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The possibility of an Open 40 entry plus a new white sail division are just some of the developments for the tenth Dingle Skellig Hotel Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race. Over 50 (SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOS BY MICHAEL CHESTER) gathered at the National YC in Dun Laoghaire last night to hear local TD and the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Culture Mary Hanafin give a ringing endorsement for the unique 320-mile offshore race when it sets sail on June 11th. A notice of race and entry form is available for download below.

The last race attracted 39 entries and a course record was set by Michael Cotter's Whisper. This year organisers Martin Crotty and Brian Barry along with Dingle Harbour master Brian Farrell are confident that they will break the 40 boat barrier. They may well be right as the event has been specifically timed to bring Dublin boats to the south coast for ten days of racing at the ICRA Nationals in Cork Harbour and the Sovereigns Cup the following week in Kinsale.

The event is also benefitting from inclusion in this year's ISORA calendar.

Present last night were represntatives from the major Bay clubs, including Breda Dillon from Howth YC and Fintan Cains of ICRA. Peter Ryan of ISORA, who is also the National YC commodore spoke about plans to develop off shore sailing and the club's plans to welcome the international Figaro offshore fleet in August.

Solo sailor Mick Lidddy who is making a bid for an Irish entry into the race was also in attendance.

SCROLL DOWN FOR LAUNCH PHOTOS BY MICHAEL CHESTER

Afloat coverage of the 2009 Race is HERE

Published in Dun Laoghaire Dingle
The Oceanworld Aquarium in Dingle, Co. Kerry has been approved a capital grant of €100,000 from Údarás na Gaeltacha according to The Sunday Business Post.

The funding will be used to develop a polar penguin exhibition centre. The new facility, which is adjacent to the existing aquarium, will be able to house up to ten penguins in a temperature-controlled environment, to replicate Antarctic conditions. The project is to expected to start shortly and the centre is anticipated to open to the public by Easter 2011.

Since opening in 1996, Oceanworld has attracted 100,000 each year. The company employs a staff of five-full time and 16 part-time staff. As a result of the development, an added three jobs are expected for the new exhibition centre.

The aquarium's website can be found at www.dingle-oceanworld.ie/

Published in Aquatic Tourism

It has been over 24 hours since any yacht, competing in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race finished writes Louay Habib. However a rush is expected for the second half of the day, with three boats expected in the early hours of tomorrow morning and the majority accounted for by Sunday.

There are still 12 yachts racing in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race but Keith Gibbs C&C 115, Change of Course pulled into Dingle on the west coast of Ireland in the early hours of this morning with a broken forestay.

The next boat to finish should be Chaz Ivill's Grand Soleil 54, John B who is expected to finish in the early hours of tomorrow morning and claim third place in IRC Zero. Clipper 68, Hull & Humber look to be getting the better of their sistership, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital. At 1400 BST Hull & Humber had 108 miles to go and were averaging eight knots giving them an estimated finish time of 0400 tomorrow.

At 1400 BST, the Army Association's A 40, British Soldier was passed the Lizard with 195 miles to go. Over the last 24 hours, they have stretched out their lead on the water and look likely to take line honours for Class IRC One. Steven Anderson's First 40.7, Encore is 21 miles behind British Soldier but still leads the class after corrected time.

In IRC Two, Harry Heijst owner of S&S 41 Winsome, had a proper birthday celebration on board. With balloons and the satisfaction of opening up a big lead on rivals, Swan 44 Selene, owned by Adrian Lower. At 1400 BST, Winsome is 28 miles ahead of Selene and even further ahead after corrected time. Selene took up a very westerly position yesterday but the move has not paid off. Winsome with Sevenstar's Managing Director, Richard Klabbers on board, is very much the yacht to beat in IRC Two.

Published in Rd Britain & Ireland

Where to Sail in the West of Ireland

Shannon Estuary – and from Dingle to Slyne Head

At over 100 kilometres long, the Shannon estuary stretches from the western edge of Ireland at Loop Head to east of Limerick city and beyond.

No other waterway brings so much to Irish lives: up to 40% of our energy supplies; Ireland’s second-largest airport; it’s second-largest cargo port; a 10,000 student university – all on the banks of the estuary.

The Shannon Scheme has been bringing electricity to tens of thousands of homes for over 75 years; long before ‘Green Energy’ was heard of in Ireland. This massive award-winning hydroelectric project, producing 85 megawatts of power, was one of the most important building projects ever undertaken in Ireland.

However, it’s not only the ferries and hydroelectric power that are benefiting from the estuary – it seems that all around its banks, people are turning back to face its waters. Limerick’s Riverside City project, initiated during the Celtic Tiger, has helped bring Limerick back to the water.

Four rowing clubs from the city have made this area a main centre for their sport in the country; Kilrush’s development is also encouraging to those who wish to spend time on the water; and Shannon Airport sees approximately three million people pass through its gates on up to 26,000 flights – a forcus for tourism, business and employment since 1946.

The estuary itself, the only one big enough to accommodate Capesize ships (too large for the Suez or Panama Canals), is not only a driving force behind Ireland’s economy but home to the Shannon Dolphin Foundation which allows tourists and locals to dip into that environment from Carraigahold pier. On the Kerry side, Ballybunion’s lush golf links (established in 1893) have entertained up to 100,000 golfing tourists each year.

Limerick city, because of it’s strategic placing, owes it’s origins to the Shannon waters, as from there, smaller boats could access the heart of Ireland while the estuary opened up trade foutes into Europe and beyond. The history of what became known as King John’s Castle is long and fascinating, and Bunratty Castle, built around 1425 a few miles downriver, can attract up to 350,000 visitors each year.

The clutch of islands in the middle of the Fergus estuary – Canon Island, Coney Island, Horse Island and Scattery – were once home to a vibrant, bilingual community fishing and farming around the estuary. Scattery was first used as a monastery site in the sixth century, though the monastery didn’t survive Elizabethan times and it’s population declined steadily after 1881. Because of it’s isolation, the monastery founder St. Senan thought it ideal for his needs – legend has it it forbade any woman to live or land on the island.

Kilrush in Co. Clare is where island residents moved to – making the short journey across the estuary to what once was a small market town but is now the estuary’s marine leisure centre. It’s here that most people learn how to sail on the waterway, as the marina is home to an adventure centre and the area’s largest fleet of racing yachts. So popular is this marina that plans have had to be drawn up to double it’s capacity.

Sailing has a long and proud tradition in these parts: Ger O’Rourke and his yacht Chieftain emerged from these shores, as has Conor O’Brien (left from Foynes in 1923, the first amateur skipper to sail a yacht around the world); and the Knight of Glin who starts the September race.

Brandon Bay, on the north side of the Dingle peninsula, is completely open to the north but reasonably sheltered from the south-east through south-west to north-west. A decent pub with a good bar overlooking the bay provides victuals and refreshment when needed. Mutton Island has sheltered anchorage though no facilities. Kinvarra, small and sheltered, requires some careful pilotage but is good for provisioning. If you make your way to Galway you can enjoy the beautiful city – recent stopover point for the Volvo Ocean Race – with it’s pedestrianised centre. Galway’s sailing club is at Rinville – they may have moorings available though you’d be three miles from any facilities.

Aran Islands – the three: Inishsheer, Inishmaan and Inishmore – are made of limestone and of varied geology. Inishmore is the largest with a secure and sheltered harbour at Kilronan, ferries from the mainland, a supermarket, some restaurants and bars and bicycle hire at the quay. The ancient ford of Dun Aengus is worth a visit: dating from approx. 800BC, it was built as a deterrant to invaders and it’s vast semi-circular structure is quite impressive. The two smaller islands – Inisheer and Inishmaan – do not have safe anchorages.

Continuing up the coast there’s the Greatman and Kiggaul bays – small and requiring a delicate touch if mooring; and St Macdara’s Island at the entrance to Roundstone. Less than half a mile across, it boasts one of the earliest of European churches – a tiny monastery dating from the 6th century. Roundstone itself is a pretty village with shops and restaurants – worth a visit.

From Kinsale to Dingle

It’s generally accepted that the scenery is stunning: rolling hills, coastal cliffs, and substantial mountains. There’s three large inlets which provide havens no matter the wind direction: Dunmanus Bay, Bantry Bay and the Kenmare River. There’s also a mass of islands, lyrically named Roaring Water Bay, which would provide days of sailing experience. With prevailing south-westerly winds, the weather can change rapidly but is normally warm because of the Gulf Stream. Of course, this being Ireland, you could leave port early in the rain but by lunchtime be basking in the sunshine. Excellent Coast Guard radio stations will keep you appraised of changes in weather patterns.

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