Displaying items by tag: Cruising
Irish flags are flying during last Saturday's final short hop across in Galway Sailing's Cruise to Lorient.
The photo taken from the citadel at the entrance to Lorient Harbour shows some of the 25-boat flotilla from the west of Ireland on the Galway - Lorient twinning cruise before being hosted by the Deputy Mayor at City Hall.
The leading boats pictured were Trilogy, skippered by Jeangab Zamsun of Lorient and Lean Machine, skippered by Cormac Mac Donncha of Galway.
Read the full account of the Galway Lorient twinning cruise by WM Nixon here.
Even the most experienced amateur sailors will always feel a certain nervousness mingling with the anticipation in starting a cruise writes W M Nixon. This is particularly so when the cruise will take them out of sight of land, and through nights at sea. Yet it brings its rewards, and today an impressive and varied fleet of 27 cruising boats, mostly from Ireland’s western seaboard, will be gathering in Lorient in Brittany after a 553-mile cruise-in-company along exposed coasts and across open ocean from Galway Bay, a joint venture which got underway a week ago.
For many “Nervous Novices”, the notion of broadening one’s seagoing experience through mutually-supportive Cruises-in-Company has an obvious appeal. This concept has been central to the thinking of some noted movers and shakers in Galway Bay Sailing Club and along the west coast. They’ve become increasingly keen in recent years to re-invigorate the maritime links which focused on the connections between Galway and Lorient, the main port in southern Brittany, which is best known to non-sailors as the host town of the annual Inter-Celtic Festival, whose visitors have included President Michael D Higgins.
The sailing links were particularly active during the 1970 and ’80s, with regular inter-changes of boats and people, while the existence of a now re-focused Glenans Ireland base in Clew Bay played its role. But since then, the visible lines of sailing communication between Ireland and Brittany have tended to take on a more professional flavour, with major events setting the pace, such as the Volvo Ocean Race, the Figaro, and the fact that French boats have registered so much success in the Round Ireland and Fastnet Races.
Yet the memories of those more informal amateur contacts, based on genuine friendship across the sea and along the Celtic coasts between two formally-linked Atlantic ports, have never faded. And while Galway sailing’s busy folk such as the always-innovating Cormac Mac Donncha have seen much of their energy taken up with events such as the first staging of the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands - it happened with great success in 2017 with a remarkable 44 boats taking part - the seeds of the idea of a new Galway-to-Brittany Cruise-in-Company, planted by Galway’s Enda O Coineen, were beginning to take root.
Cormac Mac Donncha soon found fellow-enthusiasts among GBSC clubmates such as John Killeen, Pierce Purcell and Johnny Shorten and others. Then, too, the international connections of Enda O’Coineen – particularly along the coast of France following his Vendee Globe involvement and Figaro support programmes – have proven invaluable in ensuring that if they managed to get a fleet together, there would be proper reception arrangements in place at each port to make them welcome and cater for their needs.
The links across the sea were also developed at more official levels building on the connections between the Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbord and his counterpart in the twinned arrangement with Lorient which has been in place since 1975, with Catherine Gagneux of the French Consulate in Galway much involved, and back on water the active support of Jean-Gab Samzun, President of Lorient YC and a frequent visitor to Cork Week, was also readily forthcoming and his 46ft S&S-designed former Admirals Cupper Trilogy is one of the three French boats which came to Galway to join in the venture.
As the possible structures were being explored, research among potential participants was also underway for an event which was now set to come together with the Official Departure from Galway city on Friday, July 12th. In the greater Galway Bay area, Pierce Purcell had for some years been developing a list of all boats and boat-owners, a valuable database whose maintenance has now been taken over by GBSC’s Johnny Shorten. That provided a rewarding source of potential participants, but then it was found that others could soon be found beyond boats based within the limits set by Slyne Head, the Aran Islands, and Black Head.
In fact, potential cruisers-in-company were found all along the West Coast – the Wild Atlantic Way – and even round on to the south coast and Cork Harbour, while it extended inland with three entrants from Mountshannon and Garrykennedy on Lough Derg.
It’s the “hidden boats” of the westerns seaboard which provide the unexpected ingredient. For instance, anyone who is unfamiliar with the place, and arrives for the first time at Rosmoney, the base of Mayo Sailing Club hidden among the islands at the head of Clew Bay, will be pleasantly surprised by the size and quality of the cruiser fleet there. But then, Rosmoney is only “remote” for someone who lives outside Mayo. The thriving county town of Castlebar supports a significant boat-minded community, and so do many other places along the west and southwest coasts.
So although it’s quite a logistical challenge to commit yourself and your crewing recruits to an event which will involve sailing an absolute minimum of 1,106 mostly offshore miles by the time you’ve returned to Galway Bay, boats from as far north as Sligo signed up, as did one boat from Cork in the opposite direction. Indeed, such was the enthusiastic regional response that boats from Galway Bay SC itself, while still the largest club entry, have ended up in a minority of the fleet.
The entry list is intriguing, particularly when taken geographically north to south:
SLIGO YACHT CLUB
Lynx (Reflex 38): Dave O'Connor, Nigel Moss, Adam Sutor, Ian Tobin, Dennis Kashyn, Brian Moloney, Barry Shockly, Paddy Cassidy.
MAYO SAILING CLUB
Freebird (Achillles 9 Metre): Duncan Sclare, Maura Bourke Charles Scott.
Blue Moon: John Lambe
Carp Diem (Delphia 37): Brian Quinn, Sheila Molloy, Colin Wolfe
Coco (Jeanneau 42) J. McAllister
CLIFDEN SAILING CLUB
Moon River (Dufour 30): Rev. Anthony Previte
GALWAY CITY SAILING CLUB
Roamer (Contessa 32): Frankie Leonard, Frank Leonard Snr, Andraus Bauman, Fergal Diviney, Rob Talbot, Rian de
Euphanzel III (Shipman 28): Gerry Moran
GALWAY BAY SAILING CLUB
Lean Machine (J/35): Cormac MacDonnacha. Dan King, Cathal Byrne, Eugene Osborne, Niamh Tyrell, Ken MacNamara
Imperator (Gladiateur 33): Tony Collins, John Shorten, Justin Shorten, Aonghus Concheanainn
Inis Bearachain (Sirius 38): Patrick & Connie Ryan, John Preisler, Eugene Burke
Feeling Groovy (Elite 36): Alan Lane, TJ Corcoran, Hugh Loftus, Con Brosnan
Rhocodar (Dehler 39): Tomas Furey, Aine Nolan, Lorraine Scully, Caroline Higgins, Tricia MacNamara. Grace Denny. Alan Donnelly
Stars are Out: Colm Moriarty
Yapper: Walter McInerney
Seesaw: J Farrell
Lisador (Dehler 36): Henry Hogg, Andy Flanagan, Sean Collins, Dan O'Donnell
Ocean Tango: Ollie Kierse . Steve Lynch
ROYAL WESTERN OF IRELAND YACHT CLUB
Sheenaun (Southerly 47): Louis Keating, Maeve Howard . Kathleen Nolan, Fergus Daly
Amergin: Pat O'Shea, Ruth O'Shea, Jim Lawlor.
ROYAL CORK YACHT CLUB
Split Point (Dufour 34): Seamus Gilroy
LORIENT YACHT CLUB
Trilogy III (S&S 46): Jean-Gab Samzun
Sunfast 36: (Guillermic)
Hallberg Rassy 42: (Bouyer)
The project acquired a more thoughtful aspect after the French lifeboat accident in Storm Miguel in the Bay of Biscay on June 7th saw the loss of three lifeboatmen’s lives, and as already reported in Afloat.ie the Cruise-in-Company will carry messages of goodwill and condolences for the French rescue services from Galway Harbour Master Captain Brian Sheridan and the Galway RNLI.
As the start date approached, the pace became hectic with the three French boats arriving in from Brittany and those from north of Galway Bay (it’s 91 nm from Rosmoney) making their way south. It all started to become official on Thursday evening (July 11th) with a “Grand Fete de Departure” for all crew and their shoreside supporters – formal and otherwise – at the Harbour Hotel, with a perpetual trophy being presented by Phyllis Molloy, widow of the late Government Minister and former GBSC Commodore Bobby Molloy TD, to Gerry Moran, skipper of the smallest entrant, the Shipman 28 Euphanzel III, a boat type which Bobby Molly himself sailed back in the 1970s when links with Lorient were getting into their stride.
The send-off next evening was pure Galway, with traditional boat sailor Peter Connolly of the Claddagh coming out to the fleet to distribute goody-bags of turf and poitin for gifts to Brittany, and the departure was also saluted by Kinvara’s Cruinnui na mBad organizer Mick Brigan (the 40h Anniversary is August 9th to 11th 2019) with his king-size ketch-rigged Galway Hooker Mac Duiach, on his way to Roundstone to be in place for the Mac Dara’s Day traditional racing on Tuesday.
Conditions were gentle for progress around the southwest coast and the first stopover after making good 219 miles was at Kinsale, where the welcome was warm and the fleet achieved full size. Then it was away at dawn on Tuesday for a mostly light wind passage to Hughtown on St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly (131 nm) where the fleet were in place by Wednesday morning as a weather frontal system went through to ensure that they’d have fair winds for the next stages.
By this time there were so many Galway boats in Hughtown that the Harbour Master Dale Clark wondered if any were left at home at all, and in honour of their presence he flew the GBSC burgee from the flagstaff on his launch, while before they left the Galwaymen gave him a special token of their thanks. But as ever the next port was calling, in fact some boats had availed of the good conditions to go on across the mouth of the English Channel to the very special island of Ushant where at least three boats – with Roamer and Feeling Groovy among them – had themselves a fine old time with GBSC Rear Commodore Johnny Shorten providing official approval.
Back in Hughtown meanwhile, organizer Cormac Mac Donncha with his J/35 Lean Machine found himself in the Good Shepherd role. It was 2300hrs on Wednesday evening before he was certain that all his flock were well on their way southwards or otherwise safely accounted for, and then he took his farewell of the friendly Isles of Scilly and Lean Machine went to sea as the tail-ender in the procession to South Brittany.
According to the programme, the next stop was to be Ile de Groix, though some thought they’d see the full hop to Lorient put astern before really relaxing. Whatever, the weather during the past couple of days has been generally better south of Ushant and winds have been providing a beam reach, so even if there’s been the occasional spot of rain, the underlying trend has been in the right direction for the time being.
In any case, with even the relative beginners finding more confidence with every mile sailed, trying to keep to a close schedule and itinerary becomes increasingly difficult. In fact, it’s like herding cats, so space had been left in the programme for diversions such as that made to Ushant, which Tomas Furey’s Dehler 39 Rhocodar crew much enjoyed, and they then went on to Concarneau with Frankie Leonard’s Contessa 32 Roamer, where an entertaining contact was made with the one and only Tom Dolan.
Today, all being well, those still in the fleet will be assembling at Port Tudy in the Ile de Groix, and then they’ll set off in formation at 4 pm to arrive in Lorient at 6 pm, where they’ll find much of interest including the Galway Inn where the word is they’re ready and waiting. And as their fleet berth is in Kermevan where the legendary U-Boat Pens are reminders of another aspect of Lorient’s history (think of the superb war movie Das Boot), they’ll find much to compare with home.
For the reality is that when Galway was already a tough, compact and very complete little walled city punching way above its weight, what is now Lorient was only a sparsely populated collection of cottages considered of little significance. Things have changed more than somewhat since then.
Three French lifeboat crew who died in a recent sea rescue will be remembered by a fleet of west of Ireland sailing craft setting sail from Galway for the Breton port of Lorient later this week writes Lorna Siggins.
Bearing sods of turf, the “cruise in company” involves some 30 yachts and classic craft, including the Galway Hooker MacDuach.
As Afloat previously reported in May, French honorary consul Catherine Gagneux will be in Lorient to greet the fleet, leaving Galway on Friday (July 12) and expected on or about July 20th/21st, weather permitting.
The fleet from Mayo, Galway, Clare, Cork and further afield will fly “battle flags”. Celebrations are planned to mark almost 45 years of a twinning between Galway and Lorient.
Ms Gagneux says the voyage is particularly significant, as one of the craft will sail with a signed flag from Galway rescue volunteers to honour three French lifeboat crew who died recently in Sables d’Olonne, some 100 km north of La Rochelle.
A letter of condolences from Galway harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan will also be presented to the Groix Island Sea Rescue, near Lorient.
The French crew members were part of the rescue organisation, Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer which went to the aid of a fishing vessel during Storm Miguel on June 7th.
The lifeboat capsized due to severe weather conditions, which saw winds of up to 120 km per hour. Four of the seven crew were able to swim ashore.
The Galway-Lorient cruise was initiated by Enda O Coineen, along with Cormac Mac Donncha from ThermoKing in Galway, and Jean-Gab Samzun, the president of the Lorient Galway association - also known as a real 'Vieux Loups de Mer' (Old Sea Dogs ), Ms Gagneux explains.
Sailing fleets from both Galway and Lorient had participated in a number of events in the 1970s, and 1980s and the aim of the “Great Celtic Cruise Adventure” is to revive this tradition.
The 1100 nautical mile return voyage - 550 nautical miles each way - will have three stopovers in Kinsale, Co Cork, for Bastille Day on July 14th; the Scilly Isles; and Ile de Groix.
Mr MacDonncha says that the bags of turf were requested by “Celtic cousins” in Brittany to commemorate the role of working boats such as the Galway hookers who delivered such cargo to the Aran Islands and along the west coast before electricity and diesel were used to heat homes.
Mr Samzun will lead the fleet, along with Galway Bay Sailing Club vice-commodore and voyage organiser Johnny Shorten.
Ms Gagneux says that further social, economic and cultural projects will mark 45 years of the Galway-Lorient relationship in September 2020.
Midsummer’s Weekend, and Irish sailing pauses for breath in this most hectic of sailing seasons writes W M Nixon. There are other events going on during these next two days, but let’s hope the most relaxed and non-competitive tone is set up in Portaferry in the entrance to Strangford Lough at the annual three day Sails and Sounds Festival.
Admittedly with Portaferry SC at the heart of things, there is some competitive racing in the lough itself today (Saturday), with the emphasis on traditional craft. But with the likes of the vintage schooner Soteria setting the pace, it’s character rather than speed which will be the priority.
Meanwhile, for those with a larger vision of what the sailing life can offer for those who have the energy, vision and organisational capacity to grasp some of its many opportunities, this week’s focal point has been the early days of the 14-month family cruise on the Atlantic circuit being under undertaken by a noted Galway cruising family with their 43ft ketch Danu.
For those of us who have heard Vera Quinlan of the Marine Institute speak at an Irish Sailing Cruising Conference, there’s an informed awareness that here is someone who is in the forefront of the projects to realise Ireland's boundless maritime potential.
But with her partner Peter Owens she is also a leading member of the west coast cruising community, and her father is Fergus Quinlan, who in 2010-2013 with his wife Katherine completed a comprehensive three-year Global circumnavigation in the 12m van de Stadt steel cutter Pylades which he built himself, an exemplary cruise which was deservedly awarded the Irish Cruising Club’s premier award three years on the trot.
Very and Peter of Kinvara have been making their own way in the cruising scene for some time now with increasingly long ventures with the 43ft 1993-built Bruce Roberts Mauritius Class steel ketch Danu, and they’ve been implementing an up-grade programme to get their fine ship ready for a 14-month Atlantic circuit when their family of Lilian (now 9) and Ruari (9) had reached a stage where a 14-month break (with of course homeschooling on board) would not make it unduly challenging for them to re-join the school system in September 2020.
The voyage got under way at the end of last week when Galway Bay as every bit as cold as the rest of Ireland, but at least they’d fair winds to carry them south for an overnight passage to Dingle, where they found themselves over-lapping with the finish in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race, and allocated a handy berth in the town marina beside the classic 1939-built 50ft ketch Amokura (Paul Moxon) which had been racing in the two-handed division.
Amokura had struggled over the final miles to Dingle after sustaining damage to an upper spreader, but having completed the race and thereby fulfilled their qualifications for August’s Fastnet Race, as can-do folk themselves Peter and Vera were intrigued by how Paul and his shipmate Steve Jones set up a workshop on Amokura’s deck to make and install a new spreader, something which they did so efficiently that they still had the time to attend the legendary end-of-race party and prize-giving in the Dingle Skelligs Hotel where - as Paul reports - they got a great welcome from the other crews.
These two very different boats went their various ways, with Amokura back in her home port of Falmouth by Tuesday thanks to a useful slant from a sou’westerly, while the crew of Danu continued to settle into shipboard life and deal with the items which still remained on what had been a formidable “to do” list, and in time they found themselves in Baltimore and ready for the off.
The cruise will follow the familiar yet somehow always fresh course down the coasts of southwest Europe and on to the Canaries and Cape Verdes before making the Atlantic crossing to cruise the South American coast before making their way the length of the Caribbean islands and then starting the passage home via Bermuda and the Azores.
With their background specialised in the ways of the sea, Vera and Peter and their family will inevitably be getting much more from this venture than many other sailors, and we look forward to hearing how it all progresses as the months go by. But for now, the contrast between the civilised pace of the voyage of the Danu and the way Irish sailing has been going through a frenetic racing phase in recent weeks could not be greater,
Time was when the gentle peak of the sailing season was set in July in the north and early to mid-August in the south. But anyone who has been following the coverage on Afloat.ie for the past couple of months will assume that the racing programme takes off with full rocket assistance in April, and shows every sign of zooming along until October and beyond.
So here we are with the NYC’s record-breaking (in every way) Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race already put away with Paul O’Higgins’ Rockabill VI (RIYC) the winner and the date for the next one set for good measure (it’s 9th June 2021), before that we had the ICRA Nats in Dun Laoghaire with Caroline Gore-Grimes skippering the ever-competitive X302 Dux (HYC) to overall victory, ahead of that the Lambay Race in Howth saw the vintage Club Shamrock Demelza (Windsor& Steffi, HYC) take the overall prize), in late May the Scottish Series in Loch Fyne saw Andrew Craig’s J/109 Chimaera (RIYC) the Champion of Champions), and in a week’s time we’ll be in the throes of the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale, with 90 boats plus shaping up for a perfect series. Read Afloat's Cup preview here.
Then there comes the big one, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from July 11th to 14th. With entries still open until the end of June, 456 boats have already signed up in 24 classes with three of those classes topping more than the twenty entries apiece. And Dublin Bay sailors being what they are, if the weather starts to shape up properly we can be sure there’ll be late entries banging at the door to push towards the 500 mark.
East Coast sailors tend to assume that things slow down markedly after that, but that’s only the usual metropolitan bias which also overlooks the fact that ISORA racing has resumed. But basically, the reality is the emphasis moves back west. The pace-setting Foynes Yacht Club is hosting the 2109 WIORA Championship from 24th to 27th July, while traditionalists are already gearing themselves up for the 40th Anniversary Cruinnui na mBad Festival in Kinvara from August 9th to 11th, even if dyed-in-the-wool Galway Hooker Sailors will assure you that the purest essence of their sailing is found at the annual MacDara’s Day racing on July 16th at Macdara’s island out beyond Roundstone in Connemara.
Meanwhile, although West Cork came to life with the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival late in May, it’s August when the waters inside the Fastnet Rock really come to life, and fanatical racing types find that for once it is possible to do both GAS Calves Week at Schull from 6th to 9th August, and then Cowes Week from 10th to 17th August.
This may sound too much of a good thing to many of us, but for boat racing mega-fans like Mark Mansfield, it makes for a very attractive proposition - he reckons that the two events provide the most perfect and stimulating contrasts.
But for many topline Irish offshore sailors, August is going to be a tricky one, as the re-jigging of the Rolex Fastnet Race start back to Saturday, August 3rd has created an imbalance in the usual August setup. In a more leisurely age, setting off to race round the Fastnet seemed the natural way to round out Cowes Week, where you might have sailed a race or three.
But in 2019 – the 40th Anniversary of the Fastnet Disaster of 1979 – the fact that the race star time was arbitrarily moved back to early August to avoid the usual late-season weather deterioration means that if you want to savour the Cowes Week experience, you somehow have to summon up the energy and enthusiasm post-Fastnet, which for Irish boats also means heading further east again from the Fastnet finish at Plymouth before finally sailing west for home from Cowes in late August.
All this must be totally yawnsvillle for the many who find all their racing and sailing needs in Ireland and nearby waters, and even more off the scale of interest for those who see cruising as the ultimate in sailing. So for this weekend at least, the contemplation of the cruise of the Danu, and other fascinating voyages like it, is quite rightly top of the agenda.
Lorient in Brittany was the first city to sign up as a twin to the proud citizens of Galway as far back as 1975. It was a statement of friendship and a commitment to exchange cultural experiences between the people of both historic ports of the Atlantic coast, and it has lasted the test of the last five decades.
Both cities have long and proud maritime histories. They also have very strong cultural ties as they share vibrant Celtic roots, and Celtic culture continues to be very evident in both cites through the everyday use of Gaeilge, Breton, traditional music, dance and the arts.
Co-incidentally, both cities are also the western outposts of their respective countries, surrounded by natural beauty. They have been fishing ports for centuries. They are both aware of the bounties and the threats imposed by the wild Atlantic. This shared life experience made for a good twinning. Obviously sailing - from traditional vessels to modern yachts - is a passion cherished by both.
"The West of Ireland sailing community, from Westport to Kilrush grabbed the idea with both hands"
Sailing fleets from both cities joined forces for a number of very successful events during the ’70s and ’80s, but with other distractions nearer home, the tradition subsequently died away. These sailing adventures started with the northbound departure of a fleet of yachts from Lorient Harbour. After crossing the Celtic Sea and passing by the south-west coast of Ireland, the French fleet arrived into Galway for some serious partying. In Galway, the French boats were joined a Galway fleet to form a formidable flotilla for the southbound journey to Lorient. There, the mother of all parties ensued.
Enda O'Coineen was the catalyst to motivate JeanGab Samzun from Lorient and Cormac Mac Donncha from Galway Bay Sailing Club (GBSC) to join forces last summer in an effort to revive the event in 2019. The West of Ireland sailing community, from Westport to Kilrush grabbed the idea with both hands.
Both City Councils have rowed in behind the idea. Mayor of Galway, Niall McNellis, has been a big supporter. Events have been planned for the Harbour Hotel on the eve of the departure from Galway docks on the 11th July and also at the docks marina on the day of departure, 12th July. For the 2019 event, the French team are again pulling out all the stops for their stage of the event, with plans to fly some Irish dancers in from Galway for the occasion.
The two cities have signed up 33 skippers, mostly from the West of Ireland, to join the craic. There has been great support from neighbouring clubs in Mayo and Clare as well as boats from Lough Derg clubs. The Galway boats to register, from Rosamhil Marina, Galway City Sailing Club, Galway Docks Marina and GBSC, have already reached 17. There is a healthy fleet of 6 joining from Westport on Clew Bay, with four boats from Lorient while another six are joining from Kilrush, Lough Derg and Cork.
A number of well known West of Ireland sailors have signed up for the trip, including Westport’s Jarlath Cunnane of Northabout renown as well, as Dr Michael Brogan from Kinvarra. Michael plans to skipper the renowned extra-large Galway Hooker, MacDuach, to France for a Cruise-in-Company which will cover 1,100 miles in all.
On the Irish coast, the route from Galway towards Lorient will follow the shores of Munster as far as Kinsale, and the committee is very grateful for the warm welcome received from the folks at Kinsale Yacht Club, as well as the Harbour Master in the Isle of Scilly, and of course to the Lorient City Club for organising events on Ile De Groix and in Lorient Harbour.
When the Irish Cruising Club was established in Glengarriff at the head of Bantry Bay on Saturday 13th July 1929, the friendly gathering of the crews from a modest flotilla of five decidedly varied sailing yachts – mostly small craft by today’s standards - had several clearly defined purposes in mind writes W M Nixon.
Certainly, they wanted to engender greater interaction and cohesion among Irish cruising enthusiasts - and greater respect too, as the high-profile racing community tended to look down on them with some disdain, for they saw cruising people as being no more than ordinary sailing folk who simply didn’t race. So in order to give more credence to the organised aspects of their life afloat, they planned to produce an Annual filled with logs of the cruises they’d achieved each year in order to give a more complete picture of the new ICC’s activity.
But for many members, the new club’s most important objective was to be the researching and publication of detailed sailing directions and harbour guides for Ireland’s most popular cruising coasts. Until then, information about the more remote parts could only be found in Admiralty Pilot Books which were aimed at ships rather than smaller craft, or else it was in the realms of that precious commodity “local knowledge”, often jealously guarded by those who had it. In the growing mood of amateur enthusiasm for cruising, self-reliance was a central factor, and that was dependent on having ready access to inside information.
Founding member Harry Donegan of Cork, who more accurately could be described as the leading ICC inspirer, had been one of the seven entrants in the inaugural Fastnet Race of 1925 with his 15-ton cutter when he’d finished third overall. But as a sailing polymath with much cruising experience, he’d been creating Sailing Directions for southwest Ireland since 1912, when he had also first aired the idea of an Irish Cruising Club. However, the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 put that notion on hold until 1922 when he was developing the idea further with his fellow cruising friend Billy Mooney of Howth. But the War of Independence followed by Partition and the Civil War had created little space for such ideals, so it was 1929 by the time the club finally came into being.
Yet through all the delays, the aspiration for the production of reliable cruising guides to Ireland by voluntary effort for general publication remained high on the list of priorities, and today with the entire coast covered in two comprehensive volumes edited by Norman Kean of Courtmacsherry with his wife Geraldine Hennigan providing invaluable backroom support, the two books have gone through more than a dozen editions, and they continue to give great service for visitors and locals alike.
Indeed, such a steady role is played by these Directions that there’s a danger we take them for granted, so it needs an outside view to puts their importance in perspective. We’ve received that twice already this year in the accounts, by leading Inland Waterways enthusiasts Paul Scannell and Mary Healy of Galway, of their first venture round Ireland last year in the 1977-vintage Broom Ocean 37 motor-cruiser Arthur - normally a boat associated with the Shannon, but one which is capable of a round Ireland cruise if you’re careful with reading the weather.
They told of their experiences at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference at Lough Ree YC in February, making the point that having the ICC Directions is essential. And then in the recently-published Spring 2019 edition of the IWAI’s Inland Waterways News, with Paul’s fascinating account of their very thorough preparation, planning and execution of this voyage, there are again several references to the indispensable assistance they found in the ICC Directions.
That of course was the intention of those founding fathers 90 years ago in 1929. But in an era when the ICC has acquired a considerable extra glamour with the recent organisation by western member Peter Haden (he’s from Ballyvaughan in County Clare) of an extremely well-supported Cruise-in-Company in northwest Spain, it is timely to be reminded that the very useful work put in train by the club from the start is still being maintained. So much so, in fact, that as Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan were with the fleet in Galicia with their Warrior 40 Coire Uisge, while they were out there they did a spot of local surveying in order to provide better information about some previously under-utilised channels.
In an era of centralisation and the seemingly inevitable spread of professional administration, the ICC is the very model of a de-centralised, all-Ireland organization based on voluntary effort. The office of Commodore rotates around the four regions, and is currently held by Stanton Adair of Belfast Lough, but both the Honorary Secretary Alan Markey and the Vice Commodore Tom Fitzpatrick are based in Howth, while other flag offices and committee places are spread throughout the four provinces in a way which partially reflects the membership distribution, yet also encourages the growth of membership numbers where previously they’d been sparse.
But it is the specialist positions which are the engines of the club, and best reflect its countrywide nature. The all-important Annual is currently edited by Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan, and she has raised it to a quality which comfortably rivals many professional publications, despite being for a membership of just 550.
As for communication with members, the ICC Web Editor is John Clementson who lives on the shores of Strangford Lough, but the editorship of the cherished quarterly newsletter – again of magazine standard – is done by Alex Blackwell, who is likewise a shoreside dweller, but this time on the Atlantic seaboard at Clew Bay in Mayo.
All these tasks successfully maintain communication among a membership who still tend mostly to do their cruising in summertime in the northern hemisphere, but there are always some others somewhere on longer voyages. In other words, most of the activity of ICC members would be invisible were it not for the fact that they’re highlighted with the annual awards, presented each year at the AGM, which is the only event where ICC members are obliged to be in Dublin.
While fellowship, conviviality and a shared love of boats and sailing across oceans, or along coastlines familiar or new, is enough to bind the club in remarkable ties of friendship, there is one occasion every year when they get together simply to have a party, meet new members, and welcome flag officers from the international matrix of cruising clubs.
That occasion is the Annual Dinner, whose organisation rotates round the ICC’s four regions, and for 2019 it fell to the Southern Committee and Rear Commodore Lonan Lardner of Waterford to take on the mantle. It’s quite a challenge, but the cruising folk of the south have the advantage of having Killarney in their region, and there’s little that the smooth-running hospitality industry of Killarney didn’t know last weekend about looking after a dinner for 247 people.
In the midst of an active weekend of multi-activities which saw some ICC members disappear up mountains (don’t worry, they came back down again), others went on historical tours. As for our little group of special friends – with more years of combined membership between us than we care to count – we went off on a tour of the Ring of Kerry – mercifully uncrowded for it was the weekend after St Patrick’s Day – and took in harbours and happy watering holes, and saw the incomparable Derrynane at its pristine best (not one boat of any kind in the anchorage, first time I’ve ever seen it like that), and then relaxed in the history-laden comfort of Parknasilla.
That set us up nicely for the scenic route back to Killarney from Sneem up to Moll’s Gap, and then it was into the scrum of the dinner. With 247 present and on top form, you’re going to meet and greet an impressive number of folk, but – when anything resembling conversation is possible - is never quite going to take the course expected.
Thus I found myself sharing an enthusiasm for rudders which fit neatly under the hull for maximum endplate effect with the charming Brad Willaur, Commodore of the Cruising Club of America, a line of thought inspired by my very high regard for the classic Jim McCurdy-designed 48-footer Carina aboard which Brad has raced with current successful owner Rives Potts.
When Carina first came to Ireland brand new in 1969, she was in the Transatlantic Race to Cork as part of the buildup to the Royal Cork’s Quarter Millennium, and she then went on to do the Fastnet of that year. The word is that she’s coming back for this year’s Fastnet as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations, but meanwhile I recalled that one of her crew for that 1969 Transatlantic passage was a very youthful Ron Cudmore, and sure enough there was Ron in Killarney, like us all not quite as young as he used to be, yet still very definitely Ron Cudmore.
But in terms of age defiance the total star of the show was his brother, sailing superstar Harold Cudmore, who was there to mark an extraordinary number of years as an ICC member, for in the days of his youth the ICC had a strong Crosshaven and family bias, and Harold got in as a mere lad. But nevertheless, he has defied the years so well that he looks about ten years younger than the number of years he has been in the club.
He was celebrating with Jack Wolfe, who at 95 is the ICC’s senior member, with a unique direct link of having been aboard Saoirse with Conor O’Brien in 1938. That saw the conversation swing into the unlikely associations which the ICC membership brings up. Who would have thought, for instance, that rugged Arctic voyager and Irish traditional boat enthusiast Paddy Barry would have started sailing with fellow UCD engineering student and subsequent International Dragon and superyacht owner Mick Cotter?
Yet they did that by buying an oldish 505 dinghy and using it for camping cruising, one of their more noted ventures being a fast unaccompanied sail from Roundstone in Connemara out to Kilronan in the Aran Islands. On this being mentioned to Harold, he immediately recalled that the boat in question had originally been Joe Woodward’s Dotie Pet, one of the most successful of the Crosshaven fleet of 505s, and then almost exactly on cue, Joe Woodward himself emerged from the ICC Killarney melee with a request.
For a long time now, he has been a summer fixture of the Galician coast with his Salar 40 Moshulu III. But when he was clearing out the boat last season, he found a rather special Irish ensign. It seems that when Moshulu first arrived in northwest Spain many years ago, his first anchorage to get his breath before entering port was the Iles des Cies off Vigo. Having crossed Biscay, suddenly his little Irish ensign seemed totally inadequate. But it so happened that our beloved Sail Training Brigantine Asgard II was anchored nearby. So Joe hopped in his dinghy and went over and asked if by any chance they had a spare ensign of decent size. They had and more, and they lent him one. So though Asgard II may now be gone, Joe Woodward of Cork has one of her ensigns, and he’d very much like to see it being used for some useful and preferably charitable purpose.
In a hectic weekend like this, there’s bound to be the occasional hiccup, and I managed a beauty by crashing a flying boat. We were travelling down to Killarney in convoy with the legendary Dickie Gomes, voyager extraordinaire, and when a boring rainbelt moved in, my mother-in-law’s daughter cleverly suggested we let it pass through by visiting the Flying Boat Museum at Foynes. She knew that Dickie’s father used to be General Manager of Short Brothers & Harland in Belfast where they’d built the famous Sunderland Flying Boats after the company had been moved lock, stock and barrel from Kent from 1938 onwards in order to locate it further away from the Hitler unpleasantness.
It’s a fascinating setup, that Foynes museum, complete with a full-size replica Boeing B314 flying boat, aka the Pan Am Clipper, but there are also flight simulators in which you could be in any type, and we decided we were on which Dickie had flown from Belfast Lough.
Well, having been an ace Tiger Moth pilot in his youth, he made a lovely job of flying the simulator. But I crashed, and had to admit so in after dinner chat with Henry Clay, the Commodore of the Royal Cruising Club, whose family hails from Kent. He was interested. “Did you know” he asked, “that Short Brothers were also builders of Thames sailing barges?”
Neither of us did. Nobody in Killarney did except Henry. But the sailing barge Lady Daphne was built by Short Brothers of Rochester, Kent in 1923 at a time when demand for flying boats was very limited. The thought that the Short Sunderland Flying Boat is a relative - however remote - of the classic Thames sailing barges is something that takes a bit of getting used to.
Yet it was just one of many ideas you have to take aboard in short order at an ICC Dinner. However, an underlying theme is that everyone is thinking of the Tricentenary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club next year. The word is that at least 17 significant American boats are coming across. Heaven only knows how many will join from Europe for the Great Gathering. Most of us still can’t grasp just what 300 years really means. But there’s no doubt many people are determined to get their heads the very idea, for it is going to be something extra special in 2020.
The UK based Cruising Association (CA) Regulations and Technical Services Group (RATS) understands that Belgian authorities will continue with the agreement for UK pleasure vessels visiting Belgium that they still have to use our red diesel in the engine fuel tanks for propulsion, certainly for this year.
The conditions are the same as before, in that all diesel purchased prior to departure from the UK to Belgium, or other EU maritime States' marinas and ports, must pay the full 100% duty (and not any lower duty rate) on all the fuel and that it is recorded on the signed invoice for the purchase. This invoice must be on board the vessel (such as with the boats log) in the unlikely event any inspecting Customs official should wish to see it as proof of the duty payment.
"All diesel purchased prior to departure from the UK to Belgium, or other EU maritime States' marinas and ports, must pay the full 100% duty"
The agreement was successfully used last year and, should there be any change to it by the Belgian authorities, they have promised the Regulations and Technical Services Group a guarantee that they will be informed of this in good time so that the Cruising Association can share the details with CA members and the wider sailing community.
This agreement will carry forward throughout the 2019 sailing season. For peace of mind, and if owners have any concerns about making a trip, they can ring the staff of the first marina they are calling at to confirm they will have no problem with their visit.
Cruising and its organisations move at their own serene speed, and when Donal Walsh of Dungarvan received Irish Cruising’s supreme trophy - the Faulkner Cup - in February, it was recognition by his peers of an outstanding and seamanlike achievement made in the summer of 2018.
Sailing the Ovni 385 Lady Belle and crewed throughout by Clare Morrissey, with others on board from time to time, Donal Walsh made a seamanlike odyssey of 80 days and 3,450 miles to seven countries. He returned with a myriad of memories and much information which he has processed for others in the best traditions of cruising, with a properly kept and highly informative log.
Dungarvan in the west of County Waterford is in some ways one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets writes W M Nixon. It’s big enough to be considered a real town by Irish standards – it’s the County Town too - yet it isn’t so big as to seem impersonal. There’s a real sense of community, while it’s set in the midst of quietly beautiful scenery beside an array of spectacular hills and mountains. And though the more sheltered parts of its estuary harbour have a tidal element, it’s home to a significant fleet of boats based around the thriving Dungarvan Harbour Sailing Club.
Yet in times past Dungarvan did not figure high in any listing of cruising destinations, as boats on passage along the south coast saw it as being a long diversion from the direct route to and from Cork Harbour, when a very handy overnight berth would be available if you anchored at the entrance to Dungarvan Bay, in the sheltered spot immediately west of the busy little fishing port of Helvick.
And as for carefully finding your route all the way into Dungarvan if the tide suited, it seems that any chance of a convivial evening with local cruising enthusiasts would be remote, for once summer arrives, they’re all gone - gone far away to distant parts on fascinating cruises of their own. Or at least that was the impression gained at yesterday evening’s AGM of the Irish Cruising Club, chaired by Commodore Stanton Adair from Belfast Lough, and hosted by Howth Yacht Club.
Under the “homeless” 1929-founded ICC’s rules, the Club’s AGM is always to be held in Dublin, though these days with Home Rule the mood of the moment in Fingal, you’d wonder if Howth is truly a part of Dublin at all. Be that as it may, last night it was Dungarvan which was the talk of the town, for not only had Donal Walsh of Dungarvan been awarded the top prize, the Faulkner Cup, for his fascinating cruise to seven northwest European countries with his Ovni 385 Lady Belle, but in receiving it he was succeeding his sister Maire Breathnach as the awardee, as she got the nod in 2017 for her cruise to northeast Greenland with her husband Andrew Wilkes in their 64ft gaff cutter Annabelle J.
Finding any continuity between an Arctic cruise in a hefty classically gaff-rigged cutter, and a detailed largely coastal venture in an ultra-modern alloy-built cruising sloop with a lifting keel, may seem like quite a challenge, but that is typical of the exceptional diversity which the wide-ranging members of the ICC are achieving these days.
In the past couple of decades, they’ve seen several boats go round the world, they’ve seen transits of both the Northwest and Northeast passages such that the Arctic Circle has been circumnavigated, they’ve seen voyages to the far south, deep into Antarctica, and they’ve seen island-hopping explorations of the Pacific.
Donal Walsh’s 80-day 3450 mile cruise
But equally they’ve seen increasingly detailed cruises of the Mediterranean and Europe and the nearby islands of the Atlantic, and for 2018, adjudicator Dan Cross of Crosshaven – a sailing and cruising man of exceptional experience – decided that it was time the best of these got the top award. Donal Walsh’s 80-day 3450 mile cruise with Clare Morrissey and others aboard Lady Belle, from Dungarvan north to the Hebrides of Scotland, then on to the Orkneys, Shetland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, the Channel Islands, Brittany and Cornwall before the final haul across the Celtic Sea back to Dungarvan, fitted the bill to perfection.
While Lady Belle enjoyed some of the great weather of June and July, the sheer length of time which a 3450-mile cruise of this type involved inevitably saw them experience gales – 12 in all – and the weather was well broken when they returned home in August.
They came back to find that June and July in Ireland had been perfect weather, ideal for cruising home waters, so not surprisingly the other trophies allocated by Dan Cross see an emphasis on those who took best advantage of this, with the Strangford Cup for an alternative best cruise going to Derek White of Strangford for his leisurely and very convivial summery circuit of Ireland with his wife Viv on their vintage Fastnet 34 Ballyclaire.
The fact that the northerners take their holidays in July while those in the south see August as the holiday time worked in the northerners’ favour with 2018’s weather patterns, as the former got idyllic conditions for several detailed cruises in Irish waters. Another Strangford Lough boat – Peter Mullan’s Sun Odyssey 12m Oyster Bay – simply took advantage of the good weather to cruise gently to West Cork and back with the Voyage Purpose being an inspection of the historic ketch Ilen nearing completion of her restoration at Oldcourt near Baltimore, and he won the Glengarriff Trophy for his charming write-up.
Peter Mullen’s easy-going cruise
As it happens, Ilen figured again in the awards, as the ICC’s Western Committee allocated the Aran Islands Trophy to Gary MacMahon of Limerick for his inspirational leadership of this project. But meanwhile Peter Mullen’s easy-going cruise produced the best of the many 2018 sunset images in the ICC Annual, though perhaps you wouldn’t immediately guess its location - it was taken in the workaday port of Arklow.
Meanwhile, far to the northwest, Paul McSorley and John Gray voyaged from Lough Swilly out to Rockall and back under sail only in the Westerly Falcon 35 Viking Lord, “sail only” being a requirement as they wished to qualify for the Azores & Back Race. When they finally got to that distant and lonely rock, like everyone else they were surprised by just how small it is. But to prove they’d been there, they took an Irish product placement image of themselves with Rockall between them, framed by a packet of Tayto Crisps from County Meath and a bottle of Belfast Ale. Last night, they received the ICC’s Rockabill Trophy for seamanship for a job well done.
One of the ICC’s most senior and significant trophies is the Round Ireland Cup, and for 2018 it goes to one of the club’s most senior and significant boats, the 1890 Cobh-built 32ft cutter Winifreda, owned for generations by the Villiers –Stuart family. Everyone knows her as Winnie, and she’s all boat - the biggest 32-footer you ever saw - for she was built of double-skinned teak as a workboat in order to transport gunpowder and ammunition from the naval base at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour out to the forts at the harbour entrance.
1890 Cobh-built 32ft cutter Winifreda
It’s said that her hull planking is of such high quality that none of it has ever needed to be replaced, which at 129 years is quite something. But above deck and within the hull, she has been very cleverly altered to become a comfortable Bermudan-rigged cruising cutter, and in this form she has cruised thousands of miles.
These days, her custodian is Gary Villiers-Stuart and he has her based at Ulva Ferry on the West Coast of Mull in Scotland. But as she has been in the family since 1918 and was based for many years at the ancestral territory in West Waterford, he reckoned the centenary of ownership year of 2018 merited an anti-clockwise circuit of Ireland with the emphasis on West Waterford and particularly Helvick, where Winnie was worked as a fishing boat before she eventually was converted to a cruising cutter. It was some cruise, challenging at times and hugely sociable when special ports were reached, and the entire project exactly fits the Round Ireland Cup purposes.
Not everyone stayed in Ireland to avail of the good weather. Peter Fernie of Galway with his little Moody 27 Mystic decided a season or two in the usually more summery weather of Galicia had become a priority, but after a seamanlike crossing of the Bay of Biscay direct from Dingle, he arrived to find the rain in Spain while a call home revealed that summer had come. But he very worthily received the Marie Trophy for the best cruise by a boat under 30ft donated by northern skipper Michael McKee, who in turn was presented with the Wright Salver for his years of service (since 1962) to the club. And meanwhile back in Galicia, summer duly reasserted itself, but even so several ICC boats which have been based there since the club’s Galicia Rally in 2016 decided it was time to cruise home in order to be comfortably in place for the Royal Cork’s Tricentenary in 2020.
That in turn presented the adjudicator with a selection of fine cruises well worthy of trophies, but the main choices had been made, and in order to reflect the wide scope of the Annual’s contents, Dan Cross recognised cruises by members in non-club boats in more distant areas, including one by John Duggan into eastern Sweden (the Wild Goose Cup) while the Fingal Cup for the log which the adjudicator most enjoyed went to Ed Wheeler for his entertaining account of a jaunt through the remote fjords of southwest New Zealand.
Much nearer home, the business of boat delivery after a successful purchase in Europe is part of ICC life, and second-generation ICC member John O’Rahilly of Dun Laoghaire made such an efficient yet enjoyable job out of bringing his newly-acquired Wauquiez Gladiateur home from The Netherlands in just eight days that the adjudicator reckoned the project merited the Fortnight Cup, a senior ICC trophy which dates back to the days when people had jobs of regular hours, and with clearly-defined holiday periods.
John B Kearney Cup
Two of the ICC’s most eminent early members were designer-builder John B Kearney and 1925 Fastnet Race veteran Harry Donegan, and they are remembered with the John B Kearney Cup - an open award for an outstanding contribution to Irish sailing – and the Donegan Memorial Trophy, in the gift of the club’s Eastern Committee to honour someone special in their region.
The John B Kearney Cup went to Gregor McGuckin, hero of the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe race for his inspiring attempt to rescue an injured fellow-competitor when he himself was sailing under jury rig after dismasting in the Southern Indian Ocean, while the Donegan Trophy celebrated the many achievements of former ICC Commodore Peter Killen of Malahide, whose cruising has included outstanding ventures both to the Arctic and Antarctic, while at home he has been a tireless worker behalf of both the club and the RNLI.
However, for those just new to the game, the ICC offers encouragement to writers of their first log for publication in the form of the Perry Greer Bowl for the best such effort, and for 2018 it goes to Jim O’Meara of Cobh for his informative account of a detailed anti-clockwise circuit of the Bay of Biscay from northwest Spain, with his Jeanneau 37 Second Chance now laid-up in Brittany, poised to sail for home in the summer of 2019.
In all, there are 28 hugely varied cruising logs covering thousands of miles and dozens of cruising grounds in the new ICC Annual, the second one to be edited by Maire Breathnach (it’s Dungarvan again…), and she does it with style and skill.
The 1961 Round Ireland Cruise
One of the most attractive of her additions to the contents is a delve into the archives of cruises past, and this year’s is a gem – the 1961 Round Ireland Cruise from Carrickfergus by the tiny 18ft Belfast Lough Waverley Class keelboat Durward, beautifully written up as “The Time of Our Lives” by Kevin MacLaverty, who was crewed by his younger brother Colm and Michael Clarke.
Kevin and Colm are alas no longer with us, but Michael Clarke at 78 is still very much part of the sailing scene – at 78 he is Admiral of Lough Erne Yacht Club, Father of the J/24 Class, and a couple of years ago he was cruising round Ireland again, this time with Rob Henshall ICC in the Endurance 35 ketch Inspiration from Lough Swilly.
Michael Clarke came up with the goods for Maire Breathnach to beef up the 1961 log of Durward, and it’s a treasure trove of memories from 58 years ago. In those days, detailed cruises of Ireland’s west coast were a rarity, and for many sailors from elsewhere, the occasionally-sighted currach and even rarer Galway Hookers were much more a matter of wonder than they are nowadays, when new boats of all sizes to the traditional designs are being built, and people such as ICC member James Cahill of Westport have gone to the trouble of assembling a collection of 14 small craft to cover every known currach type.
But back in 1961, there was a pessimistic assumption that such boats would disappear in the face of progress, and even though Durward met her first currach in Blasket Sound, with the little black boat sailing in from the then-inhabited Great Blasket Island, within three years the last islanders had left to live on the mainland.
Now we know much more of these boats and their places and people, and hooker and currach racing is a feature of many parts of the coast. But in 1961, it was a very different world, a world in which taking an 18ft keelboat totally unaccompanied round Ireland required courage of a high order, and in recognition of this, the inclusion of the 1961 Durward log in the latest Irish Cruising Club Annual is something very special indeed
Lough Ree Yacht Club at Ballyglass, where the spacious waters of the great Shannon lake start to narrow back to river size for the passage south through Athlone, is already well into planning for its Quarter Millennium in 2020. Founded in 1770, its history ranks it second only to the Royal Cork YC of 1720 in the global seniority stakes.
But on Saturday, when it provided the hospitable centre-of-Ireland location for the fully-booked all day Irish Sailing Annual Cruising Conference organised by Gail MacAllister, the focus was very much on the present and future of cruising. A well-chosen range of topics and speakers absorbed the attention of a sailing and boating population which may not grab the headlines in the same way as the racing brigade, but countrywide their numbers are probably greater, while participants included racers who cruise with equal enthusiasm.
Lough Ree YC Commodore Garrett Leech and Irish Sailing President Jack Roy opened the varied proceedings, their own experiences setting the tone. The Leech family is synonymous with active Shannon cruising and racing, and Garrett’s brother John is Commodore of Lough Derg YC. As for the President, while he may be best known for his many competitive participations in a variety of boats and continuing race officer duties, these days he is also spreading his cruising horizons with the fine Hallberg Rassy 46 Tangaroa.
Thus he is personally well aware that though the legislation for the Irish version of a Small Ships Register was enacted as long ago as 2014, Irish Sailing is still working on behalf of those whom it represents to get it up and running. This lack of priority given to some official interactions with the recreational boating community was echoed by one of the afternoon’s speakers, Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions Editor Norman Kean.
He has been ICC Directions Editor since 2005, but for the last three years he has also been on the Irish Sailing Representation Group, specializing in the problems with the official attitude to the changed situation in regard to use of red or green diesel, and he brought the conference up to date on developments there which - to say the least - are slow.
However, if there was a theme to this conference on many topics, it was the positive approach to problem-solving for cruising folk, and the first presentation by Paul Scannell and Mary Healy - on how they have taken to prudent sea coastal cruising with their formerly inland waterways 41-year-old Broom 37 motor-cruiser Arthur – provided much of practical interest for sail and power enthusiasts alike.
The harsh reality of the open sea at its most aggressive was the topic of Kylie McMillan’s presentation, which stemmed from her role as a crew-member aboard the J/109 Jedi when they’d a man-overboard situation off the west coast in strong to gale northerly headwinds during the 2018 Volvo Round Ireland Race. The exemplary and speedy retrieval controlled by First Mate Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School has deservedly been awarded the RORC’s Seamanship Trophy, and Kylie’s gripping account of the experience brought the whole event to life.
The other side of sea rescues was then explored by Keith Devaney, Technical Crew Manager of CHC Helicopters who run the five state-of-the-art Sikorsky S92s on behalf of the Irish Coastguard. Keith is responsible for all 37 technical crew (the Winchmen) in the service, and after the self-help Jedi presentation, the air-sea rescue view was an intriguingly different angle.
The morning session was completed with experienced cruiser Vera Quinlan of Kinvara on Galway Bay (she has been sailing since the age of 10) presenting an informative video on her plans to do a 15-month Atlantic circuit cruise with her family – including Lilian (11) and Ruari (9) - on their Bruce Roberts-designed Mauritius 43 Daru. As she works in the INFOMAR programme with the Marine Institute, although she’ll be taking a career break it will be with a professional flavour, surveying sea conditions and placing an oceanographic buoy along the way.
After a sociable break for an excellent lunch, the ecological conditions of our oceans was very much the theme of the first afternoon speaker, ocean racing legend Damian Foxall, who has recently been appointed Irish Sailing’s Sustainability Ambassador. His CV in completing 10 round-the-world races with its close-up experience of the increasingly polluted state of our oceans now informs his entire approach to environmental matters, and he was passionate in his determination to make all sailors aware of the roles they have to play in reversing the trend.
One longterm development which will be significant in this is increased use of electric power as the basis of marine engines. But for most boats, the contemporary reality is still the standard internal combustion engine started by battery power. Toni O’Leary of Union Chandlery is typical in that her classic Contessa 26 in Cork Harbour has the diesel engine with battery support combination. As Technical Sales Supervisor with Union Chandlery for the last 16 years specialising in the electronics, electric and marine hardware divisions, she was able to give the best advice about proper on-board battery management, still an area of mystery to many boat-owners.
Norman Kean’s contribution was naturally well spiced with his own salty wisdom as a hugely-experienced cruising man, one who moreover is never reluctant to give his clear and sound views on the vast array of nautical topics with which he is fully conversant. But after he’d outlined the problems with fuel sourcing for recreational boats on Irelands remoter coasts and the apparent official indifference to it, some of the less dedicated attendees might well have wondered if the sometimes intangible benefits of cruising outweigh its many challenges.
This question was almost immediately answered by the final speaker, Niall Hatch of Bird Watch Ireland, whose guidance through the coastal birds of Ireland and their identification was a reminder of the many rewards of cruising at its best, though he also gave forceful reminders of the hazards of plastic waste. That said, we take it for granted that the close and easy sighting of seabirds in their element is part of every cruising day, just as we’re almost blasé about the regular appearance of whales, dolphins and porpoises off coastlines of breath-taking beauty, but Niall Hatch’s presentation was an eloquent reminder of the special pleasures cruising provides.
Thus this friendly conference – which had seen every presentation followed by insightful questions from the audience - concluded on a specially pleasant note which sent everyone on the road home with their interest in cruising well refreshed. As Gail MacAllister admits, they may have tried to pack too much into the busy day. But there wasn’t one item anyone would wish to have removed. And thanks to the sponsorship of Union Chandlery and Kilrush Marina, with additional support from UK Sails Ireland, Aster Yachting, W1DA, VHF.ie-training, and the Irish National Sailing School, it was a comprehensive success, buoyed up by the unstintingly friendly and very hospitable approach of Lough Ree Yacht Club.