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Go–ahead Irish Sailing School, the INSS, are planning to moor a 50–foot Viking Ship in front of their Dun Laoghaire Harbour premises at the West Pier in Dun Laoghaire.

In August, School Principal Kenneth Rumball co-ordinated a 'Battle of Dun Laoghaire Harbour' fought By 'Viking invaders'. It was a free and family–friendly event that featured battles, longboats and a Viking village that was a collaboration between Dun Laoghaire Harbour, actors from the Viking TV series and the INSS to celebrate the harbour's bicentenary.

As well as sailing instruction, the leading Irish sailing school also provides marine location services, including logistic work for the hit TV series 'Vikings', filmed in Wicklow.

The success of August's battle has led the school to develop plans to moor one of the longships in Dun Laoghaire's Coal Harbour as a water-based tourist attraction.

Read more from WM Nixon here: Dun Laoghaire Sailing's Cage Rattled By Malahide Boating Dynamo

Published in INSS

With 312 entries in the IRC divisions alone, and numbers pushing towards the 400 mark when all classes are included, the record-breaking Fastnet Race 2017 was surely on the edge of becoming an unwieldy beast as it got under way in classic style westward down the Solent on Sunday August 6th. Add in the fact that the mountain of results was only being finalised on the following Friday, when the rhythm of the sporting week was already starting to bring major weekend arena events to the top of the demanding media agenda, and you inevitably have the prescription for a hasty allocation of subsidiary awards which risks seeing some trophies going to the wrong recipients. W M Nixon takes a look at how it all eventually came right in one very special case.

The Roger Justice Trophy is a handsome cup in the Rolex Fastnet Race array of silverware, yet it’s a cup for which nobody specifically competes. It goes to whichever offshore sailing school has done best in the overall results, and there were upwards of thirty boats eligible for it in 2017. But as Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School tersely comments, if you’re racing a school boat in the Fastnet and you’re only interested in the Roger Justice Trophy, then you’re missing the point completely.

For as he sees it, the entire purpose of taking your training vessel in the Fastnet is to throw the tyro crew into open competition. You’re not seeking any special concessions because you’re a school boat. On the contrary, you’re there because this is the big boys’ game. You’re playing by the big boys’ rules. And you’re taking on the very best of them head-to-head, with no concessions expected.

jedi fastnet start2Head-to-head competition in the open fleet with no concessions expected. Jedi makes a dream of a port tack start in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. And yes, she did pass clear ahead of that boat (top left) romping in on starboard tack. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

The story of how the Irish National Sailing School in its busy corner of the Inner Harbour of Dun Laoghaire came into being in the 1970s is now the stuff of legend. Our most recent detailed look at it came in this blog on 16th May 2015, when we headlined with an account of how school founder Alistair Rumball had expanded his additional advisory and boat provision role with the TV and movie business by organising the longships for the television series Vikings, thereby providing an additional income source to help the INSS through the depths of the economic recession.

In this he had the full support of his wife Muriel, who is the overall administrator of the school. And as it was a situation that demanded sacrifices in terms of working hours, pay and conditions which could never be expected from a non-family employee, their son Kenneth jacked in his job in Dublin as an accountant, and became the on-water principal.

By 2015 the light at the end of the tunnel had become a warm, steady and reassuring glow, and when we were there on a May evening, things were definitely on the up-and-up. In the basic but very functional premises, the first committee meeting of the recently-formed Irish National Sailing Club was being held. It had been set up in order to organize races and provide sailing school graduates with a club membership to comply with major event requirements, and to reflect that while the INSS was definitely a school, for many participants it had attractive elements of a club about it.

alistair muriel kenneth3Alistair, Muriel and Kenneth Rumball – the family’s devoted work with the Irish National Sailing School has made an enormous contribution to Irish sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

Alistair was busier than ever with Viking ships which had to be replaced from time to time just wherever he could find a builder who could comply with strict standards and a tight budget, and Kenneth was thinking ahead to further development of the uses of a fleet which included craft up to 1720s size, with the Reflex 38 Lynx in prospect as the school flagship with serious offshore racing possibilities.

In the intervening two and more years, many things have happened. Sadly, Alistair’s brother Arthur died much mourned in December 2016. He had been a cornerstone of the school structure as he was in charge of maintenance of the enormous, very varied and growing training fleet, but he’d trained his staff well, and his high standards have been maintained.

But by December 2016, the club’s fleet structure had been enhanced with the addition of the Reflex 38 which Kenneth had skippered to tenth overall in the fleet of 63 boats in the Volvo Round Ireland Race, winning the sailing schools division.

Yet despite this successful debut on what was now the international scene, they’d already concluded that the technically difficult Reflex 38 was not the ideal offshore racing boat for a Dun Laoghaire-based sailing school to make the best use of the unique combination of possibilities which Dublin Bay and its adjacent long distance racing areas provided.

Longterm readers of Afloat.ie don’t need reminding that we have been banging on for a very long time indeed about just how ideal is the J/109 to embody Dublin Bay’s noble One-Design tradition. So when word came through that the Irish National Sailing School had bought the 2002-built J/109 Jedi II with the aim of serious campaigning in the 2017 season, it was very good news indeed.

It’s the perfect package – a very manageable boat, straightforward to sail with a bowsprit and asymmetricals, plenty of sister-ships to pace yourself against offshore, and a cracking fleet in Dublin Bay to give INSS students a taste of inshore One-Design racing at its very best.

kenneth rumball4Kenneth Rumball in the INSS’s decidedly basic premises on Dun Laoghaire’s Inner Harbour this week. He took a 15-year-old J/109 and transformed her into a race winner. Photo: W M Nixon

But there was much to be done to bring Jedi up to Kenneth Rumball’s demanding requirements. At 29, he was already a successful veteran of the Round Ireland, Fastnet, Middle Sea and Sydney-Hobart Races. So a year’s campaigning culminating in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 demanded a programme of painstaking remedial work to optimize Jedi for the serious stuff.

In doing this, he was helped by two things. Arthur Rumball’s legacy was a skilled workshop staff who could assist Kenneth in reducing superfluous weight in Jedi – in all, about 350 kilogrammes of unnecessary equipment and “ornaments” came out of her, while her underwater hull was taken down to the gelcost and her keel got a proper fairing. But as well, Andrew Algeo had also recently also joined the Dublin Bay J/109 fleet with the newer Joggerknot. He too was engaged in optimizing her for the high standard of racing of the Dun Laoghaire fleet, so between them they provided a real Brain’s Trust for the exchange and implementation of ideas.

At a high point in January 2017, it looked as if the INSS might have two boats in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. Kenneth had just come back from racing the Sydney-Hobart in a First 40, and was filled with enthusiasm for the potential of having the school’s two boats in the Fastnet. So he set up two Rolex Fastnet Race 2017s entry procedures side-by-side on two separate laptops on the school’s work table. There was just time to have everything in order as the closing date arrived, and for those who have had difficulty in even getting their Fastnet Race entry considered, it will be maddening to hear that both INSS boats made the cut.

But over the coming months, harsh reality intervened as the sheer logistics challenge of managing and manning two proper school entries from a base in Dun Laoghaire in a race starting off Cowes became apparent, and Lynx’s slot was returned to the RORC office.

Thanks to this slimming of the operation, things were looking very good for the season’s campaigning of the revitalized Jedi. Early races were providing increasingly encouraging results, and the places in the training programme towards participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 had been quickly snapped up and money paid up front by a diverse line-up of trainees. This meant they’d comfortably comply with the RORC’s fairly modest definition of a sailing school entry as a boat which was sailing school-owned, and had a 50/50 lineup between experienced and trainee crew.

It has to be remembered that this was all taking shape as the INSS was entering its busiest time of the year in its core activity of being a sailing school which gets hundreds of people from every background afloat in a wide variety of boats in Dublin Bay, a significant proportion of them for the very first time.

jedi leading5Jedi leading the offshore fleet. The combination of Dublin Bay One-Design sailing with the J/109s, combined with readily-available offshore racing, offers a superb opportunity to learn – but only for those who can stick the pace. Photo: Afloat.ie

So it was a cruel blow when the wheels came off the Jedi programme on May 13th with the ISORA Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire Race. A rugged event with wind-over-tide conditions and the sea at its coldest, it may have seen hardened veterans like Paul O’Higgins and his tough crew in the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI revelling in the going to win, and there was also good going by second-placed Transatlantic veteran Conor Fogerty in the Sunfast 3600 Bam. But aboard Jedi there was misery and seasickness rampant among the trainees, and at race’s end three of them pulled out of the Fastnet programme.

They’d already paid up, but in time an amicable financial settlement was reached, and Kenneth Rumball set about filling the empty places, though as the end of May approached, he was not feeling optimistic. Yet they managed to get a crew with the right configuration together for the vital Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on 11th June, seen as a key qualifier and training event, yet here too things went pear-shaped.

The unbelievably rugged beat round Ireland’s rocky southeast corner took a savage toll with wholesale retirals, and one of Jedi’s crew became ill beyond seasickness. It was feared they were having a stroke, and the whole purpose on board became focussed on getting into Dunmore East as quickly as possible and getting the casualty to hospital, where recovery was complete. But by the time that had been done, it was clear they were out of the race, and they sailed disconsolately back to Dun Laoghaire to pick up the pieces.

Fortunately the rest of the crew were still more than game for the Fastnet challenge, and they’d ISORA’s Lyver Trophy Race on June 30th before the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from 6th to 9th July to provide the final necessary qualifier. But the race was postponed because of a severe gale, put back to a date three weeks hence, which would leave the final Jedi qualifier only a narrow window of opportunity.

Yet suddenly, they were in a time of hope. Jedi with many of her potential Fastnet crew on board had a great Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. They finished second in class, and the team were bonding in a very encouraging way.

Jedi vdlr6When it all finally started to come together. Alistair & Muriel Rumball with Jedi’s crew at the prize-giving ceremony for Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta, July 9th 2017. To celebrate Dun Laoghaire’s 200th Anniversary, one of the prizes was a picture of the first regatta at the harbour, in 1828.

Two weeks later, the Lyver Trophy was sailed on July 21st from Holyhead round Rockabill to Dun Laoghaire, and they’d a good race of it. Although the winner was the all-conquering J/109 Sgrech (Stephen Tudor), Rumball and his crew were right in the thick of it chasing in a three-way match race with sister ship Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), and they finished with the feeling that at last they had the basis of a proper Fastnet challenge, albeit with just a fortnight to go to the start.

So the fact that Kenneth Rumball finally filled in the form to define them as a sailing school entry with less than a fortnight to go to the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 may have had something to do with the subsequent initial post-race mis-allocation of an award. He himself regarded the sailing school thing as very secondary to the core Jedei theme of being in the midst of the main fleet, and in any case he had the prodigious logistical challenge of transferring the focal point of the campaign from the school office in Dun Laoghaire to the Solent.

In times long past, anyone doing the Fastnet Race expected to spend the days beforehand berthed in Cowes. But with current entry numbers and the Solent area’s overcrowded situation, being in Cowes is if anything a disadvantage for a campaign from Dublin with limited resources and very extended lines of communication. In the circumstances, the way the Jedi team handled this was real textbook stuff.

Time and personnel resources were of the essence, so they arranged for the boat to be delivered on a semi-professional basis to the relative peace and quiet of Mercury Yacht Harbour well up the Hamble River over on the Solent’s mainland shore. And while the rest of the crew flew over in time to allow three clear days for final preparation, Kenneth and Lorcan Tighe stocked up a mini-bus to double as shore transport and a workshop/storeroom, and they took the Holyead ferry and drove it post-haste to the Hamble

jedi crew7Just ever so slightly nervous….Jedi crew in Mercury Yacht Harbour on the River Hamble early on the morning of the start of the Rolex Fastet Race 2017 

Lorcan Tighe (17) may have been be Jedi’s most junior crewman in terms of age, but he was one of the most experienced on board. From Killiney in Dublin, his family is non-sailing though his dad is into scuba diving. But when he was just six, Lorcan took a week-long course at the INSS, and was hooked. So although he now has his own Laser based at the National YC, his heart stays with the INSS where he instructs evenings and weekends and during holidays (he’s in final year at Marian College in Ballsbridge). And he’s mad keen on the offshore thing, taking on the hugely challenging job of being the bowman on Lynx during the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race.

He’s a talented helmsman too, so he was very much on the “experienced sailor” side of the equation aboard Jedi, where the co-skipper with Kenneth Rumball was Conor Kinsella (28), who’s from Tullamore and works in finance.

As for the “trainees”, they were very much of the Ireland of today. Deirdre Foley works in banking, Kylie McMillan (29) is in financial consulting, Keith Kiernan (41) is in insurance, George Tottenham (38) is in windfarms, and Fearghus McCormack – whom Kenneth Rumball reckons to be about 40 – is Mine Host of that splendid establishment, the Merrion Inn in the heart of Dublin 4.

Kenneth Rumball is refreshingly non-ageist, so apart from Lorcan Tighe who put us right on his young age, all those ages are only guesses. And Rumball is also refreshingly dismissive of the whole experienced/trainee divide. As far as he and his shipmates were concerned, they were a team, they were crew together, they had a joint mission to perform and everyone was doing his or her very best, and that was all there was to it. There were emphatically no artificial them-and-us divisions on Jedi.

jedi departs8Here we go…Jedi leaves the now-familiar surroundings of Mercury Yacht Harbour, heading for the start of the Fastnet Race

After such a saga of setback and breakthrough, the Fastnet Race itself could have just been just the concluding chapter in an extraordinary tale of triumph over tribulation. But of course for Jedi’s crew, it was the pinnacle. And it was high adrenalin stuff from the start. Kenneth Rumball set out to take on the best of the opposition head-to-head, and he’d the great Carlo Borlenghi to photograph the moment when Jedi made the sort of clear-away port tack start that is inevitable in traditional Fastnet conditions, yet few manage it so well.

As for the race itself, Deirdre Foley speaks for all with her enthusiastic memories: “I loved every minute of it. Superior planning and attention to tactics/routes etc, a great crew – great sense of humour and craic……on water we had some great wind overnight on our return journey to Plymouth – what looked to be a full moon, nice sea state, Jedi flying along like the wind, for me the best part of a wonderful race”

Young Loran Tighe takes, as you’d expect, a mature overview despite his youth. After all, this is a guy who was working the foredeck of Lynx at the age of 16, racing through the night off Ireland’s Atlantic coast:

“It was great to get the chance to experience the Fastnet Race, but also everything that led up to it including the ISORA series and Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Great boat, good plan, and in the end, a crew put together that made a super season of it”.

As to the actual race, the irony of it is that it looked as though they were having their closest race with sister-ship Mojito from the other side of the Irish Sea but the reality of a fleet the size of the Fastnet is that you’ve races going on at every side of you, and in the end the way that conditions of tide, wind and whatever pan out will mean that boats a certain size, type, and rating cohort will win out.

Thus everything was going the way of Jedi and her cohort after beating out to the Fastnet in classic style. The overall leader on IRC at the Rock was the JPK 10.10 Night and Day (Pascal Loison), with fellow French skipper Noel Racine second in sister-ship Foggy Dew, while third was Ireland’s Paul Kavanagh in the vintage Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan.

Their ratings are 1.003, 1.002 and 0.985 respectively, which tells us much. Mojito at the stage was at he best place in the race, she was ninth overall rating 1.010, while Jedi was in contention, rating 1.008 and in 11th place overall, just one place ahead of RORC Commodore Michael Boyd of the RIYC racing the first 44.7 Lisa.

jedi fastnet9On top of the world….with 17-year-old Lorcan Tighe on the wheel, Jedi heads for Plymouth from the Fastnet Rock lying 11th overall in the 312-strong fleet

But on the fast sail back to Plymouth, it was boats around the 40ft mark which carried the favourable conditions best, and the JNA 39 Llan Ael 2 (Didier Gaoudoux, France) rose up the rankings from 29th overall at the Rock to become overall winner, while Lisa was remarkably consistent to move up from 12th to 8th.

But for the smaller J/109s, things became distinctly unfavourable, and though Jedi did indeed run like the wind, getting ahead of Mojito despite seeing her A3 blow out when it shouldn’t have, by the time she was in the final approaches to Plynouth the bite had long gone gone from the wind, and she cascaded down to 58th overall.

She was still very much the first J/109, and while she was 8th in IRC 3, she was first in IRC 3B for boats doing their first Fastnet. There was a cherished medallion in line for that, for a first in class in the greatest Rolex Fastnet Race ever held is something very special.

jedi plymouth approach10Aboard Jedi approaching Plymouth and the finish as night draws on, Thursday 10th August. The wind is slipping away, and she no longer holds a top overall placing, but is leading Class 3B.

On that crowded Friday afternoon in Plymouth with mountains of results figures still being assimilated and analysed, the Roger Justice Trophy went to a Sailing School Farr 60. Something strange here. A scan of the results showed that Jedi been well ahead of that Farr 60 on corrected time. But with everyone going their various ways with Conor Kinsella heading off to retrieve the mini-bus from the Hamble while Kenneth Rumball cruised Jedi home, sorting it out could be left to a later date.

With that Class 3B win under their belt, there was time enough to see about putting the record straight. And when they later contacted the RORC office, they were told that there had indeed indeed been an error, and the winner of the Roger Justice Trophy was Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire in the Sunfast 37 Desert Star, thereby repeating Ronan O Siochru’s success of 2015.

So then they’d to get back to the number crunchers again, and gently suggest to them that it was indeed a Dun Laoghaire-based sailing school which had won the Roger Justice Trophy, but it was a different one - it was the Irish National Sailing School and the boat was called Jedi.

jedi gets justice11Jedi gets Justice – RORC Commodore Michael Boyd, Committee Member Lucy Reynolds, and Kenneth Rumball as the Roger Justice Trophy finally reaches its rightful winner in RORC headquarters in London last week.

It’s understandable that it happened. After all, Jedi’s final fully-qualified crew list as a sailing school was only submitted to the race office with about ten days to go to the start of the race. The sheer weight of data flying about by this stage must have been smothering for those handling it.

But it all came right at the end, though admittedly it was the very end. At an awards ceremony in the RORC in London last week, at the last moment Jedi was finally called forward to receive the Roger Justice Trophy. Forget that old saying about justice delayed is justice denied. In sailing, it’s acceptable if justice is done in due course, and is seen to be done.

Published in W M Nixon

Irish National Sailing School Principal Kenneth Rumball heads west  this month to give a chat about his sailing career. All are welcome to Galway Bay Sailing Club on Wednesday,18th of January at 8pm. Here's what the Oranmore club can expect: 

I still remember my first day sailing, it was a typical miserable so called 'summers day' in Sutton north of Dublin. Dad (Alistair Rumball) was helping to get a sailing school going over there. There was a group of us in shortie wetsuits and buoyancy aids freezing standing in chest deep water waiting for our turn to take command of probably a heavily reefed topper dinghy. I had already figured out what the tiller did and on the way to sailing that day had figured out what the piece of rope at the back did, apparently it made the boat go faster. I hopped in on my go, held the tiller and pulled on the rope, accelerated away and capsized! I was hooked!

From those early days it has been a whirlwind 22 years learning, teaching, racing and above all sailing a huge variety of boats including 420s, 49ers, Rs200s RS400s, Fireballs, J109s, J80s, the list is pretty endless. Taking the teaching from a hobby to a full profession and career has been an adventure in itself aiming to do it all better and faster than anybody can imagine.

Above all sailing has thoroughly taken over my life and if you would like to hear some of my experiences sailing dinghies around the cans or racing thoroughbred race boats offshore at the highest level or even hear what it is like to pursue a career in the industry.

Published in How To Sail

INSS School principal and skipper Kenneth Rumball reviews his tenth place overall in Volvo Round Ireland 2016 on board the INSS Reflex 38, Lynx.

The idea for the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School to compete in the Round Ireland Yacht race was hatched even before the company planned to enter into the yachtmaster business. In fact when selecting a yacht for our competent crew, dayskipper and yachtmaster teaching duties, we made sure to select a boat that could not only fulfil our teaching duties but could look after an amateur crew while also competing at the highest level offshore.

Our Reflex 38 spent her first year primarily away from racing duties before undergoing significant race preparation ahead of this year’s Round Ireland Yacht Race. Our hull was stripped back and freshly antifouled, electronics upgraded, sheets and halyards replaced along will a full sail valet and re-measurement, this all topped off with a full IRC re-measurement in an effort to reduce our TCC ahead of the race.

Meanwhile we started to advertise our campaign for the year ahead which included not only the race but 2 dedicated training weekends along with 4 ISORA training races to ensure our crew was fully prepared along with the boat ahead of this year’s race. Lynx performed well in this training races, coming 4th in the Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead and 5th in the Dun Laoghaire to Isle of Man.

INSS_Lynx_reflex_38

All set for the off – the INSS Reflex 38 in Dun Laoghaire

All set, our crew for the Round Ireland left Greystones Marina on the 18th of June for the race we had been preparing for all year. Keeping our noses clean at the start, we got clear early and made big gains by going close in under Wicklow head to be one of the first boats heading south. Pulling nicely in the first two hours, unfortunately we got stuffed in a no wind hole off Arklow. Going again we made good ground to round Tuskar in the leading pack before heading south into the building breeze. The breeze built and built and in changing down through our sails we unfortunately blew out or number 4 jib, eventually bringing us down to storm jib and two reefs in the mainsail, below is one our crew’s recollection at this time;
“I’ve never done a long offshore race before. In fact I only started sailing in April this year, so to say I was out of my depth on the Round Ireland is an understatement. However, I was somewhat cautious and logical, so I completed a few courses with INSS on the run up to the to the race including Sea Survival. During this course, among other things, I briefly learned about a storm jib and trysail. I was told I would probably never need to use this type of sail, but it was good to know. Come Sunday night off Cork, day 2 of the Round Ireland, the breeze picked up and I watched our torn number 4 headsail being bundled down the companion way with a calm call for the storm jib. Jaaaysus, I thought, storm sails, storm sails? What's next? What was the next module on that course? I think it was boarding a life raft...”

Once we got around the Fastnet, we were able to crack sails for a great yacht up the west coast, it got a bit breezy at one point where we blew out our A5 in about 35kts of breeze off Galway which forced us to move to our S3. With the clearing weather, we had a great sail around Tory Island while we calculated our approach to the notorious tides around Rathlin Island. Much to our surprise, we hadn’t done a good job of getting to Rathlin on time, we had in fact NAILED our timing, giving us a great run down toward Belfast Lough.

In good breeze we continued on a beat down the Irish Sea before being becalmed in Dundalk Bay. Here we struggled on the last night to get into the land breeze where unfortunately some of the lead boats got away… We spent most of the last night drifting trying to sniff any breeze out with the code zero. It wasn’t until the next morning off the Baily that we got going again to sail in good breeze into Wicklow.

Lynx finished after 5 days and 49 minutes in the 2016 Round Ireland, coming 4th in class 3, 10th overall and 1st Sailing School boat! It was a fantastic race where I am ever grateful to the crew who for some it was the longest they had ever spent at sea and who all performed admirably throughout the race, they would be a real asset to any offshore campaign in the future. Special thanks also go to Conor Kinsella and Luke Malcolm whom I really would have struggled without their talent and dedication.

RI lynx prizegiving

See Round Ireland tracker here Afloat's Round Ireland 2016 coverage is here and download overall results here

 

Published in Round Ireland

2015 was a busy year for the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School and the school is hoping to be even busier in 2016 writes school principal Kenneth Rumball.

2015 was a huge year of change for the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School. With thousands of sailors introduced to the sports of both sailing and powerboating at all levels. 2015 saw us invest hugely with the addition of LYNX our first yacht and new powerboats including a 9m and 6.5m RIB. We were delighted to be successful in all areas teaching new persons to sail and introducing old clients to the thrills and spills of dinghy, keelboat and yacht racing.

2016 is already looking to be just as challenging with LYNX currently undergoing a refit ahead of the Round Ireland Yacht race where we have already nearly sold all the places available for the trip around. 2016 will see us invest further in our dinghy fleet with new purchases already underway.

We look forward to helping you in 2016 with whatever course you need.

Published in Sailing Schools

#dlregatta – With the Kinsale ICRA Nats/Sovereigns Trophy 2015 very successfully concluded last weekend, and a classic Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race put stylishly in place before that, the feeling of another sailing summer busily in progress is all-pervasive. But while the image projected may well be one of stately progress by the cruiser-racer fleets along the Irish coast, taking in an offshore race here and a regatta there with much leisurely cruising in between, the reality is usually otherwise. For those boats doing significant segments of the programme, it's a case of fitting chosen events into the usual hectic early summer life of work and family commitments and exams and everything else, with the re-location of boats to the next venue being a hurried task undertaken by delivery crews.

Next week sees the mid-season peak of the sailing summer, with the four day Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015 in Dublin Bay from Thursday July 9th to Sunday July 12th. In a way it is an amalgamation of all that has has already occurred in this year's season, together with new elements to make it a unique sailfest which celebrates the fact that the citizens of Ireland's capital city and their guests can be conveniently sailing and racing within a very short distance of the heart of town. W M Nixon sets the scene

In the dozen or so years since its inception, the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta has settled itself firmly into the sailing scene as an exceptionally varied event in terms of the boats and classes taking part. There are five regular cruiser-racer classes, plus an offshore division, fourteen one design keelboat classes, and nine dinghy classes. And although there are contenders from Ireland's north coast and from the Cork area and south coast too, together with one gallant entry from Galway, it is essentially an Irish Sea Sailfest, though with a remarkably strong Scottish presence.

However, it was on the coast of Wales at 8.0pm last night that this sailing celebration began, with an ISORA Race starting in Holyhead and heading for Dun Laoghaire to set this large and complex programme into action towards a culmination on Dublin Bay in eight days time with the conclusion of VDLR2015.

2015 marks the Bicentennial of the Royal Dee YC, which was founded in 1815 on the Cheshire shores of the River Dee estuary where northwest England marches with northeast Wales. Originally the Dee Yacht Club (and founded, it's said, a month or two before the Royal Yacht Squadron came into being in the south of England, making the RDYC the second-oldest Royal yacht club in England after the Royal Thames), the Cheshire club became the Royal Dee YC in 1847.

Although the great prosperity of Liverpool in the 19th century saw the club's fleet of substantial yachts gathered in the Dee and then increasingly in the Mersey, by the late 1900s it was looking to the Menai Straits area as the focus of its keelboat events. As well, the completion of Holyhead breakwater in 1873 added a new and important harbour to its list of possible big boat sailing locations, and there was an increase in the number of cross-channel "matches" which the Royal Dee and the Royal Mersey, in conjunction with the Dublin Bay clubs, had already been running for some years.

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A Royal Alfred YC cross-channel match from Dublin Bay to Holyhead gets under way in 1888. Cross-channel links were strong in the latter half of the 19th Century, and with the new breakwater completed at Holyhead in 1873, a new venue was available both for the Irish clubs and those on the other side such as the Royal Dee and the Royal Mersey

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The bicentenary logo of the Royal Dee YC. In 1815, this club on the Cheshire coast was founded shortly before the Royal Yacht Squadron in the souh of England, whose Bicentennial is being celebrated at the end of July.

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Dun Laoghaire saw its first regatta staged in 1828, and participation by yachts from the northwest of England and North Wales was regularly recorded. This is the Royal St George YC regatta of 1871.

So when we say that the Royal Dee has always been a stalwart of offshore racing in the Irish Sea, we're not referring to a story spanning only the 20th and 21st Centuries. On the contrary, it goes well back into the 1800s. And now, with the revival of keelboat sailing in the Mersey with several of Liverpool's myriad docks being given over to recreational use, we have in a sense come full circle with enthusiastic Dublin Bay support of the Bicentennial celebrations reflecting sailing links which go back almost 200 years

The Lyver Trophy is the Royal Dee's premier offshore challenge, and this year it is special, as it's a fully-accredited RORC event counting for points in the annual championship, and a highlight of the ISORA Programme 2015. It's start scheduled for yesterday evening in Holyhead will see the fleet – mostly regular ISORA contenders – sail a course of at least a hundred miles before finishing in Dun Laoghaire. Then as VDLR 2015 gets under way, races in it, combined with the Lyver Trophy results, will count as part of a series towards finding an overall winner of the RDYC Bicentennial Trophy.

Only entrants in the Lyver Trophy race are eligible, and for that race itself – which can be followed on the Averycrest Yellowbrick Tracker - the favourite has to be the Shanahan family's J/109 Ruth, still buoyed up by her great victory in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race three weeks ago.

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Back in The Bay – the Shanahan family's J/109 Ruth will be back in her home waters of Dublin Bay after winning the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and completing the Lyver Trophy Race from Holyhead which started last night. Photo: David O'Brien

At the other end of the size scale, the VDLR2015 Dublin Bay programme includes several dinghy classes, and the biggest fleet will be mustered by the International GP 14s, who have designated the racing in Dublin Bay as their Leinster Championship. In an interview with Sailing on Saturday in March, VDLR Chairman Tim Goodbody emphasised that, overall, the event should be seen as a regatta rather than a championship, and for most boats that's just what it will be. But the GP 14s with their great esprit de corps have always done things their own way, and with their compact boat size – albeit comprising a large fleet of dinghies – they reckon they can get in a proper championship while sharing in the fun of the event.

v6.jpgThe brothers John and Donal McGuinness of Moville Sailing Club in Donegal are expected to be among the pace-setters in the GP 14 class with their superb Alistair Duffin-built boat. Photo: W M Nixon

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The GP 14 Ulsters 2015 were recently won on Lough Erne by Shane MacCarthy & Damian Bracken of Greystones

As to who is favourite, the McGuinness brothers – Donal and John - from Moville in Donegal, with their top-of-the-line Duffin boat built in Northern Ireland, have to be in the reckoning after being top Irish at last year's Worlds on Strangford Lough, but there's fresh blood in the fleet with the newest class developing at Youghal, while this year's recent Ulster Championship on Lough Erne was won by the Greystones duo of Shane MacCarthy and Damian Bracken.

The dozen and more boats coming south from Scotland, most of them substantial cruiser-racers, are testimony to a growing trend in sailing on Europe's Atlantic seaboard. Given a choice of venues, your average yachtie on this long coastline will incline to head south if at all possible. Other things being equal, it's reckoned the further south you go the warmer it is likely to be. And from the upper reaches of the Firth of Clyde, there are times when Dublin Bay might seem like the distant and sunny Mediterranean.

Maybe so, but we'd caution that much depends on the moods and location of that all-powerful weather determinant, the northern Polar Jetstream. In July, so long as it's well clear of Ireland -whether to the north or the south - we will have glorious high summer, and that occurred for the previous VDLR back in 2013, where the photos speak for themselves.

So we hope for the best in looking forward to welcoming a fleet of around 415 boats to Dun Laoghaire between July 9th and 12th, with all four of our in-harbour yacht clubs extending the hand of hospitality in a regatta tradition that goes right back to 1828. But while heritage and ceremonial are all very well in their place, it's the prospect of good sport which energises the participants and their sailing, and with several major contests already logged in 2015, what can we expect on the leaderboards next week?

At the top of the tree, Class 0 has formidable competition, including former Scottish champion Jonathan Anderson racing his XP38i Roxstar against the Royal Cork's Conor Phelan with the Ker 37 Jump Juice, which was one of the best performers in last year's ICRA Nationals at the same venue, and this year again became a force to be reckoned with as the breeze sharpened in the four day Kinsale ICRA Nats 2015/Sovereigns Cup a week ago.

v8.jpgFreshly squeezed – her storming finish to last weekend's final race of the ICRA Nats/Sovereigns Cup at Kinsale makes Conor Phelan's Ker 37 Jump Juice one of the top contenders in the VDLR2015. Photo: David O'Brien

With a win in the final race, Jump Juice came in second to seasoned campaigner George Sisk's class overall winning Farr 42 WOW (RIYC), the pair of them in turn displacing the early leader, lightweight flyer Mills 36 Crazy Horse (ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly & Alan Chambers, HYC) down to third in the final day's racing, so Crazy Horse will be hoping for a return of lighter breezes when racing starts next Thursday on Dublin Bay.

In the previous Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in 2013, the most successful boat in was Nigel Biggs' much-modified Humphreys Half Tonner Checkmate XV, but this year the Biggs team is racing as Checkmate Sailing with the newest boat in the fleet, the Mark Mills-designed American-built C & C 30 OD Checkmate XVI. She may be only 30ft LOA, but she's such a hot piece of work with so many go-fast bells and whistles that she has a rating of 1.140 to put her in Class 0.

The oldest boat in the cruiser-racer fleets will be found in Class 3, where the 44ft Huff of Arklow is making an historic return to Dublin Bay racing. Originally built in 1951 by Jack Tyrrell of Arklow to a design by dinghy genius Uffa Fox, Huff is so-called because her concept is reckoned three-quarters Uffa Fox and one quarter Douglas Heard. The latter was the founding President of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association in 1946, and he later went onto to become Commodore of the Royal St George YC and a noted cruising and offshore racing enthusiast with this unusual boat, which is like a very enlarged Fying Fifteen with a lid – in fact, with her 30ft-plus waterline, she was described as a Flying Thirty. In recent years she has undergone a total restoration with Cremyll Keelboats near Plymouth in Devon, and Dominic Bridgeman of the Cremyll group will be racing her with trainee crews in her old home waters of Dublin Bay.

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The Flying Thirty Huff of Arklow racing off Dublin Bay while under Douglas Heard's ownership in the 1950s. Built by Tyrrell's of Arklow in 1951, the hugely innovative Huff has recently had a major restoration, and will be making her return to Dublin Bay to take part in VDLR2015.

Among the newer boats on the bay, the 2013 champion Checkmate XV is still very much in the picture, but now she's owned by Howth's Dave Cullen, and took second overall in class in the Kinsale series a week ago. In Dun Laoghaire next week, she's with other Half Tonners at the lower end of the Class 2 rating band on 0.944, almost 200 rating points below the new Biggs boat. Class 2 also includes the Division 3 winner at Kinsale, Richard Colwell & Ronan Cobbe's Corby 25 Fusion (HYC) which bested VDLR 205 Chairman's Sigma 33 White Mischief in a real duel after they went into the final day's racing equal on points, while another Kinsale success story in the Class 2 lineup is Paddy Kyne's X302 Maximus from Howth, overall winner of the Portcullis Trophy for top ECHO boat.

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Dave Cullen's modified Half Tonner Checkmate XV will be looking to take the top slot on Dublin Bay after being runner-up in Kinsale. Photo: David O'Brien

In between the two Checkmates on ratings, we find most of the cruiser-racer fleet, with Class 1 shaping up some interesting competition between the likes of Paul O'Higgins Corby 33 Rockabill (RIYC), Kenneth Rumball skippering the Irish National Sailing School's Reflex 38 Lynx, and two very sharp First 35s, Prima Luce (Burke, Lemass & Flynn, NYC & RIYC) and another former Scottish Series champion, John Corson (Clyde Cr C) with Salamander XXI.

This year's Scottish Series Champion and the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" for May, Rob McConnell of Dunmore East, will certainly be racing in the VDLR 2015, but whether or not it's with his all-conquering A35 Fool's Gold (second in class at Kinsale) or aboard another boat (a Flying Fifteen) remains to be seen. And the Top Sailor Count doesn't end there, as there'll be at least four Olympic sailors involved in four different classes, with Robin Hennessy racing in what has all the marks of a quality International Dragon fleet against the likes of former Edinburgh Cup winner Martin Byrne, Annalise Murphy racing in the Moths which will surely be a change from the Water Wag which she raced with her mother Cathy MacAleavy (also another ex-Olympian) last time round, and Mark Mansfield helming John Maybury's J/109 Joker 2. After Joker 2's class overall win in Kinsale, we can expect a battle royal in the J/109s with boats of the calibre of Ruth for the National title fight.

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The Shipman 28s find that the sport and socializing which the VDLR guarantees will provide some of their best racing of the year. Photo: VDLR

The J/109s are the queens of an impressive array of One Design keelboats which includes Sigma 33s (where VDLR 2015 Chairman Tim Goodbody's White Mischief is racing under the command of Paul McCarthy), Beneteau First 31.7s, Shipman 28s having one of their best gatherings of the year, Ruffian 23s with a good turnout, the attractive First 21s which are steadily gaining traction as a Dublin Bay class, and best OD keelboat turnout of all is by the Flying Fifteens, nearly all of them under the NYC flag.

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Olympians all – in VDLR2013, Olympic sailors Cathy MacAleavey (1988) and her daughter Annalise Murphy (2012) raced the family Water Wag Mollie. But while Cathy will be sailing Mollie again this year, Annalise will be on her own racing a foiling International Moth.

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Newest of the oldest – Adam Winkelmann and Doug Smith's new French built Water Wag No.46, Madameoiselle, has been launched in time for the regatta. Photo: Owen McNally

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The Howth 17s of 1898 vintage will be the oldest class racing. Photo: David Branigan

Veteran classes include the IDRA 14s from 1946, the Glens from 1945, the Howth 17s of 1898 which pre-date the 1902 Water Wags, and the 1932 Mermaids, the latter being in the interesting position of no longer having an official division in Dun Laoghaire, yet it's a Dun Laoghaire skipper, Jonathan O'Rourke of the National, who continues to dominate the class both at home and away.

With large fleet numbers afloat guaranteed, the shoreside programme is appropriately busy, with the official side of each day's racing concluded by the evening's daily prize-giving at one of the four waterfront clubs. But with so many sailors involved, there'll be action in all the clubs – and at other establishments in Dun Laoghaire - throughout the week. The scene is set, let the party begin at a venue which has been staging regattas since 1828.

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When the summer comes, the après sailing at the VDLR is world class. Photo: VDLR

Further reading:

Download the full entry list for Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015 class by class below

Download the Sailing Instrcutions for Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015 HERE

 

Published in W M Nixon

#inss – Last week, Sailing on Saturday featured the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest in the world, as it comfortably donned the mantle of the ISA/Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year 2015. This morning, we find ourselves involved with what may well be the newest sailing club in the world, the Irish National Sailing Club. It is certainly, thanks to being inaugurated nearly three months after Youghal SC was founded on 28th October 2014, the newest in Ireland. W M Nixon tries to explain it all as he finds himself in the world of Irish sailing's most complete dynamo.

Alistair Rumball is a Life Member of the Awkward Squad. Cage-rattling and pot-stirring are second nature to him. But it's not because of experiencing an unhappy childhood. On the contrary, while growing up in Malahide, his boyhood summers were bliss. He and his brother Arthur had as much sailing as they could want, fitted in between part-time jobs raising pocket-money with a morning picking potatoes at Dermot Dickie's farm along the Broadmeadow Estuary, followed by an afternoon of sailing the sea with the sun always shining, and then maybe an evening of club racing followed by the easy camaraderie among kids who are comfortable with boats.

It was an idyllic maritime environment which, over the years, has produced some of Ireland's top racing and cruising sailors. But while the young Rumball was no slouch on the race-course, the strongest feeling he had about sailing was the sheer fun of it all, the totally absorbing wonder of being in a boat and hauling on ropes to make sails change shape and help you along your chosen course over the always interesting sea.

Although he graduated from Trinity College Dublin as an engineer, he increasingly had this almost evangelical attitude to spreading the good news about the fun of sailing. And while he has something of a reputation – to say the least - for being confrontational, it's central to his contradictory character that he's an extremely good teacher. If somebody shows the slightest genuine enthusiasm about wanting to learn to sail, Alistair Rumball has been prepared to go to endless lengths to teach him or her to do so, and to do so with enjoyment.

Underlying that, we find the first of his gripes about the modern sailing scene. He reckons that it has become far too serious. Don't think for a moment, though, that he believes in a frivolous approach to boats and sailing. He's deadly serious about having everything just right as regards safety and function.

But once that's sorted, then he firmly believes that you should go out and enjoy it. He waxes lyrical about moments of sheer sailing ecstasy he has enjoyed in a wide variety of boats in many sailing locations worldwide. And whatever he may have formally set out to be in a professional career, his working life has been spent in and around boats, getting people introduced to boats and out afloat, sometimes on an almost industrial scale.

Time was when sailing skills were something you acquired by a sort of osmosis through family tradition, club opportunities, and friendship examples. That's mostly how Rumball himself learned to handle a sailing boat. But he seems to have this almost messianic zeal to teach people to sail, and he became convinced that the future lay in more structured training with a proper syllabus.

Having taken a long hard look at the population distribution of the Greater Dublin area and where they might best get afloat in worthwhile numbers, in 1978 he acquired the assets of a moribund organisation, the Dun Laoghaire Sailing School, and soon found himself giving his first lessons to two pupils using a fibreglass-clinker Darragh 14 knockabout sailing dinghy which they'd launched from the public slipway in the Coal Harbour in Dun Laoghaire. The long journey had started towards an organisation whose activities today today include top-of-the-line race training in 1720s in winning mode:

The majestic granite harbour of Dun Laoghaire was a cold place in 1978 for any young enthusiasts trying to set up an independent sailing school on a commercial basis. For the powers that be, sailing was something to be learned through family and clubs under the Junior Training Programme of the Irish Yachting Association. If you were a young person or adult from a non-sailing background but keen to learn, unless you'd an obliging and patient friend from within the sailing establishment, the expectation was that you'd take yourself off to somewhere far away like the Glenans Ireland bases in Baltimore and Bere Island and Clew Bay, and eventually reappear after a decent interval with enough experience, newfound ability and contacts to make the grade in the Dublin Bay sailing scene, where the very thought of a raw in-harbour sailing school for outsiders seemed distasteful to the establishment.

Yet hidden away in the southwest corner of Dun Laoghaire harbour, here was this gadfly of the sailing scene, Can–do Alistair with his rough and ready sailing school enthusiastically recruiting pupils anywhere and everywhere, and taking them afloat in boats which may not have been in the most pristine condition, and certainly set sails which would not be winners on the race course, yet they were safe and able, and so were he and his instructors.

Over the years, an entire cohort of people, mainly from Dublin but also from all over Ireland with a useful smattering of pupils from abroad, came to boats and sailing thanks to this wild-haired character whose love of his demanding work shone through everything he did.

Gradually the fleet expanded, and so too did the "Rumball Group's" activities, even though the very limited availability of premises on the Dun Laoghaire waterfront meant that every little square foot they had always seemed to serve at least three different purposes. But they were getting there, they opened a retail outlet in the town to sell boat gear and equipment which became Viking Marine, the school promoted itself to being the Irish National Sailing School, and they were well settled in place, using every inch of space on the ground floor of the interesting little building on the southwest corner of the harbour which used to be the Nautical College.

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The man and his machines – Alistair Rumball and his chariot outside the Irish National Sailing School's HQ in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: W M Nixon

Centuries ago, seafaring education was given a significant role in Irish life in the late 1700s, the 1800s, and the early 1900s with the old Marine School a fine building on the south quays in Dublin. But its premises were re-allocated for development purposes and the school itself had its final home in Clontarf before being absorbed only as a vague memory into what is now Mount Temple Comprehensive school.

These days, the marine education focus has moved to Cork with the fabulous new National Maritime College in Ringaskiddy, but for that low period in Irish maritime life in the mid 20th century, one of the few keepers of the flame was Captain Tom Walsh who operated the little Nautical College in this fairly inconspicuous Office of Public Works building now hidden away behind the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club.

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Captain Tom Walsh in teaching mode in 1957 in the INSS building when it was the Nautical College.

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The 110ft barquentine which Jack Tyrrell designed for Captain Tom Walsh's Nautical College in 1954 in the hope that it would inspire the building of an Irish Tall Ship

It was the gallant Captain Walsh who in 1954 commissioned Jack Tyrrell of Arklow to design a 110ft sailing ship – a barquentine – to be Ireland's very own tall ship, our first sailing training vessel. God bless the good captain, but he was convinced that if he could just get someone in Government to see these inspiring plans, then such a ship would be on the way.

You can imagine just how far such a visionary idea travelled in the deadly dull Ireland of the 1950s. Far from getting a proper training ship built, Captain Walsh had enough trouble keeping his college in being. Yet he was a gentleman and enthusiast to the end, and after retirement he augmented his pension by testing compasses in yachts, which I remember well as he did it for me with a little cruiser in 1981. The only mutually convenient time it could be done was on a Saturday evening, and I'd to get the boat from Howth to Dun Laoghaire to do it, but the actual swinging of the compass by Tom Walsh was such a pleasant and educational experience that any thoughts of being at some Saturday night party were entirely banished.

So when you go into the main premises of the Irish National Sailing School today, it's natural to remember Captain Tom Walsh, and I like to think that he would thoroughly approve of the old building's current usage, for Alistair Rumball and his team are mighty busy during what must sometimes be an 18-hour day, and just this week – before the sailing season is really fully under way – Monday was typical, with 185 schoolkids bussed down from Maynooth for a day's coaching afloat, followed by all sorts of gatherings including a committee meeting of the newly-formed Irish National Sailing Club.

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Space is so constrained that a floating dinghy park has to be used to store the smaller craft. Photo: W M Nixon

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Thanks to the special INSS fendering devised by Arthur Rumball, this 35-year-old Squib has survived many seasons of tough teaching in good order. Photo: W M Nixon

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To economise on space, the Squibs berthed here, with the INSS building in the background, are double-moored. Photo: W M Nixon

Of which more anon, for this bare outline gives only a hint of the INSS's complex programme. The Rumball theme is that you have to keep operations and facilities flexible to cope with fluctuating demand, for at the height of the season the school is operating a fleet of 200 boats ranging from kayaks through sailing dinghies of increasing size, then on into keelboats of which some well-fendered Squibs are the workhorses while 1720s provide the glamour input, and finally at the top of the tree there's the Reflex 38 Lynx, bought from Galway this past winter, and becoming part of a programme headed by Alistair's son Kenneth – a Silver Youth Medallist in the 420 – who is now a fully-qualified offshore racing pro teacher, but also races the 1720s while being main operations director of a school which has five full–time employees, but in all has sixty staff at the height of the season.

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The latest addition to the INSS fleet is the Reflex 38 Lynx, seen here racing for NUI Galway during the Round Ireland. In 2015, Lynx has already scored a second overall in ISORA racing skippered by Kenneth Rumball.

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Brothers in business – seen here with his brother Alistair, Arthur Rumball (left) runs the often very busy INSS boat maintenance facility. Photo: W M Nixon

As to shoreside facilities, each summer they set up an additional seasonal summer base to the west of the West Pier with top-of the-line Portakabins at Salthill to provide facilities for those sailing dinghies and kayaks, and in addition the INSS have their own boat-maintenance unit under Arthur Rumball beside the boatyard in the Coal Harbour.

So an impressive amount of things have happened since 1978, the best of them surely being that Alistair persuaded Muriel, a country girl from one of the most beautiful parts of County Carlow, to marry him. For Muriel is a teacher by profession, and adept at being the peace-maker who smooths the waters after Alistair has been making waves, which even now still seems to be just about all the time.

That said, he gives the impression of having so many chips on his shoulder about the perceived opposition to his ventures by those in authority that you begin to think it might be just a bit of an act, for underneath it all he has a heart of gold, yet with the spirit of a lion who will fight the good fight to defend his territory and the interests of his family, friends, trainees and businesses.

The quality of the man was well revealed when the economic recession struck. At the height of the boom years, the Irish National Sailing School had a throughput of more than 2,500 people per month coming new to sailing, and it had become a vibrant and trendy part of the recreational fabric of good-time Dublin. Then around 2008, the economy went into free-fall. But the INSS survived both by making severe cutbacks in everything, and utilising another string in Alistair's bow.

Because of his ready enthusiasm to undertake just about everything and anything to do with boats, back in 1982 he'd looked after some waterborne scenes with classic small craft for the Channel 4 TV comedy-drama series The Irish RM, starring Peter Bowles and Bryan Murray, which went out between 1983 and 1985. It was grand at the time, but thirty years down the line it now seems to have a dose and more of the Paddywhackery about it. However, that was neither here nor there for Alistair Rumball in 1982, for it gave him a lucrative little sideline, and over the years since he has been the man to go to if you want to set up boats and sailing ship scenes in the Irish movie-making business.

So it's ironic, when we remember that Malahide was where the rather mouldy old Vikings of Dublin made their last base after their city had been captured by the Normans in 1171, that it should be a Malahide boy who has emerged as the behind-the-scenes captain of ships for the filming of the blockbuster series Vikings.

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When you've spent most of your working life teaching people to sail, tutoring Thespian Viking crewmen on a Wicklow lake is just an ordinary part of another day at the office.

It has all been happening for some years now up in the Wicklow mountains and out on the Wicklow lakes, which have passed themselves off very well as Norwegian fjords, yet can double quite effectively as the coastal and riverside scenery of the many places where the Norwegian Vikings wreaked mayhem.

Who knows, but maybe with the passage of time the epic Vikings series will come to be seen as the epitome of Scandiwhackery, but for now, it certainly does the business . For as the Irish economy fell off a cliff, Alistair Rumball soared aloft in creating, managing, and manoeuvring a very authentic and substantial Viking longship flotilla which has provided a proper Tinseltown income to make all things possible, while helping underwrite the future of the Irish National Sailing School.

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Lough Dan in County Wicklow - where Erskine Childers first sailed around 1890 – has proved remarkably versatile in providing backgrounds for the Vikings which could either be Norway itself, or else the shores of places they are raiding

But it's extraordinarily demanding and time-consuming work, even if he has a staff of 150 specialists up in the Wicklow hills, and after a year or two it became clear that he was trying to do too much. So four years ago his son Kenneth, who is now 27 and was at the time working as an accountant, moved in to take over the direction of the sailing school, and as the recession has started to recede – last year they had monthly numbers pushing back towards the 2,000 mark - Kenneth's energetic and all-encompassing input is seeing the school increasing the scale of its operations, particularly in what might be called the post-graduate side with the development of 1720s at top race level. Now the acquisition of Lynx has developed things further - she has already made what was a rather hasty debut in the first ISORA of the year, but despite being only minutes out of the box, they placed second overall, and that only by six minutes.

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Alistair, Muriel and Kenneth Rumball. Photo: W M Nixon

This placing of racing as a natural part of the INSS syllabus has in turn led to the need for an officially-constituted club to comply with race entry requirements. But in reality the INSS has had a genuine club atmosphere for years, indeed it has more of a truly club-like atmosphere than many a historically-constituted old yacht club. So it was only a formality to bring the Irish National Sailing Club into being in January 201, but it's for real, here's a pic of the Committee of the new club meeting in the old Tom Walsh building on Monday, and if you want to join, it will cost you the outrageous sum of €10.

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The committee and school management of the newly-formed Irish National Sailing Club are (left to right) Glyn Williams (foreground), Muriel Rumball, Joan Sheffield, Caroline Herron, Robin Jones, Alistair Rumball, Kenneth Rumball, Garrett O'Malley, Dermot Igoe, Heather Blay and Mary Beck. Photo: W M Nixon

As to how Alistair Rumball views the impending possible re-structuring of Dun Laoghaire as a cruise liner port, with inevitable limitations on the amount of sailing which can take place within the harbour, he is both an idealist and a realist.

Like many of us, he dearly wishes that this splendid granite creation could be seen as a cherished part of our heritage, not as something to be used to generate income to turn a crude profit or even just to pay its own maintenance costs. Rather, we'd ideally like to see it treated as a national asset to provide vital recreational space for everyone afloat and ashore.

But Alistair Rumball senses that the government's determination to use just about everything in public ownership to generate income will win the day, and he is already being realistic about what the regular if summer-emphasised arrival of cruise liners will mean.

In fact, he may even derive a certain sardonic satisfaction from seeing the Dun Laoghaire sailing establishment having to contemplate accepting conditions with which his school has complied ever since he began operating it.

"People should realise" he asserts, "that there are already two clearly-define shipping channels in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. One is from the harbour entrance to St Michael's Wharf, which will simply be retained if the cruise liners come. The other, much less widely known, is supposed to be from the harbour entrance to the berth at the Band Stand on the East Pier. Even at present, you are not meant to operate under sail in either of those channels, but an awful lot of boats do so."

"However, as we are a commercial operation, we have a strict policy of complying with regulations and carrying out our sail training and teaching operations in the western part of the harbour, clear of the main channel. So a cruise liner should not affect our in-harbour activities, while our larger craft going out into the bay will have to comply with shipping regulations in the entrance like everyone else".

Whatever happens, we may be sure that the Irish National Sailing School and the Irish National Sailing Club - and their splendid founder - will continue to be a thorn in the side of those who take themselves too seriously and have an inflated idea of their own importance. But if you've never been in a boat before and know nobody in sailing, yet feel a growing enthusiasm to go sailing in Dun Laoghaire, you now know where to go to experience the real thing.

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The other side of the INSS show – a Viking ship looking good on Lough Dan

Published in W M Nixon

#rshyr – Ireland's Breakthrough crew led by Barry Hurley has recovered from a lowly 25th place yesterday to finish 11th on IRC overall and seventh in class on day four of Australia's classic Sydney–Hobart race where the overall winner could still be at sea.

Only two hours before the finish the official tracker gave Breakthrough's position in the top ten overall but Constitution Dock, Hobart is buzzing with activity after a stream of boats crossed the finish line throughout Day 4 making any final overall result some time away yet.

Crossing the Tasmanian finish line in Hurley's third succesive race, the Cork Harbour sailor eclipsed last year's result of 27th overall but was a place behind the sixth place in IRC Division 3 achieved in 2013.  It was a terrfic recovery over the past 24 hours when Breakthrough had slumped to 27th.  Provisional race rankings here

In a race of snakes and ladders, the Irish crewed boat was only an estimated two hours off the overall handicap lead at the halfway stage of the 635–miler. In a fantastic opening peformance the New South Wales entry from Jonathan Stone and Mathew Vadas was as high as third place in the 109–boat fleet. 

But after passing Gabo Island, things took a so far unexplained turn for the worse. The First 40 nose–dived down the rankings sinking at one stage yesterday to 27th overall on IRC overall with just 200 miles to the Tasmanian finish line.

Battling strong winds in the Bass Straits to recover some 16 places and seventh in division 3 was never going to be an easy proposition.

The drop in performance – an estimated 1.5 knots off the pace all day yesterday – prompted some of Breakthrough's shore crew to speculate that a torn spinnaker might be to blame. Others said the easterly course chosen by Breakthrough might have contributed to a slower wind angle.

But whatever the reason, the Hurely crew dug deep in the closing stages to haul back in near small boat rivals and take the best result to date in what has been an intriguing and record breaking 70th edition of the Australian classic.

Before the race started Hurley wrote on Afloat.ie 'Being one of the smaller boats at just 40ft, our position in the overall standings will be somewhat a result of the weather patterns during that particular week, whereas our placing within our class will be a true measure of success'. How right he was. 

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The Breakthrough crew depart Sydney

By 17:00 AEDT, 39 yachts had completed the 628-nm race, as the docks filled with tales from another dramatic contest. Of the 117 starters, 65 yachts are still sailing and a further 13 officially retired, unable to complete the course.

Veteran victory?
Current forecasts have four veteran yachts – Love & War, Quickpoint Azzurro, Wild Rose and the fleet's smallest and oldest boat Maluka of Kermandie – all in contention for overall victory. All three boats represent vast contrasts to the sleek, carbon fibre-built 100-foot Maxis which dominated the race for line honours.

Simon Kurts' Love & War is a three-time winner of the race (1974, 1978, 2006). The boat, built over forty years ago, needs to arrive in Hobart before midnight this evening to retain any chance of claiming an unprecedented fourth Tattersall's Cup. This wooden classic won in two contrasting eras of ocean racing underlining the boat's durability and the true spirit of the Rolex Sydney Hobart: any crew stands a chance of victory provided they demonstrate true teamwork, tactical nous and an intrepid spirit. Love & War, featuring veteran navigator Lindsay May competing in the race for a staggering 41st time, is currently approximately 40-nm from the finish.

Roger Hickman's Farr 43 Wild Rose is a mere 29 years old and pushing hard for that elusive first Tattersall's Cup. In poignant synergy, Wild Rose was once owned by Wild Oats XI's Bob Oatley, whose crew yesterday claimed a record-breaking eighth line honours victory. Wild Rose has already produced a stern, resilient performance, overcoming adversity on her journey south. "We had a massive broach in 30 knots this morning with the spinnaker up," Jenifer Wells, the crew's navigator reported. "We laid her over a couple of times, broke the steering cable and it was looking very dicey. "We got out the emergency tiller and pulled the kite down, repaired the cable and we were back racing in 12 minutes."

Another wooden classic is Maluka of Kermandie, a gaff-rigged huon pine beauty. Owned by one of the race's colourful characters, Sean Langman, the 30-footer still lies some 122-nm from the finish line.

Currently leading on handicap though is Shane Kearns' Sparkman & Stephens 34 Quickpoint Azzurro 108-nm from Hobart.

Happy Hobart
The crews arriving in Hobart this afternoon carried the look of seasoned offshore racers: tired, proud, red-eyed, salty and wind-swept.

"The race is always very different and always extremely challenging and this one was special as it was my wife's first Rolex Sydney Hobart," explained Philip Coombs, owner of the 42-ft Simply Fun, whose amateur crew performed miracles to even make the start line. "The team I have are brilliant. Three days before we were due to leave for Sydney our boat had extensive damage so the boat builders worked night and day for two weeks to get us ready. We are happy to be here considering all of the factors involved."

Mark Covell on the British-flagged Swan 68, Titania of Cowes, reported: "It was an absolute classic, starting off on the nose, plenty of rail time, lots of waves over the boat, before it slowly lightened up. We then got kite up and breeze kept coming up and up; we ended coming up the Derwent (River) on the nose in a hailstorm. We pretty much had everything!"

Reflective glory
Shortly after lunchtime on Day 3, Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI claimed her eighth Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours victory in ten years. This morning skipper Mark Richards was able to reflect on a momentous achievement for the 100-foot Maxi. "An eighth Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours win is something we never would have dreamt about ten years ago. The reception from hundreds of spectator boats and tens of thousands of people on the dock is a spectacular way to finish a yacht race."

That high level of interest continues as the sailing world stands by to learn the identity of the 2014 overall winner.

Published in Sydney to Hobart

#rshyr – Irish crewed yacht Breakthrough is an estimated two hours off the overall handicap lead at the halfway stage of the 635–mile Sydney–Hobart yacht Race. Lead by top Irish offshore sailor Barry Hurley, the New South Wales entry from Jonathan Stone and Mathew Vadas is lying 33nm SE of Gabo Island in third place in the 109–boat fleet. After its second night at sea Breakthrough has still to sail 382.5 miles to the Tasmanian finish.

Hurley has on board Dublin Bay sailors Alexander and Kenneth Rumball and Catherine Halpin along with a local Sydney crew. The Aussie–Irish team are currently behind Roger Hickman's Wild Rose and Ron Foster's Ariel on IRC handicap.  

Prior to his departure Hurley wrote about preparations for his third successive Sydney–Hobart race

Published in Sydney to Hobart

#rshyr – With less than 24 hours  left to the start of the 70th edition of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race, Irish sailors, Barry Hurley, Catherine Halpin, Alexander and Kenneth Rumball sailing aboard the First 40 BREAKTHROUGH are completing some last minute touches prior to the start writes Kenny Rumball. The rest of the crew on the boat consist mainly of Australians with Matthew Vadas (skipper), Ben Hunter, Jonny Hoover, Adam Carpenter and Peter Thorp completing the 10 strong team.

The First 40 has undergone an extensive programme in preparation with new standing rigging, a largely new sail wardrobe and other essentials with Barry overseeing many of the upgrades throughout the year. The Australian crew have worked hard to tune the boat up in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Blue Water Points Score with the Sydney to Hobart being the last race in the series. Breakthrough have performed well in the series and currently stand 8th in the series and scoring a 4th place in the last race.

With the initial forecast giving 25-30kts for the first 24 hours after the start, the crew will have to work hard through the first night going down the eastern shoreline. The east Australian current will give the fleet a nice help along as they race south. The wind should hopefully swing into the north after day 1 allowing the teams to crack sails and raise spinnakers as they enter the Bass Straits. The infamous stretch of water between the south coast of Australia and Tasmania usually serves up a good test of man and ship with a large oceanic swell and some good breeze.

The 'organ pipes' on the south eastern coastline of the island of Tasmania will be a welcome sight for the tired sailors before the sail through storm bay passing the iron pot at the mouth of the Derwent river leading up to Hobart.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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