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Displaying items by tag: Howth Yacht Club

Paddy Judge, a long-serving committee member and flag officer with Howth Yacht Club, succeeded Ian Byrne as Commodore as the members were asserting the club spirit with an impressive entry in the competition for the best Christmas Festive Lights display, which has been much in evidence both on boats in the marina, and ashore.

Outgoing HYC Commodore Ian Byrne (left) and his successor Paddy Judge demonstrating the Two Metre Rule on HYC's popular "cleat seat".Outgoing HYC Commodore Ian Byrne (left) and his successor Paddy Judge demonstrating the Two Metre Rule on HYC's popular "cleat seat".

The new Commodore, a former Aer Lingus captain originally from Mayo who subsequently served in a senior role with the National Air Accidents Investigation Unit, has long been noted as a willing volunteer in many areas of club life. For a significant period recently when HYC was re-structuring its entire administrative system, he was the Club Manager on a pro bono basis.

A willing helper in providing support for race organisation afloat and ashore, his own main interest in sailing is in cruising, undertaken with the Dubois-designed Liberator 35 Si Gaoith which he completed himself from a bare hull to professional standards in an impressive one-man project. 

Howth Marina in festive moodHowth Marina in festive mood

Thus he brings a special range of skills and administrative experience to Ireland's numerically-largest sailing club. But although at Christmas in sending greetings to members he was able to confirm that the Club was in good shape thanks to the thorough utilisation of all governmental and local authority pandemic support schemes, he also expressed the expectation that training-based sailing could continue with a special socially-distanced event scheduled for New Year.

Lockdown and its effects on Howth Yacht Club

However, this morning (December 31st) he has issued a new and clearly serious bulletin on the return of total Lockdown and its effects on HYC:

Access to the Club premises is only allowed between 09.00 and 17.00 hrs. Outside these times the Club premises, hardstand and marina, are closed.

Boat owners or their designated representative are permitted to access their boat, whether ashore or on the marina, during the above times. An owner wishing to have a representative look after their boat must advise the Marina Office who will be visiting prior to them accessing the Club. Other visitors to the premises are not permitted.

Access to the Clubhouse is closed until further notice. Take away refreshments will be available between 12.00 and 16.00 hrs.

All sailing and training events are cancelled.

Whilst single household and single-handed sailing are permitted by the new Government restrictions, members are asked to stay ashore until January 11th to minimise the risks to others – an emergency whilst afloat will endanger those called upon to provide assistance.

Non-essential marina services are suspended.

Members must wear masks everywhere on the Club premises, including on the marina.

One staff member will be rostered daily for the Marina Office from 1st January. Routine checks of the marina and boats will be conducted. Owners who live beyond 5 km from the Club can request the Marina Office personnel to check their boats – contact them either by phone at 01-8392777 or email at [email protected]

The Administration Office from 4th January will have minimum staff and staff members who can work remotely will do so. Contact the Office either by phone at 01-8322141 or email at [email protected]

So for now, HYC activity is largely in limbo. But meanwhile, Commodore Judge salutes the 18 boats which entered the Festive Season Decorative Lights contest, and acclaims the outright winner, Simon Knowles' J/109 Indian, which was given the full decorative treatment by Rima Macken.

But the effort put in by the other 17 was so impressive that it was decided to draw four runner-up prizes, and they went to Diabolo (Eddie Stowe & Michael Heather), Sunburn (Ian Byrne), Valella 2 (John Boardman) and Equinox (Ross McDonald).

Howth Yacht Club faces the unique uncertainties of 2021 with a bright spirit.Howth Yacht Club faces the unique uncertainties of 2021 with a bright spirit

Published in Howth YC
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November sunshine plays tricks with how we see things. Maybe it's because it's so rare. But at the weekend at Howth – with just a month to go to the shortest day of the year – a special coaching course being run in Lasers by international champion Aoife Hopkins was taking place with a low-slung sun so powerful – under a sky of a blue so utterly blue that it hasn't got a name yet – that an educational circuit of Ireland's Eye under the watchful Hopkins' eye did strange things to vision.

Be careful in looking at this photo – when you get hold of the thought that the boat is going away and the sail is coming back again, the brain just won't let itself be re-set correctlyBe careful in looking at this photo – when you get hold of the thought that the boat is going away and the sail is coming back again, the brain just won't let itself be re-set correctly

Maybe it's just us, and maybe it's time we re-visited the pioneering HYC Brass Monkey Winter Series creator Pat Connolly in his day job as an optician. But if you look at the pic above of the trainee flotilla of Abby Kinsella, Una Connel, Fiachra Farrelly and Charlie Keating heading eastward towards the Martello tower and the cliffs along the north coast of Ireland's Eye, there's no doubt that the nearest boat is going away, but the strong low light somehow makes it look as though the sail is coming back again…….

Either way, in the idyllic circumstances a circuit of Ireland's Eye provided an ideal opportunity for a multi-layered day of training, as there was pilotage, navigation and useful wildlife observation added to the mix, even if The Stack on the northeast corner – a summertime Gannet Central since 1989 – was winter silent, with just one gannet watchman left behind.

Closing in on The Stack on Ireland's Eye. In summer, it's Gannet Central...Closing in on The Stack on Ireland's Eye. In summer, it's Gannet Central...

……..but off season, just one lone gannet has drawn the short straw to be The Winter Watchbird……..but off season, just one lone gannet has drawn the short straw to be The Winter Watchbird

It was difficult to imagine the place in a harsh grey easterly, which in some Novembers is the default weather condition around Ireland's Eye. But in Howth, nothing is allowed to go to waste – as Aoife observed after winning the Laser U21 Euros 2017 at Douarnenez in Brittany in a week of extra-fresh westerlies, determined days of sailing in strong easterlies off Howth will set you up for anything, Breton westerlies included…..

Aoife Hopkins winning the Laser Euro U21s in strong westerlies at Douarnenez in BrittanyAoife Hopkins winning the Laser Euro U21s in strong westerlies at Douarnenez in Brittany

Published in Laser

Howth Yacht Cub announced this evening that under the Level 3 Restrictions, HYC is suspending Club Racing and Training for the next three weeks, when the situation will be re-assessed.

The Club’s six weekend End-of-Summer Series – due to run until October 18th – had got off to a flying start last weekend with 79 boats taking part in nine classes.

With good sailing conditions expected this Saturday and Sunday, the absence of further competition, for the time being, will be a disappointment for racing-starved sailors. However, individual boat sailing is still permitted in household crews, but that too will be kept under review on a regular basis.

Published in Howth YC
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Congratulations have been pouring in for sailing legends Neville and Jean Maguire of Howth, who celebrated their 69th Wedding Anniversary in yesterday’s balmy weather aboard their Seaward 23 motor-cruiser Two Much in Howth Marina. These days, they’re best-known internationally as the parents of Australian-based international sailing superstar Gordon Maguire. But it took Gordon many years of top-level sailing achievement before his sailing record began to match that of his super-talented father, whose very varied sailing experience goes right back to the 1930s when he crewed at a very young age for noted designed and cruiser-racer skipper John B Kearney aboard the famous Mavis.

While still a schoolboy, Neville was a champion helm in the Mermaids, and in 1952 and again in 1954, he won the All-Ireland Helmsmans Championship. A much sought-after helmsman for boats of all sizes, with his own craft he won many inshore and offshore championships in everything from Olympic Finns through Dragons to Shamrock Half Tonners. Throughout all these busy times afloat and ashore (for Neville is also an engineer and model-maker to international standards), Jean has been supportively at his side, and Nevllle in his turn is both very much the family man, and someone who contributes greatly to the community, having been a quietly busy voluntary worker on many projects for Howth Yacht Club over the years.

We join all Irish sailing in heartfelt congratulations to this remarkable couple, who contribute so much to Irish sailing.

Published in Howth YC

The Irish sailing community's response to the pandemic-induced prohibition on open events has seen some inspiring out-of-the-box thinking where there are significant local fleets. So although Howth Yacht Club has weathered two major setbacks in 2020 in being unable to stage its hugely-sociable biennial Wave Regatta and its time-honoured Autumn League, the key players in the peninsula club's administration have "Problems are Opportunities" as their mantra, and the newly-launched six-weekend End-of-Summer series got off to a flying start on Saturday and Sunday.

They were able to make a virtue out of it being "For Members Only", secure in the knowledge that during the shortened 2020 season Howth YC's already large numbers have taken on 191 new members and still counting, as people are keen to avail of the club's unique capacity to provide a safe environment within its enclosed clubhouse/marina complex.

The Big Picture leads coming to the gybe at the Rowan Buoy, with King One and Mata tucked in to starboard Weather to dream of – The Big Picture leads coming to the gybe at the Rowan Buoy, with King One and Mata tucked in to starboard. Photo: Judith Malcolm

And as for potential boat numbers, the steady growth of turnouts for club evening and weekend racing from the keelboat racing season's tentative start in July was given further encouragement by lively competition for the two national championships which the club could stage for the Puppeteer 22s and the Howth 17s, as all boats involved happen to be Howth-based.

But the real light-bulb moment came with the decision to split the fleets across two days for the new series, with the One-Designs and small cruisers racing on the Saturday, and the bigger cruiser-racers strutting their stuff on Sunday. Not only did this optimise the use of strictly social-distanced hospitality spaces ashore, but it meant that hyper-keen sailing-starved matelots could get in two races in two very different boats during the two days, while J/80s could race as J/80s on Saturday, and IRC "cruisers" on Sunday.

For most, however, the attraction of a single race in a clearly defined time-frame was enough to start with, and with the alleged end-of-summer weekend actually providing weather more like high summer, with warm offshore breezes and bright sunshine on Sunday, even the most optimistic were pleasantly surprised by the turnout of 79 boats across nine classes.

The Puppeteer 22s managed the best turnout with 16 boats, and the closest finish, with Yellow Peril (pictured) winning by just five secondsThe Puppeteer 22s managed the best turnout with 16 boats, and the closest finish, with Yellow Peril (pictured) winning by just five seconds from Trick or Treat, with the first five boats finishing within one minute and five seconds. Photo: W M Nixon

Puppeteer 22

The biggest single fleet was the Puppeteer 22s with 16 (and more to come, apparently), while the venerable Howth Seventeens are still putting boats afloat (in September, forsooth), and they'd a fine turnout of thirteen.

All classes used a pier start for this first weekend, but now that the show's on the road, it will be Committee Boats for at least the next three weekends. For although the conditions were so balmy as to be almost somnolent, the pent-up competitive spirit was much in evidence right across the board.

The Puppeteers again set the pace with ferocious competition which saw the first five boats finishing within one minute and five seconds, the winners (by five seconds) being Neil Murphy and Conor Costello with Yellow Peril from Alan Pearson and Alan Blay in Trick or Treat.

The Howth Seventeens at the lee mark in Saturday's cloudier spellThe Seventeens at the lee mark in Saturday's cloudier spell, with Rita well-rounded and consolidating her lead on Deilginis. Photo: Judith Malcolm

Howth 17s

The Howth 17s now have a form card for 2020, having completed their Nationals (won by Pauline) and their Lambay Race (won by Deilginis). But this time out it was Rita (Marcus Lynch & John Curley) which won by a squeak, just three seconds from Deilginis (Massey Toomey & Kenny).


The Howth Squibs are also seeing their numbers gently increasing as people become accustomed to this back-to-front summer, and while they'd just seven boats out on Saturday, the word is there'll be more this coming weekend, and meanwhile Emmet Dalton in Kerfuffle won from Chatterbox (J Kay) with Tears for Fears (N Monks) third.

Neck-and-neck for the Classic Half Tonners with The Big Picture in the foreground, former World Champion (when owned byPaul Elvstrom) King One at middle, and Mata beyond Neck-and-neck for the Classic Half Tonners with The Big Picture in the foreground, former World Champion (when owned by Paul Elvstrom) King One at middle, and Mata beyond. Mata came out tops in Sunday's race. Photo: Judith Malcolm

Half Tonner

Sunday's sunshine seemed almost too good to be true, but it was believed for long enough to give some intriguing racing, with the two stars of the show in Class 1 being the classic Half Tonner Mata (Wright brothers & Rick De Neve) and Stephen Quinn's J/97 Lambay Rules. Richard Colwell & Johnny Murphy's J/109 Outrajeous may have taken line honours, but Mata won on IRC and Lambay was second, while the position was reversed under HPH.

The Bourke/McGirr/Ball X302 Xebec had it every which way over sister-ship Dux (Gore-Grimes family) in Class 2, and so too had Stephen Harris's First 40.7 Tiger in the non-spinnaker division IRC, though Kieran Jameson's Sigma 38 Changeling won on HPH, while Class 3 (which had raced on Saturday) saw Vincent Gaffney's rare Laser 28 Alliance II on top.

Kieran Jameson's Sigma 38 Changeling (winner of Class 4 HPH) chasing Paddy Kyne's MaximusSeasoned campaigners – Kieran Jameson's Sigma 38 Changeling (winner of Class 4 HPH) chasing Paddy Kyne's Maximus. Photo: Judith Malcolm

Going into the first races on Saturday, it was still anybody's guess as to how this unusual format might work out. But with good racing for 79 boats now recorded on the time sheets, it's a concept which might even find useful applications outside the current challenging circumstances.

Grabbing summer while it lasts – a mountain of pent-up sailing enthusiasm found its full expression on Sunday off HowthGrabbing summer while it lasts – a mountain of pent-up sailing enthusiasm found its full expression on Sunday off Howth. Photo: Judith Malcolm

And for those who though pier starting downwind was just a little bit too retro, even in the exigencies of the time, the word is that this coming weekend will be Committee Boat and two windward-leeward races for the same lineup of classes each day.

Detailed results here

Published in Howth YC
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The Olympic sailing dream is of competition on a sterile racing area with weak to non-existent tides, well clear of any special wind effects that a nearby coastline and an island or two might provide, while of course using a meticulously-set Committee Boat start line and a cleverly-designed course to test several points of sailing. That's the way they want it. Yet if that's their dream - their perfect ideal - then Howth Yacht Club's traditional sixteen nautical miles of Lambay Race must be Olympic sailing's stuff of nightmares.

The original Lambay Course – raced at least since 1904, and probably earlier - was simply though Howth Sound inside Ireland's Eye after a pier start from Howth Harbour, then nor' eastwards to the east point of Lambay. Officially, it's The Nose, but few remember to call it that, they just call it the East Point, as we've a Nose of Howth already, and that's quite enough to smell the coffee on any one day.

The classic Lambay course can serve up all sorts of conditionsSixteen miles of sailing perfection – the classic Lambay course can serve up all sorts of conditions, but on Saturday it provided record times

The north side of Lambay seems like the Far Side of the Moon for most sailors, even those from Howth which is only seven miles away. And as you head west to double the island, there are various impairments to ease of navigation, such as Carrickdorish Rock and Harp Ear.

These are matters of even more concentration if you're beating against a westerly. But concentrating purely on sailing along there is difficult anyway, as Lambay is a natural wonder where the abundant wildlife - some of it on surprisingly spectacular cliffs - is augmented by a troupe of wallabies (don't ask), and Ireland's only colony of black rats, a cute little fellow who nevertheless would make life difficult for your average gannet settlement.

Getting going for record times – Leila and Zaida (Tom Houlihan) with freed sheets, on course with a fair tide with Ireland's Eye put asternGetting going for record times – Leila and Zaida (Tom Houlihan) with freed sheets, on course with a fair tide with Ireland's Eye put astern. Photo: Annroi Blaney

However, the Fingal gannet seems a tougher proposition than those from elsewhere. Having established his first neighbourhood colony on the Stack at Ireland's Eye back in 1989, when that got crowded his descendants and relatives not only started spreading onto the main island itself regardless of its predators, but they set up an offshoot on a big rock close under the cliffs on the other side of Lambay six miles to the north.

That has prospered so much that they appear to have bludgeoned their way onto Lambay itself through being the Neighbours from Hell for poor little rattus rattus, who is now on the endangered species list. As for the wallabies, they can't be too pleased, as they used to top the Lambay attractions chart until these rock-star gannets came along.

Brian Maguire of Hyberno Droneworks follows the fleet.

All these interesting things are going on along the Far Side of the Moon, aka the north side of Lambay, making it difficult to think only of sailing - let alone racing tactics - in a locality notorious for its flukey winds and tricky tides. As a result, when the Lambay Race is on the agenda, the Howth sailing community is a bit thin on the community spirit, as the Single-minded Racing Purists think it's a very dodgy proposition in the first place, whereas the Broad-minded Historically-Concerned Philosophers think it's central to the very ethos of Howth sailing, an event which must be sailed in its traditional form each year as an Act of Worship .

Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) was first to LambayRita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) was first to Lambay, but was halfway down the fleet in the final reckoning. Photo: W M Nixon

With such contrary opinions, the Lambay Race race has sometimes been messed about over the years, with extra marks being added to make it look more like a modern course. But in the difficulties of our current situation, the 1898-founded Howth Seventeens saw an opportunity. They wanted to celebrate getting a dozen boats of their ancient 20-strong fleet finally afloat despite 2020's truncations, and the best way seemed to be a race the traditional straightforward 16-mile Lambay Course on Saturday 5th September, as the tides suited – flood going north and favourable ebb coming back - and they could do it as their own thing, without trying to make an all-comers regatta out of it. 

Gladys, owned by HYC Commodore Ian Byrne and Eddie Ferris, finds a bright spot on the north side of LambayThe dark side? Gladys, owned by HYC Commodore Ian Byrne and Eddie Ferris, finds a bright spot on the north side of Lambay. Photo: W M Nixon

It made for a busy day at Howth in the day's brisk westerly, as a race of the Fingal Series for cruiser-racers went off around 1000 hrs, the Howth 17s buzzed northwards towards Lambay – just able to carry their topsails – in a starting sequence beginning at 1130 hrs, and then towards 1430 hrs as the Puppeteer 22s and the Squibs were squaring up for their weekly Saturday afternoon race, didn't the Howth 17s come roaring back down the Sound again with the full ebb under them after probably the fastest Lambay Race the class has ever recorded.

Yet far from being left on their own to get on with it, in this most peculiar sailing season they'd had an escort fleet dominated by the local flotilla of dark blue Seaward 23s and 25s carrying various photographers and a film team from TG4. For the word had got out that in this bleak year, a dozen Seventeens racing round Lambay would be a sight to cheer anyone up. And it was vintage stuff throughout, with real power to the dense-air wind at times, and flashes of vivid sunlight interspersed with curiously rain-free passing clouds, one or two so black they had the look of The End of Days about them.

Close encounter. Rosemary (12) and Pauline in classic juxtaposition at the Taylor's Rocks buoy. Close encounter. Rosemary (12) and Pauline in classic juxtaposition at the Taylor's Rocks buoy. In March 2018, Rosemary had become the "flatpack boat" after her shed was smashed in during Storm Emma, while Pauline was almost lost in a fire. Yet in 2020 they're both fighting fit again, with Pauline winning the close-fought 2020 Nationals. Photo: W M Nixon

But for connoisseurs of Howth Seventeen sailing and the wonders of the Fingal coast, it was pure magic throughout. After an extremely fast and wet reach northward, appropriately it was the granny of them all, Howth 17 No 1 Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) which was first at Lambay. But the wind flattened almost completely at the Nose such that the eight leading boat concertinaed into a straight line abreast, and first out of the traps in a private breeze which took them very close to Carrickdorish were the Massey/Toomey/Kenny syndicate in Deilginis with Keith Kenny on the helm, and Dave Mulligan with Sheila.

Deilginis has taken the lead, and found her own flash of sunshine with it The going is good. Deilginis has taken the lead, and found her own flash of sunshine with it. Photo: W M Nixon

Thereafter, Deilginis played it very cool on the short but position-setting beat along the north coast on Lambay, not getting too far offshore where there was a boat-stopping sea running and the tides were all over the place, yet not getting too far into the alluringly smooth water inshore, where the wind might suddenly disappear completely.

They were first to reach the most northerly turn at the buoy marking Taylor's Rocks off Lambay's northwest corner, and had quite a decent gap on Sheila. But Dave Mulligan had to put in a virtuoso performance on the long reach back to Howth, as the pack were right on his tail.

Overall, they finished Sheila 2nd, Pauline 3rd and Rosemary 4thThe chasing pack are (left to right) Pauline, Sheila and Rosemary. Overall, they finished Sheila 2nd, Pauline 3rd and Rosemary 4th. Photo: W M Nixon

As it turned out, they were having enough in-fighting to let him build his lead a bit, but there was no way he could make any dent on the gap to the flying Deilginis, which was literally racing against time as her topsail – which had been setting perfectly on port tack heading north – was all over the place on starboard tack heading south, though enough of it stayed working for her crew to claim they'd been deploying a clever topsail-scandalising trick to de-power the sailplan in the stronger gusts.

With Lambay astern and the wind temporarily softening, Deilginis continues to maintain her lead on SheilaWith Lambay astern and the wind temporarily softening, Deilginis continues to maintain her lead on Sheila. Photo: W M Nixon

Whatever, they maintained their lead to finish in two hours 36 minutes and 14 seconds, which may well be a Howth 17 Lambay record. And as they tacked onto port to get into the harbour, lo and behold but wasn't the topsail suddenly setting perfectly again…..Sheila was just over a minute astern, then came 2020 champion Pauline (Shane O'Doherty, Ian McCormick and Michael Kenny) and Rosemary (George Curley, David Jones & David Potter, with the four leaders finishing within two minutes.

On handicap (a very import element in the continuing strength of the class) the winner was Echo (Bryan & Harriet Lynch) from Tom Houlihan's Zaida, with Sheila and Pauline re-appearing in the listings at 3rd and 4th. In a more complete season, it would be hoped that there would seldom be much overlap between scratch and handicap.

Deilginis storming home to win, with Portmarnock's Velvet Strand and the Pormarnock Hotel in the backgroundDeilginis storming home to win, with Portmarnock's Velvet Strand and the Pormarnock Hotel in the background. When Deilginis was being built by James Kelly of Portrush in 1907, the hotel was St Marnoch's House, home of renowned racing skipper Willie Jameson. Photo: W M Nixon

But in this weird year, the six Howth Seventeens which didn't appear in the top four under either system in the Lambay Race 2020 seemed happy to adopt the attitude of the New England whaling skipper who went clean round the world without so much as seeing a whale, let alone catching one. He said he'd had a helluva fine sail.

Howth 17 Lambay Race 2020 results (scratch)

1st Deilginis (Massey, Toomey & Kenny) 2:36:14; 2nd Sheila D.Mulligan) 2:37:18; 3rd Pauline (S.O'Doherty, I. McCormick & M Kenny) 2:37:44; 4th Rosemary (G.Curley, D.Jones & D Potter) 2:38:10. 


1st Echo (B. & H. Lynch 2:25:31; 2nd Zaida (T.Houlihan) 2:26:17; 3rd Sheila 2.37:18; 4th Pauline 2:37:44.

There were as many support boats as racers when the Howth 17s went round LambayWith sailing so restricted in 2020, every event attracted extra attention, and there were as many support boats as racers when the Howth 17s went round Lambay. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Howth YC

Howth's Patrick O' Neill and the crew of Mojo were crowned J80 Irish National Champions at the Royal St. George Yacht Club this afternoon after a closely fought seven-race series on Dublin Bay. 

14 boats competed from four different Dublin clubs that represent a building momentum for the Irish J80 class, one of the world's most popular sportboats.

In a show of strength for Howth Yacht Club entries, four of the top five places were taken by the North Dublin visitors but O'Neill's overall victory was ultimately only by the slender margin of half a point from host club runner up Jonny O'Dowd. In third place overall was 1996 Olympian Dan O'Grady sailing Jammy.

Four race wins on Saturday put O'Neill in a strong position overnight and even two protests in the final racers on Sunday could not stop the Mojo challenge.

1st Mojo IRL 1551 Howth Yacht Club Patrick O' Neill1st Mojo IRL 1551 Howth Yacht Club Patrick O' Neill

2nd JABS IRL 1609 Royal St George Yacht Club Jonny O' Dowd 2nd JABS IRL 1609 Royal St George Yacht Club Jonny O' Dowd 

J80 National Championships 2020 Results at the Royal St. George Yacht Club (Top Five)

1st Mojo IRL 1551 Howth Yacht Club Patrick O' Neill
2nd JABS IRL 1609 Royal St George Yacht Club Jonny O' Dowd 
3rd Jammy IRL 1097 Howth Yacht Club Dan O' Grady
4th Red Cloud 985 Howth Yacht Club Darragh O' Connor 
5th Headcase 1651 HYC, MSC, BYC, LRYC Ryan Glynn 

Full results are here

Published in Howth YC
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Although the Puppeteer 22 first appeared from Chris Boyd of Killyleagh on Strangford Lough in 1978, it was 1983 by the time some keen-to-upsize Squib sailors in Howth saw the potential of this user-friendly little sloop, with her sparse but usable accommodation, and a fractional rig that made for a much less-challenging crewing proposition than the powerful masthead -rigged Ruffian 23 to which she was inevitably compared.

By the time the Howth sailors became interested, local Puppeteer classes in the north had waxed and in some cases already waned. Yet in the best One Design traditions of the Greater Dublin area, once the Howth group became committed, they stayed committed, and while several ordered new boats, others found they already had a selection of second-hand craft to choose from to build a long-lasting local OD class

Designer and builder Chris Boyd helms the Puppeteer 22 prototype Designer and builder Chris Boyd helms the Puppeteer 22 prototype (restored to be the 2020 National Champion) on a trial sail in Strangford Lough in September 1978. Photo: W M Nixon

By 1985 the new class was up and running at its Howth base, and thriving so much that in due course an entire section of the then-new marina seemed to be filled almost exclusively with Puppeteers, ironically putting them in the berths nearest to Howth House where Herbert Boyd (absolutely no known relation to Chris Boyd) had designed the Howth 17s in the Autumn of 1897.

Yet the Seventeens and the Puppeteers happily co-exist, for each fills a very different niche in sailing, and by the turn of the Century, Puppeteer number in Howth were such that they regularly were mustering keen racing fleets of between 25 and 30 boats.

Puppeteers in strength in Howth Marina. In background at centre of photo is Howth House, where Herbert Boyd designed the Howth 17s in the Autumn of 1897Puppeteers in strength in Howth Marina. In the background at the centre of the photo is Howth House, where Herbert Boyd designed the Howth 17s in the Autumn of 1897. Photo: W M Nixon

This means that in and around the Howth peninsula, there are mow Puppeteers which are more than forty years old. And while some are still immaculate, others are showing their age and then some, such that in one well-worn case, the family donated the boat last winter to the club.

Anywhere else, this might have been seen as a landfill proposition, to be quietly dealt with making as little fuss as possible. However, HYC's Simon Knowles - owner-skipper of the J/109 Indian – is action-man in normal times. But as Ireland was clearly heading into abnormal forced inaction with the COVI-19 lockdown looming, he offered to take on the little boat as a project to help pass the time. There was just enough space for a restoration up at his house house, and the eventual result - he stopped counting after logging 300 man hours on the job - is a little boat now rather better than new.

Puppeteers club racing - in a "normal year", their numbers will push above 20 for events like this. If the COVID-19 disruption continues into next season, it may well be that the class's availability of safe totally-local racing will see others joining those who have already taken on "tired" Puppeteers to make them race-ready. Puppeteers club racing - in a "normal year", their numbers will push above 20 for events like this. If the COVID-19 disruption continues into next season, it may well be that the class's availability of safe totally-local racing will see others joining those who have already taken on "tired" Puppeteers to make them race-ready. Photo: W M Nixon

But this particular piece of rejuvenation didn't take part in last weekend's Puppeteer 22 Nationals at Howth, as the Knowles energy was suddenly re-directed into the pop-up Fastnet 450 "Offshore Race That Came Out Of Nowhere", in which Indian gave a very good showing of herself. However, that campaign meant that the new-from-old Puppeteer didn't go afloat.

But there was another Puppeteer restoration coming down the line which did hit the Nationals start on Saturday morning. This was Shiggy Shiggy, Puppeteer No 1 that Afloat Magazine sail-tested on Strangford Lough way back in September 1978, and which Paul McMahon has been quietly beavering away restoring for something like two and a half years now. As longtime Puppeteer 22 sailor and keeper of the Class Records Neil Murphy now tells us, this was a Born-Again Event which rang all the bells:

Puppeteers Get New Champion by Neil Murphy

In a season where many key sailing events classed as 'National' have been chalked off as COVID consequences, the Puppeteer Class became one of the exceptions over the Aug 29th/30th weekend. With the sponsorship of Sutton Cross Pharmacy, Howth YC hosted the Class Championships, and after 6 races in a variety of conditions, the winner was Shiggy Shiggy, owned by Paul McMahon and Laura Ni hUallachain, while the winner on handicap was Philip & Roslyn Byrne's Odyssey.

Whilst the fleet racing in Howth YC in a 'normal' year extends to 20 boats and better with the hope of some visitors from the Northern Ireland fleet for the Championships, the COVID fallout and the complexities of putting a crew together for a weekend-long series - when club evening races are proving so popular - brought the entry on Day One down to eleven boats.

The competitors were greeted on a very grey Saturday by a 20 knots-plus northerly breeze with a lumpy sea that offered the fleet plenty of challenges, but not the conditions most of the crews had hoped for. Race Officer Harry Gallagher and his management team had a choice of course configurations to draw from - Windward Leeward, Triangle plus Windward Leeward or around the Howth YC fixed marks using one of the Club's week-night courses.

Neil Murphy on the helm of Yellow Peril.Idyllic conditions on Day 2 for Neil Murphy on the helm of Yellow Peril. Photo: Harry Gallagher

To make the opening race less demanding for the less well practiced, the first race used a Club course and a pattern that was to become apparent over the weekend was quickly established – the lead being battled for between defending champions Yellow Peril (Murphy / Costello), 2019 Autumn League winners Trick or Treat (Alan Pearson & Alan Blay) and the newbies to the Puppeteer fleet on Shiggy Shiggy, sail number 1. Through dramas of broaches, fluffed gybes, gusts and place changes, the first race made its way to a conclusion with Yellow Peril taking the win and Trick or Treat and Shiggy in second and third.

Shiggy Shiggy (so good it was named twice) was purchased in 2018 by its current owners in a 'somewhat tired' condition. After being lavished with TLC over the last two winters and during the 2020 lockdown by Laser and SB20 ace Paul McMahon, she now looks as well and is certainly better kitted out than at any time in her 42-year history. with a mix of new sails from both UK Sails and North, with the latter supplying the spinnaker and no 2 jib, she is also probably going quicker than when first launched as the Puppeteer 22 prototype in September 1978.

Sunday was a day transformed

Howth's Puppeteers catch the last of the proper summer (Hybernia Drone Works by Brian Maguire)

After the excess of the first race, the wind eased enough over the following two races to allow most of the fleet hoist their larger headsails but the racing stayed just as close and the waves and temperature just as unpleasant. After three races, Trick or Treat and Shiggy had made it a three-way split of the winners' guns to leave Trick or Treat as overnight leaders with only two points covering the first three boats. However, the conditions over the day left three of the fleet out of action for Sunday through rudder loss, deck damage and mechanical problems.

The new champion confirms the title by winning the final race from Trick-or-TreatClinching it. The new champion confirms the title by winning the final race from Trick-or-Treat (Alan Pearson & Alan Blay). Photo: Harry Gallagher

Sunday brought more benign conditions – 8 to 10 knots with sunshine and a flatter sea. Shiggy was quickly out of the traps and took the win in Race 4 with Yellow Peril just behind and Gannet (T Chillingworth) pushing Trick or Treat all the way to the line before Trick or Treat grabbed third. Race 5 saw Shiggy and Yellow Peril again in the top spots, but this time Gannet bagged the third rather than see it escape at the last minute. Going into the last race, the title chase was down to just two boats, Shiggy being the favourite and only having to finish third or better to win the title while Yellow Peril had to win and rely on Shiggy having a calamity. Shiggy again led Yellow Peril home with Gannet getting another third. Four wins and two thirds from six races is a winning score in any fleet and Shiggy Shiggy was confirmed as the 2020 Puppeteer 22 Class Champion.

The winning crew on their boat are (left to right) Ronan Cobbe, Terry Rowan, owner-restorer Paul McMahon, and Graham CurranThe winning crew on their boat are (left to right) Ronan Cobbe, Terry Rowan, owner-restorer Paul McMahon, and Graham Curran. Photo: Harry Gallagher
The winner of the handicap event was Odyssey, which sailed a very consistent series and was always on the heels of the leading group on the water. Odyssey also collected the dubious honour of being the only boat called OCS at a start, despite the numerous close shaves that resulted from crews seeking to check the awareness of the Race Officer before breathing sighs of relief at the broadcast of 'Clear start'.

Grainne Costigan, Philip Byrne, Roslyn Byrne and Francis Hand Handicap overall winners on Odyssey were (left to right) Grainne Costigan, Philip Byrne, Roslyn Byrne and Francis Hand. Photo: Harry Gallagher

A socially distanced presentation of the winners' cups was carried out ashore with the Class's appreciation for the continued sponsorship of Sutton Cross Pharmacy acknowledged by Class Captain, Peter Wilson, who also thanked the Race Management team and the Jury Chairman, Emmet Dalton. Hopefully, the volume of Arnica, Voltarol and other remedies required after Saturday's bruise-inducing racing will not overly deplete the sponsor's stocks.

Puppeteer National Championship Howth Yacht Club Results

Puppeteer National Championship Howth Yacht Club Provisional Results (Scratch) as of 22:14 on August 30, 2020Puppeteer National Championship Howth Yacht Club Provisional Results (Scratch) as of 22:14 on August 30, 2020

Published in Puppeteers

Ireland's sports organisations are taking a battering during the pandemic, and the operating model of sailing clubs, in particular, makes them especially vulnerable to a downturn in all activities afloat and ashore.'s W M Nixon wrote this piece yesterday for his home club at Howth, where the mood has been dampened by the news that the J/24 Nationals - scheduled at Howth for the first weekend of September – has been cancelled, as the nationwide J/24 Class felt it didn't merit the effort of long – sometimes very long - road haulages, when everything that they hoped to do ashore in connection with the event would be severely constrained or non-existent under the latest Government guidelines. The Nixon response has been to celebrate some of the Howth achievements which have been possible during August, and to those mentioned here he would add the success of the Howth 17 Nationals

Howth Yacht Club came very well out of the Optimist Nationals at Royal Cork ten days ago, with Johnny Flynn the new champion and Rocco Wright finishing third overall. So there was a certain amount of pressure of expectation on our two entries in the weekend's pop-up 266-mile offshore race on Saturday 22nd August from Dun Laoghaire (where the National YC's 150th Anniversary plans have been mangled by the pandemic) round the Fastnet Rock and back to Crosshaven, where most of the Royal Cork's planned Tricentenary plans have also been blown clean away, with entrants for events like the socially-distanced Oppie championship being limited to the island of Ireland.

When the 2020 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow - re-scheduled by the pandemic from mid-summer weekend in June to the 22nd August – was finally cancelled on August 9th with less than three weeks before its new date, the determined Cork trio of Mark Mansfield, RCYC Rear Admiral Annamarie Murphy, and SCORA Commodore Johanna Murphy decided to see if they could put a completely new race together for the same August 22nd weekend start, but with all entrants being firmly told it was pure racing – shoreside activity of any kind would be minimal.

There was barely a fortnight to go as the clearer outline of this pop-up event began to take shape. But it soon had entries pouring in with its catchy name of the Fastnet 450, which is the 150 years of the National YC and the 300 of the Royal Cork combined, while the actual distance from Dun Laoghaire leaving the Muglins, Tuskar, Coningbeg and Fastnet Rock to starboard and the Daunt Buoy to port before finishing at Roche's Point in the entrance to Cork Harbour is around 266 miles, though nearly all entrants were to sail more than 300.

Howth almost immediately had two boats into the 20-strong entry pot, both of them disappointed Round Ireland entrants in the form of Robert Rendell's XC 45 Samatom and Simon Knowles' J/109 Indian. Samatom inclines toward the cruising end of the performance cruiser spectrum, so if the race involved a preponderance of windward work – which proved to be the case – it wouldn't really suit her, and while she was in the running at times, eventually - after getting round most of the course including the Fastnet itself - she retired into Kinsale rather than continue over the final 15 miles to Crosshaven.

Robert Rendell's XC 45 SamatomRobert Rendell's XC 45 Samatom at the start of the Fastnet 450

But Indian was in there as a frontline contender from the start, her crew of all the talents of Fingal including – in addition to Simon Knowles himself – Anthony Doyle, Frank Dillon, Jon Hartshorn, Cillian & Rima Macken, Darragh White and the key man, John Flynn, who was there under double pressure, as his son Johnny Flynn is the new Optimist National Champion.

As Simon reports, although the wind after the start at 1300 hrs Saturday was sufficiently off the land to lay the course – sometimes with sheets slightly cracked - down the Wicklow and Wexford coasts towards the Tuskar, it was gusting to 30 knots, at times it headed to make it a dead beat, and with the spring ebb running full blast, the sea state was rough and the sailing was brutal.

As for the competition, it was fierce, as their most frequent contender was the Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie (John O'Gorman NYC) a sister-ship of Conor Fogerty's OSTAR-winning BAM! with the special talents of Maurice "Prof" O'Connell on the strength, and Indian was also in face-to-face competition with two newer J boats, Andrew Algeo's J/99 Juggerknot 2 from the Royal Irish YC, and James Tyrrell's J/112E Aquelina from Arklow.

After they'd put the Tuskar astern and came hard on the wind late on Saturday evening, things were looking extra good for the Howth boat. For though the tide had turned to be against them, this smoothed the sea a bit and yet they were past the area of maximum adverse flood stream, while as a bonus, they and Juggerknot 2 found a favouable if brief twist in the wind which enabled them to lay the course, putting them right into the frame.

That little twist of wind wasn't to last, but it helped to keep them well in contention in a fleet where the current top performer from Cork, the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo – fresh from winning the Kinsale-Fasnet-Kinsale Race a fortnight earlier, and with her crew including Olympian Nin O'Leary – was battling for line honours at the sharp end with Chris Power Smith's higher-rated J/122 Aurelia (RStGYC), with the very fast little new Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl (Cian McCarthy, Kinsale, with Mark Mansfield on board) never too far astern in third.

Simon Knowles' J109 Indian from Howth Yacht ClubSimon Knowles' J109 Indian from Howth Yacht Club passes Dalkey Island at the start of the Fastnet 450 Photo: Afloat

It was an unremitting dead beat the entire length of the south coast. And with more wind offshore, that was the place to be, such that some boats were 35 miles at sea before they tacked for the Fastnet. Aboard Indian, they were well in the hunt, and after the 24-hour mark, everyone had settled down to the determined routine of endless windward work with seasickness conquered, proper meals being served, and Hot Cookie and the other two J Boats kept in hand, with the only problem being that the nearer they got to West Cork, the lighter the wind became.

So it was frustrating work getting to the Fastnet Rock itself in the dark, and they rounded at 0245 hrs on Monday morning in just 8 knots of breeze, lying a good 4th on corrected time, but knowing that in a long and meandering 60 miles run back to Cork Harbour, they'd somehow to keep a lot of boats covered in a difficult downwind leg where, once again, the best of the wind appeared to be offshore.

While on the wind, they'd been able to keep Hot Cookie well in control, but this long run suited the Sunfast 3600 better. Yet with her lower rating Indian was able to keep in touch, and coming in past the Old Head of Kinsale late on Monday morning, they knew the Cookie was ahead while Juggerknot and Aquelina were astern.

But the challenge of maintaining sufficient proximity to Hot Cookie made for a tough final three hours, yet they managed it, in fact they did so well that not only did they stay ahead of the Sunfast 3600 on corrected time, but they even closed the gap on her newer smaller sister Cinnamon Girl.

Indian's crew sorting themselves for a gybe are (left to right) John Flynn, Simon Knowles, Cillian Macken on helm, and Jon Hartshorn.Those final tricky downwind miles. With the Old Head of Kinsale well astern, and the finish coming into view, Indian's crew sorting themselves for a gybe are (left to right) John Flynn, Simon Knowles, Cillian Macken on the helm, and Jon Hartshorn

At the sharp end of the fleet, Aurelia took the line honours at 1026 hrs Monday, Nieulargo was next in 23 minutes later to take an unassailable overall lead, but back down the line Cinnamon Girl was bedevilled by very light patches, and all the time Indian was taking it out of her. So when Cinnamon Girl finally got across at 1146 hrs, she still was third overall, but it was by a smaller margin ahead of Indian, which was fifth across the line behind Hot Cookie, but corrected into a good fourth overall to round out a successful fortnight for Howth Yacht Club down Cork way.

As to what virtual celebrations are like, we'll have to wait until they get back to Howth to tell us. With the remains of Storm Frances now well cleared, having gone through in all its power since the Fastnet 450 finished, Indian leaves Crosshaven for home tonight (Tuesday) after the virtual prize-giving at the RCYC.

Published in Howth YC

The Irish Squib Class and Howth Yacht Club have made the difficult decision to cancel the Irish Squib Championships scheduled for this coming weekend, following the updated Government guidance issued on Tuesday.

In a statement, the class says "Whilst we are confident that racing could be held within the parameters of the Government and Public Health advice, it would not be possible to deliver the hoped-for on-shore activities in a socially responsible manner and in compliance with the updated restrictions announced yesterday.  We would like to thank the team at for its support in sponsoring this event and look forward to collaborating with them on events in future".

Published in Squib
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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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