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Displaying items by tag: W M Nixon

#isafyw12 – Sailing folk are getting worried about this summer's weather in northwest Europe. There's a real chance that it might be going to improve, particularly in northern France and southern England. And that might mean gentle conditions spreading in over the Olympic sailing venue at Weymouth on the Dorset coast.

Normally, of course, we would wish Weymouth all the very best in the matter of summer weather. In the heart of the place is a nice little river port where many an Irish sailor has been glad to spend a night or two for a spot of R & R. It has a bustling and attractive quayside which looks all the better for some sunshine. Just enough breeze to waft away the aroma of fish and chips, and Bob's your uncle.

But these are not normal times. A week hence, they'll be gearing up for the opening ceremony of the Sailing Olympiad at the Weymouth and Portland centre. Back in June, they staged the huge Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta there, as near as makes no difference to being an Olympic dress rehearsal. But the weather wasn't impressed – it was absolutely foul, with strong winds, plus enough rain for a year. Yet the Irish contingent loved it, with the Star crew of Peter O'Leary of Crosshaven and David Burrows of Malahide winning Gold, while Laser Women's Radial sailor Annalise Murphy of Dun Laoghaire took the Bronze.

We like to think we can be as good as the next crew in racing in light airs and sunshine, but there was no mistaking the way in which the Irish contingent revelled in the Dorset downpour. 'Tis only a shower, they merrily quipped, and went out and notched yet another win. Meanwhile other contenders – particularly those from sunnier climes – complained endlessly. And even the British crews (for it was their weather, after all) solemnly announced that they were carefully pacing themselves, as they didn't want to peak too early.

Be that as it may, the Irish squad are in the weird situation that their supporters – which is all of us – are getting worried that if things get better, then they'll actually be getting worse. Better on the weather front may mean worse on the results front. But you never know. The weird weather having moved centre stage in recent weeks, we're now aware that one line of thought is that the level of sunspot activity has a lot to do with disturbed global weather patterns.

For most of us in Ireland, if we could only see the sun now and again, we'd be perfectly happy for it to display signs of advanced acne. But apparently last week the sun became hyperactive again, and there were sunspots galore on July 12th. The date being what it was, on the Emerald Isle we could be excused for overlooking this. But the top sunspot honchos tell us that normal predictions are now out the window, and late July and early August could be every bit as awful as June.

It'll all be slightly clearer in a week's time. The first classes will be racing from July 29th onwards, and the final medal races and victory ceremonies – for the Finns and the Stars – will be on August 5th, with the Laser Radials a day later.

Meanwhile, watch those sunspots. But just for now, it's taking a while for it to sink in that Finn Lynch collected his silver yesterday at the ISAF Youth Worlds, aged just 16. Because the age span of 16-19 is so narrow, the rest of sailing tends to see the Youth Worlds as being something rather ephemeral, gone in a trice. But when you're just 16, the years stretching ahead to 19 seem to be for ever, and heaven only knows what young Lynch will be achieving at the end of the time he is still qualified to sail in the Youth championship.

It was fascinating to note as the championship progressed that the true origins of our young stars became clarified. The Dun Laoghaire machine tends to hoover up talent from all around the country as it begins to manifest itself. Thus when the Irish lineup was announced, it seemed to be wall-to-wall Dun Laoghaire and Crosshaven. But those of us who savour the sheer variety of places where people sail in Ireland were happy to note that Sophie Murphy's Strangford Lough connections – Quoile YC to be precise – were getting at least equal billing with her adopted base at the Royal St George. And though Finn Lynch may be promoted as part of the National YC lineup of talent, we trust there was celebration last night in Blessington for their new star from the lake.

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

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#sailing on Saturday – How many of the hundreds of contestants in the Four Star Pizza Youth Worlds getting under way in Dun Laoghaire this weekend will go on to achieve adult fulfillment as international sailing stars?

As with other sports, sailing sometimes has a problem in translating junior success into longterm adult achievement. Suddenly, the sheer pressure of expectation and achievement results in a complete turnoff in the enthusiasm of rising stars. They may even rebel by taking up golf or gardening.

Yet when we consider just some of the names of sailing greats who first came to prominence through the Youth Worlds, it would be obtuse not to be swept along in the wave of enthusiasm which this massive championship is engendering.

People like Russell Coutts, Ben Ainslie, Chis Dickson and Robert Scheidt have emerged as stars of the future from the Youth Worlds. Irish sailing also has its host of Youth Worlds graduates, the best-known being Olympic Silver Medallist David Wilkins, and this year's Olympic participants Peter O'Leary, David Burrows, and Annalise Murphy.

In addition to trophies for individual sailors and crews, the all-squad Nations Trophy provides a significant extra dimension, with France the defending title-holders. Their entry Groupama having clinched her win of the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway last weekend, the French team are under extra pressure to keep the title. But – hear this – they're up against 350 young sailors from 63 different nations.

The Youth Worlds is just that – totally worldwide, utterly global. The Irish squad are Sophie Murphy (Laser Radial, Strangford Lough), Finn Lynch (Laser Radial, Dun Laoghaire), Patrick Crosbie & Grattan Roberts (420, Cork), Alexander Rumball & Rory McStay (SL16 Catamaran, Dun Laoghaire), and Sean and Tadhg Donnelly (29er, Dun Laoghaire).

Necessity being the mother of invention, the current financial restraints on campaigning cruiser-racers in far-flung events has been giving the spin doctors a merry time. It doesn't do the job to describe a regatta with a significantly lowered entry list as being small but perfectly formed. But boutique will do very nicely, thank you.

So we'd a boutique series for the Scottish championship back in June, as scarcely any Irish boats could afford to go, and they're usually 30% of the entry. Now in Crosshaven they've coined the handy phrase "Boutique Week" for this year's Cork Week. But though numbers may be down, the sport is quite something, and heavy hitters such as Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens from the Netherlands, Mike Bartolomew's Summit 40 Tokoloshe from South Africa, and Jamie McWilliam's sister-ship Peninsula Signal 8 from Hong Kong have been having mighty racing.

Meanwhile the seasoned campaigners of the International Dragon Class have been quietly building a head of steam towards their main event, the Gold Cup in Kinsale in September. The 2012 programme's focus on Ireland has got off to a useful start with a good turnout for the Edinburgh Cup on Belfast Lough, and an excellent result for the home squad, the title going to Simon Brien who finished tops with defending champion Martin Byrne of Dun Laoghaire in the runner-up slot.

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Foncia skippered by former Figaro star Michel Desjoyeaux took third in this week's Krys MOD 70 Transatlantic Race at an average speed of 24.96 knots.

And on this Bastille Day morning, Vive la France! They're defending champions in Dublin Bay for the next week, they topped the Volvo Race leaderboard in Galway a week ago, and in recent days while we've all been grumbling about the weather, the first four of the new French-inspired MOD 70s have been scorching across the Atlantic from New York to Brest at speeds well in excess of 30 knots, with the leaders averaging better than 25 knots all the way cross the pond.

An MOD 70 is a state-of-the-art trimaran, 70ft in length and so light the all-up weight of one of them is less than the 8.7 tons of a Volvo 70s keel. Developed during the past three years, they've anticipated the proposed future setup of the Volvo boats by being one design. But as with any mighty leap, resources have been stretched, and though nine boats have been started to build in France, to date just five have been commissioned.

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Coming to a bay near you....the fantastic new MOD 70 class will be in Dublin Bay in September. They've just completed their first Transatlantic Race with the winner and runner-up crossing in less than five days from New York to Brest, averaging better than 25 knots.

However, for their first big international event, this week's Transatlantic dash, they secured the sponsorship of Krys. Solid backing, this – they're the French equivalent of Spec-Savers just in case your google persists in steering you towards a Cayman Islands-based global insolvency consultancy, or various pop stars.

Anyway, with Krys to clarify the vision, they got four of the boats to the US where they made a formidable impression in Newport before racing down to New York, with Steve Ravussin and his team on Race for Water taking the honours on that initial sprint. It was from Manhattan on Sunday that they zoomed away into the Atlantic, but the early leader (it was Ravussin again) impacted with what is believed to have been a container, so he'd to slow back and didn't get to Brest until last night, in fourth place.

That a damaged boat could still cross the Atlantic in less than six days gives some hint of what was happening among the three which were still in the hunt. They were screaming along. First to finish on Thursday in 4 days 21 hours and 8 minutes was Yann Guichard's Spindrift Racing, an average of 25.3 knots. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, skippered by Sebastien Josse, also was above 25 knots, while third placed Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux), was just under, clocking an average of 24.96 knots.

So it's a beautiful Bastille Day in Brest this Saturday morning. And the MOD 70 show will be coming to Dublin Bay in September – hang onto your hats.

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

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#genuineprospects – If you're contemplating a gentle summer holiday in the south of England in August, forget it. Unless, that is, you see wind and rain of the kind experienced there during the past fortnight as being an essential part of the vacation experience.

With the green and pleasant land becoming grey and soggy and wind-battered last week, Irish teams felt at home and made hay in the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta at Weymouth. It's the final main event in the countdown to the Olympics at the same venue in August, and went so well for our sailors that by Saturday night the Irish squad were in dazed contemplation of a new store of precious metals.

A Gold Medal for Peter O'Leary and David Burrows in the Star, and Bronze for Annalise Murphy in the Laser Radial. As a bonus, the 49er crew, northerners Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern, won their fleet and placed seventh overall - their best yet – in the main division.

If this is the kind of scoreline which can be obtained when the going is very bad weatherwise, then let's have more of it. Let's have medals galore even if horrible weather is a key ingredient. Certainly, some of the Irish sailing and Olympic community are praying for such weather in August on a daily basis. And if that fouls up your beachtime in Bognor – tough.

But we should be careful what we wish for. It wasn't wall-to-wall bad weather. The final section last Saturday, the all-important Medal Races, saw the English Channel in classic lively good humour. A sunny breezy day with a good sou'west breeze, 15 knots in the morning, pushing to a brisk and gear-breaking 23 knots after noon, a testing buildup.

The O'Leary-Burrows leap from third into Gold was achieved partly by the duel between the overnight leaders. Britain's Ian Percy and Bart Simpson had been one point ahead of Brazil's Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada. Then the Brazilians uncharacteristically got themselves into a knot, and had to throw a penalty turn. But Percy and Simpson stayed with them for covering purposes so closely that the Irish team were able to build on a correct tactical decision in the first beat, emerging as deservedly clear and triumphant winners.

Annalise Murphy showed her power in a breeze, and she moved onto the podium, while the Seaton-McGovern progression continued on its merry upward trajectory through the 49er class.

A less happy 49er sailor is Iker Martinez, whose perfect 2012 programme would have been to clinch his early lead in the Volvo Ocean Race at its Galways finish at the end of June, and then go on to race for Spain in the Olympics in the 49er in August.

It was all going along as planned, with Martinez in Telefonica flying the flag with steady success in the first half of the Volvo stages. But in the final stages his campaign has gone wobbled. Most embarrassingly for an Olympian, the inshore racing has been his Achilles heel. Last weekend in Lisbon was excruciating with his rattled crew dropping a sail over the side, and the boat placing last to drop more points, points hard won over thousands of miles of ocean.

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Race leaders Groupama Sailing Team, skippered by Franck Cammas from France, with Kerry's Damian Foxall onboard lead the fleet at full speed, on the approach to the finish of leg 8, from Lisbon, Portugal, to Lorient, France, during the Volvo Ocean Race Photo: Paul Todd

Franck Cammas and Damian Foxall with Groupama have gone from strength to strength and top the leaderboard with 189 points to Telefonica's 181. But now with the fleet racing back from rounding the Azores and on towards Lorient, Telefonica is once more in charge, but placings are mighty close in very rugged conditions.

The 2012 ITC Lambay Race at Howth, with a fleet of more than a hundred, saw overall victory for Dun Laoghaire, the Lambay Lady Trophy going to the First 31.7 Blue Fin 2 (Bernie Bryson and Mia Delaney, National YC) after a race so fast the sunshine only caught up with the fleet at the finish.

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

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9th June 2012

No Way to Treat a Lady

#HYC – When you've been staging a successful sailing race annually since 1899 or thereabouts, it's something which has will have acquired its own momentum with a significant amount of baggage in the nostalgia stakes. And its enduring popularity inevitably means that anyone minded to donate a trophy to the hosting club will want to get aboard the high-flying bandwagon of the big one.

Today's annual ITC Lambay Race at Howth looks to have everything going for it, not least an improvement in the ghastly weather which has dominated this past week. The race's prestige is such that it seems to have accumulated more silverware through its various divisions and classes than any other single race on the east coast – and perhaps the entire country, for that matter.

Taking in courses round the handsome Lambay and its quirky little sister island of Ireland's Eye, the Lambay Race is a celebration of the coast of Fingal which - during the ICRA National Championship a fortnight ago - showed how it can provide good sailing breezes when Dublin Bay is serving up windless frustration.

For this classic, they seem to have found a trophy for just about everything except being dog last, and even that must be only a matter of time. The supreme award is the Lambay Lady (think Little Mermaid of Copenhagen), and it goes to whichever winning boat in any of the myriad classes has the greatest margin ahead of the runner-up.

You might reasonably think this inevitably means whoever wins it sails in the most uneven and uncompetitive class of all, but somehow this never seems to happen, as it all often comes down to split seconds. And as they try to run the prize giving a short time after the very last boat has finished, the calculators are over-heated to come up with a result.

Last year, Dun Laoghaire's Ken Lawless and his team with their very competently up-graded vintage Quarter Tonner Supernova were initially declared the winners. The Lawless crew were well on their way back across Dublin Bay with their boat groaning under a load of silverware when some enthusiast in HYC ran a computer check on all the results and came up with the news that the host club's David Clark with his Puppeteer 22 Harlequin should have been awarded the Lambay Lady.

Dave Clark being the man whose day job is keeping the vintage dishwashers of Howth in working order through these stringent times, this just had to be put right, and Howth YC handled it with some style. They have experience of being on the receiving end of this kind of error. Five years ago, when local boats were scoring big internationally, Howth's Roy Dickson with the Corby 36 Rosie was announced as the initial overall winner of the British IRC Championship in the Solent, a big deal by any standards. The trophy had been back in Howth for 24 hours, and well celebrated, when Royal Ocean Racing Club CEO Eddie Warden-Owen made a sheepish phone call asking for their cup back – Rosie had actually been beaten for first overall by a fraction of a point.

So HYC's Brian Turvey handled the Supernova imbroglio with exemplary diplomacy, offering Ken Lawless dinner for two in Howth YC with all the trimmings if he could just see his way to bringing the Lambay Lady over with him, though of course keeping all the other cups. Today, we'll expect a double run on the results before making the final award. But even then, if you do win the Lambay Lady but subsequently have to give it back again, don't mess about - hold out for free dinner for all the crew.

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

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#SATURDAYSAILING – Eternal optimists among the cruiser-racer community had hoped that the success of the ICRA Championship might make the final difference to the emergence of enough enthusiasm to generate a team to defend the Commodores Cup in July. But ICRA Commodore Barry Rose of Cork – no stranger to optimism himself – reckons that the economic realities militate against it.

A final decision will have to be made within the next fortnight, but with even the top global sailing events showing the harsh effects of economic slowdown, perhaps the sensible thing is to accept that it's a non-runner, and instead we should be building towards getting back in the hunt in 2014.

As it is, with events like the ICRA Championship, the revived ISORA programme, and the round Ireland race in three weeks time providing Irish skippers and crews with excellent value for money and time, those who are keen to go sailing should have no complaints. Nevertheless, with seventeen boats nominated for the British trials this month, even if they muster four three-boat teams out of the lineup, there'll still be five boats going spare. But after the decisive Irish campaigns of the past decade, who would go with some sort of last-minute lash up?

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

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19th May 2012

Standing Up in a Hammock

#STAR SAILING – The last time anyone said the Olympic buildup is great crack for the participants must have been way back in the previous millennium. That's if it was ever said at all at any time since the first Olympics in ancient Greece, and on current form the Greeks -ancient or otherwise - just don't do great crack.

But in Olympic sailing, as in every other discipline in the five ring circus, the first thing that seems to fall by the wayside is the notion that it's all supposed to be sport. As for any anticipation of the participants having some sweet and uncomplicated enjoyment through sport, let alone any fun, that doesn't really figure at all.

Oh for sure, there are people whose stupendous sporting gifts and their enjoyment of them is truly life-enhancing. But they seem as rare as hen's teeth. For every Ronnie Delany and Usain Bolt ulluminating the planet, there seem to be zillions of grey little wannabee Olympians battling doggedly towards some goal whose only real reward is that, in winning it, they will manage to deprive someone else equally uninspiring of their narrow satisfaction.

It's bad enough when we hear people talking endlessly of their struggles, but regrettably that's too seldom. Usually, we're dished up wall-to-wall grim struggles. Always grim struggles. For much of the Olympic buildup, the Grim Struggle Is Your Only Man.

So let's hear it for the Olympic Star Class boat, which is so crazy it has to be fun. The basic design of the hull was created many years ago for something as gentle as sailing on the placid lakes of the American south, where your greatest excitement might be an alligator attack. But as 'gators generally didn't find Star boats a toothsome morsel, the big challenge sailing them on sleepy lakes was to stay awake.

To liven it up, somebody took a Star boat racing on the sea, which was daft. But others followed suit all the way down the line to becoming an Olympic class. Some Olympic sailing venues are pretty much open sea stuff – this August's sailing Olympiad at Weymouth in southern England is one such. In livelier Weymouth weather, the Star is a boat which would be relished by folk who think the perfect way to have sex is standing up in a hammock.

On the sea in breezy weather, the Star Class boat is a floating torture chamber. The only reason the Spanish Inquisition didn't have a fleet of them – painted black, of course - was because they hadn't been invented. That said, they've been around for a very long time. So they're supposed to get the chop as an Olympic class after this year's event. But as two of Brazil's greatest sports heroes in any discipline, Robert Scheidt and Torben Grael, are Star sailors, sensible folk wouldn't bet against the Star being big in Brazil's Olympics in 2016.

They deserve their place in the sun for putting the sport and the fun back into top class sailing when their World Championship concluded at Hyeres in southern France last weekend. Admittedly, the top ten had long since qualified to be their national Olympics representative, so this allowed pure sport to emerge as the dominant flavour. But with ten crews - including Ireland's Peter O'Leary & David Burrows - in with a shout of being the new world champs and it all coming down to the final race, it was game on, and then some

Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada won by an acclaimed hairsbreadth, because until that final race, through the preceding Hyeres Olympic Week and for much of the worlds the dominant crew had been Olympic superstars Ian Percy and Bart Simpson of Britain. So the Brazilians have brought it back to life, some people might actually have had some fun, and even if the Irish duo were pipped for a Bronze Medal by the Danes, their solid fourth and performance generally really does bode very well indeed for Weymouth.

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

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#VOLVO OCEAN RACE – How long can City Fathers maintain their Welcoming Committee smiles for incoming race boats? It's a question which was uppermost in Miami earlier this week, as the great and the good awaited the arrival of the leaders in the Volvo Ocean Race.

In this case, the answer had to be three days. A week ago, Kenny Read and his team on Puma were hanging onto a slender lead from Chris Nicholson with Camper, after racing more than 4,000 miles from Itajai in Brazil. At usual Volvo 70 speeds, a Sunday finish in Miami was a possibility - just the job in a festive city with a large Hisapanic population ready to party.

But the Bahamas decided otherwise. They must be strict Calvinists down there. An ordinary high pressure area over the islands found even higher pressure within itself to become an extremely high pressure system, and an almost complete calm reigned over a wide area, right across the racers' track.

For sure it was sunny, and through the vividly moonlit nights there was no chill. But for shoreside crowds and frustrated crews, this was small consolation. Just to add to the pain, the boats far astern were still tearing along in the full trade winds, with Franck Cammas and Damian Foxall and their team on Groupama staging a real Lazarus job to get through overall points leader Telefonica and sail within nibbling distance of Puma and Camper.

But in conditions in which Puma is supposedly not at her best, Kenny Read kept his cool, and crawled along the last 200 miles with all the intensity of an Olympic race. Finally, they were shaping up to finish late Wednesday afternoon. But the weather hadn't finished. While things were serene at sea, a massive thunderstorm built up over Miami, and winds of 40 knots started to blow away bits of the tented Volvo Race Village. It had to be closed to the public for safety reasons. You couldn't make it up. But by the time Puma came sweeping into the harbour to clinch her win, the thunderstorm was moving inland, the village was re-opening, the bands played on, and the welcoming committee had grins from ear to ear for an American win.

Racing resumes in a week's time with the In Port event in Miami, and then they're on their way next day Transatlantic to Lisbon, thence to Lorient, and finally to the finish in Galway. Chinese-Irish entry Sanya rejoins the fleet in a week's time, meanwhile the leaderboard is: Telefonica 164 pts; Groupama 153; Camper 149; Puma 147; Abu Dhabi 68; Sanya 25.

When Wednesday May 9th was set as the day for the presentation of the Mitsubishi Motors/Irish Independent "Club of the Year 2012" award to the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire after they'd been adjudicated the winners back in January, everyone had visions of a perfect summer's evening garden party sort of celebration.

No way, as it turned out this week. There was much better weather in March. But the National's superb clubhouse maintains a very pleasant warmth, and the place was packed out with a convivial crowd, so it was summer in every other way as Commodore Paul Barrington accepted the veteran ship's wheel trophy from Billy Riordan of Mitsubishi Motors.

It's the fifth time the National have won the trophy in its 33 years, and Irish Sailing Association President Niamh McCutcheon praised the club and its members for their sailing enthusiasm and exemplary level of voluntary effort afloat and ashore.

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Billy Riordan (left) of Mitsubishi Motors and National Yacht Club Commodore Paul Barrington with the Club of the Year Ship's Wheel Trophy on Wednesday. Photo: Michael Chester

As the National is already well represented in the forthcoming sailing Olympics with Annalise Murphy a top contender in the Women's Lasers and Jack Roy one of the 16-strong international racing administration team, everyone was delighted with the news that Ireland's sailing squad has been increased with the qualification of James Espey for the Men's Lasers, while Peter O'Leary and David Burrows finished fourth overall in the current Star Worlds.

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#OLYMPIC SAILING – Ireland's Olympic Star Class crew of Peter O'Leary (Cork) and David Burrows (Malahide) have kept themselves in the frame with sixth overall in a class of 25 boats racing at the French Olympic Week at Hyeres on the Mediterranean coast.

But as with everything to do with Olympic sailing except the final result at the main event itself in August, it's something which can be read in several different ways. For sure, they're ahead of some formidable international competitors on the leaderboard. But equally, while it's a quality fleet, some notable names are conspicuously absent.

And some were and weren't. Absent, that is. Current World Number One Robert Scheidt of Brazil, crewed by Bruno Prada, went out in the first race, and won. Then he seems to have disappeared, but showed up for Races 7 and 8, getting two thirds.

For those who stayed with the game, the best show has been by highly fancied British crew of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson. Having been selected for August's big one, they'd eased back a bit over mid-winter, but in Hyeres they've re-geared like several rockets, and knocked up a scorecard of 2,5,4,1,1,1. They didn't have to finish the final race to win the points series going away, which is just as well, as they were dismasted

The O'Leary/Burrows listing was 4,10,11,7,7, 3, and 9, all of which they'd to carry as they'd a DNF in the final race with a broken forestay. In the 49er class, Ireland's Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern concluded with a welcome upward curve, taking 19th in the fleet racing with a scoreline of 11, 14,13,7,7, 21, 10, and 6, discarding a DSQ.

The fleet in the Volvo Ocean Race have been having a nervy time of it, getting through the light airs towards the Equator as they race the 4,800 miles from Brazil to Miami, with a huge reward waiting for whoever breaks through a waving cold front first. Beyond it, the front-runner to the northeast trade winds will have an enormous boost to lengthen away.

The in-port race in Itajai last Saturday provided a useful gain for Franck Cammas, Damian Foxall and crew on Groupama – they won - while initial leader Telefonica, which is also overall points leader, threw half a dozen points away by going round the wrong marker buoy.

In the long haul to Miami, Kenny Read with Puma has been showing best, with Chris Nicholson next in line in Camper, followed by Telefonica, but positions may have another shakeup as they round the corner of Brazil at Recife.

There's been encouraging news for Irish sailing in two very different branches of the sport. UCD were a great force in universities sailing in Ireland in times past, but they'd had a drought until this spring, when it all leapt to life for them again with the overall win in the Irish Universities Nationals.

They then went to the British Opens as Irish representatives, and showed it wasn't a flash in the pan by coming home with the bronze. UCD's team were Simon Doran & Aoife Coffey, Barry McCartin & Eimear McIvor, and Aidan McLaverty & Bella Moorehead. That's not the end of it by any means, as the Dublin college will now be providing Ireland's team for the Student Worlds in France in October.

Cork voyaging couple Stephen and Aileen Hyde are now shaping their course out of the Caribbean with their 56ft Oyster after adding racing success to the circumnavigation which they completed last year. With son Stefan, - former Helmsman's Champion of Ireland - joining the ship with three keen racing crew, they took part in the International Oyster Regatta at Tortola, winning their class and finishing second overall to the successful rang boat Scarlet Logic, an up-dated machine which dominated the results in the recent RORC Caribbean 600 race. For a veteran cruising crew, this racing success was the icing on the cake – they'll return to Ireland this summer.

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

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#ISAYOUTHNATS – Dublin Bay is the national sailing focus this weekend, with more than 400 junior sailors hitting the water for the ISA Mitsubishi Youth Nationals. On the threshold of the season, it's always an event alive with anticipation. And with the Youth Worlds scheduled for the same venue in July, the pressure is already way off the top of the scale.

Leading Optimist dinghy sailor Sophie Browne (14) of Tralee, youngest ever helm to take the coveted "Sailor of the Month" title after her Silver Medal in the Opty Worlds in New Zealand in December, has already launched her 2012 season with considerable success in Denmark, where she won the recent International Consul's Cup series with a strong performance which moved the official reporter to suggest that the Kerry sailor had moved up a gear relative to all the other sailors.

As for other contenders on the bay this weekend, east coast sailor Megan Parker (13) of Skerries made the trek to the Lake Garda International Optimist Regatta on Easter weekend, and finished 19th. You might think that is scarcely an exceptional achievement. But the legendary Garda event attracted 806 entrants, which is simply beyond most folk's imagination. Merely to find the finish line through a plague of boats like that is surely deserving of some sort of award from the Royal Institute of Navigation. And to get into the top 20 merits the ringing of church bells back home - as sixth girl with nine top twenty placings and four top tens, Megan Parker did very well indeed.

With the multi-class Spring Warmer Series getting under way at Howth, Irish Cruiser Racing Association Commodore Barry Rose reminds all would-be competitors at the ICRA Nationals at the same venue in late May that discounts on entry fees cease after this weekend. With the organising committee chaired by Nobby Reilly, the Nationals from May 25th to 27th are shaping up to provide top level racing which positions everyone very neatly both geographically and tune-wise for the Scottish Series four days later, time-honoured as a happy hunting ground for Irish boats.

Meanwhile the RORC's Easter Challenge in the Solent last weekend was quite a silverfest for Wicklow designer Mark Mills. Boats from his drawing board were outright winners in two of the five classes, and he had a major input into the re-design of a third class winner.

The well-seasoned Summit 40 Tokoloshe (Mike Bartholomew, South Africa) topped IRC 1, 9 points clear of Anthony O'Leary's second-placed Ker 39 Antix, with round Ireland winner Tonnere de Breskens back in fifth. A new Mills production boat, the MAT 1010 Matilda (Louise Morton, Cowes) won IRC 3, and the veteran MG 30 Checkmate XV (Nigel Biggs, North Wales & Dublin Bay) won IRC 4 with more than a little help from a new Mills-designed keel and rudder. The Mills office has also scored success in the 600-mile China Sea Race from Hong Kong to the Philippines, winning IRC 1 with the 40ft one-off Mandrake (Fred Kinmonth & Nick Burns).

Looking to the coming season, that second place for Antix was encouraging for defending Commodore's Cup skipper Anthony O'Leary, but inevitably simply finding a team of three boats for Ireland for the biennial Commodores Cup in these straitened times poses problems for ICRA. However, 17 boats have already nominated for the British trials, and even with two or three Brit teams in prospect, there'll be good boats going spare, plus we hear of one or two interesting rustlings in the undergrowth.

NON-BREAKING NEWS

Argentine designer Juan Kouyoumdjian, who's based in Alicante, has fired off a broadside at those who suggest the damage-scarred current generation of Volvo 70s need their specifications and building standards up-graded.

For those who were away on Easter Retreat, the news is that the three leaders of the Auckland-Brazil stage (Leg 5 of the race) have now reached port, with Kenny Read's Puma just staving off an extraordinary challenge by overall leader Telefonica (Iker Martinez). After a 17-hour pit-stop at Cape Horn for "non-essential but sensible repairs", Martinez and his team sailed north with a new wind pattern and reduced the Puma lead of hundreds of miles to less than one mile before slipping back a little at the finish, but still taking a very close second.

Groupama (Franck Cammas) had been dicing with Puma all the way up the Atlantic, but her rig came down within 700 miles of the leg finish. With a jury rig, they still managed to finish and take third. Only Camper is still racing, battling up the south Atlantic after a prolonged stop for repairs in Chile. But all three other boats are out of Leg 5, and are now being shipped to an Atlantic port with various levels of hull structural damage. Thus critics have been saying that the hulls of Volvo boats aren't built strong enough, but Juan K is having none of this, and on Thursday he let fly:

"With our three boats safely in Brazil.....I believe we are presented with an intentional manipulation of the truth".

"There is a common, spread notion that ALL the participants in this VOR have structural problems, that the situation is unacceptable and that something needs to be done for the future. A fundamental distinction needs to be done between the mast breakages and the rest, and whilst I think it is very important to understand what caused so many mast failures, it is a travesty of the truth to put ALL designs in the same basket when it comes down to "other" structural issues......"

"Puma won Leg 5 without a major structural problem....Telefonica finished second with a hull delamination in port mid bow which did not prevent her from racing....(her) pit stop in Cape Horn was not a necessity but rather a very clever strategical decision based on having 3rd place assured....Groupama has sailed on her own means to Brazil without structural problems..."

Spitting fire by now, he concludes: "....avoid putting in the same basket the good work and brilliance of some engineers with that of others which are clearly not the same".

Them's his sentiments, and Juan K gives it from the heart. But there's only one Juan Kouyoumdjian, and he can't design and engineer ALL the boats in the Volvo Ocean Race, even if there is another edition of the VOR in its present form.

Because the news that a blue chip supporter like Groupama is pulling out of all sailing sponsorship after this race is over (and all football sponsorship too, after current contracts are completed), makes any future VOR scenario even more of a guessing game. Maybe we'll end up with something involving only the burgeoning BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China) - perhaps a Pacific Rim circuit with a quick jaunt round Cape Horn to Brazil? What would Paddy Power give odds on?

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

Ireland could yet have a Tall ship to replace the Asgard II and the Lord Rank, if a new sailing group formed to press for a replacement is successful. The news is in this morning's Irish Times newspaper. Groups representating different interests from maritime to tourism to economic are getting together for a special conference on March 26th in Dublin Port. The full Irish Times story is HERE. Next week in Afloat magazine's March/April issue an article called 'Tall Order for Ireland' gives all the details on the conference. It includes a 'call for contributions' from key stakeholders who would support a Tall Ship for Ireland. More details HERE. And in a separate article WM Nixon looks at the realities of national sail training in the 21st Century.  This new move on a replacement seems to have entirely appropriate timing; Asgard II was commissioned in Arklow 30 years ago this week, on March 7, 1981.

Looking for further reading on Tall Ships in Ireland? Click the links below:

Click this link to read all our Tall Ships Stories on one handy page


Previewing Ireland's Tall Ships 2011 Season


Can Ireland Get a New Tall Ship?

Published in Tall Ships
Page 11 of 12

RNLI Ireland Information

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts.

The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and the Channel Islands.

The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,200 lives.

How many RNLI stations are there in Ireland?

46 stations

The RNLI currently operates from 46 stations in the Republic and Northern Ireland. Different classes of lifeboat are needed for various locations. So RNLI lifeboats are divided into two category types: all-weather and inshore.

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