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This weekend's Women at the Helm Regatta 2024, hosted by the National Yacht Club and supported by Sia Partners and Irish Sailing, begins on Friday, May 24th, with a motivational panel featuring Olympic sailing silver medallist Annalise Murphy, solo offshore sailor Joan Mulloy and former RTÉ broadcaster and sailing enthusiast Bryan Dobson.

Race Officers Mairead NiCheallachain (keelboats) and Suzanne McGarry (dinghies) will hold a briefing for competitors on Saturday, May 25th at 11.15 in the National Yacht Club. Registration will take place on Friday 16.30-18.30 and on Saturday 10.00-12.00 at the NYC Race Office.

Entries closed at midnight on Tuesday, May 21st, and one of the event organisers, Ann Kirwan, told Afloat, "We are delighted with our final tally of 63 boats, all with female helms. The entries include 22 Water Wags who will now race next Wednesday, May 29th, due to this evening's cancellation". 

41 boats will compete over the coming weekend, with 28 keelboats and 13 dinghies racing in the DBSC race on Saturday afternoon, with 3 races scheduled on each of the 2 race courses on Sunday.

Entries include sailors from Poolbeg, West Kirby, and Mayo, as well as Dun Laoghaire, Kirwan said.

In addition to Friday's speaker supper there will be a BBQ, live music, and a drinks reception for competitors after racing on Saturday, and food and refreshments will be available after sailing on Sunday as well as the event prize-giving. The coveted prize of the Roy Family Perpetual Trophy will be awarded for the best team performance as well as many other prizes.

Listen to Ann Kirwan in an Afloat podcast on the forthcoming Women at the Helm Regatta 2024 here 

Published in Women in Sailing

After a frustrating May Bank Holiday weekend and the absence of wind that led to the cancellation of the Feva East Coast championships, the various host yacht clubs around the country were rewarded with great conditions last weekend.

The Optimist Ulster Championships hosted a large fleet in Larne, possibly one of the largest for an Optimist Ulsters, showing the healthy status of the fleet nationally. Six National Yacht Club young sailors travelled up. The club had representation in all four fleets.

Regatta Coaching is an entry-level fleet with an emphasis on fun, friends, and short races. Our youngest sailor, 8-year-old Cormac Whelan, enjoyed the conditions, finishing 8th in the fleet, and was all smiles when he received his prize (for best U9). His sister Alanah put her club Easter camp learnings to contribution, completing all 8 races and finishing 13th in the regatta Racing fleet. This fleet is also an entry-level fleet with a stronger focus on developing racing skills with a series of short races.

In the main fleet, the NYC juniors delivered a strong performance led by Alex Butcher. Alex has recently been selected in the Irish team going to the Europeans and every opportunity to perfect his skills is good to take. He started with a very strong Saturday, including a race win, taking a championship early lead. But he was never safe and settled with 3rd overall after 6 races of close and intense battles on the race course. his teammate 11 years old Louis Tricket, took a few races to get to business but had a stellar Sunday, including a race win and a 2nd to climb right back to 7th overall. Eabha Brennan Hobbs completed the team's excellent show, securing 8th overall and 3rd girl with a series including 3 top 10 (all secured the Sunday).

Jacob Browne was the sole NYC sailor competing in the senior fleet. His best finish was 10th, and he settled for 22nd overall, falling foul of the black flag rule in the final race.

NYC coach Sam Ledoux (formerly a team Ireland Optimist sailor) was happy with the overall performance and is looking forward to continuing the good work at training and events.

Toppers

The Topper Traveler series is now well underway and the fleet completed 4 good races in Dunmore East. 8 NYC sailors were competing and once again showed the club is at the forefront of Topper sailing in Ireland. Gemma Brady secured her first win of the season with a scoreline almost flawless (3 wins and a 2nd). Kate Kenny's 4th and Grace Keating's 5th rounded up a good weekend for the girls. John Kenny had a great event, taking 6th overall and top junior sailor and a few ahead of Rory Brennan Hobbs 9th. James Gorman had strong upwind legs, but he is looking forward to figuring out how to best progress his downwind back in training. Max Swan and Ruth Thomson also competed gaining valuable experience and looking to progress before the next events and the worlds in Spain.

ILCA Masters

The ILCA Masters were completed in Howth... Certainly a junior at heart, Alison Pigot secured 2nd Grand Master in the ILCA6 category.

The Friday night series was launched with two great races. Banter and friendly racing were on the menu, with a large Feva contingent leading the way.

The club dinghies are up and running, the summer courses are filling up, and the club instructors are looking forward to a summer filled with fun, friends, surprises, events of sorts, and some racing. Don't miss out! Nothing beats a few weeks to build invaluable memories on the water.

Published in National YC
Tagged under

The 2024 Women At The Helm Regatta (WATH) will be hosted by the National Yacht Club over the weekend of May 24-26.

The event encourages female sailors who may not normally lead, to step up and make the move from crew to helm. The event is open to all female helms from teenagers to seniors, with multiple prizes on offer, and participation is mixed.

The regatta will kick off with a Speaker Supper the evening of Friday, May 24th, with Olympic silver medalist sailor Annalise Murphy (and national road champion cyclist) and Joan Mulloy and moderator, former RTE news anchor, Bryan Dobson.

The regatta is for keelboats and dinghies, with all entrants aged 16+. The event is run  in association with SIA Partners.

The National Yacht Club hosts the 2024 Women At The Helm Regatta on May 24-26The National Yacht Club hosts the 2024 Women At The Helm Regatta on May 24-26

The criteria is for a female to helm all boats, but unlike the previous WATH regattas, the NYC organisers have dropped the requirement for at least 50% of the crew to be female.

There will be one race on Saturday afternoon, which will be the Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) race, and WATH entrants who are not members of DBSC will race in it. Boats entered in DBSC and WATH will be scored in both.

For classes that may have more than one DBSC race (dinghies and Green fleet), only the first race will count towards the WATH regatta.

Former Figaro sailor Joan Mulloy will speak at the 2024 Women At The Helm RegattaFormer Figaro sailor Joan Mulloy will speak at the 2024 Women At The Helm Regatta

Three races are scheduled for Sunday, followed by prize giving in NYC, including the coveted prize of the Roy Family Perpetual Trophy for best team performance. 

If all four races are sailed there will be one discard. The reality is that not all DBSC boat owners will pass the helm to a non-regular female helm, so if a male helms on Saturday, that race can be discarded, and all three Sunday races counted for WATH.

The Water Wags' second race on Wednesday, May 22nd, will be their single WATH race.

The event will include a female-helmed cruise in company on Sunday, the 26th.

In addition to the Speaker Supper the social activities will include a post-sailing BBQ with live music on Saturday evening, and a BBQ with music and the prize giving on Sunday afternoon.

The Notice of Race and Entry Form is here

Published in Women in Sailing

The National Yacht Club's first 'Cruise in Company' sail of the season saw an impressive turnout of 20 boats.

The boats gathered at Scotsman's Bay on Sunday, May 5, at 12:30 p.m. before embarking on a leisurely 12-mile journey south to the Greystones Harbour Marina in County Wicklow.

A varied assortment of NYC boats gathered in Scotsman's Bay on Sunday, May 5 Photo: Michael ChesterA varied assortment of NYC boats gathered in Scotsman's Bay on Sunday, May 5 Photo: Michael Chester

The participants planned to arrive at Greystones before or around 4 p.m. They were greeted with a reception on Greystones Marina's dock with Club Commodore Peter Sherry and Vice Commodore Rosemary Cadogan, followed by an evening meal in nearby Greystones town restaurants.

Brian and Rebecca Hall on the J109 “Something Else,” was one of the National Yacht Club Cruising Group's 20 boats that travelled on their first ‘Cruise in Company’ sail of the season. Photo: Michael ChesterBrian and Rebecca Hall on the J109 “Something Else,” was one of the National Yacht Club Cruising Group's 20 boats that travelled on their first ‘Cruise in Company’ sail of the season. Photo: Michael Chester

This was the first of the 'Sail in Company' cruises in 2024, which are part of the NYC Cruising Group. 

Andrew Collins “Christo” was one of the National Yacht Club Cruising Group's 20 boats that travelled on their first ‘Cruise in Company’ sail of the season. Photo: Michael ChesterAndrew Collins “Christo” was one of the National Yacht Club Cruising Group's 20 boats that travelled on their first ‘Cruise in Company’ sail of the season. Photo: Michael Chester

Each boat was assigned a berth on Saturday, May 4, with a marina map communicated to each skipper before departure from Dun Laoghaire.

The event was a huge success, with participants enjoying the beautiful weather and favourable winds. The next 'Sail in Company' cruise is eagerly awaited, and many have already registered their interest.

National Yacht Club's 'Sail in Company' to Greystones Harbour Marina Photo Gallery by Michael Chester

Published in National YC
Tagged under

Royal St. George's top Irish match racer, Tom Higgins, will confront March's Student Match Racing National Championships winner, Jamie McMahon of Howth Yacht Club, among others, when the National Yacht Club (NYC) hosts the Irish Match Racing National Championships (IMRA) at Dun Laoghaire on May 11th and 12th.

A lineup of skilled helms from across the country are already signed up for the event, which is billed as an important step towards growing match racing in Ireland.

Kinsale's Sam Hunt from Gladiators returns to Dun Laoghaire following his win in the inaugural Irish Sailing League a fortnight ago. 

As well as the locally based Higgins Racing team, there will be Dan Little of No Clew, Diana Kissane representing WMR, Oisin Cullen from Red Flag Racing, and Ruairi Finnegan of Craic'n Racing who competed in China in December at the World Match racing finals.

As regular Afloat readers will know, UCD ace Higgins has been on the match racing global circuit competing in the USA at the Governor's Cup last July and more recently in Australia at the International Youth Match Racing Championship.

Oisin Cullen, the recently elected IMRA Chairperson, expressed his excitement about the upcoming event, which will be sailed in NYC's Elliott 6m one-design keelboats: "This championship is not just a race; it's a significant step towards growing match racing in Ireland".

Published in Match Racing

The National Yacht Club, handsomely sited in the southeast corner of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, was certainly looking its part as the current MG Motor “Sailing Cub of the Year” last Saturday morning. The sun shone, and in the crisp onshore breeze the regatta bunting fluttered in colourful array from the flagstaff while friendly and efficient club staff steadily increased the in-house pace with rapid serving of the renowned NYC brunch, thereby sending forth the members in fine form for the first Saturday race of the new season.

A couple of samplings of that brunch per week would probably meet most shore-dwellers’ calorie requirements for the entire seven days. But the regular and frequent inhalation of sea air puts Dublin Bay sailors into a rate of ultra-metabolism. As you might say, Dublin Bay folk are metabolics in a league of their own.

The dress flags are up so frequently at the National YC that it’s almost the club’s default mode. Photo: NYCThe dress flags are up so frequently at the National YC that it’s almost the club’s default mode. Photo: NYC

SENSORY OVERLOAD

Be that as it may, your columnist eventually came away from the National’s hospitable embrace in a state of sensory overload which verged towards its pathological variant of Stendhal’s Syndrome. For although the vibrant scene of a great club accelerating the pace in a day of sunlit promise is more than enough to be going along with, the club’s Frank Burgess had brought together what amounted to an informal Transatlantic seminar about the great John B Kearney (1870-1968), whose inventive career in Dublin Port was such that - notwithstanding his lack of a professional qualification - he was the de facto Harbour Engineer for many years.

Yet despite being so revered in Irish harbour-building circles that he preferred to go cruising in Scotland because it meant he didn’t have to talk shop with Harbour Masters in every port he visited, his real ambition in life since childhood in Ringsend had been to be a yacht designer. And thus his headstone in Glasnevin Cemetry shows he is simply remembered as John Breslin Kearney 1870-1968, Yacht Designer.

And he was good at it too. His 1925 creation Mavis was so swift in distance races in the Irish Sea that after she’d comfortably won the Irish Cruising Club’s stormy 1934 Howth-Isle of Man Race with her owner-skipper-designer-builder in comfortable command, another competitor – future Ocean Cruising Cub founding Commodore Humphrey Barton - was positively gushing in his praise for boat and skipper in an article in Yachting World.

Busy to the end. John B Kearney at work in the office in his Monkstown home on his last major design, the 54ft Helen of Howth for Perry Greer, which he completed in 1963, aged 83. Following that, he was frequently consulted on technical matters for many boats, and was still creating drawings for solutions at the time of his death on New year’s Day 1968.Busy to the end. John B Kearney at work in the office in his Monkstown home on his last major design, the 54ft Helen of Howth for Perry Greer, which he completed in 1963, aged 83. Following that, he was frequently consulted on technical matters for many boats, and was still creating drawings for solutions at the time of his death on New year’s Day 1968

MERMAID DESIGNER AND SAILING MESSIAH

As a yacht designer he used to be best remembered around Dublin Bay for his design in 1932 of the universally-popular 17ft clinker-built Mermaid Sailing Dinghy. But as newer classes and fiberglass construction inevitably spread, the prominence of the Mermaid has receded in its birthplace, even though it continues to be actively worshipped at some centres where news boats are still built.

Mermaids racing with the Royal Cork Yacht Club for their annual championship. Although the class is not normally found at Crosshaven, their time-honoured Championship Week is a moveable feast, with the main fleet out-turn coming from the strong groups at Skerries on the East Coast and Foynes on the West. Photo: Robert BatemanMermaids racing with the Royal Cork Yacht Club for their annual championship. Although the class is not normally found at Crosshaven, their time-honoured Championship Week is a moveable feast, with the main fleet out-turn coming from the strong groups at Skerries on the East Coast and Foynes on the West. Photo: Robert Bateman

And the use of “worshipped” is not over-stating it, for as he steadily designed and built a succession of able cruising yachts in his spare time, he acquired a sort of nautical messiah status, and there gathered around him an increasing circle of discliples whose dearest wish was to own their own John B Kearney-designed cruiser.

Typical of them were brothers Pierce and Denis Purcell of Dun Laoghaire, who sailed in style on the rather leaky and high-maintenance Dublin Bay 25 Acushla, which had originally been built for international tenor John McCormack. They were friends and admirers of John Kearney and hoped to own one of his boats. So when the 8-ton yawl Sonia – built in 1929 in Ringsend by the designer with the help of the owner, a one-legged railway engineer called William Blood-Smyth - became an executors’ sale in 1938, John Kearney ensured that she went to the Purcell brothers.

The highly-regarded Harry Kernoff RHA woodcut of Murphy’s Boatyard in Ringsend in the 1920s. It was here on the River Dodder waterfront, backing on to Thorncastle Street, that John Kearney built many of his boats with minimal assistance and no electric power. While picturesque, it was a far from healthy place, and in 1954 Dublin Corporation swept it all away to re-house the people in new apartment blocks which were built to such a high quality that in recent years it has been economically practical to upgrade rather than replace them.The highly-regarded Harry Kernoff RHA woodcut of Murphy’s Boatyard in Ringsend in the 1920s. It was here on the River Dodder waterfront, backing on to Thorncastle Street, that John Kearney built many of his boats with minimal assistance and no electric power. While picturesque, it was a far from healthy place, and in 1954 Dublin Corporation swept it all away to re-house the people in new apartment blocks which were built to such a high quality that in recent years it has been economically practical to upgrade rather than replace them

GOOD WORK BY STEALTH

This was so typical of the good work by stealth done by John Kearney across a broad spectrum of the sailing world that when Pierce Purcell became National YC Commodore in 1948, his members were very supportive when he expressed a wish to have John Kearney permanently in place as either the Vice or Rear Commodore of the NYC. And it was on returning home after being in his accustomed place as a Flag Officer to greet members as usual in the Club on New Year’s Day 1968 that the great man suddenly died while still in full possession of all his faculties.

John Kearney boats are now found worldwide. Here, Sonia of 1929 vintage, and owned from 1938 by future NYC Commodore Pierce Purcell and his brother Denis, is seen in Vancouver in Canada. To mention just a few, other boats went Transatlantic such as the 16-ton Dawn Star of 1945, the 14-ton Ann Gail of 1950, and the 54ft Helen of Howth of 1963, while the 6-ton Evora of 1936 was last reported in Darwin, AustraliaJohn Kearney boats are now found worldwide. Here, Sonia of 1929 vintage, and owned from 1938 by future NYC Commodore Pierce Purcell and his brother Denis, is seen in Vancouver in Canada. To mention just a few, other boats went Transatlantic such as the 16-ton Dawn Star of 1945, the 14-ton Ann Gail of 1950, and the 54ft Helen of Howth of 1963, while the 6-ton Evora of 1936 was last reported in Darwin, Australia

RESTORER OF KEARNEY FLAGSHIP MAVIS

The continuing sense of Kearney admiration and respect was palpable a week ago. The purpose of the gathering was to welcome Ron Hawkins from Maine, restorer of Mavis, to the club where the designer and builder of Mavis had been - and still is - so rightly revered that the centrepiece of the gathering was to be an exchange of burgees with the NYC’s Commodore Peter Sherry.

You could have run the lights off the goodwill being generated – NYC Commodore Peter Sherry with Mavis-restorer Ron Hawkins. Photo: W M NixonYou could have run the lights off the goodwill being generated – NYC Commodore Peter Sherry with Mavis-restorer Ron Hawkins. Photo: W M Nixon

But with this grouping of senior sailors – some very senior – submerged memories of John B Kearney began to bubble to the surface. And with people like former Dublin Bay SC Hon. Sec. and National YC and DBSC historian Donal O’Sullivan, together with former NYC Commodore Martin McCarthy and anther ex-Commodore, former Mermaid racer Ronan Beirne, together with DBSC Officer and multiple Mermaid Champion Jonathan O’Rourke – whose was also on the helm when the 1912 Kearney 9-ton yawl became the first winner of the DBOGA’s Leinster Plate in 2013 – you’re getting memories that are better than gold.

Former NYC Commodore Martin McCarthy and longtime DBSC Honorary Secretary Donal O’Sullivan (historian of both DBSC and the NYC), considering a new snippet of J B Kearney information. Photo: Frank BurgessFormer NYC Commodore Martin McCarthy and longtime DBSC Honorary Secretary Donal O’Sullivan (historian of both DBSC and the NYC), considering a new snippet of J B Kearney information. Photo: Frank Burgess

Former NYC Commodore Ronan Beirne with the now-famous photo of Mavis winning Skerries Regattta 1928 that he discovered in an antiques shop, with Commodore Peter Sherry and Ron Hawkins in the midst of burgee exchanges. Photo: W M NixonFormer NYC Commodore Ronan Beirne with the now-famous photo of Mavis winning Skerries Regattta 1928 that he discovered in an antiques shop, with Commodore Peter Sherry and Ron Hawkins in the midst of burgee exchanges. Photo: W M Nixon

For also present was sailing polymath Hal Sisk, whose current project with Fionan de Barra of restoring the Dublin Bay 21 class of 1903 has moved along so well that next year three boats are going to be shipped to America to take part in the classic events working towards the Maine coast.

Hal is no stranger to this, as seventeen years ago he took his superb restoration of the 1894 Hilditch of Carrickfergus-built Watson-designed cutter Peggy Bawn to the American East Coast Classics, and she entered immortality through being photographed by the great Ben Mendlowitz in his own special style.

It’s official. The classic Ben Mendlowitz photo of Hal Sisk’s Peggy Bawn on the cover of WoodenBoat in 2008It’s official. The classic Ben Mendlowitz photo of Hal Sisk’s Peggy Bawn on the cover of WoodenBoat in 2008

THE MENDLOWITZ APPROVAL

And that distinction is shared by Ron Hawkins with Mavis. So much so, in fact, that Mavis became the cover girl on the 2023 Mendlowitz Calendar. This is an honour so special that when Ron’s partner Denise tried to send the calendar to me despite the best efforts of the US Mail and An Post in hindering its Transatlantic crossing, it finally arrived with a tell-tale stain which showed that almost every mail-shipping container in the world has a pool of water at the bottom, so that stain is now retained as an honourable battle scar.

And this is official too. The restored Mavs is cover girl on Ben Mendlowitz’s 2023 Calendar. The stain at top left is retained as an honourable battle scar of the struggle to get any slightly unusual object through the Transatlantic mail and the Irish customsAnd this is official too. The restored Mavs is cover girl on Ben Mendlowitz’s 2023 Calendar. The stain at top left is retained as an honourable battle scar of the struggle to get any slightly unusual object through the Transatlantic mail and the Irish customs

LONG SAGA OF MAVIS RESTORATION

Longtime readers of Afloat.ie will be aware of Ron Hawkins and his marathon task of restoring the 1925-built Mavis, but for those who are new on board, he’s of a renowned New England maritime family where the patriarch is the magnificently-named Captain Havilah Hawkins.

We’d first hear of Mavis’s survival in America was back in the years of print when she had an early restoration by Ronald van Heeswijk, a New York veterinary surgeon. But we began to get nearer the action about ten year ago when our own Tim Magennis – the only man in Ireland to have sailed round the world under gaff rig – was on boat tour in Maine and came upon a young Ron Hawkins facing into the realities of the Mavis restoration.

The trouble with big restorations is that you have to go backwards quite a long way before you can start to go forwards, and Ron had all the look of a man who was in that bourne from which no man returns, so we expected to meet a rather haggard figure.

“What have I taken on?” Ron Hawkins in some exhaustion many years ago, when the Mavis restoration in Maine was reaching a critical stage. Photo: Tim Magennis“What have I taken on?” Ron Hawkins in some exhaustion many years ago, when the Mavis restoration in Maine was reaching a critical stage. Photo: Tim Magennis

COOL AND CALM

Not a bit of it. He was sleek, cool, calm, collected and perhaps quietly amused by the increasingly frenetic atmosphere in the National on a sailing Saturday morning as noon approaches. The secret to this is Denise, whom he met at some stage of the restoration process. She is muy sympatico, with such a special empathy for boat nuts that it’s as well there aren’t too many like her, otherwise the world would be full of classic boatmen main-lining on one restoration project after another, to the detriment of everything else.

In harmony. A relaxed Ron Hawkins and Denise of the Mavis Team enjoying Hal Sisk’s thoughts on the classic boat world. Photo: W M NixonIn harmony. A relaxed Ron Hawkins and Denise of the Mavis Team enjoying Hal Sisk’s thoughts on the classic boat world. Photo: W M Nixon

But in the case of Mavis, Denise has been a very good thing indeed, as she and Ron turned up in command of the situation despite only having had 40 minutes for themselves since getting off the early morning jetliner from America. Thus they’d all of the Mavis material arranged in a way that makes my workroom look like the rat’s nest that it actually is.

Included in their collection was another mind-blowing experience. They had brought a rare edition of a book I wrote nearly fifty years ago called “To Sail The Crested Sea”. It was to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Irish Cruising Club in 1979, taking its title from within a seafaring poem by St Columba in the 6th Century. Nowadays it’s as rare as hen’s teeth, but the Mavis people in Maine knew that had to get a copy as it contains much of the information about their boat, and the internet eventually obliged.

INTERNATIONAL BOOK LINKS

The copy they had found still contained the business card inscribed to a friend by the first owner, who had bought several when the book was still hot off the press a long time ago. In what seemed like a nano-second I realized, in an increasingly gobsmacked state, that the book had – over the years – reached Maine from Howth by way of Cornwall, Paris, Arizona, and cyberspace.

So as it was right there, it was a good time to brush up on the one occasion that Mavis had been awarded the ICC’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup for 1952, when she’d entered the ownership of Paddy O’Keeffe of Bantry after J B Kearney had finally sold her in 1951, following 26 years of active ownership.

When Mavis was finally launched after the completion of Ron Hawkins’ restoration, the first hand on the tiller was that of Don O’Keeffe, a nephew of 1951-1956 owner Paddy O’Keeffe of Bantry. Now based on the American Great Lakes and a designer of large motor cruisers, Don retains strong childhood memories of sailing on Mavis.When Mavis was finally launched after the completion of Ron Hawkins’ restoration, the first hand on the tiller was that of Don O’Keeffe, a nephew of 1951-1956 owner Paddy O’Keeffe of Bantry. Now based on the American Great Lakes and a designer of large motor cruisers, Don retains strong childhood memories of sailing on Mavis.

MAVIS AWARDED IRISH CRUISING CLUB’S PREMIER TROPHY

Paddy O’Keeffe received the award for a cruise with Mavis from Bantry to Northwest Spain and back, setting out crewed by two sailing friends, Alex Sullivan and Michael Donnelly, and in Coruna meeting up convivially with the likes of Peter & Anne Pye bound for Tahiti with their famous 10-ton gaff cutter Moonraker on a two year cruise, and Ann Davison in an early stage of the eventually successful venture to be the first woman to sail solo across the Atlantic with her pint size 23ft 3-ton sloop Felicity Ann.

Mavis crossed paths with Peter and Anne Pye’s multi-voyaging Moonraker in Spain in 1952Mavis crossed paths with Peter and Anne Pye’s multi-voyaging Moonraker in Spain in 1952

She was eventually successful in this, but in Coruna - with it all still ahead of her - it was a daunting prospect. So the crew of Mavis took her for a cheerful meal in a mountain-top restaurant. It was heroic on Paddy O’Keeffe’s part, as he’d been ill on the way down over an unexpectedly long and tough passage. And although now in port and outwardly cheerful, he was failing to improve or respond to treatment, and in time he was diagnosed with acute jaundice and had to be invalided home, travelling with Michael Donnelly whose holiday time had long run out.

Paddy O’Keeffe thought he had left things sorted, as his business contacts with the Spanish trawlers which called regularly at Bantry enabled him to sign on two Spanish fishermen who could crew for Alex Sullivan on the voyage back to Bantry, should he so wish. But he didn’t. Sullivan decided to do it on his own, perhaps inspired by Ann Davison, and his final human contact before reaching Bantry ten days later, after consuming his last food stores while at the Bull Rock entering Bantry Bay, was with the young crewman from Moonraker, who came over to help raise Mavis’s anchor and get him on his way. The return voyage was made virtually engine-less, as the auxiliary was one very temperamental beast, and only Paddy O’Keeffe could understand its workings.

Done it! Ann Davison with her 23ft Felicity Ann coming in to New York after becoming the first woman to cross the Atlantic soloDone it! Ann Davison with her 23ft Felicity Ann coming in to New York after becoming the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo

WHO WAS ALEX SULLIVAN?

So who was this Alex Sullivan, who played the key role in getting Mavis the prized Faulkner Cup for cruising to add to her very many racing trophies? All I could learn back in the1970s was that he was known as Sergeant Sullivan, not for being in the Garda Siochana or the army, but because it was an ancient title for a special lawyer in the old Kingdom of Ireland. It had been revived around 1910 to give added dignity to m’learned friends in Dublin, but as it turned out, Alexander M Sullivan (1871-1959) was the third and last Serjeant-at-Law in the new setup, as it had been all swept away by the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922.

He was one of those exceptional talents that came out of Bantry in the late 19th Century, people like William Martin Murphy and John Sisk along with an absolute raft of brilliant lawyers. And nearly all of them sailed. On the political front meanwhile, Alex Sullivan was a constitional nationalist and known to Harry Donegan of Cork both from his sailing and his politics, as Donegan was the Chairman in Cork of the Redmondite Party, the successors to the constitutional Parnellites.

Harry Donegan of Cork, co-founder of the Irish Cruising Club in 1929, had close contacts with Alex Sullivan through the law, politics and sailingHarry Donegan of Cork, co-founder of the Irish Cruising Club in 1929, had close contacts with Alex Sullivan through the law, politics and sailing

Thus in 1930 when the first full list of members of the new Irish Cruising Club was published, Donegan ensured that Sullivan was on it although Paddy O’Keeffe had to wait some years before joining, even if by then Sullivan was London-based after some major experiences had happened to him since he’d first known Donegan in the early 1900s.

ROGER CASEMENT’S LAWYER

Not least was the fact that he was prepared to be the lead counsel for the defence in Sir Roger Casement’s trial for treason in London in 1916. The fact that this connection emerged from this recent gathering in the National Yacht Club, with the very relatable statue of Roger Casement nearby on the other side of the East Pier pointing towards his 1864 birthplace of Sandycove, was something that put the Mavis meeting into somewhere approaching the supranational. And it also means that if you seek an image of this tough amateur sailor who brought Mavis home single-handed to enduring cruising success, you may find you’re looking at the extraordinary John Lavery painting of the Casement trial, if indeed we have the right generation of Sullivans.

Roger Casement stands proud above his birthplace on Dublin Bay. The statue, erected in September 2021, commemorates Casement who was born in Sandycove in 1864 Photo: Peter Kavansgh/DLRCoCoRoger Casement stands proud above his birthplace on Dublin Bay. The statue, erected in September 2021, commemorates Casement who was born in Sandycove in 1864 Photo: Peter Kavansgh/DLRCoCo

THE LAVERY PAINTING “HIGH TREASON”

We’re getting into very rarefied territory here, so the significance of this panting is best explained by citing the Royal Irish Academy’s discusson document on something rather monumental, yet still part – albeit very tangentially - of the Mavis story

RIA Comment on Lavery painting:

The painter was a rather unlikely presence: Sir John Lavery, born into a Catholic family in Belfast, was renowned for his portraits of English high society, and his studio had been visited by royalty. He had been invited to record the appeal trial by the presiding judge, Sir Charles Darling, a former client of his. Yet, as Casement noted, the painter “came perilously near aiding and comforting” the prisoner in the way he “eyed Mr Justice Darling’s delivery” of the verdict confirming the death sentence. Casement also noted that Lavery’s wife, Hazel, looked “very sad” at the same moment. The uneasy relationship between Lavery’s position as part of the imperial artistic establishment and his growing sympathies with Irish nationalism would produce a painting at once monumental and hard to place.

“At once monumental and hard to place” – Sir John Lavery’s painting of the Casement trial with defending barrister Alex Sullivan the focus of attention“At once monumental and hard to place” – Sir John Lavery’s painting of the Casement trial with defending barrister Alex Sullivan the focus of attention

Lavery’s record of this moment in history is literally the work of an insider: it is possible only because Lavery was respectable enough to be given privileged access to the trial. Lavery later claimed that Darling had commissioned the work. Yet the result is not the grand image of imperial justice that might have been intended. The conventions of the genre are honoured in the large scale – three metres wide and two metres high – and the meticulous portraits of dozens of individuals. A sense of dramatic moment is created by the slanting light and by the clock that approaches the fatal hour of 12.

But the judges are almost statuesque. All the animation is given to Casement’s defence counsel Serjeant Sullivan. And the centre of the picture is occupied by Casement himself, who seems simple and human amid the pomp. He looks not at his judges but at the viewer. This is to be the judgment not of a mere court but of history.

Serjeant Sullivan in action. If this is indeed Mavis’s crewman and not his father, it is surely the first time that an awardee of the Irish Cruising Club’s historic Faulkner Cup has been portrayed by Sir John LaverySerjeant Sullivan in action. If this is indeed Mavis’s crewman and not his father, it is surely the first time that an awardee of the Irish Cruising Club’s historic Faulkner Cup has been portrayed by Sir John Lavery

This ambivalence marked the fate of the painting itself. Lavery did not complete it until the 1930s. If Darling commissioned it he did not pay for it: it remained in Lavery’s studio until his death, in 1941. The painter left it in his will to the National Portrait Gallery, in London, and the Royal Courts of Justice, but neither institution especially wanted it. After years in storage at the NPG it was hung in the office of the senior clerk of the court of criminal appeal in London, removed from the public gaze, for fear of arousing the wrong kind of attention from “people who considered Casement a martyr”.

The painting was then lent to the Honorable Society of King’s Inns, in Dublin, in 1951. The message from the Lord Chancellor’s office accompanying the loan said, “We can adopt the suggestion of lending it to the King’s Inns on indefinite loan, which means that we can forget to ask for its return.”

Yet Lavery surely knew what he was doing when he left High Treason to British institutions in his will. For what he had produced was not an Irish painting or a British one, but an image of two histories intertwined and at odds.

ALEX SULLIVAN’S CRUISING

Before the emergence of the Free State in 1922, Alex Sullivan had been active on the Munster Circuit, though with lucrative briefs in London. But despite his Casement connections and support of Home Rule, he was resolutely and volubly against the more extreme elements in Sinn Fein, and in time this meant he was in real danger. There was an attempt on his life in 1920, and in 1921 Derry House in Rosscarbery in West Cork, which he’d bought two years earlier, was burnt to the ground. So he and his family relocated to London where he continued in the law, but maintained close links to Ireland which were reinforced as the situation settled down, such that by 1950 he moved back to make his home at Templeogue in Dublin, but with West Cork and sailing still there, very much on the agenda.

Alex Sullivan’s 14-ton 1910-built yawl Ailsa, as sketched by Billy McBride of the ICC and the Harry Clarke StudiosAlex Sullivan’s 14-ton 1910-built yawl Ailsa, as sketched by Billy McBride of the ICC and the Harry Clarke Studios

Before going to London he was a member of the Royal Munster Yacht Club, and he kept that up through the 1930s, and maintained his ICC membership - contributing at least one log to the Annual – into the 1940s, after which, with Harry Donegan having died in 1940, he was less involved until Paddy O’Keeffe hauled him back in again in 1950.

DOUBTS ABOUT WHICH SULLIVAN DID IT

While in England, he had acquired a 14-ton 1910-built clipper-bowed yawl called Ailsa, which achieved ICC recognition on an Irish visit through being sketched by Honorary Treasurer Billy McBride, whose day job was as an artist in the Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studio. But by the time he returned permanently to Ireland, Ailsa was sold and he was well advanced in years, so it has occurred to me that perhaps the Alex Sullivan who sailed Mavis home from Spain to Bantry was his son. Yet back in the 1970s when I was writing the ICC History, the Corkmen had no doubt that it was Serjeant Sullivan who brought Mavis home.

CORRECTION WELCOMED

Nevertheless we are very much open for correction on which Sullivan was on that 1952 cruise. Meanwhile, back in the 1950s, John Kearney’s determination to be a full-time yacht designer after his retirement from Dublin Port was such that in 1951 he’d made the Mavis sale to Paddy O’Keeffe, as his yacht design clients expected him to sail part of each season in their new Kearney-designed boats, and Mavis wasn’t getting the use she deserved.

But following the Spanish venture in 1952, Paddy O’Keeffe’s health slowly declined, and Mavis returned briefly to Dublin Bay in 1956 in the ownership of Desmond Slevin, a ship’s doctor who was given a lucrative posting in the US, so he had Mavis shipped across the Atlantic, and she has been New England-based in various states of seaworthiness ever since.

NEW ENGLAND BOUND

And most appropriately, it was towards the classic circuit in New England that thoughts were turned as this extraordinary gathering drew to a close. After Hal Sisk – yet another link to Bantry – had taken his farewells of Ron and Denise with the hope that he would next see them in Maine with his trio of Dublin Bay 21s, he hauled on his high vis cycling jacket, which was complete with an advertising space. He never misses a trick. There’s surely not a cyclist or pedestrian or motorist or indeed street corner loiterer in Dun Laoghaire who hasn’t become aware of the new life for the Dublin Bay 21s.

It always pays to advertise. Hal Sisk’s cycling jacket has a message for you. Photo: W M NixonIt always pays to advertise. Hal Sisk’s cycling jacket has a message for you. Photo: W M Nixon

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The prestigious MG Sailing Club of the Year Ship's Wheel was awarded to both the National Yacht Club and the Ruffian Association at a presentation ceremony at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on Thursday evening, February 29th.

As Afloat's WM Nixon announced in early January, the joint award to the club and class 'perfectly expressed the overall mood of all that is best in Irish sailing as the 2024 sailing season begins'.

The event was attended by many NYC Olympians, world champions, and cruising achievers, many of whom received 15 premier awards at the club achievement awards ceremony just a week ago.

During the tea time presentation, Commodore Peter Sherry expressed his gratitude and pride in the spirit and community that underpinned everything the National YC and its members achieved in 2023 and was 'delighted' to have been honoured with the Ruffian 23s.

The presentation was a pre-2024 sailing season high for the Dublin Bay club and class and something the club cherishes, according to Sherry.

Heather Kennedy, the daughter of the Ruffian 23 designer and builder Billy Brown, travelled from Strangford Lough to be present at the ceremony. She gave a brief history of the class, which celebrated its golden anniversary in 2023

Afloat's W M Nixon will review the award and the night's celebrations in full in his Sailing on Saturday blog tomorrow (March 2) here.

Published in National YC

The National Yacht Club's annual Sailing Awards Dinner was held at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on Saturday night. The event saw the presentation of fifteen awards for outstanding sailing achievements.

The club's Commodore, Peter Sherry, awarded the prizes to several deserving recipients, including international yachtsmen and women, international skiff performers, Olympians, youth sailors and administrators.

The East Pier club was filled with applause and cheers as the club's sailing stars were recognized for their remarkable achievements in 2023.

The awards were: 

The Boyne Regatta Cup – for best performance in offshore racing of the year

Will Byrne

For his professional achievements on offshore one-design circuits (Swan 36, Cape 31, Mills 41 and many other offshore yachts), including third place overall in the Sydney Hobart race this year on mini-maxi ‘Moneypenny’.

The Concorde Plate – for circumnavigating Ireland

Tom Dolan

For his two Round Ireland Record attempts and finishing in second place in the Solitaire du Figaro into Kinsale, the highest place achieved ever by a non-French competitor.

The O’Leary Cup – for best performance of the year in one designs

Clementine and Nathan Van Steenberge

For winning the 29er World Championships 2023

The O’Leary Cup (1945) was awarded to Clementine and Nathan Van Steenberge who achieved the best performance of the year in designs Photo: Michael ChesterThe O’Leary Cup (1945) was awarded to Clementine and Nathan Van Steenberge who achieved the best performance of the year in one designs Photo: Michael Chester

The Edward Yacht Club Trophy – for best performance of the year in dinghies, Mermaids or Flying Fifteens

Noel Butler

For his successes in the RS Aero Class, including:

  • Winning DSBC Tuesday and Saturday series, awarded DBSC Premier Awards, the Dr. Alf Delany Memorial Cup for the most successful Dinghy of the season
  • Winning the 2022/2023 DMYC Frostbite (PY Class)
  • 2nd RS Aero National Championships (hosted at NYC)
  • 2nd RS Aero 2023 Aero Traveller series
  • 2nd RS Aero 2023 US Midwinter Championships, Davis Island YC, Florida

The Edward Yacht Club Trophy (1919) was awarded to Noel Butler who achieve the best NYC performance of the year in dinghies, Mermaids or Flying Fifteens Photo: Michael ChesterThe Edward Yacht Club Trophy (1919) was awarded to Noel Butler who achieve the best NYC performance of the year in dinghies, Mermaids or Flying Fifteens Photo: Michael Chester

John Byrne Memorial Trophy – for the greatest contribution to sailing in the NYC during the year

Adam Winkelmann

Adam was presented with the trophy by two of the late John Byrne's sons, Martin and Rory, for organising yet another edition of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race

The John Byrne Memorial Trophy (1989) was presented by Martin (left) and Rory Byrne to Adam Winkelmann (centre)The John Byrne Memorial Trophy (1989) was presented by Martin (left) and Rory Byrne to Adam Winkelmann (centre) Photo: Michael Chester

The Winkelmann Trophy – for Cadet(s) of the year

Ethan Spain and Ben O’Shaughnessy

For their amazing campaign in the 29er Class:

  • 29er European champion
  • Bronze medalist youth worlds (29er class)
  • 29er national champion
  • 29er youth nationals champion
  • Runner up UK Open nationals
  • Runner up Eurocup finals (Garda)

The Winkelmann Trophy (2003) was awarded to the Cadet Member who has had the finest sailing achievement of the year Ethan Spain (right) and Ben O’Shaughnessy (not in picture) and presented by Adam Winkelmann Photo: Michael ChesterThe Winkelmann Trophy (2003) was awarded to the Cadet Member who has had the finest sailing achievement of the year Ethan Spain (right) and Ben O’Shaughnessy (not in picture) and presented by Adam Winkelmann Photo: Michael Chester

The Greystones 1892 Regatta Cup – for the team who represented the Club with distinction

Ann Kirwan and her Ruffian 23 crew

For their performance in Hong Kong in winning the Trieniel Interport Ruffian 2023 Championships

The Greystones 1892 Regatta Cup was awarded to Ann Kirwan and her Crew for best representing the Club at a team event during the year Photo: Michael ChesterThe Greystones 1892 Regatta Cup was awarded to Ann Kirwan and her Crew for best representing the Club at a team event during the year Photo: Michael Chester

The Paul Murphy Cup – for the sailing management volunteer of the year

Michael Conway

For selflessly volunteering as race officer at several events in his first year of membership of the Club.

The Township Cup – for the best cruise of the year

Paul Barrington

For his cruise on the catamaran ‘Jadamama’ from St. Lucia through the Panama Canal, Columbia, The Galapagos Islands and on to Polynesia.

The Township Cup (1927) is awarded to Paul Barrington, the member who achieved the best cruise of the year Photo: Michael ChesterThe Township Cup (1927) is awarded to Paul Barrington, the member who achieved the best cruise of the year Photo: Michael Chester

The Muglins Cup – for the most interesting family cruise

Grace, Hugh, Gemma, Johnnie and Frank Cassidy

Frank cruised down the west coast of France, Portugal and on to the Canary Islands and to the Azores accompanied for various legs by members of the Cassidy family for which the ICC awarded him the Wild Goose Cup

The Muglins Cup (1949) is awarded to the most interesting family cruise of the year Grace,(not in Photo) Hugh, Gemma, Johnnie, John Joe and Frank Cassidy and presented by NYC Commodore, Peter Sherry Photo: Michael ChesterThe Muglins Cup (1949) is awarded to the most interesting family cruise of the year Grace,(not in Photo) Hugh, Gemma, Johnnie, John Joe and Frank Cassidy and presented by NYC Commodore, Peter Sherry Photo: Michael Chester

Martin Crotty Trophy Award – for a younger member who shows sailing endeavour

Oisin Cullen

For his tireless work and commitment to promoting and developing Match Racing in the Club and nationwide

The Martin Crotty Cup (2017) is awarded to the younger member(s) who show outstamding sailing endeavour and in 2023 went to Oisin Cullen. The trophy was presented by Sabine Sarr  Photo: Michael ChesterThe Martin Crotty Cup (2017) is awarded to the younger member(s) who show outstamding sailing endeavour and in 2023 went to Oisin Cullen. The trophy was presented by Sabine Sarr  Photo: Michael Chester

The Wild Geese Trophy – for The Overseas member who achieves the best performance in racing or distinguishes himself/herself in sailing

Mark O’Connor

For his continuing French sailing adventure, where he is preparing for the 2025 Mini Transat – 2023 saw another year of challenging sailing and more learning, culminating in Marks's involvement in the recent Transat Jacques Vabre. He is now ranked 55 out of 340 Class Mini competitors and rising steadily. Mark is such an inspiration to other young sailors and a fantastic ambassador for the NYC. 

The Wild Geese Trophy (2018) is awarded to Mark O’Connor, the Overseas member who achieved the best performance in racing Photo: Michael ChesterThe Wild Geese Trophy (2018) is awarded to Mark O’Connor, the Overseas member who achieved the best performance in racing Photo: Michael Chester

The Sue McDonnell Trophy – for the female club member who has contributed most to the advancement of women in sailing

Aisling Murphy

For her continuous volunteering for and active sailing participation across all classes and members age groups. 

The Sue Mc Donnell Trophy (2019) is awarded to the female club member who has contributed most to the advancement of women in sailing and went to Aisling Murphy (Rosemary Cadogan Vice Commodore – received the trophy on behalf of Aisling) and it was presented by Fiona Mc Donnell Photo: Michael ChesterThe Sue Mc Donnell Trophy (2019) is awarded to the female club member who has contributed most to the advancement of women in sailing and went to Aisling Murphy (Rosemary Cadogan Vice Commodore – received the trophy on behalf of Aisling) and it was presented by Fiona Mc Donnell Photo: Michael Chester

The Totterdell Trophy – for the member who has contributed most to promoting and developing the Laser class in the club

Finn Lynch 

For his 2023 campaign on the International ILCA 7 circuit, resulting in qualifying Ireland for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in the most competitive sailing class. Lynch went on to win the Irish trial at the ILCA 7 Europeans, where he won a bronze medal and earned the Irish nomination for Paris in February 2024 in Athens.

The Totterdell Trophy (2020) is awarded to the NYC member who has contributed most to promoting and developing the Laser class in the Club. Finn Lynch (accepted by Peter Sherry on Finn’s behalf) and presented by Eddie Totterdell Photo: Michael ChesterThe Totterdell Trophy (2020) is awarded to the NYC member who has contributed most to promoting and developing the Laser class in the Club. Finn Lynch (accepted by Peter Sherry on Finn’s behalf) and presented by Eddie Totterdell Photo: Michael Chester

The Jack Roy Flying Fifteen Trophy – for the best-placed NYC flying fifteen in the Championships of Ireland

Ian Matthews & Keith Poole

For second overall and best NYC boat in the Flying Fifteen Championships of Ireland 2023 in Co. Antrim

The Jack Roy Memorial Trophy (2023) was presented by Peter Sherry, NYC Commodore to the best-placed NYC Flying Fifteen in the Championship of Ireland to Ian Mathews (left) and Keith Poole (right)  Photo: Michael ChesterThe Jack Roy Memorial Trophy (2023) was presented by Peter Sherry, NYC Commodore to the best-placed NYC Flying Fifteen in the Championship of Ireland to Ian Mathews (left) and Keith Poole (right)  Photo: Michael Chester

The Commodore’s Cup

Rebecca Hall

For her leadership and commitment to Junior Sailing in NYC and her contribution to sailing on the water.

Commodore’s Award Rebecca Hall has been awarded the Commodore’s Prize, presented  by Peter Sherry, NYC Commodore, for her leadership and commitment to junior sailing in NYC and her contribution to sailing on the water Photo: Michael ChesterCommodore’s Award Rebecca Hall has been awarded the Commodore’s Prize, presented  by Peter Sherry, NYC Commodore, for her leadership and commitment to junior sailing in NYC and her contribution to sailing on the water Photo: Michael Chester

NYC Sailing Awards – Commodore’s Commendations 2023

NYC Commodore’s Commendations 2023  were presented by Commodore Peter Sherry to Estella Rosique, Grant Kinsman, Bill Quigley, Flore Dion, Ruth Shanahan,(Not in Picture) Johnnt Treanor, Data Totterdell, Pete Smyth. Photo: Michael ChesterNYC Commodore’s Commendations 2023  were presented by Commodore Peter Sherry to Estella Rosique, Grant Kinsman, Bill Quigley, Flore Dion, Ruth Shanahan,(Not in Picture) Johnnt Treanor, Data Totterdell, Pete Smyth. Photo: Michael Chester

Estella Rosique & Grant Kinsman For their huge contribution to adult sail training, showcasing commitment, enthusiasm, and principled and fair attitude towards all trainees of all abilities.

Bill Quigley For his cruise from Saint Annaland on the inland sea, the Netherlands, out to Breskens on the North Sea, down to Nieuwpoort in Belgium, down along the coast of France, past Dunkirk then across the channel, the Irish Sea and home to Dun Laoghaire

Flore Dion For her amazing contribution to the junior section, for being a super role model for younger female sailors & for being consistent
in her positivity in the NYC.

Ruth Shanahan For her ongoing work in the 2.4 class and the very successful national championship as well as her commitment to Dun Laoghaire Sailability

Johnny Treanor For winning his class at the UK’s Key Yachting J-Cup Regatta at the Royal Southern Yacht Club on the Hamble river on his new J112e Valentina

Dara Totterdell For her continuous enthusiastic work on producing event results and training new volunteers in all aspects of event management 

Pete Smyth For his 3rd place in IRC overall in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and his overall offshore campaign in 2023

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The National Yacht Club (NYC) in Dun Laoghaire Harbour bid farewell to Chef Cormac Healy on Saturday night, as he retired from his role after 30 years of service. The event was attended by present and past Commodores, Flag Officers, Club Managers, a big turnout of members and Healy's family and friends from the nearby Dublin Bay Forty Foot Swimming spot.

Master of Ceremonies Ian Meldon kicked off the party dressed in a dry robe, swim hat, and goggles, welcoming everyone to the packed dining room. Commodore Peter Sherry led the tributes to Healy, praising his enthusiasm for detail in preparation and perfection in the presentation of all his dishes, which earned the National Yacht Club the title of having the best menu in Dun Laoghaire.

During his time at the NYC, Healy had the opportunity to work with many celebrity chefs in the Club's kitchens to prepare club feasts. Some of these chefs included Rick Stein, Peter Caviston, and Kevin Dundon.

Healy's retirement marks the end of an era at the National Yacht Club, where he will be deeply missed by all those who had the pleasure of working with him.

Chef Cormac Healy Retires from the National Yacht Club Photo Gallery By Michael Chester

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It is not unprecedented for leading clubs and one of the key class organisations within their ambit to share the MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year Award. It began with an added convention (the informal contest has been based on convention and precedent rather than rigid rules since it began 45 years ago) back in 1990, when class associations were first included. And while the contest’s gaining of traction resulted in another convention - that the same club could not receive the award two years running - it also emerged that Class Associations could better carry the venerable ship’s wheel trophy when the award was shared with the club with which they had most actively interacted during the year in question.

The most recent example of this was in 2022, when the 250-year-old-plus Lough Ree Yacht Club became a hotbed of activity with the Centenary-celebrating Shannon One Design Association, neatly acronymed SODA.

MG ALL-ELECTRIC VISION NOW PART OF IRISH MOTORING

That was the first time MG Motor were comprehensively on board as sponsors, and since then the pioneering all-electric brand has become part of the motoring scene in Ireland, attracting a host of accolades and awards while going well with this appropriate “sail-powered” sponsorship. The core of the range is in a comprehensive selection of saloons, but those who associate the MG brand with sports cars are well aware that the new MG Cyberster is coming down the line.

The new MG Cyberster is an all-electric sports car that will ring bells for classic MG enthusiastsThe new MG Cyberster is an all-electric sports car that will ring bells for classic MG enthusiasts

TURBO-POWERED OUT OF PANDEMIC SLOWDOWN

For 2024’s award, we’re dealing with organisations that emerged turbo-powered in 2023 from the lingering sense of restriction left by the pandemic. This has meant that the National YC (already a frequent former winner) would have been in the front line for the title regardless of the classes with which they were having dynamic interactions at different times during the past year.

The Ruffian 23s in sparkling form at their NYC-hosted Nationals in Dublin Bay in July. Photo: Afloat.ieThe Ruffian 23s in sparkling form at their NYC-hosted Nationals in Dublin Bay in July. Photo: Afloat.ie

But equally, while the Ruffian 23s were celebrating their Golden Jubilee on an all-Ireland and global scale involving several clubs, it was when they interacted with the National YC (both as their main home base, and also as the host club for their Golden Jubilee 2023 National Championship) that something akin to nuclear fusion took place.

https://www.mg.ie/

This provided an event and setting that was sailing in Ireland at its very best for sport, camaraderie, and a sense of something special, with visiting skipper Stephen Penney of Carrickfergus emerging as champion with his team on Hot Orange, thereby providing a result which was as healthy as the spirit of the class itself, and of the club hosting it too.

COMMUNITY SPIRIT

For there is no mistaking the sheer quality of spirit and community which underpins everything the National YC and its members achieved during 2023 under Commodore Peter Sherry, an owner-helm with the club’s Flying Fifteen fleet. It is one of the most active F/F groups in Ireland, though that position is increasingly matched by the Connemara fleet, whose growth the Dun Laoghaire fleet have encouraged with the broad-minded National YC way of doing things.

 The National Yacht Club’s relatively secluded location at bottom right gives it a useful sense of identity away from the town, while providing the quickest club access from the seafront suburbs The National Yacht Club’s relatively secluded location at bottom right gives it a useful sense of identity away from the town, while providing the quickest club access from the seafront suburbs

But as it happens, this week Thomas Chaix - whose role as NYC Performance Coach for the past couple of seasons has upped the club’s success on all fronts – went ahead and posted his annual NYC Progress Report and Manifesto. This is purest serendipity, as the basic MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year 2024 decision was made - though very much under wraps - before Christmas. There were one or two provisos that had to be met before the end of the year, but the way that 2023’s final events concluded meant there was no change to the mid-December’s decision.

So the Chaix Gung-ho New Year 2024 Report and Mission Statement for the National YC is as valid as ever, as Thomas was unaware when he wrote it of the MG Motor award coming down the road this morning, and we posted his thoughts and images in full as seen here, meanwhile wondering what might be the French translation of gung-ho, and found that one possibility was tout feu tout flame.

MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year 2024” Award

NATIONAL YC IS WHERE TOP LEVEL SAILING MEETS LOCAL COMMUNITY SPIRIT

That does have a certain je ne sais quoi, but lacks the simple power of the original Anglicised Chinese gung-ho. Yet the fact that we’ve wandered into this very tangential discussion tells us much about the National YC. For its special location in the southeast corner of Dun Laoghaire, closest of all the clubs to the open sea while being clear of the crowded bustle of the town centre, means it has a real advantage through having the closest access to the suburbs – walking distance, in fact – such that it has perhaps the largest pavilion membership of any of the clubs. And the eclectic groups that gather there through the day to enjoy the club’s ambience and hospitality could be readily visualised as having an amiable discussion over coffee or something stronger about how best to translate gung-ho into French.

 An aerial view of Dun Laoghaire harbour from seaward emphasizes the special nature of the National YC’s location at top left An aerial view of Dun Laoghaire harbour from seaward emphasizes the special nature of the National YC’s location at top left

FAMILY TRADITIONS

All of this provides a charming contrast with the club’s very focused sailing, which is nevertheless all of a piece with the easygoing social side, as much of it is very firmly family-based.

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The pace here is set by the Mac Aleavey-Murphy clan. Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavey have logged a incredible life-path through our sport, with an impressive new Round Ireland record set in 1993 (it stood until 216) with Steve Fossett’s superb 60ft trimaran Lakota, while before that Cathy Mac Aleavey was an Olympic sailor in 1988, and after it Con served as NYC Commodore while their daughter Annalise Murphy was to go on to take Silver in the 2016 Olympics.

Olympic Sailing Medalist Annalise Murphy with her parents Cathy Mac Aaleavey (left) and father Con Murphy, a former NYC CommodoreOlympic Sailing Medalist Annalise Murphy with her parents Cathy Mac Aaleavey (left) and father Con Murphy, a former NYC Commodore

On another tack, Cathy was a pace-setter in the new growth of the Dublin Bay Water Wags, the harbour’s oldest class dating back to 1887, and at the same time became involved with the classic Shannon One Designs to such an extent that the NYC is now the venue for the Shannon’s annual Dublin Dinner in March, while at home the Water Wags current focus of expansion is in the National, with the latest addition to the class, the classic new-build Cormac, being commissioned by NYC Hon. Sail. Sec. Susan Spain in September 2023.

The National YC is the latest focal point for the continuing expansion of the 1887-founded Water Wags, seen here in their 1900 version during their midweek two-race programme in Dun Laoghaire HarbourThe National YC is the latest focal point for the continuing expansion of the 1887-founded Water Wags, seen here in their 1900 version during their midweek two-race programme in Dun Laoghaire Harbour

The boat was named in honour of her father Cormac McHenry, a longtime NYC Trustee who put the club on the world cruising map in a big way, reflecting the fact that the Commodore preceding Peter Sherry was Conor O’Regan, an out-and-out cruising man whose CV includes a global circumnavigation with the Rival 38 Pamina.

INTERESTING LINE OF COMMODORES

Conor’s predecessor as Commodore was in turn Martin McCarthy, who guided the club through the worst of the Pandemic lockdowns while managing to join his fellow syndicate owners in their frequently-raced Ruffian 23, a linkup which emphasizes the special interaction between the club and the Ruffians 23s.

NYC Commodore Peter Sherry with the NYC’s Ethan Spain and Cork’s Ben O’Shaugnessy after they’d won the Irish National 49er Championship 2023 hosted by the NYCNYC Commodore Peter Sherry with the NYC’s Ethan Spain and Cork’s Ben O’Shaugnessy after they’d won the Irish National 29er Championship 2023 hosted by the NYC

This lineup is shared by NYC and Dublin Bay SC activist and historian Donal O’Sullivan, something which reminds us that the National is currently contributing the lion’s share of voluntary effort to the administration of Dublin Bay SC, the world’s largest organiser of sailing races in terms of membership. In DBSC, Eddie Totterdell (National YC) has succeeded clubmate Ann Kirwan as Commodore, while she in turn has re-focussed her considerable sailing organisational energies towards the impressive Golden Jubilee programme of the Ruffian 23s, where she races Bandit with success in Dublin Bay, while in West Cork she races her “other Ruffian”, Orla II, with Schull Harbour SC.

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Female sailors and administrators are so central to National YC life afloat and ashore that it scarcely is mentioned of late, what with the club having their first woman Commodore with the late Ida Kiernan nearly a quarter of a century back, while the club’s Rosemary Roy is currently DBSC’s Honorary Secretary, and in due course Commodore Peter Sherry will be succeeded by Vice Commodore Rosemary Cadogan.

Empowered….Water Wag female sailors gathered in the National YC for the Woman on Water Regatta, 2022Empowered….Water Wag female sailors gathered in the National YC for the Woman on Water Regatta, 2022

CARMEL WINKELMANN’S MISSION

This input was highlighted by the late Carmel Winkelmann, whose special mission in sailing life was the encouragement of promising young sailors to fulfil their highest potential. The classic case in point was ILCA sailor Finn Lynch, who back in 2016 was in the doldrums resources-wise, yet Carmel put a substantial support package together by the simple expedient of refusing to take “no” for an answer when approaching potential backers, and thus in 2023 Finn Lynch was the first to put Ireland’s 2024 Olympic sailing hopes back on track.

The late Carmel Winkelmann with Olympic hopeful Finn Lynch in July 2016 as they prepare to mark the completion of the package which will set Finn firmly on the road to an Olympic career, with an al fresco lunch on the HYC veranda providing the appropriate setting. Photo: W M NixonThe late Carmel Winkelmann with Olympic hopeful Finn Lynch in July 2016 as they prepare to mark the completion of the package which will set Finn firmly on the road to an Olympic career, with an al fresco lunch on the HYC veranda providing the appropriate setting. Photo: W M Nixon

FIGARO SUCCESS

Another international sailor who hails from the National YC is Figaro skipper Tom Dolan, who celebrated the Figaro programme’s return post-Pandemic to international courses by winning the first leg of the 2023 Figaro contest, a long 610-mile race going round several turning marks in difficult sailing waters to get from Caen in Normandy to Kinsale, a real once-in-a-lifetime home-coming.

The National YC’s Tom Dolan coming into Kinsale on the last day of August 2023 to win the first 610-mile leg of the International Figaro Solo Paprec 2023The National YC’s Tom Dolan coming into Kinsale on the last day of August 2023 to win the first 610-mile leg of the International Figaro Solo Paprec 2023

ISORA STRONGHOLD

As for offshore racing directly from the club, it is former NYC Commodore Peter Ryan who – as Chairman of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association – is the main man in much of this. Although non-signature “ordinary” offshore races find difficulty in maintaining their popularity in the face of biennial big name events, the fact that Chairman Ryan is able to host the well-supported annual black-tie ISORA Dinner and Prize-giving in the National YC every November is something which helps to keep the show on the road.

ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan (right) with several times ISORA Champions Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop of Pwllheli SC of the J/109 Mojito at the Annual ISORA Dinner & Prize-giving in the National Yacht ClubISORA Chairman Peter Ryan (right) with several times ISORA Champions Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop of Pwllheli SC of the J/109 Mojito at the Annual ISORA Dinner & Prize-giving in the National Yacht Club

And finally, before we turn to the Ruffian 23’s extraordinary Golden Jubilee Year with its highlight at the National YC at the end of July, looking both to the future and the past it is encouraging to hear that negotiations are well advanced for the NYC to allocate seven highly-visible moorings along the East Pier to accommodate the 1902-founded Dublin Bay 21s. These have been or are being beautifully restored by Steve Morris in Kilrush for Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra, both of whom have links to the National YC going way back into the previous Millennium. Providing them and the restored DB21 class with this high level of visual accessibility to public and club observers alike can only help a truly worthy cause.

The Dublin Bay 21 Naneen – originally built in Dun Laoghaire in 1905 – returns in restored form to Dun Laoghaire, where the re-born class have found their natural home at the National Yacht Club. Photo: W M NixonThe Dublin Bay 21 Naneen – originally built in Dun Laoghaire in 1905 – returns in restored form to Dun Laoghaire, where the re-born class have found their natural home at the National Yacht Club. Photo: W M Nixon

RUFFIAN 23s GOLDEN JUBILEE

It says much about how radical changes in the perception of word meaning can be achieved when we reflect that these days in Irish sailing, the word Ruffian no longer means “a violent or lawless person”. On the contrary, it immediately brings to mind a class of very able and popular little 23ft mini-offshore-racers that can trace their origins back to the original Ruffian, a very successful and much-liked 35-footer designed and built by Billy and Dickie Brown in Portaferry at the entrance to Strangford Lough in 1971.

The National YC’s Ann Kirwan, former Commodore of Dublin Bay SC, racing her Ruffian 23 Bandit in Dublin BayThe National YC’s Ann Kirwan, former Commodore of Dublin Bay SC, racing her Ruffian 23 Bandit in Dublin Bay

Perhaps they called her Ruffian to get their naming retaliation in first, in the expectation that nobody could come at you later with any worse nickname. Be that as it may, by the time Ruffian had sailed and raced for just one month in 1971, her name had become a term of affection, and when they unveiled the production-built 23ft version in March 1973, it was given an immediate rocket-boost of favourable publicity through being called the Ruffian 23.

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We covered the entire and wonderful Golden Jubilee year with this anticipation of the season-concluding expedition by a team of 20 Iris Ruffian sailors to Hong Kong in October here and concluded it here then, before that we carried reports of the National Championship in July here

All of this rightly indicates a spirited class that fits in well at many clubs, but after 50 years it is the National Yacht Club and Dublin Bay SC which seem to best exemplify just what a successful local One Design the Ruffian 23 can be, and thus the joint award of the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year 2024 ” to the National Yacht Club and the Ruffian 23 perfectly expressed the overall mood of all that is best in Irish sailing as we move into 2024.

An all-inclusive and outgoing “Sailing Support Machine” - the National Yacht Club, home for 2024 of the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year” trophyAn all-inclusive and outgoing “Sailing Support Machine” - the National Yacht Club, home for 2024 of the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year” trophy

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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.

FAQs

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