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Displaying items by tag: Round Ireland Yacht Race

Round Ireland Yacht Race entry Phaedo3, one of three MOD70 entries into June's Irish offshore classic, have just set off from Bermuda with the intention of setting a World Record Run to Plymouth in the UK. Lloyd Thornburg has on board for this record, Brian Thompson, Simon Fisher, Sam Goodchild, Paul Allen, Pete Cumming and Fletcher kennedy. They hope to make it to Plymouth in 5 days. They are being timed by the WSSRC. Once the boat is in Plymouth it is well positioned for its Irish debut in seven weeks time.

MOD70s are the fastest craft in the world, and three of these 70–foot trimarans entered the race when Wicklow Sailing Club organisers changed the rules of the race to permit multihull entries for the first time in 2016.

Entries for the June 18 race look set to break records with 44 already received. The latest is Just Plain Krazy, a JPK 1010 by Ian Knight from Royal Western Y.C, entered into Class three and the two–Handed class.

Published in Round Ireland

In precisely eight weeks’ time from this morning, adrenalin levels around Wicklow Harbour on Saturday June 18th will be rising as the final countdown begins to the start of the 19th Round Ireland Race. With new sponsorship for Wicklow Sailing Club’s main event from Volvo Car Ireland, and an unprecedented level of international interest, this year’s staging of the biennial 704-mile RORC-supported classic looks like being one of the best ever in the definitive race’s already vibrant history. W M Nixon takes the pulse on the current state of play with one of Irish sailing’s core spectaculars.

The Antigua to Bermuda Sailing Record over an ocean sprint course of 935 miles would normally be of no more than tangential interest to Irish sailors. Indeed, as the very idea of it is only a relatively recent concept, it had barely started to figure as a handy challenge in the international sailing consciousness. But this morning it’s of particular interest in at least two constituencies – Irish sailing and big time multihull offshore racing - as Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD 70 trimaran Phaedo 3 has been taking on the AB challenge in recent days, having left Antigua at noon local time on Wednesday.

In fact, as you consume both the full Irish and this comment-conglomeration of a cool clear Spring Saturday morning, the new record may well be already set. For so far as is known, whatever time is set will be the record, and may remain so until there’s a new challenge race going off officially from Antigua to Bermuda, and that’s not scheduled until May 2017. It appears that heretofore, nobody seems to have been trying to get from Antigua to Bermuda in a true record time, even if any reasonable seaman would want to make the passage in as efficient a style as possible in a manner in which speed is compatible with safety.

Yesterday afternoon, Phaedo 3 was well to the west of the rhumb line as she curved around the course to try and keep herself in the best available wind pressure for the final 200 miles to Bermuda. But whatever inaugural record emerges from Phaedo 3’s Antigua to Bermuda sprint, the links to sailing round Ireland and the up-coming Volvo Round Ireland race seem to build on us from every side, as Phaedo is being skippered by Brian Thompson.

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Brian Thompson, round Ireland record holder 1993–2015, and skipper of the MOD 70 Phaedo 3 which is entered for the Volvo Round Ireland Race

He was of course the main man when Steve Fossett’s 60ft trimaran Lakota set a very enduring round Ireland record back in September 1993. And that record stood until May 2015, when it was finally bettered – though not by the expected large margin – by Sydney Gavignet’s MOD 70 Musandam-Oman.

So good was Lakota’s record that it was Gavignet’s fourth attempt at it when he finally toppled the Fossett/Thompson time. The irony here is that Gavignet had become obsessed by the round Ireland challenge through being introduced to it by our own international sailing superstar, Kerryman Damian Foxall. Yet despite being on the three previous attempts, Foxall was unavoidably absent when Musandam-Oman finally brought the time down, as the Irishman had been drafted in to put right a crewing weakness in a Volvo Ocean Race contender.

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Damian Foxall

But Foxall will be very much on the strength when Oman Sailing comes to the line for the Volvo Round Ireland start at Wicklow on Saturday June 18th. And the broad scenario is for an utterly heroic drama, as Brian Thompson will be there was well with Thornburg’s Phaedo 3, as too will be another MOD 70, the Ned Collier-Wakefield-skippered Concise 10 which Phaedo 3 pipped for line honours in the RORC Caribbean 600 at the end of February.

When the Volvo Round Ireland Race organising team of Theo Phelan and WSC Commodore Peter Shearer and their colleagues announced last year that multi-hulls would be encouraged to take part in 2016’s staging, it was considered a good idea. But you would have been thought wildly optimistic to suggest that three MOD 70s would throw their hats into the ring. But now, with that achieved, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility there could be even more, for with competition like this already indicating that they’re on the way, others will want to join. And the reality of the big multihulls’ fantastic speed is that the boats can get here from their heartlands in France in barely a day’s sailing if their managers are inclined to send them on a race round Ireland.

As for Irish sailing generally, it’s great value as we now have two Round Ireland Races for the price of one, for experience shows that with a significant multi-hull presence, they and the mono-hulls are only seriously competing with comparable craft.

But as it is, the mono-hull division is exciting in is own right. We knew that George David’s impressive Juan K-designed Rambler 88 was showing strong interest a long time ago. But sometimes it’s quite a step from showing interest to actually signing on the dotted line. But as of yesterday, with an impressive 39 boats signed up and many more “on the way”, Rambler 88 had for some time been very much on the strength, fully-signed-up as entry Number 25.

So it could well be that when push comes to shove, we’ll be looking at a star-studded fleet somewhere north of the 50 mark - the best for some years. As ever, the bulk of it will be made up of the usual diverse offshore racing fleet averaging around the 35-45ft mark, and it includes many talents.

Defending champion Richard Harris, the Scottish owner of the Sydney 36 Tanit, indicated some time ago that he wouldn’t be defending, as he made it fairly clear that his overall win in the 2014 Round Ireland by seven minutes from the Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth was his swan-song. But Tanit has been sold to an Isle of Man owner, and she has already been listed as an ISORA contender for 2016, so who knows, but she may be persuaded into an event which clearly suits her so well with the Volvo Round Ireland Race.

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The Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth, runner-up (by seven minutes) in the 2014 Round Ireland Race, and overall winner of the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race

As it is, today’s ISORA seasonal opener of a 50-miler from Dun Laoghaire down to the Arklow buoy and then back up to finish at Wicklow (it’s matched by another day race across on the Welsh coast), will see all sorts of enthusiasms being stirred. Volvo Round Ireland Race organiser Theo Phelan is a seasoned old ISORA hand – he did his ten years and more on the circuit with the Stuart Kinnear- organised partnership on the Humphreys Three-Quarter Tonner Scenario Encore – and if conditions are as good as promised by the met men, the post-race buzz in Wicklow should see a mild dose of round Ireland mania, with Theo there to manage it as he meets old friends and former competitors from the ISORA ranks.

But already the fleet in prospect is impressive, as it includes 1996 overall winner Michael Boyd, Commodore of the RORC and leading member of the RIYC, with the First 44.4 Lisa which he has chartered as a stand-in until his new JPK 10.80 is ready. It will make for mixed feelings, as the first JPK 10.80 ordered for Dun Laoghaire by Paul O’Higgins, who formerly campaigned the Corby 33 Rockabill V, is going to be race ready for the VRIR (for which she’s entered) by June 18th, and she’ll be very closely watched.

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Le Bateau du Jour – the JPK 10.80 showing what a good all-round performer she is, going at speed yet beautifully under control with her twin-rudder configuration.

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The First 36.7 Lula Belle, winner of the two-handed division and two fully-crewed classes in the Round Britain & Ireland 2014, will be raced round Ireland by Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive

Also in the hunt are 2014 Round Britain & Ireland Two-handed winners Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive of Wicklow SC with the First 36.7 Lula Bell. And fresh from his Class IV win in the RORC Caribbean 600 is Howth’s Conor Fogerty with his Jeannneau Sunfast 3600 BAM - he’ll have semi-direct competition as a smaller sister in the same style, Groupe5 entered from France (Patrice Carpentier) is a Sunfast 3200.

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Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 BAM from Howth on her way to a class win in the Caribbean 600 in February.

The new Inter Schools trophy has competition, as the winner in the 32-strong schools division in the 2015 Fastnet, Ronan O Siochru’s Sun Odyssey 36 Desert Star of Irish Offshore Sailing, will be going, as too will be the Reflex 38 Lynx of Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire, where Kenneth Rumball had his complete round Ireland crew together last weekend for intense training, and today we’ll see the results as Lynx takes on the ISORA fleet.

And the two Dun Laoghaire sailing schools will have outside competition in the Round Ireland, as Paul Jackson of LYC Sea School from across the Irish Sea has entered with the Jeanneau 40 Wild Spirit.

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The adrenalin time……the two Sun Odyssey 37s of Irish Offshore Sailing in Wicklow Harbour before the start of the Round Ireland in June 2014.

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Learning curve. The Irish National Sailing School’s Reflex 38 Lynx will be training towards the Volvo Round Ireland Race on June 18th with today’s inaugural ISORA Race, which starts in Dun Laoghaire and finishes in Wicklow

As for the eternal J/109, expect their already significant numbers to increase as the start time draws closer. But as it is, last year’s Dun Laoghaire to Dingle runner-up, the J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox) is already entered, after today’s race it is expected that the 2014 Round Ireland runners-up and 2015 Dingle Race winners, the Shanahans with Ruth, will also have signed on the line to race round Ireland again, and in the near future we expect to have it revealed just which J/109 it is that World Half Ton Classics Champion Peter Cullen of Howth has chartered to race round Ireland.

Meanwhile it can be confirmed that the winner of the two-Handed Division in the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, the Elan 340 Blue Eyes (Colm Buckley, Howth YC) is already signed up, and so too is the oldest boat ever to do the Round Ireland Race.

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Colm Buckley’s Elan 340 Blue Eyes (left) won the two-handed division in the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race.

This is one of the best-restored classics currently sailing in Irish waters, Darryl Hughes’ 1937 Tyrrell of Arklow-built 43ft gaff ketch Maybird, During the time since Darryl began to make Ireland the focus of his sailing four years ago (he’s a Yeats fan, and is believed to be the only person who regularly sails to the Yeats Summer School in late July each year in Sligo, where he lives aboard for the duration), he has cruised round Ireland at least twice, so racing round should be taken in Maybird’s stride, as she also did the Fastnet back in 2011.

It will be a matter of time. Maybe quite a lot of it. But she’s no slouch when conditions suit. And there’s form here too – her 1934-built sister-ship Aideen was raced to a class win in the 1947 Fastnet by her original owner, the great Billy Mooney, Commodore of the Irish Cruising Club at the time.

Maybird’s entry is made through Poolbeg Y&BC, which is her home base when she’s up in Dublin. She’s currently in Crosshaven in the final stages of re-fitting, but when she does do the Volvo Round Ireland Race in June, it’s hoped that her crew will include a signficant element from Arklow Sailing Club - it may even include people who can claim descent from the men who built Maybird eighty years ago.

So that’s how it’s shaping up for the Volvo Round Ireland race 2016. The current Round Ireland Record-holder Musandam-Oman and her fantastic sisters at one end . The eternal seventy-nine-year-old beauty Maybird at the other. And in between, an already fabulous fleet, with more to come. This is going to be a vintage year.

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She’ll be the oldest boat ever to sail the race. But when Darryl Hughes 79-year-old Arklow-built Maybird comes to the line for the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race on June 18th at Wicklow, her crew will know that since her restoration in 2009-2011, she has completed one Fastnet race and two round Ireland cruises.

Round Ireland 2016 Entries to date (April 22)

RIYR Entry No

Wufoo Entry ID

Boat Name

Entrant/Skipper

Boat Type

Sail No

TCC

Club

CLASS

1

2

XANADU

Simon Costain

X-50

GBR905R

1.149

RAFYC RORC

1

2

3

Mojito

Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox

J/109

GBR9047R

1.018

Pwllheli S.C.

3

3

4

Bam

Conor Fogerty

Sunfast 3600

IRL1471

1.047

Howth Yacht Club

2

4

5

GROUPE 5

Carpentier Patrice

SUN FAST 3200

FRA 38483

0.996

SN LA TRINITE SUR MER

4

5

6

LYNX

Irish National Sailing & Power 

Reflec 38

IRL 7386

1.049

Irish National Sailing Club

3

6

7

Aurelia

Chris & Patanne Power Smith

J122

IRL35950

1.077

Royal Saint George Yacht Club

2

7

8

Pyxis

Kirsteen Donaldson

X332

GBR5963T

0

RORC

4, 6

8

9

Polished Manx2

Kuba Szymanski

Beneteau First 40.7

GBR 7003 T

1.049

Douglas Bay Yacht Club

3, 6

9

10

Wild Spirit

Paul Jackson (LYC Sea School)

Jeanneau 40

GBR8799T

0.983

RORC, JOG

4

10

11

Quid non?

Nigel Philpott

Swan 40 (92)

GBR7384T

1.005

Royal Naval Sailing Association

6

11

12

Arthur Logic

Sailing Logic

Beneteau First 40

GBR 7408R

1.07

RORC

3

12

13

Pegasus of Nortumberland

Ross Hobson

Open50

GBR715R

12345

RORC

6

13

14

Maybird

Darryl Hughes

Gaff Ketch

GBR 644R

12345

Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club

5

14

15

Artemis Ocean Racing

Mikey Ferguson

IMOCA 60

GBR100

1.6

Royal Ulster Yacht Club.. RORC

CK

15

16

Heimatau

Tom McLuskie

Farrier F36

GBR708M

0

Port Edgar Yacht Club

MH

16

17

Lisa

Michael Boyd

First 44.7

GBR4947R

1.103

Royal Irish Yacht Club/Royal Ocean Racin 

1

17

18

Wakey Wakey

Roger Smith

J109

GBR5909R

1.015

Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club

3

18

19

Paul O'Higgins

Paul O'Higgins

JPK 10.80

IRL10800

1.045

RIYC

2

19

20

Arcsine

Kathy Claydon

Arcona 370

GBR8643T

1.01

Weymouth Sailing Club

6

20

21

TBA

David Cullen

J109

IRL1141

1.015

David Cullen

4

21

22

Thalia

Mick Flynn

Sigma 400

IRL733

1.06

DL Marina

2

22

23

Change of Course

Keith Gibbs

C & C 115

GBR9070R

1.031

Channel Sailing Club

3

23

24

Bellino

rob craige

Sunfast 3600

GBR 3657 L

1.039

rorc

3, 6

24

25

Rambler

George David

Juan K canting keel 

USA25555

1.827

New York Yacht Club

CK

25

26

Andante

Keith Miller

Yamaha 36 c

IRL375

0.947

Kilmoer Quay sailing Club

5

26

27

May Contain Nuts

Kevin Rolfe

Rogers Whitbread 30

GBR9030

1.014

Cardiff Bay Yacht Club

3

27

28

Sarabande

Rob Mably

Swan 47

GBR 1238

1.034

Royal Cornwall YC

3, 5

28

29

Fuji

Ari Känsäkoski

CLASS 40 CC40

GBR 38

1.223

RORC

1

29

30

Masai

Ben Korner

Class 40 Pogo S2

109

12345

Team Masai

1

30

31

Fulmar Fever

Robert Marchant

Westerly Fulmar

FR14 

0.858

Waterford Harbour Sailing Club

CK

31

32

Lula Belle

Liam Coyne & Brian Flahive

First 36.7

IRL 3607

0.998

WICKLOW SAILING CLUB

4, 6

32

33

Hissy Fit

Simon Baker

Dazcat 1495

GBR 788M

1.22

Saltash Saling Club

M

33

34

Cloud nine

Robert Jordan

Sigma 33

201

0.912

Holyhead sailing club

4

34

35

Port of Galway

Martin Breen and Nigel Moss

Dehler 37Cruising

IRL 5687

0.952

Galway Bay Sailing Club

4, 6

35

36

IOS Desert Star

Ronan O Siochru 

Jeanneau Sunfast 37

IRL 1397

0.968

Irish Offshore Sailing

4

0

37

Cancelled

Ronan O Siochru

Cancelled

Cancelled

Cancelled

Cancelled

Cancelled

36

38

KATSU

Alan Hannon

Reichel-Pugh

RP45

1.241

RORC

1

Published in Round Ireland

Two Round Ireland yacht race contenders are smashing records on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean this week, on the Antigua race circuit. And the Carribbean records come just days after a Dun Laoghaire sailor also set a new record for sailing Round Antigua in a Laser dinghy.

Big winds, big speeds and the fastest ever times ever recorded made the 80th anniversary Mount Gay Round Barbados Race, one of the most spectacular in history with a total of five records broken, and each team winning their skipper's weight in rum.

Racing was over staggered starts commencing at 0700 with a good mix of yachts ranging from Classics including the stunning duo - The Blue Peter and Galatea - Ruth, the locally built 33m schooner, and a competitive group smaller boats including three J/24s. However, the stars of the show that set off last and raced 60nms round the island neck and neck were undoubtedly the two world-class MOD70s - MS Barbados Concise 10, skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield, and Phaedo3 co skippered by Lloyd Thornburg and Brian Thompson. They promised to thrill, and indeed they did.

They jostled for dominance all the way round the course and ended their battle with MS Barbados Concise 10 claiming victory by just 12 seconds. They completed the course in a staggering 2 hours, 37 minutes, 38 seconds, shaving under two hours off the previous Multihull record.

Lloyd Thornburg co skipper of Phaedo3 added: "It was a great race but after sailing 60 miles flat out it was a tiring one. Well done MS Barbados Concise 10."

Another great record-breaking achievement came from local sailor, Trevor Hunte, who not only smashed the Windsurfer record he set in 2014 by an impressive 2 hour, 41 minute margin but also led the entire fleet all the way round the course to take line honours. He completed the course in 5 hours, 34 minutes, 16 seconds.

2016 records

Multihull - MS Barbados Concise 10 course time: 2 hours, 37 minutes, 38 seconds
Previous record: 4 hours, 42 minutes, 20 seconds

Windsurfer - Trevor Hunte course time: 5 hours, 34 minutes, 16 seconds
Previous record: 7 Hours, 59 minutes, 10 seconds

One-Design J/24 - Team College Funds course time: 8 hours, 37 minutes, 26 seconds
Previous record: 9 hours, 6 minutes, 38 seconds

60ft and Under - TP52 Conviction course time: 5 hours, 34 minutes, 16 seconds
Previous record: 6 hours, 7 minutes, 6 seconds

Singlehanded Monohull - J/24 Bunga-Bunga course time: 9 hours, 46 minutes, 42 seconds
Previous record: 9 hours, 49 minutes, 58 seconds. 

Published in Round Ireland

The world record beating multihull skipper Lloyd Thornburg has entered his MOD70 Phaedo 3 in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race. The boat is currently in Barbados for the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race.

It is the second MOD70 to enter the race and follows Ned Collier-Wakefield who confirmed Team Concise last November.

Thornburg has been campaigning his MOD 70 Phaedo 3 for over a year  and has notched up an incredibly successful run of world records and regatta wins.

This year, after several Caribbean events Thornburg will be heading back to Europe. 

Yesterday, saw the opening of online entries to the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland and ISORA veteran Kuba Szymanski was first to register. Kuba will race his new boat Polished Manx 2 , a First 40.7.

Boats from France, UK and Ireland have been registering thus far with anticipation building that Volvo Round Ireland 2016 will be an epic one.

Published in Round Ireland

During the Autumn it was quietly announced that Wicklow Sailing Club had secured longterm sponsorship from Volvo Cars Ireland to support the biennial Round Ireland Yacht Race. This week, the new relationship put its head formally above the parapet with a reception at Wicklow’s partnership club in Dun Laoghaire, the venerable Royal Irish. W M Nixon went along to test the waters.

Volvo Round Ireland Race”. There’s a harmonious sonority to it. Outside in the dark, it may have been the first really cold night of this winter. But within the elegant warmth of the world’s oldest complete purpose-designed yacht club building, people were enjoying the hospitality and savouring the new phrase as they rolled the freshly-minted title about their vocal cords, exploring its many rhetorical and operatic flourishes.

Okay, maybe we were all a bit over the top in the relieved realisation that the longest Christmas hiatus in living memory seemed at last to have drawn to a close. Whatever, this was real life again, bringing future prospects and sporting sailing challenges with the anticipation of summer right back to the top of the agenda, and not so much as a whiff of stale mulled wine about the place.

Officially, we can suppose that the new title is the “Volvo Cars Ireland Wicklow Round Ireland Yacht Race”. But the clearcut brand of Volvo Round Ireland Race is already so firmly embedded in sailing’s consciousness that you’d be on a hiding to nothing trying to promote the copyright-protecting legally-binding longer title. And with the obvious goodwill among the great and the good gathered in Irish sailing’s most gracious building, the shorter title just seemed so right.

The link with the Royal Irish began with the Round Ireland 2014, when it was felt that an alternative pre-race berthing option for the biggest boats at the Royal Irish YC’s unrivalled facilities within Dun Laoghaire marina would help to spread the load, for Wicklow Harbour can become very crowded in the lead-in to the start.

But in the end, you couldn’t help but notice in 2014 that it was switched-on owner-skippers like Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee Bay, with his 2013 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race winner, the Oyster 37 Amazing Grace, who seemed to get the most convenient advantage from the RIYC hospitality.

round ireland yacht race 2015 2The switched-on Kerryman…Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee Bay SC knew that his 2013 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle winner Amazing Grace would be most conveniently berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire in the lead-in to the Round Ireland Race 2014. Photo: W M Nixon

However, looking to this year’s race, there’s no doubt that the expected presence of serious international heavy metal such as George David’s Rambler 88 and the IMOCA 60 Artemis will see a greater call on the RIYC welcome.

And it was made clear by Commodore Jim Horan that the welcome will be there. For although it’s 21 nautical miles from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow, the links of friendship between these two very different clubs are strong in their shared belief that a major race round Ireland every second year is absolutely central to our identity as a sailing nation.

round ireland yacht race 2015 3At the Volvo Round Ireland Race reception in the Royal Irish YC were (left to right) Adrian Yeates (MD, Volvo Cars Ireland), Theo Phelan (Race Organiser), Andrew Doyle TD, and James Horan (Commodore RIYC). Photo: Ann Egan

round ireland yacht race 2015 4The morning of the start in Wicklow, June 20th 2014, with the RIYC and the Wicklow SC flags flying together. Photo: W M Nixon

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George David’s Rambler 88 was the first of the international entries to declare a formal interest in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016

This is a view which has been taken on board by Adrian Yeates, MD of Volvo Cars Ireland. He is already well accustomed to dealing with Irish sailing administrators at the top level, for Volvo sponsor both the Dun Laoghaire Regatta and Cork Week, as his brand has found it makes for a very neat yet dynamic fit with sailing. But taking on the Round Ireland Race is something a little bit different.

There may well be the powerful image already projected by the Volvo Ocean Race round the world to add an extra and invigorating dimension. Nevertheless the Round Ireland setup was a difficult proposition to assess, with this biennial 704-mile challenge being the pillar event – indeed, almost the raison d’etre - of a small local sailing club in a little port which has much of the country town about it.

Or at least, it was difficult to assess until the shrewd Wicklow folk persuaded Adrian Yeates to come to Wicklow to the club reception on the morning of the race on Saturday June 18th 2014. You would need a heart of frozen stone not to be caught up in the special mood of the colourful yet nervy carnival which is Wickow Harbour on race morning, and Adrian Yeates is far from stony-hearted.

So as a result, there we were in the RIYC with such luminaries as Nobby Reilly, Commodore of ICRA, Peter Ryan, Chairman of ISORA, Wicklow Dail representative Andrew Doyle TD, and Harry Hermon, CEO of the ISA, to see the seal being set on a welcome new linkup which is in for the long haul.

While Greystones, Dublin Bay and Howth sailing were well represented, the Wicklow men and women were there in strength - staging the Round Ireland Race is now part of their DNA. Their Commodore Hal Fitzgerald led a talented contingent which included Race Chairman Peter Shearer together with the man with whom the buck stops, Race Organiser Theo Whelan.

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Wicklow SC Commodore Hal Fitzgerald and Race Organiser Theo Phelan. Photo: Ann Egan

Although entries don’t officially open online until this Monday, 18th January, Theo was able to give us a hint of some of the boats they are already expecting, while revealing plans for new prizes and extra classes.

At the top end of the spectacularity scale, the introduction of a multi-hull division will be getting attention, particularly as Ned Collier Williams has confirmed that international challengers Team Concise will be bringing three boats, headed by their MOD 70 trimaran, but with their two Open 40 monohulls there as well.

But for the Open classes, top contender for the time being is Philip Johnston’s Open 60 Artemis-Team Endeavour, whose crew will include Cork’s Figaro veteran David Kenefick. It will be very interesting to see how this specialised flying machine shapes up against the larger but more orthodox Rambler 88

However, for sailors who operate at a less rarefied height, perhaps the most interesting news is that there will now be a separate prize for Sailing School boats. Both of the Irish Offshore Sailing Jeanneau Sunfast 37s raced in the 2014 Round Ireland, and one of them got a podium place. But it was Ronan O Siochru’s overall victory in the 33-strong sailing schools division in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015 – winning the Roger Justice Trophy – which hit the publicity target spot on, and the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 now provides a worthwhile project for serious offshore sailing schools.

round ireland yacht race 2015 7The two Sunfast 37s of Irish Offshore Sailing, seen here on the morning of the start in 2014, will be going again, but this time they’ll be racing for a Sailing Schools Trophy. Beyond them on the outer pier are two Open 40s which will also be returning in 2016. Photo: W M Nixon

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The Irish National Sailing School’s Prima 38 Lynx did a previous Round Ireland Race sailed by NUIG.

Thus both Irish Offshore Sailing’s boats are going again, but as well the word is that the Irish National Sailing School’s Prima 38 Lynx is being kitted out for proper racing in 2016 after spending 2015 as the school’s yachtmaster workhorse. And as this boat provided success for NUIG in a previous Round Ireland Race, there’s already a real race in the making before we know which sailing schools boats are coming from from Britain and France.

All these possible and probable entries are under the microscope before we have even begun to consider the huge number of “ordinary” club and offshore sailors who like to have at least one Round Ireland Race in their sailing CV, while for many it’s impossible to see an even-numbered year go past without giving some though to a serious campaign for the Round Ireland.

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A well-presented boat – Richard Harris’s Sydney 36 Tanit heads out for the start of the Round Ireland Race 2014, which she won overall by seven minutes from the Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth. Photo: W M Nixon

Included among these will of course be the Shanahan family of the National YC whose J/109 Ruth missed the overall win in 2014 by just seven minutes to Richard Harris’s Sydney 36 Tanit from Scotland. And with the J/109s undergoing a further increase in fleet numbers in their natural home of Dublin Bay, it could well be that, as it was with the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race last year, there’ll be enough J/109s to constitute a class within themselves.

Certainly J Boats have a good record in the round Ireland story, with both Peter Wilson of Howth and Michael Boyd of RIYC winning overall in their J/35s. The latter – now Commodore of the RORC – did it with Big Ears in 1996, and he plans to compete again this June twenty years down the line with as many of his 1996 crew as can be persuaded aboard, but it will be with a boat at least slightly larger than a J/35.

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Game On! Immediately after the start of 2014 race, the Volvo 70 Monster Project (on charter to David Ryan of Wicklow SC) comes powering through the fleet: Photo: W M Nixon

Doubtless as ever there will also be a strong contingent from the Cork Harbour and Kinsale fleets too, for although the Round Ireland race was inaugurated in 1980, it was the arrival of Denis Doyle from Crosshaven to participate with the new Frers 51 Moonduster in 1982 which set the stage for the Round Ireland Race becoming central to Irish sailing.

Entry numbers have waxed and waned since, with the peak being reached in 1990 with 61 starters, though the greatest number of finishers was 54 in 1994. Through the grim years of the recent recession, the Wicklow enthusiasm kept the show on the road, but for the last three stagings of the Round Ireland, the entries have flatlined at 39 boats – it’s quite a good show in the circumstances, but there’s room for more.

With the new mood of optimism and enterprise, and an ideal new sponsorship setup, we can expect to see numbers rising again. However, for those who had acquired a taste for the traditional setup with the widespread finishing times being accommodated by holding the prize-giving at a gala dinner in Wicklow in the Autumn, be aware that Theo Phelan and his team are now thinking in terms of scheduling the prize-giving within the week of the race, staging it on the night of Friday June 24th. It will certainly add some extra excitement to see if all the results can be done and dusted in time……

round ireland yacht race 2015 11The Volvo Round Ireland Race includes a two-handed division, which in 2014 was won by father-and-son duo Derek and Conor Dillon of Foynes YC with their Dehler 34 Big Deal, one of the smallest boats in the fleet. Photo WSC

Published in Round Ireland

Michael Boyd, the Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and current holder of the Commodore’s Cup, will return to compete in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland race, marking the 20th anniversary of his win, with many of the same crew from his 1996 winning yacht, Big Ears.

The 18th Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race is set to be one of the most heated editions in the race’s history say organisers with a number of prestigious international sailing champions announcing they will contest this year’s edition.

 

Michael Boyd's choice of a J/35 as his first serious offshore racer was a shrewd decision 20 years ago. He won the Round Ireland in style with Big Ears and more recently the J/35 model has been one of the few exceptional boats to be inducted into American Sailing's Hall of Fame. In the 1996 race Boyd and his crew, minus one removed to hospital off Kerry with fractured ribs, played every tiny gain to beat Roy, Dickson's Beaumont Spirit on Channel handicap, the deciding system for determining the overall race winner.

Twenty years later, the race received a major boost before Christmas with Volvo Cars Ireland coming on board as title sponsor this year after four years without sponsorship.

Phillip Johnston has also confirmed that he will be entering the impressive Open 60 Artemis-Team Endeavour, the current holder of the Round Great Britain and Ireland Race, under skipper Michael Ferguson.

The current holder of the Fastnet Race's Roger Justice trophy Rónán Ó Siochrú has also confirmed that he will be back to contest the Round Ireland for the fourth time.

At the end of 2015 internationally renowned sailor and US businessman, George David also announced his intention to enter his yacht Rambler 88 into the 2016 race. The canting keel maxi yacht would be a strong contender to break the Volvo Round Ireland Race record of 2 days 17 hours 48 minutes 47 seconds which is held by Mike Slade in ICAP Leopard 3 achieved in 2008.

Meanwhile, following the announcement that 2016 will be the first time that multihulls will be invited to compete, Team Concise have already indicated their intention to enter their world-class fleet. Ned Collier Wakefield, Team Director and Skipper for Team Concise, has indicated that they intend entering their 3 boats into the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland – the MOD 70 and their 2 Class 40 boats.

The Race only officially opens for entries next Monday (18th January 2016), however with the quality of entries already at such competitive levels, Race organisers expect the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland to be one of the most competitive and exciting races ever, attracting serious quality sailors and some of the finest yachts from across the world.

Race organiser Theo Phelan:

“We have further expressions of interest from some really exciting names that we hope to be in a position to announce in the coming weeks. Already the competition is heating up and we expect many previous race entrants to return to contest what is set to be one of the most exciting races ever.”

“The new Volvo Cars title sponsorship is a paramount development in the expansion of the race, which allows us to plan ahead for the significant growth of the race in the coming years.”

The 2016 Volvo Round Ireland departs Wicklow Bay on Saturday 18th June 2016 with the first start at 13.00 hours.

Published in Round Ireland

Volvo Car Ireland has added June's Round Ireland Yacht Race to its Irish sailing sponsorships. The car brand adds the 700–mile offshore race to its existing sponsorship of Ireland's other Grand Prix biennial sailing events; Dun Laoghaire Regatta and Cork Week

While no official figure has been released, in previous years the title sponsorship of the race has been valued upwards of €50,000, according to an RTE report.

Run by Wicklow Sailing Club, the Round Ireland Yacht Race is the only RORC (Royal Ocean Racing Club) race based in Ireland and is one of the longest offshore races in the Royal Ocean Racing Club calendar, taking up to 7 days to complete. The first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. Since then, held biennially, the fleet has grown steadily, attracting a record sixty boats.

The Race is regarded as near equivalent in terms of rating points to the Fastnet Race, the classic offshore race, which runs in alternate years to the Round Ireland. The course, starting and finishing in Wicklow, brings entrants through widely different sea types and coastlines, from the Atlantic Ocean to the more sheltered Irish Sea, with difficult tidal gates, particularly around the North Eastern coast and navigational challenges requiring day and night tactical decisions at every change of forecast.

The Volvo sponsorship comes at a pivotal time in the Race’s development. Last year saw the establishment of a Dún Laoghaire base through a partnership with the Royal Irish Yacht Club, providing facilities thereby allowing larger yachts to compete. Race organisers have also just announced a further expansion to include a multi-hull category for the first time ever in its 36 year history.

Since the multi-hull expansion was announced, a UK giant 70-foot trimaran is already planning to compete in the 2016 edition of the race.

Adrian Yeates, Managing Director Volvo Car Ireland commented:

Volvo Car Ireland is proud to be so closely involved with such a prestigious sailing event as the Round Ireland Yacht Race. The Volvo Ocean Race is the world’s leading offshore race and is a truly global event, involving state-of-the-art boats and high-performance competition sailing on the world’s roughest seas. The Round Ireland offers clear points of connection with Volvo’s image, including a long-term commitment to safety, a readiness for adventure and a deep passion for design.”

Race Organiser Theo Phelan says Wicklow Sailing Club is delighted to announce Volvo as title sponsor of the race:

“Volvo represents our ultimate choice of sponsor for the Round Ireland Yacht Race, an alignment of the ideologies of strength, longevity, trusted reputation and determination. Volvo has a long heritage in sailing and an intricate understanding of the sport. Over the past four years, the focus of Wicklow Sailing Club has been to develop and expand the race and Volvo has come on board at an important time in the consolidation of this expansion. 2016 is set to be an epic year for the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race.”

The 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race will set sail on Saturday June 18th 2016. The Race will officially open for entries on the 18th January 2016.

Published in Round Ireland

Wicklow Sailing Club's Round Ireland Yacht Race organisers have announced that for the first time in the history of the event multihulls will be included when the 700–mile offshore classic sets sail next June. Already, a giant trimaran – similar to one that holds the current Round Ireland speed record – has expressed an interest in competing.

The UK's Ned Collier- Wakefield, Team Director and Skipper for Team Concise, has indicated that they intend entering their three boats into the 2016 Round Ireland – the MOD 70 and their twp Class 40 boats.

It's a major shot in the arm for the Wicklow club who have already signed up a world beating monohull for the 2016 race too. American yacht Rambler 88, one of the world's most sophisticated racing machines, will also be on the Wicklow line on June 18 at 2pm in what could yet be a bumper turnout for the 19th race eclipsing the 35–boat fleet that competed in 2014.

The multihull yachts will compete against each other for a new race trophy and course record. In May of this year, the Omani trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail set a new record for the circumnavigation of the island of Ireland by sail – 1 day 16 hours 51 minutes and 57 seconds - but this was not in a race setting. The Round Ireland race record (for monohulls) is held by Mike Slade who completed the race in 2 days 17 hours 48 minutes 47 seconds in ICAP Leopard 3 in 2008.

Wicklow Sailing Club organises the Round Ireland Yacht Race under the auspices of the Royal Ocean Racing Club. As in 2014, the 2016 race is being jointly hosted with the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. This association with the Royal Irish ensures that there will be ample space for larger monohulls and now also multihulls which wish to compete in the race.

Race organisers in Wicklow are also in contact with the Multihull Offshore Cruising and Racing Association. The organisation welcomes this development and a number of boats have already expressed interest in competing in the race.

In an additional development, the race organisers are introducing another new trophy which will be awarded for the best sailing school boat on corrected time. The Round Ireland is a popular race with sailing schools and this new trophy means that they can compete against each other in a more meaningful way.

The race officially opens for entries in January 2016 but expressions of interest are welcome at this stage.

Published in Round Ireland

#roundsireland – The 2016 Round Ireland Yacht Race is scheduled to start from Wicklow Bay at 14:00 hrs on Saturday 18th June 2016 and organisers are seeking early interest.

The Round Ireland is a biennial 704 mile circumnavigation of the island of Ireland, starting and finishing in Wicklow. The 2016 race will be the 19th of the series, with the first race having been sailed in 1980.

The race is organised by Wicklow Sailing Club, in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

The race provides spectacular scenery around the coastline of Ireland. There is a series of challenging tidal gates and varying sea conditions. Finally, there is the massive welcome home at Wicklow Sailing Club.

The Preliminary Notice of Race is attached; enquiries have already been received at the race office from interested boat owners.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club has confirmed that the race will continue to merit bonus points (1.4) for participants and the Royal Irish Yacht Club will once again provide a base for those boats who wish to use Dun Laoghaire as a base.

In 2014, the overall winner was Tanit (Richard Harris and team from Glasgow), while line honours went to Monster Project (Andy Budgen and local WSC sailor David Ryan). The overall record of 2 days 17 hours 48 minutes 47 seconds is held by Mike Slade in ICAP Leopard 3 achieved in 2008.

The race officially opens for entries in January 2016 but seek early enquiries. Download the preliminary NOR below.

Published in Round Ireland

#roundireland – The biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow is the jewel in Ireland's offshore racing crown. It may only have been established as recently as 1980, but now it is a classic, part of the RORC programme, and an event which is very special for those who take part. In fact, for many Irish sailing folk, having at least one completed Round Ireland Race in your sailing CV is regarded as an essential experience for a well-rounded sailing life. Yet despite fleets pushing towards the 60 mark in the 1990s, even before the economic recession had started tobite the Round Ireland numbers were tailing off notwithstanding the injection of RORC support, and the more recent bonus of it carrying the same points weighting as the Fastnet Race itself. At a time when the basic Fastnet Race entry list of 350 boats is filled within six hours of entries opening for confirmation, and when the Middle Sea Race from Malta has confidently soared through the 120 mark, while the 70th Sydney-Hobart Race in seven weeks time will see at least a hundred entries, the Round Ireland Race fleet for 2014 was only 36 boats, of whom just 33 finished. W M NIXON wonders how, if at all, this situation can be improved.

"The Round Ireland Race is the greatest. Why don't more people know about it? Why aren't there at least a hundred top boats turning up every time it starts? It's a marvellous course. We had great sailing and great sport. Can somebody tell me why a genuine international offshore racing classic like this has been going on for 34 years, and yet in 2014 we see an entry of only three dozen boats?"

The speaker isn't just any ten-cents-for-my-opinion waterfront pundit. On the contrary, it's Scotsman Richard Harris, skipper and part-owner with his brother of the potent 1996 Sydney 36 Tanit, the overall winner of the Round Ireland Race 2014. And he's asking these questions as someone who has raced with success in both the Fastnet and Sydney-Hobart Races, and has campaigned his boat at the sharp end of the fleet with the RORC programme from the Solent, and in any worthwhile offshore racing he has managed to find in his home waters of Scotland.

Harris is getting into fine form, as we're at the Tanit table for Wicklow Sailing's Club's Round Ireland Prize-giving Dinner-Dance in the Grand Hotel in Wicklow town last Saturday night. With a boxload of trophies for Tanit to collect, anyone would be in exuberant spirits. But his views on the quality of the Round Ireland Race are clearly thought out and genuinely held, and he is enthusiastically supported by his navigator, Richie Fearon.

Fearon is the man to whom the Tanit crew give the lion's share of the credit for their success, which was achieved by just six minutes from Liam Shanahan's J/109 Ruth from the National YC in Dun Laoghaire. He was the only one in Tanit's crew who had done the race before, and in an all-Clyde lineup, his was the only Irish voice, as he sails from Lough Swilly YC in Donegal. His previous race was in 2010 with the Northern Ireland-based J/124 Bejaysus (Alan Hannon), which finished 7th overall. But for the Derry man, second time round made the course if anything even more interesting.

"You get a wonderful sense of the race progressing all the time, of moving along the course" says Fearon. "In the Fastnet, for instance, there are periods when you feel as though you're sailing in a sort of limbo. But in the Round Ireland, you're always shaping your course with the next rock or island or headland or wind change or tidal time in mind. There's a fascinating and challenging mix of strategy and tactics and navigation and pilotage, all of which results in one of the most interesting distance races in the world. They really should get more people to do it. It gives a wonderful feeling of achievement and completeness when you just finish the course. And it's even better if you do well, as we felt we'd done in 2010. But believe me, winning overall, and in a boat as interesting as this with a crew of guys as good and as friendly as this, that's the best of all!"

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Richie Fearon of Lough Swilly YC, seen here kitted up off Cape Town for the Transatlantic race to Rio, navigated Tanit to the overall victory in the Round Ireland 2014

So how do you explain to such people, people who have become Round Ireland enthusiasts with all the zeal of recent converts, just why it is that Ireland's premier offshore event can barely attract a viable quorum when the yacht harbours of Europe are bursting with high-powered offshore racing boats which are constantly on the lookout for events worthy of their attention, not to mention commercial offshore racing schools and training programmes which need events like the Round Ireland Race to stay modestly in business?

How indeed, when we already have enough difficulty in explaining it all to ourselves. Inevitably, we have to look at the history, and the setting of that history. The last time I was at the Round Ireland Prize-Giving Dinner-Dance in Wicklow, there'd been enough participants from my home port of Howth in that year's race to make it worthwhile for us to hire a bus to go down through the Garden County for the party. We were in the midst of the Celtic Tiger years when people's expectations were becoming very pretentious, and I remember two foodies seated nearby in the bus pompously hoping to high heaven that the evening's meal wouldn't be the inevitable rural feast of beef or salmon.

But the charm of Wicklow town is that, though it's barely a forty minute drive from the capital, it is very much of the country - l'Irlande profonde as you might say. 'Tis far you are from big city notions of fancy menus to appeal to jaded metropolitan taste-buds. So it was indeed beef or salmon. Not that it really mattered that much to the crowd on the bus from Howth. They were well fuelled with on-board liquor by the time we got there, and the return journey in the small hours was made even longer by the need for frequent comfort stops, thus all they'd needed in the meal was absorbent food to mop up the booze.

Some things have changed greatly in the past few years, not least that there was so little Howth involvement in 2014's race that one very modest car would have done to get all the participants to last Saturday night's prize-giving dinner dance in Wicklow. But some things, thank goodness, don't change. It was still beef or salmon. And very good it was too, as salmon is excellent fish if you don't try to pretend that it's steak and grill it. That brings out its least attractive taste elements. But a baked darne of salmon with a well-judged sauce, such as we had last Saturday night, is a feast for a king. And I gathered the roast beef was very good too.

But it all reinforced the feeling that we were in the biggest hotel – the only hotel? - in a small Irish country town. Yet apart from the sailors at the night's event, there was nothing to suggest that Wicklow is a port, for there's something about the layout of the place which makes the harbour waterfront wellnigh invisible unless you seek it out. It's a delightful surprise when you do find it, but it's very much a little working port, rather than a natural focus for recreational boating and the biennial staging of one of the majorevents in the Irish sailing calendar.

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You almost have to take to the air to see that Wicklow is a little port town, for as this photo reveals, the main street turns its back very decisively on the workaday harbour in the Vartry River.

It was back in 1980 that Michael Jones of Wicklow Sailing Club took up boating magazine publisher Norman Barry's challenge for some Irish boat or sailing club, any maritime-minded club at all, to stage a round Ireland race. Jones went for the idea, and Wicklow have been running it every other year ever since. It may be the jewel in Irish offshore sailing's crown. But in Wicklow's little sailing club, it is the entire crown, and just about everything else in the club's jewel and regalia box as well.

Whether or not this is good for the general development of sailing in Wicklow is a moot point, but that's neither here nor there for the moment. What matters is that as far as the growth and development of the Round Ireland Race is concerned, in the early days of the 1980s the fact that Wicklow was a basic little commercial and fishing port with only the most rudimentary berthing facilities for recreational boating didn't really matter all that much, as most other harbours in Ireland were no better.

In 1982, the great Denis Doyle of Cork decided to give the race his full support with his almost-new Frers 51 Moonduster. Denis was someone who strongly supported local rights and legitimate claims, and he reckoned that the fact that Wicklow Sailing Club had filled the Round Ireland Race void, when larger longer-established clubs of national standing had failed to step up to the plate, was something which should be properly respected. So in his many subsequent participations in the Round Ireland Race, Moonduster would arrive into Wicklow several days in advance of the start, she would be given an inner harbour quayside berth of honour in a place as tidy as it could be made in a port which seems to specialise in messy cargoes, and Denis and his wife Mary would take up residence in a nearby B & B and become Honorary Citizens of the town until each race was started and well on its way.

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Like father, like son. Denis Doyle's son Frank's A35 Endgame from Crosshaven berthed in Wicklow waiting for the start of the Round Ireland Race 2014, in which she placed fourth overall and was a member of the winning team for the Kinsale YC Trophy. Photo: W M Nixon

It was an attitude which they brought to every venue where Moonduster was raced. The Doyles believed passionately that boosting the local economy should be something that ought to be a priority in any major sailing happening, wherever it might be staged. Denis had been doing the biennial Fastnet regularly for many years before he took up the Round Ireland race as well, and for a longtime beforehand he and Mary had also had the Honorary Citizen status in Cowes, as he would make a job of doing Cowes Week beforehand, living in digs in the town, while at race's end in Plymouth, there'd be a local commitment as well, albeit on a smaller scale.

This was all very well for Wicklow and the Round Ireland in the circumstance of the 1980s, but by the 1990s other ports were developing marinas and providing convenient facilities, yet Wicklow stubbornly stayed its own friendly but inconvenient self. When we look at the geography of the harbour, we can see why, and see all sorts of things that might have been done differently a very long time go.

For instance, when the Vikings were first invading and intent on making Wicklow one of their key ports, it could have been developed in a much more useful way if only the native Irish had made them welcome. Can't you just see it? "We'll overlook the rape and pillage for now, lads, these guys represent substantial inward investment". Just so. Had there been that far-sighted attitude, the locals could have invited the men in the longships to come on up the River Vartry, and into the magnificent expanse of the Broad Lough. What a marvellous vision that would have revealed. With some minor rock removal and a little bit of dredging in the entrance, it could be a wonderful extensive natural harbour in a beautiful setting. Had that happened, just think how differently the facilities of modern Wicklow harbour might now be.

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The navigable part of Wicklow Port as it is today. The water does not really come to a sudden straight-line stop as shown on the left – that's just the bridge. Plan courtesy Irish Cruising Club

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The bigger picture. Had the Vikings not been stopped such that they had to establish their settlement at the mouth of the Vartry River, they might have been able to create a much larger harbour settlement further in around the shores of the Broad Lough, with obvious advantages for Wicklow Port as it might have become today

Instead, the Vikings struggled ashore on the first available landing place at the first bend of the river, and established a beach-head which became such a successful little fort that eventually they were able to burn their boats. But by thattime, they were totally committed to having Wicklow town in its present cramped location. Access to the Broad Lough at high water (there's a very modest tidal range tidal) was soon restricted by the bridge, and then other river crossings, such that today nobody thinks of it as a potential harbour at all, if they ever did.

But meanwhile the current inner harbour is a cramped and dirty river which seems to be ignored by the town as much as possible, such that even the Bridge Tavern, the birthplace of Wicklow's most famous seafarer, Captain Robert Halpin of SS Great Eastern and trans-oceanic cable laying fame, turns its back firmly on the port. And as for the outer harbour, while it's a delightful place on a summer's day, it is not a serious proposition for berthing a large fleet of boats preparing for a major 704-mile offshore race, but people have to make do with it as best they can.

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Despite being the birthplace of the most famous Wicklow seafarer, Captain Robert Halpin, the Bridge Tavern turns its back on the harbour. Photo: W M Nixon

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Wicklow's Outer Harbour on the morning of the Round Ireland race 2014 is a lovely sunny spot..............Photo: W M Nixon

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....but it is the inner harbour, shared with fishing and other commercial craft and assorted non-maritime quayside businesses, which will shelter the fleet preparing for the Round Ireland Race. Photo: W M Nixon

It was in the 1990s when the Round Ireland fleet was at its peak that the problems with the harbour's limited facilities were at their most acute, and it may be dormant memories of those difficult conditions which contribute to today's shortage of enthusiasm for the race. Back in the 1990s, the average cruiser-racer was not kitted out as a matter of course to RORC requirements, thus those undergoing their first scrutiny in order to be allowed to race round Ireland had to get to Wicklow several days in advance, and then often spendmoney like water to get up to scratch, the necessary bits and pieces being supplied by chandlers' vans parked on the quay.

It was crazy, not unlike a waterfront version of Ballinasloe Horse Fair - all that was missing was Madame Zara in her shiny caravan giving out nautical horoscopes in sepulchral tones for the wannabe Ireland circumnavigators. Perhaps she was there, but the two times I was going through the process with my own boat, it was so hectic I wouldn't have noticed. All I wanted to do was get to sea and away on the race, and get the filth of Wicklow harbour washed off the boat as soon as possible, as we'd drawn the short straw and had been berthed right in against the quay, so everyone has used our boat as a 35ft doormat on their way across to their own craft.

But the finish of the race at Wicklow – now that was and is completely different. The place seems to have transformed itself while you've been away bashing through sundry waters and a lot of the Atlantic in the intervening five days. Everyone is feeling like a million dollars, and Wicklow seems the only proper place in the whole wide world to finish a major offshore race. And as for the Round Ireland Prize Giving Dinner Dance, the venue of the Grand Hotel and beef or salmon for the meal is all part of the formula, it's central to the mystique of this extraordinary event.

In the days of the big entries with massive sponsorship from Cork Dry Gin, the prize-giving was Dublin-centred even if the race had started and finished in Wicklow. And the big bash in the city would start with a huge reception leading on into a gala dinner (I don't remember much dancing) in a glitzy Dublin hotel. In truth, it seemed a bit remote from little boats making their ways alone or in ones and twos back into Wicklow after the profoundly moving experience of racing right round our home island.

By the time you'd done all that, only others who have done the same could truly share your feelings about the experience. Big parties in anonymous city hotels were not the ideal setting for the Autumnal prize-giving and de-briefing. Thus the contemporary final hassle of getting down to Wicklow for the Round Ireland Dinner on a black November night in a veritable deluge of a downpour could be seen as the last stage of a long weeding-out process.

But once you're into the Grand Hotel and the party is under way, it's magic and the camaraderie really is quite something. Old rivalries and grievances fade away. It is also, to a remarkable extent, a family gathering – the number of family crews involved is surely exceptional. And the tone of it for 2014 is set by the presence of the winner of the KYC Trophy for the best three boat team, for the winners had as their top-placed boat the A35 Endgame, fourth overall and owner-skippered by Frank Doyle RCYC, son of Denis and Mary Doyle.

However, inevitably the status of the race and its future development and expansion is something which just won't go away. Any doubts about its importance were soon dispelled by considering the special guests at the dinner, as they included the President of the Irish Sailing Association David Lovegrove, the Vice Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club Michael Boyd of the RIYC, and the Commodore of the Royal Irish Yacht Club, Jim Horan, whose club in 2014 was for the first time in association with Wicklow Sailing Club on the Round Ireland Race. The RIYC acted as hosting club in Dun Laoghaire for visiting boats which didn't want to go on down to Wicklow until shortly before the start, but wished toavail of modern marina facilities and the amenities of a large sailing port in the meantime.

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The switched-on crews going to Dun Laoghaire before the start of the Round Ireland Race 2014 knew that the best approach was to make themselves known at the Royal Irish YC and get a berth there, instead of allowing their boats to be banished to the "Siberia" of Dun Laoghaire Marina's remote visitors berths. Photo includes the MG38 McGregor IV from Essex which finished tenth overall (left), and the Oyster 37 Amazing Grace from Kerry, which had been in the frame but was forced to retire with equipment failure. Photo: W M Nixon

It was a partnership with potential, but it will need to be worked on. For although boats from other parts of Ireland knew that on arrival in Dun Laoghaire the secret of being well looked after was to make your number directly with the RIYC, boats from further afield coming into Dublin Bay tended to contact the marina, and thus they were stuck into Dun Laoghaire Marina's absurd visitors' berths, which are right at the very outer end of the pontoons, way out beyond acres of currently empty berths, such that it's said that anyone on them is one whole kilometre's walk from dry land.

Before the Round Ireland Race, the eventual winner Tanit was brought up from the Solent to Dun Laoghaire by a delivery crew who contacted the Marina Office, and she was stuck out in the Siberia of those Visitors Berths. It did mean that when she was first properly seen in Wicklow Harbour on the morning of the race, her impact as clearly an extremely attractive and very sound all round boat was all the greater. But nevertheless, if that is Dun Laoghaire Marina's idea of making visitors welcome, then they need to do something of a reality check, and it was a telling reminder that many Dun Laoghaire and Dublin Bay sailors are so absorbed in their own clearly defined and time-controlled activities afloatthat it leaves them with only limited attention for events outside their own sphere of interest.

As for Dun Laoghaire's general public, is there any interest at all? If the start of the Round Ireland Race was shifted to Dun Laoghaire, as some suggest, do you think the vast majority of the locals would take a blind bit of notice? At least in Wicklow they do make a bit of a fuss on the day of the start, with a community-sponsored fireworks display the night before.

In a final twist, in setting up the new Wicklow-Dun Laoghaire relationship, nobody had thought of the Greystones factor. Most had been unaware that the new Greystones marina is unexpectedly very deep. But such is the case, as I learned on Saturday night from the man from Newstalk. It's one of the reasons it cost the earth to build the little place. But it did mean that, in the buildup to the Round Ireland Race, while two of the deepest boats, the Volvo 70 Monster Project chartered by Wicklow's "Farmer" David Ryan, and the Farr 60 Newstalk, were unwilling to berth in Wicklow itself, they'd only to go a few miles north to find a handy berth in Greystones, where they were still very much in Wicklow county. There, they were the focus of much attention. For as we've discovered at Afloat.ie, if we lead a story #greystones, the level of interest is amazing.

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The exceptionally deep water in Greystones Marina provided trouble-free berthing for the Volvo 70 Monster Project and the Farr 60 Newstalk. Photo: W M Nixon

Perhaps after their attendance at the Round Ireland Dinner in Wicklow last Saturdaynight, Tanit's crew now have a better understanding of why the Round Ireland Race is in its present format. And I certainly understand why the level of close personal attention which goes into the race administration by the small team in Wicklow SC running it adds greatly to its appeal for dedicated participants. Before going to Wicklow, I'd been checking with the eternally obliging Sadie Phelan of the race team whether or not Richard Harris would be there, as I had to admit I thought his boat was only gorgeous. "Of course he'll be there" says Sadie, "and I'll put you at his table".

Not only that, but the winner Tanit's table and the runner-up Ruth's table were cheek by jowl, so much so that I was almost sitting at both of them. It would have taken a team of scribes to collate all the information flying back andforth, but everything was of interest.

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Just six minutes separated them at the end.....winner Richard Richard Harris of Tanit (left) and runner-up Liam Shanahan of Ruth at the Round Ireland prize-giving in Wicklow last Saturday night. Photo: W M Nixon

Richard (42) and his brother have owned Tanit for about twelve years, but as his brother is into gentler forms of sailing, the offshore campaigns are exclusively Richard's territory. In early sailing in the Clyde, they'd campaigned a Sweden 36 with their late father while Richard's own pet boat was a classic International OD. But as his interest in offshore racing grew, heidentified the Australian Murray Burns Dovell-designed Sydney 36 as ideal for their needs. He found there was only one in Europe, a 1996 one, little-used and in the Solent. They soon owned her, and changed her name to Tanit as the family firm is Clyde Leather, a vibrant firm which is the only suede tannery in Scotland.

Thus as raced in the Round Ireland, Tanit had the logo of Clyde Marine Leather on her topsides - a useful sideline is suede products for marine use, including a very nifty range of attractively-priced DIY kits for encasing your stainless-steel steering wheel in suede. Show me a boat which has a bare steel wheel, and I'll show you a boat which is on auto-pilot for an indecent amount of the time. But if you are doing the suede coat thing on your helm, be sure to cover the spokes as well, it makes all the difference for ultimate driver comfort.

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The boat from God knows where....Tanit (left) was an unknown quantity when she made her debut in Wicklow Harbour on the morning of the Round Ireland Race 2014, but father and son crew Derek & Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal (right) from Foynes had already taken part in a couple of ISORA races, and went on to win the two-handed division and place 8th overall. Photo: Kevin Tracey

Gradually, they built up Tanit's campaigning in the Clyde, and most of the crew who currently race the boat have been together for seven years. They also chartered a boat to do the Hobart Race of 2008, but as Scottish offshore racing numbers declined, they decided to give it a whirl with the RORC fleets in the English Channel by moving Tanit down there. They found that the programme of concentrated doses of large-fleet intense offshore racing, all taking place at a venue two hours' flight from Glasgow, suited them very well – they could be totally domesticated when at home without the distraction of the boat being just half an hour's drive down the road.

The Sydney 36 of Tanit's type ceased production in 1997, the Sydney 36 you'll tend to come across now on Google is a new 1998 design. So when Tanit's rudder was wrecked after the 2011 Fastnet (a good race for them), it was something of a disaster as a replacement rudder could no longer be supplied off the shelf. It was even more of a disaster for the unfortunate woman who was driving her five-day-old Range Rover around the boatyard in Southampton where Tanit had been hoisted after returning from the Fastnet finish in Plymouth, for not only was her absurdly big shiny new vehicle severely damaged in somehow colliding with the rudder of the Scottish boat, but it turned out that an inevitably custom-built replacement would cost a cool 35K sterling for her insurance company, as that was one very special rudder.

It was a disaster all round, for by the time they'd identified a high tech builder of sufficient repute prepared to build the new rudder, they had missed most of the 2012 season. Then the 2013 Fastnet Race had too much reaching to suit them, as Tanit is at her best upwind and down. So with Richard's brother making louder noises about selling Tanit in order to suit his more sybaritic preferences afloat, the Round Ireland Race 2014 came up on the radar as being an opportunity for what might well be the last hurrah with a much-loved boat.

They needed a navigator, and preferably one with some experience of the Round Ireland course. Fortunately John Highcock of Saturn Sails in Largs, who regularly races with Tanit as one of those ace helmsmen who can seem to smooth the sea, had sailed with Richie Fearon and suggested him with the highest possible recommendation, so the Swilly man was brought on board.

The rest of the crew were complete round Ireland virgins, but they found the race suited their style and level of sailing very well indeed. In any Round Ireland Race, seasoned observers can usually identify beforehand the half dozen or so boats which will be serious contenders for the overall handicap prize, but which one actually wins will depend on the way the chips fall. But Tanit was something of an unknown, a wild card. Yet it wasn't very far into the race before it became clear that this was a good boat on top of her game, if things came right she'd the makings of a winner.

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Tanit settling in after the start. The quicker they got south, the sooner they got back into the sunshine........

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....and nearing the Tuskar Rock on the Saturday evening, they were back in sunshine, and well in contention on the leaderboard.

Within the limits of having a sensible boat which professionals would describe as a comfortable cruiser-racer, they campaign flat out. All meals are built around expeditionary and military Ration Packs, which can be quite expensive to buy in ordinary circumstances, but if you can show they're going to be used for a worthy objective, it's possible to swing a deal, and as Richard's wife Vicky is a physiotherapist who is involved with military reserves, the value of Tanit's campaigns is accepted in the right places. The result is a nourishing supply of reasonably attractive easy-prepare instant food which, as Richard reports still with some wonderment, makes no mess at all in and around the galley, yet keeps the crew on full power.

By the time they got up off the Donegal coast, Tanit was right in there, battling with the defending champion, the Gouy family's Ker 39 Inis Mor, for the overall handicap lead, while up ahead the two biggies, Teng Tools (Enda O'Coineen and Eamonn Crosbie) and the Volvo 70 Monster Project, with David Ryan of Wicklow, kept finding new calms as they tried to shake off the smaller craft.

It was a slow race, but Richie Fearon managed to place Tanit so that she stayed ahead of a calm up in his home waters, and was keeping station on Inis Mor very handily indeed, while the gap with boats astern widened all the time. Or so it seemed. But then the Round Ireland Race pulled one of its regular tricks, and Liam Shanahan and his team on the J/109 Ruth began to shift before they'd even got past Tory Island, and they appeared to carry a useful breeze and a fairtide the whole way from Donegal into the Irish Sea, or at least that's how it looked to the rest of the fleet.

But in closing in over the final stage from Rockabill to Wicklow, navigator Fearon – who was incubating a nasty virus which required antibiotic treatment for a week after the race - convinced Tanit's skipper that they should stay offshore, while Ruth – which seemed to have the race nicely in the bag – followed the Irish habit of hugging the coast. Inis Mor was already finished on Friday morning, but Tanit knew she was beatable by them, and when they came across the line at 1030, it was to move into the CT lead. And going offshore proved to have been their win move.

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Trophies of the chase – crewman Chris Frize (left) and skipper Richard Harris with some of Tanit's prizes in Wicklow last Saturday night. Photo: W M Nixon

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Family effort. Father and son team of Derek and Conor Dillon from Listowel in Kerry (they sail from Foynes) won the two-handed division with their Dehler 34 Big Deal, and placed 8th overall. Photo: W M Nixon

It was a time of screaming frustration for Ruth. She'd been crawling along near Bray Head, barely 15 miles from the finish, as long ago as 0700. She rated only 1.016 to the 1.051 of Tanit. A finish in the middle of lunchtime would do fine. It was so near. It was so far. Finally they got to Wicklow, but Tanit had them beaten by six minutes. Then for the Scottish boat there was just the chance that Ian Hickey's very low-rated veteran Granada 38 Cavatina might do it again. But the wind ran out for her too. Meanwhile Frank Doyle's Endgame came in at mid-afternoon to slot into fourth on CT behind Inis Mor, but Cavatina was fifth, all of five hours corrected astern of Tanit. The Scottish boat was now unbeatable leader.

Tanit's crew for this classic sailing of a true offshore classic was Richard Harris, Richie Fearon, John Highcock, Alan Macleod, Chris Frize, Andy Knowles and Ian Walker. They've a lovely boat of which they're justifiably very fond, but reality has intruded, and now she is indeed for sale. The price is 48K sterling which seems to me very reasonable when you remember that she is remarkably comfortable to sail, that sails and gear have been regularly up-dated, and that we know for certain that the rudder alone is worth 35K.......She's conveniently located for an Irish potential owner, as she's currently ashore in Glasgow. Certainly she has a performance weakness, for as Richard admits, she'll easily get up to 7 knots on a reach, but stubbornly stays there and goes no faster, yet if you harden on to the wind, she'll still be doing 7 knots. But if you go downwind, then whoosh – it's a horizon job on most other boats. Be careful what you wish for, though. With a boat like Tanit in an average fleet, there'll be no excuse for not doing well......

The rest of the trophy placings are here, and on Saturday night they were one lovely compact crowd of people. The family emphasis was inescapable, and it was a particular pleasure to meet the Kerry duo, father and son crew Derek and Conor Dillon from Listowel, who sail out of Foynes in their Dehler 34 Big Deal. In 2015, they plan to take on the two-handed division in the Fastnet, so getting 8th overall and winning the two-handed class in the Round Ireland 2014 was part of a very useful campaign trail.

Finally, as to how to keep the Round Ireland race's distinctive Wicklow flavour while allowing the entry numbers enough room to comfortably expand, it's such a tricky question that it will require a radical solution. A very radical solution. The mistakes of the Vikings must be undone. The Vartry entrance must be dredged, The bridges must all be removed. And the Broad Lough must be tastefully developed to give Wicklow the harbour it deserves, and the Wicklow Round Ireland Race the facilities it needs to cater for a fleet of a hundred and more boats. Simple, really.

ROUND IRELAND RACE TROPHY WINNERS 2014

Line Honours: Denis Doyle Cup - Monster Project (David Ryan, WSC)
IRC Class CK: CK Cup – Monster Project
IRC Class Z: Class Z Cup - Newstalk for Adrenalin (Joe McDonald, NYC)
IRC Class 1: Tuskar Cup – Inis Mor (Laurent Gouy, CBC)
IRC Class 2: Fastnet Cup – Tanit (R Harris, SYC)
IRC Class 3: Skelligs Cup – Ruth (L Shanahan, NYC)
IRC Class 4: Tory Island Cup – Cavatina (I Hickey, RCYC)
Class 5 (Cruiser HF) – Cavatina
Class 6 (pre 1987) Michael Jones Trophy – Cavatina
Class 7 (two-handed) Noonan Trophy – Big Deal (D & C Dillon, FYC)
ICRA Trophy (best Irish boat) - Ruth
Ladies Award: Mizen Head Trophy - Pyxis (Kirsteen Donaldson)
ISORA Award – Ruth
Team Award: Kinsale YC Cup – Endgame (F Doyle), Wild Spirit (P Jackson) & Fujitsu (D B Cattle).
IRC Overall: Norman Barry Trophy – Tanit
Round Ireland Overall: Wicklow Cup - Tanit

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Monster boat, monster prizes. Line honours and Class C winner David Ryan of Wicklow, who raced the Volvo 70 Monster Project to success, with Roisin Scanlon, also WSC, who crewed on the Monster during the Round Ireland Race Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Round Ireland
Page 10 of 16

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