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Due to demand for this weekend's ISA Cruising Conference 2017 in Cork city, there has been a change of venue. The one day conference sponsored by Union Chandlery moves from the Port of Cork offices to the Clayton Hotel City Centre, on Lapps Quay. Seats have been released to a waiting list of delegates and additional seating is now available.

'The delegate enthusiasm for the conference and all the speakers is fantastic.' says organiser Gail McAllister.

More details here.

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The Irish Sailing Association’s 2017 Cruising Conference takes place this year on Saturday, 18 February at the historic Port of Cork offices in Cork city.

The conference is a chance for sailors to hear and discuss the latest knowledge and insights from marine experts, as well as network with a community of their peers. It is sponsored by Union Chandlery and supported by the Cruising Association of Ireland.

This year’s line-up of speakers include Ballymaloe chef Rachel Allen who will discuss recipes from her cookbook “Coast” and look at all the food available along Ireland’s Atlantic coast, from Cork to Donegal.

The conference will also hear from the RNLI (and how to avoid them at sea), the latest research from Irish Lights, stories from a woman-over-board, as well as learn about predicting the weather, unusual tides, and tales on surviving a round-the-world cruising trip.

Tickets for the conference are available here

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At least three Irish flagged boats as well as a number of international boats with Irish crew onboard have finished or are nearing the Caribbean finish of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers having crossed from Gran Canaria up to a fortnight ago.

Nicholas Musgrave's Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 50DS Jasmine and Diamuid Good's X–yacht Exhale, both from Cork, are close on the St. Lucia finish line while the home–built yacht Rogue Trader from Newry in County Down is also due to finish this weekend. Rogue Trader's exploits were previously reported on Afloat.ie here.

Storme Delaney from Sandycove in County Dublin and a member of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire is one of a number of Irish sailors among an international line–up of crews across the 215–boat ARC fleet. 

Delaney, who is a regular competitor at Cork Week and Calves Week completed the 2700–mile trip on board Andrew Middleton's Beneteau First 47.7, EHO1. Delaney previously sailed in Antigua Race Week 2009 and 2010 and sailed in the 2014 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow on board the Sigma 38 State O'Chassis.

More on the ARC here.

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Following years and months of planning, two weeks of preparations and provisioning and final hours of farewells, the cruising yachts taking part in ARC 2016 made their way out of Muelle Deportivo in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria yesterday morning including Newry's Claire McCluskey & Nick Russell. There was an air of excitement throughout the marina as the ocean adventure truly begins for 1,307 sailors setting off to the Caribbean shores of Saint Lucia.

The County Down entry is Rogue Trader, a homebuilt, wooden‐hulled ketch. It took twenty years and three different owners to complete the build, until she was finally launched in Newry, Northern Ireland in 2008.

While the ARC is a cruising rally, there is a start and finish line, and the boats are split into divisions according to size, type and competition. A total of 212 yachts sailing under the flags of 31 nations crossed today's start lines.

It was a particularly competitive start for the 34 boats in this year's Racing Division, providing an exciting spectacle for all watching. VOR70 Trifork and Swan 46 Aphrodite were over the line early and receive a 3 hour time penalty. In the beam reach provided by the NE breeze, asymmetric gennekers were quickly hoisted on many boats, keeping the crews busy soon after the start.

The 152 cruising monohulls, which make up 70% of the ARC fleet, enjoyed classic conditions for their start, with a variety of coloured sails hoisted soon after the 13:00 sound signal.

Conditions look set to give the fleet a gentle first night at sea, with winds staying around 10-12 knots from the East-Northeast. A small area of low pressure mid-Atlantic will be causing the navigators a dilemma, as the easy gains of a northern route may then bring the boats into light winds later on the course. Playing safe by going south may well be the best option for constant, if light, winds this year.

Of the 216 boats in the ARC, 4 are still in Las Palmas; 3 with technical problems delaying their departure, and one boat, Hot Stuff, which has had to return to port following a collision in the pre-start sequence of the Racing Division.

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It’s indicative of the pace of Irish sailing in 2016 that for anyone taking an overview, it takes a bit of an effort to remember what the weather was like for much of our spring, summer and autumn. Admittedly, here in Afloat.ie we may skew recollections, as we’ll always go for a sunny photo or video if at all possible. Yet the cascade of memories of success and memorable events at home and abroad has been at such a pace that even if the sun wasn’t shining or the wind wasn’t obliging, the recollections are good. W M Nixon tries to make sense of the highlights.

If 2016 wasn’t the greatest Irish sailing season ever, then we’ll be happy to take on board proposals arguing the case for other years. And in the fantastic golden year of 2016, the supreme moment was on the evening of Tuesday August 16th, when the entire nation at home – or at least the entire sailing nation – was glued to a television screen of one sort or another, following every twist and turn for Annalise Murphy in the brief but intense drama of the final Olympic Medal Race for the Women’s Laser Radials on the flukey yet undeniably glamorous waters off Rio de Janeiro.

As the weeks and months have passed since, we’ve forgotten that for Annalise to win the Silver Medal, it was a pilgrimage of sorts to put right the pain of missing out so closely on a medal at the 2012 Olympics. We’ve also forgotten that the tension was exacerbated by the fact that the Medals Race should have been held on Monday August 15th, but was blown out to cause an agonizing 24-hour postponement. And we’ve largely forgotten that only three months earlier, the prospects hadn’t seemed at all good for Ireland’s best hope, with a poor performance at the Worlds in Mexico.

Yet we remember just enough of that situation to put into perspective the ten weeks transformation that Annalise wrought within herself. With her dedicated support team, she ensured that she’d become a hugely improved sailor, a fitter athlete and psychologically in a very good place, as she took on the Olympic challenge on August 8th with a cool confidence which in due course received its proper reward.

Thanks to the close focus which was put on the outstanding Murphy medal, we are well aware of the breadth and depth of the backup team which helped to make it all possible. But in the end it was just one lone sailor entirely on her own who was trying to carve out the right route through extraordinarily difficult sailing conditions, racing against the very best in the world. So it is entirely right and proper that Irish sailing will remember 2016 primarily as the year of Annalise’s Silver Medal.

With a peak like this, a manageable review of the season can only re-visit the highlights, so if your favourite event doesn’t come up in the next thousand or so words, that’s the way it when the Olympics come up, which mercifully is only once every four years.

A year hence, we’ll be looking back at a more normal season in all its variety, but for now some further thoughts on the Rio experience fit the bill. For the fact is, the entire Irish sailing team put in a decent showing. Best of the rest of them were Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern in the 49er. Had the chips fallen slightly differently, they might have come home with a medal themselves. But as it is, the fact that they had two race wins would have been a matter of added excitement in any previous year.

Seaton McGovern ISAF Worlds 2014 Day 8Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern in the 49er recorded two race wins in the Rio Olympics

As for Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey in the 49er FX, they had one of their best regattas, very much at the races for most of the time, while the very young Finn Lynch – youngest sailor racing the Olympics – may not have been on his best form in the Laser Men’s, but his snatching of the Irish place in this class as late as May 18th in Mexico was testament to his grit, as he still hadn’t fully recovered from an injury sustained in an accident while out on some training cycling.

In fact, if there’s one little lesson which really came home from Rio, it’s the need to keep your athletes in one piece all year round. Our young international-level sailors can be an exuberant bunch, sometimes training and post-event relaxation becomes horseplay, and it was notable that some significant longterm campaigns were knocked off course by silly injuries.

Thus in looking back at the way Annalise’s success was celebrated in the heart-warming welcome home party at the national Yacht Club on Thursday August 26th, a notable recollection is that in thanking all those who had helped her to the Medal, Annalise particularly mentioned the physiotherapist Mark McCabe. For it seems that whatever training and guidance Mark McCabe has been giving her over the years, she has never been hampered by any serious injury or temporary disability.

This may seem a slightly odd point to be making in an annual sailing review, but there’s a lesson for sailors at every level in this. So if 2016 also emerges as the year in which we all learned the benefits of keeping ourselves in good shape and following best practice in sailing fitness, then it will have been be a very good year indeed.

But as the Olympics didn’t take over the stage until the second week in August, an impressive amount of sailing had already been registered. Indeed, it went right back to January when Doug Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan – who sail from Howth but Doug’s from Kilkenny and Colin is from Malahide – returned from Malaysia with the Bronze Medal from the 420 Worlds.

sailing 20163 A Bronze Medal for Ireland with Doug Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan in the 420 Worlds in Malaysia

Then in February offshore racing came centre stage with the RORC Caribbean 600 seeing Conor Fogerty of Howth with his Sunfast 3600 Bam! continuing a remarkable programme of Transoceanic criss-crossing (some of it single-handed), the Caribbean 600 “diversion” producing a win in Class 3.

sailing 20164Conor Fogerty’s Bam! on the way to the class win in the RORC Caribbean 600 Race

Into April, and attention focused on the Irish GP 14 Association’s superb group effort in getting 22 boats to Barbados for the GP14 Worlds 2016. Merely to achieve that was quite something in itself, but then Shane McCarthy of Greystones, crewed by Andy Davis, emerged as the new World Champion. That provided extra impetus back home as the rapidly developing Greystones Sailing Club worked towards its new clubhouse, which came on stream in May with the hosting of the Cruising Association of Ireland’s Start-of-Season rally.

sailing 20165Shane McCarthy of Greystones wins the GP14Worlds in Barbados

With the proper season in Ireland under way, June’s highlight was clearly the Volvo Round Ireland race from Wicklow, but before that ICRA had to get in their three-day Nationals at Howth, and despite light winds the programme was completed, winners including John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II in Division 1, Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV in Div. 2, Ken Lawless and Siobhan McCormack’s Quarter Tonner Cartoon in Division 3, and Colm Bermingham’s Elan 333 Bite the Bullet in Division 4.

rambler wicklow headWith a hugely talented crew, George David’s Rambler 88 dominated the mono hull classes in the Volvo Round Ireland race

In the Volvo Round Ireland Race starting June 18th, for the leaders at any rate lack of wind was definitely not a problem. For those biggies, it was a cracker. And as an event, the Round Ireland is back and then some, with 63 entries including George David’s wonderful Rambler 88 and three MODs which sailed the entire course within close sight of each other, and records tumbling at every turn.

Rambler had a brilliant a crew of international talents, and they were able to take every last advantage of the fact that the weather Gods – or more properly the wind Gods – smiled on them. They took monohull line honours in a runaway record time, and then achieved what many would have thought almost impossible for a boat with a stratospheric rating - they won overall on IRC as well.

As for the MOD 70s, with Damian Foxall with Sidney Gavignet on record holder Oman Sailing, and Justin Slattery with Lloyd Thornburg on Phaedo III, there was added home interest, particularly as both Irish stars admitted they’d been so busy all over the world building their sailing careers that they were Round Ireland virgins……

And what a race the trio of trimarans served up for those virgins…... Within reach of the finish in the dark, Team Concise was in the lead in a fading breeze, but Oman Sailing went a little bit offshore and found a fresher air to come in on port tack at first light and nip into the win.

sailing 20167Oman Sailing and Phaedo 3 at the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race. Oman snatched the multi-hull lead in the final mile of the race to win and overturn the record she already held.

euro car parksThe J/109 Euro Car parks (Dave Cullen), seen here with Mark Mansfield on the helm shortly after the start, was the only Irish boat to take a class win in the Volvo Round Ireland race

As for any all-Irish contenders, the best performance was put in by the J/109 Euro Car Parks (Dave Cullen), the only Irish class winner, a good marker early in the season, for at the beginning of October the temporary Euro Car parks, long since reverted to her proper name of Storm, won the Irish J/109 Nationals for Pat Kelly and his keen crew from Rush Sailing Club.

July had three major highlights – Volvo Cork Week at Crosshaven, the Topper Worlds at Ballyholme, and the KBC Laser Radial Worlds at Dun Laoghaire. While the numbers involved in the two dinghy events were stupendous, it was Volvo Cork Week which captured public imagination in an unexpected way with the inaugural Beaufort Cup series.

sailing 20169Joker II, skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne, became the first winner of the Beaufort Cup.

Racing for the trophy named after the famous Irish admiral and maritime researcher, the Beaufort Cup started out to be an event with an international flavour between crews from national defence forces. But then its remit was broadened to include personnel from emergency and security services with maritime links, and in the end 32 owners generously made their boat available for something which perfectly captured the mood of the moment. The amount of goodwill generated was beyond measure, and the win by an Irish Defence Forces crew skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne sailing John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II has given a visionary event an excellent inauguration.

The Topper Worlds at Ballyholme looked like providing an Irish win until the last day, when a fresh northerly swept in with real Belfast Lough vigour to make it a big boys’ game, but young Michael Carroll from Cork hung in gamely and finished fourth overall, while Sophie Crosbie from Crosshaven was first girl and 7th overall.

sailing 201610The Topper Worlds at Ballyholme had one of its most international fleets yet, including a large Irish contingent and a group from China.

With a total fleet pushing towards the 350 mark, the KBC Laser Radial Worlds in Dun Laoghaire were almost beyond comprehension, but a pattern was discernible, and what was most encouraging was that at least five young Irish sailors were serious contenders at the very top level.

However, one was head and shoulders above the rest in every way, and this was Ewan MacMahon of Howth. He was right in there pitching for the Gold in some ferocious racing, and though he concluded the series with the Silver Medal, this was serious stuff and the world quite rightly sat up and took notice of a remarkable and developing talent.

sailing 201611Ewan MacMahon borne ashore after winning the Silver Medal in the KBC Laser Radial Worlds in Dun Laoghaire.

sailing 201612The fleet of 76 boats in the 29er British Championship at Torbay saw the win going to Harry Durcan and Harry Whittaker of Cork.

Came August, and just two days before the Olympics took all attention, 29ers took to the seas off Torbay in Devon for the annual British Championship, 76 boats in all and just one of them Irish – Harry Durcan and Harry Whittaker of Royal Cork. They won overall by two good clear points, an achievement so brilliant that further comment is superfluous.

Then in August we had of course all sorts of local festivals such as Calves Week out of Schull, but everyone’s thoughts were on the Olympics, with normality only returning after an afternoon and night of celebration seemed to have just about the entire Irish sailing community – and many non-sailors too - gathered in Dun Laoghaire and around the National Yacht Club to welcome home Annalise and her medal.

Cruising being something undertaken at its own pace, reviews of what has been achieved are a matter for more leisurely contemplation in the depths of winter. But in late August a real text-book cruise drew to its close when Neil Hegarty of Cork sailed his Dufour 34 Shelduck into Baltimore after an efficient Atlantic crossing from Newfoundland, with Shelduck blithely coping with two mid-Atlantic gales, one of Force 8 and the other hitting Force 9. There have of course been many other Atlantic crossings during 2016 involving Irish boats, but this successful conclusion of a detailed Atlantic circuit cruise of several years duration really was a model of its kind, a cruise to be savoured.

sailing 201613Neil Hegarty’s Dufour 34 Shelduck during her Atlantic Circuit cruise

Other cruises and new additions to the fleet were to be savoured as the Cruising Association of Ireland held its end-of-season rally in Dublin’s River Liffey in mid-September, with a goodly fleet providing the annual entertainment of all the opening bridges being opened at the same time in a neatly choreographed exercise, which succeeded brilliantly in bringing a sense of the sea into the heart of the city.

sailing 201614“A sense of the sea into the heart of the city” – the Cruising Association of Ireland hold their Three Bridges Rally in Dublin’s River Liffey.

Meanwhile in nearby Clontarf the 70th Anniversary of the iconic Irish Dinghy Racing Association 14ft OD Dinghy was celebrated in style with a series of well-attended events driven on by the energy and enthusiasm of Ian Sargent, who saw his efforts well rewarded with a memorable Gala Dinner for the class in Dun Laoghaire at the Royal St George Yacht Club, where the concept of the IDRA 14 was first aired way back in 1946.

sailing 201615Living history. The newest IDRA 14 no. 166 (left) built 2016, and the newest Dragonfly sister-ship from Waldringfield in England, also built 2016, were the stars of the show at the IDRA 14th 70th Anniversary Regatta at Clontarf

As for those who like it offshore with a bit of competition, 2016 was a year of further growth for the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, with the season neatly rounded out by a points championship settled in the final race, the overall win going to Stephen Tudor’s J/109 Sgrech from Pwllhei.

The further we got into the Autumn, the better the weather became. So although the All-Ireland Junior Championship at Schull at the end of September raced in the Dave Harte-developed TR 3.6 dinghies was put through successfully despite some very mixed weather in the rest of the country, with Johnny Durcan of Royal Cork the new champion, a week later in the first weekend of October the All-Ireland Seniors were sailed at Crosshaven with racing in the new Phil Morrison-designed Ultra variant of the National 18, and they had weather that was almost too summery on the second day.

sailing 201616Johnny Durcan (Royal Cork) became the new All-Ireland Junior Champion at Schull at the end of September.

sailing 201617The historic salver – 2016 All-Ireland Champion Alex Barry with ISA President David Lovegrove (left) and Royal Cork YC Admiral John Roche. The annual championship for the salver will be celebrating its 70th anniversary next year.
But a breeze filled in and it ended up as an absolute cliffhanger, with so many boats tied on points at the end that they’d to go through several permutations of countback to get a result, with RS 400 champion Alex Barry of Royal Cork and Monkstown Bay the Champion of Champions 2016.

October saw Irish interest swing towards the Mediterranean and the annual Rolex Middle Sea Race from Malta with extra Irish interest in three boats in the 107-strong fleet. Conor Fogerty’s ubiquitous Bam! appeared yet again, and though it wasn’t her most successful race, the points accumulated shunted her up to 3rd overall in the RORC Class 3 Points Championship 2016 despite doing only five RORC races, but the Caribbean 600, the Volvo Round Ireland, and the Rolex Middle Sea race all carry extra points weighting.

A better Middle Sea result was obtained by the XP 44 Xp-Act, which came second in Class 4 with her crew including the RIYC’s Barry Hurley and the Irish National Sailing School’s Kenneth Rumball. But our outstanding result was the clear overall win taken by Vincenzo Onorato’s Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino, navigated with pure genius by international star Ian Moore, who hails from Carrickfergus.

Mascalzone Latino Yet another major win for Ian Moore – and yet another major win for a Cookson 50. Mascalzone Latino on her way to overall victory in the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2016. Photo Rolex

This rounded out a remarkable year for the Moore family, as his mother Wendy was Commodore 2016 in Carrickfergus Sailing Clyb, where they were celebrating their 150th Anniversary (as was the Royal Ulster YC across Belfast Lough in Bangor) with events at Carrickfergus including a Hilditch Regatta for boats constructed by the legendary Carrickfergus boatbuilder. He created many vessels of distinction including the 1898 Howth 17s, who in turn arrived in Carrick to help celebrate a year which was to finish in such style in Malta.

Except it hasn’t quite finished yet. Even as we write this. Cork Institute of Technology are in the top three in the 36th Student Yachting World Cup which concludes today in Las Rochelle. And then tomorrow the irrepressible Enda O’Coineen with Kilcullen Voyager will be one of 29 starters along the French Biscay coast off Les Sables d’Olonne, where the Vendee Globe gets under way before a crowd of tens of thousands. Irish sailing in 2016 is truly a complex and endless tapestry………

Howth 17Homecoming……the Howth 17s Aura, Leila and Zaida return to Carrickfergus to join in the celebrations of Carrickfergus SC’s 150th Anniversary. The first five Howth 17s were built in Carrickfergus by John Hilditch in 1898. Photo Trish Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

After the inaugural success of the Howth Yacht Club 2016 Cruising Conference, the Irish Sailing Association is bringing the one day event to Cork Harbour at the Port of Cork Offices on Saturday, 18th February 2017.

Last year's conference featured a wide range of topics and featured on Afloat.ie here.

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#Top5UK - Milford Marina, south Wales was among the top five marinas in the UK announced at the Southampton Boat Show having been voted by magazine readers of the 'Sailing Today' Awards. 

The 328 berth marina at Milford, Pembrokeshire, was shortlisted in the UK Marina/Harbour category, along with Hamble Point, St Helier Harbour, Titchmarsh Marina and Cowes Yacht Haven claiming the title.

The judges recognised Milford Marina for its multi-million pound investment in new lock gates which has created more frequent access times for visitors and berth holders, as well as its accolade as the only four Gold Anchor facility in west Wales.

The marina is owned and operated by Milford Haven Port Authority (see new pilot cutters) and is at the heart of the £70 million Milford Waterfront Development. This will see the area transformed into a vibrant waterside destination focused on retail, leisure, residential and fishing.

Berth holders at Milford Marina already enjoy a range of first class facilities including an exclusive Gold Card and the opportunity to join Europe’s largest cruising network, the Passeport Escales programme.

Neil Jenkins, the Port’s Destination Director, said “It was an honour to be shortlisted for this award, among such good company".

Milford Marina celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and with the developments planned to enhance the area, we are sure that we’ll be nominated again in the future. Congratulations to the winners of all of the categories.”

Published in Cruising

BlackCat Superyachts has announced an alliance with a selection of the industry’s leading suppliers in the large luxury cruising catamaran market.

Founded in 2015 by Mitch Booth, BlackCat Superyachts are a new breed of catamarans.

Baltic Yachts is the world’s leading boatbuilding yard specialising in high performance carbon fibre yachts custom made to meet customers' needs in design, performance and technical innovation.

North Technology Group (a global industry leader that includes North Sails, Southern Spars and Future Fibers) are recognised as a world leader in sailmaking, rigging and spar construction and offers BlackCat a fully integrated, high-performance solution by using the North Design Suite, a powerful set of analytical tools that allow sail, rig and yacht designers to analyse loads and improve boat performance.

M2 Atelier, the international architecture and interior design studio, will provide the sleek styling and finishing details.

The BlackCat brand is strengthened substantially with this group of premium suppliers and together with Malcolm McKeon Yacht Design, one of the world’s most successful superyacht designers, BlackCat Superyachts aims to produce the next generation of sleek, state-of-the-art and high performance multihull superyachts.

Malcolm McKeon, BlackCat’s chief designer, said: “We are extremely pleased to announce the partnership of BlackCat with these leading superyacht design and engineering companies. Bringing in the vast experience of these well-respected establishments enables us to further push the boundaries of innovative bespoke solutions and to create the yacht of our clients’ dreams in a design that is unique in the market. The BlackCat combines an enormous, stable platform with exhilarating performance, resulting in a high-performance carbon-fibre ‘supercat’ where the latest building technology and materials will be used.”

“There is no such thing as a production yacht and each owner is looking for something that matches their vision,” said Jeremy Elliot, North Sails designer. “North Design Suite makes it possible to find solutions to problems unique to each build. The North Technology Group structure allows North and Southern to share design resources to deliver the most progressive sail and rig plan possible.”

“We are very proud to be part of this extraordinary team in such a unique project", added Marijana Radovic, BlackCat interior designer from M2 Atelier, “We try to integrate and connect the interior design with the lines, characteristics and performances of the exterior design in order to achieve a continuous atmosphere and energy throughout the project. Contemporary, lightness, comfort and luxury blend together in these one-of-a-kind spaces that any superyacht owner expects to see. Technology and craftsmanship are balanced in every aspect of the design to create exceptional spaces, where details typically used on superyachts are combined with residential solutions and generous proportions to create the most unique ‘Sea-Loft’ of all time”.

BlackCat now offers a turnkey package on the 50 Metre version - the largest single structure carbon-fibre yachts in the world. The long period of design, engineering, construction study, materials and pricing is now complete and ready for production. This package provides the client with an accurate pricing and transparent build process in order to save time and money. There are still possibilities to custom design the internal layout of each BlackCat 50 and a variety of external features to give every boat a custom made distinctive style and finish.

BlackCat Superyachts will be present at the Baltic Yachts QH33 exhibition stand at the Monaco Yacht Show from 28 September to 1 October.

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The Cruising Association of Ireland’s annual rally in Dublin’s River Liffey over the weekend brought a whiff of the open sea and a fleet of 32 boats into the heart of the busy city past the visiting “ten storey” cruise liner Nautica writes W M Nixon. And as one of the themes of the rally is the fleet’s negotiation of all the opening bridges upriver as far as the Customs House before returning eastward again in formation to berth at Dublin Port’s long pontoon immediately west of the Eastlink Bridge, inevitably there was interruption to shoreside traffic.

Cruise Liner Nautica in DublinThe Cruise Liner Nautica in Dublin at the weekend will probably have voyaged round the world, as her home port of Majuro is in the Marshall Islands in mid-Pacific. And the CAI’s Pat Murphy’s Aldebaran (extreme right) has certainly sailed round the world. Photo: W M Nixon

Cruising fleet eastlink  bridgeIt’s a Boat Show afloat…..the CAI fleet waiting for the eastlink to open. Photo: W M Nixon
It’s astonishing how quickly the long vehicle queues can build up, and reactions to this brief stopping of the city’s bustling traffic were predictable. Tourists and locals just out for the day and ambling along the quays were delighted by it all. It isn’t until it happens that you realise just how rare are boat displays in the river with which people can identify, for they see themselves in the crews on the many boats which as ever – boats and people alike – were remarkable in their variety.

Nauticat 33 ketch own-built steel 40-foot Swallow How’s this for two very different styles in cruising boats? Dave Hopkin’s recently-acquired Nauticat 33 ketch is in the foreground, while Wally McGuirk’s own-built steel 40-footer Swallow – O’Brien Kennedy’s last design – is beyond in close formation as they transit the Eastlink. Photo: W M Nixon

sailing yachts on river liffey“A bonny fleet comes into town” Photo: W M Nixon
But people on errands in cars or vans tended towards irritation until they saw the span on the Eastlink rising sky-wards, or the always fascinating Calatrava-designed Samuel Beckett bridge rotating to let the vessels through. Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, but I though that the realisation of the co-ordinated project which was taking place had a soothing effect even on courier van drivers, while being a timely reminder that Dublin is Ireland’s largest port.

And as far as the welfare of our city port is concerned, even in the short year since the CAI was last in the river, the tower cranes have proliferated. Whatever about the future, there’s a building boom at present along the Liffey, and a sense of optimism.

cruis ass6The figurehead on the Jeanie Johnston provides an evocative frame for the boats of the CAI. Photo: W M Nixon

Samuel Beckett bridge opens for yachtsAny excuse to get the fascinating Samuel Beckett bridge to swing open is welcome, and a visit by the CAI is a better reason than most. Photo: W M Nixon

Of course, for the main event on Saturday, the weather was benign. We’ll blot out Sunday’s rain, and instead simply recall that on Saturday CAI Commodore Clifford Brown presided over a full house of boats and people in sunshine, with the usual conviviality at the capacity crowd for the dinner on the restaurant ship Cill Airne.

This included a reception for the people working in Dublin Port and with the City Council who facilitated the co-ordinated opening of the bridges. So there was enthusiastic support when world circumnavigation veteran Pat Murphy of Aldebaran suggested that in future it simply be called The Three Bridges Rally. In fact, they should copyright the name immediately, for it’s a great way to bring the cruising season gently towards its close.

Dublin Port’s pontoon pleasure craftEven with the full length of Dublin Port’s pontoon in use, fleet numbers were such that there still had to be some rafting up. Photo: W M Nixon

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One of last year’s most successful events was September’s Cruising Association of Ireland Rally in Dublin’s River Liffey writes W M Nixon. This involved the varied fleet – many of them much-travelled cruising boats – going in convoy through all the opening bridges as far as the Customs House in a fascinating Saturday afternoon logistics exercise co-ordinated by Dublin Port, Dublin City Council, and the CAI’s John Leahy.

Afterwards, with the fleet berthed at Dublin Port’s then-new pontoon immediately upriver of the Eastlink Bridge at what all true Dubs still think of as the Point Depot, the programme continued across the river with a welcome aboard the German sail training vessel Gorg Foch which was in port on an extended visit. Then the Captain of the Tall Ship with members of his crew joined with the CAI members for a reception aboard the river-berthed Restaurant Ship Cill Airne, followed by a full-house dinner using the Cill Airne’s renowned hospitality services.

The trouble is that when you make such a success of the first attempt at such a challenge, not only do people expect something similar or even better the following year, but as well the key mover and shaker finds that, if anything, he is responsible for even more of the hands-on organisation.

John Leahy 2Cruising Association movers and shakers at last year’s Liffey Rally include (left to right) John Leahy, CAI Commodore Clifford Brown, Denis Woods, and Simon Parker. Photo: W M Nixon

So as of this morning, John Leahy finds that he already has a full house for the CAI hog roast supper aboard the Cill Airne on the evening of Saturday September 17th to celebrate all that afternoon’s through-bridges manoeuvrings and evolutions. And on top of all that, he is CAI Honorary Secretary, he the Association’s Director of Waterborne Activities, and in recent months he has also found himself in the vital role of CAI Webmaster.

Obviously it’s not a situation which is going to last. But while it exists, you might as well take advantage of it in making instant administrative decisions simply by having an immediate consultation with yourself. So having found that, with just 27 boats booked in, all seating available for the hog roast supper on the ship was thus taken up, didn’t the bould John decide that the supper would start promptly at 7.30pm in order to end neatly within an hour or so, and thereby provide plenty of time for the second part of the evening, a night’s entertainment in the roomier part of the ship. At that convivial gathering, people who had failed to make the cut for the supper could then join the accelerating festivities.

saiing cruising liffey 3Dublin Port’s pontoon immediately upriver of the Eastlink Bridge can accommodate forty boats with permitted rafting layers. Photo: W M Nixon
It’s a situation which arises because the Pontoon Berth above the East Link can actually accommodate 40 boats, and it’s highly likely that up to a dozen additional CAI craft will decide nearer the date that they want to be involved. So the idea is that after the river events and the pontoon-berthed socializing, the extra crews will either have supper on board their own boats or at one of the nearby shoreside hostelries, and then head to the Cill Airne for the main event.

That will include a reception for Dublin Port personnel and Seamus Storan of Dublin City Council, who between them give generously of their time and expertise to ensure that the co-ordination of the bridge openings all runs smoothly. When you think of how rarely you see some of the bridges other than the Eastlink being opened, it gives some idea of how much of a “Once a Year” exercise this has become.

cruis assoc4The CAI fleet in August passing under Thomas Telford’s famous 1826 suspension bridge in the Menai Straits in North Wales. Photo: CAI

This is proving to be a “Year of the Bridges” for the CAI, as the last time they assembled in significant numbers was at the beginning of August. That was when they had their annual rally to North Wales, an entertaining week which includes transitting the Menai Straits where the two spectacular bridges are at such a height that even the tallest masts can pass comfortably underneath, leaving the boat crews free to enjoy a contemplation of the pioneering engineering involved in the bridges’ construction while also dealing with the renowned tides of the Swellies.

The tides of the Liffey are much more manageable, but nevertheless all signed-up or would-be participants in the CAI Liffey Rally on 17th-18th September 2016 are advised to keep closely in touch with the CAI website.

cruis assoc5The Menai Strait’s Britannia Bridge was also negotiated by the CAI fleet in August. Photo: CAI

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