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Cork’s Honorary Special Veteran Maluka’s Handy Little Hitch-Hike To Europe For The 50th Fastnet Race

26th July 2023
Maluka kisses Irish water for the first time in Cork Harbour in late May
Maluka kisses Irish water for the first time in Cork Harbour in late May Credit: Neil Kenefick

Sean Langman’s superbly-restored 1932-vintage 30ft Sydney Harbour Ranger Class gaff cutter Maluka finally put the Fastnet Rock astern at 9:00 hrs this morning (Wednesday), and now her crew - including the legendary Gordon Maguire - are making the best of things and then some, despite the unpleasant weather, by having her marching down the road to the Bishop Rock at a busy 7 knots and better.

It all seems a world way away from the beautiful early-summer conditions of late May, when the big lift-ship bringing the two recently-acquired Patrol Vessels acquired from the New Zealand Navy for Ireland’s Naval Service came into Cork Harbour. For after the two biggies had been craned into their new home waters, it emerged that the lift-ship had acquired a stowaway, as there on deck was the tiny Maluka, probably asking “Are we nearly there yet?”

Rigged and ready to go – Maluka feeling at home in Crosshaven in late May’s perfect weather. She sails under the colours of the Port Huron Sailing Club in Tasmania in honour of the gold-standard Huon pine from which she is constructed. Photo: Neil KenefickRigged and ready to go – Maluka feeling at home in Crosshaven in late May’s perfect weather. She sails under the colours of the Port Huron Sailing Club in Tasmania in honour of the gold-standard Huon pine from which she is constructed. Photo: Neil Kenefick

STOWAWAY TO IRELAND?

It turned out that just as Sean Langan had fallen on his feet by hearing about the convenient one-way passage to Europe for his beloved boat, so Maluka hit the sweet spot by making Crosshaven her temporary home. When Sean and Gordon spent a week there as Maluka arrived, so many rallied round to help prepare her that they’d time for other commitments, and Neil Kenefick was able to organise a waterborne outing or two with high-speed powerboats, across to Cobh to put the world to rights with Edddie English at the old Royal Cork HQ, or round to Kinsale for a feast of fruits de mer - as one does.

Gordon Maguire and Eddie English in serious discussion (we can guess the topic) at the old Royal Cork YC building in Cobh. Photo: Neil KenefickGordon Maguire and Eddie English in serious discussion (we can guess the topic) at the old Royal Cork YC building in Cobh. Photo: Neil Kenefick

REMEMBERING TONY FARRELLY AND CRYSTAL CLEAR

But it turns out that, in classic Fastnet style, there are those who dispute that Maluki is the smallest boat ever to have done the Fastnet Race. For instance, there were quite a few Ron Holland-designed and volumetrically much smaller 30ft Shamrock Half Tonners which completed the course in times past, a regular being Tony Farrelly from County Cavan who received a round of applause when his Crystal Clear came into Plymouth’s Millbay Dock after completing the exceptionally rough 1985 race.

However, way before that there was a County Down doctor called Davy Park who had graduated from building and racing successful Enterprises into building his own mini-offshore racers, starting with a van de Stadt-designed Yachting World “Builder-her-Yourself” Chieftain, which was either 18ft LOA or maybe 23ft – either way, she was as small a boat as either of us wished to compete in the Ailsa Craig Race, even if we did get there in the end.

Whipping up an appetite – seaborne at speed on the way to Kinsale are Neil Kenefick, Gordon Maguire, Sean Langman and Crosshaven 1720 sailor Padraig ByrneWhipping up an appetite – seaborne at speed on the way to Kinsale are Neil Kenefick, Gordon Maguire, Sean Langman and Crosshaven 1720 sailor Padraig Byrne

The hard life of a sailor bold…Neil Kenefick, Gordon Maguire and Sean Langman in Kinsale after the local reputation for superb seafood seems to have stood up to scrutinyThe hard life of a sailor bold…Neil Kenefick, Gordon Maguire and Sean Langman in Kinsale after the local reputation for superb seafood seems to have stood up to scrutiny

DAVY PARK CHANCES HIS ARM

He then went on to complete a Mike Henderson-designed Spinner Class 27-footer from a fibreglass hull, and as she had the RORC’s minimum waterline length of 24ft, he decided to chance his arm with a Fastnet Race entry, and got away with it. But as he and his navigator Kevin MacLaverty came round the breakwater at Plymouth to finish, they were asked to keep out of the way as the alickadoos at the lighthouse needed the space to finish the racers.

Thus all hell broke loose when they found out that this tiny pale blue boat had herself just raced round the Rock, despite being very obviously not 30ft long. Yet they allowed Davy’s quite good overall placing to stand, although the 30ft rule has been fairly strictly imposed ever since. But fortunately it allows the wonderful Maluka in – if only just – to provide entertainment for those of us who’ll root for the oddballs every time around.

She may be the most unusual boat in the 50th Fastnet Race, but the highly individual Maluka is no slouch in a breezeShe may be the most unusual boat in the 50th Fastnet Race, but the highly individual Maluka is no slouch in a breeze

Published in Fastnet

Fastnet Race Live Tracker 2023

Track the progress of the 2023 Fastnet Yacht Race fleet on the live tracker above 

The 50th edition of the 700-mile race organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club starts from Cowes, Isle of Wight, on Saturday, 22nd July.

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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RORC Fastnet Race

This race is both a blue riband international yachting fixture and a biennial offshore pilgrimage that 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 for 2021 is in Cherbourg 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 Cherbourg.

Fastnet Race - FAQs

The 49th edition of the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race will start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, UK on Sunday 8th August 2021.

The next two editions of the race in 2021 and 2023 will finish in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin at the head of the Normandy peninsula, France

Over 300. A record fleet is once again anticipated for the world's largest offshore yacht race.

The international fleet attracts both enthusiastic amateur, the seasoned offshore racer, as well as out-and-out professionals from all corners of the world.

Boats of all shapes, sizes and age take part in this historic race, from 9m-34m (30-110ft) – and everything in between.

The Fastnet Race multihull course record is: 1 day 4 hours 2 minutes and 26 seconds (2019, Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier)

The Fastnet Race monohull course record is: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing).

David and Peter Askew's American VO70 Wizard won the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, claiming the Fastnet Challenge Cup for 1st in IRC Overall.

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.

The winner of the first Fastnet Race was the former pilot cutter Jolie Brise, a boat that is still sailing today.

Cork sailor Henry P F Donegan (1870-1940), who gave his total support for the Fastnet Race from its inception in 1925 and competed in the inaugural race in his 43ft cutter Gull from Cork.

Ireland has won the Fastnet Race twice. In 1987 the Dubois 40 Irish Independent won the Fastnet Race overall for the first time and then in 2007 – all of twenty years after Irish Independent’s win – Ireland secured the overall win again this time thanks to Ger O’Rourke’s Cookson 50 Chieftain from the Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland in Kilrush.

©Afloat 2020

Fastnet Race 2023 Date

The 2023 50th Rolex Fastnet Race will start on Saturday, 22nd July 2023

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At A Glance – Fastnet Race

  • The world's largest offshore yacht race
  • The biennial race is 695 nautical miles - Cowes, Fastnet Rock, Cherbourg
  • 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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