Displaying items by tag: Olympic
It is still possible to sail in Irish waters in your own cruiser-racer without involving enormous expense. You just have to be prepared to do it in a boat of economical size which is far from being the newest available. Admittedly you have to be skilled in your own maintenance in continuing to get full use from equipment which is well-proven through years of experience in its use. Then too, you have to be carefully selective in finding a mooring or berthing location which doesn’t cost the earth, and you have to be modest in your expectations of what you can achieve afloat, particularly if there are racing ambitions in the equation.
Of course, it is increasingly possible to sail in charge of a boat without having to own one. Talented potential Sailing Masters are soon identified by owners keen to win. And the development of boat rental is only in its infancy in much of Ireland on the sea coasts. Yet it’s obviously the only way to go for people with a reluctance to become too totally involved, their “rent it” approach reflecting today’s developing Tasting Menu Lifestyle.
But for some, boat-owning is a vocation in itself. In fact, for some simply owning a boat is what it’s all about – the sailing is secondary. But whatever your way of looking at it, and at whatever level it’s made, the fact is that sailing is first and foremost a vehicle sport, and that involves costs which don’t arise in more straightforward athletic and other arena sports, which have the added advantage of the possibility of spectators prepared to pay to watch the action.
That generates a cash flow which – even with the most advanced new communications technology to follow a boat race – is difficult for sailing to provide. Yet despite that, sailing requires a significant capital outlay at some level, with a continuing rate of expenditure for it to happen at all.
The problem is rapidly exacerbated when international competition is expected as part of the programme, For sure, we can get reasonably inexpensive sailing if we stay at home on our relatively sparsely-populated little island with its wide choice of natural harbours, and freely available sailing water.
But if we seek the intensive sailing competition which is more readily available in the sailing areas used by highly-concentrated and affluent populations, the costs start to rise astronomically. And Ireland’s relative isolation immediately imposes that built-in travel expense at the most basic level before we’ve even got to the scene of the action.
The challenge which this poses was highlighted a month ago when Irish Sailing invited expressions of interests from individuals and teams – crews if you prefer – who might commit towards a campaign which could result in selection to sail for Ireland in the proposed two-person offshore racer – one woman, one man – which will feature in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The sailing events in 2024 will be staged at Marseilles. It’s a significant distance from the main Olympic focus in Paris, but as it will involve racing on Mediterranean waters, 2020’s Offshore World Championship in concert with the Middle Sea Race in Malta at the end of October is seen as part of the buildup.
Irish Sailing made it clear that at the moment no funds are available for this new area for Olympic sailing, and with the level of longterm commitment involved, coupled with the annual Christmas/New Year hiatus in any official administration, we would not expect an announcement of definite plans at this early juncture.
But what it does mean is that there will be a clearcut regatta structure with boats of the Ukrainian Rodion Luka-designed L30 class available in Malta in the Autumn, and inevitably the overall framework of the new Olympic class circuit will draw on experience gained by the French offshore racing experience over fifty years and more in organising events like the Figaro, the MiniTransat and other majors where Open 40s and IMOCA 60s feature prominently.
Thus yet again we’ve to face the reality that any young Irish sailor keen to make the grade on the international offshore scene as an individual achiever - rather than as a professional crewmember - has to do it through the highly-structured French setup, as is currently seen with Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy with the Figaro circuit, where Conor Fogerty is also involved.
As for the additional cohort which will emerge from the Expression of Interest invitation, we would hope to see the names of Dillon, Rumball, O’Leary, Kenefick and others appear. But until the list is made official, we can think of many perfectly valid reasons why some top sailors of proven offshore ability would react with: “Thanks, but no thanks”.
For inevitably, the new Olympic offshore racing project will see increasingly complex official administration and detailed multi-media coverage, such that the tone of the event is beginning to seem a whole world away from the almost buccaneering atmosphere which prevails around established offshore classics, where larger-than-life characters put together colourful campaigns which reflect individual flair, enormous energy, and maybe very deep pockets too.
It’s a scenario that has seen imaginative solutions which achieved success in times past. But equally sailing history reveals occasions when possible solutions to the challenge of long-distance campaigns were less than satisfactory. To revert to the Olympics for one instance, back in 1964, the first Japanese Olympics post World War II were staged in Tokyo.
In its favour, it has to be said the event was staged in late October, when the weather is much less oppressively hot and humid than will be the case in July this year. But for the small Irish sailing team in 1964 of a Dragon skippered by Eddie Kelliher and crewed by Rob d’Alton and Harry Maguire, and a Finn sailed by Johnny Hooper, the sheer distance and the paucity of resources proved a major drawback.
There was no question of shipping Kelliher’s successful Dragon Ysolde to Japan, so – like three other far-travelling teams - they took up the offer of a boat chartered from the small Dragon fleet in Japan, and brought their own sails. But once there, it emerged that the chartered boat had a mast so flawed that they had to scour the store-yard in search of a replacement, and as soon as the boat was put afloat it was discovered that the rudder was so faulty that they’d to lift out again and work round the clock in order to be able to sail.
Not surprisingly the boat’s performance overall was woeful, yet despite that they were usually in the frame in the early stages, getting good starts, and managing in one race to be first at the windward mark. But at the end, as Team Manager Leo Flanagan of Skerries reported, while they did finish as best overall of all the chartered boats, any future involvement in the Olympics must necessarily involve bringing the team’s own boat, as the three medallists had boats which were in a league of their own.
Fifty-six years on, and the Dragon class is Olympic sailing history, while thriving as never before as a private International One Design boat in its own closed circuit. As for the Olympic ideal, that is now for the host country to supply all boats on site for total uniformity, in the expectation that crews will already be well experienced in the boat types either through fleets in their own country, or in clusters based on groups of nations.
Either way, it is going to involve Irish crews in travel and all other expenses of overseas campaigning within a framework which – with 2024 already accelerating towards us – is going to be set by the French way of doing things, but it’s going to be the French way with an even further overlay of official administration set in a very European context.
For the fact is that the French sailing scene is so large and complex that within it you can find colourful instances of creative and imaginative individuality in non-Olympic sailing, but nevertheless in the 2016 Olympic Sailing Games they returned with three medals – a Gold and two Bronzes.
It’s a respectable enough total, but not outstanding, so success for France in the additional Offshore Class to the Paris Olympics will be a matter of intense ambition. Yet it could well be that the process of getting selected for such a coveted role in a very clearly designated route to nomination will be so fierce as to be psychologically damaging.
For the great joy in assessing French sailing achievement is in relishing the unfettered inspirational individuality of the people involved, something which goes right back to the achievements of Eric Tabarly and beyond. These days, the spirit is well evoked by many top sailors, but one whose has genius in finding visionary logistical solutions on a high level is Gery Trentesaux.
We’re reminded of this with the news that his multiple-race-winning First 40 of ten years ago is joining the fleet in Dublin Bay. For although most folk will assure you that it is wellnigh impossible to get the mighty firm of Beneteau to change the specification of any of their middle range boats during construction, as the boat coming to Dublin Bay proves, the bould Gery was able to get them to give it a special hull lay-up and a completely new keel design, so this is no ordinary First 40.
After that, there was a meeting of minds when Gery linked up with boat-builder Jean-Pierre Kelbert, and he took the then-new JPK 10.80 to Cowes Week, where the hottest boat in the Solent was Adam Gosling’s Corby 36 Yes!. Once upon a time she was Peter Wilson’s Mustang Sally based in Howth, but in Cowes had been given a complete makeover to become the new Yes!, and Cowes Week champion two years running.
Things seemed to be following the same route the following year when Yes! and the new JPK arrived together at the weather mark in the first race, and then set off on a spinnaker reach, with the French boat’s spinnaker being trimmed by an amiable-looking bald guy smoking a pipe. By the time they reached the next mark, the JPK was at least a quarter of a mile ahead, without much apparent effort.
It was the fact that the bald guy felt relaxed enough to be calmly smoking pipe that did it. A new Yes!, a dark blue JPK 10.80 designed only for day racing, was soon on the way, and she launched her career by winning overall in the Round the Island Race the following year with Nin O’Leary calling the shots.
But Gery Trentesaux had by this time moved on, with his JPK 10.80 winning the Fastnet Race overall, and he soon had an idea of purest logistical genius. The JPK 10.80 really is a genuine cruiser-racer, and one of the boats was cruising the Pacific. Her owners were persuaded to shape their course for Sydney, where Gery and his crew were waiting with a completely new wardrobe of top racing sails, all nicely in time for the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2015.
It was a very elegant solution to the challenges of long-distance campaigning, and in this their first Hobart Race, they were rewarded by taking second overall, a success which added to the mythology of the JPK story, which now includes Rolex Middle Sea Race wins and class dominance in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, while last month’s Paris Boat Show saw Jean-Pierre Kelbert unveil the model of his latest baby, the JPK 10.30.
Other French international campaigners have come up with other solutions to the challenges of a privately-funded campaign in the Sydney-Hobart Race, and the recent 2019 race saw an interesting one with Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet.
Puzin won the French Mediterranean Division 1 IRC championship in 2017 with his actively-campaigned Mylius 50 of the same name. But he reckoned that the hassle of getting the boat to Australia was out-weighed by the possibilities of having his own boat Down Under, so he bought the successful Sydney-based Ker 46 Patrice and after a massive re-vamp she re-appeared as the very green (as in leprechaun green) Daguet 3, racing to Hobart with a crew of several greats of French sailing such as Nicolas Troussel, Thomas Rouxel, and Sam Goodchild on board.
They certainly had their moments in the recent Hobart dash, giving Ichi Ban a hard time at one stage, and being indicated as overall leader at another. But in the end while they’d a first in ORCi-Div 2 and a fourth in IRC–Div 2, the relentless Sydney-Hobart grinding machine pushed them down to 29th overall in IRC.
Nevertheless, French offshore racing now has a competitive proposition based in Australia and ready to go, and we may hear more of Daguet 3 in the months ahead. Meanwhile in Hobart, that totally green shade of green did not go unremarked, and the unfortunate Daguet 3 found herself nick-named Kermit, a bit of drollery which works very well at several levels, but none of them is politically correct in these very polite times…
In one of her first major regattas since returning to the Laser last September, in a bid for the Irish Tokyo slot, the National Yacht club star is the top Irish woman from four contesting the championships at the Sandringham Yacht Club in Melbourne.
Murphy has counted a race win but also a black flag penalty to be placed 19th overall so far in the championships that have featured strong and light winds and some 'chilly' conditions.
The Men's and Women's Laser Radial classes are sailing together, split into Yellow and Purple fleets.
With the Australian selection for Tokyo 2020 still to be decided, Queenslander Mara Stransky struck an early blow with two wins in Purple fleet. Yumiko Tombe of Japan was second and Marie Burrue (FRA) was third in the first race. All three were pleased to have beaten Rio 2016 gold medallist, Marit Bouwmeester, who finished fifth overall and fourth woman.
Murphy's rivals for the Tokyo berth (that will be decided in selection trials later this year) are all sailing in the gold fleet and currently placed as follows: Aoife Hopkins 32nd, Aisling Keller 37th and Eve McMahon 60th.
The championships were subject to a protest by a competitor under 'Air quality' but the complaint was dismissed.
The RYA is on the hunt for sailors and boat owners interested in the new double-handed mixed offshore event that will debut at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
This exciting discipline will see mixed pairs battle it out over a 4-day offshore race in a new showcase for the sport.
As Afloat reported earlier, planning for Paris 2024 is already underway. The RYA has registered an entry for a British team in the 2020 World Sailing Offshore World Championship (OWC), held in conjunction with the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
The RYA would now like to hear from any motivated and experienced sailors interested in trying double-handed offshore sailing, and they are also keen to hear from any boat owners who may either be looking for a racing partner or prepared to loan or charter a suitable boat to others.
Jack Fenwick, RYA Keelboat Manager, is hoping to bring interested parties together in early 2020 with a view to running doublehanded offshore taster sessions and training next spring.
"Double-handed offshore sailing could appeal to a wide range of people from professional sailors to existing or former international sailors, or perhaps even those just graduating from our RYA British Keelboat Academy," he said.
"At this stage we would like to hear from as many people as possible to try and build a database of interested parties. We would particularly like to hear from yacht owners who might be looking for partners to get afloat and give it a try."
In a vote of confidence for the existing RORC racing series, the RYA has announced that selection for the OWC, taking place in Malta in October 2020 in L30 yachts, will be based solely on the popular RORC Channel Race which starts from Cowes on August 1.
"We believe the existing RORC Racing calendar of events will provide excellent training opportunities and should be a huge advantage to British medal hopes in 2024. It would be great to see lots of teams fighting it out for the double-handed trophies within the RORC's Season Points Championship" said RYA Director of Racing, Ian Walker.
RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone explained: "In 2020 the Channel Race will run as normal for our IRC rated fleet but we will extend the race for those double-handed mixed entries who wish to be considered in the RYA selection for the OWC. The intention is for this selection event to best replicate the duration of the OWC which is likely to be 3 or 4 days."
RORC racing is IRC rated and not one design so in order to best reflect the criteria of the new Olympic equipment, the RYA selection for the OWC will only be open to fixed keel, monohulls within a proposed IRC rating band between 0.990 and 1.055 (subject to confirmation).
Ian Walker: "We need to strike a balance between keeping the rating band as narrow as possible to minimise the impact of the boats' rating differences on the results and making the selection as accessible as possible for a range of suitable existing boats. We will confirm the rating band after any revisions to the IRC rule for 2020."
The official selection policy will be published by 1 March 2020 but anybody interested in getting involved in double-handed, mixed offshore sailing is warmly encouraged to register their interest by sending an e-mail containing details of their sailing experience, aspirations and their boat (if they have one) to: [email protected].
If more than 20 nations enter the OWC then there will need to be a country qualification event in Europe in May / June 2020. Britain would then need to send a representative team to aim to qualify a place for Britain for the OWC in Malta and an announcement will be made on how these representatives will be selected once the details are announced by World Sailing in due course.
A top-eight position needed to secure Ireland’s single place at next year's Tokyo Olympics will be the aim at the 2019 49er World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand next month.
It's going to be a big ask for the two Irish teams who have already departed for New Zealand in what is one of the final chances for 2020 Olympic qualification.
As many as 400 of the world’s best sailors, including multiple champions New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, will compete at the world championships at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club from December 3-8. The event will be broadcast by Sky Sports.
Both Ryan Seaton (a double Olympian) and Seafra Guilfoyle and rivals Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove have each shown how capable they are this season at separate events but the competition will not get any hotter than December's fleet in Auckland.
In August, as Afloat reported at the time, Seaton and Guilfoyle put a patch of inconsistent sailing behind them at the World Sailing World Cup in Enoshima, venue for the 2020 Olympic sailing regatta, to finish as medal race finalists and in tenth position overall. Likewise, in another fine display, defending champions Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove of Howth Yacht Club put in an outstanding U23 49er World Championship campaign to win a bronze medal in Norway in July.
So with both teams showing great potential to make the grade, it will be interesting to see who can perform when it really matters in Auckland.
New Irish 49er coach
The team also have a new coach in Matt McGovern. The Bangor County Down sailor is Ryan Seaton's old crew from London and Rio. McGovern, who in 2017 embarked on his own campaign for Tokyo with Strangford's Robbie Gilmore. He takes on the coaching role after moving into an RYA NI High-Performance management position.
The Olympic Federation of Ireland today welcomed the announcement made by Minister Shane Ross and Minister of State Brendan Griffin that Budget 2020 will deliver on the progressively increased funding for Irish sport set out in the 2018-2027 National Sports Policy.
Special funding earmarked to support National Governing Bodies, such as Irish Sailing, Rowing Ireland and the Irish Canoe Union, in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games is also very welcome at this juncture, less than ten months out.
Speaking today, Peter Sherrard, CEO of the Olympic Federation of Ireland said,
“We thank the Government for continuing to honour its funding commitment to sport under Budget 2020. Sport plays a vital role in society, with major health, social and economic benefits right across the country. Our international athletes sacrifice so much to represent us on the world stage and inspire so many young people to get involved. They deserve our support and we thank the Government for committing funding to their programmes under this Budget.
“While details are still to be announced by Sport Ireland in relation to the distribution of the funding, today’s Budget announcement provides the means necessary to continue delivering on the 2018-2027 National Sports Policy and that is very positive.”
From 11-15 March 2019, the D-Zero, Laser, Melges 14 and RS Aero were put through their paces at Sea Trials for the Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy Equipment for the Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Competition.
World Sailing launched a tender process in May 2018 which invited Class Associations and Manufacturers to tender for the Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy.
Eight tenders were received and a Board of Directors appointed Working Party recommended that the Laser be included as a full option in the Sea Trials alongside the D-Zero, Melges 14 and RS Aero.
Real Club Nautico Valencia hosted representatives of each manufacturer and class as well as an evaluation panel and 11 international sailors with Olympic and World Championship experience.
The evaluation panel at the Sea Trials brought together a wide range of knowledge including members from the re-evaluation working party, World Sailing committees, Board of Director, Coaches Commission, Medical Commission and World Sailing technical team.
They will now write a report and make a recommendation on what equipment should be adopted for the Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
This recommendation will be presented to the Equipment Committee at the 2019 Mid-Year Meeting in May. The Equipment Committee will review the recommendation and then make their own to World Sailing's Council, the final decision-making body of World Sailing, who will make a decision on the equipment that will be adopted.
The Irish Sailing Performance ‘Volvo Junior Squad Programme’ aims to develop and support talented young sailors, acording to a press release issued by the Irish Sailing Foundation.
It identifies and develops Irish junior sailors through training and coaching, introduces them to international racing, and prepares them for the next stages of their sailing career. The programme includes coaching and training on the water, but also on-shore workshops which look at sports psychology, fitness, nutrition, and physiotherapy.
Overseeing the Performance ‘Volvo Junior Squad Programme’ is Irish Sailing Academy Coach Ross Killian. The Junior squads are part of the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway which aims to nurture and develop sailors along a journey of six phases, leading ultimately to international regattas and Olympic level competition.
Three classes of boats will be included in the Performance ‘Volvo Junior Squad Programme’ – the Optimist, Topper and Laser 4.7 classes. Squad sizes will vary and will be selected through the programme’s application process.
London and Rio Olympic 49er crew Matt McGovern is moving to the position of helmsman in a new campaign for Tokyo 2020. Ballyholme Yacht Club (BYC) say the Belfast Lough star, who split from sailing partner Ryan Seaton at the end of last season, will now sail with former top Northern Ireland youth sailing performer Robbie Gilmore.
It's yet another skiff team for Ireland that could now see as many as four campaigns contest the single Tokyo slot. Afloat.ie reported earlier on the burgeoning Irish 49er scene here.
Carrickfergus Sailing Club's Seaton, also sailing with another top Irish youth sailor, Cork Harbour's Seafra Guilfoyle, has already declared that a Gold Medal in Tokyo is the target for their new north–south campaign. Seaton and Guilfoyle intend to make Mallorca this Spring their first event and have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the €5k to get them there.
Meanwhile, McGovern, who has swapped his crew position for the helm in the 49er and teamed up with the 2013 ISA Youth Champion Robbie Gilmore of Strangford Lough Yacht Club, is working hard, hitting the water six days a week to get the new NI campaign up to international speed.
The only non-elitist thing about the Olympic Games is the fact that all countries – however large or small – are treated equally. A small country like Ireland is entitled to exactly the same number of places in competition as the superstates like the US or China. But apart from that, if any country’s national authority in any Olympic discipline is not treating its selected athletes as a pampered elite as an Olympic year arrives, then it is wasting everyone’s time. That’s how it should be in an Olympic year. But things definitely aren’t the same in the three clear years between each Olympiad. W M Nixon looks ahead to a completely different type of season in 2017.
Irish sailing had a good 2016 Olympics. Our waterborne elite did well - they did us proud. And the Irish national sailing season of 2016 – as we saw in last weekend’s review here – was special in many ways, for on top of Olympic success we staged two major world dinghy championships, witnessed perhaps the best ever Volvo Round Ireland Race, and brought home both silver and bronze medals from world youth championships.
That was how it was in 2016. But for 2017, we look forward to a very different kind of sailing year, in which everyone has the chance to be a star at local level, and our Olympic achievers and international medallists will be sailing as ordinary competitors along with everyone else.
In these circumstances, it’s intriguing to look at some of the events which will set the tone for the coming year. And if by some chance you’re feeling jaded as we sink into the depths of winter, rest assured that it’s an absolute tonic to talk with the voluntary organisers who are heading up the groups which are putting together the various packages which will provide sailing happenings of all sizes from one end of the country to the other.
These people have a level of infectious enthusiasm which, if you could bottle it, would make you a fortune. Their zest in our sport, and their joy in boats and the sailing of them, is a wonder to behold. And they’re so keen on it that they’re prepared to put in so very many hours of their free time – hours beyond measure, in fact – in administrative effort, that it would put many professional organisers to shame.
Such enthusiasm can bring its own special problems. Every sailing centre round the coast and on the lakes will expect its share of the action. So inevitably there will be a clashing of dates which will make for difficult choices for crews who had specific programmes in mind. But this morning, we’re not in the mood to beat the drum about ruthlessly rationalising the national programme. Let’s just tell you what’s happening, and you can draw your own conclusions and plan out your own season.
That said, the big one is undoubtedly the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from the 6th to 9th July. 2015’s staging of this biennial festival experienced a quantum leap in the scale and scope of the event. Somehow, it moved onto a new plane. Under the chairmanship of Tim Goodbody, the organising committee built on the efforts of previous years, and the resulting myriad of sailing became a wonder to behold, and a joy to take part in. The plan for 2017 is to make it even better.
This outline hints at the scale of the event which will take place in July:
Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017
Racing open to 30 Classes.
Incorporating the following Championships:-
· Royal Dee Yacht Club Irish Sea Offshore Championship
· Sigma 33 and Wayfarer National Championships
· Beneteau 211 Irish Championship
· GP14 and 420 Leinster Championships
· SB20 Southern Championship
· J24 & Squib East Coast Championships
Celebrating 200 years of Dun Laoghaire Harbour:
The Kingstown 200 Trophy for the best classic keelboat/dinghy.
NOR and Online Entry will open mid November (Monday November 14th).
Super Early Bird Entry Prize Draw: All entries received and paid for in full by 31 December 2016 will automatically be entered into a Super Early Bird Prize Draw and 10% of these lucky people will have their Entry Fee refunded.
To get the flavour of it, a chat with Organising Chairman Tim Goodbody at mid-week brought everything to life. That said, he was in a thoughtful mood, as that morning he had sold his much-loved Sigma 33 White Mischief after seventeen very happy and successful years. This enthusiasm in talking about their boats was found to be a shared characteristic of all the voluntary organisers, something which those who think the future of sailing lies in group-owned professionally-maintained boats might like to ponder.
Be that as it may, the J/109 class in Ireland will be taking on board the fact that their newest star entrant Tim Goodbody is now a hundred per cent J/109 man. For until he was comfortable in the knowledge that his Sigma 33 White Mischief had gone to a good home (she has found a lucky owner in Arklow), you had the feeling that a tiny bit of his mind was elsewhere as he campaigned the new White Mischief, a J/109.
That said, he was frequently on the podium in the new class, but for Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 the rest of his crew will have to race as best they can without him, for he throws himself so thoroughly into heading up the large army of VDLR volunteers – with Ciara Dowling as an awesomely effective Executive Secretary – that there simply isn’t the time to think of campaigning in one of the hottest of the 30 classes as well.
A look at the heights of the 2017 programme shows how it is quite an achievement for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 to be the peak event at home, and it also reveals the difficulty for planning a programme for your boat and crew which will keep everyone – including the Commodore of your home club – in a happy frame of mind.
This list is by no means complete, but if you haven’t firmed up your club or association schedule by November, you’re not going to be taken seriously, as November is traditionally the month when the next year’s Corinthian crewing programmes take shape.
2017 Preliminary Programme
March 25th Horizon Energy Group PY1000 in Owenabue River at Crosshaven (RCYC)
May 26th – May 29th Scottish Series (Clyde Cruising Club)
June 3rd Lambay Races (Howth)
June 9th- June 11th ICRA Nats (Royal Cork)
June 14th Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race (National YC)
June 21st to 24th Sovereigns Cup (Kinsale)
June 30th – July 2nd Cork Dinghy Fest 2017
July 6th to 9th Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta
July 6th to 8th WIORA Championship, Aran Islands
July 23rd to 28th Glandore Classics
August 1st to 4th Calves Week (Schull)
August 6th 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race
August 14th – 18th Half Ton Classic Worlds (Kinsale)
October 21st Rolex Middle Sea Race
We happen to know about the first rather esoteric major event on the programme, the PY 1000 dinghy race in the Owenabue River at Crosshaven on March 25th, thanks to the enthusiasm of Nicholas O’Leary of Royal Cork. He’s back on home ground and busy with being the third generation of his family in the energetic and imaginative organisation and promotion of sailing.
The Horizon Energy Group PY 1000 is a come-all-ye for dinghies using the Portsmouth Yardstick handicap. And they don’t mess about with prizes – there’s €1,000 on it. As the tides suit, they’ll be using the full available length and breadth of the Owenabue River between Crosser and Carrigaline in a crazy sailing project to blow the winter cobwebs away, and it will be a useful training for ogranisational energy levels as young O’Leary puts his team through their paces in training for the Cork Dinghy Fest at the end of June.
Like Tim Goodbody, he can be slightly sentimental about his boats – in his case, it was seeing an old and much-loved Optimist he’d once raced which fired him up to spread the news. An email from him this week gets the flavour of Nicholas O’Leary’s approach to sailing:
“Top of the organisational agenda is taking on the Dinghy Festival at the end of June on behalf of the Royal Cork Yacht Club and the dinghy fraternity of Ireland and beyond. My good friend Marty O’Leary is chairman of the RS Class in Ireland, and we will again welcome three fleets from under his wing - The RS200 for their Nationals and the RS400 and Feva Southerns.
The array of dinghy classes within Ireland concentrate on doing their own calendar year after year. This is a huge undertaking and requires massive dedication by class captains, regional reps and the clubs that host. The Dinghy Fest takes the stress off such class reps for one of many events they would normally have to organise, and brings together the masses into one harbour to enjoy great racing and great craic ashore, particularly as it provides socialising with friends they haven’t seen due to other class commitments.
We are working on connections within the variety of classes nationwide, and one exciting grouping that we’re planning is an Extreme Fleet. To see one 49er screaming across Cork Harbour is a sight, but we plan to have one race course dedicated to an entire fleet of fast dinghies, with the foiling Moths - where we hope to see Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy racing against her coach Rory Fitzpatrick - as well as 29ers and 49ers, and the Cat class, with the Catamarans demonstrating their viable concept of mixed craft racing on the one race track, and results divided thereafter.
I know this Extreme Fleet will open the eyes of young sailors to see that there is life after an Optimist, 420, Laser or whatever fleet they are currently in, and that fast fun boats are accessible classes, alive within Irish waters. I sincerely think it’s very important for the future of youth sailing that they enjoy it, finding a class they are happy in rather than being marched up to the gates of a pathway and pushed through. Those who enjoy the sport will stay in the sport. If they excel to greater heights, then so much the better, but that shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all for everyone.
I don’t believe the success of an event is within its number of entries, but in its quality of racing provided. That is why my old housemate and current ISA Champion of Champions Alex Barry is joining our team in an advisory role to keep the high standard of racing up to scratch, and in line with what we would expect when racing Worldwide. I look forward to developments in the months to come, and will of course keep everyone updated with sailing news from near and far.”
So the dinghies of Ireland have the good example of somebody thinking in a far-sighted and coherent way. But with the offshore racers, the picture is as ever more complex. Yet it’s for sure we’re interested in the Scottish Series out on its own in May, as we provide the ex-Pat overall winner Dara O’Malley (originally from Westport, he’s Edinburgh-based) with his Hunter 707 Seaword in 2016, while regular contender John Hall from the National YC won Class 2 with his J/109 Something Else.
But in June things get mighty complicated, as there are two major cruiser-racer championships in Cork with a clear fortnight between them, yet during that fortnight the biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race gets under way.
However, if you talk with the enthusiasts involved in organising any of these events, it all seems very manageable. Paul Tingle who is chairman to organise the ICRA Nats at Royal Cork from June 9th to 11th has recently moved from campaigning a Corby 25 with family and friends to the comparatively luxurious yet equally competitive surrounds of an X 34 which will also be called Alpaca. He sees the ICRA Nats at Crosshaven from June 9th to 11th as offering the special cachet of a National Championship in a manageable package. And at the end of it your boat is conveniently placed to be moved to Kinsale the following weekend for the time-honoured Sovereign’s Cup series the weekend after (June 21st-24th)
In fact, Paul Tingle and his counterpart at the Sovereign’s, Kevin Murray of Kinsale, are coming up with all sorts of ingenious suggestions for getting the boats from Crosshaven to Kinsale, ranging from a passage race to a simple offer to provide voluntary delivery crews. The thinking is that some crews and owners will welcome the opportunity for a weekend off to score some brownie points on the home front. But however they get to Kinsale, the participants in the Sovereign’s will find that the entire town is behind the event, which is very much aimed at being a fun happening.
Freed from the constraints of the IRC limitations within ICRA, Kinsale YC can open the door to sportsboats and even inshore keelboat classes, should they be so interested, and the emphasis is going to be very much on a regatta atmosphere rather than the more serious mood of a national championship.
Meanwhile, take note that the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race is on a Wednesday evening – June 14th – not the Friday evening as in 2015. The feeling is that in these demanding times, it make more sense to slip away from business cares on a Thursday and Friday to get comfortably finished racing by Sunday and probably earlier, rather than arrive in the office exhausted on a Tuesday after a 380-mile race which finished in the small hours of Monday morning. Last time round, it was J boats of several sizes which dominated, with the Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth winning from sister-ship Mojito, but maybe in 2017 some other marque will get a look in.
For July, an east-west divide arose in planning the programme, when the fascinating concept of a West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association Championship on the Aran islands made the discovery that out in Kilronan, each summer weekend is spoken for in terms of hosting some major island festival. Thus the only clear one they could offer hyper-keen Atlantic Way sailor Cormac MacDonnacha of WIORA was July 8th & 9th, and as his fleet will be wanting to make their way home along the Atlantic seaboard on the Sunday, the WIORA Championship 2017 is July 6th to 8th. It will make for a painful decision for some crews who had hoped to go east for the big one in Dun Laoghaire taking place at exactly the same time.
The Rolex Fastnet Race next year is earlier in August than it has been for some time, going off on Sunday August 6th. And among the fleet will be an Irish boat defending a trophy won in 2015, the Jeanneau 37 Desert Star skippered by Ronan O Siochru of Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire. Desert Star was right on the podium among the many Irish boats in the previous race, and she was also overall winner of the Sailing Schools trophy, besting 32 other boats.
This was a notable success which underlined just how significant the concept of Fastnet Race experience has become in the definition of genuine seagoing ability. The camaraderie which developed among Desert Star’s crew of rookies from an extraordinary variety of backgrounds was heart-warming to behold, and it’s something which many wish to experience and share.
It’s very much what we hope for 2017, as it’s the perfect example of sailing for more ordinary folk rather than top level competition for superstars. So as we snuggle down into winter with just the special Frostbite, Brass Monkey and Turkey Shoot races available for those who want the occasional quick taste of sailing all year round, spare a thought for those dedicated souls who are so keen to get involved that they’ll go to sea just whenever they can, and that includes going offshore in the depths of winter.
For those dreamily contemplating next season from a comfortable armchair in front of a roaring fire, here’s a thought-provoking email I received last Sunday from Ronan O Siochru:
“We are flying downwind with a poled-out headsail
and double reefed main, 30 knots behind us in absolutely glorious sunshine
from Kilkeel back to Dun Laoghaire.
The guys are after sailing 500 miles in six days, and have been to Wales, the Isle of Man, England, and Northern Ireland. We have also experienced the raw energy of the North Channel and the Scottish sea state in November as we headed up to Cambeltown on the Mull of Kintyre.
They are getting some of the most intense, gruelling training in difficult conditions - cold, 16 hours of darkness each day, and sometimes very fast-changing weather. We haven’t seen another sailing boat in 500 miles, as we left Dun Laoghaire in the dark and haven’t been back since.
They are doing serious training, and are learning so fast they are really closing in on many so called 'experienced’ sailors who have been sailing for decades.
They are an interesting group coming from a variety of backgrounds, a
totally international crew, and all guys on this occasion - Irish, French, English, Italian and a Canadian. Their reasons for being here range from a Canadian naval architect looking to learn to
sail, to a Frenchman taking early retirement with a dream to cash in his
pension to buy a catamaran and do charters in the Caribbean.
And there are a few young bucks keen to avoid university, and instead sink their teeth into a grittier more active career……The course has been running since 3rd September, and culminates in the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore exam on the 26th November. Meanwhile, roll on 2017. The Fastnet calls.”
These days Dermot O’Flynn, Director of Training in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, does much of his sailing in a classic Water Wag dinghy in Dun Laoghaire and Dublin Bay. But he is a man of wide-ranging nautical experiences and interests, and he has a gem of a story to share with us here:
In life you get some opportunities to do the right thing, and for me this was one of them. In January 2014 my father Dermot O’Flynn, past President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, died suddenly at the wonderful age of 94. A father, a great surgeon, and a yachtsman who enjoyed any opportunity to be out and about near or on the sea, he left me many happy memories. And he also left me an Olympic Gold Sailing Medal from the 1948 London Olympic Games (understandably known as the Austerity Olympics) which was won by Jim Weekes, who had crewed on the winning American 6 Metre Llanoria.
She was designed by Sparkman & Stephens, and owned by Herman Whiton, who was a member of Seawanhaka Yacht Club on Long Island, New York. On the crew registration for the 1948 Olympics, Jim was listed as James Weekes and the rest of the crew from Seawanhaka Yacht Club were Herman Whiton, Alfred Loomis (who was one of the leading sailing journalists of his day), Michael Mooney & James Smith.
The 6 Metres were the largest and most prestigious of the yachts competing in the 1948 London Olympics, which also included Dragons, Swallows, Stars and the 12ft Firefly dinghy. The famous Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom won his first Gold Medal that year sailing a Firefly dinghy, so Jim and the crew were in good company.
My father was gifted the Medal in 1981 by James Weekes’ wife Kay, who had a been a long term patient and friend of my father. In the accompanying letter she wrote:
“This token comes with my deep affection, no other man deserves it better other than the one who won it, there are no sailors in my family, hand it down to one of yours when the time comes”
My father made the decision to hand down the medal to me probably because I survived the Fastnet Race in 1979 in a 30ft racing yacht, sailed across the Atlantic in 35-foot Camper & Nicholson sloop in 1981, managed a second overall in The Middle Sea Race, and loved sailing all types of boats whether they be dinghies, IRC racing machines, or classic cruising yachts. Yet after putting the medal under lock and key for a while, I came to the decision that the medal did not belong to me or my family, but should be returned to Seawanhaka YC, and so my journey started. Very quickly I discovered that there was only one living relative, named Townsend Weekes, who was also – surprise surprise….- a member of Seawanhaka YC, and he was delighted to hear the medal would be coming home.
Townsend informed me that Jim was originally from Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. He had three siblings, and the family have a long history with Oyster Bay, dating back to 1653 when Francis Weekes settled there. Jim’s grandfather was one of the earliest members of Seawanhaka Yacht Club, and both his brother Arthur and brother in-law Porter were Commodores of this yacht club.
Jimmy - as the family called him - was a terrific athlete who loved sailing and was the best rifle shot of his three brothers. Like his brothers, he had a distinguished career in the American Navy in World War 2, becoming an Executive Officer on a battle cruiser in the Pacific.
Nobody can remember how Jimmy got selected to sail on Llanoria for the Olympics in 1948 but obviously Herman Whiton liked the ‘cut of his jib’, and the Gold Medal sealed the success of their mutual respect.
James Weekes married Kay in 1962, and they moved to Dublin as they wished to live in Ireland, but sadly Jim died suddenly in 1977 at the age of 65. Kay and James had no family, however Kay had family from her first marriage, and they and other Weekes relatives in America had always wondered what happened to the gold medal, so they were intrigued – to say the least - to hear where it had ended up.
Having discovered the background to Jim Weekes, naturally my attention was drawn to the great Llanoria US 83, and what might have happened to her. My journey started by accident when I was delivering an Alden 54 called Tara from St Petersburg to Stockholm via the Finish Archipelago. We happened to spend two wonderful nights on the marina of Helsinki Yacht Club and the club has a half model of Llanoria, plus a photo of her winning the Seawanhaka Cup, for Llanoria had also won the 6 Metre Class in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki – she is the only yacht to have won two Olympic Gold Medals.
My next port of call was the famous yacht designers Sparkman & Stephens in New York. They very kindly went through their records and found a line drawing of the yacht designed by Olin Stephens which they sent to me, however at that time they had no record of Llanoria’s present location.
But I kept digging for more information, and finally got in touch with Matt Cockburn, secretary of the Puget Sound 6 Metre Association in America’s Pacific Northwest, who gave me the great good news that Llanoria had been totally refurbished by her current owner Peter Hofmann, whose family had purchased her in 1980, and that she had just won the 6 Metre 2015 World Championships (Classic Division) at La Trinite Sur Mer on France’s Biscay coast, helmed by Eric Jespersen.
I then contacted Peter Hofmann who was fascinated by the story of the Medal, and he kindly agreed to me joining him and the crew of Llanoria for a sail as they prepared for the 6 Metre European Championships on Lake Lucerne in July 2016. What a joy it was to sail with a crew who knew their yacht so well, and to watch them tune the rig, adjust the sheets, move the mast and create the perfect sail shape for 6 Metre sailing in 8-10 knots of breeze.
Now it was time to move on to the next stage of the Gold Medal’s journey home. In memory of James Weekes I agreed with the Seawanhaka Yacht Club Commodore, Vice Commodore and Committee, through a Deed of Gift, to present the Medal to the Club as ‘The James Weekes Olympic Gold Memorial Trophy’
The trophy represents the coast line of Torbay on England’s south coast, venue of the 1948 Sailing Olympiad, in Irish Silver, with the Gold Medal suspended in the centre of the 1948’s 6 Metre racing area. It is placed on a piece of Irish Bog Oak which is more than 800 years old, chosen for the very personal reason that on the day my father died, his parish priest said to me on hearing the sad news: “Dermot, a great oak has fallen”
At the beginning of October, it gave me and my family great pleasure to present this Memorial Trophy to Seawanhaka Yacht Club, and l look forward over my lifetime to hearing about the sailors who win this trophy, and their successes both on and off the race course.