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The Royal Irish Yacht Club's Farr 42 WOW has retired from the Volvo Round Ireland Race due to steering problems.

It is understood the starboard-hand wheel collapsed when the former Irish yacht of the year was leading in IRC One. On safety grounds, the decision was taken to retire.

According to the race tracker, the George Sisk owned boat is now in Galway. All crew and boat are safe.

WOW Farr 42 Round ireland 4234Farr 42 WOW – starboard wheel collapsed Photo: Afloat.ie

Seven boats from a starting fleet of 56 have now been forced out of the Race, mostly due to gear failure in the testing conditions experienced on the West Coast.

One boat retired for a precautionary medical check for a crew-member who received a minor shoulder injury after a fall on board.

As Afloat.ie previously reported the sole trimaran in the race, Hugo Karlsson Smyth was an early loss on the south-west coast. 

Phosphorous Mark Emerson 3843Mark Emerson's Phosphorous II retired due to gear failure Photo: Afloat.ie

Also out are Mark Emerson's A13 Phosphorus II, Brian McMaster's Cookson 50 Riff Raff, Paul Jackson's Sun Odyssey 40 Wild Spirit, Johnny and Jamie Ritchie's Dufour 41 Classic Mingulay, and Glyn Sheffield's Farr 40 Espresso Martini Too.

Riff Raff 4046Brian McMaster's Cookson 50 Riff Raff retired and headed for Crosshaven Photo: Afloat.ie

Race tracker HERE

Afloat.ie Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE.

Published in Round Ireland

In the days leading up to the Volvo Round Ireland Race start at Wicklow yesterday, there were predictions of boats being delayed by calms, struggling for sea breezes by day and land breezes by night writes W M Nixon. But the always interesting setup at XCWeather.co.uk – which works from the basis of existing conditions at strategically-located recording sites – doggedly continued to suggest that the further west the fleet got, the more wind they’d find, and such has proven to be the case.

Ian Moore Navigator 3669Ian Moore of Carrickfergus is the Navigator onboard Round Ireland leader Baraka GP Photo: Afloat.ie

The only problem is that the winds they so doggedly predicted had a lot of north in them. And now that the leaders are scorching out past Dursey Head - the furthest point of West Cork - they continue to find that XCW is right on the money – their accurately forecast wind is starting to provide a king-size dose of rugged windward work.

But thanks to the favourable conditions down as far as Mizen Head, which provided something veering on drag racing along the south coast, the leading nine boats on the water are going to have logged better than the magic 200 miles by the time the first 24 hours of the race has elapsed at 2.0pm today, and the front runners are going to be well past that figure.

Now, however, things are different. The formerly fleet-leading trimaran Trilogic (Hugo Karlsson-Smyth, Netherland) may have put Dursey Head astern but - faced with a true windward challenge - she is no longer cutting the mustard, her track is sliding to lee, and it is the new Class 40 Corum which is managing best to hold up to the line for the next waypoint to shape them up for getting past Skellig Michael.

In fact, with indications of slight but positive tendencies for the brisk headwinds off the southwest and western seaboards to veer, the imperative is to keep to the right and if need be take a short tack on port every so often. As this afternoon goes on, it will be interesting to see how often this move is deployed.

"Niall Dowling’s Ker 43 Baraka GP continues in awesome style at the head of IRC on the water and in the frame on handicap"

Meanwhile, Niall Dowling’s Ker 43 Baraka GP continues in awesome style at the head of IRC on the water and in the frame on handicap, though for the moment the JPK 10.10 Jaasap from France is overall IRC leader. Baraka is currently passing Dursey Head and making 10.1 knots, so the going is good. She’s going good in near proximity to the Class 40 Sensation, which has had a good night of it, and is showing that Corum’s lead in class may not be invincible after all.

Class 40 sensation 4143The Class 40 Sensation has finally found form, and is nibbling at the Mach 40 Corum’s lead Photo: Afloat.ie

However, while that’s the way it is with the bigger boats, let’s hear it for the little ‘uns in the two-boat Mini-Transat division. They may have been sent off after everyone else in their own separate start in order not to offend official sensibilities, but Yannick Lemonnier in Port of Galway in particular has been racing like a man possessed. His tiny boat has gone down along the south coast like a scalded cat, and is currently off Baltimore, narrowly ahead of George Sisk’s Farr 42 WOW.

Yannick Lemonnier 4518Yannick Lemonnier is getting a sensational performance out of Port of Galway, his 21ft Mini. Photo: Afloat.ie
For now, Port of Galway is the star, the mighty atom and then some. As for the other Mini, there was a charming meeting at Wicklow in the pre-race festivities when Mini-Transat superstar Ian Lipinsky, doing this race in exalted style on Corum, called by to encourage Louis Mulloy of Westport and his crewman Arthur on their tiny craft 303 Blackshell Farm. Blackshell may not be achieving quite the same performance as Port of Galway, but she’s going some nevertheless, and is currently off Glandore and making 8.3 knots with a lot of very much larger boats tucked in well astern.

Mini sailors irlMeeting of Mini Transat fans – Ian Lipinsky in Wicklow with Louis Mulloy and Arthur from 303 Blackshell Farm  

Mini pogo Blackshell 4581Tiny craft – 303 Blackshell Farm Photo: Afloat.ie

Race tracker here

Published in Round Ireland

Day 2 of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018 finds the fleet enjoying freshening offshore breezes along the south coast to provide drag racing conditions and good speeds writes W M Nixon. But enjoyment is muted by the knowledge that beyond Mizen Head the wind is indicated as still from the north but stronger – 25 knots plus is currently shown for at least this morning along the Kerry coast.

Off the big country and out in the Atlantic, 25 knots plus right on the nose with the notoriously lumpy sea is much more than most boats’ optimal windward conditions. But for now, the going is good, and the overall leader on the water is the only multi-hull, Hugo Karlsson-Smythe’s trimaran Trilogic from the Netherlands. She’s nearing Toe Head in West Cork with 16.2 knots on the clock.

Rockabill VI old Head kinsalePaul O'Higgin's Rockabill VI passing the Old Head at 0945 this morning Photo: Chris Power Smith

But almost level-pegging with her is one of the emerging stars of the show, the new Class 40 Corum from France being sailed in style by the three musketeers - Nicolas Trousel, Ian Lipinski and Aymeric Belloir. The classy Corum is currently registering 16.4 knots further out to sea, and already shaping up to put the Fastnet Rock astern.

Ian Lipinski Corum 3894French sailing star and Mini Transat winner Ian Lipinski prepares for a sail change on Corum shortly after the start of the Round Ireland Photo: Afloat.ie

Niall Dowling 3688Niall Dowling from the Royal Irish Yacht Club  is skipper of the Ker 43 Baraka GP Photo: Afloat.ie

Niall Dowling’s Ker 43 Baraka GP (Royal Irish YC) has put in a tremendous performance all the way down the south coast from the Tuskar Rock, and is currently fourth on the water, close astern of Sensation (France) the Class 40 Extreme. Due south of Galley Head with 11.4 knots currently on the clock, Baraka leads IRC on the water, and is third overall on corrected while leading IRC Class Z.

Round Ireland Joker II 4266Barry Byrne's Joker II is a defence forces sailing team Photo: Afloat.ie

However, it’s that pesky J/109s which had continued to trade the IRC overall handicap lead among themselves through the night, the most recent being Joker II skippered by Barry Byrne. But for now, the Joker is back in second overall as the IRC CT lead is held by the French Sunfast 3200 SNSP Hakuna Matata (Jean)Francois Nouel) with Joker II second, Baraka GP third, the JPK 10.10 Jaasap fourth, Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland (aka Pomeroy Swan) fifth (good going for a two-hander), Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules from Howth sixth, Michael Boyd’s J/109 Jedi seventh, and Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 1080 Rockabill VI eighth.

Round Ireland Maybird 450981-year old gaff ketch Maybird (Darryl Hughes), is south of Waterford Photo: Afloat.ie

It has been a fast race so far, and even the most senior boat in the fleet, the 81-year old 43ft gaff ketch Maybird (Darryl Hughes), is south of Waterford and on course to put the Fastnet astern before nightfall.

By that time, way out beyond that iconic rock out in the open Atlantic, or seeking what smoother water they can find in towards the majestically rugged Kerry coast, the hotshots in the fleet will have been finding yet again that serious windward racing off Ireland’s western seaboard is tough going, for the vigorous north to northeast breezes currently are not forecast to ease significantly until this evening.

However, the current fast straight line progress sees the close placings changing frequently, and even as we post this Baraka GP has moved into the IRC overall lead.

Race Tracker here

Published in Round Ireland

It’s said that the boat which has made the best start is not always the one which seems first over the line, but rather it’s the boat which is in the lead five minutes after the kick-off writes W M Nixon. On those terms, the new Mach 40 Corum gave a master-class at this afternoon’s Volvo Round Ireland start in Wicklow by staying well clear of the kerfuffle out at the Guardship, and coming out of the line at the optimum angle.

Maybe she was lucky, with Niall Dowling’s Baraka GP shredding her kite to spoil the Ker 43’s otherwise perfect start. But then Corum also had to deal with Mark Emerson’s Phosphorous II (she looks to be the former Teasing Machine II, and therefore no stranger to the Ireland circuit) going like a train. But the guys on Corum had been susssing the area down towards Wicklow Head beforehand, and they read it to perfection, reckoning big-kite-setting was too much of a gamble, and getting their nose in front and holding the lead on the water while the crowds were watching.

corum start1From top: Having calculated that the shy kite reach to Wicklow Head was too much of a gamble, Corum starts well inshore and just manages to keep her wind clear as she narrowly outsails Baraka and Phosphorous……(centre)…….it’s nip and tuck, but they’ve done it by the skin of their teeth…. (above) Job done.   Photos: W M Nixon

So having kept her total appearance a semi-secret until now, we could all see Corum is one gorgeous boat. But gorgeous boats and ordinary ones alike, they’re faced with the inevitability of adverse tides, even as the leaders are closing towards the Tuskar. This evening, the breeze is holding up quite well, and Michael Boyd with the J/109 Jedi is currently leading IRC overall, while on the water the former Volvo 60 Libertalia from France is narrowly ahead of the pack. But for the spectators, the new Corum won the start.

See Race tracker here

Published in Round Ireland

For most of the Irish sailors who have committed to this year’s 20th staging of the biennial 704-mile Volvo Round Ireland Race on 30th June, it will be the central focus, the core pillar of their 2018 programme. And even though our increasing number of home-grown front-line international professionals might expect to see it as just another fixture in a busy worldwide working sailing year, they find that for anyone Irish, racing round Ireland continues to be something very special writes W M Nixon.

This was the abiding impression which emerged from this week’s decidedly convivial and crowded Round Ireland reception in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. This distinguished and ancient club of significant history has put its considerable muscle behind the much-smaller and more localised Wicklow Sailing Club (which inaugurated the Round Ireland in 1980) for the 2016 and now the 2018 staging of the race. The result has been a mutually beneficial relationship which sees the RIYC in its sheltered location within Dun Laoghaire Marina providing facilities for the larger Round Ireland contenders in the week leading up to the start.

royal irish yacht club2The sheltered and convenient location of the Royal Irish Yacht Club within Dun Laoghaire Marina

But as the actual start approaches, with this year’s scheduled for June 30th, the final days in the count-down see a total shift of focus down the coast to Wicklow, to a Wicklow which is completely en fete and totally in focus for this one event in a way which a large and complex harbour like Dun Laoghaire could never be.

In terms of planning a Round Ireland campaign, with five weeks to go you’re already well into the final stages, but nevertheless, there’s still the chance that some significant “we’ll show ’em” last minute entries might emerge to add to the 54 boats already listed. And as to that total figure, former organiser Theo Phelan – he stood down in the winter after guiding the event successfully to record numbers through the dark days of the economic recession – reckons it will probably be around 50 boats which finally cross the starting line.

costello shannon3The Royal Irish YC’s newly-elected Commodore Joe Costello (left) and Vice Commodore Pat Shannon welcomed the Round Ireland party to their historic clubhouse. Photo: W M Nixon

That’s a very respectable total, as the record fleet of the 2016 staging included the once-off appearance of George David’s Rambler 88, which won just about everything for which she was eligible, while there were also the three MOD 70 trimarans which also established what seemed like unbeatable records until later in the season, when the irrepressible Lloyd Thornburg with his MOD 70 Phaedo had another go, and chipped a little bit more off the time to leave what looks like a record so good it deserves to last.

wsc committee4Wicklow SC’s Round Ireland Committee are (left to right) Hal Fitzgerald (Race Director), Kyran O’Grady (Hon.Treas.), Roisin Hennessy (Chairperson), Denis Cummins (WSC Commodore) and Peter Shearer (Hon. Sec.) Photo VRIYR
In a way, that Round Ireland Race of 2016 was standalone-exceptional, starting with the fact that George David felt honour-bound to do the race out of respect and for thanks after the crew of Rambler 100 were rescued off Baltimore when their keel broke off at the rock during the Fastnet Race of 2011. As for the era of the MOD 70s, that has peaked and gone.

So for 2018 we’re back to a more normal way of things, with a strong international entry which actually well outnumbers the Irish involvement - it is, after all, part of the international RORC Programme, counting for extra points. But nevertheless the inescapable theme of this week’s party was that this was a gathering of Round Ireland aficionados, or as Roisin Hennessy, the Chair of the Organising Committee put it, we had an assembly of Round Ireland virgins, serial offenders, and addicts, and if you were one of their number, the sense of mutual enthusiasm and fellowship filled the place with warm camaraderie.

wilson ohiggins hennessy5Peter Wilson (winner in 1994 and 1998), Paul O’Higgins (winner Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2017, Round Ireland entrant 2018) and Roisin Hennessy (Chairperson, Organising Committee.) Photo: W M Nixon
It was a good time to thank the many volunteers – it must be just about every member of Wicklow Sailing Club – who keep this show on the road, and after being welcomed by newly-elected RIYC Commodore Joe Costello, WSC Commodore Denise Cummins and David Thomas of Volvo Car Ireland were rightly effusive in their thanks to these dedicated helpers. And it was also rightly a time to give special thanks to the Race Directors past and present, for we’d three of them there – Dennis Noonan who was Mr Round Ireland for so long, then his successor Theo Phelan, and now former WSC Commodore Hal Fitzgerald.

Hal was candid in admitting that while he had some idea of the sheer quantity of work that his predecessors had undertaken to keep this unique show on the road, it wasn’t until it fell on his shoulders last winter that he got a true appreciation of what was involved - it is not a task to be undertaken lightly.

But it is now something which is built into the Wicklow DNA, so instead of dwelling on the backroom work involved, they generated an atmosphere of mirth and fond memories. Appropriately, there were presentations to Theo Phelan and his wife Orlagh, and Theo used the occasion for fond recollections of something rather special to the finish of the Round Ireland Race – the fact that each finishing boat is saluted by cannon fire regardless of the hour of day or night, or their placing in the race.

theo and orlagh6Theo Phelan and his wife Orlagh – Theo was Race Director for 2012, 2014 and 2016, and was closely involved for several races before 2012. Photo: W M Nixon

The empty cartridge from each cannon firing is then presented to the relevant finishing owner when he comes into the Race Office to sign his declaration, and Theo particularly recalls that great sportsman, France’s Baron Eric de Turckheim, when he came into the office, signed his declaration, and was presented with his cartridge shell. The rugged skipper of the highly successful Teasing Machine – highest placed boat overall after Rambler 88 herself and winner of many trophies – found his eyes welling up with tears. The cartridge meant more to him than all the silver and glassware which would follow in due course.

There were many such stories, for Round Ireland memories abounded, but to give it some focus they’d a panel discussion, moderated by David McHugh, for speakers Michael Boyd – highest-placed Irish entry in 2016 and overall winner in 1996 - Peter Wilson who won in 1994 and has been there or thereabouts in many races since, and journalist Elizabeth Birdthistle who was a complete round Ireland novice when she did the 2016 Race with Ronan O'Siochru of Irish Offshore Sailing in the 36ft Desert Star, and now spoke with eyes gleaming in all the zeal of the total convert.

elizabeth birdthistle7The gleaming eyes of the new enthusiast – Elizabeth Birdthistle talks of her first Round Ireland experience during the panel discussion. Photo: W M Nixon
Peter Wilson is one of those fantastic skipper-helmsmen who somehow smooth a rough sea when you’re slugging to windward, yet can find an extra-helpful wave which no-one else had noticed when looking for that extra quarter knot off the wind. Talking to him before the panel discussion began, I naturally asked what angle he’d be taking, and being a man of few words he said he hadn’t a clue, yet once up there and speaking, his face lit up and he conveyed that special feeling which comes when a boat is in the groove and the going is very good.

Elizabeth Birdthistle brought a fresh perspective which reminded Round Ireland veterans of just what an extraordinary project a first tilt at the circuit can seem to be, and how it profoundly affects your life in the countdown, and continues to do so afterwards.

This was a theme taken up by former RORC Commodore Michael Boyd, who has helped to ensure the Round Ireland Race’s current exalted status. Put at its most simple, he persuasively argued that it was something that any true Irish sailor would like to be able to list in their CV at last once. But then he went beyond that, giving it all an almost spiritual dimension which made you think that in another life he would have made a rather good Abbot of Glenstal.

boyd shearer8A word with the Abbot…….Michael Boyd - winner in 1996 and top Irish entry in 2018 – with Peter Shearer, Hon. Sec. WSC Photo: W M Nixon
For he talked of the special bonds of camaraderie which become enduring friendships after sharing the Round Ireland experience, he talked of the sense of embracing Ireland in a very special way through doing it, and he talked of how the post-race buzz can in some ways last forever in a way that many of us who have done it have thought afterwards, but he managed to put it in an almost poetic style.

Such elevated thoughts were soon being balanced by competitive banter in the lively crowd, with positions being taken as to pre-race favourites, and there’s no doubt that local-boy-made-good Niall Dowling, returning with the hyper-hot Ker 43 Baraka GP, is highly-rated, as he has ace navigator Ian Moore calling the shots, while James Carroll is managing the boat, and Dalkey-based Kiwi star Jared Henderson is also on the strength.

coughlan carroll ogrady9Brendan Coughlan (left) who will be racing his new Sunfast 3600 YoYo (below) in the 2018 Round Ireland, with Jim Carroll of Baraka GP, and WSC Hon Treas. Kyran O’Grady. Photo: W M Nixon

Yoyo Sunfast 3600 0888

baraka gp10The Ker 43 Baraka GP (Niall Dowling) is a much-fancied entry. Photo RORC
But then Dowling’s former shipmate Michael Boyd has teamed up with the Irish National Sailing School’s Kenneth Rumball for a private entry of the school’s highly-tuned J/109 Jedi, and even though the design may now be 14 years old, you’re in a dream world if you under-estimate the race-winning potential of a well-prepared J/109, with Pwllheli’s Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop with Mojito – Irish Sea champions in 2017 – also out there to give it their very best.

j109 mojito11The very image of a well-trimmed J/109. Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop, Pwllheli SC) in their home waters off Snowdonia

As for their nemesis in last year’s Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race - Rockabill - her owner has signed up the formidable talents of Mark “Mono” Mansfield of Cork, and there’s just something about a JPK 10.80 which can pull off a real success when it’s really needed.

As usual in a fleet of this size, and a Round Ireland fleet at that, there’ll be an element of eccentricities in the entry list, and only Stephen O’Flaherty of Howth and RIYC would dream of racing his modern classic Sprit 54 Soufriere in such an event, particularly if they’d heard Peter Wilson talk eloquently of the experience of running down Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard in 40 knots of wind and more, while people back home on the east coast would be thinking it was just a normal mildly breezy summer’s day.

spirit54 soufriere12Stephen O’Flaherty’s Spirit 54 Soufriere – a very individual choice for a Round Ireland racer

For if there’s one thing a Round Ireland Race teaches you, it’s the exceptionally localised nature of our coastline’s wind strengths, and the way it can test a boat and her crew. I can still remember coming in past Inishtrahull with the most of a Force 9 up our backsides, and yet we knew that the big boats barely a hundred miles ahead down at the Maidens Rocks off Larne were becalmed. Either way, the experience seems at some distance from a cheerful party on a sunlit Spring evening in the time-hallowed surroundings of the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

party in riyc13Party time in the time-hallowed surroundings of the Royal Irish YC – very different indeed from the conditions that may be experienced in racing round Ireland. Photo: W M Nixon
If it becomes a race of frequent calms, then the little fellows will simply have to sit it out and their handicaps will do the rest, but it’s the sheer unpredictability of the Round Ireland which is part of its unique attraction.

Another attraction for those ashore is that the entire starting sequence can be viewed from Wicklow pier. However, when it’s a reaching start, particularly with the wind offshore, the fleet tends to bunch towards the outer end, out at the Guardship, and well away from the pier.

After one such recent start, I happened to meet up with David Lovegrove, then President of the Irish Sailing Association and a noted International Race Officer, and he commented on the fact that the fleet ended up bunching in on the Guardship.

“If I were the Race Officer,” said he, “and we’d offshore wind conditions like this, I’d be very tempted to put a tiny bias in favour of the inner end of the line in order to keep the fleet in towards the pier and give the viewing public their moneysworth….”

lovegrove noonan shearer14David Lovegrove, Race Officer for the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018, with Dennis Noonan, Race Director for many years until 2010, and Peter Shearer, Hon. Sec. WSC. Photo: W M Nixon
Well, as it happens, there was David Lovegrove at this week’s reception in the RIYC. And for why? Well, as it also happens, for the first time, he is going to be the Race Officer for the Volvo Round Ireland Race on June 30th. Interesting. Very interesting. We’ll certainly all be looking with extra fascination at the way that starting line is laid.

Published in W M Nixon

A wide field of international entries from the United States, Finland, Norway, France as well as Irish and British crews are amongst the 54 entries to date for the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018 that was launched this evening.

Additional enquiries are still being handled by the Wicklow Sailing Club organisers though the 2016 record entry of 64 boats is unlikely to be matched this year.

The race was previewed a fortnight ago by Afloat.ie here

Rockabill 2559Royal Irish JPK10.80 Rockabill VI (Paul O'Higgins) was the winner of last year's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle offshore race and is a pre–race Round Ireland favourite Photo: Afloat.ie

In spite of the rugged 704 nautical-mile course facing the crews on the 30th June at Wicklow, a touch of glamour will be featured as Stephen O’Flaherty’s Soufriere, the elegant yacht from the James Bond movie Casino Royale is also entered. And Richard Loftus’s classic Swan 65 Desperado of Cowes will be the largest boat racing this year 

Soufriere 0495 2Stephen O’Flaherty’s classic Soufriere from Howth Yacht Club is going Round Ireland Photo: Afloat.ie

Several entries feature crews from Sailing Schools around the coast, many of whom are new recruits to the sport or fulfilling ‘bucket-list’ ambitions. The launch gathering heard from Elizabeth Birdthistle who sailed around Ireland in 2016 as one of a crew of ten such newcomers and she likened the race to the Camino de Santiago or a Mount Everest ascent.

“It was a very personal journey and I learnt about life doing it – it’s almost like a rite of passage for people who love the sea,” she told the audience gathered at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. “The Round Ireland Race IS the Wild Atlantic Way.”

Also, in the audience were a number of previous winners including former Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) Commodore Michael Boyd from Co. Meath, who won the race in 1996 and will be racing again this year.

Aurelia J122 1537Chris Power Smith's ISORA leader Aurelia, a J122, is a Round Ireland Race entry Photo: Afloat.ie

“This is a very attractive race for RORC sailors, not just because it’s an attractive course but also it earns bonus points in our annual series and we are delighted to see so many overseas entries for 2018,” Boyd said. “Every race is different and you never know until you’re back in the clubhouse just how you’ve done - there are very few double-winners.”

One such winner is Peter Wilson who won the 1994 race on Bridgestone and returned to win on Colm Barrington’s 1998 entry Jeep Cherokee. He shared memories of the highs and lows of the unique course with the audience. 

“The highs would be going up the West coast of Ireland in 40 knots of wind for 200 miles in 1994, a sleigh-ride that will stick in mind for the rest of my life,” he said. Wind or rather, the lack of it was a low point in 1996 on Bootlegger and losing the race after getting becalmed for five hours off Greystones and obliged to anchor to stem the flood tide within sight of the finish.

Round Ireland Ker 43Niall Dowling's Baraka GP Ker 43 is a pre-race favourite

Another past race winner will also be making a return to the Volvo Round Ireland Race next month. Ian Moore from Carrickfergus was the navigator on Eamon Crosbie’s Calyx Voice & Data, the Ker 32-footer than won the race in 2004. He will be amongst a pro line-up for Niall Dowling on Baraka GP, one of the candidates for this year’s overall race win.

Click to see the full list of 2018 entries here

Published in Round Ireland

With just over 13 weeks to go to the start of the 2018 edition of the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht race, 37 boats have already taken advantage of the Early Bird entry rates writes W M Nixon. But the Early Bird offer closes this coming Friday, 30th March - if you’re interested in taking part in the history-making 20th Round Ireland, get your booking under way now here.

As it is, a quick scan of the current confirmed entries reveals a decidedly eclectic list of notable boats. Dun Laoghaire-Dingle 2017 runner-up, the ISORA all-conquering J/109 Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop, Pwllheli) is game for the complete circuit, while Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, another ISORA stalwart, is also going again.

The keenly-campaigned veteran Swan 65 Desperado of Cowes (Richard Loftus) is adding the Round Ireland to her list of battle honours for the second time, and the first signs of the Open 40s making a race of it (they find the Round Ireland suits them particularly well) is there with Ari Kaensaekoski’s Fuji.

Another veteran Swan, this time Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan, is doing the race for the first time, but she’s well known on the RORC circuit as sailing for Ireland, and was a notable performer at the front of the fleet in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017.

Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2017 winner Rockabill VI, Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80, is going again, but this time with 2016 Class Winner Mark Mansfield of Cork in the crew, while the veteran French Volvo 65 Libertalia is game for another go. And as for boats which are currently top of the rankings in Irish sailing, the sister-ship of “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam!, Brendan Coughlan’s recently-acquired YoYo, has also signed up.

Round Ireland 2018 Entries at March 27

303 Black Louis Mulloy
Andante Keith Miller
Arthur Logic John Tyrell Prue Walsh
Aurelia Chris Power Smith
Baraka Niall Dowling
Bellino Rob Craige
Desert Star Irish Offshore Sailing Ronan O Siochru
Desperado of Cowes Richard Loftus
Fireball Chris Clark
Forward Thinking Tony Martin
Fuji Ari Kaensaekoski
Fulmar Fever Robert Marchant
Hydra Henrik Bergesen
Jaasap Pasternak Nicholas
Jangada Richard Palmer
Laura Richard Stain
Libertalia Team Jolika, Jean Francois Levasseur
Lynx Clipper David O Connor
May Contain Nuts Kevin Rolfe
Maybird Darryl Hughes
Mojito Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox
Olympia's Tigress Susan Glenny
Patriot John Lubimir
Pegasus Of Northumberland Ross Hobson
Petasus Al Smith
Phosphorous II Mark Emerson
Platinum Blonde Paul Egan
Playing Around Ken Docherty
Pomeroy Swan Paul Kavanagh
Port of Galway Yannick Lermonner
Pyxis Kirsteen Donaldson
Rockabill VI Paul O'Higgins
Sherkin 2 Ronan O'Siochru
Tribal Liam Burke
Trilogic Hugo Karlsson-Smyth
Wild Spirit Paul Jackson
Yoyo Brendan Couglan

Published in Round Ireland

Wicklow Sailing Club's Volvo Round Ireland Committee has announced the appointment of Hal Fitzgerald as Race Director following the decision of Theo Phelan to stand down from the role, as Afloat.ie reported yesterday. 

Fitzgerald is an ex-commodore of Wicklow Sailing Club and has been closely involved with running the race in previous years.

With 16 weeks until the 20th edition on 30th June 2018, entries continue to grow.  27 boats are currently entered for the race. Interest in the race once again extends far beyond Ireland and Great Britain, with entries from across Europe, including Team Jolokia from France aboard Libertalia. See the entry list here.

The largest boat confirmed to date is the Swan 65 Desperado of Cowes entered by Richard Loftus.

Dun Laoghaire's Ronan O’Siochru, will be competing in his fifth Volvo Round Ireland in a row.

Early bird entries closing date is 30th March.

Published in Round Ireland

If it’s an even-numbered year, it’s a Round Ireland Race Year! Things are warming up in Wicklow Sailing Club, the 2017 Mitsubishi Irish Sailing Club of the Year, where preparations for the 2018 Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race are well under way.

Róisín Hennessy, Vice-Commodore of the club, has taken over as Chair of the race committee. A dinghy sailor, Róisín competed in the 2014 race on board Farmer Ryan’s Volvo 60 Monster Project where the team on board took Line Honours in that race.

She will be working closely with Race Organiser Theo Phelan – this is his fourth race as organiser – and with the race committee as they target the delivery of another successful and exciting race.

The 2016 race saw several records broken with George David in Rambler 88 taking both 1st place in IRC and monohull Line Honours. He also added a new record time of 2 days 2 hours 24 minutes and 9 seconds to the many achievements of this American Maxi. Now that’s a record to beat!

Are you up for the challenge? The VRI is one of the longest offshore races in the RORC championship series at 704 nm. It offers spectacular sailing, from the west coast Atlantic rollers to the tidal gates around the Irish Sea.

Save the Date: the 2018 edition of the race starts on 30th June in Wicklow and entries open in January 2018 at www.roundireland.ie. The race carries a 1.4 point weighting in the RORC Championship series.

As an additional carrot for competitors, Volvo have ‘upped the ante’ with their announcement that there is a fantastic prize of a Volvo V40 car, for the best registered entrant on corrected time over the three races from 2016 to 2020.

Published in Round Ireland

At least two different viewpoints may be taken on the remarkable and very long history of sailing in Ireland. Either you see it as a wonderful heritage, which should be celebrated with gala anniversaries, and whatever you’re having yourself, at every possible opportunity. Or else you might sadly admit that it’s a burden, a deadening load on all of us which stultifies development, restricts fresh thinking, and railroads the annual programme into a traditional pattern sailed in vintage boats which allows very little space for something with the instant appeal and intrinsic excitement of novelty.

But perhaps there’s a happy place somewhere in between, a thoughtful place among many events, where we can live comfortably with some astonishingly old throwbacks to the distant past, yet continue to modify the programme and our way of doing things in order to accommodate new ideas. And with any luck, we might somehow find space to come up with some bright ideas of our own to add to the rich and very varied tapestry of the world sailing scene. W M Nixon casts an eye over next season’s programme to see what it might bring to the party.

After the excitement of Annalise’s Silver Medal in Rio on August 2016, in 2017 there was a generally unstated but definite feeling that we were due a down-home year, a year when sailing in Ireland in all its quirkiness would be celebrated, and anything with a non-Olympic flavour would be given every encouragement to flourish.

Yet at the beginning of 2017, who could have predicted that as summer approached, it would be Annalise herself who would up-sticks from the pre-ordained Olympian way of doing things, and plunge into the maelstrom which is Volvo Ocean Racing?

annalise with parents2Olympic Medallist Annalise Murphy with her parents Cathy MacAleavey and Con Murphy. As the establishers of a long-standing Round Ireland Record in 1993, Cathy and Con are well aware of what Annalise has faced in taking on a round-the-world crewing job in the Volvo 65 Turn the Tide on Plastic (below)

turn the tide3

Successful predicting doesn’t get any easier, even with detailed programes taking shape. Annalise’s progress in the rugged ocean racing world this will be continuing until the finish in June 2018, but thanks to the Volvo Race’s flexible approach to crewing arrangements, she will be able to opt out for long enough to get herself back into the Olympic Women’s Radial Laser mode from time to time to keep in touch for the big Tokyo 2020 Olympics countdown event in early August 2018, the two-week Hempel World Sailing Championship at Aarhus in Denmark.

There, with 40% of places up for grabs, many other Irish Olympic wannabees will be progressing after long and often lonely months and even years of doing the circuit. By then, several of them such as Aoife Hopkins will have thoroughly tested the waters in the Olympic Classes, starting with the Championships in Florida in January.

aoife hopkins4Aoife Hopkins of Howth and Trinity College will be starting her 2018 campaign towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Florida in January

February sees action at home and abroad with the growing enthusiasm for Team Racing in action with the Trinity Varsities up on the lake at Blessington on Friday 9th/Saturday 10th February, which will fit them neatly around the Irish Sailing/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Year 2017” awards ceremony back down in Dublin at the RDS on the evening of Friday February 9th, where an exceptionally eclectic group of maritime high-flyers will gather to receive well-deserved praise for many remarkable - indeed, in some cases astonishing - achievements.

But late February will also see serious international racing on the other side of the Atlantic with the increasingly popular annual RORC Caribbean 600 starting from Antigua on Monday 19th February. There’ll be a strong Irish contingent, and we have form here, as Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners from Dun Laoghaire won the first Caribbean 600 in 2009, then Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam! from Howth won her class in 2016, and in 2017 it was all back on top again, as the overall winner, Hap Fauth’s Maxi72 Belle Mente, was navigated by our own Ian Moore.

bella mente5Bella Mente on her way to winning the RORC Caribbean 600 in February 2017, navigated by Ian Moore. There will be a strong Irish presence in 2018’s race, starting at Antigua on 19th February. Photo Tim Wright

However, February at home in Ireland for most sailors is conference time, and the ever-expanding annual Irish sailing Cruising Conference is scheduled for Saturday February 17th at the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown in Dublin, the move to a Clayton Hotel’s conference facilities having started last year in Cork when bookings were so heavy they’d to change the venue from the original choice of the Port of Cork HQ Building.

Nevertheless those dedicated team racers in school and college are also maximising their use of February before exam countdowns take over everyone’s timetable, and there’s the Leinster Schools at RStGYC on February 17th, while the following weekend is the big one, the Irish Universities Championship. In 2017 they had Clifden as a very successful venue in an early weekend in March, in 2018 they’re pushing the early season envelope even further by using the weekend of 22nd-24th February, and the venue is again in the west, this time at Kilrush, County Clare.

students clifden6Springtime sunshine at Clifden in Connemara, March 2017, for the Irish Universities Championship. In 2018, the event will be even earlier – on February 24-25th at Kilrush in County Clare

Thus we reach the end of February with the season already well under way for some specialists, but mainstream sailors will still be in a different time-scale, and in March the first one for the diary is Irish Sailing’s AGM on Saturday 10th March, venue still to be confirmed. However for those who insist that sailing shouldn’t miss any month of the Irish year, the Royal Cork’s famous come-all-ye dinghy festival, the PY1000, is slated in for Sunday March 11th, and it’s quite something, in fact it’s fantastic.

It would be impossible to imagine contemporary Irish sailing without the Laser, that ageless wonder which has contributed so much to our sport since it first appeared here around 1970. Yes, 1970. To be completely accurate, the Laser will be having its Golden Jubilee in 2019, as the prototpypes and first production boats sailed in 1969, so when our first major Laser event of 2018 gets going, the Munsters at Baltimore on March 31st/April 1st, it will be part of a growing celebration which in 2018 will culminate in Ireland in the mega-fleet World Lasers Masters (we’re talking maybe 400 boats) in Dun Laoghaire in a joint NYC/RStGYC venture from 7th to 17th September 2018. That will be a joyous affair to bring Dun Laoghaire Harbour to an upbeat mood as the traditional sailing season draws to its close after a fascinating main programme in the central part of the 2018 summer, with various pillar events the highlights in a continuous and colourful tapestry which takes in every part of the country.

Laser 2848Lasers – it’s part of what we are. This classic dinghy is still as new as tomorrow, yet it’s now on the count-down to the Golden Jubilee in 2019-2020, and a significant part of that will be the World Laser Masters in Dun Laoghaire from 7th to 17th September 2018, with a huge fleet expected.

That “traditional season” will have seen solid regulars such as the annual programme of the steadily-expanding Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association into action by late April (first races are on April 21st), by which time the Irish Sailing’s Youth Pathway Nationals – 2017 was the biggest yet seen when it was at Ballyholme – will have been staged from 5th to 8th April at a venue yet to be confirmed. And Ireland’s long history of team racing will have been acknowledged yet again, this time with the 70th Anniversary of the senior of them all, the Royal St George series in Dun Laoghaire on April 22nd/23rd. Believe me, over those seventy years, just about everybody in Irish sailing seems to have been a participant in some way or other in this grandaddy of team events.

Into May, and the 12th to 18th sees the Asgard II Tall Ship Reunion Voyage in the Irish Sea on the Tall Ship Pelican, followed by a Gala Ball which will show that although the Asgard II was sadly lost ten years earlier in September 2008 when she sank, her spirit and those who sailed on her lives on, and an Irish tall Ship will sail again.

ship asgard8The much-lamented Sail Training Brigantine Asgard II was lost in September 2008, but the tenth anniversary of this sad event will see a renewal of the determination to find an appropriate replacement

In May the core pace of mainstream sailing is hotting up, though while you might get sunshine, pure heat is still in short supply in Scotland in the Springtime with snow sometimes still on the mountain-tops for the Scottish Series at Tarbert in late May. But this has long been a happy hunting ground for Irish cruiser-racer crews, and we’ve no doubt the tradition will be maintained.

Meanwhile there’s more chance of a first hint of summer warmth away, far away to the southwest at Baltimore in County Cork where the steadily-growing Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival sees 2018’s staging from 25th to 27th May, and the whisper is there might be some unexpected and interesting visitors making their Baltimore debut.

baltimore woodenboat9The Baltimore Woodenboat Festival in May definitely has something for everyone…

Back in the Irish Sea, the ingenious Peter Ryan of ISORA managed to devise a race in 2017 which somehow took in Howth YC’s time-honoured Lambay Race as the first part of the course. This will be repeated in 2018, helping to swell numbers in an event which, in the Bank Holiday Weekend of June 1st to 3rd 2018, will be part of Howth’s Regatta, the shoreside high point of which is a family day for the peninsula people which in 2017 was adjudged an outstanding success.

lambay race10Summer comes to the East Coast - the Lambay Race at Howth, first sailed in 1904. 2018’s will be part of a family-friendly regatta at June’s Bank Holiday weekend, with the Lambay Race itself once again including the successful combination of the first part of an ISORA Race

Because June’s Volvo Round Ireland Race from Wicklow has been moved from the traditional mid-summer weekend start to the last weekend of the month (presumably to avoid clashing with the finish of the Volvo Ocean Race itself at The Hague in The Netherlands where the stage is set from June 24th onwards), June is quite like old times with each Dun Laoghaire club staging its own Saturday regatta, while at national championship level the J/24s are descending on Foynes from June 8th to 10th, and the Sigma 33s are at the Royal St. George Yacht Club from June 22nd to 24th, while the National 18s in all their fascinating variations get in ahead of everyone with their Nationals at Baltimore on June 2nd/3rd.

Come the end of the month, and all eyes will be focused on Wicklow and the back-up port of Dun Laoghaire for the Volvo Round Ireland Race, counting 1.4 for the RORC points championship, and starting Saturday June 30th. It will be the 20th staging of this very special 704-mile Irish classic (it’s longer than either the Fastnet, the Middle Sea, the Bermuda, the Sydney-Hobart or the RORC Caribbean 600), but the 19th staging in 2016 was such a sensational event, with three MOD 70s and George David’s mighty Rambler 88 stealing the show, that 2018 is going to have to think of something different to make the proper impact.

In the end, its the steady, regular and frequent contenders who are the backbone of this race, and to emphasise this, the organisers are going to find which skipper has had the best accumulated result from the races of 2016, 2018, and 2020. Then at the prize giving after 2020’s race, that top scorer will be awarded a brand-new road-ready Volvo V40.

As to who will be doing the 2018 circuit, we do know already that the winner of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2017, Paul O’Higgins (RIYC) with the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, has already signed up the formidable talents of Mark Mansfield of Cork who was on Dave Cullen’s chartered J/109 Euro Car Parks (aka Storm), which was the only Irish boat to win a class in the 2016 circuit.

round ireland 2016 start11Here she comes….! How on earth George David’s Rambler 88 managed to come cleanly through the crowded start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 is a matter of wonder, but she did it like a hot and very swift knife through butter. Photo David O’Brien/Afloat.ie

In July the emphasis moves emphatically to the south coast, and you can drive your new Volvo V40 there in expectation of a warm welcome, as the next big one up is Volvo Cork Week from July 16th to 21st. There’ll be an added sense of anticipation to this marvellous biennial sailfest, for it will be the last Cork Week before the big one in 2020, when the Royal Cork Yacht Club Tricentenary Cork Week will be just one of many major events celebrating 300 years of the world’s oldest yacht club.

Who knows, but maybe by 2020 they’ll be staging the Beaufort Cup as a major standalone event. What started as the germ of an idea in February 2016 for a sailing series among crews from the Defence Forces in the Volvo Cork Week of that July took off like a rocket, and 33 public agency crews in 12 mostly borrowed boats, representing just about every organisation and agency which is involved in serving the public, stretching its remit way beyond the defence forces.

Nevertheless it was a Defence Forces crew, skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne racing John Maybury’s J/109 Joker 2, which topped the leaderboard in a series which brilliantly captured genuine public interest. It was an astonishing success, and already entries are registered for 2018 with so much interest that you’d begin to worry whether there’ll be enough suitable boats available for loan to accommodate everyone.

Joker2 Cork weekThe Defence Forces’ crew, skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne and racing the J/109 Joker 2, were first winners of the Beaufort Cup which will continue as a feature of Volvo Cork Week in 2018. Photo Robert Bateman

As it is, taking 12 highly competitive boats out of general competition impinged significantly on the mainstream Volvo Cork Week fleet in 2016, yet having the Beaufort Cup as part of Cork Week is something which adds to the allure of both events, so we sympathise with anyone who, in time, is going to have to square this particular circle. As it is, in 2018 the Beaufort Cup teams are going to be a fully-integrated part of Cork Week, racing the entire five days and savouring the unique Crosshaven Cork Week flavour, but nevertheless there are bound to be those who’ll wonder if extra mileage couldn’t be squeezed from having the Beaufort Cup as a standalone event.

As July veers into August, national sailing interest will swing two ways. Our potential Olympians will be shaping up for the intense contest at Aarhus in Dernmark, and at home in Ireland down in West Cork they’ll be shaping up for the allegedly non-intense Calves Week from Schull. In previewing the 2017 season, we described it as “a fun event with quite serious competitive undertones”, and this was then quoted with approval (and acknowledgement) by the Calves Week Chairman at a subsequent press launch, so if it ain’t broke, why try and fix it, Calves Week 2018 from 7th to 10th August (yes, four days, you’ll do more living in four days in West Cork than you will in a week elsewhere) definitely is a real fun event with quite serious competitive undertones.

west corkWest Cork sailing at its glorious best – Calves Week action in August will be top of the bill in Schull. Photo: Robert Bateman

Back on the East Coast, meanwhile, the 1898-vintage Howth 17s are putting out the welcome mat on the weekend of August 10th to 12th for a Classics One-Design Regatta. It has been successfully done before with the Mermaids contributing much to the festivities, but this time the Young Gaffers of Howth hope that others – the Glens and Water Wags of Dun Laoghaire spring to mind – might also be interested. Certainly one of the unexpected successes of 2017 was the inclusion of a Classics Division in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta as part of the Bicentenary Celebrations for Dun Laoghaire Harbour, an idea which proved so popular there’s talk of doing it again in 2019, but it’s quite a challenge – getting venerable wooden boats and their characterful crews together is about as easy as herding cats.

howth seventeens14The 1898-vintage Howth 17s will be welcoming other classic One Designs to their home port on August 10th to 12th.

Normally August in a non-Fastnet year is a laid-back time for cruiser-racers when it’s possible to slip in one or two well-supported distance races in the Irish Sea, but August 2018 is going to be unprecedented, as both the WIORA Championship and the ICRA Nationals are going to be staged at Galway City from the 15th to the 18th of August.

Traditionalists will be ruffled by it being in August rather than June, and in the heart of the West Coast rather than at either end the old time-honoured basically Cork-Dublin axis. But ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney of Foynes and his team know that there is a strong core ownership of cruiser-racers along the length of the western seaboard (think of the 44 boats which turned out for the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands at exactly the same time as the massive Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 was under way) and this fresh-look cruiser-racer gathering in Galway deserves every chance of success.

galway docks15Regatta base in the hart of a hospitable city – Galway will be the hosting port for the WIORA Championship/ICRA Nationals 2018 from August 15th to 18th

This preview of the cornucopia of events which 2018 has to offer is no more than a skimming of the peaks, with occasional in-depth glances at some curious corners of special interest. The sheer diversity of events, boats, locations and people involved is outlined in the detailed Irish Sailing schedule, and every sailor will find his or her favourite event there. But inevitably that detailed schedule is still far from complete. After all, in previewing 2016, even in January of that year we would not have been able to anticipate the huge success of the Beaufort Cup in July, for the then Minister for Defence Simon Coveney TD and his team didn’t have the inspired idea of the Beaufort Cup until late February.

SB20 1258The SB20 Europeans promises some lively action on Dublin from August 28th – September 1st, at the Royal Irish Yacht Club hosted event Photo: David O'Brien/Afloat.ie

Nevertheless some things have been part of our sailing lives for decades, and every year September brings an entirely new mood, with established summer programmes drawing to a close, Autumn Leagues getting themselves into gear, and All-Ireland Championships to be raced.

The Juniors will be in the last weekend of September, venue and boat type still to be confirmed, but the Seniors are firmly in place at Lough Ree Yacht Club on the weekend of 13th to 14th October, to be raced in SB 20s.

There’s something very pleasing about the fact that the core stream of Irish sailing at home should reach its time-honoured concluding Championship of Champions in the heart of the country at a hospitable club which can trace its history back to 1770, with the event itself being raced in boats of a modern international class which has special Irish links. 2018 Irish sailing at home does indeed give every sign of being another memorable year, with a stylish and upbeat concluding championship.

fionn lyden16Fionn Lyden of Baltimore Sailing Club (left), with Irish Sailing President Jack Roy and crewman Liam Manning of Schull, and the historic All-Ireland silver salver he won on Lough Owel at Mullingar in October 2017. He will be defending at the All Irelands at Lough Ree on October 13th-14th 2018. Photo Irish Sailing

2018 SAILING HIGHLIGHTS

January Florida USA (Ft Lauderdale & Miami) – Olympic Classes Regattas

February 19th Antigua – RORC 600

March 12th Royal Cork YC - PY 1000

April 5th – 8th Irish Youth Pathway Nationals

April 21st ISORA season starts

May 25th – 29th Scottish Series, Tarbert

June 1-3rd Howth Regatta & Lambay Races

June 30th Volvo Round Ireland Race

July 16th-21st Volvo Cork Week with Beaufort Cup 

July 30th – August 12th Hempel World Sailing Championship Aarhus, Denmark

August 7th-10th Calves Week, Schull

August 15th – 18th WIORA Championship & ICRA Nationals, Galway

August 28th – September 1st, SB20 Europeans, Royal Irish Yacht Club

September 7th – 15th September Laser Masters World Championships,  RStGYC &  NYC

September 29th-30th All Ireland Junior Championship (venue to be confirmed)

October 13th – 14th All Ireland Senior Championship, Lough Ree YC, sailed in SB20s

Published in W M Nixon
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