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#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has confirmed the sighting of a humpback whale off Achill Island in Co Mayo last weekend.

Surfers off Keel Beach were credited with the discovery, after spotting a large whale of 30-60ft breaking the surface multiple times, lifting its tail fluke vertically.

The sighting is only the fifth validated record of a humpback whale off the coastal area from Galway to Donegal.

"It remains something of a mystery as to why sightings of this species remain such relatively rare events along our west and northwest compared to our south and southwest coasts," says IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley.

"This latest sighting is a timely reminder that species such as humpbacks can and do turn up in places that are well outside what we perceive to be the known 'hotspots'."

Humpback whales tend to feed in inshore waters, which should make them increasingly easier for the public to spot from the shore, he added.

The IWDG has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
An ocean cruise by a husband and wife from the shores of Galway Bay to Tahiti in the midst of the Pacific in an owner-built boat has been awarded Ireland's senior cruising trophy, the Faulkner Cup of the Irish Cruising Club, which has been in annual contention since 1931.

Fergus and Kay Quinlan live in the Burren in County Clare, and in 1997 they launched the steel van de Stadt 12-metre cruiser Pylades, which they'd built themselves. They've made several voyages and have been in the Irish Cruising Club's award list before. But at the ICC's AGM in the National YC on February 18th they deservedly got the big one, the Faulkner Cup, for the first stage of a global circumnavigation which began from their home port of Kinvara in the summer of 2009, and a year later they'd reached Tahiti.

Their cruise continues, so the award was made in absentia. Adjudicator Brian Cudmore of Cork made the point that their informative log included much general and often entertaining information, and it becomes even more interesting the further you got into it, so he's keenly anticipating the next inmstalment.

The Strangford Cup for an alternative best cruise could not have been more different, both in location or boat type. The 44ft Young Larry may have been built of steel in 1995, but she was based fairly precisely on the design of a gaff cutter built in 1907. And though the rig has been made more manageable through being a yawl, even the mizzen is gaff-headed, while the main sets a topsail. Not the most-easily handled rig for challenging seas, you might well think, but Maire Breathnach (originally from Dungarvan) and her partner Andrew Wilkes, crewed by Maire's niece Sibeal Turraoin, took Larry Og – which looks for all the world like a smaller Asgard I – right through the Northwest Passage to Alaska, an extraordinary one-season achievement.

The ICC members logged some other notable Atlantic voyages, with Michael Coleman of Cobh, a Port of Cork Pilot before he got the free bus pass, making a fine Atlantic triangle to the Azores, then Newfoundland, and so home to Cork, visiting many islands with his well-found 1988 Oyster 53 Oyster Cove. It was all done with a crew of average age 66, senior member Tom Noonan aged 76, and worthy winners of the Atlantic Trophy.

Over the years since its foundation in 1929, the Irish Cruising Club has become the trustee and adjudicator of many trophies, twenty in all, and two of them were special presentations in 2010. The Donegan Memorial Trophy went to Ruth Heard, an ICC member since 1967. She has cruised both to the Azores and Iceland, but is honoured this year in celebration of her remarkable contribution to the rebirth of the inland waterways, and to mark the re-opening of the Royal Canal. Ruth Heard was on the crew of Harklow, the last boat to transit the Royal in 1954 before its half century of official closure which was gloriously reversed in 2010.

And once upon a time, the ICC was the organiser of Ireland's Admiral's Cup campaigns. Though many members still race offshore as individuals, the club has long since focused totally on cruising. But it has a general trophy, the John B Kearney Cup for Services to Irish Sailing, and for 2010 it was awarded with acclamation to the successful Irish Commodore's Cup Team.

Published in Cruising

Fastnet Yacht 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 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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