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Freya is top Irish Boat as Fastnet Race 2019 Begins Distribution of Silverware

8th August 2019
Conor Doyle’s Freya in the Kinsale-Monkstown Race, when she completed the course in two hours Conor Doyle’s Freya in the Kinsale-Monkstown Race, when she completed the course in two hours Photo: Robert Bateman

Conor Doyle’s Xp 50 Freya from Kinsale – which placed tenth in Class IRC 1A - looks to be the 2019 winner of the Gull Salver for the best-placed Irish boat on corrected time overall in the current Rolex Fastnet Race as the hectic prize-giving swings into action in Plymouth this evening, with the hyper-busy RORC staff working against the clock to ensure that “only about forty cups and trophies” go to the right recipients writes W M Nixon

As it happens, Freya’s skipper will take possession of the Salver in the less frenetic atmosphere of the Irish Cruising Club AGM in the New Year. The Gull Salver is named in honour of Corkman Harry Donegan and his 17-ton cutter Gull. They took part in the first Fastnet race in 1925, placing third, and were also present at the founding of the ICC in Glengarriff in 1929.

Thus the Gull Salver is in the custody of the ICC, although it originated in a 1972 gathering of all Ireland’s Fastnet competitors, including Captain Jim Kelly who as a young man had been on Gull’s 1925 crew. Forty-three years later, this hugely convivial “Fastneteers Dinner” generated a surplus which was then very properly used to fund the Gull Salver, and the ICC has looked after it ever since.

For the past two Fastnet Races, Ireland has provided the winner of the Roger Justice Trophy for the top-placed sailing school boat, with Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi, skippered by Kenneth Rumball, winning in 2017, while Irish Offshore Sailing’s Sun Fast 37 Desert Star with Ronan O Siochru in charge won in 2015.

desert star fastnet2 Irish Offshore Sailing’s Desert Star at The Rock in the 2015 Fastnet Race, when she won the Roger Justice Trophy for best Sailing School boat. This year she was in contention again, but had to be content with a podium place narrowly ahead of sister-ship Sherkin Two

This year Irish Offshore Sailing had two boats in the race – a remarkable logistics effort for an organisation based in Dun Laoghaire. In addition to Desert Star skippered again by school principal Ronan O Siochru, sister-ship Sherkin Two skippered by Daniel Smith also took part. And however much they tried to avoid it, they ended up having a boat-for-boat duel, with Sherkin Two finishing last night just one minute ahead of Desert Star.

Yet as Desert Star has a slightly lower rating, in the overall rankings she finished ahead of Sherkin Two by two places. And though they were well down the fleet generally, in sailing school terms they were well placed. There was even a slight chance that Desert Star might win the Roger Justice Trophy again.

However, it was not to be, though everything points to them getting a podium place as third in the Sailing Shools division. But with the impending bad weather, they’d to leave before the awards ceremony in order to log some miles back towards Ireland before seeking storm shelter in Newlyn.

Meanwhile, although most of the cups and trophies were going to French boats, there were special cheers for two American boats which had found their journey well worthwhile – the former Volvo 70 Wizard (Peter & Dave Askew) which was lauded as overall winner to add the Fastnet trophies to her already remarkable 2019 record of winning the Transatlantic and the RORC Caribbean races in July and February respectively. And the 50-year old 48ft McCurdy Rhodes design Carina (Rives Potts), a veteran of the 1969 race and also the storm-struck 1979 race, which took the Dorade Trophy for top-placed Classic Yacht.

carina 2019 fastnet3The most golden oldie….Rives Potts’ 48ft Carina has won the Dorade Trophy in her Golden Jubilee year. Photo: Rick Tomlinson/Rolex

Published in Fastnet
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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The Rolex Fastnet Race - This biennial offshore pilgrimage attracts crews from all walks of life:- from aspiring sailors to professional crews; all ages and all professions. Some are racing for charity, others for a personal challenge. For the world's top professional sailors, it is a 'must-do' race. For some, it will be their first-ever race, and for others, something they have competed in for over 50 years! The race attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts, from beautiful classic yachts to some of the fastest racing machines on the planet – and everything in between.  The testing course passes eight famous landmarks along the route: The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, the Lizard, Land’s End, the Fastnet Rock, Bishop’s Rock off the Scillies and Plymouth breakwater (now Cherbourg for 2021 and 2023). After the start in Cowes, the fleet heads westward down The Solent, before exiting into the English Channel at Hurst Castle. The finish is in Plymouth, Devon via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland

  • The leg across the Celtic Sea to (and from) the Fastnet Rock is known to be unpredictable and challenging. The competitors are exposed to fast-moving Atlantic weather systems and the fleet often encounter tough conditions
  • Flawless decision-making, determination and total commitment are the essential requirements. Crews have to manage and anticipate the changing tidal and meteorological conditions imposed by the complex course
  • The symbol of the race is the Fastnet Rock, located off the southern coast of Ireland. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland, the Rock marks an evocative turning point in the challenging race
  • Once sailors reach the Fastnet Rock, they are well over halfway to the finish in Plymouth. The lighthouse first shone its light on New Year’s Day in 1854
  • Fastnet Rock originally had six keepers (now unmanned), with four on the rock at a time with the other two on leave. Each man did four weeks on, two weeks off

At A Glance – Fastnet Race

  • The world's largest offshore yacht race
  • The biennial race is 605 nautical miles - Cowes, Fastnet Rock, Plymouth
  • A fleet of over 400 yachts regularly will take part
  • The international fleet is made up of over 26 countries
  • Multihull course record: 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (2011, Banque Populaire V)
  • Monohull course record: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi)
  • Largest IRC Rated boat is the 100ft (30.48m) Scallywag 100 (HKG)
  • Some of the Smallest boats in the fleet are 30 footers
  • Rolex SA has been a longstanding sponsor of the race since 2001
  • The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result

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