Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Displaying items by tag: Round Ireland

Race regular Tony Kingston from Kinsale Yacht Club is the latest entry into the Round Ireland Yacht Race in his Swan 40, Shindig.

It brings entries back up to 40 so far allowing for a number of dropouts due to COVID-19. 

As Afloat previously reported, three new arrivals means the 21st-anniversary fleet remains in a strong position with 12 weeks to the first gun off Wicklow.

Kingston, the KYC Sovereign's Cup Race director, placed 12th overall in the 1994 race in Amazing Grace and, as photographed above, raced two-handed in 2008 with Alice Kingston in Cracker to finish 21st.

Published in Round Ireland
Tagged under

As preparations continue for the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race's new start date on August 22nd, there is speculation that the postponement could play into the hands of the Irish offshore race with a larger than normal French entry as the international Class 40 fleet eye the late summer fixture.

There are no additional French yachts registered so far for the 700-miler but it is understood the cancellation of Class 40s Transatlantic race due to COVID-19 in May has led the French sailors to look further afield for racing this year.

Class 40 is a type of monohull sailboat primarily used for short-handed offshore and coastal racing. 

It may well be that Round Ireland Race Organiser Kyran O'Grady's pioneering efforts at the Paris Boat Show last December may yet bear fruit with a bumper international Round Ireland fleet.

As regular Afloat readers will know, Class 40 are no strangers to Irish waters or Round Ireland itself over the years with top Figaro sailor Nicolas Troussel competing off Wicklow two years ago.

Ireland's varied sailing waters are proving a popular testing ground for the international Class 40 fleet and a burgeoning Irish Mini class too. Evidence of this was in the 2018 Round Ireland Race fleet where the top French double-handed sailing duo were in action. International stars Troussel and Mini Transat Winner Ian Lipinski have teamed up to race the brand new Mach 40 'Corum'. They're not the only Class 40 on the Irish race track that year either as three other international entries also lined up.

What's more a fleet of Class 40s called to the Wexford coast in the 2018 Normandy Channel Race when the fleet rounded the Tuskar Rock and not without incident

As well as French interest a number of British Class 40s are also looking at the Wicklow race, according to an Afloat source.

It all bodes well so far for August's Round Ireland, a race that could also get a domestic boost with the imprimatur of the GAA, according to Afloat's W M Nixon.

Published in Round Ireland
Tagged under

Back then, we didn’t know we were living. “Back then” was the first eight or so years of the 21st Century - not forever ago at all. Yet now it feels like not so much a foreign country as more like a different universe. Because back then, there was a buzz. Everything was on the move. It was Action Stations All Areas. It wasn’t a case of “Is it permissible under Government Regulations?” or “Can we do it?” It was more a matter of “When will we do it?” and “How soon will we do it?”

We may now have the makings of a Road Map out of the Covid-19 paralysis, but all the roads in it are long, and some are very winding indeed. As each stage is reached, it will be day-to-day pilotage rather than visionary navigation. And of course, its implementation will all depend on the scourge receding according to the hopeful scientific expectations.

How different it was back then, back when everything was a matter of just get up and go. Of course, there were some crazy episodes. One year, for instance, Ireland had something like three teams racing in the Commodore’s Cup. And they were racing against each other with such determination that there were absurd inter-Ireland protests.

So inevitably we didn’t finally win the Commodore’s Cup until 2010 with its ferocious economic downturn, with a very sober cost-effectively-planned recession-aware single team, put together with infinite patience by Anthony O’Leary and ICRA. But the recession was so deep that there was no defence in 2012, and while the same O’Leary determination won the Commodore’s back in 2014, there was a sense of it being a satisfactory way to end an era, but an unmistakable ending nevertheless.

2 red antix2“The Red Antix” - Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 40 Antix was RORC “Yacht of the Year” and led Ireland to victory in the 2014 Commodore’s Cup in an outstanding success that marked the end of an era. Photo courtesy RCYC

Yet in looking back to those early years of this now uncertain Century in which we are living with increasing difficulty, there are boats and successes which stand out, boats and achievements which seem to have endured some special test of time.

Everyone will have their own favourite superstar boats, and if we scratch about in the memory bin, others will emerge. But for me the first three that spring to mind are George Radley’s Holland 39 Imp and Eric Lisson’s Granada 38 Cavatina – both from Cork - and Ger O’Rourke’s Cookson 50 Chieftain from Kilrush.

Of course, there were other outstanding boats, such as the O’Leary family’s Antix in the white and silver and red versions. Yet there was something mainstream and extremely sensible about the superb O’Leary campaigns, whereas the wild card element is unmistakable in the doings of Chieftain and Imp and Cavatina.

Chieftain GearDrying out process….Chieftain in Plymouth after the Rolex Fastnet Race 2007. Photo: Ger O’Rourke

We focused on Chieftain a couple of weeks ago in highlighting her outstanding overall win in the 2007 Fastnet Race to round out an extraordinary global programme, a programme which had seen her win her class and come fourth overall in the 2005 Sydney-Hobart Race, and then place second in the 2007 New York to Hamburg Transatlantic race before going on to sweep the board in the Fastnet of that same year.

That was a sometimes chaotic gale-swept race which was already out of kilter at the start. The RORC fleet was still becoming accustomed to having the Fastnet start on the Sunday at the end of Cowes Week instead of the time-honoured Saturday, yet in 2007 a sudden gale saw its further postponement to the Monday 13th August, so it was right into the next weekend by the time most of the greatly-reduced fleet finished. And though Chieftain had finished late on the Thursday evening to take the win, the exhausted skipper had his work cut out getting his crew kitted out in clean white shirts for the prize-giving on the Friday.

4 chieftain crew finish4Magic moment – Chieftain’s crew – with Ger O’Rourke at centre – after they’d been told in Plymouth they were overall winners of the Rolex Fasten Race 2007. Photo courtesy Ger O’Rourke
Ger has been through the mill more than somewhat since, as he had the misfortune to break his back in a kite-surfing accident in South Africa and spent a year out of action mending up after open-spine surgery. But he was in a fine nostalgic form when phoning out of Lockdown the other day, and sent on some photos of that Day of Days in Plymouth and the full names of his diverse international crew, who were Ger O’Rourke (IRL) skipper, Jochem Visser (NED) navigator, Dee O’Rourke (IRL) pit, Edwin O’Connor (IRL) Trim, Ryan Houston (NZ) Drive, Cam Marshall (NZ) Bow, Matthew Stuart (NZ) Trim, Tom Whelan (IRL) Trim, Robert Gullan (UK) Mid-bow, Donie Hegarty (IRL) Trim, Kevin Johnson (IRL) Trim, and Tom Whitburn (UK) Pit.

5 chieftain prizegiving5New white shirts all round – crewmember Dee O’Rourke and her skipper father Ger in the middle of Cheftain’s crew at the Rolex 2007 Fastnet Prizegiving

International they may be, but Ger’s roots in Limerick are so strong that he even has a link to the Limerick ketch Ilen, as Gary Mac Mahon of Ilen reckons it was he who introduced the hyper-energetic young Ger O’Rourke to sailing. Back in the 1980s, Willie Sexton’s bar on Henry Street in Limerick was where all the movers and shakers met on a Thursday night, and Gary mentioned in Sexton’s during a typical early-summer Thursday night that the following evening he was off to do a weekend boat delivery under sail, and Ger O’Rourke overheard that and said that he’d be interested in giving this sailing a try for the first time and…….well, history can take it from there.

In the case of Imp, the wild card recognition is because anything to do with George Radley and boats has a streak of wild card brilliance about it. George is a cradle sailor, yet his approach to sailing is sui generis, and the rest of the world can only wonder at what he’ll do next.

6 imp racing6Doing it his way. George Radley at the helm of Imp Photo: Bob Bateman

But in the case of Cavatina, the wild card is found firstly in the reality that although there were maybe about three dozen Granada 38s built between 1979 and 1983, Cavatina seems to be the only one which has been consistently campaigned offshore under the IRC rule, and she has been doing it with great success since before the turn of the Century.

In fact, her rating has seemed so favourable that when RORC measurer Mike Urwin was at Cork Week one year, he was asked to run the tapes over Cavatina to find out what was the secret ingredient. He reported back that there was no secret ingredient, she just happened to fit the rule very neatly, and maybe the secret ingredient was that her crew happened to sail Cavatina very well in offshore races of adult length.

7 cavatina racing7A very normal-looking superstar….Eric Lisson’s Cavatina on her way to winning the Round Ireland Race 2006. Photo: Round Ireland/David Branigan8 cavatina crew8Boat and crew as one – the Cavatina team in Wicklow, scene of some of their major successes

There’s probably a doctoral thesis to be written about Cavatina and her crew, who seem to have remained remarkably consistent in their makeup over the years under the ownership first of Eric Lisson, and more recently of Ian Hickey. Boat and crew, they know each other inside out, such that in any set of circumstances everyone will know what sail combination should be set in order to maximize performance, and they can often seem to communicate this knowledge through a sort of telepathy.

Thus they’re always seen as a threat by others in the Round Ireland Race when they’ve come from behind more than once to take the overall win, they’ve had at least two excellent Fastnets with second overall in 2005’s race and their class win in 2007 when Chieftain took the top prize, and before that in the same year, Eric Lisson and Dave Hennessy brought Cavatina the two-handed division and overall win in the Azores & Back Race.

Dave HennessyGlobal circumnavigators – Dave Hennessy and his wife Katrina Emtage on Laragh

Dave has also logged a four-year global circumnavigation with the 1989-built Jeanneau Sun Magic 44 Laragh with his wife Katrina Emtage between 2013 and 2016, and they’ve been back to northwest Spain and the Azores since. On top of that, in shore life he’s a renowned melodeon player on the traditional music scene in Cork and beyond. In fact, he seems to achieve so much that you feel inclined to enquire of your usually reliable Cork sources if they’re sure we’re talking about one and the same Dave Hennessy around boats and music, and they’ll enigmatically reply they’ve often wondered the same themselves, but it seems he is just the one person, and here he is with melodeon and friends on YouTube

Meanwhile, we look at the Covid-19 Exit Programme, and wonder why - as the Government has taken such extensive powers to itself - they didn’t simply de-commission today’s Bank Holiday, and keep it in reserve for deployment at a time when people like those who sail Imp and Cavatina can make better use of it…

Published in Offshore
Tagged under

If you’re not having unusually colourful dreams in these weird times, then you’re the exception. Everyone else is. I woke up the other morning totally exhausted, and little wonder. For as the foggy mind came into focus, all recollections were of the night’s vivid and busy excursion into the subconscious world of believable fantasy, in which I’d somehow been recruited into making some sort of advisory suggestions for a GAA project to send a boat and crew in the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow.

The biennial race is now Lockdown-postponed from its usual start around Mid-summer’s Day to August 22nd. But with any luck, it’s still a runner for whatever can be salvaged from the 2020 season, and there’s certainly plenty of time to put new crews and challenges together, including at least one totally GAA squad.

For our Afloat.ie visitors from far beyond the seas - who are surprisingly many, and you’re welcome aboard - the GAA is the Gaelic Athletic Association, that quintessentially Irish body which was formed in 1884 to encourage the traditional native games such as hurling at a time when strange imports - like soccer, rugby, cricket and hockey - were becoming increasingly codified in a way which facilitated their expansion to threaten the continuation of the ancient and often bone-crunching field sports of the Gael.

2 start round ireland2The start of the biennial Round Ireland Race is a celebration of Ireland, and a real mixum-gatherum of boats. This is the race of 2014 getting underway – line honours were taken by the Volvo 70 Monster Project (centre, David Ryan, Wicklow SC) while the overall winner was the Scottish Sydney 36 Tanit (right)

In their early days, they included athletics of all kinds, but after 1922 it was the team events they concentrated on. In that context, the GAA was always going to be popular, as it has an inbuilt USP. An Irish team always wins. For a country struggling to find itself, this was a comfortably reassuring factor when much that was Irish was being denigrated and destroyed.

But now that Ireland has in many ways found herself, don’t think for a moment that the GAA is seen as superfluous to requirements. On the contrary, in many areas it is more than ever the backbone of the community and culture, its remit extending far beyond its large and wide-ranging team sports programme to cover all sorts of voluntarily-given services and support, such that it has been playing a very important social back-up role in the current crisis.

Yet partly because the GAA’s emphasis in all its main sport tends towards the summer, with the highlights being reached in a blaze of finals in September, there has never been any official GAA presence in sailing, even though many individual Gaelic players are no strangers to boats and racing. You could, of course, say the same about rugby. But the Irish Rugby Football Union is essentially a sporting body, whereas the GAA’s broad cultural and community ethos is something which puts it in a league of its own.

And it has hundreds of thousands of members both in Ireland and throughout the diaspora, so much so that it’s reckoned to be around half a million in all, give or take a few thousand. So when the GAA puts its imprimatur on something, we’re talking mega-support, and it seemed to me in my dream-beset state that a sailing race round Ireland should have long since had the support of the GAA, particularly in the Covid-19 circumstances where some sailing events may well be re-started before field sports are allowed, leaving GAA players on the search for alternative projects.

But the dream had all the makings of becoming a nightmare, as I last sailed a Round Ireland as co-skipper in our own boat way back in 1994 when - after being becalmed within a stone’s throw of the finish at Wicklow for 25 minutes - we missed the class win by 17 minutes to Michael Horgan and his future son-in-law Peter Ryan (now ISORA Chairman) with the Club Shamrock Emircedes, despite which we remained the best of friends.

3 mark mansfield3Mark Mansfield - with four sailing Olympics, All-Ireland Helmsman’s Championships, Round Ireland Class wins and many other successful campaigns and crew-coaching programmes in his sailing CV, he would be an ideal adviser to the GAA’s first round Ireland campaign

Be that as it may, in Dreamsville this week we were definitely verging into nightmare territory, as I was being swamped by memories of just what an effort it is to get a boat and crew sorted for round Ireland participation. But miraculously things took a turn for the better, as the good old subconscious somehow decided to get me to direct the GAA’s would-be matelots to Mark Mansfield and Commandant Barry Byrne, who between them tick just about all the boxes for giving worthwhile advice for newcomers to round Ireland participation.

So with a mighty leap, our hero freed himself, and the GAA were productively getting together with Mark and Barry, even if by this time the sun was up and we awoke to that feeling of total exhaustion which is all that’s left after a busy night down the dream mines.

4 deane barry byrne coveney4Commandant Barry Byrne (centre) with Gavin Deane (General Manager, Royal Cork YC, left) and Tanaiste Simon Coveney TD at the launching of the new Beaufort Trophy for Inter Services Competition in Cork Week. The concept for the Beaufort Trophy was originally proposed by Simon Coveney himself, and this launching was at Naval HQ in Haulbowline Island in the Spring of 2016, while Barry Byrne as skipper of the Defence Force crew was to win the trophy in 2016 and retain it in 2018
5 barry byrne round ireland5The Army goes sailing – Barry Byrne trimming the sheets in the final stages of the 2018 Round Ireland Race, in which he and his Defence Forces crew with the J/109 Joker 2 came second overall and won their class

But after such a total subconscious experience, you assume that all the other significant role-players in the dream are well aware of what they’re supposed to be doing, so there has been no need to inform Mark Mansfield, Barry Byrne and the GAA that they’re all going to be getting together pronto to organise a Gaelic sports challenge in the Round Ireland Race, while we confidently look forward to receiving an announcement from GAA headquarters in Croke Park in due course.

Proper dreams do that to you. That said, the word is that approaches to local GAA clubs for any sort of introductory relationship with sailing have produced little in the way of positive results, for as Eddie English of SailCork in Cobh puts it: “They’re fiercely protective of their own people and their own sports and their own way of doing things.”

Eddie EnglishA shrewd observer of the south coast sailing scene and a pioneer of teaching sailing - Eddie English of SailCork in Cobh

Maybe so, but in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, the Irish National Sailing School’s Alistair Rumball, who reached out to the Naomh Olaf GAA Club in Sandyford because of his own special links with Vikings, reckons there’s a quiet revolution taking place.

“Originally when our training courses were taking place afloat, the kit bags left behind in the locker room would be spread between bags with school logos and bags with rugby club logos, with the occasional GAA presence. But for some time now, it’s been level pegging between rugby and the GAA on the logo front, and there’d be days in more recent years when the GAA total is ahead. Either way, the ultimate ideal from the parents’ point of view seems to be a programme of field sports in the morning, and sailing in the afternoon”.

With this developing vigour of the GAA and its local major presence in South Dublin with so many individual links to the INSS, a straightforward way of mounting a Gaelic sports challenge in the Round Ireland would be through a more formalized arrangement with the INSS though Round Ireland veteran Kenneth Rumball and one of the INSS offshore racers. But how well such a South Dublin-centric approach would play in a national organisation which prides itself on its all-Ireland nature is a moot point.

7 kenneth rumball7Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School. The INSS is already experiencing a significant GAA presence on an individual basis among its pupils, and with Kenneth Rumball’s teaching and training experience and round Ireland track record, they could offer the GAA a very complete package. Photo: W M Nixon
8 lula belle8This is Irish sailing’s version of Senior Hurling. The First 36.7 Lula Belle – now part of the INSS fleet – heading off from the start of the stormy Round Britain and Ireland Race in 2014, sailed two-handed by Liam Coyne from Mayo and Brian Flahive from Wicklow. They won several major prizes in a very tough race. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Across Dublin Bay in Howth, the GAA is very big and positive in the village, and Christina Knowles of Howth YC says that the club’s Quest Sailing School had seen a good take-up on its Irish module in the Sailing through Languages courses for the coming summer, but for now the Covid-19 lockdown has put all that on hold.

Nevertheless, it’s further evidence that individual members of the GAA are into sailing, and it’s a welcome graph which is going steadily upwards even if GAA traditionalists are wary of involvement with any sport in which they don’t have control.

9 howth quest spinnaker9Howth YC’s Quest Sailing School provides “Sailing through Languages” courses in its J/80s, and until the Lockdown, there’d been strong bookings for its Sailing through Irish module this summer. Photo: Brian McDowell

Even that could be addressed through revealing ancient links, as some sailing historians would argue that the earliest enthusiastically recreational sailor in Ireland was Hugh Maguire of Fermanagh, who was taking sport with boats on Lough Erne at much the same time as Grace O’Malley was getting the best speed out of boats for more mercenary purposes off the coast of Connacht.

10 enniskillen castle10The ideal home base for a pioneering recreational sailor – Enniskillen Castle in the midst of Lough Erne as it was in 1595, when it was the stronghold of Hugh Maguire.

And of course, the Holy Grail of GAA sport is the Sam Maguire Cup, so maybe we could complete the circle by persuading Gordon Maguire to come home from Australia to skipper the first GAA entry in the Round Ireland Race.

Certainly, the aura around the Sam Maguire is something very special, as I discovered very many years ago back in 1968 when we were making an October cruise on Strangford Lough, and on Friday night had found our way into Strangford village and the welcome embrace of Brendan Sharvin’s pub.

For some reason there was a special air of excitement about the village, but the night was well advanced when we found out why. The Down GAA team had won the Sam Maguire at the All-Ireland the previous weekend, and in a leisurely victory tour of their heartlands with the trophy (or an exact replica, for I still can’t believe it was the real Sam Maguire I held on that extraordinary night) Sharvin’s of Strangford was to be one of their key stops.

11 sam maguire cup11Holy Grail of the GAA – the Sam Maguire Cup

For someone whose childhood had been on the decidedly non-GAA southern shore of Belfast Lough, it was a glimpse of another world, and a very different world it was too, for all that it was only thirty miles south of Ballyholme Bay. Yet here we are now, with the Round Ireland race a pillar of the Irish sailing programme for forty years, and the GAA a young-family-oriented organisation of such vigour that many people think it would be to everyone’s mutual benefit if they’d a proper entry in the Round Ireland Race.

Ideally, they’d go for an Irish-built boat, and in better times Denis Doyle’s Moonduster would have been just the job, as she’d shown herself suitable for an element of sail training when The Doyler got together with Colonel Barney Goulding of the Defence Forces to beef up Moonduster’s crew with army cadets. But unless some very generous philanthropist comes up with an enormous donation to rescue Moonduster from her semi-mummification in Norway, the sensible thing is to choose a builder of competitive boats in some location with impeccable Gaelic/Celtic links, and no port is more proudly Celtic than Lorient in Brittany.

There, the city fathers were so determined to develop their local marine industry with quality products that they offered up-and-coming boatbuilder Jean Pierre Kelbert ideal premises at a very attractive cost, and ever since the increasingly highly-regarded JPK range has been totally associated with Lorient and its proud Celtic links.

12 jpk in workshop12Boatbuilding superman – Jean Pierre Kelbert in his workshops in Lorient. He can take in offshore racing with success as well – in 2019 he won his class sailing two-handed in the Fastnet with the new JPK 10.30

So if the GAA is on the lookout for an appropriate boat to take on the round Ireland challenge, they could do no better than one of the handy JPK 11.80s, which have been following their successful smaller sisters into a continuing litany of sailing success. For as Sailor of the Year Paul O’Higgins with his Boat of the Year, the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, has remarked, they’re all superbly built, you feel safe aboard a JPK in weather when other boats might be squeaking and leaking, and you’d confidently recommend them to anyone for racing hard along the west coast.

Racing under sail along Ireland’s western seaboard when there’s some real Atlantic weather around is definitely Senior Hurling. But ashore, the GAA sets the pace, as we learn from the fate of the true birthplace of modern Irish recreational sailing, at Rostellan in the eastern corner of Cork Harbour.

Murrough OBrienMurrough O’Brien (1616-1674) was an Irish recreational sailing pioneer who spent his last years at Rostellan as 1st Earl of Inchiquin. This was after a decidedly colourful career in which looking after Number One was always top of the agenda, and had somehow included seven years as the French-appointed Governor of Catalonia in Spain

Back in 1660 or thereabouts, Rostellan Castle was the home of that old rogue Murrough O’Brien, a crony of Charles II who had ruthlessly changed sides for his own survival and benefit during the Irish wars of the first half of the century. And it was his descendants, the Earls of Inchiquin, who were to provide the lead for the new Water Club of the Harbour of Cork in 1720, keeping their own yacht beside the quay at Rostellan.

But it was Murrough who had brought recreational sailing to the harbour fifty and more years earlier, having been introduced to it while sharing the final years of Charles II’s exile in The Netherlands before his restoration as King in London in 1660. Yet in the way of these things, Rostellan Castle – having become Rostellan House - was finally demolished in 1938. And today – as Eddie English delights in pointing out - its levelled site is the precise location of the playing fields of Aghada GAA Club……

14 aghada gaa pitch14Is this the actual place “Where It All Began”? The playing fields and clubhouse of Aghada GAA Club are located on the former site of Rostellan House

Published in Round Ireland
Tagged under

As a citizen of an island nation, John Latham long had the desire to sail around this country, headland by headland. With that in mind, co-owner John McQuaid and he were determined to carry out such a voyage in their Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349, Scoundrel, from their home port Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay.

Scoundrel was purchased early in 2017 and we had a good shakedown cruise to West Cork during that first summer…Baltimore, Schull, Crookhaven, Cape Clear and around the Fastnet. She proved a comfortable and seaworthy yacht excelling on a beat back to Baltimore from Fastnet in a force 6 gusting 7 … twin rudders and hard chine give her a stiffness and control which surpasses our expectation.

The cruise of 2018 beckoned with the lure of more Westerly and Northerly ambitions.

We decided to have 2 parts to this voyage and conduct a clockwise circumnavigation:

  1.  A non-stop passage of about 250NM from Dun Laoghaire to Dingle in Co. Kerry on the S.W. Coast during the last weekend of June.
  2. Join the boat again in Dingle on 15th July and continue our venture in daily passages up the Atlantic coast and around the North of Ireland and back into the North Channel and the Irish sea to home. We had 2 weeks for this part, each owner requiring to be back at work on the 30th July. A rather tight schedule you might agree.

All of this would be dependant on the weather and the performance of boat and crew as well as the occurrence of the unexpected in the way of natural or man-made emergencies, misadventures or calamities. But that uncertainty and anxiety are partly why we go cruising!

For most of the circumnavigation, we would be a crew of 3 …the 2 owners and John McQuaid’s son Eoin. Time on his hands and a certain sense of adventure attracted Eoin to this escapade but we knew that at some stage along the West Coast he planned to jump ship for social and romantic reasons. We were confident that 2 would then handle Scoundrel comfortably.

John McQuaidJohn McQuaid

28 June. We were still in that prolonged period of high pressure and little wind. This first passage included the leg south from Dublin Bay to Carnsore Point inside the banks and the Tuskar Rock. Then followed the long trek westwards along the South Coast, passing at a distance off our usual West Cork cruising grounds and nudging north into the Atlantic coast to Dingle in Co. Kerry. The only wind of note was a northerly force 4, on our nose as we crossed Dingle Bay from Valencia Island.

This long, windless, non-stop passage from Dun Laoghaire to Dingle was 275 NM and we were underway for almost exactly 48 hours. All of this was under engine at 2,500 revs at an average speed of 5.7 knots. Diesel and factor 50 sunblock was at a premium!

The only crisis of this passage was the tangling of the propeller with a lobster pot line close to the Conningbeg light off the Saltee Islands. Instantly volunteering, Eoin donned a wetsuit, dived below the boat and with a diver’s knife freed us from this unwelcome tether. 

The famous and aged dolphin Funghi welcomed us in the channel at Dingle harbour where the excellent Marina and extremely helpful staff supplied a safe berth for 2 weeks as well as green diesel in cans.

BlasketValentia Island

Sunday 15 July. We continued our cruise and left Dingle at 07.20 towards Fenit in Tralee Bay. We experienced a S.W. breeze force 3 to 4 and sailed for 6 ½ hours, motor-sailing for 2 ½. The log showed 50.7 NM in 9 hours. A highlight of this passage was passing through the Blasket Sound. Newly restored houses on the Great Blasket Island gleamed white as we kept well off Slea Head and its rocky dangers. Crossing Brandon Bay we encountered a very playful pod of at least 10 dolphins who accompanied us for several miles. It was decided to pass outside the Maharee Islands as rain and poor visibility had set in. Fenit, on the northern side of Tralee bay, was gained after a brisk reach to Great Samphire Island to which the excellent marina is attached.

Great SamphireGreat Samphire Island

samphire islandThe County Kerry coast

Monday 16th. Our 35-mile passage was towards Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary. We beat out of Tralee Bay and then maintaining a broad reach up to the Estuary we ran eastwards towards Scattery Island which lies off Kilrush on the Northern shore. The famous pod of Shannon Dolphins accompanied us for 4 or 5 miles. Kilrush Marina, in County Clare, is approached through a lock which maintains depth at all tides. More like inland waterway than sea marina this was a very comfortable berth.

Tuesday 17th. A lovely 60-mile passage towards Kilronan on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. But first we had a slog under engine out of the Shannon Estuary to Loop Head. This was followed by a favourable westerly force 3 and 4 bringing us past the coast of County Clare and the dramatic Cliffs of Moher. Kilronan on the N.E. of Inishmore is approached from the south via Gregory Sound with Inishmaan to starboard. On our approach to the Sound, a very large swordfish jumped high out of the water with a bright flash of silver. A visitors mooring at Kilronan proved very comfortable with a dinghy trip of about half a cable to a sandy beach and slip.

Passage planningPassage planning time

Wednesday 18th. A day on the Island. The only place where we spent a full day exploring; Inishmore provided us with a sunny day of walking and visiting Dun Aengus the Bronze Age promontory fort. We enjoyed the hospitality of the islanders. A swim in the harbour off the back of the boat proved very refreshing.

Thursday 19th. Commencing at 06.30 this was a passage from Inishmore to Clare Island, 62 miles in 12 hours. The highlight for me was the remarkable view of the Maamturk Mountains of North Connemara which were in view to the East, shimmering smoke grey peaks and ridges …tempting lures for future mountaineering expeditions. The Atlantic coast cannot be surpassed for dramatic scenery, high cliffs, mountains and mighty headlands. Islands are a special feature of this most western part of Europe and we were sorry that we had only time to visit three. This passage took us south of the extensive maze of rocks which guard South Connemara and Roundstone, then around Slyne Head, inside High Island and then a course of 060 M brought us inside Inishbofin and Inishturk islands. Our arrival at Clare Island Harbour at 18.30 coincided with mist and drizzle as we took a visitors mooring overlooked by Gráinne Ní Mháille’s Castle. Also known as Grace O’Malley, she was the famous 16th century “pirate queen”. We enjoyed a splendid fish dinner and Guinness at the Sailor’s Inn.

Friday 20th. The postmaster Páiric O’Malley sold us some provisions and lent us the key to the remarkable 14th-century abbey with residual painted frescoes still extant. Eoin took the ferry to Roonah Quay on the mainland and the two Johns continued the venture. Leaving our mooring at 11.08, a 50-mile passage towards Broad Haven, an anchorage on the southern shore of Donegal Bay was our aim.  Being a dull day with drizzle and fog and light westerly breeze we motored, firstly N.W. to make Achill Head and then west of the Inishkea Islands and many other rocky protuberances guarding the Mullet Peninsula. During this rather tedious passage, we passed only 2 other vessels, a trawler fishing and a yacht heading South, neither of which were transmitting AIS. On the West Coast, we rarely met other yachts; fishing vessels showing AIS were in a minority! At 20.20 we entered the narrow inlet on the South of Broad Haven Bay and anchored N of the fishing pier at Ballyglass. A very comfortable night with only one Scottish yacht nearby.

Saturday 21st. We weighed at 06.20 to commence a 54-mile passage across the mouth of Donegal Bay towards Teelin Harbour on its Northern Shore. There were no hazards or navigational challenges during this passage…which concluded in a very thick fog and a dead run in a force 3 to 4 SW breeze. Teelin Harbour on the N.W. of Donegal Bay is hidden within steep surrounding cliffs at the best of times but with visibility down to 100yds, the small lighthouse at the entrance was a welcome sight as we rounded up and took a temporary berth at a fishing boat pontoon. Paddy Byrne, a local boatman kindly lent us his hose for filling our water tank. A visitors mooring provided a very comfortable night and a pub called the Rusty Mackerel provided an excellent dinner.

Teeling harbour donegalScoundrel snug on a visitor mooring in Teelin Harbour on the N.W. of Donegal Bay

Sunday 22nd July. This passage from Teelin towards Tory Island, 55 miles was delayed until 10.30 when the thick fog lifted slightly giving us some visibility of the bulk of Donegal to the north as we motor-sailed out beyond Rathlin O’Beirne Island and headed NNE towards Aran Island. Most of the passage was a dead run in a force 4 under main alone. ..not having a spinnaker or a pole for goose-winging the jib … the wind was too far aft for our asymmetrical chute. This fairly uneventful passage became more dramatic as we approached Tory Harbour from the south with the wind piping up to 25 Kts. Choppy seas were manageable but on approaching the high harbour pier, fenders to the ready on the starboard side, sidling at dusk into a nice berth next to a ladder, our cruise nearly ended in disaster! Scoundrel came to an abrupt and sickening, clanging halt as a hydraulic crane jib, protruding 90 degrees out from the pier engaged with our mast about two-thirds up. My heart sank as I imagined the rig coming down around our ears. A gust blew off the pier and we disengaged from this aerial hazard. Mast and rigging survived unscathed, not so our nerves! This most remote of the Irish Islands deserves a prolonged visit but we needed to press on. Gales were being forecast in the Irish Sea from mid-week onwards.

Monday 23 July. This passage towards Portrush in Co. Antrim began at 07.00 in drizzle and turned out to be a lovely 85 miles 13-hour sail across the top of Ireland. Initially an easterly (078deg M) fetch to Malin Head and then S.E. towards Portrush. However some miles off our destination, on radioing Portrush Harbour Master we were informed that we could not enter as a stone barge was blocking the harbour. The evening was fair and, undismayed we altered course for Ballycastle some 15 miles further East. At 20.15 we entered this beautiful marina to a splendid welcome from staff and local boat owners; we no longer felt rejected. On the South of Rathlin Sound (famous for that dramatic tide race), Ballycastle is a lovely town with very clear views of the Mull of Kintyre.

Tuesday 24 July. A 45-mile passage from Ballycastle to Bangor in Belfast Lough. With a flat calm but a favourable tide, we shot out of Rathlin Sound into the North Channel with the beautiful hills of Antrim as our backdrop on the starboard side and Scotland to Port. A lovely, sunny evening landfall at Bangor’s Large and delightful Marina completed our penultimate passage. Celebrating with spaghetti Bolognese and accepting freshly picked tomatoes from my Belfast brother in law Eddie, John and I turned in early.

Wednesday 25 July. Starting at 04.25 This southerly homeward passage was 102 miles mostly under engine with a light southerly breeze. Highlights were views of the beautiful Mountains of Mourne in Northern Ireland and the Cooley Mountains on the southern side of Carlingford Lough. In good visibility, the Isle of Man was clearly in sight for much of this passage. On arriving north of Howth Head which guards Dublin Bay, we were hard on the wind with a foul flood tide impeding progress. Here I made a tactical error and took a tack to leeward of Lambay Island. This left us with a hard 2-hour slog against wind and tide to round Howth Head and the final fetch across the bay to Dun Laoghaire. We were on our marina berth at 22.10 having passed lines to our adoring wives.

Time underway: 158 hours … 124 motor-sailing, 34 under sail alone.
Total Distance Logged: 858 NM
Average speed: 5.4 kts
Diesel consumption: 250 L at approx 2,500 revs. Consumption approximately 2L per Hour

John Latham, 25 September 2018

Ross O'Leary of MGM Boats adds: The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349 is currently the most successful and best-selling production sailing cruiser in Ireland. Perfect size for our shores - it offers great comfort, space and stability. Modern chined hull design with twin rudders give unrivalled seakeeping performance that suits all levels of sailing experience. 

Published in MGM Boats
Tagged under

Irish Sailing has been forced to shelve this month's planned trial for Irish entry into the 2020 Offshore World Championships and will look at running the trial as part of the Round Ireland Race instead.

As regular Afloat readers will know, the 2020 Offshore World Championships is taking place in Valletta, Malta as part of the Rolex Middle Sea Race from 10-22 October 2020. Ireland has already secured an entry into the Mixed Two Person Event – one male and one female, which is a new event for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

There had been some early declarations for the event.

Irish Sailing had planned to run a selection trial scheduled between 28 March and 5 April 2020 and centred around the Solo Guy Cotton Concarneau regatta in France.

Due to restrictions around Covid-19 these trials have been forced to be rescheduled. Irish Sailing says it is now looking at options to run the selection trials in cooperation with the organisers of the Round Ireland Yacht Race due to start 20th June.

Further details around choice of boat and NOR will be published shortly.

Published in Round Ireland
Tagged under

Coronavirus may have postponed tonight's official launch party but there's no stopping interest in June's SSE Renewables Round Ireland offshore race that gets underway in 14 weeks time.

The prospect of some potent international entries into this year's race is adding extra spice to an already a bullish entry for the 21st edition.

The 2020 race from Wicklow Sailing Club is already being billed as a potential 'record' one by organisers and that's quite an achievement given the year's packed offshore fixture list.

The much-rumoured entry of the French offshore great Teasing Machine plus the entry of a JPK 10.30, according to an Afloat source. has the potential to make this a very special international race indeed. 

Launched in July 2017 with success in the 2017 Rolex Middle Sea Race, as its class winner and third overall, Owner Eric de Turckheim's Teasing Machine is a well blooded offshore racer having also competed in the Sydney-Hobart race.

JPK 10.30A new JPK 10.30 design could be on the cards for June's Round Ireland Race Photo: Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

The solid take-up defies early fears that the race might have struggled with other key fixtures such as early July's Kingstown to Queenstown Race and the Morgan Cup from Cowes to Cork Week.

Entries received to date include Malta, UK, USA, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, France, Germany and Ireland while the race is a starred event in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's calendar meaning more overseas entries are likely. The largest entry is the 21m Neptune 3 from Malta skippered by Greg Miller. She will be joined on the start line by former Round the World boat 70-footer Telefonica Black under Lance Shepard from the UK.

Round Ireland is the second longest race in the Royal Ocean Racing Club calendar and first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. Since then, held biennially, the fleet has grown steadily, attracting a record 64 entrants for its biggest ever edition in 2016 which four years later may yet be eclipsed.

There are a number of classes in IRC in which boats and their crews can compete, including IRC 1 – 4, Z class, ISORA, a ‘Two-handed Class’ and a Team Prize. The 2016 race saw the introduction of multihulls sailing under MOCRA rules. The 2018 race saw the introduction of a new Class 40 category. In the past, boats competing have ranged from a 98-footer former “round the world” maxi, to club boats one third the size, with all shades in between.

Some of the latest entries are Cork Harbour boats with double winner Cavatina and the Grand Soleil Nieulargo both signed up in the past fortnight. Last weekend, the new Sun Fast 3300 was launched at the Royal Irish Yacht Club and this new marque from Jeanneau will race the circuit under the burgee of Kinsale Yacht Club.

W M Nixon will preview all the latest Round Ireland entry news in his weekly blog on Afloat this Saturday here.

Published in RORC
Tagged under

It may be only mid-February, but entries for the 704-mile 40th Anniversary 21st edition SSE Renewables Round Ireland Yacht Race from Wicklow on June 20th are already on the two dozen mark, and the fleet is remarkable for its variety of size and type, writes WM Nixon.

In an initial lineup which has 15 boats from outside Ireland, the most exotic has to be Neptune 3 from Malta, the 26-metre alloy Fitzroy cutter (with Judel Vrolik input) which is skippered by Greg Miller.

Another biggie is the former Volvo 70, Telefonica Black, while smallest is the First 310 More Mischief, just 9.15 metres long and entered by Grzegorz Kalinecki of Dun Laoghaire. At the moment there’s only one J/109, Outrajeous from Howth entered by Johnny Murphy, who co-owns her with ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell, but doubtless others of this famous marque will throw their hat into the ring in due course.

more mischief2The First 310 More Mischief from Dun Laoghaire is currently the smallest entrant. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien
Paul O’Higgins’ otherwise all-conquering JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) is down to go for her third campaign in a circuit where victory has eluded her so persistently - despite conspicuous successes in every other offshore competition - that it’s all beginning to be reminiscent of Saoirse Ronan and the Oscars…… 

rockabill six3The Saoirse Ronan of Irish offshore racing? Paul O’Higgins’ otherwise all-conquering JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (twice winner of the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race) is entered for her third Round Ireland challenge, despite success eluding her in 2018 and 2016 when she seemed to win everything else on the offshore circuit. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Published in Round Ireland

This year, with the fresh sponsorship of SSE Renewables, the Round Ireland Race from Wicklow comes of age. The 21st staging of the biennial classic – now an international event, included in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s programme and an integral part of its annual points championship – will mark four decades of exceptional enthusiasm and voluntary dedication by a relatively small sailing club in a little river mouth port, a harbour town which successfully asserts its special position and unique identity in an Irish sailing scene which otherwise tends to be dominated by four or five much larger sailing centres.

Although the entry process for 2020’s race on June 20th was only opened as recently as January 20th, confirmed entries are already pushing towards the 20 mark, and while the latest entry is the Xp44 WOW (George Sisk) from the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire, a notable feature of the early entries is their overseas range, including Hiroshi Nakajima’s classic Sparkman & Stephens 49 Hiro Maru, from the US, campaigning in Europe after last year’s Transatlantic Race.

hiro maru2An American entry already in for the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race 2020 is Hiroshi Nakajima’s 1971-vintage S&S 49 classic Hiro Maru, built-in aluminium by Palmer Johnson of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, the builders of Ted Turner’s 1979 Fastnet Race winner Tenacious

This international interest has been a central theme of the Round Ireland Race from its early days, and in some years such as 2016 when George David’s mighty mono-hull Rambler 88 and three MOD 70 trimarans established a complete raft of new records, it has been the dominant feature. But equally, for many offshore racers from clubs all round Ireland and further afield, racing round Ireland is a rite of passage, so special for some that they do it many times.

But at whatever level you participate, in whatever size of boat, there is something profound, something unique and deeply satisfying, about racing round our island home, experiencing its incredibly varied weather, its majestic coastline, its wayward tides, and the camaraderie which develops among competitors, whether as shipmates or friendly rivals. And with this 21st staging of the race, it is time to put the story in context.

Forty years ago on Saturday 28th June 1980, a varied fleet of 13 small to medium-sized cruiser-racers came to the starting line off Wicklow, and headed south with the gathering ebb tide and a summery easterly breeze in the first non-stop Round Ireland Race, a challenge which - at 704 miles – was just four miles short of being a hundred miles longer than the standard-setting Fastnet Race itself.

WSC 1953 turning first sod3Beginnings – the ceremony to turn the first sod for the building of a clubhouse for the new Wicklow Sailing Club in 1953
wicklow sailing club4Small club, big heart – Wicklow SC (centre) and the Wicklow RNLI Station (left) provide a maritime hotspot at the head of the pier

The organising Wicklow Sailing Club – founded as recently as 1950/51 - may have been small by comparison with many of the older history-laden Irish yacht clubs. But with a strong voluntary spirit, it punched well above its weight in being at the heart of a community in which it promoted sailing and waterfront co-operation in a picturesque but workaday port, a harbour where the dominant activities had formerly been in meeting the needs of small cargo ships, a local inshore fishing industry, and a voluntarily-supported lifeboat station.

By the late 1970s the club was a hive of activity, and in 1979 - with Harry Jordan as Commodore - in addition, its own busy weekly races it was actively involved in bringing newcomers to sailing. That year, it also ran an innovative Wicklow Yacht Rally which drew in 46 participants from all around the Irish Sea. With its testing of crews’ skills and a programme of assessment and advice by recognized experts on preparing boats for serious sea-going, it was the core event in a summer fixtures list of such varied, useful and yet enjoyable activity that the newly inaugurated “Sailing Club of the Year” competition in 1979 selected Wicklow SC to be its first winner.

But even as the successes of 1979 were being celebrated, another game-changing idea was rapidly developing. Michael Jones, a keen member of the club who served as Commodore three times - in 1972, 1984 and 1991 - was also a longtime honorary secretary of the Wicklow RNLI. With an accountancy practice in the town, he was well aware of the place’s strengths and weaknesses.

Pondering on all this, he became convinced that a major maritime event was needed to help Wicklow re-discover its deeper maritime roots, assert its individuality as a self-contained and thriving community in the face of growing Dublin commuter encroachment, and generally make its mark on the national sailing stage.

michael jones5Man of vision – Michael Jones of Wicklow

Or at least that’s the way he subsequently explained how he brought the Round Ireland Yacht Race starting and finishing at Wicklow into being. Whatever the reasons, he had the idea, indeed he was consumed by it. But instead of promoting it with noisy announcements, he put at least as much energy into behind-the-scenes networking with the kind of slightly off-the-wall offshore sailing enthusiasts who had emerged with the growth of the ISORA programme and other events, together with more cruising-oriented people whom he knew would feel that a non-stop round Ireland race was an event whose time had come.

round 1980 ireland prestart6Pre-start manoeuvres at the inaugural Round Ireland 1980 with (left to right) line honours winner Force Tension, the Shamrock class Orinoco, John Hall’s Prout catamaran, and eventual overall winner Raasay of Melfort (Brian Coad). Photo: W M Nixon

At the same time, he brought key members of Wicklow Sailing Club who had shown their readiness for voluntary work along with him, and the fruits of their labour became evident on that summery Saturday afternoon off Wicklow on June 28th 1980 when 13 boats went off southwards in an easterly breeze after a rather uneven start. It was uneven because this was the first time a Round Ireland fleet became aware that the sluicing ebb off the Wicklow pierheads makes an early arrival on the line a loser’s option.

Thus although top skipper Johnny Morris of Pwllheli with Tony Vernon’s High Tension 36 Force Tension was so neatly away that his boat doesn’t appear in any of the photos of the main group starting, Half Ton ace Jim Poole of the National Yacht Club with his Ron Holland-designed Feanor almost found himself on the wrong side of the Committee Boat in that tide, and had to assert his rights on starboard gybe to make the line.

1980 round ireland start7That first start in 1980 – Force Tension is already out of picture, Brian Murphy’s Hydra class Crazy Jane is next across ahead of Raasay, and Feanor is having to assert her starboard gybe rights with Partizan after under-estimating the tidal stream. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet in the end, although Force Tension took line honours by more than two hours from Dave FitzGerald’s Holman & Pye 41 Partizan from Galway, it was the little Feanor (whose crew included a young Enda O Coineen) which won IOR overall by an hour from Dermod Ryan’s Hustler 35 Red Velvet (RStGYC).

But when the idea of the race had been launched, Michael Jones had no idea of just how much it would appeal to an all-Ireland cross-section of established offshore racers. So, to spread the net wide, he announced from the get-go that the ultimate winner would be based not on the very competitively-oriented International Offshore Rule, but on a special Wicklow Round Ireland Handicap, and multi-hulls would also be welcome to take part.

1980 round ireland feanor8Making knots in the open Atlantic - the Half Tonner Feanor running smoothly off the west coast. Photo: Enda O Coineen1980 round ireland feanor partizan9Chasing the big ’uns – Feanor with the 41ft Partizan (Dave Fitzgerald) off the coast of Donegal in 1980. Photo: Enda O Coineen

Thus the first winner was definitely a boat with strong cruising emphasis, Brian Coad’s Rival 34 Raasay of Melfort from Dunmore East. And though none of the multihulls finished, one of their skippers, John Hall of the National YC, is the only skipper from that race of 1980 still actively campaigning, though for some years now he has been doing it in partnership with his son Brian in the J/109 Something Else.

1980 partizan finishes10Classic finish to the first Round Ireland Race – Dave Fitzgerald’s Partizan from Galway come out of the dawn to the finish at Wicklow in 1980 to take second in line honours

Either way, the race was well launched, and signs of addiction to this glorious course were well in evidence among some of the first time participants. So there was no question but that the race would be sailed again in 1982, and this time Michael Jones and his team in Wicklow SC really hit the jackpot - The Doyler came up from Crosshaven to take part with his already-legendary new Frers-designed 51ft Moonduster.

Denis Doyle and Moonduster epitomised the very spirit of Irish offshore racing, going back in a direct line to the Gull in the first Fastnet Race of 1925 with skipper Harry Donegan. Needless to say, in the time-honoured Cork sailing tradition the Doyle and Donegan families were related through marriage. Like Harry Donegan, Denis Doyle fully realised what a significant role a major sailing event could play in the economy of a small seaport town. So in Wicklow, Moonduster’s skipper and his ever-supportive wife Mary stayed near the harbour in a guesthouse in the town in the days beforehand to indicate their complete commitment to a Wicklow-based Round Ireland Yacht Race, a supportive habit they continued throughout Moonduster’s many years of racing round Ireland.

moonduster sailing11Denis Doyle helming his beloved Moonduster. His complete commitment to the Round Ireland Race as a Wicklow event from 1982 onwards played a key role in establishing the race’s success. Photo: Bob Bateman

As a former Flag Officer of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, Moonduster’s skipper brought an element of RORC support to the event, particularly as regards pre-race scrutineering. This was very timely for the 1982 circuit, as it was a race of heavy weather with north to northeast gales making things brutal. Many boats sought shelter along the west coast, and even Moonduster had to pause for a while close under the limited shelter of Malin Head while a crewman went aloft to replace a broken halyard.

Despite that, she got round in 4 days 3 hrs 45mins and 25 seconds, taking line honours and eventually the overall win despite the slowly-changing wind direction theoretically favouring the smaller boats. As for the race’s status, it was now fully established in the offshore calendar in its convenient position in non-Fastnet years, with Moonduster becoming a round Ireland regular until Denis Doyle’s death in 2001.

moonduster 84 ri12Neil Hegarty at the helm as Moonduster puts the Fastnet Rock rapidly astern in 1984’s record race – “we were seeing off an entire Irish county in every watch”.

In 1984, The Duster had an astonishing race, with the wind favouring her at every headland such that, in the words of navigator John Bourke (who was himself later to become the RORC Commodore): “We were seeing off an entire Irish county in every watch”.

In 2020, forty years after that first tentative race, we’re looking at the 21st Round Ireland Race from Wicklow, and a bare tabulation of the winners over the years gives a hint of the many boats and hundreds – indeed thousands – of people who have been involved, people who in their most active offshore racing days defined this now-central feature of Irish sailing.

round ireland results13An almost-complete basic analysis – missing is 1982 when Moonduster took both line honours and the corrected time win, a feat she repeated in 1984.

The stories behind this bare-bones list would fill several books and still leave out some choice stories. 1986 saw the race gain real muscle with major sponsorship from Cork Dry Gin, and in that year it was Irish Distillers own Richard Burrows himself who won (his crew including Robert Dix) sailing the Dehler db2s Spirit, while line honours were taken by the Ron Holland Maxi Drum, with owner Simon le Bon of Duran Duran on board.

The fact that all 27 starters finished reinforces memories of this as being one of the most summery races, but as Robert Dix on Spirit commented, “the summer haze was such that half the time we couldn’t see the magnificent coastlines which we knew we were racing along.

The special Dehler db2s got another look-in during 1988’s race, when Liam Shanahan’s Lightning (NYC) took the handicap win, while Moonduster had another bite at line honours. Those late 1980s were the last years in which tobacco and drink companies were still tolerated as sponsors for sports events. But the Health Police were closing in, and the Cork Dry Gin Round Ireland Race of 1990 was something of a last hurrah, as CDC’s generosity encouraged a starting line-up of 61 boats – it’s still the record turnout – and the line honours and overall winner was the legendary Lawrie Smith sailing the Maxi Rothmans and promoting Silk Cut cigarettes, his leading crew being the hyper-talented Gordon Maguire.

gordon maguire lawrie smith14Dream team…Gordon Maguire and Lawrie Smith on the maxi Rothmans, with which they won line honours and overall in 1990’s race.

Yes indeed, boys and girls. Thirty years ago, ultra-healthy sports events such as the Round Ireland Race were being sponsored by booze companies and won by smokes, and only a few thought it all a bit odd. So the fact that for 2020 the new sponsor is a clean energy company which is hitting the optics spot on - and sending out all the right messages - tells us how far we’ve come in thirty years, even if in the end it is still the same rugged challenge of getting your boat round Ireland in a competitive timeframe.

burrows smith jones15Richard Burrows (winner in 1986) with Lawrie Smith (winner in 1990) and Race Director Michael Jones

In fact, in looking at that list, you can deduce from comparing the number of finishers with the number of starters just how rough that particular race might have been, for if the race had been beset by calm, the high-rated boats tended to suffer but low-rated craft like Eric Lisson’s Noray 38 Cavatina from Cork – winner in 2002 and 2006 – knew they just had to keep plodding along and read the new wind correctly to take the honours.

If the 1980s were the era of the Dehler db2S marque, the 1990s marked high noon for the J/35. Not every boat from the generally successful J Boat range was always on the money, but even among the special ones the J/35 was very special indeed, and in 1994 (quite a stormy race) Peter Wilson of Howth won with the J/35 Bridgestone, while in the 1996 race it was the turn of a sister-ship, Big Ears from the RIYC skippered by future RORC Commodore Michael Boyd, which took the honours.

Michael Boyd’s dedication to racing round Ireland is quite something, as he’s still at it, and with good placings in the 2016 and 2018 races he is well in line for the three-race prize of a Volvo car, presumably one of the impressive new electric ones. But though the whispers for the 2020 strongly suggest a Boyd involvement, at the moment nothing is official.

Meanwhile, we could warble on for hours about what that list of winners and line honours holders tells us, but for now, we’ll be content with observing that the last truly Irish overall winner was Aodhan FitzGerald of Galway with the First 40.7 Ireland West in 2008, which is getting to be quite a long time ago.

Admittedly the most recent winner in 2018, the Ker 43 Baraka GP, was entered by Niall Dowling of the RIYC, and his navigator/tactician was our own Ian Moore, but they’re both now essentially Solent-based, as is the chartered boat. That said, perhaps we should run with the notion that the modern Irish diaspora is a matter of success and achievement which can be applied anywhere in the world.

Be that as it may, since Ireland West’s win in 2008, the internationalism of the Round Ireland Race has been underlined by the fact that the subsequent winners have been from The Netherlands (Tonnere de Breskens 3, 2010), France (Inis Mor 2012), Scotland (Tanit, 2014) and the USA (Rambler 88, 2016). 

wsc commodores16Wicklow Sailing Club Commodores – the size of the membership can be gauged from the fact that some Commodores served more than one spell of duty, with Michael Jones filling the role three times
From an organiser’s point of view, this is a very satisfactory state of affairs, but it does mean that the workload of running the race has increased exponentially. Michael Jones carried the torch as Race Director from 1980 until 1992, then from 1994 to 1998, Fergus O’Conchobhair took up the reins. He was succeeded by Denis Noonan from 2000 until 2010 when Theo Phelan took over.

fergus oconchobair17Fergus O’Conchobair was Race Director from 1994 to 1998

denis noonan18Denis Noonan organised six Round Ireland Races between 2000 and 2010.

The effects of the economic recession were hitting very hard as the 2012 race approached, but Theo hung in with total dedication to keep it alive, and it was he who came up the concept of a link to the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire in time for 2014’s race, which served the big boats particularly well in 2016. Theo in turn retired in February 2018 with Hal Fitzgerald taking over for that year’s race, while for 2020 there has been a spreading of the workload with Hal continuing as Race Director but basically in the demanding backroom role, while the promotional aspects have been taken on by former WSC Commodore Denise Cummins and current Commodore Kyran O’Grady.

theo michael boyd19Theo Phelan with Michael Boyd, Commodore RORC, when the latter concluded his second Round Ireland Race in 2016, twenty years after winning overall in 1986hal fitzgerald20Hal Fitzgerald, a former Commodore of WSC, has been Race Director since 2018

This new setup makes sense because, successful and all as the Round Ireland race has become, it is operating in an increasingly challenging market, with 2020’s plethora of major anniversaries in Irish sailing providing several rival attractions. Thus the Wicklow folk have to spread their international message, and the French market, in particular, has been targeted, with promotional visits to the Paris Boat Show in December (where they received support from offshore superstar Charles Caudrellier), and then in January, Kyran O’Grady was invited to give an event presentation at the annual gala prize-giving of UNCL, the French equivalent to the RORC.

cummins charles caudrellier ogrady21International promotion. Former WSC Commodore Denise Cummins, France’s Yachtsman of the Year Charles Caudrellier, and WSC Commodore Kyran O’Grady at the Paris Boat Show in December.

But while the backbone of the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race in 2020 will continue to be fully-crewed IRC boats, the race also caters for a growing number of Class 40s which find the course well suited to their needs, while as ever Multi-hulls are very welcome and the two-handed division is increasingly significant, particularly if there’s a new emphasis on having female/male crews in line with the thinking towards the new class in the 2024 Olympics.

At the other extreme, after the 1937-built classic Maybird (Darryl Hughes) became the first gaff-rigged boats and the oldest ever to complete the Round Ireland course in 2018, the newly-instated Maybird Mast trophy will honour the race’s most senior boat.

kyran ogrady barry kilcline22The clean way ahead, WSC Commodore Kyran O’Grady with Barry Kilcline of SSE Renewables after agreement had been reached for SSE to sponsor the Round Ireland Race. Photo courtesy WSC

Thus the challenge of racing round Ireland retains its timeless attraction, but how you take it on is something which is constantly being modified and updated by the team in Wicklow Sailing Club. They’re so busy getting on with it that they scarcely seem to notice the prodigious amount of voluntary work which is necessary to keep this unique show on the road. As for the rest of us, we can best acknowledge this by realising that an Irish sailing CV isn’t really complete without at least one Round Ireland Race in its list of achieved projects.

Published in Round Ireland

SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race organiser Kyran O'Grady led a Wicklow Sailing Club delegation to France in December to address the Union Nationale pour la Course au Large (UNCL) prizegiving in Paris.

Keen to encourage French and international numbers for this year's biennial Irish offshore classic in June, the Wicklow Commodore also revealed a special draw prize for foreign boats coming to Ireland this summer.

Using impressive visuals from from the race, O'Grady took the opportunity to point out the unique features of the 700-miler that celebrates its 21st edition in 2020. "Not alone do you go around the Fastnet Rock but also around Ireland with for tidal gates, the Open Atlantic Ocean on the west coast before coming very close to Scotland and a finish further down the Irish Sea and a warm welcome back in Wicklow," he told the important French gathering.

Corum Round Ireland 3848In the 2018 Round Ireland Race, The French Mach 40 had three French sailing stars onboard Nicolas Troussel, Ian Lipinski and Aymeric Belloir for the circuit Photo: Afloat

In co-operation with the British offshore racing club, RORC, UNCL is responsible for IRC, the principal international handicap system for yacht racing.

O'Grady also announced that French boats that enter both the Round Ireland Race in June and July's Cork Week Regatta in Cork Harbour will be entered into a draw for a case of Irish whiskey from Irish Distillers.

Entry in the 2020 Round Ireland Race is expected to open on January 20th with the race organisers already announcing the leaderboard for the Volvo Car Prize and a new trophy for the oldest boat in the race.

Published in Round Ireland
Page 1 of 21

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Car Brands

subaru sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton dob
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events 2020

Wave button for Afloat new dates

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
viking sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

quantum sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating