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It’s said that when the experimentally-minded William Petty, the compiler of the Down Survey in Ireland in the 1660s, decided to build his very innovative Simon & Jude catamaran in 1663 for testing in Dublin Bay, the decidedly odd vessel was actually constructed in Arklow. This meant the machine’s debut at Dublin – when she conspicuously outperformed a couple of notably high-performing craft – came as a complete surprise. But if she’d been built in Dublin, it would have become part of the fashionable social round in the city to go and observe the work in progress – an unwelcome distraction.

The success of the original Simon & Jude was replicated to everyone’s satisfaction in Dublin Bay by Hal Sisk in 1991 in a timely reminder that William Petty was a man of many parts. And there’s no doubt that he was also one very smart operator. His land surveys revealed that there was a very choice area in the far southwest of Ireland around a place known as Neidin – The Little Nest – which Petty promptly claimed as his own, and re-named it Kenmare after the Kenmare Bay, as it’s at the head of that inlet.

A model of the hugely-innovative catamaran Simon & Jude of 1663.A model of the hugely-innovative catamaran Simon & Jude of 1663.

But while he was at it, he re-named the inlet the Kenmare River. This meant that he now owned all the fishing rights the whole way down to the Atlantic, whereas if it had continued to be officially recorded as Kenmare Bay, he would only have owned the fisheries close along each shore. 

Originally it was called Kenmare Bay, but by ensuring that it was officially re-named (by himself) as the Kenmare River, William Petty secured excusive fisheries rights all the way to the AtlanticOriginally it was called Kenmare Bay, but by ensuring that it was officially re-named (by himself) as the Kenmare River, William Petty secured excusive fisheries rights all the way to the Atlantic

So the fact that he may have used Arklow to have his Simon & Jude built shows that even in the 1660s, when Arklow harbour was little more than the shallow and shifting sandy estuary of the Avoca River, the place already had a notable boat-building tradition that continues to capture the maritime imagination, and manifests itself in a complex spider’s web of weird associations today.

Thus when marine historian and record-keeper Ian Whittaker in Scotland enquired the other day in search of photos and images of some Tyrrell built-boats including the 1954-built 31ft Bermudan sloop Sinloo of Arklow and the 1935-built 35ft gaff yawl Failte II, it sent the linkup wheels spinning.

The attractively robust Jack Tyrrell-designed and built yawl Failte II of 1935. She was last reported in France some years ago under the name of TideripThe attractively robust Jack Tyrrell-designed and built yawl Failte II of 1935. She was last reported in France some years ago under the name of Tiderip

For Sinloo is currently a restoration project of which we hope to carry a more detailed update shortly, while Failte II – an attractively robust vessel built for that noted muscular Christian the Reverend Vandelaur (Kilrush links of course) - was last reported in France under the name of Tiderip.

But once you let connections start to take over, you’re trapped. For although Sinloo was built for the Horsman family of County Wicklow, by the 1960s she was owned by Professor John Kinmonth, and in a cruise of southwest Ireland in 1966, he mentions in his log that between Union Hall and Knightstown, the crew included his schoolboy son Fred.

Sinloo of Arklow, designed & built by Jack Tyrell in 1953-54, is currently under restorationSinloo of Arklow, designed & built by Jack Tyrell in 1953-54, is currently under restoration

That same Fred Kinmonth is now a corporate lawyer in Hong Kong, where he has been noted as the campaigner of some very hot offshore racers called Mandrake. But he has maintained his links to West Cork, and it is he who has commissioned the building of a replica of Conor O’Brien’s world-girdling Saoirse, which - all being well - will be launched by Liam Hegarty and his team from Oldcourt Boatyard for her build Centenary this year.

Jack Tyrrell’s profile plan of the 1954 Arklow-built SinlooJack Tyrrell’s profile plan of the 1954 Arklow-built Sinloo

And just to close the circle in the meantime, when Conor O’Brien was pressed for the inspiration for the archaic yet effective shape of his design for Saoirse’s hull, he said that it was partially based on a noted fishing ketch of the 1860s which had taken his fancy. That ketch was of course a creation of Tyrrell of Arklow.

Conor O’Brien’s Saoirse – while largely based on his own ideas, he did admit that he drew some inspiraton from the lines of a renowned Arklow fishing ketch of the 1860sConor O’Brien’s Saoirse – while largely based on his own ideas, he did admit that he drew some inspiraton from the lines of a renowned Arklow fishing ketch of the 1860s

Published in Boatyards
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Members of Courtown/Arklow Coast Guard were recently presented with medals of tenure, as the Gorey Guardian reports.

And chief among them was Benjamin Murphy, who was recognised for his 40 years’ service prior to his recent retirement.

“Pulling off 40 years of service is nearly impossible to do and it’s a massive achievement as a volunteer,” David Swinburne of Courtown/Arklow Coast Guard said.

The Gorey Guardian has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastguard

Arklow RNLI launched swiftly on Sunday (1 August) to assist a support vessel that lost propulsion during a sailing regatta off the Co Wicklow town.

Most of the volunteer crew were already close to the station when they received the request to launch just after 11am, and the all-weather lifeboat Ger Tighclearr was soon under way with coxswain Ned Dillon at the helm.

Once on scene, about a quarter-mile north-east of the Arklow Harbour entrance, it was established that the 10.5ft motor cruiser with two crew aboard had become entangled in fishing gear.

An RNLI volunteer went aboard the cruiser to assist but after efforts to clear the props failed, it was decided to tow the vessel — which had been acting as a support boat as part of the local Sailing Regatta — back into the safety of the harbour.

Following the callout, Arklow RNLI’s community safety officer Mark Corcoran said: “Thankfully we had a positive result this morning. This callout shows that anybody can become entangled in fishing gear; indeed I have myself as have other members of our own crew.

“I’m delighted the time and effort we spend on delivery of our community safety plan and our interactions with all of the groups and clubs who use the harbours and river keep the water safety message to the fore in people’s minds.”

The crew alongside Dillon on this callout were station mechanic James Russell, Craig O’Reilly, Geoff Kearnes, Eddie McElheron and Jimmy Myler.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Larne RNLI’s volunteers launched to the aid of three people in difficulty off the Antrim coast between late Monday evening (17 May) and early Tuesday morning (18 May).

Both the all-weather and inshore lifeboats were requested to launch around 11pm following a report that a man had fallen on rocks and sustained possible wrist and head injuries in the Ballygally area of the East Antrim coast.

The all-weather lifeboat Dr John McSparron went alongside providing support and helping to illuminate the area for the Larne Coastguard and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service crews already on scene.

With the location of the casualty presenting access issues, he was moved to the inshore lifeboat in a basket stretcher and ferried to the slipway near Ballygally beach where he was transferred to the waiting ambulance.

Just a couple of hours later, the lifeboat crew were called out again to assist two sailors on a 35ft yacht on passage from Argyll with reported engine failure some 15 nautical miles off Larne Harbour.

After checking both sailors were safe and well, the volunteers set up a tow for the vessel to its destination of Carrickfergus Marina, where it was secured for maintenance.

Larne RNLI’s deputy launching authority Philip Ford-Hutchinson described the night as a busy one “with little rest between callouts”.

He added: “The first call demonstrated great teamwork between the RNLI, Larne Coastguard and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.

“Callouts like these are something that our volunteer crew regularly train for and the skill and professionalism was evident last night. We wish the gentleman a speedy recovery.”

Arklow RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat takes a stricken fishing vessel under tow on Friday 14 MayArklow RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat takes a stricken fishing vessel under tow on Friday 14 May | Credit: RNLI/Arklow

Elsewhere, Arklow RNLI and Courtown RNLI launched their respective all-weather and inshore lifeboats to reports of a fishing vessel in danger of sinking near Courtown last Friday morning (14 May).

As the Courtown crew arrived on scene, they found a number of other fishing boats attempting to tow the stricken vessel to safety as its crew managed to stem the flow of water on board.

Arklow RNLI then set up their own tow to bring the casualty vessel into Arklow Harbour amid calm seas.

Mark Corcoran, Arklow RNLI community safety sfficer, said: ”It’s great to see all of the various agencies working together helping to save lives at sea and in our communities.

“Thankfully this callout became lower risk due to the actions of the vessel’s own crew.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Arklow RNLI’s volunteer crew launched their lifeboat within minutes of receiving a report that a sailing vessel was in danger and aground at Clogga Bay last Tuesday afternoon, 20 April.

Upon entering the bay south of Arklow Harbour, the crew on the Trent class lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr quickly identified the casualty vessel — a 24ft sailing yacht with one person aboard — and made best speed to the area.

Coxswain Ned Dillon and crew made their way up as close to the casualty vessel as possible. Given it was aground in shallow waters, the lifeboat’s inflatable XP boat was deployed for the crew to check the casualty vessel and pass on a towline.

The lifeboat then proceeded to slowly pull the sailing vessel to deeper water. Once it was established the boat was dry and not taking on water, it was taken under tow back to Arklow within 40 minutes.

Following the callout, Dillon said: “Thanks to our crew, this was an excellent successful service, where we got to deploy and use very many of the safety critical tools and lifesaving equipment we carry aboard the lifeboat.

“In all my years I’ve never seen all these items being deployed at once and never so successfully. It’s a real testament to our crew and the excellent training we get from RNLI.”

Bringing the casualty vessel ashore in Arklow HarbourBringing the casualty vessel ashore in Arklow Harbour Credit: RNLI/Mark Corcoran

In other recent RNLI news, the Skerries lifeboat was tasked on Monday evening (26 April) after a report of a person stranded on Shenick Island and trying to make their way ashore in the rising tide.

On approach to the island, the lifeboat crew were notified by the coastguard that the individual has made it safety to the beach at Skerries.

But as a number of other people were spotted on the island, the lifeboat put two crew ashore to check on their wellbeing and confirmed they were not planning on returning to shore until the next day.

It followed a busy weekend for Skerries RNLI which saw the North Co Dublin volunteers rescue nine people in two separate incidents.

In the Aran Islands, meanwhile, a late-night medevac for a woman on Inis Mór saw the local lifeboat crew paged in the early hours of yesterday, Tuesday 27 April.

The patient was transferred safely aboard the lifeboat by the volunteer crew, following all strict COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The lifeboat then headed straight for Rossaveal Harbour and the waiting ambulance.

Speaking after the callout, Aran Islands RNLI coxswain John O’Donnell said: “Time is always of the essence and the volunteer crew are ready to go when called upon. We would like to wish the patient well.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Arklow RNLI’s new station mechanic responded to his first callout yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 10 March) when the lifeboat was tasked to assist a fishing vessel off Arklow Pier.

The volunteer crew left their lunch and were under way aboard the all-weather Trent class lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr within minutes of the request.

In challenging conditions and rising winds and seas, the lifeboat made its way to the reported position around a quarter of a mile north-east of Arklow Pier.

Once on scene, it was confirmed the casualty vessel with three people aboard had lost propulsion. A towline was established and the fishing boat was towed back to Arklow where all hands came ashore safely.

Following the callout, Mark Corcoran, community safety officer at Arklow RNLI, said: “Whether you are a professional fisherman or a leisure boat user, we would remind people to respect the water and always wear a lifejacket and carry a means of calling for help like a marine radio.

“This was also our first callout for our new station mechanic James Russell. On behalf of all at Arklow RNLI, we wish to congratulate James on his new role at Arklow lifeboat station.”

James takes over the role from Michael Fitzgerald, who recently retired after 40 years of dedicated service to the charity that saves lives at sea.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Arklow RNLI marked the end of an era last Friday 5 March when Michael Fitzgerald, the station’s full-time mechanic retired after 40 years of dedicated service to the charity.

Michael, who grew up on Harbour Road in Arklow, first joined the RNLI in 1980 when he was just 16. At the time, the station had a wooden lifeboat.

It was his uncle, also Michael, a second mechanic on the crew, who inspired the then young Michael with a love for all things lifeboating.

While not eligible to officially join the crew until he was 17, Michael’s early passion shone through and to his delight, his name was registered a year early when the late coxswain Michael O’Brien made a plea on his behalf during a station inspection.

A former electrician, Michael volunteered for 19 years before being appointed Arklow RNLI’s full-time station mechanic, a position he held for the last 21 years.

His role involved a wide range of duties and evolved with time, with Michael serving on and maintaining six different classes of lifeboat including the station’s current all-weather Trent class lifeboat, the Ger Tigchlearr, which arrived in 1997. Michael was also a key member of the team when the call for help came and the lifeboat was put to sea.

‘A man of humility, integrity and passion, he has made a significant contribution to saving lives at sea off the Arklow coast’

Paying tribute to Michael this week, Peter Harty, RNLI area lifesaving manager, said: “Michael is the living embodiment of the RNLI’s values.

“A man of humility, integrity and passion, he has made a significant contribution to saving lives at sea off the Arklow coast for more than four decades and we are extremely grateful to him for his dedication and selfless service throughout that time.

“Thankfully, Michael will not be lost to us as he will remain on as a volunteer mechanic but we want to wish him every good health and happiness in the next chapter of his life.”

John Tyrell, Arklow RNLI lifeboat operations manager, added: “Over the course of four decades, Michael has worked tirelessly to ensure the operational effectiveness of our station here in Arklow through the operation, maintenance and repair of our lifeboat and its associated machinery and equipment.

“He always ensured everything was working to the highest standard and he did so with great passion and pride. Michael’s passion for his role extended to his ability to impart his knowledge to others.

“Over the years Michael has experienced all sorts of callouts and braved all sorts of weather and challenges at sea to help bring those in difficulty to safety.

“A humble man and a friend to all, Michael has always been at the core of our lifesaving team, working to keep our lifeboats and our crews safe and we are so thankful to him for that.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Bundoran RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crew were requested to launch yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 22 December) to reports of a 19ft vessel that had sunk off Killybegs.

Also tasked to the scene were the Sligo-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 118 as well as the Killybegs Coast Guard RIB, while help was sought from other vessels in the area.

On arrival, the lifeboat crew found that two people who had been on the sunken vessel had already made their way to safety and were treated by an ambulance at the Killybegs slipway.

The lifeboat then assisted the coastguard RIB in securing the vessel.

Lifeboat helm Rory O’Connor said: “Thanks to quick actions of all involved, this was another successful outcome and the two people will get to spend Christmas with their loved ones.

“It’s another example of inter-agency cooperation and we were glad to be able to assist our Irish Coast Guard colleagues.”

The incident came just two days after another inter-agency operation to rescue a man whose small boat ran aground on rocks in Ballyshannon, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Arklow RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr taking a stricken fishing vessel under tow | Photo: RNLI/ArklowArklow RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr taking a stricken fishing vessel under tow (Photo: RNLI/Arklow)

In other lifeboat news, Arklow RNLI launched to the aid of two fishermen on a vessel in distress last Thursday 17 December.

As the volunteer crew of six were en route, further reports came in that the fishing vessel had freed the foul but was adrift and dragging its anchor — and in danger of being driven up onto the rocks at Kilmichael Point.

Once on scene, the lifeboat crew worked quickly with the casualty vessel’s crew of two to establish a tow line, before the vessel was towed safely back to Arklow.

Following the incident, Arklow RNLI community safety officer Mark Corcoran gave a special shoutout to coxswain Eddie McElheron on his first callout in command of the all-weather lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Boats lit up for Christmas at Arklow Marina are certainly proving a popular draw at the County Wicklow Harbour.

In COVID-19 lockdown, boat owners have responded to the need to brighten up peoples lives by decorating their boats for the festive season.

"Several of us agreed to light up our boats and we even fitted a Christmas tree," local boater Jimmy Myler told Afloat.

The attraction is bringing lots of visitors to the harbour, Jimmy says.

Published in Irish Harbours
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Lough Derg RNLI volunteers were tasked to the aid of two people on a cruiser which engine failure near Mountshanon Harbour yesterday afternoon, Sunday 6 September.

The inshore lifeboat Jean Spicer diverted from a training exercise just before 2pm and made way to the reported location.

With no vessel in sight, the lifeboat crew made radio contact with the stricken vessel, which it turned out had drifted close to rocks east of the Scilly Isles.

The two on board the 27ft cruiser were safe and unharmed, and wearing lifejackets.

A lifeboat crew member was put aboard and discerned that the cruiser has suffered a gearbox failure.

A tow was then set up to bring the broken down vessel back to Mountshannon Harbour, and within an hour the lifeboat had returned to Dromineer Bay to complete its exercise.

‘Even on the calmest days, inflatable toys are not fit for the conditions you will experience along our coastline’

Elsewhere on Sunday afternoon, Arklow RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat Ger Tigchlearr launched to reports of a person in difficulty in a small inflatable boat off Mizen Head.

Once the crew was on scene, the individual tried to make his way back to shore while the lifeboat stood by.

But the rocky coastline and prevailing tidal conditions made this difficult, so it was agreed the safest option was to take the person on board the lifeboat.

Following the incident, Arklow RNLI’s community safety officer Mark Corcoran said: “Thankfully this afternoon was relatively calm, had conditions been worse the situation might not have ended so well.

“In recent weeks there has been a lot of rescues all around our coastline of people from small inflatable boats and toys.

“We’d like to remind people of the real risk of drowning when you go to sea on vessels of this nature, even on the calmest days these types of boats and toys are not fit for the conditions you will experience along our coastline.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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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

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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 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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