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It is rare enough that the west coast portion of the Round Ireland Race becomes an uphill slog but this year’s race seems set to be unusual in more ways than one.  As naviticians, or should that be tactigators, are forced to abandon the rhumb line, they face numerous decisions based on relatively unpredictable factors.  The light and variable winds pose particular problems – stronger inshore or offshore?, heading or lifting?, when will it shift/increase? and where should we position the boat to benefit most?  In doing so, can we ignore our rivals?  Is it best to stick with the pack?  What will the tide effect at the headlands be?  

At the very front, Monster Project’s course is more dictated by tactics then by navigation as she covers 2nd placed Teng Tools Kilcullen as they beat into Donegal Bay.  It is to be hoped that this pre-occupation with each other will keep their minds off the falling winds ahead that look like making the north coast a very challenging phase.

Back down off Achill, News Talk for Adrenalin has been crossing tacks with Libertalis, not far ahead of 2012 winner Inis Mor, currently the best placed IRC boat of the high raters.

The two Class 40s, May Contain Nuts and Arwen, might as well be racing one–design, although Arwen has a modest rating advantage. Neither are currently challenging the overall lead.

Inshore just past Slyne Head, the Sydney 40 Tanit is perhaps the best placed yacht to benefit from any positive change in weather that reaches the front of the fleet first.  Tanit is lying 6th overall at the time of writing. 

The podium battle is just a little further back and it is the two time course and distance winner Granada 38 Cavatina that continues to maintain the lead from Sigma 33 Polished Manx and J109 Ruth.

In the two-handed class, Dehler 34 Big Deal leads from Muskox.

The two Irish Offshore School Sunfast 37s Desert Star and Sherkin are putting in a very creditable performance, currently in 7th and 8th position.

While there is significant wind coming later in the week, it will probably be too late to have any major impact, and it could well be late on Thursday before a winner can be declared.

Published in Round Ireland

#roundireland – The leading yacht in the Round Ireland Yacht Race has just reached the halfway point and the fleet is now experiencing a modest east to southeast breeze. As has been the trend in this slow race, the larger yachts will encounter lighter winds while the main fleet carries the pressure up to them, effectively resetting the clock back to zero, reducing the race length and favouring the lower rated boats.

At the head of the fleet, the Volvo 70 Monster Project has opened up a 12 mile lead over Teng Tools Kilcullen, equivalent to a projected 2 hour advantage at the finish, although it will only be a class win and not an overall victory. 

Back at the Blaskets, Cavatina maintains her overall lead, some two corrected hours ahead of Dillon father and son sailing two-handed on Big Deal, and just ahead of Liam Shanahan’s Ruth who seems to be winning the battle of the J-boats.

Joe McDonald’s News talk for Adrenalin is comfortably ahead of Libertalia in IRC Z, while 2012 winner Inismor leads IRC 1. The Harris/Riggs Sydney 36 Tanit is ahead in IRC 2, J109s Ruth and Mojito(Dunlop/Cox) top IRC 3, while Cavatina leads in IRC 4,5 and 6. 

The fleet can expect lighter, heading winds as it makes for the Galway and Mayo coasts, once again favouring the lower rated boats. 

Midnight Tuesday is probably the very earliest that the leaders will finish, more likely later in the morning, with the IRC winners coming in some 24 hours later.

Selected 'Tweets' from the race course below: 

Published in Round Ireland

The 20th staging of the biennial 704–mile Round Ireland Race race around our island home gets underway at 2.0 pm on Saturday, June 30th.

Follow the progress of the 55 competitors in the 2018 Race on the Yellowbrick race tracker below.

Published in Round Ireland

#RoundIreland - The 18th Round Ireland Yacht Race got off to a dramatic start under a tight fetch from Wicklow today (28 June), with the local Volvo 70 entry outdone by the Teng Tools/Kilculllen Kapital Open 60 streaking into a lead as the biggest boats in the 36-boat fleet passed Wicklow Head.

But it looks like one leading contender for overall honours might be out if the race already after a startling line collision forced him to head back to Harbour.

The Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race champion Amazing Grace from Tralee Bay reported to the race committee that she was taking on water.

She also indicated she would be making a protest against another competitor, Lynx Clipper, which said she will be lodging her own protest over the same alleged incident.

The start was won emphatically by the Open 60, hitting the line at precisely the right moment, prompting some on the shoreline to query if she had been over the line. No chance. This was precision sailing, the Tengtools crew enjoying a clear run at least three boat lengths ahead of their nearest competitor, the Volvo 70.

By contrast, the smallest boat in the fleet, a 30-footer from Antrim, was battling big seas chopped up in the wake of the big boats departing Wicklow.

Winds dropped significantly as the fleet hoisted kites at Wicklow Head, and there were near perfect sailing conditions off the Wicklow coast of 12-15-knot winds from the north east, bright sunshine and a choppy sea state.

The 36-boat fleet cleared Wicklow Bay and Wicklow Head Lighthouse under a two-knot ebb tide, pushing them down along the Wexford coastline.

However, the fleet are expected to have lighter conditions tonight as they approach Tuskar Rock.  

The 700-mile race is anticipated to take up to five days to complete, with the biggest boats expected home as early as Tuesday 1 July.

Early leaders – The Open 60 and Volvo 70 streak ahead at Wicklow

Published in Round Ireland

#roundireland – Since 1980, the biennial 704-mile Round Ireland Race has been a cornerstone of Ireland's sailing programme. This year's fleet of 36 boats is good for the times that are in it, though it's still a far cry from the heady day of the 1990s when 54 boats came to the line. W M Nixon takes a look at the varied fleet for this 18th Edition of Ireland's Classic.

You wouldn't borrow money to go drinking with Enda O'Coineen on a Saturday night. But if you had to go into the jungle, or face up to a storm at sea, then he's a good man to have around. The intrepid Galwegian has been Irish sailing's gadfly for quite some time now. And more than occasionally, he has driven everyone else nuts - sometimes to the point of total exasperation - with his many cage-rattling schemes.

So his teaming-up for today's start on the Open 60 Teng Tools Kilcullen with Round Ireland Race super-veteran Eamon Crosbie is all of a piece for someone who crossed the Atlantic (at the second attempt) alone in a rubber dinghy, and was himself involved in two successful round Ireland record challenges.

It was the second of these records, in November (yes, November) 1986, which showed just what a cool and tough customer The Enda can be. The lumbering 83ft catamaran Novanet was making good progress on a clockwise circuit in a westerly wind north of Achill when the weather closed in with dark winter violence, a sudden cold front from north of northwest bringing ferocious hail squalls. Where they'd been comfortably clearing the sinister Black Rock off the coast of Mayo, now it was touch and go. Yet in the turbulent sea it was highly unlikely that the cumbersome big machine would be able to tack. The situation was dire, and one of the crew – a known millionaire – offered to buy the boat outright there and then if they'd run her up on a nearby beach.

The rest of them had to shout the options above the screams of the weather. But Enda wasn't saying a word. He just concentrated on taking running fixes of the painfully slowly changing bearing as the Black Rock light showed briefly through the squalls. "We're clearing it," he said quietly. "But by how much?" roared the would-be boat purchaser. "We're clearing it, just keep her going" was all that Enda would reveal.

To this day, nobody knows by precisely how much they did clear the rock on that November evening. It wasn't a lot, and might only have been a few feet. But clear it they did, and within 24 hours Novanet had completed her circuit and the new record stood until September 1993, when Steve Fossett with the 60ft trimaran Lakota established the astonishing record which still stands today.

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The lumbering giant.....Enda O Coineen's cool pilotage of the 83ft catamaran Novanet on a stormy November night in 1986 saw her safely past the Black Rock in Mayo, and a new Round Ireland Record next day.

It's unlikely that there'll be any record breaking by the fleet going off this afternoon. For record-breaking purposes, it's best to see Ireland as a sort of green lozenge on a northeast/southwest axis, which means that any serious record-breaking attempt will hope to have a steady period of either nor'westers or sou'easters to give it a head start.

So the forecast of a nor'easter today may indeed send the fleet away in style. But the prospect of a long light airs beat up the west coast as the incoming high pressure builds will make the race a test of patience, and it will be a matter of getting to the finish eventually (and still talking to each other), rather than shaping up for a record.

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The Hinckley 40 Actaea (Michael Core), a comfortable cruiser-racer which yesterday was declared overall corrected time winner of the biennial 635-mile Bermuda Race. Photo: Daniel Forster

There doesn't seem to be a lot of wind about anywhere in the North Atlantic just now, as America's biennial 635-mile Newport-Bermuda Race has been very slow-sailed this past week since starting on Friday June 20th. For long stages, the best progress was being made by boat which got themselves into the most favourable eddies of the Gulf Stream, which in one location were the equivalent of a fair tide of 2 knots plus. Such conditions favour the lowest-rated most comfortable cruising style boats. So although the mini-maxi Shockwave took line honours, the corrected times were something of a shockwave in themselves, as the overall winner was Michael Core's well-sailed classic Hinckley Bermuda 40 yawl Actaea .

The Round Ireland fleet includes two boats of the same fairly hefty type as Actaea, and even without the news from Bermuda (where the Dark 'n Stormies are being consumed apace), both Ian Hickey's Granada 38 Cavatina from Cork and Brian O'Sullivan & Frances Clifford's Oyster 37 Amazing Grace from Tralee, were already highly favoured in the betting. Cavatina has been in the frame – including overall win – in several Round Irelands, while Amazing Grace celebrated her inauguration in the O'Sullivan/Clifford ownership last year by winning the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle overall after the wind taps had been turned off.

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Cavatina in Wicklow on Thursday, with battle flags which reflect her distinguished career. Photo: W M Nixon

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Amazing Grace at the Dun Laoghaire base of the Round Ireland Race at the Royal Irish YC on Thursday. Last year, light winds in the middle stage of the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race set up a pattern which provided overall victory for this Tralee Bay boat. Photo: W M Nixon

With Cavatina rated at only 0.922 and Amazing Grace just a little higher at 0.928, they're piling up the advantage just sitting still. But two boats rate even lower. These are the Dehler 34 Big Deal from Foynes, raced by the Listowel father-and-son team of Derek & Conor Dillon in the two-handed division, and the Isle of Man Sigma 33 Manx Polish (Kuba Szymanski) which clocks in at just 0.898, and has impressed with her showing in ISORA racing in recent years.

The smallest boat of all is not the lowest rated. The tiddler of the fleet - just scraping in over the 30ft LOA lower limit - is Ian Patterson's North Channel 9m Wildwood from East Antrim Boat Club in Larne. Having a build date of 2012 makes Wildwood one of the newest boats in what is admittedly a fleet of veteran vessels, but "2012" is a bit notional, as this amateur-build project has taken nine years. But she certainly looks the business, and as a plucky effort, she's in a league of her own.

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From East Antrim Boat Club at Larne, Wildwood (Ian Patterson) is a remarkable self-build project, and at just 30.5ft LOA, she is the smallest boat in the Round Ireland Race. Photo courtesy WSC

Being very much performance-oriented, Wildwood sails off a rating of 1.02, which puts her well above one of the fancied boats in the two-handed division, Kirsteen Donaldson's Solent-based X 332 Pyxis, rating at just 0.957 and a noted peformer in short-handed racing. Pyxis is just one of many entrants from the RORC heartlands around the English Channel, attracted both by the special challenge of the Round Ireland Race, and by the bonus of the points being weighted 1.4 in the RORC Championship.

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"We're here, and we're going to give it our best shot". Kirsteen Donaldson's X 332 Pyxis is a noted performer in short-handed racing in the English Channel, and was one of the first boats to arrive in Wicklow before the start. Photo: W M Nixon

With the weather forecasts indicating a sou'wester starting to reach the western seaboard by Tuesday evening, the smaller boats which can stick at it will inevitably be favoured. But the best modern offshore racers can be sailing up to their ratings with remarkably little wind, so the likelihood of another excellent overall performance by Laurent Gouy's Ker 39 should never be discounted. And the quality of the boats in the middle of the fleet is notably high, with two J/109s – Liam Shanahan's Ruth from the National, and Peter Dunlop and Viv Cox's Mojito from Pwllheli – having their performance sharpened by shaping up to Frank Doyle's similarly-rated A35 Endgame from Crosshaven.

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Frank Doyle's slippy A35 Endgame from Cork in Wicklow Harbour, where his father Denis began many successful Round Ireland Races with the powerful Frers 51 Moonduster........ Photo: W M Nixon

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.....but it shouldn't be forgotten that Denis Doyle's offshore racing career began with the hyper-slim 30 Square Metre Vanja IV

The continuation of the name of Doyle of Cork in the Round Ireland annals is a source of special satisfaction to Peter Shearer and his team of organisers in Wicklow, as Frank's father Denis was a stalwart of the race with his Frers 51 Moonduster from 1982 until 2000. And while Moonduster may seem a memory of traditional seagoing strength by comparison with the hyper-light Endgame, never forget that Denis himself started his offshore racing with the 30 Square Metre Vanja IV, which was very austere indeed.

With each new edition, the Round Ireland Race sees increasing involvement by offshore sailing schools offering newcomers to the sport the complete introductory package, with the Round Ireland "medal" in their sailing CV at the end of it. There are several school, club and association challenge boats in the mix this year, a classic example being Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire's campaign with the Jeanneau Sunfast 37 Desert Star. Aboard DS, skipper Ronan O'Siochru finds himself in command of a truly multi-national and multi-cultural crew including professions as diverse as IT specialists, bakers and biochemists, and from several nationalities too – this is modern Ireland goes sailing and then some.

But inevitably, while most of the fleet will be focused on the corrected time win, line honours is where the glamour is to be found. Wicklow farmer David Ryan has leapt into the fray by chartering a Volvo 70 veteran of the 2008-2009 Volvo World Race, the Rob Humphreys-designed Russian boat which now sails the seas as Monster Project.

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"Greystones has never seen the like of it". Heavy metal in the new County Wicklow marina, with the David Ryan-chartered Volvo 70 Monster Project, and ahead of her Joe McDonald's Farr 60 NewsTalk for Adrenalin. Photo: W M Nixon

The organizational effort involved in running the Round Ireland Race is so great for a small club like Wicklow that in some years WSC don't have an entry to call their own. But Farmer Ryan has blown this out of the water with this mighty boat, which will race with a crew of 18. So totally is this a Wicklowcentric campaign that, although the boat couldn't be berthed in Wicklow Harbour itself, she set up base camp in Greystones where the new marina came to life as another big Round Ireland contender, Joe McDonald's very handsome Farr 60 NewsTalk for Adrenalin, was also in port.

But meanwhile down in Wicklow some determined souls made sure the organising club had some presence beforehand, and both Open 40s – Kevin Rolfe's May Contain Nuts and Austin Clark's Arwen – were there on the outer pier, alongside which there also sat the vintage Volvo Ocean Team Jolokia from Lorient in France, now looking like a bit of maritime history, but a gallant performer nevertheless.

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The two Open 40s at Wicklow could not have been more different in their hull style than the veteran Volvo Ocean 60 Jolokia from South Brittany (below). Photos: W M Nixon

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All the special boats and everything above 55ft will be aiming at the line honours prize, and in the Teng Tools Kilcullen challenge we see a formidable project. The linkup between Enda O Coineen and Eamon Crosbie goes right back to the late great Jim Poole. Eamon was Jim's crew in the two-handed three-stage Round Ireland Race from Ballyholme in 1975, and Enda was in the strength on Jim's Half Tonner Feanor when she won IOR overall in the first Wicklow Round Ireland in 1980.

Since then, Eamon has become part of the round Ireland racing story with his successes with the Ker 32 Voodoo Chile, while Enda's seaborn interests are diverse and absorbing. But for both of them, this linkup in the chartered Open 60 Artemis represents enough new ground for fresh excitement, while continuing to utilize their unrivalled experience.

They've decided to race with a total crew of seven, including metman/routing expert/Open 60 veteran Wouter Verbak. The other four in addition to the joint skippers are Mark McGibney, Andy Greenwood, Greg Parker and Alan Crosbie, the latter fresh from sailing on Quest, the overall winner of the ICRA Nats.

It's undoubtedly a crew of all the talents, and if the weather performs as expected, at 1400 hrs today we can expect to see the likes of Monster Project and Teng Tools Kilcullen streaming away from Wicklow in formidable style while the smaller boats bob in their wakes. But as many who have raced round Ireland or indeed just cruised round will know, the Atlantic seaboard can seem to be one very long bit of coastline when the wind is light from ahead. For little boats, knowing there are sou'westers advancing slowly from the ocean, it may well be a case of everything coming – and coming right – for those who wait.

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Teng Tools KIlcullen is being sailed by one of the most talented crews in the Round Ireland Race 2014.

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Round Ireland Entry list 2014

Published in W M Nixon

#roundireland – Entries into Afloat's Round Ireland race elpased time competition are tending to favour a five day race as the latest eve of race forecasts indicate a fresh north–easterly for tomorrow's start time but lighter winds to follow. To enter the FREE competition for a super prize of a McWilliam Sailing Bag click HERE. Entries can be made right up until tomorrow's race start time.

Meanwhile, for the 2008 race record time to be broken (set by the Supermaxi ICAP Leopard) the first boat home must reach Wicklow by next Tuesday morning at 07.48.47. A big ask!

 

Published in Round Ireland

#RoundIreland - Dragon's Den star Bobby Kerr and Wicklow farmer David Ryan will have to see some stiff competition in the Round Ireland Yacht Race in the form of former race winners, a Volvo Ocean Race navigator and a local lifeboat coxswain. 

Teng Tools and Kilcullen Kapital have joined the Round Ireland with a state-of-the-art canting keel Open 60 racing machine. Their objective? To take line honours, challenge the record and raise funds for two charities.

The entry will be jointly skippered by the formidable pairing of Enda O’Coineen and Eamon Crosbie. Both have a long history with the race, ocean adventure, and challenges in general.

They will be joined by a strong crew including Alan Crosbie, VOR and Open 60 veteran Wouter Verbaak and Mark McGibney, coxswain of Dun Laoghaire RNLI's lifeboat.

The focus of the campaign is to raise awareness and funds for two worthy charities, Soul Of Haiti and Atlantic Youth Trust, under a special race committee chaired by Paddy Madigan.

The Soul of Haiti Foundation is an Irish registered charity established in 2007 by a group of entrepreneurs who were finalists in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Programme.

Upon visiting Haiti, these business people came together with the aim of applying their entrepreneurial skills and resources to create a positive impact on the lives of the people of Haiti. 

The Atlantic Youth Trust is a youth development charity that will deliver a world-class educational programme on a purpose-built tall ship.

Young people from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will team up for exciting and challenging voyages to develop their teamwork, communication and leadership skills.

The challenge is formally being launched on Wednesday 25 June with a BBQ at the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Guests can enjoy live music, gourmet food and tours of the Open 60, which will arrive at 6.30pm to be paraded in by a bagpipe player!

Individual tickets are €45 or 10 for €400, with all proceeds going to the two charities. For more information visit VoodooKilcullen.com.

Published in Round Ireland

#rorc – The Royal Ocean Racing Club's (RORC) Season's Points Championship reaches the half way stage with a double-header of RORC racing starting this weekend. The 704-mile Round Ireland Race, starting and finishing in Wicklow, commences on Saturday 28th June while the Morgan Cup Race starts on Friday 27th June from Cowes bound for Dartmouth, a new destination for the 2014 season. 

The Round Ireland Race carries a 1.4 points weighting for the Championship. RORC Main Committee member Kirsteen Donaldson will be racing her X 332, Pyxis, in the IRC Two-Handed Class. Pyxis currently ranks 7th in the RORC Season's Points Championship and with a good result in the Round Ireland Race, Kirsteen and her crew, Judith Eastwood, will be challenging the class leaders. The overall winner of the 2012 Round Ireland Race, Bernard and Laurent Gouy's Ker 39, Inis Mor, returns to RORC racing. The French team's victory in 2012 was a significant contribution to their overall win for the 2012 season. Andy Budgen and Fred Schwyn's Volvo 70, Monster Project, will be vying for line honours this year and is likely to take the lead in the RORC Season's Points Championship in the IRC Canting Keel Class. The race has attracted a fleet of 35 boats prompting questions if more could be done to support Ireland's classic offshore race, now in its 18th edition.

The Morgan Cup Race to Dartmouth is a new race for the calendar but a well known route for sailors who have taken part in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Piet Vroon has skippered 25 Fastnet campaigns, including on the Lutra 56, Formidable, which won the Fastnet Trophy in 2001.Formidable will be competing in the Morgan Cup Race this weekend and Vroon will be hoping to retain the trophy, won last year with Tonnerre de Breskens 3.

"We will be returning the trophy to the RORC office before the race but we hope it is only a temporary measure," smiled Piet Vroon. "This is a route that I know well and hopefully we will get conditions to suit the boat. The crew have been together for a long time and I am confident that they will perform well. Racing to Dartmouth causes a few logistical problems for us but it will be interesting to visit a new venue for the race."

Devonian Nigel Passmore will be racing his Plymouth based J/133, Apollo 7, as part of the team's preparation for the forthcoming RORC Transatlantic Race.

"The Morgan Cup Race is part of our qualification for the Transatlantic in November," explained Nigel. "We will be racing in exactly the same mode as that race with seven crew on board and all of the necessary safety equipment. We always enter a race to win it but preparing properly for an ocean race is very much in our minds. It is nice to be racing to Dartmouth, as most of the crew are from Devon and we know what a great place Dartmouth is. I am sure that all of the competitors are going to have a great time after the race. For Apollo, the Morgan Cup is the start of a great adventure. I have longed to race across the Atlantic and by having the boat in the Caribbean we can sail all year round, rather than putting the boat away for six months in the winter."

Seven yachts will be competing in the Two-Handed Class including the class leader Louis-Marie Dussere's JPK10.10, Raging Bee. Chris Schram's JPK 10.10, So What, which was second in class for the North Sea Race, will be racing to Dartmouth. "I am American, my crew is English and it's a French designed yacht that is based in Holland, you can't get more international than that," laughed Chris Schram. "Two-Handed racing in Holland is really on the up and by taking part in RORC races I can put my standard up a notch or two. It is also great to be racing in IRC Three against fully crewed yachts. By tickling up the systems on board we can pull off the same manoeuvres as a fully crewed yacht, yes we have to make compromises sometimes but it is very satisfying to be able to race a yacht with just two people. I have never been to Dartmouth but I am sure it will be very interesting for me. My family originally hails from Escanaba, Michigan, which is one of the few towns in North America where everybody eats pasties, due to the Cornish and Welsh miners that immigrated there. So I am looking forward to trying a pasty in Dartmouth."

Published in RORC

#rdirl – A father and son duo from Listowel in County Kerry are taking on the double-handed challenge in this year's Round Ireland Yacht Race. The pair Derek Dillon and son Conor, a 19–year–old Univesity of Limerick student, will race the family Dehler 34 'Big Deal' that is based on the Shannon Estuary.

The Foynes Yacht Club pairing have been racing together inshore for over  ten years, and have competed at numerous ICRA's, Cork Weeks and Calves Weeks. The pair are sponsored by leading marine supplier, Union Chandlery.

They recently made the move into offshore racing, enjoying recent success in multiple ISORA Qualifying races. 

'We look forward to the competitive adventure associated with doing such an endurance race, double- handed', father Derek told Afloat.ie

The pair also plan to compete in the Volvo Cork Week double-handed and compete fully-crewed in Cork Dry Gin Calves Week, in which they have finished first in class in the past two consecutive years.

Published in Round Ireland

#roundireland–  Wait long enough for the wind to change direction and just about anything can be made to happen, just ask the crews preparing for this year's Round Ireland Yacht Race race this Saturday. 

Yet again next week the Irish coastline will prove to be the perfect racecourse but for the future of the race itself, the winds of change need to blow a bit harder. It took the 30th anniversary to get Wicklow Town behind the pioneering efforts of its sailing club four years ago, but now the locals are behind it with a street festival, isn't it time Irish sailing backed the Round Ireland too?

Many will see this year's eventual 35-boat fleet as a reasonable turnout in recessionary times. It's certainly on a par with most other recent editions of the race where the fleet has hovered between 35 and 50 boats.

While Irish sailors are happy to talk about Ireland as the finest offshore course in the world, when it comes to sailing it, very few do.

Other offshore courses such as Britain's Fastnet Race has a 300-boat limit, Australia's 2013 Sydney to Hobart Race had over a 100 boats. Malta's Middle Sea Race had a record entry of 99 boats in 2013.

This year half the entries are from overseas, a further indicator of its potential. The Round Ireland, therefore, is deserving of far greater international note but interest remains rooted in a small national fleet drawn from Ireland and Britain.

If this island is a classic offshore course then it is no exaggeration to say the fleet is capable of doubling.

For many potential international campaigns, and former winners Tonnerre de Breskens of Holland and Inis Mor from France are notable exceptions, Irish waters remain uncharted.

Within the sailing community tacit efforts are made to promote it but much more could be done. And, even with its limited resources, there is much Wicklow could do to put the Round Ireland on the map.

For example running the race the weekend before when 1,600 boats compete in Britain's Round the Island race in Cowes is an obvious problem. But there is simply no point blaming a clash of dates in the UK when a harbour of up to 300 suitable entries lies only a few miles north in Dublin. 

Why are the National YC only send two entries, the Royal St George YC one, the Royal Irish YC two or the Dun Laoghaire Motor YC two?

Were the new Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) safety standards so prohibitive it meant this country's biggest boating centre could muster only seven for what the Irish Sailing Association likes to bill as Ireland's 'Blue Riband' event?

Four years ago then Wicklow Commodore Charlie Kavanagh asked for the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) to become more involved in the running of the biennial race.

Kavanagh recognised that for the event to survive it needed to grow. 

Help was immediately forthcoming. Two of the country's biggest cruiser associations lent their support. ICRA will present a new trophy as part of the overall awards. The Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) based its 2010 fixtures around the event.

For this year's race, Wicklow has gone further. In a move described in January as 'a major overhaul' it struck up a formal race alliance with the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, again in an effort to boost numbers.

But the initiative has not resulted in bigger numbers for 2014's 18th edition. Of the 35 entries in this year's race ten are existing ISORA boats. Two years ago the number was 16 out of 37. As usual these 10 boats will be competing for the ISORA trophy. There has unfortunately not been a great response from 'south coast' boats either.

There appears to be fall off of those "regular" boats that are well capable of competing in the race and have done so in the past. 

But there seems to be an understandable issue among some skippers of "been there, done that, have the t-shirt". Put simply, they are looking for new challenges.

ISORA Chief Peter Ryan admits he is also finding this in ISORA as well and as he says 'that is why we have tried new races such as the recent the Liverpool - Douglas - Dun Laoghaire offshore weekend'.

But It is hard to keep re-inventing as ISORA is limited with destinations in an ever increasing race calendar. 'We are even try linking our races with inshore events such as last weeks ICRA and the welsh IRC nationals in August', says Ryan.

For the Round Ireland committee the options are even fewer. They have to start and finish in the same place and there are no shortcuts to the course.

Perhaps the Race should seek support in France from those professional fleets like the disbanded MOD70, Class 40, IMOCA 60 and the Multi 50 as they are also looking for new challenges. The multihulls have been to Dun Laoghaire recently and could be easily coaxed back.

The introduction of a French angle to the entry is bound to also attract amateur French entries and promote this great race to the French sailing fraternity. 

Somehow the Round Ireland will have to reinvent itself to attract the new generations of sailors who do not yet " have the t-shirt".

If the comments of the sailors gathering in Wicklow are anything to go by, it's not just the club, but Irish sailing, that is sitting on a golden opportunity with this biennial race.

Published in Round Ireland
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