Displaying items by tag: J109
The vibrant J/109 class in the Greater Dublin area starts its “One Design” season today with the two day Eastern Championship at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. The class as a One-Design then goes through a busy summer including the Howth Wave Regatta at the beginning of June, eventually completing its programme with the Irish Nationals – again at Howth Yacht Club - on October 6th & 7th.
Between these three pillar events – and indeed before this weekend in the earlier part of the sailing years, and after the Nationals in October – this versatile boat finds a multiplicity of uses as a One Design, as the backbone of Dublin Bay SC Class 1, as an IRC-rated boat sailing under a number of handicap figures, as an ECHO-rated boat if needs be, and as an offshore racer with a proven and continuing record of success. In addition, if you’re so inclined, she can also be a comfortable performance cruiser which is a delight to sail. W M Nixon puts a fresh perspective on a very special boat.
When the hyper-competitive J/109 class puts to sea today from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to start their Eastern Championship with participation in the Dublin Bay SC Coastal Race, they’ll be heirs to a special and continuing tradition of one-design keelboat sailing which goes back 120 years. For it was in 1898 that the legendary Fife-designed Dublin Bay 25 ODs first raced.
With their jackyard topsail-setting gaff rig and sporting no less than three headsails, they may have been of a very different appearance to the straightforard sloop-rigged J/109s. But in terms of boat size and purpose, they were broadly similar, and so too were the Bermudan-rigged Dublin Bay 24s which succeeded the old and by now well-worn 25s in 1938.
However, as the order for the DB 24s had been placed with the builders in Scotland just as World War II of 1939-45 broke out, it was 1947 before the class were racing in full trim in Dublin Bay. But my word, once they were active, what superb service they gave in their long class racing careers from 1947 to 2004.
And in a sense, they were more genuinely representative of what the J/109s does now, as they were well capable of fast cruising, As for offshore racing, despite a ferocious RORC rating which penalised their elegantly long overhangs, one of them - Stephen O’Mara’s Zephyra sailed by Arthur Odbert - was overall winner of the very stormy RORC Irish Sea Race of 1963, a real slugfest of more than 200 miles.
Although the DB 24s kept going as a One-Design class through the turn of the Century, there’d been an attempt to replace them in the 1960s with an early similarly-sized totally glassfibre boat, the van de Stadt-designed Excalibur 36. But she proved too utterly and completely plastic for Dublin Bay tastes, and it wasn’t until the elegant yet practical J/Boat range first made its debut in America with the J/24 around 1976 – built by the Johnstone brothers in classic American can-do style in the family garage – that there were real hopes that something might in time appear with the special cachet of the DB 25 and the DB 24.
In the meantime, the Sigma 33 was fine for Dun Laoghaire in its day, but there were too many racing boats bigger and faster then it out on the bay for it to really capture the imagination, even if it upholds the finest Dublin Bay One Design traditions. Yet while the Sigma 33 was very firmly established in premier position for a long period, it took a couple of false starts before the J/109 of 2004 origins began to fulfill its true role as Dublin Bay’s premier One Design class, a position it now occupies with considerable style and a ferocious level of competitiveness.
So much so, in fact, that leading Cork sailor and former Olympian Mark Mansfield of UK Sailmakers was recently moved to comment that the level of top sailing in Dublin Bay J/109 and Class 1 racing could favourably withstand comparison with the higher echelons of sailing anywhere, a viewpoint which is reinforced by the fact that another top Cork sailor-cum-sailmaker, Maurice “The Prof” O’Connell of North Sails, is so deeply involved that North Sails are sponsoring the J/109 Eastern Championship in Dublin Bay this weekend, and the Nationals at Howth in October.
Competition at this level is reminiscent of the 1930s when the world’s hottest racing was in the International Six Metre class in both the Solent and on Long Island Sound, when it was said at both venues that the likely winner of the next race would be the boat with the newest headsail…
Certainly this weekend’s racing is expected to see the likes of Andrew Craig in Chimaera, the Goodbody family in White Mischief, and Andrew Algeo in Joggerknot vying for the honours, but unexpectedly there’s a significant absentee – current Irish champion Storm has stayed on in Scotland after collecting some serous silverware at the Kip Regatta over the early May Bank Holiday Weekend.
Originally the hyper-keen Kelly family of Rush had hoped to bring their immaculately-maintained boat home for the Eastern Championship before returning to Scotland to defend the Scottish Series title which made them the Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month” for May 2017. But logistics are against them as this year’s month of May has only four weekends, so as Storm is going so well in Scottish waters that they’ve decided to keep her there until they return directly from the Scottish Series of May 24th to 27th to be in top form for the Wave Regatta at their home port of Howth from June 1st to 3rd, an event to which the J/109s are firmly committed.
In fact, the level of commitment of the Kelly family themselves is mighty impressive, and it gives us some insight into what goes on behind the scenes through the winter in order to maintain a boat to top racing standard. The Kellys are based in and around Rush in the heart of Fingal, and that very agricultural area is well-blessed in its availability of sheds big enough to accommodate a J/109 through the winter. Thus although she’s a 2008 boat, Storm is as good as new, and Ronan Kelly was telling me that though it took a while to get into the winter maintenance rhythm going this time round, the month of February 2018 became one of exceptional productivity in the shed. So as you observe Storm swanning along in elegant style on a summer’s day, think instead for a moment of a dark and very wintry February night up in the North County, and the voluntary hard work on Storm kept going by camaradarie and commitment.
Yet in talking to Ronan Kelly and any other dedicated J/109 sailor, the underlying impression is the sheer joy they have in finding a boat which so perfectly fits their needs for the best of sailing in their area. For sure there are others who will tell you that if you move up even a little in size and newness in the comprehensive J/Boat range, you might be impressed by the increase in comfort. But then you have to reminder that even modest size increases mean an exponential increase in cost.
Yet while a competitive J/109 may seem a costly proposition to sailors of more modest means – you could, for instance, buy a nice little second-hand cruiser for the price of a suit of black J/109 racing sails – a keen syndicate owner who is involved in one of the mid-fleet boats put it crisply into perspective by commenting:
“It’s not cheap, but it’s excellent value. And there’s currently no racing in Dublin Bay comparable with the J/109s, whether they’re doing one of their One Design championships, or whether they’re giving themselves the opportunity to race as part of Class I in Dublin Bay SC’s programme, which guarantees wonderful racing on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons”.
They may be intense competitors afloat, but the J/09s’ shared enthusiasm blossoms into friendship and conviviality ashore, and with this year’s fleet pushing through the fifteen mark, we’re talking of quite a gathering of like-minded people, as the rules for the class in Ireland permit an all-up weight of 650 kilos for the crew in addition to the owner, which can mean an on-deck complement of seven to eight, and sometimes nine. However, as a reflection of the class’s family-oriented ethos, under the International Rules you’re allowed to carry an additional “lightweight person” not weighing more than 60 kilos (132 lbs), so while there may be modifications for dedicated national or other championship events, there’s a very human face to the regulations.
That said, in browsing through them I came across Rule 6.3 which will be of interest to those concerned about J/109s careering around the bay with their retractable bowsprits extended like the lances of knights of yore at a jousting tournament, for Rule 6.3 clearly states: “The bowsprit shall be retracted when not in the process of setting, flying or taking down the spinnaker. When approaching the weather mark without the spinnaker set, the bowsprit shall not be extended until the bow of the boat passes the mark. The penalty for failure to comply with this rule shall be one 360 degree turn taken before the finish of the race.”
Serious stuff perhaps, but while the J/109s are indeed serious in their competition, they look forward to their après sailing with all the enthusiasm of their top class. This weekend’s programme is both user-friendly in terms of time use and event design, and with sponsorship from the Porter House of Dingle Gin fame, plus North Sails and UK Sails and Kraken Rum, there’s every chance of quite a party in the Royal Irish YC tonight.
But they have to be serious in the sociability control area, for tomorrow morning with three races scheduled they’re going to have the addition experience of being video-coached by Prof O’Connell of North Sails, and as was discovered when he came to Howth recently with RIB and camera, he takes no prisoners when making his comments…..
With the success of Storm, Howth is seeing extra J/109 interest, and today’s fleet with include the peninsula port’s J/109 Indian (Colm Buckley & Simon Knowles), acquired last year from the ready pool of used J/109s available in the Solent area, while the busy fleet in the Irish Sea may have suffered the loss of Nigel Ingrams’ Just Jay in the destruction of Holyhead Marina in Storm Emma on March 1st, but he has leapt onto another horse with the acquisition of sister-ship Jetstream from Pwllheli.
However, the final word on the special attraction of the J/109 for sailing in the Dublin area deserves to be left with current class captain Andrew Craig, whose Chimaera will be one of the favourites for this weekend’s championship:
“The attraction is the diversity. Every so often we come together as a One-Design class as is seen this weekend, yet even this associates us fully in another classic with the Dublin Bay SC Saturday coastal race, as does the Wave Regatta with the Lambay Race at Howth. Only the Nationals are a total stand-alone event. At other times, everyone has their other interests which can be successfully incorporated into each boat’s preferred seasonal programme. Everything from the Nationals to the Beaufort Cup in Volvo Cork Week (won in 2016 by John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne), to the Round Ireland or the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Races or Calves Week or the Scottish Series, or cruising to West Cork and Kerry or the Lambay Race back on the East Coast– you’ll find our J/109s are doing these things as a class or on their own initiative. It makes for extremely interesting sailing sport with a wonderful diversity of people. And most of it is all happening very conveniently just down the road.”
Last October there were 15 boats at the Irish J109 National Championships, a very impressive turnout for a 35–foot Cruiser Racer. What's more 109s have won ISORA overall in the last three seasons and filled the first four places last year and the ICRA Championships for the last three years. Afloat.ie asked newly elected class captain, Andrew Craig, a veteran of the International Dragon circuit, what he puts this success down to.
The J109 class now has more boats racing than ever and it is continuing to grow. We are developing a community and collegiate spirit in the class. The 109 is a great all round performer in virtually all conditions and points of sailing and it is durable and easily handled which is critical and we are distinctive in having mixed crews of all ages with different ability with great racing throughout the fleet whether we are racing in cruiser classes or under our one design rules. The largest fleet is in Dun Laoghaire with 13 while there are boats based in Howth, Poolbeg, Crosshaven and Kinsale. We also work closely with the Welsh boats.
Andrew feels that the 109 is one of the best 35 foot cruiser racers ever designed and is particularly suited to sailing in Irish and UK waters. It is a very well built boat with a good resale value, a fast cruiser, well appointed and laid out below with full standing headroom and at the same time it is the most competitive 35 footer under IRC across the range. The results prove the point, 109s have won ISORA overall in the last 3 seasons and filled the first 4 places last year, the ICRAs for the last 3 years, and also in 2017 a class win in the Scottish series in Tarbert, overall win in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta as well as podium places in the Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race, Sovereigns Regatta and Calves Regatta.
The local racing is terrific and in Dublin Bay, the J109s have the best of all worlds racing under 3 systems ECHO, IRC and Scratch which means there is competition amongst the whole fleet.
Andrew also makes the point that while the class has some very strong teams prize winners are well spread out across the fleet. In the travelling events a number of different boats featured while in Dublin Bay 5 different 109s won trophies in the DBSC Class 1 Series and in the Class series run within the DBSC results 6 different boats won trophies.
J109s Commited to DBSC Cruiser One
We are often asked whether we should have our own class in Dublin Bay however we are fully committed to supporting the Cruiser 1 Class under the DBSC flag. We strongly believe that this is in the best interests of both DBSC and our class. However given the size of our fleet some regattas are now offering additional prizes for the J109 fleet within the Class 1 results. We have our own National Championship under class rules and this year, for the first time, we will hold an East Coast Championship and the date has been carefully chosen to be between two ISORA races to allow maximum participation by the Welsh boats.
J109 Nationals For Howth Yacht Club
Our Nationals will be held in Howth Yacht Club to acknowledge new members based there and also to recognise that the Kelly family in Storm, who are based in Howth, have been huge supporters of the class over the last 10 years and, of course, they are National Champions for the last two years. The rest of the fleet looks forward to beating them in 2018 in their home waters!
A strong collegiate spirit has developed with lots of sharing of ideas not only on how to race faster but also on how to move forward on a collective basis. Andrew said he was very impressed that virtually every Irish J109 was represented at the recent AGM and there were very good discussions on a wide range of topics including development plans, events, social activity, training weekends, video de-briefings after racing, identity building, class rules, managing the overall cost of sailing and there is great commitment to continued development of the class.
Take your Granddaughter for a Potter on a J109
Afloat.ie asked Andrew, after competing all over the world in the Dragon at the highest level, why did he chose the J109?
Andrew said that he joined the class for all the reasons discussed during our conversation, however if he was to summarise he would say he wanted a boat that he could sail and race with his wife, sons and friends and the boat had to be competitive and provide good racing locally with the opportunity to travel to away events and that he could take his granddaughter out safely for a potter in Dublin Bay. In addition he got a fast well built and fully appointed cruising boat into the bargain.
Three wins from five races in conditions ranging from heavy to light winds kept the Irish J109 Trophy in Howth Yacht Club hands as Pat and David Kelly's Storm succesfully defended its title at the National Yacht Club today.
A strong performance from the Kelly family–boat saw the Rush and Howth crew finish the series on five nett points, six points clear of second placed White Mischief skippered by Richard Goodbody from the Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC).
Goodbody's club-mates took the next three places with Andrew Craig's Chimaera third on 16 points, ICRA Class One Champion John Maybury in Joker II fourth and today's last race winner, Andrew Alego in Juggerknot rounding out the top five of the record–breaking 15–boat fleet.
After strong winds yesterday (pictures here), the J109 fleet got much softer conditions for the final two races on Dublin Bay today.
Today's victory is not the only success for the Storm crew this season either. In May, they showed the depth of their ambition in Scotland when they returned to Loch Fyne to claim the RC35 class. In June, the well known Howth boat was chartered for the 700–mile Round Ireland and rebadged as 'Euro Car Parks' and became a class winner and top Irish performance.
Full results are here.
Gallery of images from the J109 Nationals 2017 are here
In a testing opening day on Dublin Bay, winds blew to 20–knots from 270 to 290 degrees.
Kelly took the first two races in comfort but the Royal Irish Yacht Club's Andrew Craig sailing Chimaera won the last windward–leeward race of the day to put him second overall. Craig's clubmate Richard Goodbody lies third on the same eight points.
The record–breaking championship fleet included two UK entries Nigel Ingram's Just Jay from Holyhead Sailing Club and regular ISORA visitor Roger Smith's Wakey Wakey in seventh and ninth place respectively.
Full results are here.
Gallery of images from the J109 Nationals 2017 are here
With something like 25 seriously-campaigned J/109s around Ireland and throughout the Irish Sea, obviously you wouldn’t expect every boat to be heading for this weekend’s Irish Open Nationals in Dun Laoghaire. But by any standards a crack fleet of 15 hard–sailed boats is good going for racing at this level, and it’s the best turnout that the growing class has yet seen for the Irish title, with 2017’s to be hosted by NYC writes W M Nixon.
The trouble with the J/109 is that it’s such a versatile boat that it sometimes takes a real effort to grasp that this comfortable cruiser-racer – you really can cruise a J/109 with considerable enjoyment – is also very much up for it in no-holds-barred One-Design racing. That said, the “no holds barred” suggestion is a bit muted by the fact that the class in Ireland have agreed that their annual championship will exclude Category 3 sailors, which means that full-time sailor and UK Sailmakers agent Mark Mansfield won’t be in his usual key role aboard John Maybury’s multiple winning J/109 Joker II.
But Big Mark thinks so highly of the class – after all, he was much involved with the Dave Cullen-chartered J/109 Euro Car Parks’ success in the Volvo Round Ireland 2016,
the only class win by an Irish entrant – that he has persuaded the Maybury team to give it a lash anyway.
By doing so they’ve brought the numbers up to 15 with a fleet which still manages to be top notch despite the absence of ISORA Champion Mojito from Pwllheli (a family wedding, we’re told) and the Irish National Sailing School’s Jedi (currently for sale on Afloat.ie boats for sale here – Ed)
But defending champions Storm with Pat Kelly and his family from Fingal will be very much there, and they always seem to pull something extra out of the hat for this particular series.
The Clan Goodbody with White Mishchief are also consistently in the frame, and two of this year’s newcomers – Andrew Algeo with Juggerknot from RIYC, and Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles with Indian from Howth – are just itching to show what they can do in a national championship context, free of other distractions.
The class are keen to encourage newcomers, particularly now that they’re on a real roll after so much inshore and offshore success during 2017. They keep close track on used boats for sale within easy distance, and if anyone is in the slightest bit interested in the whole J/109 thing, there are plenty of skippers ready to take you for a trial spin in this remarkably timeless boat – she’s a modern classic.
Further info from Class Captain David Stewart at 087 253 8893, email [email protected]
With 312 entries in the IRC divisions alone, and numbers pushing towards the 400 mark when all classes are included, the record-breaking Fastnet Race 2017 was surely on the edge of becoming an unwieldy beast as it got under way in classic style westward down the Solent on Sunday August 6th. Add in the fact that the mountain of results was only being finalised on the following Friday, when the rhythm of the sporting week was already starting to bring major weekend arena events to the top of the demanding media agenda, and you inevitably have the prescription for a hasty allocation of subsidiary awards which risks seeing some trophies going to the wrong recipients. W M Nixon takes a look at how it all eventually came right in one very special case.
The Roger Justice Trophy is a handsome cup in the Rolex Fastnet Race array of silverware, yet it’s a cup for which nobody specifically competes. It goes to whichever offshore sailing school has done best in the overall results, and there were upwards of thirty boats eligible for it in 2017. But as Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School tersely comments, if you’re racing a school boat in the Fastnet and you’re only interested in the Roger Justice Trophy, then you’re missing the point completely.
For as he sees it, the entire purpose of taking your training vessel in the Fastnet is to throw the tyro crew into open competition. You’re not seeking any special concessions because you’re a school boat. On the contrary, you’re there because this is the big boys’ game. You’re playing by the big boys’ rules. And you’re taking on the very best of them head-to-head, with no concessions expected.
The story of how the Irish National Sailing School in its busy corner of the Inner Harbour of Dun Laoghaire came into being in the 1970s is now the stuff of legend. Our most recent detailed look at it came in this blog on 16th May 2015, when we headlined with an account of how school founder Alistair Rumball had expanded his additional advisory and boat provision role with the TV and movie business by organising the longships for the television series Vikings, thereby providing an additional income source to help the INSS through the depths of the economic recession.
In this he had the full support of his wife Muriel, who is the overall administrator of the school. And as it was a situation that demanded sacrifices in terms of working hours, pay and conditions which could never be expected from a non-family employee, their son Kenneth jacked in his job in Dublin as an accountant, and became the on-water principal.
By 2015 the light at the end of the tunnel had become a warm, steady and reassuring glow, and when we were there on a May evening, things were definitely on the up-and-up. In the basic but very functional premises, the first committee meeting of the recently-formed Irish National Sailing Club was being held. It had been set up in order to organize races and provide sailing school graduates with a club membership to comply with major event requirements, and to reflect that while the INSS was definitely a school, for many participants it had attractive elements of a club about it.
Alistair was busier than ever with Viking ships which had to be replaced from time to time just wherever he could find a builder who could comply with strict standards and a tight budget, and Kenneth was thinking ahead to further development of the uses of a fleet which included craft up to 1720s size, with the Reflex 38 Lynx in prospect as the school flagship with serious offshore racing possibilities.
In the intervening two and more years, many things have happened. Sadly, Alistair’s brother Arthur died much mourned in December 2016. He had been a cornerstone of the school structure as he was in charge of maintenance of the enormous, very varied and growing training fleet, but he’d trained his staff well, and his high standards have been maintained.
But by December 2016, the club’s fleet structure had been enhanced with the addition of the Reflex 38 which Kenneth had skippered to tenth overall in the fleet of 63 boats in the Volvo Round Ireland Race, winning the sailing schools division.
Yet despite this successful debut on what was now the international scene, they’d already concluded that the technically difficult Reflex 38 was not the ideal offshore racing boat for a Dun Laoghaire-based sailing school to make the best use of the unique combination of possibilities which Dublin Bay and its adjacent long distance racing areas provided.
Longterm readers of Afloat.ie don’t need reminding that we have been banging on for a very long time indeed about just how ideal is the J/109 to embody Dublin Bay’s noble One-Design tradition. So when word came through that the Irish National Sailing School had bought the 2002-built J/109 Jedi II with the aim of serious campaigning in the 2017 season, it was very good news indeed.
It’s the perfect package – a very manageable boat, straightforward to sail with a bowsprit and asymmetricals, plenty of sister-ships to pace yourself against offshore, and a cracking fleet in Dublin Bay to give INSS students a taste of inshore One-Design racing at its very best.
But there was much to be done to bring Jedi up to Kenneth Rumball’s demanding requirements. At 29, he was already a successful veteran of the Round Ireland, Fastnet, Middle Sea and Sydney-Hobart Races. So a year’s campaigning culminating in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 demanded a programme of painstaking remedial work to optimize Jedi for the serious stuff.
In doing this, he was helped by two things. Arthur Rumball’s legacy was a skilled workshop staff who could assist Kenneth in reducing superfluous weight in Jedi – in all, about 350 kilogrammes of unnecessary equipment and “ornaments” came out of her, while her underwater hull was taken down to the gelcost and her keel got a proper fairing. But as well, Andrew Algeo had also recently also joined the Dublin Bay J/109 fleet with the newer Joggerknot. He too was engaged in optimizing her for the high standard of racing of the Dun Laoghaire fleet, so between them they provided a real Brain’s Trust for the exchange and implementation of ideas.
At a high point in January 2017, it looked as if the INSS might have two boats in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. Kenneth had just come back from racing the Sydney-Hobart in a First 40, and was filled with enthusiasm for the potential of having the school’s two boats in the Fastnet. So he set up two Rolex Fastnet Race 2017s entry procedures side-by-side on two separate laptops on the school’s work table. There was just time to have everything in order as the closing date arrived, and for those who have had difficulty in even getting their Fastnet Race entry considered, it will be maddening to hear that both INSS boats made the cut.
But over the coming months, harsh reality intervened as the sheer logistics challenge of managing and manning two proper school entries from a base in Dun Laoghaire in a race starting off Cowes became apparent, and Lynx’s slot was returned to the RORC office.
Thanks to this slimming of the operation, things were looking very good for the season’s campaigning of the revitalized Jedi. Early races were providing increasingly encouraging results, and the places in the training programme towards participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 had been quickly snapped up and money paid up front by a diverse line-up of trainees. This meant they’d comfortably comply with the RORC’s fairly modest definition of a sailing school entry as a boat which was sailing school-owned, and had a 50/50 lineup between experienced and trainee crew.
It has to be remembered that this was all taking shape as the INSS was entering its busiest time of the year in its core activity of being a sailing school which gets hundreds of people from every background afloat in a wide variety of boats in Dublin Bay, a significant proportion of them for the very first time.
So it was a cruel blow when the wheels came off the Jedi programme on May 13th with the ISORA Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire Race. A rugged event with wind-over-tide conditions and the sea at its coldest, it may have seen hardened veterans like Paul O’Higgins and his tough crew in the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI revelling in the going to win, and there was also good going by second-placed Transatlantic veteran Conor Fogerty in the Sunfast 3600 Bam. But aboard Jedi there was misery and seasickness rampant among the trainees, and at race’s end three of them pulled out of the Fastnet programme.
They’d already paid up, but in time an amicable financial settlement was reached, and Kenneth Rumball set about filling the empty places, though as the end of May approached, he was not feeling optimistic. Yet they managed to get a crew with the right configuration together for the vital Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on 11th June, seen as a key qualifier and training event, yet here too things went pear-shaped.
The unbelievably rugged beat round Ireland’s rocky southeast corner took a savage toll with wholesale retirals, and one of Jedi’s crew became ill beyond seasickness. It was feared they were having a stroke, and the whole purpose on board became focussed on getting into Dunmore East as quickly as possible and getting the casualty to hospital, where recovery was complete. But by the time that had been done, it was clear they were out of the race, and they sailed disconsolately back to Dun Laoghaire to pick up the pieces.
Fortunately the rest of the crew were still more than game for the Fastnet challenge, and they’d ISORA’s Lyver Trophy Race on June 30th before the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from 6th to 9th July to provide the final necessary qualifier. But the race was postponed because of a severe gale, put back to a date three weeks hence, which would leave the final Jedi qualifier only a narrow window of opportunity.
Yet suddenly, they were in a time of hope. Jedi with many of her potential Fastnet crew on board had a great Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. They finished second in class, and the team were bonding in a very encouraging way.
Two weeks later, the Lyver Trophy was sailed on July 21st from Holyhead round Rockabill to Dun Laoghaire, and they’d a good race of it. Although the winner was the all-conquering J/109 Sgrech (Stephen Tudor), Rumball and his crew were right in the thick of it chasing in a three-way match race with sister ship Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), and they finished with the feeling that at last they had the basis of a proper Fastnet challenge, albeit with just a fortnight to go to the start.
So the fact that Kenneth Rumball finally filled in the form to define them as a sailing school entry with less than a fortnight to go to the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 may have had something to do with the subsequent initial post-race mis-allocation of an award. He himself regarded the sailing school thing as very secondary to the core Jedei theme of being in the midst of the main fleet, and in any case he had the prodigious logistical challenge of transferring the focal point of the campaign from the school office in Dun Laoghaire to the Solent.
In times long past, anyone doing the Fastnet Race expected to spend the days beforehand berthed in Cowes. But with current entry numbers and the Solent area’s overcrowded situation, being in Cowes is if anything a disadvantage for a campaign from Dublin with limited resources and very extended lines of communication. In the circumstances, the way the Jedi team handled this was real textbook stuff.
Time and personnel resources were of the essence, so they arranged for the boat to be delivered on a semi-professional basis to the relative peace and quiet of Mercury Yacht Harbour well up the Hamble River over on the Solent’s mainland shore. And while the rest of the crew flew over in time to allow three clear days for final preparation, Kenneth and Lorcan Tighe stocked up a mini-bus to double as shore transport and a workshop/storeroom, and they took the Holyead ferry and drove it post-haste to the Hamble
Lorcan Tighe (17) may have been be Jedi’s most junior crewman in terms of age, but he was one of the most experienced on board. From Killiney in Dublin, his family is non-sailing though his dad is into scuba diving. But when he was just six, Lorcan took a week-long course at the INSS, and was hooked. So although he now has his own Laser based at the National YC, his heart stays with the INSS where he instructs evenings and weekends and during holidays (he’s in final year at Marian College in Ballsbridge). And he’s mad keen on the offshore thing, taking on the hugely challenging job of being the bowman on Lynx during the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race.
He’s a talented helmsman too, so he was very much on the “experienced sailor” side of the equation aboard Jedi, where the co-skipper with Kenneth Rumball was Conor Kinsella (28), who’s from Tullamore and works in finance.
As for the “trainees”, they were very much of the Ireland of today. Deirdre Foley works in banking, Kylie McMillan (29) is in financial consulting, Keith Kiernan (41) is in insurance, George Tottenham (38) is in windfarms, and Fearghus McCormack – whom Kenneth Rumball reckons to be about 40 – is Mine Host of that splendid establishment, the Merrion Inn in the heart of Dublin 4.
Kenneth Rumball is refreshingly non-ageist, so apart from Lorcan Tighe who put us right on his young age, all those ages are only guesses. And Rumball is also refreshingly dismissive of the whole experienced/trainee divide. As far as he and his shipmates were concerned, they were a team, they were crew together, they had a joint mission to perform and everyone was doing his or her very best, and that was all there was to it. There were emphatically no artificial them-and-us divisions on Jedi.
After such a saga of setback and breakthrough, the Fastnet Race itself could have just been just the concluding chapter in an extraordinary tale of triumph over tribulation. But of course for Jedi’s crew, it was the pinnacle. And it was high adrenalin stuff from the start. Kenneth Rumball set out to take on the best of the opposition head-to-head, and he’d the great Carlo Borlenghi to photograph the moment when Jedi made the sort of clear-away port tack start that is inevitable in traditional Fastnet conditions, yet few manage it so well.
As for the race itself, Deirdre Foley speaks for all with her enthusiastic memories: “I loved every minute of it. Superior planning and attention to tactics/routes etc, a great crew – great sense of humour and craic……on water we had some great wind overnight on our return journey to Plymouth – what looked to be a full moon, nice sea state, Jedi flying along like the wind, for me the best part of a wonderful race”
Young Loran Tighe takes, as you’d expect, a mature overview despite his youth. After all, this is a guy who was working the foredeck of Lynx at the age of 16, racing through the night off Ireland’s Atlantic coast:
“It was great to get the chance to experience the Fastnet Race, but also everything that led up to it including the ISORA series and Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Great boat, good plan, and in the end, a crew put together that made a super season of it”.
As to the actual race, the irony of it is that it looked as though they were having their closest race with sister-ship Mojito from the other side of the Irish Sea but the reality of a fleet the size of the Fastnet is that you’ve races going on at every side of you, and in the end the way that conditions of tide, wind and whatever pan out will mean that boats a certain size, type, and rating cohort will win out.
Thus everything was going the way of Jedi and her cohort after beating out to the Fastnet in classic style. The overall leader on IRC at the Rock was the JPK 10.10 Night and Day (Pascal Loison), with fellow French skipper Noel Racine second in sister-ship Foggy Dew, while third was Ireland’s Paul Kavanagh in the vintage Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan.
Their ratings are 1.003, 1.002 and 0.985 respectively, which tells us much. Mojito at the stage was at he best place in the race, she was ninth overall rating 1.010, while Jedi was in contention, rating 1.008 and in 11th place overall, just one place ahead of RORC Commodore Michael Boyd of the RIYC racing the first 44.7 Lisa.
But on the fast sail back to Plymouth, it was boats around the 40ft mark which carried the favourable conditions best, and the JNA 39 Llan Ael 2 (Didier Gaoudoux, France) rose up the rankings from 29th overall at the Rock to become overall winner, while Lisa was remarkably consistent to move up from 12th to 8th.
But for the smaller J/109s, things became distinctly unfavourable, and though Jedi did indeed run like the wind, getting ahead of Mojito despite seeing her A3 blow out when it shouldn’t have, by the time she was in the final approaches to Plynouth the bite had long gone gone from the wind, and she cascaded down to 58th overall.
She was still very much the first J/109, and while she was 8th in IRC 3, she was first in IRC 3B for boats doing their first Fastnet. There was a cherished medallion in line for that, for a first in class in the greatest Rolex Fastnet Race ever held is something very special.
On that crowded Friday afternoon in Plymouth with mountains of results figures still being assimilated and analysed, the Roger Justice Trophy went to a Sailing School Farr 60. Something strange here. A scan of the results showed that Jedi been well ahead of that Farr 60 on corrected time. But with everyone going their various ways with Conor Kinsella heading off to retrieve the mini-bus from the Hamble while Kenneth Rumball cruised Jedi home, sorting it out could be left to a later date.
With that Class 3B win under their belt, there was time enough to see about putting the record straight. And when they later contacted the RORC office, they were told that there had indeed indeed been an error, and the winner of the Roger Justice Trophy was Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire in the Sunfast 37 Desert Star, thereby repeating Ronan O Siochru’s success of 2015.
So then they’d to get back to the number crunchers again, and gently suggest to them that it was indeed a Dun Laoghaire-based sailing school which had won the Roger Justice Trophy, but it was a different one - it was the Irish National Sailing School and the boat was called Jedi.
It’s understandable that it happened. After all, Jedi’s final fully-qualified crew list as a sailing school was only submitted to the race office with about ten days to go to the start of the race. The sheer weight of data flying about by this stage must have been smothering for those handling it.
But it all came right at the end, though admittedly it was the very end. At an awards ceremony in the RORC in London last week, at the last moment Jedi was finally called forward to receive the Roger Justice Trophy. Forget that old saying about justice delayed is justice denied. In sailing, it’s acceptable if justice is done in due course, and is seen to be done.
Cork sailor Mark Mansfield has just finished the Tattinger Regatta on the Isle of Wight as tactician on John Smart's J109 Jukebox where the team won the J109 Class and the overall regatta with straight wins.
Mansfield, a distinguished Olympic sailor, with four appearances for Ireland in the Star keelboat, has carved a niche for himself of late in the J109 design. Sailing with Smart, he also won the UK's Warsash Spring Championships in April on Jukebox, as Afloat.ie reported at the time here.
Of course, as regular Afloat.ie readers will know, this latest UK result come on the heels of two other J109 wins in Ireland this season. Mansfield, sailing with John Maybury, on Joker II, won the ICRA class one national title in June, for the third consecutive year, earning Maybury a Sailor of the Month award into the bargain.
This month at Dun Laoghaire Regatta Joker won her fourth consecutive win in that event to also give her boat of the regatta. Mansfield sailed in all four of these J109 wins as tactician and mainsheet hand.
Skipper Kenny Rumball and the INSS crew celebrated a fine second overall in a fleet of 32–boats, the biggest division of the 2017 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. The J109 crew on Jedi were only five points off the top spot, taken by Howth's Flashback, after a tricky series of four coastal races in which the sailing school students finished second twice.
The INSS scored 12, 2, 2 and a 9 on the final day over courses that saw the impressive offshore fleet race out to the North Burford buoy on Dublin Bay and as far south as Bray, County Wicklow in mainly light winds and some strong tides.
Offshore success is nothing new for the INSS who are regular offshore competitors in ISORA. Last year, Rumball scored tenth overall in the 63–boat, 2016 Round Ireland race, again with sailing students as crew.
No matter what Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta organisers did it was never going to be easy to get a quart into a pint pot. Tomorrow's first race will now see 33% of all competing IRC boats in class one. It's the creation of a 'super class' for the biennial regatta, a sign of the popularity of this size of boat.
It will be the test of the season as class one boats gather from across Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales for the VDLR 'Cruisers One' crown. Ironically, the only boats missing – in a who's who line-up of talent – are the winners of May's Scottish Series (J109, Storm, Pat Kelly) and last month's Sovereign's Cup (A35, Fools Gold, Rob McConnell). Read the full IRC one entry list below.
Just how to manage the class breaks in such an impressive but diverse IRC fleet has been occupying the minds of the VDLR committee and its Director of Racing, Con Murphy, an Olympic Games Race Officer from Rio, for some time.
Last week Afloat.ie stuck its neck out on the thorny subject and gave some predictions on class splits and prospective winners. You can read those predictions here.
Afloat.ie pointed to the possibility of moving boats from the very big class one line-up into class zero as a means of dealing with a class double the size of the other IRC classes.
An amendment to the Notice of Race (NOR) published on Monday, however, shows the regatta has instead introduced a sixth IRC class.
'We've ended up with six distinct groups that are of similar speed, rather than six evenly sized fleets', Murphy told Afloat.ie who admits that it has been a vexed question.
It's a move that at first glance seems unnecessary because 88 IRC boats should fit into five classes but it has come about largely as a consequence of the popularity of boats in and around 33–36 feet length and a desire on the part of the J109 fleet to race under IRC rather than as a one design class.
The net result is VDLR 2017 will set sail with a 'super class' by combining 15 mainly race orientated, well sailed and crewed various designs (JPK 10.80, Corby 33's, Archambault 35's, XP33s, Ker and Mills custom yachts) and then adding to it an uber–competitive 14 x J109 fleet.
VDLR had bowed to the agm–wishes of a 14-strong Dublin Bay J109 fleet as far back as January to allow them race in IRC class one as opposed to a separate class as they had done previously in 2015.
It's been no easy job striking the balance and Murphy has consulted far and wide in trying to reach an equitable solution.
Among the lobbyists, Scottish entries argued against some of their boats being moved into class zero. At May's Scottish Series this 'RC35' group had its own class with four boats from Ireland (including an Irish J109 winner) and the racing was tight and competitive. Having a restricted handicap of 1.015 to 1.040 has encouraged tight, competitive racing and has seen four new owners buy boats to fit into this banding.
If there is a split at VDLR, the new Scottish class argued, it will 'dilute our class and our campaign to encourage its development.'
In correspondence seen by Afloat.ie, other skippers argued, however, that class one's higher rated yachts (of 1.045) will make racing 'grossly unfair' as such boats will get 'clear air off the start line while the balance of the relatively level rated fleet will fight for clear air throughout the race and arrive at marks in unison. Meanwhile, the faster boats 'get richer', one Dublin Bay skipper pointed out.
The problem for Murphy is that the bottom of class one fleet is all J109s so there is 'nobody left to move down to class two'. There is a big gap between 1.045 and class zero so moving such boats into class zero would give them 'poor racing'.
If VDLR did move to split class one, it would leave the J109s racing with just one other class one type yacht.
To say the least, the question has put the organisers between a rock and a hard place.
In one sense, of course, it's a good problem to have because so many other regattas these days have been scratching around looking for entries.
As an additional consideration for organisers, this year's VDLR programme will also feature more racing, up to three races per day, so there is a big onus on VDLR to keep fleets together in order to turn races around quickly.
The net result is VDLR 2017 will now have 29 of the 88 boats in class one, that's 33% of all competing IRC boats.
It's an imbalance that admittedly could have unintended consequences for class zero, one and two racing that are racing on the same courses.
For example, how do you set proper lines when class zero will start with five boats and, on the same line, class one will start with 29?
Do they make the line too small for the big class? Or if they make it the right length for the larger class, it will be huge (estimated at 400 metres) for the small class, thus allowing boats that don't start well, the chance to get great starts. It's something Murphy acknowledges and as a means of dealing with the issue he will be using pin end committee boats instead of a buoy to facilitate the setting of the suitably long line for the big class one.
'We plan to set appropriately long start lines and 1.5 mile or longer first beats for the fleet to help reduce bunching at marks'
Equally, Murphy is also investigating the possibility of tying to put in a shorter line for the smaller zero fleet but that will be a tricky thing to achieve within the starting sequence timeframe.
Boat of the Regatta
Another consequence might be its affect on one of the great VDLR traditions and that is its popular 'overall yacht of the week' prize. It's a prestigious award, especially this year when drawn from a total fleet of a near record entry of 473 entries.
How can someone be expected to dominate such a competitive class as class one when it is likely another eight or nine boat classes may produce a dominating boat? It's a factor for organisers to consider because the status of the regatta is diminished if IRC classes are not in the running for this top prize.
Class two and three
Moving down the bands, there are now 17 boats in class two yet only nine in class three. It is, perhaps, a reasonable question to ask why these two classes cannot be combined to make it a 26–boat fleet? If VDLR did this, the spread between the fastest boat and slowest boat would be 57 points. In class one, as they have it now, the spread between fastest and slowest is 50 points.
The answer, says Murphy, after extensive consultation, is that class three is largely made up of vintage –yet modified – Half–Tonners and it is 'unfair to put them with modern class two yachts' because of potential speed differentials.
Racing gets under way tomorrow afternoon.
Cruiser Class One – The Entries
Animal Royal Northern and Clyde YC GBR3627L First 36.7 1.021 Kevin Aitken
Banshee Clyde Cruising Club GBR9470R Corby 33 1.040 Charlie Frize
Bon Exemple Royal Irish Yacht Club GBR8933R X-Yachts 1.017 Colin Byrne
Carmen II Helensburgh Sailing Club IRL1666 First 36.7 1.019 Alan Jeffrey
Ruth National Yacht Club IRL1383 J109 1.015 Shanahan Family
Something Else National Yacht Club IRL29213 J109 1.011 John Hall
Chimaera Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL2160 J109 1.015 Andrew Craig
Jalapeno National Yacht Club IRL5109 J109 1.014 Paul Barrington
Jigamaree Royal Irish Yacht Club IR7991 J109 1.011 Ronan Harris
Joker 2 Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL1206 J109 1.013 John Maybury
Juggerknot Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL3660 J109 1.017 Andrew Algeo
Jump The Gun Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL1129 J109 1.012 John Kelly
Indecision Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL9898 J109 TBA Declan Hayes
Powder Monkey 2 National Yacht Club IRL28898 J109 1.009 Christopher Moore
D-Tox Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL13500 X 35 1.043 Patrick McSwiney
Gringo National Yacht Club Irl 7778 A 35 1.023 Anthony Fox
Impostor South Caernarvonshire YC GBR7377 Corby 33 1.035 Richard Fildes
Jacob VII Port Edgar IRL3307 Corby 33 1.039 John Stamp
Now or Never 3 Fairlie Yacht Club GBR7667R MAT 1010 1.032 Neill Sandford
Prima Luce Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL3504 First 35 1.017 Patrick Burke
Raptor Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL811 Mills 30CR 1.013 Denis Hewitt
Rockabill VI Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL10800 JPK 10.80 1.048 Paul O’Higgins
Thalia National Yacht Club IRL733 Sigma 400 1.035 Aubrey Leggett
Triple Elf Clyde Cruising Club FRA37296 Beneteau First 35 1.020 Christine Murray
Valkerie Liverpool Yacht Club GBR7031T Ker 31 1.027 Austin Harbison
White Mischief Royal Irish YC/National YC GBR1242R J109 1.010 Richard Goodbody
Wavetrain Greystones Sailing Club IRL 1477 Channel 32 1.014 Frank Whelan
Anyone who has ever raced against the J/109 Storm, campaigned by Pat Kelly and his close-knit family from Rush Sailing Club, quickly realises that they are up against something special in sailing. This is evident both with the Storm team themselves, and with the rising spirit of the small-sized but big-hearted club they call home, a club which has already logged formidable success at junior and senior levels, inshore and offshore, during the first weeks of the 2017 season.
Mooring facilities at the Rush club’s tide-riven anchorage on Rogerstown Estuary in the heart of Fingal are so confined that Storm is actually based at Howth Marina. But while she’s very welcome and popular there, no-one has any doubt that she’s the boat from Rush. It is a pleasure to watch her being raced by the Kelly’s remarkable family unit, augmented by their relatives and friends. We saw the essence of their approach on Monday in the final and vital two races of the Silvers Scottish Series 2017 at Tarbert. Storm handled both of these contests with clinical precision to take the overall class lead in convincing style from seven other possible winners. The Kelly Family of Rush are worthy Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month” for May 2017.