The annual Irish Sailing Cruising Conference attracted a capacity attendance of a hundred enthusiasts to the hospitable National Yacht Club on Saturday, with an excellent and sustaining club lunch at mid-conference to provide further energy for a very busy programme, and also offset any thoughts of Storm Dennis starting to manifest himself outside.
For in the warmth of the clubhouse and the camaraderie of sailing the sea, organiser Gail McAllister and her team had provided a lengthy yet absorbing schedule of presentations which covered a huge variety of topics, going beyond the basic theme of Exploration and Discovery.
Thus while everyone knew that contacts with Damian Foxall, Lucy Hunt and Niall McAllister in Antarctica with the expedition yacht Ocean Tramp were coming down the line, as were links with Vera Quinlan and her family cruising the Caribbean, while voyager/explorer Jamie Young of Galway was there to tell his story and outline several interesting news ideas, the reality is that cruises long and short involve dealing with the behaviour of waves at sea, and that was the opening topic.
It sounds like a technically specialist area, yet Met Eireann’s Sarah Gallagher not only made it very accessible, but gave everyone her direct email contact for further information on a topic which every helmsman knows as having almost infinite permutations.
Next up was Jim Wilson of Ballinacurra in East Cork, birthplace in 1785 of seafarer Edward Bransfield, the discoverer of the Antarctic landmass in 1820. With the Bicentenary of his great breakthrough upon us, we find that it has taken 200 years for Bransfield to become an overnight success, but the awareness of what he achieved is gathering pace, largely thanks to the infectious enthusiasm of Jim Wilson and his group, and he made a fine job of making it an entertaining topic.
With an admittedly northern part of the Antarctic landmass very briefly achieving a temperature of 20 degrees recently to provide a new record high for the region, the ice melt is a global problem. But there’s still an awful lot of it about, and the distant word from the crew of Damian Foxall (Irish Sailing’s Sustainability Ambassador) from Ocean Tramp is that while Climate Change is one of their major interests, an Antarctic storm is still way beyond most people’s cruising experience, and the access voyage southward across the Drake Passage from Cape Horn can be epic.
While Jamie Young is best-known in sailing circles for his remarkable Greenland voyages with the alloy-built Frers 49 Killary Flyer (we’d put good money on him to be the first yacht skipper from Ireland to get round Greenland), he is no stranger to the Southern Hemisphere, indeed he once went round Cape Horn in a kayak, as one does….
However, while Greenland voyaging is his shtick these days, he is determined to see Climate Change being combatted by much-increased use of sail power, and has developed some advanced ideas – some of which he revealed at the conference - about how best to do that in special smaller cargo vessels where developments in sail handling techniques for racing machines and superyachts can be usefully adapted to be of real commercial value to mankind.
After lunch, the re-introduction to seafaring was provided by Dun Laoghaire voyager Christine Heath, whose extended cruises with her Limerick-built Shipman 28 Gusto were summed up in the title of the presentation: “From Dun Laoghaire to Kilrush via the Baltic”. Her boat is now “nesting” in Kilrush Marina, and this summer she plans cruising on Ireland’s western seaboard in detail.
It was a cruising family from that same Atlantic seaboard who were next on the agenda, but their current focus is on the other side of the ocean. For, as recounted in detail on Afloat.ie recently, Vera Quinlan of Kinvara and her family with the 13m ketch Danu are on a 15-month Atlantic circuit cruise, and as she is a hydrographer by profession, her insights into voyaging and the state of our seas carry real weight.
Carrying weights of a small but significant size was the busy agenda’s next subject, with Toni O’Leary of Union Chandlery providing her expert information and advice on galvanic corrosion and its countering by anodes - definitely a specialist subject, yet one about which every sailor and particularly every cruising person needs to be well aware.
After the underwater detail of cruising boat maintenance, it was time for a breath of fresh air and visions of sunlit cruising grounds and favourite anchorages. A new angle was provided on this by Norman Kean of Courtmacsherry, Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions. With his wife Geraldine Hennigan, Norman has recently seen through the publication of the latest edition – the 15th – of the ICC’s book for the South & West Coasts, and much use is made of his untiring enthusiasm for using drone photography, which meant that at the Conference he was able to run an informal competition, showing new aerial photos of choice anchorages and asking people to tell him where it was.
Inevitably the usual discussions of varying intensity broke out about the best cruising anchorage of all (everyone has a favourite), but Norman then reintroduced a more businesslike mood with an outline of another of his specialities, the realities of the marine diesel situation and accessing fuel on the Irish coast, which can be problematic, to say the least.
However, cruising goes on even with such hassles to be overcome, and there was close interest in Vincent Lundy’s outlining of the Cruising Association of Ireland’s plans for 2020, which will include a Cruise-in-Company to Scotland.
As for the major happening in Ireland this year, the Tricentenary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, Mike Rider - Rear Admiral (Cruising) of the RCYC - was on hand to tell this focused group of total cruising folk of how best they could avail of the various events on offer in order to join the party, while at the same time staying within the cherished preferences of the true cruising spirit.
This special and successful gathering concluded with the news that 2021’s Conference will be staged in Cork in February on a “non-Rugby weekend”, with venue still to be finalised. But while using the National Yacht Club for this memorable 2020 get-together inevitably limited participating numbers to a hundred, it has set a standard of quality, interest, information and enjoyment which will be quite something to match.