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Displaying items by tag: Tom MacSweeney

Two and a half years after Dublin solo sailor Gregor McGuckin returned from the Golden Globe Race, the strong public interest in Gregor's story led me to Malahide Marina Boatyard in County Dublin for this week's podcast.

As regular Afloat readers will know, McGuckin was in the middle of the 2018 Golden Globe Race when he was dismasted in the Indian Ocean while in third place and then, with a jury rig, went to the aid of another sailor whose yacht had also been badly damaged and who had suffered serious injury.

Irish Golden Globe Race entrant Gregor McGuckinBeing dismasted during a shattering 360 degree roll in the tumultuous Southern Indian Ocean in the roughest part of the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe Race would have created an extreme survival situation for most sailors. But after it happened to Gregor McGuckin with his vintage Biscay 36 ketch Hanley Energy Endurance, he soon heard that, 90 miles away, rival skipper Abilash Tomy was in an even worse situation, dismasted and incapacitated by injury.

His courage was an inspiration, Dublin singer and songwriter Dan Fitzpatrick said, for the 20-minute musical voyage around five oceans which he has composed and about which we've already told you on Afloat.

Catch up with what Gregor's doing now in the podcast below.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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"The Lady Min is pretty special, and she performs really well…."

The world was a great place to be when the Lady Min was an idea, and there was a 'can do' attitude in West Cork.

Simon O'Keeffe is carrying on with that type of determination and is my guest this week on the Afloat Podcast as we talk about his restoration, being done at Tiernan Roe's boatyard in Ballydehob, of the Lady Min whose heritage and association with Simon's family goes back to 1902.

The Lady Min in November 2018 as work started on her restorationThe Lady Min prior to her restoration in 2018

Preparing for the cabin to be installed on Lady MinThe story today - preparing for the cabin to be installed on Lady Min

It's been two years since he first told me of his determination to restore the boat, now 118-years-old and which was, in her heyday, a thorn in the side of the then yacht racing fraternity of Cork Harbour!

Another stage  of Lady Min's restoration at Roe BoatsAnother stage of Lady Min's restoration at Roe Boats

It's a story to hear direct from the man who has put a lot of money, time and effort into his personal project. He is determined that the Lady Min will go afloat again early next summer.

The modern appearance of Lady Min’s hull makes it all the more remarkable that she was designed and built in Schull in 1902 Photo: courtesy Dermot O’DonoghueHey-day- The modern appearance of Lady Min’s hull makes it all the more remarkable that she was designed and built in Schull in 1902 Photo: courtesy Dermot O’Donoghue

I began this week's podcast by asking Simon to outline the latest stage of the restoration work.

Listen to the Podcast here.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Walking along the riverside in Cork Harbour in the past few days of good weather the harbour waters looked inviting, but as I thought of the pleasure of having the sails up, helm in hand, boat moving through the water, the sound of a bow wave ... the emptiness of the harbour waters told another tale… Along the river walk, I saw boats still lying fenced in.

While Irish Sailing negotiated the difficulties of a return to the water and drafted a plan for discussion with clubs, I pondered over why canoeing had been named as the only waterborne sport included in the initial suggestions for a return of watersports.

So I pursued that with a ‘contact’ of mine, as journalists are wont to have, within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. That single-handed sailing was not mentioned surprised me. My ‘source’ told me that canoeing had been considered because it was “a safe, individual sport, hence social distancing would not be a problem.”

So, why not single-handed sailing – Lasers, Toppers, Optimists – even giving younger sailors a chance to get on the water … The response was that ‘crewed yachts’ had been the focus of concern, where ‘social distancing’ could not be observed…

Now, the core of deciding to go afloat in sailing is based on a combination of self-assessment - of safety, responsibility and risk and that has been put forward by Irish Sailing. I understand the problems of ‘close quarters’ aboard a racing or cruising yacht. As the national sailing authority has suggested, however, what about enabling double-handed sailing, households, family sailing, solo sailing. They should surely be considered, otherwise, a season of little opportunity is ahead.

"overall decisions about local sailing are on hold depending upon what arises from Irish Sailing’s updated plan"

From clubs around the South this week the only positive indicator was that the annual Cobh-to-Blackrock Race, always a well-patronised event, has the best prospect of going ahead because it is not scheduled until September. Decisions are awaited in regard to Glandore Classic Boats in July, but the present uncertainty may affect overseas entrants. Calves Week is still scheduled for August, but overall decisions about local sailing are on hold depending upon what arises from Irish Sailing’s updated plan.

Chief Executive Harry Hermon told me that “the anticipation is that we will be able to go afloat to some degree in Phase 1 of restrictions.”

Hopefully, that will happen but, while not being critical of canoeing as a sport, I’d like to see to more recognition from the Department of Sport of the strong support for sailing and its widespread opportunities.

Listen to the podcast below:

Published in Tom MacSweeney

What is the most important, challenging and decisive part of yacht racing?

“The start of the race.”

That was what experienced skippers and crews told me - on the start line a race could be won and lost.

So, when I ‘stepped up’ from dinghy racing and what was described to me by the “cruiser class” as “the wet ass brigade” I was well aware of start line importance.

But I found there was one major difference - Language and the force and manner of its expression!

My introduction to this was in my first race in my first cruiser, my first ‘Scribbler’ – a Ruffian 23. Two weeks after I bought her and two days after launching, she was on the start line for the National Quarter Ton Championships raced out of the Royal Cork YC at Crosshaven. It was a heavy weather day, some 30 years ago, so windy that racing was inside Cork Harbour because outside the conditions were too severe.

My experience up to then was of dinghy racing, Mirrors and 12ft. Vagabonds in Monkstown Bay and National 18 crewing. Scribbler’s crew was me on the helm, with my young son and his friend. On the start line over 20 yachts of various sizes and design circled each other in what was then the 10-5-minutes start sequence. Helming 23-feet amongst them was a bit different from 12-foot dinghies as they prowled each other.

When the start gun went they all charged for the same part of the line – as close as they could get to the stern of the committee boat, with roaring and shouting erupting.
Some epithets I never thought I’d hear from the refinements of the RCYC which I had joined only shortly before entering the Championships, were uttered. Wow, the language, the shouts of “Up, Up, Up you….!!” Retorts of: “You’ve no ……..rights…” “Get out of there….” (the moderate comment) and more …

How we got across the line without being thumped or banging into another boat I can never remember.

The course was along the edge of the Aghada shoreline, then a nice freeway before the ESB ruined it by turning it into an obstacle course with their waterborne protrusions associated with the onshore power station. We rounded the weather mark and up went kites. In the days before I became more cautious about spinnakers, we hauled too, for a speedy broad reach - then we came to the gybe mark and, well, that didn’t go too well…a series of three photos appeared of Scribbler afterwards captioned – “going, going, gone... The third showed a hand grasping the portside cockpit edge with quite a lot of the hull visible!

Scribbler came upright into the wind and shook herself, possibly wondering about the idiot on the helm. We scrambled to get the kite off, shook ourselves as well, then carried on after the fleet and finished the race.

Back in the clubhouse one of the other skippers approached me, the ‘newbie’ of the fleet and observed that we had shown a fair turn of speed on the reach… “Haven’t had the boat long?” he queried… “Not long,” I agreed.

That was “courageous,” - I like to think that’s the word he used! - “a three-sail reach in those conditions,” he observed. So I asked what he meant and was told: “you had all three sails up, main, jib, spinnaker…”

“Oh,” I replied. “Should I have taken one down…?”

So I learned a bit more about sailing – and about language…

Those thoughts came to mind this week when I heard a man claim on a national current affairs radio programme that a ‘scientific study’ conducted it appeared in just three days, rather a short timespan for scientific study, had revealed that even speaking was dangerous because COVID 19 could be emitted in speech. Sport, he said, might never be possible again for a very long time. Spectators and players would all have to wear masks because: “Can you imagine how dangerous a place it would be with thousands of spectators roaring and shouting at a match?”

Whatever about that scenario, I thought, if speech has to be controlled, it would make sailing so quiet that racing start lines would never be the same again, not to mind crews full of masked individuals.

At least the skipper might be muted!

Listen to the podcast below: 

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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The shortage of young sailors on racing boats is a universal problem.

That is the opinion of Andy Anderson, President of the International Council of Yacht Clubs. It is one of the issues which clubs need to deal with in a modern world with a different approach to the sport, he says

One of the greatest attractions of sailing for him is that “it brings you in close touch with Nature,” which underlines the importance of sustainability in sailing and its involvement with the environment.

"Sailing for him is that “it brings you in close touch with Nature"

This, he believes, will become “an exponential issue over the next few years.”

He is my guest on this week’s podcast, discussing a wide variety of sailing issues, viewed from his perspective of a lifetime in the sport in New Zealand where he has been Commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Club. He emphasised the importance of club structures in fostering the development of sailing and began the interview by referring to the public perception of sailing.

Listen to the Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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I won’t be challenging Hal Sisk’s confident declaration that he is Chairman of “the world’s oldest cruiser-racer class!”

His offer to anyone to challenge him sounded across Kilrush Boatyard to where I had driven over 400 kilometres from Cork to see a restored Dublin yacht, saved from rotting in a Wicklow farmyard, returned to the waters of Clare on the edge of the Shannon Estuary and which is bound, with others of the same maritime vintage, to be returned to the waters of Dublin Bay, by sail from Arklow after transportation thereto by road from the Banner county.

If all that seems a convoluted story, just add into the mix that it’s all to do with a major error by the same Class which caused controversy, division and dissension amongst its members because the rig of the same boats was changed. That was from gaff to Bermudan, which put too much strain and pressure on the craft, after which they had a sojourn in an Arklow boatyard that closed down, languished for 30 years in a Wicklow farmyard where they nearly rotted totally away, but from which they were recovered and transported to Kilrush for restoration. Next step is a return to an original rig that dates back to the last century, which will be accompanied by modern sails from Cork.

"Those of us present were part of an epoch-making day of Irish sailing history"

If you’re still keeping up with me, this is the story of rebreathing life into the Dublin Bay 21 Class where the canary yellow of Naneen seemed to even dominate the sunshine and the sparkling blue waters of Kilrush as she was launched after her restoration in front of a gathering of sailors from many parts of the country this week, assembled at the invitation of the said Hal Sisk whose request to be present to witness the occasion was not to be turned down. It was, in fact, a great day to be in the Kilrush yard. Those of us present were part of an epoch-making day of Irish sailing history, a day which was a tribute to those whose determination has brought back to life the 114-year-old Naneen and will result in the Class owning the restored Dublin Bay 21s.

Fionan De BaraFionan De Barra at the launch ceremony Photo: Afloat. Listen to the podcast below.

The best way to appreciate what has been done is to listen to my Podcast interview here with the Class Secretary, Fionán de Barra. I recorded so many interviews at Kilrush that they will make a special edition of my programme, THIS ISLAND NATION and my colleague, the estimable WM Nixon, tells me he will provide further elucidation about this project in his blog on Saturday here.

Published in Tom MacSweeney

The families of the 50 victims of the Betelgeuse oil tanker tragedy at Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay have decided to take legal action against the State.

The French-Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse are applying to the High Court to change the death certificates of those who died to reflect what they claim to be the Irish State’s failure to address multiple unlawful safety failings which, they claim, caused their deaths.

It is forty years since the explosion which blew the tanker apart at the Whiddy oil terminal.

Maritime lawyer Michael Kingston is Vice-President of the Relatives and Friends Association. His father, Tim, was one of those killed. He announced the legal action at the Mother Jones Summer School in Cork, where he said the relatives are also seeking a State apology.

“They were left to die in atrocious circumstances and the State failed in its duty to ensure safe operations and failed to show any compassion, have issued no apology and have ignored the approaches made to them by the Betelgeuse relatives,” he told me.

A public funding appeal has been launched to raise money for the legal action.

Michael Kingston details this and what the relatives want from the Government in this week’s Podcast. I asked him first why the relatives were still so angry over the tragedy forty years ago.

Listen to the podcast (below) and also listen to the powerful letter from Jeanette Ravale (above) – whose husband, Marcel, was killed when the Betelgeuse exploded…She has visited Bantry several times. This letter was read at the 40th-anniversary commemoration in Bantry Cemetery in January by former French Consul in Cork, Francoise Letellier and again at the Mother Jones Summer School.

Published in Tom MacSweeney

I remember when I first saw the Puffin seabirds.

It was my first time sailing along the Kerry coastline and it was off Portmagee, on the appropriately named Puffin Island.

We had closed the small Island south of Valentia which is a wild bird conservancy for a look and it was, for me, a magical moment that I always remember.

Crowded along the cliff face, some in the water, I saw Puffins about which I’d heard so much, up close for the first time. My immediate image association was with clowns I had seen as a youngster at circus performances. The facial expressions, seen close-up through binoculars, their colour from blue to yellow and red striped beaks, the webbed orange-red feet, the waddling gait, and the way they bobbed around on the water.

"As sailors, we should be interested in the welfare of seabirds which can tell us so much about the marine environment"

I’ve seen them since, from a distance around the Skelligs, Horn Head in Donegal, on the Cliffs of Moher and the Great Saltee and why I’m telling you about them is because their hormones are driving them back to Ireland. As their European population has suffered a decline, the shores of our island nation are an important location for them to breed. I’ve been told by BirdWatch Ireland, the national voluntary organisation which protects Ireland's birds and habitats, that this is part of a huge seabird migration underway to Ireland that is hidden from the eyes and ears of most, but sailors may see it and can help. A special website has been set up for the purpose here.

As sailors, we should be interested in the welfare of seabirds which can tell us so much about the marine environment.

For me, the mention of Puffins, so synonymous with the sea, brought back memories of earlier sailing days. There are many other species on the way to our shores. You can hear more about all of this on my Podcast with Niall Hatch of BirdWatch.

• Listen to the Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney

The last competitor still at sea of the eighteen yachts which started the Golden Globe Race last July is not expected to finish back in France until the middle of May. Finnish sailor Tapio Lehtinen is in fifth place in the South Atlantic and has reported to Race Control that the hull of his Gaia 36, Asteria, is covered in barnacles, making progress very slow at an average of 50 nautical miles a day.

That means that the result of an investigation into the race, being carried out by the man who won the first Golden Globe, back in 1968/69, Sir Robin Knox Johnston, will not be made public until then.

That investigation began after mounting criticism of the solo race which forced its founder, Don McIntyre, to defend it after several Skippers had to be rescued. Ireland’s Gregor McGuckin was amongst those who were rescued.

“Sir Robin is undertaking a comprehensive investigation into all issues surrounding the storm tactics of GGR entrants, rig designs and the events that have led to dismasting's and three rescues in the Race,” said McIntyre, writing on the Race website. “This very thorough report is widely anticipated and will be released at the conclusion of the race.”

He added that he was “surprised at the outcome of some of these storms and dismastings that have resulted” but defended the race as “very responsible” an “incredible challenge” which should continue and that “no one should ever kill off the human spirit of adventure…”

Response to McIntyre’s defence of the solo race has varied from supporters to critics and indicated mixed views from within and outside sailing. Questions have been raised, however, about the race, including allegations that it is irresponsible, adds nothing to sailing, puts rescuers under pressure and that the consequences of what happened this year will be far-reaching.

Sir Robin Knox Johnston’s investigation report will be eagerly awaited.

• More about this in Tom MacSweeney’s Podcast. Listen here.

Published in Golden Globe Race
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31st January 2019

Solo Sailing in Irish Waters

I enjoyed watching world sailing history being made this week as 73-year-old Jean-Luc Van Den Heede became the oldest man ever to complete and win a solo non-stop round-the-world race. After 212 days alone at sea he won the Golden Globe Race, finishing in Les Sables d’Olonne in France from where he had started last July and which is also his home port.

I enjoy a little bit of solo sailing myself and, considering the number of top solo sailors from France and the races which start from there, the sport and that section of it get a lot of support.

Watching the big blue spinnaker push Jean Van Den Heede in his 36-foot. Rambler, across the finish line on Tuesday morning in a turbulent sea, accompanied by a flotilla of boats, with hundreds of spectators ashore, I thought - “that should make a point about ageism and underline that sailing really is a “sport for all ages…”

The Golden Globe Race marked its 50th anniversary and the single-handed French Figaro Race, including Irish sailors Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy will mark its golden jubilee in Irish waters this Summer, with the opening leg of the three-race series from Nantes to Kinsale and a start from Kinsale to Roscoff. Other Irish solo sailors have also shown their abilities internationally.

"solo sailing here is still subject to Marine Notice No.24 issued in 2005"

But solo sailing here is still subject to Marine Notice No.24 issued in 2005, thirteen years ago, warning about solo sailing, which is still in effect. At least when I searched the Department’s website this week, I couldn’t find any indication that it had been withdrawn.

Marine notice solo sailingMarine Notice No.24 issued in 2005

It was controversial at the time, being interpreted as imposing a ban on solo sailing,, though it didn’t say exactly that. It warned about the requirement under the ColRegs – the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions At Sea to “keep a proper lookout by sight and hearing at all times….”

I like a bit of quiet solo sailing myself aboard my Sigma 33 Scribbler in Cork Harbour and I’m very careful to keep a proper lookout, as there are a lot of commercial shipping movements in the harbour which have right-of-way. I’m also careful of insurance warnings I’ve seen about sailing alone. I’ve met like-minded sailors on the water and seen some racing solo when they couldn’t get crew.

Contrasting that with what I heard Tom Dolan describe in his series of club talks, makes me marvel at the ability of solo sailors.

Marine Notice No.24 of 2005 took a stern stance if a proper lookout wasn’t kept. The issue seems to be whether single-handers can do so effectively, especially when needing sleep. But one Coast Guard statement said that venturing to sea or on the water alone was “neither safe nor conducive to good seamanship."

The Marine Notice applied to “all vessels on the high seas and in all waters connected therewith, navigable by seagoing vessels.” That would include inshore waters and Cork Harbour and my Sigma is, potentially, “seagoing…”

Safety on the water must be taken seriously and an accident while alone can result in a dangerous situation.

The regulation is a warning about solo boating, including sailing, in Irish waters.

Are you aware of it?

Listen to the Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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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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