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Cillian Dickson and the crew of the J24 Headcase raced in the 2022 J24 European Championships hosted by Howth Yacht Club. Here Dickson reflects on the incredible 2022 season for the class and for him and the crew aboard Headcase.

2022 was the first time since 2013, when the same venue hosted the World Championships, that Irish waters have held a major international J24 event.

The 2013 Worlds were a feat of excellent organisation and produced stellar racing but, despite some excellent race results, no Irish boat made the top 18. Nine years later and the Irish are a driving force at the top of the rankings. Going into the final race of the 2022 European Championships, more than one home team could have taken the title, with the crew on Kinsailor missing out by just one point in the end. Rather than the class wilting in the wake of hosting a major event, it seems like 2023 will be an even bigger year for Irish J/24s.

After two years of lockdowns, we approached 2022 with an abundance of enthusiasm and energy. We put together a bucket list of events, with the first stop being Kieler Woche in Germany, one of the world’s largest regattas.

"Rather than the class wilting in the wake of hosting a major event, it seems like 2023 will be an even bigger year for Irish J/24s" 

Thanks to Brexit and some good luck, we managed to borrow a van and put the boat on a Dublin-Rotterdam ferry. Flying into Amsterdam, we then picked up the boat on the Monday morning and spent a day travelling to Kiel.

A full day of boat prep followed, while we waited to lift in. The scale of Kieler Woche was in sharp contrast to the Irish events we had done previously, and we were pleasantly surprised to go out on the first day and win all three races. It was clear we had a speed advantage over the local boats, many of whom were hitting the water for the first time that season.

Our spring training sessions in Lough Ree, Howth and Malahide meant our boat handling was crisp and we had a marginal speed advantage on the upwind. Once we got ahead, it was very difficult for other boats to reel us in. While we didn’t maintain that dominance over the next few days, as the cobwebs were being blown off the Germans and Swedish, we managed to close out the event with a victory.

Coming into Kieler Woche we had the advantage of relative anonymity, as we hadn’t yet competed outside of Ireland with the boat. With the UK Nationals two weeks later we had a target on our backs. However, after three days of mostly light wind racing, we emerged as winners of the event and the first Irish crew to win the UK nationals since Philip Watson in the inaugural event in 1978. It was also clear that the Irish fleet could hold their own against their UK counterparts. The crew on Janx Spirit from Tralee were unfortunate to miss out on a top three spot, finishing fourth, and it wasn’t until the final race of the event that a UK boat got a race win.

 Moving targets. The successful crew of Headcase in Plymouth were (left to right) Sam O'Byrne (Howth YC), Marcus Ryan (Mayo SC), Ryan Glynn (Ballyholme YC), Cillian Dickson (Lough Ree YC & HYC) and Louis Mulloy (MSC). Fresh from success at Kiel Week, they've moved on again, headed towards Volvo Cork Week for Monday morning via the overnight ferry Moving targets. The successful crew of Headcase in Plymouth were (left to right) Sam O'Byrne (Howth YC), Marcus Ryan (Mayo SC), Ryan Glynn (Ballyholme YC), Cillian Dickson (Lough Ree YC & HYC) and Louis Mulloy (MSC). Fresh from success at Kiel Week, they've moved on again, headed towards Volvo Cork Week for Monday morning via the overnight ferry

With a victory in the UK nationals under our belt there was no time to waste. The fleet becalmed on the last day of the event and the race committee sent us home as the 2pm time limit for running a race approached. That left us with about 21 hours to get the boat and crew to the start line of Cork Week. With very little sleep we arrived in Cork at 7am on Monday morning and managed to rig and launch for the first start. Tiredness doesn’t begin to describe how we were feeling by the end of the week, however we were happy to have won the ICRA national title on IRC, despite being soundly beaten by Sam Laidlaw’s BLT for the class prize.

Racing Headcase at Volvo Cork Week in July. Photo: Rick TomlinsonRacing Headcase at Volvo Cork Week in July. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

There was again very little rest between Cork Week and our next event which was the Irish National Championships in Foynes. Here we experienced some of our closest racing of the season yet. With the Irish fleet already having the Northern Championships under their belt, everyone was trying to build momentum for the Europeans. The score line of 6 first places in 8 races definitely flattered us, as often we were waiting for the last mark rounding or final boat handling maneuver to pull into the lead. By the end of the event we realised that we had overextended ourselves in the early season. Even though we had planned to bring the boat to Howth and start training for the Europeans, we decided it was best to take some time off and recoup some energy before the event.

 Sam Byrne and the Howth Headcase crew with the J/24 National Championship Trophy at Foynes Yacht ClubSam Byrne and the Howth Headcase crew with the J/24 National Championship Trophy at Foynes Yacht Club

It was in the Easterns, which was seen as a warm-up event for the Europeans that we first got a taste of what to expect from the team on Kinsailor. While many U25 teams have been set up in the last 10 years, the team on Kinsailor have really proven how successful the model can be. A pairing of good dinghy sailors with a fast boat and good kit made waves on the Irish and International scene. Despite breaking their mast in Race 2, they managed to source a replacement and push us all the way to finish second. This was a sign that they meant business for the Europeans. Indeed they put in a fine display in the Europeans, and in what was an uncharacteristically high-scoring event, they could have walked away as European Champions in their first year in the class.

The successful Headcase J/24 squad of Cillian Dickson, Sam O'Byrne, Ryan Glynn, Louis Mulloy and Marcus Ryan with their Easterns trophy at HowthThe successful Headcase J/24 squad of Cillian Dickson, Sam O'Byrne, Ryan Glynn, Louis Mulloy and Marcus Ryan with their Easterns trophy at Howth

Our Europeans were plagued by inconsistency. While we felt quick, we had several big things go against us, finishing 5th overall despite being in with a shot of winning going into the final race. We take great heart from the season and realistically we know we have the potential to win big in the future. With the Europeans in Hungary next year, followed by the Worlds in Greece, we have big plans for a transcontinental road trip with Headcase.

While we have had a great season on Headcase, it is excellent to see the other Irish boats stepping up. The great performances of Janx Spirit and Kinsailor have already been mentioned, but Hard on Port’s victory in the Northern Championships in their first season as owners of the boat is also noteworthy. The current strength and depth in the Irish fleet don’t stop there, with the likes of Il Riccio, Jibe and the Usher’s new boat Hedgehog always pushing hard.
Looking at the current success of the Irish J24 class it could be said that it has some of its origins in the disappointing 2013 season. As a member of the Howth Yacht Club K25 programme, I got a start in J24 sailing aboard Kilcullen at that time. The youth team concept was new to Ireland at that point but had strong success in Germany and other places. Since then, the class has benefited from new U25 teams adding numbers to the class. They also provide a steady stream of capable sailors who continue on in sailing and always seem to come back to the J24 class. Ultimately the various programmes have improved the level of racing, as well as the comradery and social scene.

Published in ICRA
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Micheal O Suilleabhain may well be the name that goes into the records books.

But he will be the first to point out that not only was it a team effort, in fact, it was an entire Kinsale Yacht Club effort to start putting together an exemplary challenge – initially in times of pandemic and post-pandemic - for the J/24 Europeans 2022 at Howth, when the event itself was still a distant speck on the uncertain future horizon. But a widely-supported campaign on the ICRA K25 model was launched and maintained, gradually building momentum until they reached the big one itself.

There, many proven international stars were so busy keeping tabs on their familiar rivals that the rapidly-improving young Kinsale crew went into the final race with a fighting chance, and they emerged firmly in the podium frame, clearly also the best-placed Irish boat.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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After ten races, the J/24 European Championship hosted by Howth Yacht Club, concluded in a tie at 65 points, with the third-place team only one point back. That third-place team was made up of six junior sailors from the Kinsale Yacht Club, which has worked to create a squad of under 25-year-old sailors or U25s. Along with finishing third overall, one point out of first, Carroll’s team finished second in the Corinthian Class and first in the Youth Class. Micheál O’Súilleabháin was on the helm.

This was the first year sailing a J/24 for this young team. Crewmember Mike Carroll said, “Since we only started in the J24 class this summer, we didn’t know what to expect from ourselves at the event. We had some poor results earlier on in the regatta, but as the event went on, we improved and achieved a good level of consistency that we were happy with. We couldn’t afford another poor result as there was only one discard across the 10 races. We had a mix of all sailing conditions during the week, which led to it being a high-scoring event. Given that most boats had at least one or two bad scores, it allowed us to climb high in the results without needing to win races. What happened on the water exceeded our expectations.” By finishing second in the last race of the regatta, the team moved from sixth to third.

Kinsailor competing at the ten race, the J/24 European Championship at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Christopher HowellKinsailor competing at the ten race J/24 European Championship at Howth Yacht Club Photo: Christopher Howell

The young team faced down some serious challenges, which they overcame. A week before the Europeans, while racing in the J/24 Easterns, they broke their mast and had to secure a loner. Their new UK Sailmakers mainsail was damaged when the rig came down, and they finished the Easterns with their delivery main. UK Sailmakers Ireland made an invisible repair in a few short days and had the main ready for the Europeans.

“The sails were fantastic”

Dave Sullivan, the team’s coach said, “It’s just brilliant that a team of kids from Kinsale can get a boat, set it up, and deliver a world-class performance -- all in less than a year. Phenomenal really; we are most proud of them.” The team came about as part of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association Under 25 initiative designed to create a pathway for junior sailors to progress into the adult sailing scene. Sullivan said that members of the Kinsale Yacht Club held a fundraiser to buy, ship to Ireland and prepare a J/24 for the club’s juniors to use. He took on the role of the team’s mentor. The original goal was to compete at the 2022 European Championships and the boat will stay available for juniors at the club for years to come.

Kinsailor is a Kinsale Yacht Club Under 25 initiativeKinsailor is a Kinsale Yacht Club Under 25 initiative

Barry Hayes, President of UK Sailmakers Ireland said, “Our loft is doing everything to help young sailors excel. They are the future of the sport. Therefore, we are doing our best to help them get the best sails, learn how to use them so that they move up to the podium as quickly as possible. From centreboard to keelboats, UK Sailmakers is dedicated to helping the next generation of sailors.”

About the UK Sailmakers J/24 class sails, the team members said, “The sails were fantastic.”

The Kinsailor crew with their prizes in Howth including Mikey Carroll, Jack O’Sullivan, Lellie Collins, Francesca Lewis, Rory Carroll and Micheál O’SúilleabháinThe Kinsailor J24 crew with their prizes in Howth including Mikey Carroll, Jack O’Sullivan, Lellie Collins, Francesca Lewis, Rory Carroll and Micheál O’Súilleabháin

The four men and two women on KINSAILOR were:

  • Mikey Carroll
  • Jack O’Sullivan
  • Lellie Collins
  • Francesca Lewis
  • Rory Carroll
  • Micheál O’Súilleabháin

J24 European Championships results2022 J24 European Championships results

Published in UK Sailmakers Ireland

The old salt who looked out at the weather this morning (Saturday) in Howth and remarked that in the west of Ireland this would be called “a high stool day” was echoing the feelings of most participants. But the J24 European Championship fleet went out racing nevertheless, even if the east to south-east breeze with its sometimes heavy rain was in a weird and weaving sort of mood which produced some very peculiar performances by overnight leaders.

Yet as far as the oldest and the youngest skippers were concerned, it was a lovely sunny day with perfect sailing conditions. The most senior skipper racing, 83-year-old Rear Admiral USN (Retd) Denny Vaughan of Seattle, finished the ten-race series as he’d begun, with a win for Easy Street which shifted him back up to ninth overall in the results at a provisional level, as protests are pending but they don’t directly affect Easy Street.

Meanwhile, the youngest skipper racing, former Optimist and Laser star Micheal O’Suilleabhain of Kinsale with his youth crew in Kinsailor, was right there with the Admiral in second. But while the Admiral admits the brisker breezes at mid-week were challenging, the young toughs on Kinsailor had revelled in it all, and took full advantage of a world-class learning experience to turn in a telling scoreline of 21,2,6,6,(27),5,11,3,12,4,2 which rocketed them into the overall lead in the Youth Division at the finish of the series, and even more importantly gave them the Bronze in the Open Division.

This final race produced some off-the-wall placings for top boats. Jmania from Athens provisionally retains the title after a count-back against Cacoon (David Hale) from Poole with both on 65, with Jamania having been held back to 25th in the final contest while her closest challenger Headcase was 24th.

But Headcase had to carry that 24th into her total which leaves her at 5th overall, whereas Jmania dumped the 25th to keep her Gold by a whisker. And as for Kinsailor, she finished in style, just one point off the two front runners.

Results below (Protests Pending)

Published in J24
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A distinct change in sailing conditions today (Friday) - from a sunny nor'easter to a grey sou'easter - seems to have suited the Irish contingent in the J/24 Euros very well indeed, with the afternoon ebb making for distinct delineations in the fleet. The syndicate-campaigned Headcase, whose squad represent every Irish Province except Munster - who of course have their own J/24s - was in particularly sparkling form.

They logged two straight wins after ding-dong battles with other Irish boats in a day of racing which was heart-warming for those club movers and shakers throughout Ireland who have been trying to encourage their younger members into economical J/24 involvement. But quite why the formerly dominant international visitors failed to show as well as they've been doing through the rest of the week is hard to say, as the effects of the ebb in Howth's racing area are fairly straightforward.

Overall, Jmania from Athens continues to lead even with today's 23rd (discarded) and 8th, but it's now Headcase in second overall, albeit by 48pts to Jmania's 42. Determined Race Officer David Lovegrove has the scores for nine very good races already up on the leaderboard thanks to pushing through three races on Thursday, so if it's at all possible to get in Race 10 on Saturday morning before the top comes off the weather, he'll do it.

But those who cherish the notion that ten races completed will see a second discard kick in are apparently nursing a futile hope, and the permutations for Headcase to overtake Jmania (it sounds like a narrative out of a madhouse) are probably just too convoluted to be fulfilled.

Results below

Published in J24
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“Regatta weather” has provided the perfect sunny racing conditions for Day 3 (Thursday 1 September) of the J24 Euros ’22 at Howth Yacht Club.

But any notions of lolling around in leisurely style were soon dispelled by the determination of race officer David Lovegrove to register three sets of results while the brisk east-to-nor’east breeze kept up. And by the time the fleet returned to harbour, they certainly knew that they’d been sailing through intensely competitive racing conditions.

With seven sets of results now in the can, they already have an acknowledged championship posted even if the expected deterioration in conditions through Friday and Saturday is so total that none of the remaining three possible races is sailed.

But some boats which have been finding the pace with more confidence as the championship progresses will undoubtedly be looking for further bites at the cherry.

However, the Greek star Jmania will probably be more than happy to leave things as they are, as they posted a solid 3,6,2 to put them on 24 points after the single discard, well clear of Germany’s Stefan Kersunke on 30, who won Race 7 after being very much among “the others” with a happily discarded 18th in Race 6.

By special arrangement with management, any clouds stayed over the land and the sun shone strongly at sea all day as the breeze kept up | Credit: Christopher HowellBy special arrangement with management, any clouds stayed over the land and the sun shone strongly at sea all day as the breeze kept up | Credit: Christopher Howell

The local multi-denominational talent in Headcase looked to be digging themselves out of something of a trough with 2,1 in the first two races. But just as things were looking hopeful for their nationwide support club, the wheels came off in Race 7 with a 19th — yet despite that they now lie fourth overall.

When you’re looking at a scorecard from seven races, fresh permutations emerge, and the “Kids from Kinsale” with Kinsailor logged a very respectable 5,11,3 today to move themselves up to 6th overall, putting them ahead of the defending champions from the Italian Navy in seventh. They in turn are on equal points with another navy man, that very seasoned sailor Admiral Denny Vaughan from Seattle, racing Easy Street.

Conor Haughton’s Jade from Wicklow dicing with Admiral Vaughan’s Easv Street from Seattle | Credit: Christopher HowellConor Haughton’s Jade from Wicklow dicing with Admiral Vaughan’s Easv Street from Seattle | Credit: Christopher Howell

It should be noted that the wonderful admiral is cheerfully racing on at 83 years old. So it’s likely that his personal age is only a few years short of the total combined age of the Kinsailor crew. This is decidedly thought-provoking, to say the least. But it’s altogether in keeping with the remarkable variety of people racing in this fascinating championship.

Results HERE.

Published in J24
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Racing continued today (Wednesday) in the J/24 Euros at Howth with a moderate-plus northeast breeze in which there was no doubting the north in northeast. In such relatively crisp conditions, you’d have expected the hardy souls from more rugged regions to set the pace. But on the contrary, it was Jmania from Athens - where the current daytime temperatures are comfortably above 30C - that was out in the Irish Sea making hay.

Owned by Konstantinos Tridimas and Kynthia Skotida with ace driver Selios Sotitiou on the helm, Jmania clocked an 8th and first to move into a one point overall lead ahead of Denny Vaughan of Seattle in Easy Street, who logged a very useful 11th and second. The international spread was emphasized by Germany’s Stefan Karsunke posting a 4th and 8th to move into third overall in a tightly packed leading group.

The Italian Navy’s defending champion La Superba (left) found form today (Wednesday) with a win in the morning race Photo: Annraoi BlaneyThe Italian Navy’s defending champion La Superba (left) found form today (Wednesday) with a win in the morning race Photo: Annraoi Blaney

The Italian Navy’s defending champions with the modestly-named La Superba lived up to the name in the first contest to take a win, but were crab-grassing in the second at 15th. Another star performer who was seeing how the other half lives was overnight leader Kurt Dammeier from Seattle, who had to face up to a 14th and 18th, which shifted him from first overall down to eighth.

One place ahead at seventh overall is Ireland’s current best, JP McCaldin from Lough Erne with Il Riccio, who rose through the ranks with a second in the first race, but was then brought back to earth with a 16th in the afternoon event.

On a vertical learning curve – Andrew Mannion’s Jeb Stuart from Lough Ree dealing successfully with Irish Sea conditions and a couple of international challengers. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyOn a vertical learning curve – Andrew Mannion’s Jeb Stuart from Lough Ree dealing successfully with Irish Sea conditions and a couple of international challengers. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

The Irish favourite, the syndicated Headcase, had a morning to forget with a UFD in the first race, but the mojo was back up and working in the afternoon to take second behind Jmania. However, Headcase currently lies 14th overall, and though there are in theory six races still to be sailed, sailing conditions for Friday and Saturday don’t look so good. Yet apparently it takes lot to shake the J/24s out of their belief that there should only be two races per day, but we’ll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, the racing in this series has already been extremely educational for the young Irish folk who have been encouraged into top level J/24 racing. And if by “extremely educational” you mean “hard lessons”, who are we to argue?

Results here

Published in J24
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While Admirals are expected to lead, the accepted naval strategic thinking would have it that the leading is meant to be done from Staff Headquarters, either ashore or on some vast ship, rather than out on the water in a small boat. But Rear Admiral Denny Vaughan USN (Retd.) seems to have decided that being retired permits him to leave the orthodox thinking of the manual behind on the bookshelf, and get right into the thick of things in the front line out on the water.

For having come all the way from Seattle to race his J/24 Easy Street (the very name should be a warning to other competitors) in the J/24 Euros at Howth, the Admiral went out for the first race in a sunny east to northeast breeze this morning (Tuesday), and didn’t he win? He did indeed.

This is either crazy, or starting with supreme confidence – despite the US sail number, this is Joe Murphy’s Jigalo from Howth – she ended the day on 16th overall. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyThis is either crazy, or starting with supreme confidence – despite the US sail number, this is Joe Murphy’s Jigalo from Howth – she ended the day on 16th overall. Photo: Annraoi Blaney 

That may have been a wake-up call for the proven European hotshots in the 34-strong fleet. And in that first race, all was largely as it should have been, as the syndicate-sailed Headcase from Ireland, definitely a favourite after a trail of success across the Continent and in home waters since June, was in second place.

Bur shrewd observers would have seen that the Americans were there again in third, with Denny Vaughan’s clubmate Kurt Dammeier racing Amuse Bouche. And the even more knowledgeable would have noted that the recently-crowned J/24 World Champion Mike Marshall of North Sails was in Dammeier’s tasty crew lineup.

That would seem to have been shown in the afternoon race, when Amuse Bouche logged another sensible third while things went completely pear-shaped for Headcase, as she was back in 19th. As for Easy Street, she’d also had some slippage, as the Admiral was back in tenth. So overall the leaderboard after Day 1 is headed by Amuse Bouche, two points ahead of James Torr from Plymouth, with the Admiral third.

Summer 2022 may be gone by this coming weekend, but it’s still making a great last stand off Howth. Photo: Annraoi BlaneySummer 2022 may be gone by this coming weekend, but it’s still making a great last stand off Howth. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

It speaks volumes for the enduring international attraction of this vintage class that the top ten placings run right across six nations, taking in entrants whose homeport spread is from Seattle to Crete. Meanwhile, armchair admirals – as opposed to admirals who get into the thick of things – are sitting back and wondering if we’re seeing the beginning of one of those utterly sensible campaigns, where the overall winner takes the title without actually winning a single race.

Day One Results Here

Published in J24
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The International J/24 European Championship getting under way this weekend in Howth leads inevitably to thoughts of a special drama afloat two months ago. The crunch finish period of the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race 2022 at Wicklow on Friday, June 24th, was a time of high tension.

Laurent Charmy’s SL Energies Fastwave from France had been the clubhouse leader for most of the afternoon. But in the final counter-tide beat to the finish, offshore tyros Mike and Richie Evans from Howth with their little Snapshot had managed to break away from a group of their closest competitors, and were wriggling along the beach with hyper-short tacks in a sharpening breeze to such good effect that the unthinkable became remotely possible. They might just snatch the lead.

In the end, they missed it by five minutes. But they were soon confirmed as unassailably second. It was a remarkable high seas debut. Yet, in all the excitement of the finish, little was made of surely the most significant aspect of the whole business. SL Energies Fastwave is a J/111, well proven in her short but successful offshore career. As for Snapshot, she’s a J/99, with recognised success in regattas, and now an offshore star as well.

Throughout the Round Ireland fleet – almost entirely in the leading groups – were other boats from the J range, and there isn’t a club fleet in Ireland, and at the main centres all round the Irish Sea, that won’t see this no-nonsense, versatile and effective American-originating marque well represented.

DEFYING ORTHODOXY OF PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE

Yet despite the fact that their global commercial success relies on a continuous up-dating of their extensive range to keep their thousands of customers at the front of the fleet, the little boat which started it all, the J/24 of which more than 5,000 were built, continues to be highly popular, defying orthodox concepts of planned obsolescence.

J/24s racing at Howth, where the first boat appeared less than two years after the class’s debut in America. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyJ/24s racing at Howth, where the first boat appeared less than two years after the class’s debut in America. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

She’s a modern classic if you like. But there’s no denying a J/24 is now something of a cult object, not least because they fulfill the American dream in having been created in the designer-builder parents’ garage - so totally garage-bound, in fact, that they’re not the J/25 simply because there wasn’t enough space to build a 25 footer.

The story begins in 1975. Young Rod Johnstone, then an ad salesman for a sailing trade magazine and an active one-design sailor, decided to build a sailboat he had been working on since completing a Westlawn School of Yacht Design correspondence course in the 1960s.

With $400-worth of fibreglass and wood, plus some rigging and hardware left over from a Soling of his brother Bob, he built the 24' LOA x 9' beam sloop – eventually called Ragtime - during weekends in the three-car garage at his family home in Stonington, Connecticut. During the summer of 1976, with an all-family crew aboard, Ragtime beat everything in sight, and he realized he had created something special.

Enter Everett Pearson, the owner of Tillotson Pearson, Inc, a highly respected boat builder in Warren, Rhode Island. He was quite taken with Rod's design and agreed to produce the boat on spec in return for the U.S. building rights. Display ads in the sailing trade magazine got the word out. That winter, they set up a makeshift factory in an old textile mill in nearby Fall River, Massachusetts, and began popping out J/24s.

Enter the marketing experience of brother Bob, a Vice President of Marketing at AMF/Alcort , the makers of Sunfish sailboats at the time. He had seen the potential in the boat Rod had designed. From 1975 to 1977, Bob had helped to take Alcort from the red into the black, and then began trying to convince AMF to start producing a boat similar to the J/24. When AMF didn't jump, in February of 1977 at age 43, Bob did, and threw in his lot with J/Boats.

Signature of approval – Bob Johnstone of J Boats International signs a J/24 rudder in Howth in 2014. Photo: Brian TurveySignature of approval – Bob Johnstone of J Boats International signs a J/24 rudder in Howth in 2014. Photo: Brian Turvey 

5,400 BUILT

In all, 5,400 J/24s have been built since, plus hundreds and sometimes thousands of other boats to an extensive range of J Boat designs. It has been another case of the phenomenal commercial and creative power of American brothers working together. Think Gougeon Brothers with WEST Epoxy Systems, for instance, a company so successful that when the brothers retired, they handed it over to their employees as a very tangible way of saying thank you for their loyalty and dedication. And think too of Olin and Rod Stephens of designers Sparkman & Stephens. They were very much a team, and it was Rod's skill and ingenuity with rigs and rigging which persuaded the great Carleton Mitchell to transfer his design loyalties from Philip Rhodes to Olin Stephens, resulting in the 38ft Stephens-designed Finisterre which won the biennial Bermuda Race three times on the trot.
So in owning and sailing a J/24, you’re sharing in a sense in the most positive aspects of the American dream. And as it has been found that quality fibreglass just doesn’t wear out, the J/24 offers an inexpensive route into competitive sailing for impecunious young enthusiasts who aren’t afraid of doing their own maintenance work.

PHILIP WATSON SETS OFFSHORE PACE

The J/24 very quickly came to Ireland, and while club and regatta racing and even some cruising was their main purpose in life, sailmaker Philip Watson in 1978 geared up his new J/24 Pathfinder for the ISORA circuit. After the Fastnet storm of 1979 had resulted in more stringent ballast keel requirements, the lightly-ballasted J/24 – which relies on considerable weight effort from her crew of five – was no longer eligible to go offshore, but in that one golden year of 1978, Watson and Pathinder swept all before them, winning their ISORA Class overall.

Pioneering Pathfinder – in 1978, Philip Watson of Howth with Pathfinder showed the way for J/24s – and won his class in that year’s ISORA seriesPioneering Pathfinder – in 1978, Philip Watson of Howth with Pathfinder showed the way for J/24s – and won his class in that year’s ISORA series

All that is now 44 years ago. Since then, new J Boat designs of almost legendary status have come and gone from the headlines after dominating the sailing scene for a few years and sometimes more. Yet the little old J/24 is still very much with us with thriving national, regional and global associations, and this weekend in Howth they’re in the throes of final stages of preliminaries for the 2022 Europeans with Organising Committee Chairman Richard Kissane and his group ensuring the smooth running of an event which sees final measuring and test sailing over the weekend. The official practice race is on Monday under the direction of Race Officer David Lovegrove, with the Howth machine set in motion to continue the real racing from Tuesday through to Saturday (September 3rd).

Richard Kissane, Chairman of the Organising Committee, has been leading his team in extra preparations, as the J/24 Europeans have not been sailed since 2020, when they were staged in Greece.Richard Kissane, Chairman of the Organising Committee, has been leading his team in extra preparations, as the J/24 Europeans have not been sailed since 2020, when they were staged in Greece.

KENNY READ COMES TO TOWN

With the appropriately-named Pathfinder taking the first steps back in 1978, Howth has a long association with the class, a notable early participant in a J/24 championship at HYC quite a long time ago being a young American skipper called Kenny Read.

In fact, Howth has acted as a very effective linkpoint over the decades between the European and American J/24 fleets, with the latter keen to sail here after dominating the 2013 Worlds at Howth, when the American overall winner emphasised Irish-American connections, as he was Tim Healy from Newport, RI.

 Breezy action – the J/24 Worlds at Howth in 2013, when the overall winner was USA’s Tim Healy from Newport, RI. Breezy action – the J/24 Worlds at Howth in 2013, when the overall winner was USA’s Tim Healy from Newport, RI.

Then in 2014, Bob Johnstone himself was in Ireland. Ostensibly, he was on holiday, but as he was the guest of the late Robin Eagleson of Lough Erne, President of the Irish J/24 Class, they made a point of visiting Howth, where Bob obligingly signed the rudder of the J/24 belonging to HYC Hon. Sec. Emmet Dalton – the word is it hasn’t been painted since.

The current Euros are the first since 2020, and there’s interesting American participation in the 35-strong entry entry list, with the furthest-travelled being retired US Navy Admiral Denny Vaughn from Seattle, who is age-defying as he calls his boat Easy Street….

THE ADMIRAL IS CELEBRATED

Admiral Vaughn is having himself a ball in Ireland as he has family links to Donegal, and last weekend during the J/24 Easterns at Howth in the boisterous Saturday night feasting, when the band heard they’d an American Admiral in the party, they trotted out their repertoire of John Denver and Johnny Cash.

As veteran J/24 sailor Flor O’Driscoll of Bray commented: “Only in Howth……”, to which Howth can reply “Only with the J/24s”, for it was in Howth that - at Nobby Reilly’s suggestion and with his energetic backing - the national U25 J/24 programme was instigated to produce some strong nationwide club entries in which young sailors have learned to team together to keep a J/24 in top internationally-competitive trim.

The 2022 campaign is successfully launched – the Headcase crew after winning the class at Kiel Week are (left to right) Ryan Glynn (Ballyholme YC), Sam O’Byrne (Howth YC), Cillian Dickson (HYC & Lough Ree YC), Louis Mulloy (Mayo SC) and Mark Ryan (MSC)The 2022 campaign is successfully launched – the Headcase crew after winning the class at Kiel Week are (left to right) Ryan Glynn (Ballyholme YC), Sam O’Byrne (Howth YC), Cillian Dickson (HYC & Lough Ree YC), Louis Mulloy (Mayo SC) and Mark Ryan (MSC)

Currently, the pace-setter in this is the all-Ireland-crewed Headcase, which in Howth is in just one of her home ports, but she’s back in town with an astonishing 2022 CV that started with winning the class at Kiel Week, then they won the UK Nationals, then they won their ICRA Class in Cork Week, and last weekend they took the Easterns.

HEADCASE TAKES ON LA SUPERBA

It says something about national characteristics that the top home hope in the up-coming championship is cheerfully called Headcase, yet the boat they most definitely have to topple from the top of the pile is from Italy and unblushingly called La Superba.
Make of that what you will, but La Superba is the Italian Navy boat, and back in 2020 in Greece she won the Euros skippered by a young naval officer called Iganzio Bonnano. He has probably moved on to be an admiral by now, but La Superba is very much up for it again in Howth, with her skipper yet to be named.

The Travellers – Headcase and crew about to depart Plymouth after winning the UK Nationals, with an overnight ferry trip in prospect to make the start of the first race in Volvo Cork Week where she logged a class win. Her all-Ireland credentials are further emphasized with the use of a Galway-registered towing vehicleThe Travellers – Headcase and crew about to depart Plymouth after winning the UK Nationals, with an overnight ferry trip in prospect to make the start of the first race in Volvo Cork Week where she logged a class win. Her all-Ireland credentials are further emphasized with the use of a Galway-registered towing vehicle

IRISH FLEET ON A ROLL

The defenders will find that the Irish J/24 fleet is on a bit of a roll at the moment, and there are interesting helms and crews coming up through the system. We’ve remarked in the past that Munster is the only Irish province not represented in Headcase’s crew, but this may well be because they’re developing their own J/24 U25 squads in Munster, with the Kinsale YC Kinsailors led by Michael O’Carroll coming through in the Easterns to take second overall, while Tadg O Loingsigh with his Tralee Bay squad in Janx Spirit went over to the UK Nats and were very much in contention, their scoreline including a first.

 The Howth Peninsula seen from the southeast. The Race Area for the J/24 Europeans 2022 will be just above the middle of this photo. The Howth Peninsula seen from the southeast. The Race Area for the J/24 Europeans 2022 will be just above the middle of this photo.

Munster is further represented by the Foynes YC U25 crew on Jasper led by Mary McCormack, while over on the east coast, after very many years Flor O’Driscoll of Bray (and formerly Cobh) has sold his well-used Hard on Port to his crew led by David Bailey, and they now sail out of Greystones where class leader Mark Usher sets the pace with Hedgehog.

This trans-club interaction is reflected in the northwest where Sligo YC and Lough Erne YC - and doubtless Mullaghmore too - all make input into Gossip with the combined efforts of Oisin Brennan, Declan Brennan, Michael Staines and Muireann Toibin.

Getting your boat and crew from Sligo or Lough Erne to other venues in Ireland can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. But an event like the Euros with an international entry puts it all in perspective, as they come not only from Seattle to the far west, but also from the island of Crete in the far eastern Mediterranean. The logistics of getting boat and crew as a private entry from Heraklion to Howth defies contemplation, but Nikolas Kapnisis of Heraklion Sailing Club has been game to give it a whirl with his boat Legal Alien. And such entries will feel right at home among the J/24s in Howth.

Entry List for J24 European Championships

Sail PrefixSail NoBoat NameOwner NameClubCorinthianOver 50YouthEntry Date
IRL 39 Jeb Stuart Andrew Mannion Lough Ree Yacht Club No No No 22 Feb
ITA 416 La Superba Marina Militare Italiana CVA Marina Militare Italiana No No No 12 Aug
IRL 680 Kilcullen HYC U25 2 Howth Yacht Club No No No 24 May
IRL 767 Jade Conor Haughton Wicklow Sailing Club Yes No No 31 May
IRL 1183 Red Flag Greystones Sailing Club Greystones Sailing Club Yes No Yes 08 Jun
USA 2810 Jigalo Joseph Murphy Howth Yacht Club No No No 08 Apr
IRL 3060 Headgehog Mark Usher Greystones Sailing Club Yes Yes No 09 May
USA 3746 Easy Street Denny Vaughan Corinthian Yacht Club - Seattle No No No 26 May
IRL 4084 Battling J Malahide Yacht Club Malahide Yacht Club Yes No No 31 May
GBR 4153 Jam Benjamin Maddaford Saltash Sailing club No No No 13 May
IRL 4188 Jasper 2 Mary McCormack - FYC U25 Foynes Yacht Club No No Yes 23 Aug
IRL 4191 Janx Spirit Tadhg O Loingsigh Tralee Bay Sailing Club Yes No No 12 May
GER 4202 Gossip Oisin Brennan, Declan Brennan, Michael Staines, Muireann Toibin Sligo Yacht Club/ Lough Erne Yacht Club Yes No No 11 Aug
IRL 4212 Scandal HYC U25 1 Howth Yacht Club No No No 24 May
IRL 4236 KINSAILOR KINSALE YACHT CLUB Kinsale Yacht Club Yes No Yes 15 Jun
GBR 4242 Hitchhiker Chris Randall Saltash Sailing Club Yes Yes No 21 May
IRL 4247 Headcase Louis Mulloy, Marcus Ryan, Cillian Dickson, Sam O'Byrne, Ryan Glynn Howth Yacht Club, Lough Ree Yacht Club, Mayo Sailing Club, Ballyholme Yacht Club Yes No No 25 May
GBR 4248 MaJic James Torr Saltash Sailing Club Yes No No 28 May
GBR 4260 Mojosi Nick McDonald RYA Yes Yes No 28 May
IRL 4265 Smugairle Róin Diarmaid mullen Sligo Yacht Club No No No 20 Feb
GBR 4266 NJO2 Tim Octon JOG Yes Yes No 02 Mar
GBR 4269 Cacoon David Hale Poole Yacht Club Yes Yes No 04 Mar
IRL 4384 Proud Mary Brian mc conville Carlingford Lough YC No Yes No 12 May
IRL 4532 Jelignite Finbarr Ryan Lough Ree Yacht Club No Yes No 22 May
IRL 4533 Crazy Horse Luke Mc Bride Lough Erne Yacht Club Yes Yes No 19 May
IRL 4794 Hard on Port David Bailey and crew Bray Sailing Club No No No 31 May
IRL 5159 Jibe Fergus & Tim Kelliher Tralee Bay Sailing Club Yes No No 30 May
IRL 5219 IL Riccio JP Mccaldin Lough Erne Yacht Club Yes No No 11 May
GRE 5239 Legal Alien Nikolas Kapnisis Heraklion Sailing Club Yes No No 30 May
IRL 5278 Hung Jury Brian Raftery Sligo Yacht Club Yes Yes No 20 Jul
IRL 5285 Yachtzee Diarmuid O'Donovan TBC Yes Yes No 27 May
USA 5352 Amuse Bouche Kurt Dammeier Corinthian Yacht Club! No No No 22 Jul
GRE 5367 JMANIA Konstantinos Tridimas/Kynthia Skotida Nautical Club of Palaio Faliro Yes No No 08 Mar
GER 5381 Schwere Jungs Stefan Karsunke Blankeneser Segel Club No No No 22 Jun
IRL 5475 Jedi Colm O'Flaherty Sligo Yacht Club No No No 26 May
Published in W M Nixon
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With a fleet of 20 boats and crews drawn from 15 different clubs, including Seattle to the far west and Poole to the nearer southeast, the Irish J/24 Easterns over the weekend at Howth set the ball rolling towards the J/24 Europeans at the same venue in a week's time, with the first championship race scheduled for August 30th.

The all-Ireland resourced Headcase, whose crew of Cillian Dickson, Sam O'Byrne, Louis Mulloy, Marcus Ryan and Ryan Glynn count Howth, Lough Ree, Mayo and Ballyholme among their home places, maintained the steady progress already seen through the summer at several international majors, and came out first on 1,1, (8), 2,1. Next in line were the Kinsale team led by Michael Carroll with Kinsailor with a scoreline which included a first and two seconds to leave them on 9 points to Headcase's 5. Tadgh O'Loingsigh from Tralee Bay was third in Janx Spirit with the first of the overseas challengers, Dave Hale from Poole, fourth with Cacoon.

Full results here

Published in J24
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