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The bright blue Cape 31 Arabella of Ireland's Niall and Olivia Dowling won CSA-2 in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta in the Caribbean in March. 

The Royal Irish Yacht Club's Dowling who owns the boat with his wife Olivia enthused about his new Cape 31 when talking to the boat's designer, Mark Mills of County Wicklow.

“It was absolutely beautiful today, fantastic sailing through all those islands with spinnakers up,” Dowling commented. “it was great fun. It’s going to be a great class and hopefully, we’ll get a few more to follow us out here next year!”

The win under CSA Handicap marks the third rating rule under which the Cape has won a major event, after its well-publicised successes under IRC and ORC.

Niall and Olivia Dowling's Cape 31, ArabellaNiall and Olivia Dowling's Cape 31, Arabella

Arabella, Hull #24, has had a busy schedule since she was completed in Cape Town a few months ago.

It's not Dowling's first yacht to be christened Arabella either, the Dun Laoghaire Harbour helmsman previously owned a J111 of the same name in which he sailed to RORC success in 2011.

Dowling, who is based in the UK, is a frequent visitor to home waters in both inshore and offshore disciplines. As regular Afloat readers know, he took both Line Honours and the Overall Win in Wicklow’s Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018 with the Ker 43 Baraka GP. Both Niall and Olivia are also leading lights in the UK's Quarter Ton scene.

Shipped to the UK for preparation and then sent straight to the Caribbean for her first outing where she got a 2nd in St Maarten, she will soon be back in the UK for the Cape 31 Season in the UK, with over 20 boats signed up for an epic summer schedule involving teams from the U.K., Ireland, and the U.S.

As Afloat reported previously, four Cape 31s are currently en route to Ireland in time for the summer sailing season in Dun Laoghaire, Howth and Cork Harbour.

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It looks like the four brand new Irish Cape 31s will be landing on Irish shores pretty soon if the latest photos posted to social media are anything to go by.

This weekend's photos from the Facebook account of Cape 31, a race boat sales and management company, reveals metallic green, blue and red hulls being prepared for transport from the builders in Capetown in South Africa.

Depending on the schedule, the sportsboats are likely to debut at Wave Regatta at Howth in June or Cork Week in July. 

Irish Cape 31s are in transit to Ireland from CapetownIrish Cape 31s are in transit to Ireland from Capetown

Green-hulled Cape 31 Valkyrie will be based at Howth YC, Blast at the Royal Irish YC and Antix (we're guessing she's the red hull if previous Antix race boats are a clue) will be based at Royal Cork YC.

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It looks like the modern Cape 31 just got faster! The latest vids from South Africa show the new speedster fitted with foils and steamin'...

Wicklow designer Mark Mills always said his new marque was designed 'without compromise', so it seems with this latest flying iteration...

The 40-second video (below) shows the boat rising onto its prototype foils in strong winds and the vid at the bottom of the page shows the wet ride from the cockpit.

The videos surfaced at Saturday's ICRA conference in Dun Laoghaire, where the air-borne craft got a draw-dropping reaction.

Coincidentally, the National Yacht Club meeting discussed the arrival of four Cape 31s for this season's Irish regatta circuit debuting at June's Wave Regatta in Howth and slated for a class start in July's Cork Week Regatta too.

The only question now is will the Irish debutantes be foilers too? 

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Wave Regatta will return to Howth on June 3-5 this year with a determination to inspire the returning tide of major event sailing in Ireland following two years of pandemic and embracing the inevitable pent-up demand.

Last run in 2018, the timing of this three-day biennial keelboat regatta seems to present racing sailors with an ideal opportunity to return to celebrate the return of major event sailing and long-awaited entertainment.

Built around Howth’s historical Lambay Race, which was first run in 1904, Wave Regatta comprises of three full days of racing with the additional option of Saturday only (Lambay Race) participation for all keelboat classes. The anticipated arrival and inclusion of the new Mills designed ’Cape 31s’ will draw a lot of national and international attention to the event and will be the first opportunity for many to see these Grand Prix racing boats in action.

Best described as a ‘serious racing event wrapped inside a big party’, Wave Regatta is an unmissable experience for sailors as well as for the many visitors that come to Howth for the bank holiday weekend.

Friday’s first gun from Howth Yacht Club’s flagship on June 3rd will not only prepare Ireland’s yacht racing community for 3 days of top quality competition on Fingal’s ideal sailing waters, but it will also confirm the long-awaited return of a weekend full of big regatta hospitality onshore.

Wave Regatta Director Brian TurveyWave Regatta Director Brian Turvey

Full details of Wave Regatta including online entry (with early discount) and the entertainment schedule is available here

One-design keelboat classes that might wish to utilise the opportunity of joining the event should contact the Wave Regatta organising team via the link above.

Published in Wave Regatta

The Mark Mills-designed Cape 31s have been stretching their limbs and muscles at the Royal Cape Yacht Cub in South Africa for long enough now to attract much interest elsewhere, and by next year they’ll be coming to a club near you in Ireland to raise the pace in the local programme.

We can’t promise the weather, but the performance is guaranteed…

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The Royal Cork Yacht Club has confirmed that two Irish Cape 31s which are currently in build, one from Cork and one from Dublin, have now entered Volvo Cork Week 2022.

The entry form and advance notice of regatta are live on the RCYC website.

It’s expected that the Irish fleet will have grown to four of five boats by next July when the Cork Week regatta returns for a delayed Cork300 celebration after its pandemic-enforced absence in 2020.

And it’s also hoped that they will be bolstered by visiing Cape 31s from the UK for five days of championship racing in the waters surrounding Cork Harbour.

As previously reported on back in August, plans are afoot to build a sportsboat fleet here from the South African racer-inspired design by Wicklow-based Mark Mills.

Published in Cork Week

October had a sting its tail and the only real breeze of the month knocked over some of the fleet of Cape 31s in the Hamble, on the UK south coast.

The fledgeling carbon fleet – that stole the show at this summer's Cowes Week – literally all fell over and were found leaning up against another thoroughbred racing machine, the Fast 40, Ran.

One of the reasons the boat, designed by Mark Mill of County Wicklow, is proving so attractive is its competitive one-design nature and its ultra light weight.

The four (or is it now five?) Irish buyers of the new One Design will be taking note that any dry sailing arrangement probably needs to include hard standing tie-downs.

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With the news that up to four of the new Cape 31 one designs are heading for Irish waters in 2022, there are now reports that Dun Laoghaire is joining Howth and Cork Harbour in the Cape race, with the latest news that at least one of the 31-footers is due in Ireland's biggest boating centre next season.

As Afloat reported earlier, Irish sportsboat exponents here have ordered up to five Cape 31 One Designs for next season, with echoes of what happened almost 30 years ago when a smaller -and still thriving - 1720 sports boat was born in Cork Harbour.

It is understood the new boat will arrive in Dun Laoghaire in late Spring 2022. 

Of course, there is additional interest in that the newest one-design keelboat class here will be another Irish design.

The new Cape 31 was designed by Wicklow based Mark Mills as a simple, clean, high-performance One Design, and it's been turning heads at some of the world's biggest sailing centres.

Last month, Cork sailmaker Barry Hayes took his first tack in a Cape 31 on the Solent and reported for Afloat here

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The first Cape 31 in France, Peter Dubens’ North Star 2 set an unbeatable pace by dominating their 27-boat IRC D class with a scoresheet of 3,1,1,1,1 in perfect St Tropez conditions at Frances most significant IRC event, Les Voiles de St. Tropez.

As a result, they were awarded the IRC Sword for outstanding IRC performance amongst all 140 competitors in the modern fleet.

As regular Afloat readers know, the Cape 31 designed by County Wicklow's Mark Mills, an ICRA Committee member, will be racing in Ireland next Spring with the arrival of up to four of the boat into Cork Harbour and Howth.

North sailmaker Sam Richmond who was sailing onboard North Star 2 said, "Fast, fun racing - big smiles all round. We had a bit of luck with courses and conditions but sailed very cleanly against some super competitive IRC boats."

North Star 2’s owner Peter Dubens who controls the North Technology Group of companies including North Sails and Southern Spars brought his Cape 31 to France just to race at Les Voiles, before joining Cape 31 One Design events around the world.

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With up to four Cape 31heading to Cork Harbour and Howth, the South African inspired racer from the drawing board of Mark Mills looks set to be part of the Irish one design scene in 2022. Boasting high-performance features such as an innovative ramp deck, an all-carbon keel fin, and a Southern Spars carbon rig, the light but powerful 31 has been impressing sailors on both sides of the Atlantic. Last week, Cork sailmaker Barry Hayes sailed the Cape 31 on the Hamble last week, and Afloat asked him for his first impressions.

Cork sailmaker Barry Hayes spotted on a Cape 31 on the Hamble last weekCork sailmaker Barry Hayes (centre) on a Cape 31 on the Hamble last week

Is it easy to sail?
It is super easy. The deck layout is super simple and easy to use. All the lines and systems are well thought out with the right rope in the right place and easy to hand.

The Cape 31 has a very clean deck with cross sheeting. Cars are set onboard all the time.The Cape 31 has a very clean deck with cross sheeting. Cars are set on board all the time

How about the performance? 
It’s a weapon downwind, but very stable like it has two rudders (but only has one); the grip and stability are incredible. Upwind it’s the same very quick; the sheeting angle is squeaky tight max in you can’t fit between the jib and the mast. 
It's a super-efficient sail plan with lots of power. 

The sheeting angle up wind is really tightThe sheeting angle upwind is really tight

Will it sail well on IRC?
Well, I think it’s proven that already in Cowes week. It’s got an excellent rating, and it can sail to it. But sailing against other IRC boats up the first leg will take a bit of getting used to. You will need to sail at their angles and speed for the first beat. After that, you're gone, and you can sail it as fast as you like. And the faster, the better! So just hang on in there until the windward mark, and away you go.

Well thought out control line arrangements at the mast Well thought out control line arrangements at the mast

Is it easy to control the power in the boat?
Yes, the stability and sail area allows you to control the boat. There is an excellent main sheet set-up and jib sheeting system, which is cross sheeted. Having the kite sheets send jib sheets along with the outboard sheet all going to the same spot makes it so easy to trim and power up and depower.

How about the halyards? None of them come to a winch?
They don’t need to. The main is 2:1 and set down below at the base of the mast, inside the boat. The jib halyard is 2:1 and loads of power in it. So it doesn’t need a winch. The kite halyard is super easy and just 1:1.

How about spinnaker hoisting and dropping?
This is the best part about the boat. The kite is up and down in 5 seconds, super simple with no one pulling the kite Into the bow hatch. It’s pulled down with the retriever line into the forward hatch, which goes directly to the stern where the line pops out, and the tactician pulls the kite down. The bow main guides it into the hatch, but that’s all. This is by far the best part of the boat.

The spinnaker goes down the bow hatch with a take down system on it. The hatch is nicely roundedThe spinnaker goes down the bow hatch with a takedown system on it. The hatch is nicely rounded

The spinnaker inside the boat on the take down systemThe spinnaker inside the boat on the takedown system

Below see three quick vids showing the big kite of the Cape 31, then the spinny takedown system from the stern and thirdly, closing the hatch

Is there much for the rest of the crew to do then?
Yes, everyone has a role from bow to stern. From trimming the jib downwind in 20 kts to the spinnaker takedown, everyone has a job. It’s full-on fun sailing.

Down the main hatch is the bulkhead which the mast base is set onDown the main hatch is the bulkhead which the mast base is set on.

How does the flat deck on each side of the cockpit work out?
It’s excellent, so easy to walk directly up and down the deck. Having the jib sheets so low and not in the way with the cross sheeting makes it easy.

Is this a boat for anyone?
If you're not going offshore or doing ISORA, this is an excellent option for anyone looking at one Design racing and club IRC racing! Having the one design restriction in place totally controls how the fleet works worldwide. Limited crew and limited sails really keep the costs down. You need to bring your runners and leave your boots at home; it’s not that type of boat. You wouldn’t have time to get them on…

You like the boat. Is it a game-changer?
Yes, I think it is. Mark [Mills] did an excellent job finding a very fast boat, simple to sail, can sail in IRC and complete. With crew and sail limits. It’s not easy to do in this day and age. Job well done, I think...

Cape 31 deck planCape 31 deck plan - The low freeboard aggressively chined hull shape that maximises stability in a breeze but enjoys low wetted surface when upright. Plans courtesy Mills Design

Cape 31sail plan - the new design accommodates a socketed deep carbon keel fin and a powerful sail plan, developed with North Sails South Africa and set on a Southern Spars Cape Town carbon rig Plans courtesy Mills DesignCape 31sail plan - the new design accommodates a socketed deep carbon keel fin and a powerful sail plan, developed with North Sails South Africa and set on a Southern Spars Cape Town carbon rig Plans courtesy Mills Design

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