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Swuzzlebubble consolidated her lead on the penultimate day of the Henri Lloyd Half Ton Classics Cup 2016 but Howth Yacht Club entry Harmony lies third, one of three Irish Half Tonners in the top six overall. The Jonny Swan skippered entry is 14.5 points off the lead with Dublin club–mate Mike Evans in The Big Picture three points behind in fourth. Sixth is defending champion Dave Cullen in Checkmate. There are three more races today.

The penultimate day of the Classics Cup, sponsored by Savills and Mylor Rigging and Chandlery, could not have been more different to it's predecessors. Dawn broke with not a breath of wind, glassy seas and a heavy mist that persisted throughout the morning, causing Race Officer Jack Penty to hold the boats ashore for a couple of hours. Fortunately the mist cleared and a light west south westerly filled in so that by 12.30 the start for the first of the day's three races was in progress.

It took two general recalls followed by a start under the U Flag, meaning a 20% penalty if anyone had been over the line, to get the fleet away on race seven of the series. Once running it was a tricky windward leeward as the boats tried to pick their way around the shifty developing breeze. Mike Evans helming The Big Picture made the best of the situation to win by 19 seconds from overnight leader Greg Peck sailing Swuzzlebubble, with Paul Pullen's Miss Whiplash third and Jean-Philippe Cau and Claude Charbonnier's Sibelius fourth. There was a dead heat for fifth between Jonny Swan's Harmony and Patrick Boardman and David Kelly's King One.

With the breeze still refusing to build beyond single figures the race committee rolled straight into race eight. The patchy and shifty conditions meant there were big gains and losses to be made and at times it looked more like a game of snakes and ladders than a yacht race. Swuzzlebubble's experience and local knowledge stood her in good stead and she won by eight seconds from David Cullen's Checkmate with Miss Whiplash third, Francis Marshall's Concorde fourth and Harmony fifth.

A regatta course was set for ninth race and it was nip and tuck all the way with Harmony winning by a mere four seconds from Swuzzlebubble. Mel Sharp's Demolition finished third, her best result of the series, with King One fourth and The Big Picture fifth.

With nine races now completed a second discard came into play. Greg Peck's team of old friends aboard Swuzzlebubble consolidated their lead with a five and a half point delta over second placed Miss Whiplash. Harmony holds onto third with the gap between her and Miss Whiplash now at nine points. The Big Picture jumped up the leader board from sixth to fourth, just three points behind Harmony, while Sibelius added a pair of disastrous seventeenths to her race seven win, dropping her down the score board into fifth overall, half a point ahead of Checkmate.

After sailing the crews came together in the Regatta Marque for the Championship Dinner which featured a delicious paella supper, some fantastic fancy dress outfits, plenty of Half Ton cameraderie and a huge warm welcome for Paul Strzelecki, CEO of event sponsor Henri Lloyd, and his wife Jenny who arrived at the event in time to watch race nine.

With dinner over everyone repaired to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall for the daily prize giving, giving them the opportunity to view the museums special Olympic display which includes two of Ben Ainslie's Gold medal winning boats as well as many other historic Olympic exhibits.

Jonathan Cunliffe of Savills presented the daily prizes and then Paul Strzelecki made a special presentation to the winner of the new Henri Lloyd Concourse d'Elegance Trophy - for the best presented boat at the regatta. All the boats are kept in exceptional condition so to win this award the boat must be a true stand out. To huge applause the trophy was awarded to the beautifully restored Demolition owned by Falmouth based Mel Sharp. Demolition was designed in 1980 for Larry Marks, who took her to that year's Half Ton Cup in Sandham where she finished just outside the top ten, and is now raced by Mel and his crew of friends and family.

In theory, today's final day will feature up to three further races however, the weather forecast is anticipating some very strong south south westerly winds which are expected to build from around twenty knots in the morning to almost 30 knots with gusts of up to forty knots in the afternoon. Every effort will be made to complete the remaining races and the Race Committee has called a formal meeting with the skippers to review conditions first thing in the morning and agree on a racing plan for the day.

For full results here

Published in Racing

Sunday’s forecast for the Irish Fireball Nationals was always less than encouraging and so it proved when the complete absence of wind brought the curtain down on the 2016 edition of the regatta writes Cormac Bradley. Race Officer Richard Kissane and Howth Yacht Club Vice Commodore, Emmett Dalton went out to the race area to see if there was any sense of wind developing but to no avail.

A straw poll of the participants agreed that hanging around until the cut-off for racing, 15:30, wasn’t an attractive option either so an early halt to proceedings was called with a lunch-time prize-giving.

The 2016 National Champions are Noel Butler & Stephen Oram of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, sailing IRL 15061. They won four of the seven races, setting out their stall with two race wins in Friday’s heavy weather session of 20 knots +, but in Saturday’s more variable conditions they managed to stay ahead of their closest competition in all but one of the day’s four races, the last race of the day. This gave them a five point cushion, after discard, over second place and what Noel suggested was his sixth National title. Stephen may not have quite that number but together they are a potent combination that makes every few mistakes on the water when it matters most.

In second place were the Clancy brothers from the Royal St George Yacht Club with a score of 11pts after discard, sailing 14807. They too began the regatta in fine style with two second places but were unfortunate to have rudder damage in the third race of Friday, recording a DNF. Their scores thereafter were 2, 2, 4, and 3. With the exception of Race 7, however, they were unable to break out from the supervision of Butler & Oram and that’s why they finished 2nd – a position most of us would be envious of.

Conor ClancyTeddy Byrne Second overall at the Fireball Nationals were (centre) Conor Clancy and Teddy Byrne with Howth Yacht Club Commodore Berchmans Gannon (left) and Fireball Chair Marie Barry

The regatta was significant in that for the first time in a while there were race winners from outside the traditional pool. Even more significant is that we had an all-lady team winning a race at the Nationals and this boosted them into 3rd place overall. Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691) from the Royal St George Yacht Club persevered on the heavy weather last day of the Worlds at Pwllheli last year when a large proportion of that fleet retired. In stood them in good stead on Friday in Howth when they recorded a 7, 6, 4. To this they added a 3, 5, 1 and 2! Louise & Hermine have been sailing well on Tuesday nights and this result is a vindication of the time they have spent on the water together.

Louise McKenna Hermine OKeeffe Fireball third place winners Louise McKenna Hermine OKeeffe (centre) with Howth Yacht Club Commodore Berchmans Gannon (left) and Fireball Chair Marie Barry. Photo: Frank Miller

Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer (14938) of Skerries were the winners of the last race on the breezy first day when there were only four finishers.

The last race winners came in the form of Frank Miller and Grattan Donnelly (14713) of the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. By their own admission they were a little fortunate in that the race leader misinterpreted the flag flying at the last leeward mark of the shortened seventh race – going for another beat when the F-flag flying meant they were to sail directly to the finish at the committee boat. Another boat ahead of them on the water had not responded to an OCS signal at the start.

Son and father combination, David and Michael Keegan (14676), of the Royal St George Yacht Club won the Silver fleet prize after a couple of seasons absence from the regatta scene and Eoin Clarke & Tim McAuley (14244) and the sole representative from Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club took the Classic prize.

Fireball David Michael KeeganSilver fleet winners at the Fireball Nationals were (centre) David and Michael Keegan with Howth Yacht Club Commodore Berchmans Gannon (left) and Fireball Chair Marie Barry Photo: Frank Miller

Tim McAuley and Eoin ClarkeClassic boat winners at the Fireball Nationals were Tim McAuley (left) with and Eoin Clarke (right)

For the second year, the Nationals entry level was lower than we would all have preferred. One entry withdrew as the helm was feeling unwell, but there were a number of absentees that might normally be present. This absence of numbers has created a challenge for the class that has yet to be properly answered.

Howth Yacht Club’s Commodore and Vice Commodore, Berchman Gannon and Emmett Dalton respectively presided over the prize-giving and thanked the class for bringing the event to Howth. Berchman said they were delighted to have hosted the event even though the numbers were a few less than they might have expected. Due thanks were given to Emmett Dalton for organising the event and to Race Officer Richard Kissane and his team who had race managed seven races in contrasting and challenging conditions between days 1 & 2.

The regatta scene now moves on to Killaloe, on the weekend of September 10/11th, while the Tuesday night series in Dublin Bay still has a few fixtures to be fulfilled.

Irish Fireball Nationals 2016

Howth Yacht Club

R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 Tot Nett
1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram NYC   1 1 3 1 1 2 4 13 6
2 Conor & James Clancy RStGYC   2 2 12 2 2 4 3 27 11
3 Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe RStGYC   7 6 4 3 5 1 2 28 15
4 Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer SSC   4 4 1 7 8 3 5 32 17
5 Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly DMYC   5 5 2 6 6 7 1 32 19
Published in Fireball

Day 2 of the Irish Fireball Nationals was in stark contrast to Day 1 at Howth Yacht Club writes Cormac Bradley. The breeze that saw the fleet afloat gradually faded as the day wore on and the last race of the day, the fourth was a "hunt the breeze" race that ultimately got shortened.

Race 1 was sailed in two parts Noel Butler & Stephen Oram and the Clancy brothers, Conor and James sailed their own match race while the rest of us fought for the minor places. These fell to the ladies, Louise McKenna & Hermine O Keeffe (3rd) and Alan Henry & Simon Reveille.

This was a precursor to Race equality 5 as Louise & Hermine who broke the male domination of race wins at Nationals by taking Race 6.

Before that Butler and Clancy took another 1st and second respectively with Alan Henry third and Class Chairman Marie Barry sailing with Michael Ennis finishing fourth.

Louise & Hermine led the 6th race from the second beat after going hard left. Butler came from behind to secure 2nd and his situation improved when Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer finished ahead of the Clancy brothers.

By Race 7 the wind was "sparse"to put it mildly. For the second start of the day Race Officer Richard Kissing had to fly an OSC flag and the inability of the transgressors to go back was to prove costly. Another incident of failing to respond to a flag when a shortened course was signalled - go straight to the finish. The race leader got it wrong and sailed past the CB finish line at a cost of 4 places. Frank Miller and Grattan Donnelly got the Race win after the two flag indiscretions. Butler beat Clancy again to leave himself set up for a regatta win tomorrow.

All those who had repairs on their agenda yesterday were back on the water today. Howth VC, Emmet Dalton also got out today and mixed it with the regulars.

Mention should be made of son and father David & Michael Keegan who have sailed every race and finished all but one after an absence of a few seasons. Eoin Clarke & Tim McCauley also raced the four races today after rudder problems yesterday.

Results are here

Published in Fireball

At 15:46 a well–worked Irish Fireball fleet is ashore at Howth Yacht Club after three very hard races where the Race Officer advised that the wind was consistently "on average" 20 knots writes Cormac Bradley.

Three Olympic courses were sailed with the first one slightly shortened due to a mark problem.

Spinnaker flying was a minority activity on the day with most people content to keep their boats upright and the all-lady combination of Louise McKenna & Hermine O'Keeffew can claim to be winners in that category. Another combination, Stephen Oram and Noel Butler only capsized to repair the outhaul on the boom.

A number of boats are undergoing modest repairs, as this is being typed; a broken trapeze wire (Michael Ennis & Marie Barry), a broken rudder down haul (Team Clancy), another main outhaul (Alan Henry & Simon Reveille) and broken rudder fittings (Tim McCauley).

One boat did not go afloat and another came ashore without starting a race.

On the water Butler & Oram won Races 1 & 2, before the broken outhaul in the last race of the day gave them a third. Niall McGrotty & Neil Cramer took the gun in the third race to add to two fourth places and 2nd overall overnight.

Three points more and we find Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly on 12 points, scoring 5, 5, 2.

Only four boats finished the last race of the day - principally as a consequence of the damage listed above. However, nobody, on coming ashore, was complaining that the fourth race had not been sailed. An 11:00 start is scheduled for tomorrow and those who battled through today''s conditions won't object to the prospect of the slightly later start.

1. Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (1, 1, 3)
2. Niall McGrotty & Neil Cromer (4, 4, 1)
3. Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (5, 5, 2).

Team Clancy, Conor & James, were undone, literally, when their rudder down haul was ripped out of the tiller, possibly as a consequence of hitting a submerged object. This left them with a DNF in Race 3 which diluted the two second places they scored in R1 & 2.

So another unseasonal day for August - it started warm and sunny but is now clouded over. While Wexford a month ago may have been the uncomfortable side of heavy, some suggested today was the comfortable and exciting side of heavy. The breeze is still here but tomorrow offers the prospect of more managable conditions

Published in Fireball

#J24 - Team Ireland's Eye Kilcullen brought the J/24 Westerns title to Howth Yacht Club this weekend in the event's first running since 2014.

Three Howth K25 teams took to the waters at Lough Ree on Saturday (6 August), where Team Ireland's Eye Kilkullen led after four races.

Johnny Bravo also scored two thirds and a fourth to place them well for fourth overall on conclusion of racing yesterday (Sunday 7 August).

Published in J24

The Howth Yacht Club hosted the Classic One-Design Regatta - incorporating the National Championships of the Dublin Bay Mermaid and Howth 17 Footer classes. Download Mermaid results below. Even before you could see them, the vapour of varnish bumbled over the hills and lowlands into Howth. Facebook updates from sailors on motorways passing shiny timber creations confirmed that the Mermaids were officially on tour. Some arrived under cover of darkness and were only noticed early on Thursday morning with a full dinghy pen. Little sailors, just starting out on their sailing careers, couldn't even see over the gunwhales of these big dinghies. They oohed and ahhed at boats made from "actual timber?"

Twenty-three Mermaids were weighed and plopped into Howth Harbour. Some of them had been here relatively recently (1953!) and wondered who had stolen Howth Sailing Club. HYC's Jedi, Neville Maguire was on hand with fellow Mermaid aficionados Gerry and Ian Sargent to poke and point and raise eyebrows at things called "Cleats".

Under the care of National Race Officer Scorie Walls, Thursday's racing started at a polite 1400. Keeping the Northside flag held high, "Azeezy" from Skerries did the business with two wins from three races. Not content with competing with eachother on the water, the Annual Mermaid Table Quiz followed rehydration. In a show of poor manners, a table made up almost entirely of Howth 17 Footers won. A prize was awarded for the best answer to "What is the capital of Mongolia?" "Don't know, but it's got a lot of vowels and sounds fierce foreign".

Two races for the Mermaids on Friday saw "Wild Wind" (Rush SC) and "Tiller Girl" (National YC) equal "Azeezy"'s daily tot of 6 points. The gap wasn't closing.

Howth history in the making was being mentioned all week before the old ladies of sailing, the Howth 17 Footers, put on their Friday night frocks and took to the water for a single race from the East Pier. For the first time in history, 18 boats were afloat and jockeying for position. The busy start line was made slightly more complex when the class was given a downwind/ spinnaker start in front of the East Pier, with boats gybing and tacking simultaneously as they jockied for position with a minute to go. Almost inevitably for the class, the girls began the bumping and grinding before the start signal and "Oona" went for "Rita" like a jealous girlfriend. "Rita’s” stick-man, Marcus Lynch, found himself with a clip around the ear from "Oona's" bowsprit and was forced to retire with injured planks, cracked frames and a split rudder. Turns out that "Oona" picked the wrong girl to shout at and she broke her bowsprit in the collision. And so the anticipated race with the full compliment of the world's oldest one-design racing keelboats never quite happened. The remaining seventeen boats crossed the line with spinnakers flying and more photographers clicking than at a Justin Bieber underwear collection launch. Head girl was "Deilginis" with "Aura" and "Hera" following in her tracks.

Saturday morning saw the Howth 17 Footers dressing up in their finest gowns and bonnets and gliding like debutants to the dancefloor. "Hera" lifted up her skirt and frightened the girls by winning by over two minutes. The brazen thing. She would have to have her cough softened! "Deilginis" took back control of the crowd in Race 3, trailed by "Gladys" sporting her 2016 Spring/Summer collection.

By the middle of the day, the wind had picked up, gusting over 30kts, and it was become hard for some to keep the bonnets atop. The ladies rolled down the run more like drunken maids than the elegant princesses which left the Harbour. Half of the fleet chose to remove their topsails but not before the paparazzi had caught them on video, in full swing...

The Mermaids were on the far side of the trapezoid course and only crossed the Howth 17s at the leeward mark and short beat to the finish. It was likely that some Mermaid sailors were checking their insurance when they saw the 17s approach! Top Mermaid of the day was "Vee" (Rush SC) with a 1st and 4th. "Wild Wind" and "Tiller Girl" produced some magic to close the gap to leader "Azeezy" but it wasn't to be enough to rein in the eventual Champions.

Back on the Howth 17 course, "Leila" and "Aura" sobered and took the last two races, and "Deilginis" was to take the 2016 title. Class Captain, Tom Houlihan, took the Handicap prize aboard his "Zaida".

As the last of the Howth 17 sailors were plucked from the moorings, the Mermaids had already already been craned out and packed up, setting the scene for a packed balcony in glorious sunshine. Rehydration once more!

170 sailors and their entourages filed into the club dining room to be fed, found, watered, awarded and clapped at. Champion Mermaid sailor Sam Shiels pronounced an epic acceptance speech. His Howth 17 opposite, Luke Massey, countered it with an example of brevity and raised the trophy aloft.

The next Classic One-Design Regatta will be held at Howth Yacht Club over the weekend of 10-12 August 2018.

Published in Howth YC

As Dublin Bay Mermaid Week starts in Howth Yacht Club tomorrow, a Kestrel that landed in Dan Brennan's Mermaid, Aideen, writes about her experience at the front end of the Dun Laoghaire Fleet's special races around Dalkey Island on Sunday.

Interviewed after the race the Kestrel said “It has always been my ambition to sail in a traditional hand crafted wooden boat. I could land in a modern mass production boat any day of the week, but I wanted the real classic boat experience. I saw the beautiful five boat Mermaid fleet under spinnaker running towards Dalkey Island and couldn’t resist the temptation to try out a Mermaid. I was not disappointed, the Mermaid handled beautifully in the breeze. We were a bit behind when I landed aboard but the fleet came together at the back of the Island where the tide had started to flood and we worked our way into the lead by playing the shifts and getting into the strongest tide as we returned through Dalkey Sound. The breeze was very shifty with lots of holes as we passed through the Sound and beat back to Dun Laoghaire. My skipper did well but was outfoxed by former three times National Champion, Jonathan O’Rourke in Tiller Girl who was the 2016 winner of the Meg Mug.” The Mug is named after Meg of the Muglins and is raced for each year by the Mermaids around Dalkey Island.

She added (because she was a proper lady Kestrel and quite a rare bird) “While I really enjoyed the race I was disappointed that we did not win and I was upset to hear one of the crew, eight year old Charlie Martin say about me ‘this is the scariest thing that ever happened to me’. I have really caught the Mermaid bug and I am looking forward to dropping in on the Mermaid Nationals which are in Howth 4-8 August and maybe doing a few DBSC races. I appreciated the offer to have a few pints with the lads after the race but I had to fly home. ”

The Kestrel circumnavigated Dalkey Island in Aideen and flew away safely when back ashore in the National Yacht Club. Charlie enjoyed his first race and quickly recovered from his Kestrel scare.

A Kestrel is a small bird of prey (raptor) with a distinctive hovering flight which lives on a diet of small mammals. It is not a sea bird. Kestrels are amber listed due to concerns over declining numbers.

If you would like to join the discerning raptor in sailing in a DBSC Mermaid either as a crew or as a Mermaid owner, please contact the Mermaid Sailing Association, any member of the Mermaid fleet or Dan Brennan, Dun Laoghaire Mermaid Class Captain 087 -7985218. You will be most welcome.

Published in Mermaid

With the confirmation that Kinsale Yacht Club will be hosting the Half Ton Classic Worlds from August 14th to 18th 2017, Irish interest will intensify further in a class which already attracts much favourable attention. W M Nixon tells us more about a popular boat type which will have a defending champion from Ireland when the Worlds get under way in Falmouth in Cornwall in a week’s time.

If today’s newcomers to sailing find the resurrection of old offshore racing classes which are apparently only identified by specific weights a bit bewildering, then they can blame the first Commodore of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

The first Commodore of the NYC in 1931 was the Earl of Granard. The club had been founded in 1870 as the Kingstown Royal Harbour Boat Club, and in 1901 it became the Edward Yacht Club in honour of one of Queen Victoria’s many offspring. But with the new mood of the times after Irish Independence in 1922, such a name just wouldn’t do. Nevertheless it was a very sporting gesture when one of the landed aristocracy proposed the new no-nonsense name in 1930, giving it a fair wind by agreeing to be Commodore the following year.

Thus the big change to becoming “The National Yacht Club” was made respectable. But then, the Earl of Granard was a well-respected sailing man in his own right, despite the fact that his ancestral pile in County Longford was about as far from the sea as you can get in Ireland.

Admittedly there was sailing nearby with the North Shannon Yacht Club on Lough Forbes, which incidentally is named after the earl’s family – they were connected to the Forbes of the famous business magazine in America. However, despite the joys of sailing on Lough Forbes, the Earl had long been into bigger things on the international scene, though his interest still had an inland waterways aspect. In 1899 he’d presented a magnificent silver cup to the leading French sailing club, the Cercle de la Voile de Paris (CVP) for an international competition, to be sailed on the River Seine near Paris or on the Solent at Cowes, with the racing between boats which weighed one ton.

Although the trophy’s official name was the Coupe Internationale du Cercle de la Voile de Paris, it soon became known as the One Ton Cup, and continued to be so named even when racing was between yachts of the International 6 Metre Class, despite their weighing several tons apiece.

One Ton Cup 2The cause of all the trouble – the One Ton Cup was presented to the CVP by the Earl of Granard, future Commodore of the National YC, in 1898, and was first raced for in 1899.
The magnificent cup remained as beautiful as ever, but with World War II it became almost forgotten until 1965, when the CVP proposed using it for an inshore-offshore international series for yachts rating at 22ft under the RORC rule, which worked out to be boats around the 36-37ft mark. The idea took off like a rocket - level-rating racing among diverse boats was an idea whose time had come. Very quickly, a whole range of additional international rating levels arose, with Two Tonners around 40-42ft, Three Quarter Tonners around 34ft, Half Tonners around 30ft, Quarter Tonners around 25ft, Mini-Tonners around 21ft, and they even had Micro-Tonners at about 18ft.

Ton Classes 3The Ton Classes at their peak

It all worked very well for twenty years and more in some cases (the last Half Tonner was built in 1992), with the boat sizes staying broadly the same size range, but with the ratings changed to accommodate the RORC rule being replaced by the IOR. And Irish sailing certainly had its moments in this continuing circus of various offshore racing acts. In 1974 the Ron Holland-designed, Cork–built 36ft Golden Apple somehow became more famous than the winner by being runner up the One Ton Worlds. But then in 1976, Harold Cudmore and a youthful crew from Cork put all questions aside by managing to get the new race-prepared Ron Holland-designed 30ft Silver Shamrock to Trieste for the Half Ton Worlds, and he won in style, famously celebrating by sailing up the Grand Canal in Venice with spinnaker set.

Half Ton World champion Silver Shamrock 4The 1976 Half Ton World champion Silver Shamrock, getting an end-of-season lift-out at her current home port of Penzance in CornwallSilver Shamrock sailing 5 See the conquering heroes come…….Silver Shamrock sailing up the Grand Canal in Venice after winning the Half Ton Worlds 1976 in Trieste under Harold Cudmore’s command. Ronnie Dunphy on left, Killian Bushe on foredeck

In 1981 he was back on top again, winning the One Ton Worlds at Crosshaven with the Castro-design Justine IV owned by Frank Woods (NYC). But by this time the boats involved were very different in form from those skinny-sterned designs which had dominated in the earlier 1970s, as a fresh wave of New Zealand designers like Bruce Farr and Laurie Davidson had been showing what could be achieved with broader sterns and better offwind performance.

The Half Ton Worlds was won in 1977, ’78 and ’79 by Kiwi boats of this type. But though she was not the overall winner, Ian Gibbs’ Farr-designed Swuzzlebubble was the one everyone remembered best, as she was on the podium one year as a centreboarder, and back there in the top three the year after, but this time as a keelboat.

Swuzzlebubble 1976The new wave arrives from New Zealand – Swuzzlebubble in 1979
The following year she arrived in Ireland in the ownership of Bruce Lyster of Royal St George in Dun Laoghaire, and he won the ISORA Championship in 1980, plus ISORA Week and just about everything for which the boat was eligible in Cowes Week.

He had an exceptional crew of all the talents with Robert Dix, Drewry Pearson and Des Cummins, and Dixie remembers her as one of the most wonderful boats he ever sailed: “She found her own way to peak performance so effortlessly that you’d almost be scared to do anything which might adversely effect the trim” he quips.

He continues to say that even though Bruce Lyster sold Swuzzlebubble to Greece at season’s end, as you simply couldn’t improve on a season like they’d had in 1980. The Three Musketeers meanwhile transferred aboard Ken Rohan’s 40ft Regardless, with which they won their class big time in the 1981 Fastnet.

Regardless would be on most people’s short list for the greatest Irish racing yacht ever, yet Robert Dix remembers the previous season with Swuzzlebubble with even more enthusiasm. So it’s intriguing that at next week’s Henri Lloyd Half Ton Classics Worlds, the new wave of Irish Classic Half Ton sailors will be taking on Swuzzlebubble for the first time.

The story of her re-birth is typical of the modern revival of the very best of the old Ton Cup boats, with the One Ton Championship itself being revived for its Golden Jubilee in New Zealand in 2015 with a classic fleet. As for Swuzzlebubble, she was discovered in a very poor way indeed in a Greek boatyard in 2012, but was brought back to life by the King of Cowes, Peter Morton, who duly won the Half Ton Classics Worlds in Brittany in 2014 with her.

Swuzzlebubble wreck 7Next stop, the landfill site? Swuzzlebubble as she was found in Greece in 2012
half ton Swuzzlebubble restored 8Swuzzlebubble restored, on her way to winning the Half Ton Classics in Brittany in 2014

However, Swuzzlebubble wasn’t campaigned in the 2015 series in Belgium, when Dave Cullen took the trophy for Ireland with Checkmate XV. So there has been an air of unfinished business about these two rather special boats floating about the ocean without actually locking horns, but that’s all going to be changed in Falmouth.

Dave Cullen Checkmate XV 9Dave Cullen on the helm as Checkmate XV makes a start to die for at the Half Ton Worlds in Belgium, 2015Dave Cullen crew 10Winners take all – Dave Cullen and his crew with the trophy after victory last year

In fact, it has become Howth versus Falmouth, as Swuzzlebubble is now Falmouth-owned by Gregory Peck who, in a very varied sailing career, was one of the crew with Dickie Gomes aboard the 83ft catamaran Novanet when a new Round Ireland Record was established in November 1986, but that’s another story altogether.

However, in Falmouth there’ll be other boats involved too, as the word is they might muster as many as 30 entries, which is as big a fleet as anyone could reasonably wish for. The remarkable Howth/Fingal contingent will be there in full strength, as Checkmate XV will be taking the road with Jonny Swann’s Harmony, Michael and Richard Evans’ The Big Picture, and the David Kelly and Patrick Boardman team from Rush SC with King One, Half Ton World Champion in 1981.

It’s an intriguing mixture of nostalgia and modernity, as the boats get revamped to new ideas, yet they always carry their history lightly but definitely with them. In the case of the Howth boats, much of the technical work in revamping is done by ace boatbuilder Alan Power of Malahide, who appropriately is a powerboat nut himself, but his ability to think outside the usual boat-building box makes him the ideal man to undertake crazy notions for addicts of old but still potent offshore racers.

Half tonners Big Picture Checkmate XV 11Preparation zone…..The Big Picture (left) and Checkmate XV undergoing modifications with Power Marine in Malahide back in April. Photo: W M Nixon

In line with this aim of maximising performance, the Howth/Fingal crewing lineup will include some formidable talent from all over Ireland, with Dave Cullen leading the charge with his 2015 crew of Johnny Murphy, Gary Cullen (no relation), Aidan Beggan, Mark Pettit, James Hynes and Andy George.

The crew on The Big Picture meanwhile have roped in Mark Mansfield of Cork, who is having a great year of it in a variety of boats, while the jockey for King One is young Marty O’Leary, one of the bright new talents to emerge in recent years from Courtown in County Wexford.

Down Falmouth way, it’s going to be Classic Half Ton Racing at its classic best. And if you wonder why it is that the Half Tonners seem to have been the most successful of all the Ton classes in reviving themselves after more than fifty years, perhaps the answer is that at 30ft they’re big enough as boats to be taken seriously, yet small enough to be a manageable proposition for keeping in top order and raced keenly.

half ton Classics fleet 12The contemporary Half Ton Classics lineup – the boats are big enough to be taken seriously, yet small enough to be manageable

Published in W M Nixon

The Sutton Cross Pharmacy 2016 Puppeteer National Championships was won by Dave Clarke & Liam Egan and crew on “Harlequin” following two days of intense racing at Howth Yacht Club this weekend. They managed to beat 2014's winning boat - Colin and Kathy Kavanagh's “Blue Velvet” by the narrow margin of one point. The handicap prize went to Ciaran McAuliffe and crew on “Arcturus” who's two point win from second placed “Papagena” (Kieran Barker) earned them the silverware this year.

The six-race championships was always going to reward the most consistent results from the 14-boat fleet. A mix of light and patchy conditions on Saturday produced four different winners from the four starts, with some of the pre-race favourites well out of the reckoning prior to the Sunday starts. Mindful of forecast light conditions on Sunday, National Race Officer Harry Gallagher went for the option of a fourth race on the Saturday afternoon. Sunday’s two races were sailed in light but steady breezes and produced some great tacking duels and very close finishes throughout the fleet. Racing was completed at 14.00 approx. and was followed by prize giving before the tea-time celebrations in the clubhouse.

Winning helm Liam Egan paid tribute to all aboard “Harlequin”, congratulated them for their expertise and said that their contribution 'made all the difference.' He singled out the battle they had had with “Blue Velvet” and thanked them for their sportsmanship on the water. Celebrations continued long into the night……….

Puppeteer Nationals 2016 Prizegiving 2Commodore Berchmans Gannon (left) and Puppeteer Class captain Kieran Barker (right) present the trophy to Liam Egan while Dave Clarke shows off his gold medals!

 

Published in Puppeteers

The Sutton Cross Pharmacy Puppeteer 22 National Championship 2016 takes place in Howth Yacht Club over the weekend of the 30th. and 31st. July.

This class provides very close midweek racing in HYC, with 20 odd boats out on Tuesdays. Harry Gallagher is Race Officer. Six races are scheduled, three on each day, with first warning signals at 11.00.

With several previous National Champions attending there is no clear favourite as to who will emerge as the 2016 Champion, according to Class Captain Kieran Barker of Howth.

Published in Puppeteers
Page 10 of 37

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