget alone was more £1 million. But Alcatel was muscling in with an R & D budget ten times greater, so some sort of re-structuring of the industry between the two companies made sense, and Otto Glaser finally eased back on his workload and returned to his roots with Technico.
But far from seeing a slowdown in his pace of life, he kept it up, but changed the emphasis. His work with the Irish Austrian Society and the European Institute and many other bodies increased, so much so that the Austrian Government awarded him its Honour in Gold for Service to the Republic of Austria. And while his offshore racing career may have been completed, he took up cruising with considerable energy, buying the 1973-built 59ft Jongkert steel ketch Verna and cruising her to South America down to Rio, and then back north through the Caribbean with such style that he was awarded the Irish Cruising Club’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup, for 1984, his log being titled in typically impish Otto style: “My First Cruise”
However, even for cruising he needed a bit of a challenge in the boat creation area, yet he also relished sailing in home waters, so with the resources released by the company’s re-structuring, he bought an F & C 44 ketch, the distinctive dark red German Frers Senr-designed Tritsch Tratsch IV, which he kept in Howth, and then to spread his wings he took on a five year challenge of owning and running a hefty Frers-designed Hylas 60 sloop, which cruised the length and breadth of the Mediterranean with particular emphasis on the old coastlines of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Adriatic which he had known as a child.
This big boat with her enormous mast, simply called Tritsch-Tratsch, could be quite a difficult one in some smaller places, but Otto still had some long-cherished ambitions, and one was to berth his vessel right at the Cipriani Hotel in Venice. This was somehow managed with about an inch to spare under the keel, and a couple of inches fore and aft.
Yet he kept a fond eye on his former boats where possible, and when the American owner of the original McGruer-designed T-T I invited him to use the boat for a Cruise-in-Company in Maine and Nova Scotia, he rustled together a ship’s company of former racing mates, and they had themselves a fine old time.
But as the years went by, increasingly his sailing experience became focused on the ketch Tritsch-Tratsch IV in Howth, and as the years advanced with Otto well into his eighties, the programme narrowed down to regular outings for two or three hours every Sunday morning, with the emphasis on winter sailing, which was much to Otto’s taste as he remained immune to the cold.
Thanks to T-T I’s very manageable ketch rig, the mainsail was seldom set, so much so that it’s said that when an energetic nephew persuaded him they should have all three sails up and drawings, the remains of a bird’s nest fell out of the mainsail as it was being hoisted. But usually under mizzen and genoa, this sweet classic made along in a very satisfying way, and the crack was always mighty.
It was a sort of secret society in which the only rule was that if you wished to go, you had to be on board by 1100 hrs sharp, for they waited for no-one. As to who you might find on board, it could be anyone – I remember once being serenaded on our way northwards towards Lambay by the Austrian ambassador, who could have made a reasonable living in provincial opera had he been so inclined.
Then at other times, there’d be quiet talk about those who were gone, and the past generally. I’d long since been aware that a particular sadness attached to Tritsch-Tratstch II, for it was only as Otto was about to part company with her that it was discovered that one of the small but very important markers in the hull for the IOR measuring station was a foot out of place. In the haste to get her ready for that first season of 1973, a crucial error had been made in installing it which meant that, no matter what way you trimmed and re-rated her, she always rated significantly higher than she should have.
Yet she was such a superb boat, a real beauty, that the rumour was that eventually she was bought by a drug smuggler who reckoned that such a beauty would be the perfect camouflage for his activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. But in due course, so it was said, the powers-that-be rumbled him, and the most lovely McGruer boat had been arrested and impounded in some anonymous waterfront government yard.
On one of our Sunday morning sails, Otto and I found ourselves on our own in the cockpit, the ships’ company being busy below with creating hot whiskeys on an industrial scale, so I asked if the story of the fate of Tritsch-Tratsch II was true.
He gazed towards the horizon for a few seconds, then quietly answered: “It’s true. She’s dusty and gone, locked in the customs compound in Smyrna”.
The essence of Otto Glaser was in that reply. He had kept the sadness to himself, as he kept many other much greater personal sadnesses. But he was always sustained by a very special inner strength. Yet when he did reveal himself, it was in all his civilised European complexity and style. For Smyrna of ancient Greece has been Izmir in Turkey since 1922. But for someone with Otto’s classical background and long view of European history, it was still Smyrna, and now for him it always will be. We will miss this very special man very much indeed, and our heartfelt sympathies are with his family.