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Displaying items by tag: Galway Bay Sailing Club

Galway Bay Sailing Club, comfortably ensconced in their fine clubhouse at Renville New Harbour near Oranmore at the head of Galway Bay, can look back at many ups and downs during the fifty years of sailing development they've experienced from small beginnings in the city in 1970, until now they're one of the pre-eminent clubs on the West Coast in all areas of sailing.

Yet even the most sadistic theatrical director would scarcely have green-lighted a storyline in which – just as the final details for a year's long Golden Jubilee celebration in 2020 were being put into place by Commodore John Shorten and his committee – the Black Beast from the East, otherwise the Pandemic, crept into place to dominate everyone's lives and blast lovingly-crafted programmes into smithereens.

Work in progress? Galway Bay SC's very effective and hospitable  clubhouse at Rinvillle may have looked like "job finished" for this year's Golden Jubilee, but Commodore John Shorten and his Committee are fund-raising for further developmentsWork in progress? Galway Bay SC's very effective and hospitable clubhouse at Rinvillle may have looked like "job finished" for this year's Golden Jubilee, but Commodore John Shorten and his Committee are fund-raising for further developments

But they're a determined lot in Galway. And though initially, their main concern was that their ocean-voyaging heroes, the Quinlan-Owens family on the 43ft steel ketch Danu, should get safely home to Galway from lockdown confinement in the Caribbean, when Danu finally made port in Kilronan in the Aran Islands after a notably successful visit to the Azores during their return from the Americas, the sailors of Galway Bay were carving a season of sorts out of the times that are in it.

In fact, one of the club's most noted members, Aodhan FitzGerald - who has been both the holder (with Galwegian-by-adoption Yannick Lemonnier) of the two-handed Round Ireland Record for 14 years, while also winning the 2008 Round Ireland Race outright) has confided that the gentler pace of the permissible sailing of 2020 actually had its own special enjoyment, and the atmosphere around the club during summery evening training sessions acted as a welcome pressure-release valve for all who took part.

As for Danu's return, it so happened that a socially-distanced cruise-in-company to Inishbofin, co-ordinated by Cormac Mac Donncha (who organised last year's hugely successful Cruise-in-Company to Lorient in South Brittany) was getting under way with Kilronan the second stop as the August weekend approached, and by purest serendipity Danu got the welcome home she so richly deserved before her gallant crew had even entered the inner waters of Galway Bay.

Danu in the Caribbean last winter. Her escape from "pandemic prison" was celebrated with GBSC fellow-members in socially-distanced style in KilronanDanu in the Caribbean last winter. Her escape from "pandemic prison" was celebrated with GBSC fellow-members in socially-distanced style in Kilronan

Thus like other clubs, GBSC made the best of it afloat and ashore during 2020. But Golden Jubilees being something special, last Friday night they organised a combined Zoom session and socially-distanced clubhouse gathering to honour those who have contributed to Galway sailing for fifty years and more, and they did it so cleverly that they managed to drop a surprise Lifetime Achievement Award on Pierce Purcell totally out of the blue, as he thought he was there for something else altogether.

In a speech of appreciation of Pierce's unrivalled contribution – which pre-dates 1970 – fellow long-server Aonghus Concannon made it clear just how much GBSC and Galway Bay sailing and maritime life generally owe to Pierce Purcell's boundless enthusiasm and total generosity with his time. That said, those of us who know him rather doubt that "Lifetime Achievement" hits the target – "Successful Mid-Term Assessment" might be more appropriate……

Caught on the hop – Aonghus Concannon (left) looking properly pleased after his surprise announcement of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Pierce Purcell (right) had gone exactly according to plan Caught on the hop – Aonghus Concannon (left) looking properly pleased after his surprise announcement of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Pierce Purcell (right) had gone exactly according to plan

Other speakers (both in person and electronically) and awardees in a ceremony hosted by Andrew Drysdale with music by Lir O'Dowd included John Killeen the Chair of the Marine Institute, Galway Harbour Master Brian Sheridan, former Commodore and noted offshore racer Donal Morrissy, Pierce Purcell Jnr, Fergal Lyons, Dave Brennan, Pat Irwin, Conor Owens, Tom Foote, Vera Quinlan who received the premier cruising award, Pat Ryan and Yannick Lemonnier.

This unusual but successful ceremony was brought to a conclusion by Commodore Johnny Shorten, who in best Commodorial style congratulated the many recipients, and in talking of what the club has done and achieved in fifty years, neatly reminded everyone that no club ever thrives by standing still. He and his Officers and Committee have interesting plans for further development, and GBSC recently opened a GoFundMe page to help get the resources in place.

GBSC Commodore Johnny Shorten reminds the members that the best way to celebrate a club's Golden Jubilee is through worthwhile plans for the futureGBSC Commodore Johnny Shorten reminds the members that the best way to celebrate a club's Golden Jubilee is through worthwhile plans for the future

Isobella Irwin winning the Junior Female Sailor of the MidShipMan award at the Galway Bay Sailing Club presented by Johnny Shorten Commodore and Pat Irwin of Galway Bay Sailing ClubIsobella Irwin winning the Junior Female Sailor of the MidShipMan award at the Galway Bay Sailing Club presented by Johnny Shorten Commodore and Pat Irwin of Galway Bay Sailing Club

Rory Collins winner of the Junior Male Sailor awarded the MidShipMan award presented by Johnny Shorten Commodore and Pat Irwin Galway Bay Sailing ClubRory Collins winner of the Junior Male Sailor awarded the MidShipMan award presented by Johnny Shorten Commodore and Pat Irwin Galway Bay Sailing Club

Pat Ryan presented with the Michael Donohue Memorial Trophy for Volunteer of the year by Johnn Shorten Commodore and Captain Brian Sheridan Harbour Master Port of GalwayPat Ryan presented with the Michael Donohue Memorial Trophy for Volunteer of the year by Johnn Shorten Commodore and Captain Brian Sheridan Harbour Master at the Port of Galway

Vera Quinlan (Director of Cruising Irish Sailing Association) and Peter Owens (boat Danu) won the David Baynes Cruising Award for the best log. Presented by Johnn Shorten Commador Galway Bay Sailing Club 50th - Anniversary AwardsVera Quinlan (Director of Cruising Irish Sailing Association) and Peter Owens (boat Danu) won the David Baynes Cruising Award for the best log. Presented by Johnn Shorten Commador Galway Bay Sailing Club 50th - Anniversary Awards

Pierce Purcell Awarded the Lif1D0A0699 - Copy: Pierce Purcell -  Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Johnny Shorten Commador of the Galway Bay Sailing Club and Aonghus ConcannonPierce Purcell - Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Johnny Shorten Commador of the Galway Bay Sailing Club and Aonghus Concannon

Fergal Lyons presenting Cian and Rian Baynes of Joker, winners of the Oyster Festival Race Galway Bay Sailing ClubFergal Lyons presenting Cian and Rian Baynes of Joker, winners of the Oyster Festival Race Galway Bay Sailing Club

Fergal Lyons presenting Liam Burke, Tribal receiving the Spring Cup - Galway Bay Sailing Club 50th - Anniversary Awards night.Fergal Lyons presenting Liam Burke, Tribal receiving the Spring Cup - Galway Bay Sailing Club 50th - Anniversary Awards night. 

Published in Galway Harbour

Galway Bay Sailing Club will celebrate its Awards Night tomorrow night, Friday 11th December. 

Guests tomorrow include Donal Morrissy, Galway Harbourmaster Brian Sheridan and Pierce Purcell Junior.  Prizes to pbe presented include cruiser racing awards and a number of special recognition prizes. 

Galway Bay Sailing Club is based in New Harbour, Renville Oranmore, a mere 7 miles from Galway City. It is a very active Dinghy and Cruiser Sailing club which is open all year round. The club offers year-round Racing, Sail and Powerboat Training and Social Events from Juniors to Adults.

GBSC recently created a Go Fund Me page to raise funds for vital club development.

Members can access the awards by zoom with a link here on Facebook live too.

Galway Bay Sailing Club  Awards Night Running Order

  • Andrew Drysdale (MC)
  • Opening Address Commodore
  • Video Reel -1
  • Fergal Lyons / Dave Brennan Cruising awards
  • Cruiser 1
  • Cruiser 2
  • Cruiser 3 
  • Lir O Dowd (music)
  • Pat Irwin (Junior Awards)
  • Junior 1
  • Junior 2
  • Video Reel 2 (photos)
  • Conor Ownes (photo winner announced)
  • Tom Foote (talk and cruising award)
  • Vera Quinlan
  • Pierce Purcell Snr (M Moore tribute)
  • Johnny Shorten M Donnoue Award
  • Pat Ryan
  • Brian Sheridan (Talk and Special award)
  • Yannick Lemonnier
  • Video Reel 3 
  • Aonghus Concannon (Into to lifetime achievement award)
  • Johnny Shorten
Published in Galway Harbour

A group of onlookers gathered at the Quincentennial Bridge across the River Corrib immediately north of Galway city last Saturday evening were bemused by the sight of a series of sailing dinghies toppling themselves over to float underneath reports John Barry. The boats were completing Europe’s oldest and longest inland sailing race, having battled for 30 miles against a sometimes freshening south to southwest wind from Lisloughrey near Cong on the Galway-Mayo border.

The race was inaugurated over a hundred years before the bridge was built and, after several disappointing years where conditions forced the cancellation of the event, there was huge enthusiasm and a big fleet for this year’s event.

lough corrib2The course is more complex than this basic chart suggests

Competitors managed to sample every challenge that sailing could offer, with light airs at the very start and finish, a fast downwind stretch with spinnakers flying in the upper lake, and a long beat into the wind in narrow channels during the afternoon. Many of the centreboards and rudders acquired a few new bumps and bruises thanks to the notorious rocks throughout the course.

"The boats were completing Europe’s oldest and longest inland sailing race"

There was a great range of boats competing. In the catamaran fleet, an 18 ft Hobie Tiger was joined by a number of Dart 16s. The 420 was the most popular design in the monohulls with six competing. They were joined by a Wayfarer, Fireball, Laser Stratos, RS200, Topper Sport 14 and the only wooden boat in the race, Bryan Armstrong and his daughter Beth from Sligo with their immaculate GP 14 Solstice, inspired to join this very special “Bucket List” event by the last-minute call on on June 26th.

corrib cats away3The catamarans were asserting their dominance from the start. Photo: Pierce Purcell

Light airs getting away from Lisloughrey pier made for a slow departure, but the breeze freshened up in time for an upwind start in the wide expanse of the upper lake. Initially, the Hobie Tiger of Tim and Cormac Breen made the early running and pulled away from the chasing pack. As the morning wore on, the wind veered around to the south west and sailors took the opportunity to get the kites flying and the pace picked up substantially.

The wind freshened further after a well-earned lunch break and a refreshment or two at Kilbeg pier, making for a tricky upwind passage for the first part of the second leg through the narrowest part of the channel. This was followed by a long stretch close hauled on a starboard tack as the lake opened up. The Dart 16s took full advantage of the fresh and gusty breeze during this leg before the shelter of the river beckoned.

420 corrib4Jack Lee & Jack Nolan with their 420 placed sixth on both stages, and sixth overall at the finish. Photo: Pierce Purcell

First across the finish line at Corrib Village and overall race winners on adjusted time were Yannick Lemonnier and his son Sean – the youngest competitor in the race - from Galway Bay Sailing Club. Their total sailing time was an impressively fast 2 hours and 41 minutes. Second were Neil Mangan and Simon Griffin from Blessington with Johnny Murphy from Galway City Sailing Club in third. The prize for the best junior boat went to Rob Talbot from GCSC and Rian De Bairéad from Cumann Seotóireachta an Spidéil who came in fourth, while best senior went to Colm McIntyre and Mícheál Ó Fatharta of GCSC.

sean yannick5Overall winners – young Sean Lemonnier with his dad Yannick, who skippered the winning Mini 650 Port of Galway in the recent Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race
Since 1882, sailors have raced the length of Lough Corrib. While the origin of the wager which prompted the first races is shrouded in myth and lore, the early races were hotly contested and a great social occasion. These races were very much a test of stamina as well as skill, with competitors completing a round trip of over 60 nautical miles from Galway to Ashford Castle and back again. It was raced annually until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I.

The race was revived in its current format - sailed in one direction from Lisloughrey to Galway - in 1972, and again became a staple in the Galway maritime calendar. However, the weather gods have not been good to the race in recent years. This year, the sailing and boating clubs of Galway came together and moved the race to earlier in the Summer. There was a huge volunteer effort put in from all of the Clubs involved to make the day one to remember.

The organisers and participants were particularly grateful to Aoife Lyons, David Vinnell and John Lillis on the committee boat, Calie Clancy and Mark Francis who co- ordinated safety for the event, the flotilla of RIBs and motor boats who contributed to keeping everyone safe on the water, particularly the huge contribution from CRYC, Martin Roe for on-site catering at Kilbeg, the Civil Defence and all the Clubs who contributed equipment and made facilities available for the day.

armstrong crew6“We’re nearly there, Daddy….” Bryan and Beth Armstrong from Sligo found frustrating conditions in the last mile to the finish. Photo: Pierce Purcell

The clubs involved in the organization were Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club, Galway Commercial Boat Club, Galway Bay Sailing Club,
Galway City Sailing Club and
Cumann Seoltóireachta an Spidéil. As for the only wooden boat competing, the GP 14 from Sligo, Beth & Bryan Armstrong managed 7th in the first leg and 14th in the second making them 11th overall but with the crew - as he put it himself - “completely knackered” by the time he stepped ashore in Corrib Village seven hours after leaving Lisloughrey.

Results here

Published in Galway Harbour

Sailors and boating enthusiasts from Galway’s sailing and boating clubs are coming together next month to follow their forebears in Europe’s oldest and longest inland sailing race.

On Saturday 29 June the fleet of dinghies will pit their wits against the elements and each other on the historic route along the length of Lough Corrib from Lisloughrey near Cong to Galway city.

Since 1882, sailors have raced the length of Lough Corrib. While the origin of the wager which prompted the first races is shrouded in myth and lore, the early races were hotly contested and a great social occasion.

They were very much a test of stamina as well as skill, with competitors completing a round trip of over 60 nautical miles from Galway to Ashford Castle and back again. It was raced annually until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I.

The race was revived in its current format, sailed in one direction from Lisloughrey to Galway, in 1972 and again became a stable in the Galway maritime calendar.

However, the weather gods have not been good to the race in recent years.

So, to ensure a successful event this year, the boating and sailing clubs around Galway have come together and moved the event to an earlier slot in the calendar.

It will take place this year on 29 June and follow the traditional steamer channel through the lake.

Full details of the race and the online registration are available on the Galway Bay Sailing Club website.

Transport will leave Corrib Rowing and Yacht Club and the Galway Commercial Boat Club at 8am to bring sailors to the start line in Lisloughrey. From there, the boats will make their way to Kilbeg for lunch and then continue on to the finish line in the lower Corrib.

However, the challenges don’t end there, with the Quincentennial Bridge providing a final obstacle to be negotiated — usually with the mast, sails and sailors in the water!

Following the race, there will be the chance to relive the decisive moments of the race at a reception hosted by the Commercial club after the historical silverware has been presented at CRYC.

Galway Bay Sailing Club has a link to the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions, as well as the online registration form. For more details about the 2019 Cong-Galway Sailing Race, see the Facebook event page HERE.

Published in Racing

#Laser - The Galway Advertiser is reporting that Galway Bay Sailing Club member Richard Hayes has completed a solo circumnavigation of Ireland by Laser dinghy.

Hayes sailed 54 days over three-and-a-half months since 27 May to complete the near 2,500km challenge last Friday 14 September in aid of heart and stroke charity Croí — and he is still raising funds for the remarkable effort online.

“This is one of the smallest boats ever to have circumnavigated Ireland and to have successfully done so without a support team on the water,” Hayes shared on Facebook of the achievement.

W M Nixon's Sailing On Saturday this weekend (22nd September) takes a detailed look at Richard Hayes’ great achievement, and other notable small boat voyages round Ireland

Published in Laser

#ICRA - The Irish Cruiser Racing Association has reaffirmed its decision to allocate the 2018 ICRA National Championships to the West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association (WIORA) and Galway Bay Sailing Club.

The event from 16-18 August 2018 will be run in conjunction with the 2018 WIORA West Coast Championships from 15-17 August.

This marks the Galway Bay Sailing Club’s first time hosting the ICRA Nationals, which were held at the Royal Cork this past summer, and members will be eager to show off their club’s revamped facilities in Galway Docks.

Reduced early entry fees with free cranage and berthage, accommodation packages, details of two prizegiving parties, the Notice of Race and entry form will be made available shortly, according to the GBYC.

Published in ICRA

In the Committee Room of Galway Bay Sailing Cub there hangs a neatly-framed flag writes W M Nixon. But the flag itself is no longer neat – it has been battered by the winds. This flag has been about, and then some. But how did Galway Bay SC come by it, and what is it?

Apparently they acquired it from their first Commodore, who was one of an old local landed family, the Waithmanns. But as the flag is the burgee of the Rear Commodore of the Royal St George Yacht Club, he in turn can only have been gifted it, as no Waithmann was ever Rear Commodore of the Royal St George YC.

So what Rear Commodore of the Royal St George had any links with Galway? Step forward the Hon. Arthur Ernest Guinness (1876-1949). He was Rear Commodore Royal St George YC from 1821 to 1939. His main club was actually the Royal Yacht Squadron. But as his family also happened to include Ashford Castle on Lough Corrib in their very considerable property portfolio, he kept a steam yacht on the lake and was a member of the old Royal Galway Yacht Club as well.

In fact, he’d a personal fleet of yachts, including the square rigger Fantome which, properly speaking, was a ship. And one of the odder vessels in his ownership was a flying yacht. You soon become accustomed to the unusual in considering the A E Guinness flotilla. But a flying yacht? Yes indeed.

It seems that in the 1920s the Danish government was experimenting with a substantial flying boat designed and built R J Mitchell, who later designed the Spitfire. The Danes wanted a flying and floating machine capable of carrying large torpedoes, and they called Mitchell’s 1927 prototype Nanok, which means polar bear in Inuit. But while Nanok without the torpedoes flew well, when they were suspended from the machine ready for attack, their presence so distorted the flying characteristics that Nanok became a menace.

So the whole project was called off. But Mitchell was left with this rather fine flying boat with nothing to do. Then Ernest Guinness got to hear of it, and he had her converted with yacht-style accommodation for 12. Yet even with all the luxuries and fripperies, the machine – now re-named Solent and reputedly registered as a yacht, though we’ve yet to find evidence of this – gave Ernest Guinness and his chums a very handy way of getting to Ashford from the south of England.

They would take off from the Solent in Solent, and fly to what most of them still thought of as Kingstown Harbour. Then after lunch in the Royal St George Yacht Club, they’d take off again and land at Lough Corrib off Lisloughry, up beside Ashford Castle. This was all became so agreeable that the word is that the comings and goings of the flying yacht Solent on the Corrib occurred so often that it was scarcely considered worthy of local mention.

guinness flying yacht2Ernest Guinness’s flying yacht Solent at Lisloughry on Lough Corrib

But now, what we’re left with today is the intriguing thought that the battered burgee up on the wall in Galway Bay Sailing Club once flutterd proudly atop a moored flying yacht on Lough Corrib. Or are purists going to insist that the special burgee could only have been flown if the owner was actually on board?

Published in Historic Boats

The impressive upgrade of Galway Bay Sailing Club’s clubhouse at Renville New Harbour near Oranmore at the head of Galway Bay was officially opened on Sunday by Hildegarde Naughton TD as the highlight of a sunny afternoon’s celebration of a very efficiently completed project, brought in on time and within budget.

The complete revamping of the changing rooms and other ancillary facilities has greatly enhanced the club’s ability to host major events.

galway bay6People who make things happen in Galway Bay SC include (left to right) Mark Kelly (Hon Treas), Tricia Hogan (PRO), Hildegarde Naughton TD, Phyllis Hayes (Rear Commodore Training), Alan Donnelly (Rear Commodore Dinghies) and Paul Ryan of Accessible Sailing Photo: Murt Fahy

While the clubhouse retains the friendly atmosphere of its well-established social areas which are renowned for their hospitable gatherings, the changing rooms, boat storage and workshop facilities have been up-graded to an international standard through a visionary scheme seen through by GBSC members Pat and Emer Irwin – she was the Architect while he was the Project Manager.

galway bay6A job well done. Hon Treas. Mark Kelly (left) with husband and wife team Pat & Emer Irwin, (Project Manager and Architect respectively) and Hildegarde Naughton TD. Photo: Murt Fahy

The entire building and design job, and the general up-grading of the clubhouse, has been under the overall direction of former Commodore Gary Allen, who heads the building group with notable efficiency, so much so that it has been suggested they should now be tasked with advising on solving the national housing shortage....Be that as it may, there’s no doubt that when they decide to do something at GBSC, they do it properly.

galway bay6It’s official. Cutting the tape at GBSC are (left to right) former Commodore Gary Allen (Chair of GBSC Building Group), Vice Commodore John Murphy, Hildegarde Naughton TD, and former Commodore Piece Purcell. Photo Murt Fahy

galway bay6Shedding the tie of responsibility.....The only one wearing a tie in Galway Bay’s hot sunshine was former GBSC Commodore Pierce Purcell, who was additionally there in his role as the outgoing Western Member of the Board of the Irish Sailing Association. Once the new clubhouse was officially opened, Ciaran Murphy (left) the ISA’s Regional Development Officer for the West & North, supervised the handover of the official tie to incoming western Board Member Rory Carberry (centre), while Pierce Purcell (right) finally gets a chance to cool down

Published in Galway Harbour

There is really no reasonable comparison between Ireland’s eastern and western seaboards writes W M Nixon. The east coast is quite densely populated, and while it has some areas of impressive scenery, in general it lacks the majestic inlets and islands which make sailing the Atlantic seaboard such a joy. That said, there’s no getting away from the fact that, taken overall, the east coast leads in economic activity, and at the very least there’s no doubting it has much less rain.

But when the rain in the west clears to reveal the coastline in all its glory, the extra precipitation seems a small price to pay for such visual natural abundance. And then too, while there are fewer people, they’re all so much larger than life, and bursting with innovative and entertaining ideas, that you’re inclined to think one western person is worth a dozen easterners.

However, those of us living and doing most of our sailing on the humdrum old east coast have one inescapable and total advantage over those in the west. When our east coast life gets too stressed and samey, we can escape for a while to the big country, fresh air and crazy attitudes of the west.

If you live in the west, you simply can’t genuinely experience this moment of release. But on the east coast, if life gets tedious, all that is necessary is head west for a day or two. The moment you cross the River Shannon, the spirits lift, and as you crest the watershed between the Shannon and Galway Bay, the big generous country of the west is rising on the horizon, and all is much better with the world.

In the west, too, they operate on a different time scale. And they do it in a different time zone. Until the railways of the 19th Century made some national co-ordination of time essential, local time meant that the recognised noon was later the further west you moved. As is only natural, Galway was twenty minutes later than Dublin. It was only with the exigencies of the Great War in 1916 that an Official Act was passed making uniform time-keeping a legal requirement. Oddly enough, no-one seems to have discussed what effect this draconian measure might have had in provoking the outbreak of the Easter Rising in 1916. Be that as it may, all we know for now is that in Galway, they still operate on a local time zone which is at least twenty minutes later than everyone else’s time, and is probably nearer half an hour.

Galway hooker connemara 2Galway hookers racing hard off the Connemara coast. This is the popular image of sailing in the west, but while vivid and true, the complete story of western sailing is much broader. Photo Paul Harris

This became apparent last week when I wheeled into the car park at Galway Bay Sailing Club to give a performance of the current illustrated warblefest, which is about Ireland’s unique relationship with gaff rig and how it has emerged that Irish sailors led the switchover to Bermudan. The details of that will have to wait for another blog, but on this particular night, the immediate concern – with less than a quarter of an hour to go to the advertised start time – was that there just one other car in the car park, and that was Vice Commodore John Murphy, who was there a minute earlier to open the place up for the night.

“Oh Jaysus, Nixon” thought I, “you’ve bombed tonight, there’s not going to be a soul here.” But there wasn’t a moment to brood on the prospect of a showbiz flop, for I was with Pierce Purcell the mover and shaker of the west, and he wanted to show me the almost-finished refurb job they’ve been doing on the ground floor setup in the clubhouse, where they’ve managed to greatly enlarge the floor-space and rationalise its use for a state-of-the art changing room and multiple-use room and boat and equipment store setup.

You know the feeling you get when you’re looking at a job which is going very well indeed. It’s heartening. The re-furb in GBSC is precisely that. It’s being overseen by members Pat and Emer Irwin - he’s the Project Manager and she’s the Architect – and is being done with exemplary efficiency, on time and within a budget of only €160,000, which is the best value in building work I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Galway Bay Sailing Club 3Galway Bay SC is nearing the completion of a clever refurbishment project which is within time, within budget, and excellent value. Photo Pierce Purcell

We emerged much encouraged from seeing all this to be further cheered by the fact the club was warming up with its famous big stove in the middle of the bar getting into its stride, and the place filling up with people from near and far. For of course I’d temporarily forgotten that Galway’s in a different time zone and it wouldn’t be until around 8.30pm that we’d have some idea of the real turnout, and how effective it might be for the yellow welly collection. This is an idea imported from Poolbeg Y & BC which provides the most painless way of raising funds for the lifeboats. You just provide one yellow RNLI seaboot and request the audience to see how many €5 notes they can get into it. Usually it concludes with some worthwhile figure inevitably ending in either zero or five, but Galway being Galway, the night concluded with the boot yielded up a sum ending with six euro and eight cents……

The show became something we all had to go through with, just in order to justify being there, so it went ahead and finally got to its meandering conclusion. Then the lights went up to reveal even more people had arrived. Pierce Purcell had certainly done his stuff in the phonecall chivvying department, for despite all your modern means of instant total-cover communication, the personal phone call seems to be more important than ever, and the photo below gives some indication of the coverage he achieved, while also hinting at the conviviality of an evening in which a shared love of boats and sailing and a good club atmosphere completely obliterated any feeling of it still being winter outside.

west coast sailors 4Western gathering. In Galway Bay SC are (back row, left to right) Simon McGibney (Commodore ICRA & ISA Board Member), John Leech (Commodore, Lough Derg YC),’s W M Nixon, Adrian McConnell (Royal Western YC, Kilrush), Peter Fernie (Rear Commodore Irish Cruising Club) and Richard Glynn (Commodore, Royal Western of Ireland YC). Front row left to right Elaine O’Mahony, (outgoing Hon Sec Foynes YC, 2016 Volvo ISA Training Centre of the Year), Cormac McDonnacha (Chairman, WIORA Week), and Gary Allen, outgoing Commodore GBSC. Photo: Pierce Purcell

It was good to talk again with Barry Martin of Galway who made such an impact as bo’sun on the Asgard II many years ago that he found himself being recruited into the same role for both the much larger Britsh sail training schooners Winston Churchill and Malcolm Millar, a job in which he was so successful that he ended his sail training career as a senior officer on the Churchill.

There too were Jim Grealish and Barry Heskin, against whom we used to race inshore and offshore in the days when we each had boats around the 35ft size, boats of very different type yet rating notably similar, so if the Morrisssey-Grealish-Heskin squad appeared on the starting line with Joggernaut, aboard Witchcraft of Howth we knew we were into a boat-for-boat battle in which no quarter would be given, yet everyone would be the best of friends afterwards.

But if there was ample opportunity in GBSC for memories of good times past, equally there was plenty of discussion of the here and now, and it was fascinating to meet up with Dan Mill who runs the busy boatyard in the industrial estate beside Galway Docks. Dan’s story is such that we’ll be developing it into a complete blog in due course, sufficient to say at the moment that his links to Ireland are extraordinarily complex, for although he was born in England, at the age of three his parents together with another family set off to sail to New Zealand from Lymington in the then-bermudan-rigged 43ft Tyrrell ketch Maybird, and Maybird of course is now back in Ireland fully restored as a gaff ketch, and well-known in the ownership of Darryl Hughes.

Maybird Bermudan ketch 5Maybird as a Bermudan ketch. It was under this rig that Dan Mill sailed on her from England to New Zealand while still a child

As for young Dan, growing up in New Zealand he naturally moved into boat-building in what is probably the best boat-building school in the world, the New Zealand marine industry. But then Mna na hEireann took a hand in his life-path.

It would be difficult to overestimate the influence that the charms of the Women of Ireland have had on the development of a small yet top-level boat-building industry in this country. But there’s something about marine craftsmen and Irish women which gets them together and entices the craftsmen to settle in Ireland despite the fact that, let’s face it, anyone trying to produce such top quality work here is ploughing a lonely furrow a long way from the great centres of the specialist industry, such as the Solent district, parts of the Baltic, certain places in Brittany, and particularly New Zealand.

Yet the women get them, and they get them home to Ireland, and they keep them. Thus we have the likes of Dan Mill in Galway, Steve Morris in Kilrush, and Bill Trafford in the hidden depths of the country near Mitchellstown, all three of them trying to ensure work of the highest quality in a country where “Ah sure, ’twill do” is sometimes the defining motto in woodwork.

Having arrived in Galway, Dan Mill found himself within the orbit of the formidable John Killeen, with whom all ideas are possible, and somehow they found themselves setting out to build a cruising version of an Open 60.

Nimmo yacht construction 6The galley area in Nimmo under construction

Nimmo Yacht table 7Beauty in detail – Dan Mill’s craftsmanship in evidence on a table for Nimmo.

In the end she became a very one-off 68-footer named Nimmo in honour of the great Scottish harbour engineer Alexander Nimmo, who is one of John’s heroes. When she was eventually finished after four years with Dan being responsible for virtually every bit of skilled work in her complex construction and superb finish, he was exhausted, but his reputation in Galway was well established at a very high level, and he’s now the man to go to with boat maintenance needs and problems. He’s not above undertaking a mid-level job such as putting a new deck and coachroof on an older fibreglass hull, but as for launching another project on the Nimmo scale, that would require some thinking about.

Launching day Nimmo 8Launching day for Nimmo, built in a very basic shed in Galway
Dan Mill 9Dan Mill this week in the boat yard in Galway

Nevertheless, talking with the man who built Nimmo was an eloquent reminder that there’s a lot more to sailing in the West than Galway Hookers and other traditional craft. But equally it was a reminder that the traditional skills are still being maintained and indeed nourished out beyond the Pale. So after a leisurely breakfast next morning with Pierce and Susan Purcell in their dream house in Clarinbridge, with a busy red squirrel feasting on the bird table close outside the generous window, there was time to inspect Pierce’s boatshed out the back, one of those green steel sheds which sit so well in the Irish countryside, particularly when – like Pierce – you have your 26-footer comfortably winterised in it, and a fine well-equipped workbench right to hand.

Clarenbridge Pierce purcell 10What price a facility like this at your house on the East Coast? Pierce Purcell in “the little shed out the back” at Clarenbridge Photo W M Nixon
It’s the sort of ideal setup very few can manage on the over-crowded East Coast, and I headed south musing on the east-west imbalance, and readying the thinking for something entirely different - the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick. This started as the backup service for the restoration of the Conor O’Brien 57ft ketch Ilen by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt near Baltimore, and recently in the Ilen School they’ve produced deckhouses for Ilen to the highest standard, and are currently finishing the last of the new spars.

But under the inspiration of Gary MacMahon (who personally was responsible for bring Ilen home from the Falklands) and others such as Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey, the Ilen School has become a remarkable educational and training resource undertaking a wide variety of projects such as creating replicas of the traditional Shannon Estuary gandelows, and building a class of the very handy CityOne sailing dinghies to a design by the late Theo Rye, a successful project which further revealed the multiple talents of that much-mourned expert in every aspect of naval architecture.

grand banks dories Ilen BoatbuildingCourses constructing traditional Grand Banks Dories provide popular night classes at the Ilen Boatbuilding School in Limerick. Photo W M Nixon

Another handy course which the Ilen School offers is through building traditional Grand Banks dories, simple yet effective boats which must have seemed very small indeed as you were left behind in the Grand Banks fog by the Bluenose fishing schooners to get on with the day’s business of ling-lining for cod. By the time the schooner found you again towards evening, your little dory would be dangerously laden with a great catch of wet and scaly silvery wealth.

In fact, the Ilen School is a whole host of experiences, for there in the main work-space were the mighty new spars for Ilen together with the distinctly aged original gaff which goes all the way back to Tom Moynihan and his shipwrights in Baltimore 91 years ago. And in another workspace, the Ilen team are building two very able little dinghies to the Valentine type from dimensions supplied by Hal Sisk, and they will in time be Ilen’s boats. But before you get to these sensibly–shaped little dinghies, you’ve to take on board the Hildasay, the Ilen school’s latest acquisition.

Valentine dinghy Hal sisk 12The Valentine dinghy, from plans provided by Hal Sisk, has been built at the school to be a ship’s boat for Ilen. Photo W M Nixon

Ilen gaff boom 14Ilen’s new main gaff boom (left) and the original (right), which was shaped in Baltimore in 1926. Photo W M Nixon

mainmast Ilen 13The mighty mainmast for Ilen, with topmast temporarily in place in Limerick, is ready for dismantling and transport to Baltimore. Photo W M Nixon

We all know that Limerick is a Viking city, in fact there are those who would argue that it still is, and in its rawest state too. But nevertheless it takes a while to get your head round how a boat like Hildasay, of the very purest Viking descent, should have ended up in a big shed in a trading estate in Limerick.

Hildasay was built in Shetland as a sailing development of the traditional clinker-built sixareen (six oars) in 1951, and is such a sweet little 26-footer that your heart falls for her, even if your head tells you that the slim Viking stern mean there’s very little space just where you most need it most, while the classic clinker construction poses its own special maintenance problems in a vessel which is a semi-keelboat.

Jack Hawks Shetland sixareen 15Jack Hawks with the Shetland sailing sixareen Hildasay, whuch he has donated to the Ilen Boatbuilding School. Photo: W M Nixon
She has been in and around the Shannon Estuary for abut 15 years, but owner Jack Hawks was recently seriously ill, and though he has fully recovered he felt the demands of Hildasay were getting a little too much for him, and wondered if the Ilen Boat Building School would be interested in her as a gift.

She’s an ideal gift, as she’s of a size to be very manageable, she provides special maintenance problems which, while not enormous, are very educational as part of the school’s courses, and each summer when she’s in commission she could be based either on Lough Derg, or somewhere down the Estuary.

Team Ilen School 16The “day team” at the Ilen School with their new acquisition Hildasay include Luki O’Brien, Jack Hawks, Elan Bromley, Owen Lacey, Sid Dorchenas, Matt Diss, Gary MacMahon and Luna MacMahon. Photo W M Nixon
The problem in Limerick is that though the Shannon is very much in the midst of it, access to it in the heart of town is limited, and in any case below the weir the big tides are a problem. But up on Lough Derg or further down the Estuary, there are all sorts of opportunities to get conveniently afloat, and having the use of an interesting sailing boat which is bigger than a CityOne or a gandelow is a natural add-on to the Ilen School’s activities, providing a broadening of the mind for some young would-be boatbuilders who may have spent too much time solely at the workbench without seeing what the resulting use of the end product is all about. And who knows, but they might even manage a race with the lovely gaff cutter Sally O’Keeffe built by Steve Morris of Kilrush with the community team from nearby Querrin as a replica of the traditional Shannon Estuary trading hooker.

Having seen the possibilities of mind-broadening in Limerick, the final part of this western tour took in a project which is mind-blowing. Admittedly the good people of the townland of Skenakilla would never for a minute think of themselves as being in the west, but for the rest of us this hidden spot beyond Mitchellstown in North Cork seems to be in the middle of nowhere. But then when you’ve found it, and spent a bit of time with the ebullient Bill Trafford in his remarkable Alchemy Marine boat workshop in Skenakilla, you feel you’re at the hub of the universe.

Bill is another case of Mna na hEireann reeling them in – a classic yachtbuilder and particularly an enthusiast for the International 6 Metre Class, he met an Irish girl and that was that. He made a living plying his highly specialized trade the length and breadth of our island working from a van, and then discovered his own niche in doing interesting, indeed extraordinary things, with old fibreglass boats.

Bill Trafford Elizabethan 23 17Bill Trafford’s transformation of an Elizabethan 23 won international awards last year.

Etchells 22 lengthened 20Bill Trafford’s current project at Alchemy Marine is the transformation of an Etchells 22 into a weekend cruiser by raising the freeboard, and providing a beautifully-made coachroof (foreground) Photo: W M Nixon

Bill TraffordBill Trafford – he is as enthusiastic about the full potential of glassfibre construction as he is about using classic yacht joinery work. Photo W M Nixon

He’s unusual in that he’s as enthusiastic about the wide potential of glassfibre construction as he is profoundly satisfied by working in wood to the highest classic yacht standards. While his special abilities were well known to a select few, he came to international notice last year when one of his masterpieces, the complete re-working of a seemingly tired little Elizabthan 23 into an elegant 26ft sloop with a classic New England style, was awarded a top prize in the Classic Boat annual competition.

His current project for a Cork owner is even more intriguing, the transformation of an ordinary and no longer young Etchells 22 into a 34ft LOA day cruiser of unique appearance. He has raised the topsides using glassfibre moulding to give her a completely fresh sheerline, he has transformed the stern by giving it a new-look counter with a curving transom which gives more than a nod in the direction of the unique sterns of the Friendship sloops of Maine, and he has built the most beautiful coachroof in the best Knud Reimers style to provide a boat which comes with a heady combination of Down East and Scandinavia to her.

Etchells 22 lengthened 20The lengthened stern has seen the rudder being moved aft by half a metre to provide a much roomier cockpit. Photo: W M Nixon

west sail21While compact, the accommodation provides for weekend cruising, but it’s expected to be comfortable day sailing which will be the best use of the “new” boat. Photo: W M Nixon

The stern is lengthened such that the LOA is now 34ft instead of the original 30.5ft, and the possibilities this has provided for a large cockpit to match the very pleasant accommodation (including a proper toilet compartment and a Beta diesel auxiliary) have been met by moving the entire rudder half a metre aft.

With his experience of tweaking boats this way and that, Bill reckons the sailing balance will if anything be improved by this re-location of the rudder. Personally, in the standard Etchells I’d always thought it too far forward anyway, so I could live with this change, yet found it entertaining to note that while he talked of moving the rudder aft by half a metre, when I asked him how he calculated the perfect-looking camber in the new deck, he said his rule of thumb is one inch for every four feet of beam. This is as near as dammit one in fifty, but his mixture of measurement systems makes him just like the rest of us who are mere bodgers, for when we’re measuring something we just use the side of the steel rule which comes up first, be it metric or imperial…….

deck camber 22Under the new foredeck – Bill’s rule of thumb is a deck camber of one in 48. Photo: W M Nixon

This is very much a bespoke project, so Bill has been able to introduce all sorts of quirky little features, a very attractive one being the ports for the navigation lights, which are set well into the hull either side of the stemhead, and look for all the world like the eyes put in Mediterranean boats to ward off evil spirits. In fact, they give such an appearance of good cheer to this new-old boat that when you see her from ahead, she looks for all the world as though she is smiling so much that she’s about to burst out laughing.

ports navigation lights 23The Watchful One…….it was a Bill Trafford’s idea to build special ports for the navigation lights. Photo W M Nixon

There’s still quite a bit to do before she’s ready for the water, but Bill is now in such a rhythm of working on his own that he can put in long productive hours without really noticing it, so we hope to get back to Skenakilla sooner rather than later. As for those around him, one unexpected advantage of being near Mitchellstown is you’re right in the heart of the dairy engineering industry, where the use and working of stainless steel is second nature. In fact, down there they sometimes use stainless steel which is of a superior grade to the 316 which is usually good enough for the rest of us.

Truth to tell, I didn’t know there were types of stainless steel superior to 316, but you learn many things down in Skenakilla, and it was encouraging to hear that the best workers in the stainless steel fabricating shops are happy to lend their skills in their spare time to bring Bill’s self-made stainless steel fittings up to professional standards of finish.

stainless steel yacht fittings 24Thanks to the local presence of high-grade stainless steel engineering for the dairy industry, it has been possible to make these fittings in Skenakilla. Photo: W M Nixon

Yacht coachroof 25A work of art in its own right, the new coachroof will be fitted any day now. Photo: W M Nixon

All being well, the new boat will be a star at the 25th Anniversary Glandore Classics Regatta from July 23rd to 29th, in fact Bill rather hopes the owner might consider taking her to the Classics Regatta celebrating the Bicentenary of Dun Laoghaire Harbour from July 6th to 9th as part of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

The good news here is that Cathy MacAleavey, chair of the Dun Laoghaire Classics organising committee, and Sally Wyles, who heads up the Glandore organisation, got together last weekend to see about selling their two events as a sort of package, as the clear fortnight between them makes participation in both a very realistic proposition.

Certainly the Dun Laoghaire Classics is beginning to look impressive, particularly if you go by the measuring method of counting the number of famous designers involved. The recent interest shown by Rob Mason of Milford Haven to come over with his newly-restored 36ft Alexander Richardson-designed 36ft Myfanwy brings a once-famous Liverpool designer back into the limelight. It’s where he deserves to be, for Richardson designed John Jameson’s all-conquering Irex in 1884.

Alexander Richardson 36 footer MyfanwyRob Mason with his restored 1897 Alexander Richardson 36-footer Myfanwy off Milford Haven. He has indicated interest in participation in the Bicentenary Regatta in Dun Laoghaire in July

In Dublin Bay, Myfanwy would see this Richardson creation shaping up to designs by G L Watson, Alfred Mylne, William Fife, John Kearney, O’Brien Kennedy, Arthur Robb and others, and that’s the list already with the net only newly cast.

As for what Glandore can offer, there’s at least one unique proposition. A special race will be sailed to honour the memory of Theo Rye, the fleet including the CityOnes from Limerick and a host of other boats, new and old. On each and every one of them, Theo would have had something new and of real interest to say, for that’s the kind of devoted student of naval architecture he was throughout his far-too-short life. He is much missed.

Theo Rye 27Much missed. The late Theo Rye aboard the 1887 Fife cutter Ayrshire Lass, which was restored by Michael Kennedy at Dunmore East. Theo Rye will be commemorated in a special event at the 25th Anniversary Glandore Classics Regatta from July 23rd to 29th. Photo: Darryl Hughes

Published in W M Nixon’s W M “Winkie” Nixon will be talking the talk at Galway Bay Sailing Club’s mid-week gathering at 8pm on Wednesday, February 1st in the re-vamped clubhouse at Rinville in Oranmore, and all are welcome.

The hospitable GBSC clubhouse is at the heart of one of the main sailing centres on a coastline as much renowned for its association with gaff-rigged traditional craft as it is for being the base for some of Ireland’s most modern offshore racers. But in a wide-ranging profusely-illustrated talk, one of the points Nixon will be making is that it was leading Irish amateur sailors who were in the forefront of the changeover from gaff to Bermudan rig.

Drawing on his extensive experience of sailing both abroad and in Ireland (which he has cruised or raced round more times than he can remember), as a sailing journalist and historian Nixon has discerned significant sailing trends which first emerged in Ireland, but became obscured by major national historical events.

However, he promises that the main theme of his talk – “When Gaffers Weren’t Old” – is the sheer pleasure and fascination of sailing. Admission is free and open to all, but a seaboot at the door will be there to receive €5 from anyone who feels like contributing to the Lifeboats.

Published in Galway Harbour
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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.


While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset


While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

© Afloat 2020

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