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#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

#rdirl –To date, 35 yachts from France, England, Wales, the Isle of Man and of course the host country are set to compete in the 18th Round Ireland Yacht Race. Approximately half the boats are from Ireland and the remainder from further afield. This reflects the trend in recent races. The Round Ireland is scheduled to start in just over a week at 2.00 pm on Saturday 28th June. There are 3 class CK yachts and one class Z yacht lined up to keep each other company as they race around Ireland: Monster Project entered by David Ryan, local Wicklow Sailing Club member, Libertaliafrom Team Jolokia in Lorient, Newstalk for Adrenalin from National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire and Voodoo Kilcullen, also from Dun Laoghaire, Royal Irish and National YC. In class 1, Laurent Gouy is back once again in Inis Mór a Ker 39, this time to defend his overall win last time out in 2012.

Several other boats are returning for another go at this challenging race, including 2-hander Ocean Tango with another Wicklow club member on board, Christiana Norton.

Long range forecast is for light winds, but let's wait and see. One thing for sure: the boats and crew will get a wonderful welcome in Wicklow.

Boat Name

Entrant / Skipper

Boat Type

Club

Arwen

Austen Clark

Akilaria Class 40

Royal Berkshire Yacht Club

Inis Mor

Laurent Gouy

Ker 39

TBC

May Contain Nuts

Kevin Rolfe

Class 40

Cardiff Bay Yacht Club

Phosphorus

Mark Emerson

Rodman JV42

RORC

Arthur Logic

Sailing Logic/ Nick Martin

First 40

RORC

Fujitsu

P A Caswell

J111

Army Sailing Association

Tanit

Richard Harris

Sydney 36

Serpent Yacht Club

Lynx Clipper

Martin Breen/Nigel Moss

Reflex 38

Galway

Endgame

Frank Doyle

A 35

Royal Cork Yacht Club

Jet Dream

Philip Bourke

J105

Yacht Club de Roscoff / Mayo YC

Mojito

Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox

J109

CH Pwllheli SC

Ruth

Liam Shanahan

J 109

National Yacht Club

Wildwood

Ian Patterson

North Channel 9m

East Antrim Boat Club

Amazing Grace

Brian O’Sullivan/Frances Clifford

Oyster 37

Tralee Bay Sailing Club

Cavatina

Ian Hickey

Granada 38

Royal Cork Yacht Club

McGregor IV

Peter Ward

MG38

Marconi Sailing Club

State O’Chassis

Kevin Buckley

Sigma 38

Royal Irish Yacht Club

Big Deal

Derek & Conor Dillon

Dehler 34

Foynes Yacht Club

Dreamcatcher

James Mansell

Sun Odyssey 37

TBC

Ocean Tango

Robert Floate/Chris Norton

Dehler 34 Nova Top

Isle of Man YC / Wicklow SC

Cosmic Dancer III

Russell Walker

Baltic 37

Haven Ports Yacht Club

I O S – Desert Star

Irish Offshore Sailing

Sunfast 37

DMYC

I O S – Sherkin

Irish Offshore Sailing

Sunfast 37

DMYC

Muskox

Neville Devonport

X362S

Saltash Sailing Club

Persistance

Jerry Collins

Sigma 38

Royal St. George YC

Polished Manx

Kuba Szymanski

Sigma 33

Douglas Bay Yacht Club

Pyxis

Kirsteen Donaldson

X332

RORC

Wild Spirit

Paul Jackson

Jeanneau 40

RORC JOG

Bow Waves Racing

Finbarr O’Regan

Nautor Swan 57

Galway Sailing & Powerboat School

Leopard Clipper

Mark Osborn

Reflex 38

Sovereign Harbour YC

Libertalia

Team Jolokia/Pierre Meisel

Volvo Ocean

Lorient

Monster Project

David Ryan

Volvo 70

Wicklow Sailing Club

NewsTalk For Adrenalin

Joe McDonald

Farr 60

National Yacht Club

Voodoo Kilcullen

Alan Crosbie

Open 60

RIYC & NYC

Published in Round Ireland

#rdilr – The 2014 Round Ireland Yacht Race is heating up with the announcement that seasoned sailor and former Dragon Bobby Kerr is hoping to be part of the winning crew in one of the most gruelling and challenging yacht racing competitions in the world... and a Wicklow farmer is not impressed!

Kerr is joining a crew of 18 in a 60ft yacht to compete with 34 other boats from Ireland and abroad in the 5 day race, which departs Wicklow Bay on Saturday, 28th June.

The first yacht over the line is typically one of the bigger boats (60 ft and over) sailed by experienced crews. Bobby's Boat – the Newstalk for Adrenalin is 60ft in size, and is in the running.

However a crew of amateurs from Wicklow, led by local farmer David Ryan have declared war on the Dragon!

48 year old David has gathered together what he describes as 'a passionate crew' of 18 people aged between 18 and 57 and convinced the owner of the 70ft Monster Project, a Volvo 70, to provide the yacht to enter the race in the hope of fulfilling his lifelong dream of being the first yacht to cross the line in the biennial Round Ireland.

He is determined that Kerr and his crew will not destroy their dream, insisting that all the coffee in the world wouldn't get the Insomnia boss over the line before them.

"The Monster will devour the Dragon. They may have an expert crew but we're coming from the heart – there will be massive hardship, sleep deprivation; we'll likely get soaking wet and the physical strain will be immense. It doesn't matter when you're chasing a dream... we will win!"

"Bobby will miss his creature comforts and will be pining for his coffee every morning. Our willpower will knock them out of the water."

Kerr remains undaunted by Farmer Ryan's challenge, saying he does like his Americanos but has every intention of smuggling a small Espresso maker on board, despite weight restrictions.

"David's boat may be the first over the line – it's the biggest boat in the race so it would be a pretty bad reflection on the crew if they didn't make it over first. We are the better crew and the actual winner is not the first over the line but based on handicap; we're pretty confident our experienced crew will beat the Monster in real terms!"

"I may not be the best sailor, but I'm certainly not the worst. I've competed in, and won races before, and sleep deprivation is not a problem for me. I have often worked 24 hours straight – you draw on your inner resources. If you programme yourself, knowing you'll get little or no sleep for four or five days and then it's over, you can do it. Farmer Ryan hasn't a hope!"

The Round Ireland Yacht Race is now in its 36th year (18th sailing of the biennial race) and is Ireland's premier offshore sailing race attracting entrants from across Europe and as far afield as Russia, the USA and New Zealand. It will depart Wicklow on Saturday, 28th June 2014 at 2.00 pm.

It is the only RORC race based in Ireland and regarded as equivalent in terms of rating points to the Fastnet Race, the classic offshore race, which runs in alternate years to the Round Ireland.

Internationally, completing the race, is considered a significant feat as the race is one of the most gruelling and challenging sailing competitions in the yacht racing calendar.

The course, starting and finishing in Wicklow, brings entrants through widely different sea types and coastlines, from the Atlantic Ocean to the more sheltered Irish Sea, with difficult tidal gates, particularly around the North Eastern coast and navigational challenges requiring day and night tactical decisions at every change of forecast.

Published in Round Ireland

#rdirl – 35 yachts from France, England, Wales, the Isle of Man and of course the host country are set to compete in the 18th Round Ireland Yacht Race on Saturday, June 28th. Approximately half the boats are from Ireland and the remainder from further afield. This reflects the trend in recent races. The Round Ireland is scheduled to start in just over a week at 2.00 pm .

There are 4 class Z yachts lined up: Monster Project entered by David Ryan, local Wicklow Sailing Club member, Libertalia from Team Jolokia in Lorient, Newstalk for Adrenalin from National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire and Voodoo Kilcullen, also from Dun Laoghaire, Royal Irish and National YC.

In class 1, Laurent Gouy is back once again in Inis Mór a Ker 39, this time to defend his overall win last time out in 2012.

Several other boats are returning for another go at this challenging race, including 2-hander Ocean Tango with another Wicklow club member on board, Christiana Norton.

The long long range forecast is for light winds but as we know with this 700_mile challenge anything can happen.

Published in Round Ireland

#RoundIreland - When Wicklow farmer David Ryan found the 70-foot racer he's entering in the Round Ireland Yacht Race was too big to berth at the county town's harbour, he was in a bit of a pickle.

But that was until the new Greystones Marina stepped in to help, as the Wicklow Voice reported on 29 May.

The marina's manager Alan Corr has hailed its hosting of Ryan's Volvo 70 class Monster Project as "great news for Greystones. We're trying to put the marina on the sailing map and this can only help."

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Monster Project will set out with the rest of the Round Ireland racing fleet on 28 June aiming to be first to cross the line in Wicklow.

Published in Greystones Harbour

There are just over 10 weeks to go to the start of the 17th Round Ireland Yacht Race writes Peter Shearer, Commodore of Wicklow Sailing Club.

There is talk of a Volvo 70 chasing line honours, although the record of just under two days and 18 hours established by Mike Slade in ICAP Leopard in 2008 will be hard to beat.

However, a Volvo Ocean yacht has already been entered. This particular 60 ft yacht was built in New Zealand for the 2001-02 Volvo Ocean Race and sailed at that time as Djuice Dragons.

In June 2012 it was christened Team Jolokia and became part of a completely new project. "The goal of Team Jolokia is to show that diversity, if well-integrated, can be a major lever for progress, ..." and the crew is selected to exemplify diversity. Team Jolokia faces a busy summer; after the Round Ireland, they will compete at Cowes Week, at Voiles de St Tropez and also in the Middle Sea Race.

Race organiser Theo Phelan is delighted to welcome Team Jolokia to the Round Ireland and he says that precedence shows that the bulk of the Round Ireland entries tend to be made in April.

This race of 704 nm which circumnavigates the island of Ireland, leaving all islands to starboard except Rockall, starts at Wicklow at 14.00 hrs on Saturday 28th June.

Entry can be made at www.roundireland.ie .

Published in Round Ireland

#roundireland – Sailing Logic has confirmed an entry of a Beneteau First 40 for the biennial Round Ireland Race in June. Building on the success of their Beneteau First 40 Lancelot II which won the RORC Caribbean 600 (IRC2) in Antigua in February, Sailing Logic are continuing to support the First 40 in the offshore racing scene.

The Round Ireland Race organised by the Wicklow Sailing Club is a biennial 700NM circumnavigation of Ireland, starting and finishing in Wicklow

Entries are expected to reach 40-45 yachts, with more international yachts expected after the partnership with the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

The race is run in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), and carries a 1.5 points factor rating in the annual RORC Points championships.

As part of the Britannia Group which manages a fleet of Beneteau First 40's, Allie Smith (Operations Manager) comments "The Beneteau First 40 is a great choice for Sailing Logic; not only are they stylish and competitive yachts, they are exceptionally well laid out and comfortable below decks, especially important for our long offshore racing campaigns such as the Round Ireland Race. They also rate very well against other yachts of a similar size that we compete against giving our teams the best platform for achieving great results." The Farr designed First 40, now in its 3rd season is gaining a strong presence in the UK for both inshore and offshore race events.

Sailing Logic, the UK's premier offshore racing school, are offering individual race places for crews to compete in the Round Ireland Race, with full race training and 3 qualifying races included. 10 places are available, and the team will be led by a professional qualified Skipper and mate.

Sailing Logic based in Hamble, UK are the UK's leading race training school offering yacht racing courses and race events, as well as RYA training courses. Race places in the Round Ireland Race are available to individuals. Previous racing experience preferred, but not required.

Published in Round Ireland

#roundireland – With the announcement that Round Ireland Race organisers Wicklow Sailing Club have taken on Dun Laoghaire's Royal Irish YC as Associate Club for this year's race on June 28th, W M Nixon looks back on 34 years of a pivotal event, and suggests that the new twinned arrangement deserves full support and increased participation.

"Mixed feelings" defines the reaction to the announcement that Wicklow Sailing Club have taken on Dun Laoghaire's Royal Irish Yacht Club as a partner in staging the biennial Round Ireland Race. Until now, even though the largest boats tended to be Dun Laoghaire-based before the event, there's no doubting the real scene of the action was twenty-one miles to the south in a characterful little river port where the unique and very special pre-race atmosphere was charged with emotion and tangible memories of previous stagings of this often epic event.

But in the 34 years since the first race was sailed in 1980, boats have got bigger, and media coverage and tracking of the race have become much more sophisticated. Expectations have been raised. Yet Wicklow Harbour has stayed the same. Indeed, the likelihood is it's going to be even more of the same as the pickup in the economy continues and the number of ships using Wicklow – some of them astonishingly large for the place, and many of them discharging or loading decidedly anti-social cargoes – starts to increase again.

In an age when local trade, exports and jobs are more important than ever, a biennial special-interest sporting event which hopes to transform a busy little commercial port into a yacht harbour of international standard, even for only a few days, is going to receive decidedly mixed messages both from the neighbourhood community, and from those who hope to take part in the race.

With proper recreational boat berthing facilities close to the south in Arklow, and northwards at both Dun Laoghaire and now Greystones, the fact that berthing for anything more than a small handful of visiting boats is inadequate in Wicklow by international standards becomes a bigger drawback with every staging of a race which is at the very heart of Irish sailing.

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Wicklow Harbour in the summertime, with two substantial ships in port, and visiting yachts rafted up at the outer pier. Photo by Kevin Dwyer courtesy of Irish Cruising Club.

In fact, it was when the peak turnout of 53 boats was achieved twenty years ago that it was clear something needed to be done if the race's growing international stature was going to be maintained. But in 1994, the improvement of facilities in other ports was still at an early stage, so people accepted that being in over-crowded rafted-up berthing in a commercial port setting was part of the Wicklow Round Ireland Race thing.

And of course, the ultimate Wicklow Round Ireland thing was the very fact that a little local sailing club, thanks to one or two key enthusiasts and visionaries supported by loyal teams of clubmates, had been able to pull off the audacious coup of making a non-stop round Ireland race happen, and keep it happening, and successfully too, by making its existence the core tenet of their club's existence.

Other bigger clubs and sailing organisations had made noises about staging a round Ireland race in times past, and there'd been an early three-stage circuit from Ballyholme in 1975. But it was a once off. Yet when Michael Jones of Wicklow announced that his club would be running the first non-stop Round Ireland Race in June 1980, and that come hell or high water they'd stage it biennially thereafter, his sheer determination, and the fact that Wicklow is a significant distance from the then-hidebound Dublin Bay sailing establishment, meant that offshore racing folk with a bit of the rebel in their makeup leapt at the chance to do something completely new.

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Pre-start manoeuvring at the first Round Ireland at Wicklow, June 28th 1980. Boats are (left to right) the High Tension 36 Force Tension, Shamrock Orinoco, catamaran Snowball, and the Rival 34 Raasay of Melfort.

The challenge attracted thirteen starters from many parts of Ireland, including two round Ireland junkies who had already done that first three-stage race from Ballyholme in 1975. They were Jim Poole from Dun Laoghaire, who'd come second in 1975 with his Ruffian 23, but now had the Ron Holland Nicholson Half Tonner Feanor, and Brian Coad from Waterford, who'd done the first race "in his own good time" with a Folkboat, but now was skippering the Rival 34 Raasay of Melfort, very much a cruising boat but she was to become a round Ireland regular.

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The start. High Tension is already on her way, Brian Murphy's Crazy Jane leads the next bunch from Tony Farrelly's Crystal Clear, Brian Coad's Raasay, and Dave Fitzgerald's Partizan, with Feanor trying to get the right side of the Committee Boat as the tie pushes her south.

The best of a cautious start on Saturday June 28th 1980, in a sluicing ebb and a light to moderate east nor'east breeze, was made by the de Ridder-designed 36ft High Tension-class One Tonner Force Tension, skippered by serial offshore racer Johnny Morris, the boatyard owner from Pwllheli in North Wales. Next across was persistent boat-modifier Brian Murphy from Howth with his own-built David Thomas-designed 28ft Hydro, a boat which was almost permanently in a state of Work in Progress, and eventually became a 31-footer with a needle mast which her ingenious owner was to assemble from bits of scrapped Dragon masts.

After that they came in a rush led by the Cavan doctor-entrepreneur Tony Farrrelly with his Shamrock Crystal Clear (Cavan Crystal was one of his many ventures), closely followed by the Waterford veterinarian Brian Coad with his Rival 34, and then came Galway mining engineer Dave Fitzgerald with his handsome Holman & Pye 41 Partizan, a true cruiser-racer of that era.

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Saturday June 28th 1980, and spinnakers set south of Wicklow Head as the fleet of thirteen boats sets off on the first Round Ireland Race.

They'd a spinnaker broad reach for a while after getting past Wicklow Head, but eventually the wind headed them, and in the lead the Welsh team on Force Tension found themselves hard on the wind for 75% of the course. Down in the body of the fleet, a very determined race was being sailed by Jim Poole with Feanor, his National YC crew including Enda O'Coineen who's originally from Galway, so it was ironic that for much of the race the 30ft Feanor was neck-and-neck with the much larger Galway boat Partizan.

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Feanor revelling in fair winds off the west coast during the first Round Ireland Race. Photo: Enda O Coineen

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Jim Poole on Feanor off Aranmore in Donegal, neck-and-neck with the larger Partizan. Photo: Enda O Coineen

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The money shot. Dave Fitzgerald's Partizan from Galway is the first star of the now-traditional image of a boat coming out of the dawn to finish the Round Ireland Race at Wicklow

Force Tension came to the finish in the small hours of the Saturday morning after 5 days 15 hours 2 minutes and 21 seconds, a very leisurely time by today's standards. Partizan was next in two hours later, and as the dawn was breaking the Galway crew were first ever to star in that classic Wicklow photo of a round Ireland finisher coming in with the sunrise. Feanor was in only two hours later, and immediately corrected in to a formidable lead on IOR which she held despite the conditions now favouring slightly lower-rated fast-reaching boats such as the Hustler 35 Red Velvet (Dermod Ryan, RStGYC).

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Dave Fitzgerald (fourth right) and his crew aboard Partizan in the early morning in Wicklow shortly after finishing the first round Ireland Race. Partizan competed a number of times during the 1980s, and usually had a bet on with Patrick Jameson's similarly-sized Swan 40 Finndabar.

However, being the first time round, Wicklow SC also had their own handicap system as they'd to include one multi-hull entry, the catamaran Snowball. Under this "Race Handicap", the winner was Brian Coad's Raasay of Melfort, despite the fact that this very comfortable boat didn't get in until the Sunday.

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History is made. The first set of published results of the first Wicklow Round Ireland Race 1980

With a retiral rate of only 20% - which reflected very well on Wicklow SC's pre-race qualifying and scrutineering process – the Round Ireland seedling had been properly planted, but now it needed encouragement and nurturing. That came big time with the next race in 1982, when Denis Doyle from Cork turned up with his 1981 Crosshaven-built Frers 51 Moonduster, and his involvement encouraged other noted larger international contenders such as Ciaran Foley's Storm Bird. But while other skippers came and went, The Doyler gave his whole-hearted support to the Wicklow Round Ireland Race for many years, and he was an example to everyone else, as he and his hugely-supportive wife Mary stayed in a B&B near the harbour for the pre-race days, and at every turn ensured that the race team in WSC got the encouragement and credit they deserved.

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Moonduster comes to the finish line in 1982 in a brisk nor'easter – a scan from Afloat magazine August 1982.

Moonduster in turn put in stellar performances which gave the event its proper glamour. In 1982 she set a good course record despite a nor'east gale giving the leaders a right pasting along Ireland's north coast. But it was 1984 when she sailed the definitive round Ireland record race in fresh to strong west to nor'west winds which curved at just the right time to enable the big varnished sloop to fly. "We saw off an entire Irish county in every watch" was how navigator John Bourke (later the Commodore of the RORC) was to put it after the finish.

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The Fastnet astern, and it still only Sunday.......a carnival atmosphere aboard Moonduster as she shapes her course for Mizen Head in 1984's record-setting race, with Neil Hegarty to lee on the helm, Brendan Fogarty and Grattan Roberts in foreround, and is that Donal McClement behind them?

Moonduster's 1984 record of 3 days 16 hours 15 minutes and 43 seconds was a prodigious time for a mono-hull sailing a circuit course at a pre-ordained time, its quality underlined by the fact that it took a 60ft catamaran – Robin Knox Johnston's British Airways – to shave a bit off it in May 1986 with a designated own-time-choosing challenge. As for mono-hulls in the Round Ireland, it wasn't until Colm Barrington came along with the Volvo 65 Jeep Cherokee that The Duster's time was bettered, and it took a hundred footer to better it yet again with the current record set by Mike Slade's Leopard – helms including Gordon Maguire - in 2008.

But while records by superstars captured the headlines, for the vast majority of sailors the Wicklow Round Ireland Race really has been a matter of taking part personally while doing the best you can. And in its thirty-four years, the event has built up an extraordinary mythology in which the unique and sometimes maddening situation in Wicklow's crowded river has been seen as part of the mix.

But recent years have also seen a real game changer with the Round Ireland Race becoming recognised as part of the RORC Championship, up there with the Fastnet and the Middle Sea Race in terms of points loading.

In times past, every time a big boat was brought in by a sponsored crew, they simply had to be based in Dun Laoghaire, as Wicklow hadn't the space to accommodate them in fully-sheltered berthing, while the business of getting sponsor's guests anywhere near the boat was an unattractive proposition from an old-fashioned and crowded pier.

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The start of the Round Ireland Race has become something special. This is 2012's race with the Wicklow scenery briefly in some sunshine in a very poor summer. Photo: W M Nixon

Oddly enough, though, the economic recession continued to preserve the old way of having things essentially based around Wicklow, with Dun Laoghaire only as an add-on. There simply haven't been the big money sponsored large yachts taking part, while the hyper-keen entries from the main body of the international RORC fleet, such as Piet Vroon's Tonnere de Breskens from The Netherlands and the Gouy family's Inis Mor from France (and Clifden!) were so keen to race, and so understanding of local enthusiasm, that they happily went along with the traditional setup.

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Closing in for the gybe under the cliffs south of Wicklow town in 2012, round Ireland racers include two contenders in the RORC Championship, the Ker 39 Inis Mor (red gennaker) and the blue-hulled Tonnere de Breskens. Photo: W M Nixon

However, the economy is on the move again, and it's reckoned interest in the Round Ireland Race could blossom much more rapidly and strongly if the RORC support could be backed by the provision of pre-race berthing facilities which approach international standard. But set against that, after so many successful stagings of the race, Wicklow SC's Round Ireland Race experience and database is unrivalled, while the club's commitment to its town and quaint little port is total.

Whether the connection to the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire in the linkup's proposed form is the longterm solution remains to be seen. But if the sheer goodwill which permeated the reception in the RIYC announcing the partnership is anything to go by, then it will work.

And there's no doubt the Royal Irish has the ideal setup for show-casing high profile entries before the race in the sort of scenario top-end sponsors dream about. Yet it's ironic, as it it's all a case of Blessed are the Grumblers, for They Shall Inherit the Earth. It's largely forgotten now, but when Dun Laoghaire Marina was finally installed to become an overnight success after 25 years of struggling by its proponents, some of the most formidable opposition had come from a very old Old Guard within the RIYC membership, largely among the pavilion membership who liked to enjoy the view of boats bobbing about on moorings as they enjoyed their leisurely lunch.

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The Royal Irish YC provides the unbeatable combination of an historic clubhouse beside a modern marina. It's ideal for showcasing boats, as demonstrated here by the 70ft classic Hallowe'en, which was line honours winner in the 1926 Fastnet Race. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet now, here is the historic clubhouse with a world standard marina to which they even have their own private secured access. In your wildest dreams, you couldn't have visualised a better setup for allying modern facilities with a traditional clubhouse totally imbued with Irish and international sailing history at the highest level.

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At the reception for Wicklow SC's Round Ireland partnership with the Royal Irish YC in the RIYC clubhouse were (left to right, back row) David Ryan, Kevin Johnson, John Harte and John Johnson (all WSC Round Ireland committee), and front row Peter Shearer (WSC Commodore), Theo Phelan (Round Ireland Race organiser) and Paddy McSwiney (RIYC Commodore).

So in choosing the RIYC s their race partner, and in planning to set up an auxiliary race office within the RIYC clubhouse while retaining the start and finish line at Wicklow, the Wicklow SC people have chosen well. In its three decades-plus history, the Round Ireland Race has had only four organising secretaries – Michael Jones, Fergus O'Conchobhair, Denis Noonan and now Theo Phelan. It is the latter who is powering the Dun Laoghaire linkup, and it moves the Round Ireland Race onto a higher plane of development potential, aiming at a hundred entries by 2016, with this year's race on Saturday June 28th seen as the first step in a new stage of the journey.

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Theo Phelan, David McSwiney and Sadie Phelan, President Wicklow SC

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Peter Shearer, David McSwiney and Theo Phelan at the Round Ireland reception in the Royal Irish YC.

It is up to the rest of the Irish sailing community to support them, and to take part if at all possible. In fact, dare we say it, but you aren't really a proper Irish sailor unless you've at least started one Round Ireland Race, and having a few in your CV is good for the soul.

Do it, and you'll find you care very much indeed that the Round Ireland Race should continue to grow and prosper. Those of us with Round Ireland experience will know only too well what a tricky path it is that the organisers have now set themselves. Let them be encouraged by knowing that, while our heads may be in Dun Laoghaire, our hearts are in Wicklow.

Published in W M Nixon

#roundireland – Round Ireland race organisers have increased the maximum race entry to 100 yachts following what has been deemed 'an historic expansion' of the Round Ireland Yacht Race that will facilitate yachts of all sizes taking part, it was announced this evening in Dun Laoghaire.

As previously reported by Afloat.ie in October,  Wicklow Sailing Club, which organises the race, has linked up with the Royal Irish Yacht Club to provide full pre-race management facilities in Dún Laoghaire for the larger yachts which are unable to berth in Wicklow Port. Through the introduction of a fully-equipped shore base in Dún Laoghaire, larger boats can now berth and enjoy full pre-race facilities in advance of the Race departure from Wicklow.

The Round Ireland Yacht Race is now in its 34th year and is Ireland's premier offshore sailing race attracting entrants from across Europe and as far afield as Russia, the USA and New Zealand. It will depart Wicklow on Sunday 28th June 2014 at 2.00 pm

There will be no changes to the Race itself, other than increasing the maximum number of entries from 75 to 100 yachts. Wicklow Sailing Club will continue to run the race under the auspices of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Race will start and finish in Wicklow.

Organisers at Wicklow Sailing Club expect that this landmark expansion of the Round Ireland through the new association with the Royal Irish Yacht Club is set to give the Race a significantly higher international profile and attract the attention of the larger, ocean racing, fleet.

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Peter Shearer, Commodore Wicklow Sailing Club, Paddy McSwiney, Commodore Royal Irish Yacht Club, and Theo Phelan, Race Organiser at the launch of the 2014 Round Ireland Yacht Race at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dún Laoghaire.

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Theo Phelan, Race Organiser , Paddy McSwiney, Commodore Royal Irish Yacht Club, and Sadie Phelan President Wicklow Sailing Club 

Race Organiser, Theo Phelan:

"Discussions on expanding the Race have been ongoing for some time arising from expressions of interest from owners of the larger offshore racing yachts seeking entry conditions to our race. Internationally, completing the race is considered a significant feat as the race is one of the most gruelling and challenging sailing competitions in the yacht racing calendar.

"The course, starting and finishing in Wicklow, brings entrants through widely different sea types and coastlines, from the Atlantic ocean to the more sheltered Irish Sea, with difficult tidal gates, particularly around the North Eastern coast and navigational challenges requiring day and night tactical decisions at every change of forecast."

 wicklowsailingclubcommittee

Round Ireland Race committee: (back row) David Ryan, Kevin Johnson, John Harte, John Johnson and Charlie Kavanagh (front) Peter Shearer, Commodore Wicklow Sailing Club, Theo Phelan, Race Organiser and Paddy McSwiney Commodore Royal Irish

Whilst 2014 could see an increase in larger yachts entering the Round Ireland, organisers say that the changes introduced to the management format this year should attract a significantly greater interest in entries for 2016 and subsequent events:

"Huge planning goes into preparing for this race as there are very strict qualifying criteria for crew, yachts and equipment. Knowledge of medical response, survival at sea certificates and a minimum of 300 nautical mile offshore experience are basic to entry as both crew and yacht need to be prepared for all conditions. In 1994 for example, there were 17 retirals from the Race arising from adverse weather and equipment failure. A year's planning to participate in this race would not be unusual and already there will be skippers of larger yachts putting plans in place for 2016."

The Round Ireland Yacht Race is the only RORC race based in Ireland. It is regarded as equivalent in terms of rating points to the Fastnet Race, the classic offshore race, which runs in alternate years to the Round Ireland.

In a final comment the Commodore of Wicklow Sailing Club, Peter Shearer, stated: "The endorsement of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, the largest yacht racing organisation in the world, together with the stated support of the Irish Sailing Association for our new venture bodes well for the forthcoming event in 2014 and for our endeavour to develop the full potential of the Round Ireland Yacht Race."

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John Sinnott, president Wicklow Town and District Chamber of Commerce with Dutch Sailing guests Linda and Ronald Koelink

Published in Round Ireland

#rdirl – The world's largest yachts will be able to contest the Round Ireland offshore race in June thanks to a new formal arrangement drawn up last month between race organiser's Wicklow Sailing Club (WSC) and the Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC) in Dun Laoghaire.

The new arrangements will see entries berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire harbour for scrutineering prior to the biennial 704–mile race start off Wicklow harbour on June 28th.

Larger boats have been unable to berth in the confines of Wicklow harbour, a factor WSC believes has restricted the growth of the Round Ireland fleet.  'It means we can now encourage larger boats that have shown an interest in competing but we have been unable to cater for in Wicklow' harbour, WSC Commodore Peter Shearer told Afloat.ie.

It is understood WSC has entered in to a formal agreement with RIYC for the provision of services prior to the race at Dun Laoghaire, a harbour that can take yachts of any size.

Published in Round Ireland
Page 9 of 12

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