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#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."

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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

#rdirl – The 2014 Round Ireland Yacht Race, a highlight of the Irish summer sailing season starts from at 2pm on Saturday, June 28th 2014.  A full Round Ireland notice of race has been published here.

Published in Round Ireland

#roundireland  – An amazing last stretch performance from Inis Mor has resulted in a probable IRC overall victory in the 2012 Round Ireland Race.

Tonnerre de Breskens has been in the clubhouse for the last 12 or so hours, setting a corrected time target of 4 days, 18 hours and 20 minutes. As the wind veered to the south, turning the final stretch into an uphill slog, it looked increasingly like the Dutchmen were home and hosed, particularly as Inis Mor was battling a foul tide in her approach to Dublin Bay. However, smart navigation, tacking towards the shore from the nose of Howth and seawards when off the Muglins just as the ebb started, enabled the resilient Frenchmen to make good progress hard on the wind down the Wicklow coast and to cross the line with only minutes to spare after 4 and a half days at sea.

While most of the fleet is still at sea, it seems unlikely, given the weather conditions that a winner can emerge from the pack.

There will be some party in Wicklow tonight!

Published in Round Ireland

#islandnation – The FISH IRELAND Exhibition in Killybegs, the Volvo Race in Galway, the Round Ireland Race at Wicklow, commemorating an Arctic hero in Courtmacsherry and where is the summer for sailing? That's quite a mix of maritime material for one week. At least the Volvo is generating more attention to the marine scene in the general media. It is a regrettable that the same attention is not continued throughout the year.

WICKLOW - FISH, YACHTS AND DENNIS NOONAN

Looking out the window of the Race Office perched high above the quay wall at Wicklow, Dennis Noonan recalled his days of sailing Enterprise dinghies at Baltimore in West Cork:

"They challenged your ability. A mistake at a gybe mark and you could end up in the water. You needed to concentrate, but they were a great way to learn sailing," and he chuckled at the memory, then pointed at the cruisers rafted up at the quayside, tugging at their moorings, seeming anxious to get away: "Offshore racing is a different type of sailing, but no less challenging when you take on the coast of Ireland, no matter what the size of the boat."

Dennis is the doyen of the Round Ireland Race which he was describing to me.

"I've stepped back a bit now," he said, waving at the busy office team putting the final arrangements in place for the start of the race when we talked on the evening before the start. The following day he sent 37 yachts off on their 704-mile voyage. "I have to live by the sea," he told me.

Sailing needs determined people like Dennis who, from his time as a boat builder, continues to build lovely model boats.

MORE FISHING BOATS AT WICKLOW

I noted the number of inshore fishing boats tied up at the quayside in Wicklow, as I am sure crews on the yachts gathered for the Round Ireland start also did. It seems that there is good whelk fishing off Wicklow which has attracted the boats and that the port provides better landing facilities than Arklow which had been the dominant fishing port on the Wicklow coastline.

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FISH IRELAND KILLYBEGS

These are tough times for the fishing industry and I have been hearing many stories of those difficulties at THE MARINE TIMES FISH IRELAND EXHIBITION in Killybegs. The problems are extensive – from limited quotas to the massive amount of regulations and it is not good to see fishing boats tied up at the quayside prevented from going to the fishing grounds by EU regulations. There are few industries where the official approach is to stop men from working. All this while foreign vessels continue to fish in Irish waters because their quotas are so much larger than those of Irish vessels. There is no doubt that politicians have made a complete mess of the fishing industry.

The small Irish fishing fleet could not have fished Irish waters to the low state of some stocks at present, but this fact is ignored by sensationalist commentaries in the general media where the facts of fishing and maritime life are not understood and there is insufficient expression of an opposite viewpoint. To see areas of Killybegs shuttered which should have viable fish-related industrial activities is disappointing and some of this is due to the attitude of Irish government officials who have frustrated development and stopped proposals which would have created jobs by imposition of unreasonable rents and regulations. It makes me wonder about the government's commitment to job creation.

There are other issues to be addressed, such as the differing reports from environmentalists, scientists, fishermen and leisure anglers about cod stocks. While environmentalists and scientists claim cod has disappeared from Irish waters, anglers report catching more than ever before and fishermen, who are controlled in catching them say the waters are alive with cod. So who is right – those who go out and see for themselves or land-based opinion?

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KEOHANE TO BE HONOURED IN COURTMAC

A project is underway in Courtmacsherry in West Cork, I am told, to honour the role of local man Patrick Keohane in Arctic exploration. He was one of those who located the bodies of Robert Falcon Scott and others from the Discovery Expedition of 1901-1904 near the South Pole. The location for a memorial to him is likely to be within view of his birthplace at Barry's Point on the route of the Seven Heads Walkway. A local committee is raising finance for the memorial. Unveiling day is likely to be Sunday, August 19. Well done to the people of Courtmacsherry.

This is an artist's impression of the sculpture.

ARCTIC

According to the Research Council of Norway the Arctic may contain more than a fifth of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas. Increasing pressure on the region is indicated by shipping cargoes which will reach their highest level through the area this year as companies cut costs and fuel consumption by avoiding the Suez Canal. A thousand tonnes of fuel, costing over $600,000 dollars, can be saved. The environmental importance of the Arctic has been shown by the discovery of a 60-mile bloom of phytoplankton beneath the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic, regarded as "astonishing" by scientists. Phytoplantkon is the essential food of marine life.

WHERE IS IRISH AWARENESS?

Seafarers' Awareness Week, an annual campaign by the biggest charity helping seafarers in need – Seafarers UK – has just concluded. The charity works to raise awareness of Britain's dependence on seafarers and gives annual grants of more than stg£2 million to help seafarers, their families and dependants across the Merchant Navy, Fishing Fleets and the Royal Navy. What a pity there is not something similar in Ireland.

CONCORDIA CAPTAIN CHARGE WITH MANSLAUGHTER

Captain Francesco Schettino who commanded the cruise liner Costa Concordia is now charged with multiple manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning ship prematurely. Italy's top appeals court has held that he should face the charges, indicating that he was unfit to command.

AMAZON NOW UNDER THREAT

Twenty-two hydro-electric schemes are planned to be built along the Amazon River and its tributaries. Environmentalists and indigenous rights campaigners claim this will alter the environmental and social balance and that the rain forest and tribes which live there will be permanently damaged as locals are removed to for construction work in remote areas. The power schemes are required to meet Brazil's burgeoning demand for electricity as the country develops economically.

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IMERC HONOURED BY TAOISEACH

I was delighted to see that IMERC, the Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster at the National Maritime College in Ringaskiddy, whose work I have praised previously, was awarded this year's "Public Service Excellence Award" by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The award highlights the opportunities for job creation and economic growth in the marine sector and the importance of realising the economic potential of Irish marine resources. IMERC was chosen from 190 projects. It is a tripartite alliance between the Naval Service, UCC and the Cork Institute of Technology Development. This is the first time a maritime project has featured in the awards since they were initiated in 2004.

Val Cummins directs the team which is developing the world's largest marine renewable energy research facility at Ringaskiddy. Congratulations to them on their well-deserved award.

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Published in Island Nation

#roundireland – While the official tracker has Inis Mor as the overall leader in the 2012 Round Ireland Race, it's going to be a nail biting few hours for the French boat.

As of 3pm, Inis Mor has 30.6 miles to go. To beat Tonnerre she needs to cover that distance in five hours and 34 minutes.  Simple math says she needs to average 5.49 knots and as she is making 5.7 knots just south of Lambay Island, it should work for her.

But, the 5.7 knots is not quite in the right direction – because the wind has headed her, she can only make 221° instead of the 190° she needs to reach Wicklow on one tack.  So while 5.7 knots looks good, her actual progress towards the finish or VMG, is currently 5.4 knots – just outside the 5.49 knots needed.

To make matters worse,  she is entering an area of stronger tides that will be directly against her for the last few hours into Wicklow.  She can mitigate some of this by hugging the coast, but at what cost windwise?

Fascinating stuff, www.afloat.ie's money's on Tonnerre, at least in this battle.  Keep an eye on Cavatina though – she still has a day left to win!

Published in Round Ireland
Page 10 of 13

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