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The National Yacht Club (NYC) in Dun Laoghaire Harbour bid farewell to Chef Cormac Healy on Saturday night, as he retired from his role after 30 years of service. The event was attended by present and past Commodores, Flag Officers, Club Managers, a big turnout of members and Healy's family and friends from the nearby Dublin Bay Forty Foot Swimming spot.

Master of Ceremonies Ian Meldon kicked off the party dressed in a dry robe, swim hat, and goggles, welcoming everyone to the packed dining room. Commodore Peter Sherry led the tributes to Healy, praising his enthusiasm for detail in preparation and perfection in the presentation of all his dishes, which earned the National Yacht Club the title of having the best menu in Dun Laoghaire.

During his time at the NYC, Healy had the opportunity to work with many celebrity chefs in the Club's kitchens to prepare club feasts. Some of these chefs included Rick Stein, Peter Caviston, and Kevin Dundon.

Healy's retirement marks the end of an era at the National Yacht Club, where he will be deeply missed by all those who had the pleasure of working with him.

Chef Cormac Healy Retires from the National Yacht Club Photo Gallery By Michael Chester

Published in National YC
Tagged under

It is not unprecedented for leading clubs and one of the key class organisations within their ambit to share the MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year Award. It began with an added convention (the informal contest has been based on convention and precedent rather than rigid rules since it began 45 years ago) back in 1990, when class associations were first included. And while the contest’s gaining of traction resulted in another convention - that the same club could not receive the award two years running - it also emerged that Class Associations could better carry the venerable ship’s wheel trophy when the award was shared with the club with which they had most actively interacted during the year in question.

The most recent example of this was in 2022, when the 250-year-old-plus Lough Ree Yacht Club became a hotbed of activity with the Centenary-celebrating Shannon One Design Association, neatly acronymed SODA.

MG ALL-ELECTRIC VISION NOW PART OF IRISH MOTORING

That was the first time MG Motor were comprehensively on board as sponsors, and since then the pioneering all-electric brand has become part of the motoring scene in Ireland, attracting a host of accolades and awards while going well with this appropriate “sail-powered” sponsorship. The core of the range is in a comprehensive selection of saloons, but those who associate the MG brand with sports cars are well aware that the new MG Cyberster is coming down the line.

The new MG Cyberster is an all-electric sports car that will ring bells for classic MG enthusiastsThe new MG Cyberster is an all-electric sports car that will ring bells for classic MG enthusiasts

TURBO-POWERED OUT OF PANDEMIC SLOWDOWN

For 2024’s award, we’re dealing with organisations that emerged turbo-powered in 2023 from the lingering sense of restriction left by the pandemic. This has meant that the National YC (already a frequent former winner) would have been in the front line for the title regardless of the classes with which they were having dynamic interactions at different times during the past year.

The Ruffian 23s in sparkling form at their NYC-hosted Nationals in Dublin Bay in July. Photo: Afloat.ieThe Ruffian 23s in sparkling form at their NYC-hosted Nationals in Dublin Bay in July. Photo: Afloat.ie

But equally, while the Ruffian 23s were celebrating their Golden Jubilee on an all-Ireland and global scale involving several clubs, it was when they interacted with the National YC (both as their main home base, and also as the host club for their Golden Jubilee 2023 National Championship) that something akin to nuclear fusion took place.

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This provided an event and setting that was sailing in Ireland at its very best for sport, camaraderie, and a sense of something special, with visiting skipper Stephen Penney of Carrickfergus emerging as champion with his team on Hot Orange, thereby providing a result which was as healthy as the spirit of the class itself, and of the club hosting it too.

COMMUNITY SPIRIT

For there is no mistaking the sheer quality of spirit and community which underpins everything the National YC and its members achieved during 2023 under Commodore Peter Sherry, an owner-helm with the club’s Flying Fifteen fleet. It is one of the most active F/F groups in Ireland, though that position is increasingly matched by the Connemara fleet, whose growth the Dun Laoghaire fleet have encouraged with the broad-minded National YC way of doing things.

 The National Yacht Club’s relatively secluded location at bottom right gives it a useful sense of identity away from the town, while providing the quickest club access from the seafront suburbs The National Yacht Club’s relatively secluded location at bottom right gives it a useful sense of identity away from the town, while providing the quickest club access from the seafront suburbs

But as it happens, this week Thomas Chaix - whose role as NYC Performance Coach for the past couple of seasons has upped the club’s success on all fronts – went ahead and posted his annual NYC Progress Report and Manifesto. This is purest serendipity, as the basic MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year 2024 decision was made - though very much under wraps - before Christmas. There were one or two provisos that had to be met before the end of the year, but the way that 2023’s final events concluded meant there was no change to the mid-December’s decision.

So the Chaix Gung-ho New Year 2024 Report and Mission Statement for the National YC is as valid as ever, as Thomas was unaware when he wrote it of the MG Motor award coming down the road this morning, and we posted his thoughts and images in full as seen here, meanwhile wondering what might be the French translation of gung-ho, and found that one possibility was tout feu tout flame.

MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year 2024” Award

NATIONAL YC IS WHERE TOP LEVEL SAILING MEETS LOCAL COMMUNITY SPIRIT

That does have a certain je ne sais quoi, but lacks the simple power of the original Anglicised Chinese gung-ho. Yet the fact that we’ve wandered into this very tangential discussion tells us much about the National YC. For its special location in the southeast corner of Dun Laoghaire, closest of all the clubs to the open sea while being clear of the crowded bustle of the town centre, means it has a real advantage through having the closest access to the suburbs – walking distance, in fact – such that it has perhaps the largest pavilion membership of any of the clubs. And the eclectic groups that gather there through the day to enjoy the club’s ambience and hospitality could be readily visualised as having an amiable discussion over coffee or something stronger about how best to translate gung-ho into French.

 An aerial view of Dun Laoghaire harbour from seaward emphasizes the special nature of the National YC’s location at top left An aerial view of Dun Laoghaire harbour from seaward emphasizes the special nature of the National YC’s location at top left

FAMILY TRADITIONS

All of this provides a charming contrast with the club’s very focused sailing, which is nevertheless all of a piece with the easygoing social side, as much of it is very firmly family-based.

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The pace here is set by the Mac Aleavey-Murphy clan. Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavey have logged a incredible life-path through our sport, with an impressive new Round Ireland record set in 1993 (it stood until 216) with Steve Fossett’s superb 60ft trimaran Lakota, while before that Cathy Mac Aleavey was an Olympic sailor in 1988, and after it Con served as NYC Commodore while their daughter Annalise Murphy was to go on to take Silver in the 2016 Olympics.

Olympic Sailing Medalist Annalise Murphy with her parents Cathy Mac Aaleavey (left) and father Con Murphy, a former NYC CommodoreOlympic Sailing Medalist Annalise Murphy with her parents Cathy Mac Aaleavey (left) and father Con Murphy, a former NYC Commodore

On another tack, Cathy was a pace-setter in the new growth of the Dublin Bay Water Wags, the harbour’s oldest class dating back to 1887, and at the same time became involved with the classic Shannon One Designs to such an extent that the NYC is now the venue for the Shannon’s annual Dublin Dinner in March, while at home the Water Wags current focus of expansion is in the National, with the latest addition to the class, the classic new-build Cormac, being commissioned by NYC Hon. Sail. Sec. Susan Spain in September 2023.

The National YC is the latest focal point for the continuing expansion of the 1887-founded Water Wags, seen here in their 1900 version during their midweek two-race programme in Dun Laoghaire HarbourThe National YC is the latest focal point for the continuing expansion of the 1887-founded Water Wags, seen here in their 1900 version during their midweek two-race programme in Dun Laoghaire Harbour

The boat was named in honour of her father Cormac McHenry, a longtime NYC Trustee who put the club on the world cruising map in a big way, reflecting the fact that the Commodore preceding Peter Sherry was Conor O’Regan, an out-and-out cruising man whose CV includes a global circumnavigation with the Rival 38 Pamina.

INTERESTING LINE OF COMMODORES

Conor’s predecessor as Commodore was in turn Martin McCarthy, who guided the club through the worst of the Pandemic lockdowns while managing to join his fellow syndicate owners in their frequently-raced Ruffian 23, a linkup which emphasizes the special interaction between the club and the Ruffians 23s.

NYC Commodore Peter Sherry with the NYC’s Ethan Spain and Cork’s Ben O’Shaugnessy after they’d won the Irish National 49er Championship 2023 hosted by the NYCNYC Commodore Peter Sherry with the NYC’s Ethan Spain and Cork’s Ben O’Shaugnessy after they’d won the Irish National 29er Championship 2023 hosted by the NYC

This lineup is shared by NYC and Dublin Bay SC activist and historian Donal O’Sullivan, something which reminds us that the National is currently contributing the lion’s share of voluntary effort to the administration of Dublin Bay SC, the world’s largest organiser of sailing races in terms of membership. In DBSC, Eddie Totterdell (National YC) has succeeded clubmate Ann Kirwan as Commodore, while she in turn has re-focussed her considerable sailing organisational energies towards the impressive Golden Jubilee programme of the Ruffian 23s, where she races Bandit with success in Dublin Bay, while in West Cork she races her “other Ruffian”, Orla II, with Schull Harbour SC.

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Female sailors and administrators are so central to National YC life afloat and ashore that it scarcely is mentioned of late, what with the club having their first woman Commodore with the late Ida Kiernan nearly a quarter of a century back, while the club’s Rosemary Roy is currently DBSC’s Honorary Secretary, and in due course Commodore Peter Sherry will be succeeded by Vice Commodore Rosemary Cadogan.

Empowered….Water Wag female sailors gathered in the National YC for the Woman on Water Regatta, 2022Empowered….Water Wag female sailors gathered in the National YC for the Woman on Water Regatta, 2022

CARMEL WINKELMANN’S MISSION

This input was highlighted by the late Carmel Winkelmann, whose special mission in sailing life was the encouragement of promising young sailors to fulfil their highest potential. The classic case in point was ILCA sailor Finn Lynch, who back in 2016 was in the doldrums resources-wise, yet Carmel put a substantial support package together by the simple expedient of refusing to take “no” for an answer when approaching potential backers, and thus in 2023 Finn Lynch was the first to put Ireland’s 2024 Olympic sailing hopes back on track.

The late Carmel Winkelmann with Olympic hopeful Finn Lynch in July 2016 as they prepare to mark the completion of the package which will set Finn firmly on the road to an Olympic career, with an al fresco lunch on the HYC veranda providing the appropriate setting. Photo: W M NixonThe late Carmel Winkelmann with Olympic hopeful Finn Lynch in July 2016 as they prepare to mark the completion of the package which will set Finn firmly on the road to an Olympic career, with an al fresco lunch on the HYC veranda providing the appropriate setting. Photo: W M Nixon

FIGARO SUCCESS

Another international sailor who hails from the National YC is Figaro skipper Tom Dolan, who celebrated the Figaro programme’s return post-Pandemic to international courses by winning the first leg of the 2023 Figaro contest, a long 610-mile race going round several turning marks in difficult sailing waters to get from Caen in Normandy to Kinsale, a real once-in-a-lifetime home-coming.

The National YC’s Tom Dolan coming into Kinsale on the last day of August 2023 to win the first 610-mile leg of the International Figaro Solo Paprec 2023The National YC’s Tom Dolan coming into Kinsale on the last day of August 2023 to win the first 610-mile leg of the International Figaro Solo Paprec 2023

ISORA STRONGHOLD

As for offshore racing directly from the club, it is former NYC Commodore Peter Ryan who – as Chairman of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association – is the main man in much of this. Although non-signature “ordinary” offshore races find difficulty in maintaining their popularity in the face of biennial big name events, the fact that Chairman Ryan is able to host the well-supported annual black-tie ISORA Dinner and Prize-giving in the National YC every November is something which helps to keep the show on the road.

ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan (right) with several times ISORA Champions Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop of Pwllheli SC of the J/109 Mojito at the Annual ISORA Dinner & Prize-giving in the National Yacht ClubISORA Chairman Peter Ryan (right) with several times ISORA Champions Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop of Pwllheli SC of the J/109 Mojito at the Annual ISORA Dinner & Prize-giving in the National Yacht Club

And finally, before we turn to the Ruffian 23’s extraordinary Golden Jubilee Year with its highlight at the National YC at the end of July, looking both to the future and the past it is encouraging to hear that negotiations are well advanced for the NYC to allocate seven highly-visible moorings along the East Pier to accommodate the 1902-founded Dublin Bay 21s. These have been or are being beautifully restored by Steve Morris in Kilrush for Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra, both of whom have links to the National YC going way back into the previous Millennium. Providing them and the restored DB21 class with this high level of visual accessibility to public and club observers alike can only help a truly worthy cause.

The Dublin Bay 21 Naneen – originally built in Dun Laoghaire in 1905 – returns in restored form to Dun Laoghaire, where the re-born class have found their natural home at the National Yacht Club. Photo: W M NixonThe Dublin Bay 21 Naneen – originally built in Dun Laoghaire in 1905 – returns in restored form to Dun Laoghaire, where the re-born class have found their natural home at the National Yacht Club. Photo: W M Nixon

RUFFIAN 23s GOLDEN JUBILEE

It says much about how radical changes in the perception of word meaning can be achieved when we reflect that these days in Irish sailing, the word Ruffian no longer means “a violent or lawless person”. On the contrary, it immediately brings to mind a class of very able and popular little 23ft mini-offshore-racers that can trace their origins back to the original Ruffian, a very successful and much-liked 35-footer designed and built by Billy and Dickie Brown in Portaferry at the entrance to Strangford Lough in 1971.

The National YC’s Ann Kirwan, former Commodore of Dublin Bay SC, racing her Ruffian 23 Bandit in Dublin BayThe National YC’s Ann Kirwan, former Commodore of Dublin Bay SC, racing her Ruffian 23 Bandit in Dublin Bay

Perhaps they called her Ruffian to get their naming retaliation in first, in the expectation that nobody could come at you later with any worse nickname. Be that as it may, by the time Ruffian had sailed and raced for just one month in 1971, her name had become a term of affection, and when they unveiled the production-built 23ft version in March 1973, it was given an immediate rocket-boost of favourable publicity through being called the Ruffian 23.

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We covered the entire and wonderful Golden Jubilee year with this anticipation of the season-concluding expedition by a team of 20 Iris Ruffian sailors to Hong Kong in October here and concluded it here then, before that we carried reports of the National Championship in July here

All of this rightly indicates a spirited class that fits in well at many clubs, but after 50 years it is the National Yacht Club and Dublin Bay SC which seem to best exemplify just what a successful local One Design the Ruffian 23 can be, and thus the joint award of the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year 2024 ” to the National Yacht Club and the Ruffian 23 perfectly expressed the overall mood of all that is best in Irish sailing as we move into 2024.

An all-inclusive and outgoing “Sailing Support Machine” - the National Yacht Club, home for 2024 of the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year” trophyAn all-inclusive and outgoing “Sailing Support Machine” - the National Yacht Club, home for 2024 of the MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year” trophy

4th January 2024

Cormac McHenry 1936-2023

Cormac McHenry of Dun Laoghaire, who died on December 22nd at the age of 87, was a highly-regarded sailing enthusiast with a particular interest in short-handed long-distance cruising, a quietly determined enthusiast who had many other interests including Leinster rugby, all of which he pursued with the same devoted, serious and intelligent focus that he brought to the world of boats.

His boyhood as the oldest of four children was in Dublin in Rathgar and Terenure, and he acquired his lifelong love of rugby in Terenure College. But by the time he was taking Electrical Engineering in University College Dublin, he was into motor-cycling and car rallying, a speciality in the latter being as a navigator.

Initially developing his career in the corporate world as an engineer after further training with General Electric in England, he went on to several postings in Ireland with major companies. This involved a peripatetic lifestyle for his already expanding young family, for in UCD he’d taken the first steps towards a long and happy marriage of 67 years to Barbara Nevin, the daughter of the UCD Professor of Physics.

STARTING WITH SELF-BUILD ENTERPRISE DINGHY

They’d five daughters whose earliest childhood memories include an early period of living near Drogheda in County Louth, while their busy father - having worked through his fascination with high speed cars to the conclusion it was dangerously inappropriate for a young husband with a growing family - was to build himself an Enterprise dinghy to develop his interest in sailing, initially with the Boyne Yacht Club at Mornington.

Early days – Enterprise Class (and one lone GP14) racing with the Boyne Yacht Club at Mornington. Photo courtesy Linda PattonEarly days – Enterprise Class (and one lone GP14) racing with the Boyne Yacht Club at Mornington. Photo courtesy Linda Patton

This was taken a stage higher with an aspiration to the Olympic ideal with an International Finn, which seemed to the children to involve complex family holidays featuring long and dusty driving with the heavy boat in the car roof down the sometimes rudimentary Spanish and Portuguese roads of those days, in order to reach some major Finn regatta venue, representing Ireland at places like Cascais.

Cormac’s final seasons of dinghy racing were with the demanding International Finn ClassCormac’s final seasons of dinghy racing were with the demanding International Finn Class

However, by the time he took up a position in Waterford his interest in sailing had developed into what became his lifelong enthusiasm for cruising and voyaging, and in due course he launched his 6-ton Kerry Class cruiser Ring of Kerry for the first time, lowering her gently into the river for the first time afloat in the heart of Waterford.

SELF-COMPLETED KERRY CLASS

He’d finished the boat himself from a bare hull to a notably high standard with skills developed with both the Enterprise and the Finn and other DIY projects which gave him special satisfaction. But while he was to make many longtime sailing friends in Waterford sailing’s focal point in Dunmore East with WHSC, a further career change of direction brought him back to Dublin, where in time Barbara reinforced her links to UCD administration by becoming the Examinations Officer for every branch of that expanding university.

The extensively-voyaged Kerry Class 6-tonner Ring of Kerry was completed by Cormac from a bare hull, and her first sailing was with Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East. She is seen here at an ICC Rally in Port Dinorwic on the Menai Straits in North Wales. Photo: Ronan BeirneThe extensively-voyaged Kerry Class 6-tonner Ring of Kerry was completed by Cormac from a bare hull, and her first sailing was with Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East. She is seen here at an ICC Rally in Port Dinorwic on the Menai Straits in North Wales. Photo: Ronan Beirne

Cormac in turn had found his real and spiritual nautical home in the National Yacht Club, which he joined in 1967. From the very beginning of his 56 years of membership, he found the National to be congenial, so much so that his daughter Susan Spain – currently the NYC Honorary Sailing Secretary – said in her Eulogy at his very well-attended funeral on December 27th that the NYC is now in the McHenry DNA, something reflected in the fact that in his mature years, Cormac served for a long time as a National YC Trustee.

His long career - both ashore and afloat – had taken the ideal course to achieve that highly-respected position in club administration. In professional life, despite his engineering qualifications his particular interest developed in labour relations and the resolution of workplace disputes, and by the time he retired, he had become a much-respected Member of the Labour Court, a satisfying involvement in a key area of Irish life that had come about with a fresh career change in the mid 1980s.

SAIL TRAINING IDEAL

Meanwhile, in developing his sailing experiences, he was naturally drawn to the sail training ideal, and was one of the few in the Irish maritime community in recent years who could still look back to a long interaction with Coiste an Asgard, first with the original Asgard in her sail training role from 1968, then with her successor the ketch Creidne which is now with the Naval Service Yacht Squadron in Haulbowline on Cork Harbour, and most rewardingly with the 84ft Sail Training Brigantine Asgard II from 1981 onwards.

The original Asgard in Dublin Bay in her time as a sail training vessel – Cormac McHenry was one of the few in the contemporary Irish sailing scene who had sailed as a Watch Officer on Asgard, on her successor Creidne, and also on the brigantine Asgard II. Photo: Des BarringtonThe original Asgard in Dublin Bay in her time as a sail training vessel – Cormac McHenry was one of the few in the contemporary Irish sailing scene who had sailed as a Watch Officer on Asgard, on her successor Creidne, and also on the brigantine Asgard II. Photo: Des Barrington

However, despite his active involvement with other sailors and their boats, he was always determined to have one of his own, and thus completing Ring of Kerry had been satisfying in many ways, not least in its opportunities for technical and philosophical exchanges with the boat’s designer O’Brien Kennedy MRINA, whose seagoing experience was reflected in his membership of the Irish Cruising Club, an organisation to which Cormac himself was to be elected in 1980, with Barbara joining in 1993.

In his 43 years of membership of the ICC, he cruised extensively firstly in Ring of Kerry, then the Nicholson 31 Erquy (named for the Breton port in which he and Barbara has spent their honeymoon), and finally in the remarkably comfortable American-designed and built Island Packet 40, whose name of Island Life reflected Cormac’s sense of self-reliance afloat, while also providing the perfect boat for his later years, when he and Barbara spent several seasons based at Portosin on northwest Spain’s Galician coast.

The Nicholson 31 Erquy returnes to the National YC in 1997 at the conclusion of a much-awarded solo Atlantic circuit cruise. Photo: Ronan BeirneThe Nicholson 31 Erquy returnes to the National YC in 1997 at the conclusion of a much-awarded solo Atlantic circuit cruise. Photo: Ronan Beirne

His many years of cruising of every kind brought a return to his fellow enthusiasts, for during his 43 years of membership of the Irish Cruising Club, he gave unstintingly of his time in voluntary roles for a continuous 17 of those years, starting as a Committee Member and then going on to become the Honorary Secretary from 1990 to 2003, the Rear Commodore in 2003-2004, then Vice Commodore in 2003-2004, and finally Commodore in 2004-2005.

Additionally, he served as standby Editor of the ICC Annual if the official Editor happened to be away in an extended cruise, and in all his roles, his fastidious attention to detail and the procedurally correct made a major contribution to the Irish Cruising Club’s ability to take on its growing status in the international cruising and voyaging world.

This in turn saw his own international cruising club memberships and friendships expanding. He joined the Ocean Cruising Club in 1990, and was elected to the 1880-founded Royal Cruising Club in 1999, while his significant positions in the ICC saw friendships develop with both the Clyde Cruising Club and the Cruising Club of America.

INTENSELY PERSONAL VOYAGING

But all this was the outward manifestation of a friendly and helpful yet very private person, whose own special interest continued to develop in his own intensely personal voyaging. This initially was undertaken in the pre-GPS area, when he derived much satisfaction from using his own skills in celestial navigation to arrive precisely on target at the conclusion of his first ocean passage, from Ireland to the Azores single-handed in the little Ring of Kerry in 1989. This venture had become such a satisfyingly complete cruise on his return that he was awarded the Irish Cruising Club’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup.

Game for adventure – Cormac and Barbara in expedition mode in 2011.Game for adventure – Cormac and Barbara in expedition mode in 2011

He was to go on to receive the Faulkner Cup again in 1997, for a solo Atlantic Circuit cruise with the Nicholson 31 Erquy, but his cruising by this stage was so frequent and extensive that at various stages he had been awarded the ICC’s Strangford Cup for an alternative best cruise in 1996 and the Atlantic Trophy in the same year, while earlier - to underline his deeply-felt interest in all things Irish - he was awarded the Round Ireland Cup with Erquy in 1995.

Ocean voyaging continued with the acquisition of Island Packet, and like many more senior Irish cruising folk, he and Barbara were drawn to the attractions of northwest Spain, with his final cruising years being happily spent there with Island Life.

Home from home for a senior cruising man – Island Life in Galicia in Northwest SpainHome from home for a senior cruising man – Island Life in Galicia in Northwest Spain

However, back home the new generation was coming along in Dun Laoghaire sailing with his daughter Susan - now Susan Spain – moving through the ranks of National YC administration to become the Honorary Sailing Secretary of the Club. She has done this in such a clearly defined personal way that not all the club’s large membership were aware that she was the daughter of their long-serving Trustee, Cormac McHenry.

REMEMBERED WITH THE DUBLIN BAY WATER WAGS

But this relationship was demonstrated in a very Dun Laoghaire style when Susan commissioned and launched her new Dublin Bay Water Wag at the NYC last September. Classically built by master craftsman Rui Ferreira of Ballydehob in West Cork, this latest manifestation of a local class dating back to 1887 was to be named Cormac, and it was the man himself who made one of his last appearances when asked to perform the naming ceremony in traditional style.

 The 1887-founded Water Wags in action in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The newest boat for the class, the 2023-built Cormac, was named in honour of her father Cormac McHenry by owner Susan Spain, the Honorary Sailing Secretary of the National YC. Photo: W M Nixon The 1887-founded Water Wags in action in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The newest boat for the class, the 2023-built Cormac, was named in honour of her father Cormac McHenry by owner Susan Spain, the Honorary Sailing Secretary of the National YC. Photo: W M Nixon

Typically, in his special appreciation of the workmanship involved, Cormac flatly refused to smash the bottle over the stemhead. Instead, he poured some of the champagne with gentle and loving care over a small area of the immaculate varnishwork, leaving everyone with an abiding final memory of a great sailor and assiduous servant of sailing, a skilled technician and craftsman who, when asked, was always generous with practical and sound advice, particularly when it was something to do with boats and sailing and the people who go with them.

RB & WMN

Published in National YC

National Yacht Club sailors at Dun Laoghaire Harbour have had an incredible 2023, ranging from great cruising adventures to local, national, and international glory in the various classes we sail at the club.

This is a recap of the club achievements, which we hope will inspire young and young at heart sailors to continue progressing and deliver on their personal 2024 goals.

On the world stage

NYC sailors competed in no less than eight world championships during the course of 2023. 29ers, RS Aero, Optimist, Topper, Mirror, Flying15, ILCA6 and ILCA7 Worlds were attended and delivered great successes.

The year started down under for two Flying 15 partnerships, completing the Australian nationals and the worlds in Perth. Veteran ace John Lavery and crew Alan Green ended their challenge in 14th.

The National Yacht Club's Flying 15 crews in trainingThe National Yacht Club's Flying 15 crews in training

Then we waited for the summer...

The Van Steenberge siblings delivered a stellar performance at the 29er Worlds with a steady series, snatching the title on the final day in the waters of Weymouth. Finn Lynch's performance in the ILCA 7 in The Hague gave Ireland its first berth for the Olympics in Marseille.

Finn Lynch took a berth for Ireland in the ILCA 7 class in The HagueFinn Lynch took a berth for Ireland in the ILCA 7 class in The Hague

Noel Butler travelled to Sardinia to compete in the RS Aero6 event, ending his challenge in 15th overall.

Head coach Thomas Chaix competed at the Mirror Worlds with his son Ben, finishing 12th and winning the classic category. The largest NYC team, composed of eight strong young sailors, competed at the Topper Worlds in Cork, and we also had representation at the ILCA6 and Optimist worlds.

We had two teams representing the club at the Youth Sailing World in Brazil. Ben O'Shaughnessy and Ethan Spain (29er) finished strong to secure a bronze medal, wrapping up an excellent year.

Ben O Shaugnessy and Ethan Spain at the Youth WorldsBen O Shaugnessy and Ethan Spain at the Youth Worlds

The 29er class had representation at the Europeans in Sweden. NYC sailors snatched Gold in both the male (Ben and Ethan yet again) and female (Lucia Cullen and Alanna Twomey-RCYC) categories.

Sam Ledoux competed at the ILCA 6, and Finn Lynch scored a solid 10th at the ILCA7 Europeans.

The UK is a great playground for our international sailors. NYC sailors competed at the UK Nationals in Optimist, Topper, 29er, Mirror, Feva and Flying15, picking up honours and medals.

The National Yacht Club's RS Feva Team  at the UK NationalsThe National Yacht Club's RS Feva Team  at the UK Nationals

The club also had a strong representation, with five young sailors taking part in the Optimist French Summer Cup in Brittany.

National championships podiums

Club sailors competed at many national events over the course of the year, and all the classes we sail at the club had representation. From our youngest sailor, aged 7, to our most seasoned veterans, from the Optimist dinghy to Class Zero IRC teams, NYC sailors excelled.

EVENT Gold Silver Bronze
29er Youth nationals Ben O Shaughnessy & Ethan Spain Clementine & Nathan van Steenberge Lucia Cullen & Alanna Twomey
29er class nationals Ben O Shaughnessy & Ethan Spain Clementine & Nathan van Steenberge Lauren O'Callaghan & James Dwyer
Fireball nationals Noel Butler & Stephen Oram    
Optimist Regatta Racing Nationals Michael Hanley    
RS Feva Nationals   Grace Keating & Hannah Walsh Felix Dion & Lucas Browne
ICRA class 0 Nationals   Valen Tina (John Treanor) Searcher (Pete Smyth)
RS Aero Nationals   Noel Butler  
Optimist Senior Nationals   Gemma Brady  
Kona windsurfing Nationals     Damien Dion
Flying 15 Nationals   Ian Mathews & Keith Poole

 

NYC sailors also participated in SB20, ILCA6, ILCA4, Topper, Wazsp, ICRA class 1, RS400, Optimist Junior and the Ruffian class.

Versatile sailors

NYC prides itself as a club for families and versatile sailors, enhancing enjoyment whether racing competitively or enjoying club sailing. A few sailors are showing the way, enjoying sailing different classes, sometimes to a very competitive level. Amongst these sailing addicts, 15-year-old Felix Dion has raced in four different classes during the course of the year (Optimist, Topper, RS Feva and Kona) and has enjoyed trying out other boats. 17-year-old Alexander Trickett raced three different classes (Wazsp, 29er and RS Aero) and is always volunteering to step on cruisers and keelboats. He also tried a few fun sessions on his 49er.

2024

Club sailors are looking forward to 2024... The club diary is filling up with great events, and sailors are set for some winter practice. We now wish for a year of the best winds, enjoyable sails and great competitions.

Happy New Year.

Published in National YC
Tagged under
23rd December 2023

Cormac McHenry RIP

Afloat.ie regrets to record the death of Cormac McHenry, for many years a leading figure in the Irish Cruising Club. He also served as a Trustee and was a Life Member of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

An enthusiastic long-distance sailor and member of the Ocean Cruising Club, he made several ocean passages, a number of them single-handed.

A fuller appreciation of Cormac and his wide involvement in many areas of sailing in Ireland will appear in Afloat.ie in due course.

Meanwhile, our heartfelt condolences are with Barbara, his wife of 67 years, and his family and many friends in sailing and his other interests.

Published in National YC

National Yacht Club Vice Commodore Rosemary Cadogan led the 2023 junior summer sailing achievement celebrations at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on Friday night.

The junior and youth sailors produced results at home and abroad in a variety of classes, including Optimist and Laser, but it was this summer's 29er World Championships victory of  NYC youth sailors the Van Steenberg siblings, Clementine and Nathan, that really brought the house down! 

As Afloat reported elsewhere this weekend, the really searing spot in the hottest Irish junior sailing area was with the high-performance unit in the 29er Class, which was centred on Dun Laoghaire with input from other locations.

Through the summer of 2023, this developing force in sailing in Ireland spread out across major events in several European countries to see the Worlds at Weymouth taken by the Van Steenberg siblings from Dun Laoghaire, while the top girls' placing in the EuroCup on Lake Garda in Italy was secured by the new team of Clementine van Steenberge (National YC) and Jessica Riordan (Royal St George YC).

At the Euros in Sweden, meanwhile, the Cork-Dublin combo of Ben O'Shaughnessy of Royal Cork and Ethan Spain of the National Yacht Club had been dominant to return with the gold, as too did Lucia Cullen (Dun Laoghaire) with Alana Twomey (Cork), a high point in a fleet of 173 teams from 24 countries for an exceptionally well-focused Irish project which catapulted an already talented group of young sailors towards fulfilling their true potential. The future beckons, and it shines.

NYC Summer Course 2022 Achievement Awards were also presented.

Daniel Blake Hickey and James Hall won the Most Improved Adventure Sailors Award.

The most improved racing sailor was Felicia de Vreeze.

The most improved from the Improving Skills course were Dylan Hall and Caoileann Fitzpatrick.

Photo Gallery by Michael Chester

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At home...

Last weekend provided plenty of action on the back of a stormy Friday, with many club sailors enjoying a great weekend of training and racing.

Fireballs blast along on Dublin Bay at the end of season regattaFireballs blast along on Dublin Bay at the end of season regatta

The Fireballs End of Season Regatta was set at short notice by the DMYC, and the organising team delivered a great and fun event with three breezy races on Saturday and 3 (and a bit) tactical light air races on Sunday to the enjoyment of "weekend warriors". Two partnerships from the club competed. Seasoned partnership Noel Butler and Steven Oram dominated the proceedings with four race wins, taking the event with a sizeable lead. Newly formed partnership Nicola Ferguson and Thomas Chaix were in the chasing pack (only 3 points separating 2nd from 5th), eventually settling in 4th for their first event. See full report here

A Flying 15 win for Green and Shane MacCarthy in the annual NYC Frostbite Series A Flying 15 win for Green and Shane MacCarthy in the annual NYC Frostbite Series 

The Flying 15s enjoyed two races on Saturday, with Alan Green and Shane MacCarthy taking both guns in the bay as Afloat reports here.

...and abroad

The 29er squad is still very hungry after a stellar summer made of titles.

The Eurocup finals in Garda is a must-attend event for the best partnerships in the class, and as in each year, it did not disappoint with 170 competitors from well over 20 countries taking part.

Four (of which three sailed under the NYC burgee) Irish partnerships made the journey to Italy. European champions Ben O'Shaugnessy and Ethan Spain grew stronger as the event progressed, climbing right back up to 2nd overall, only a few points off local favourite and number 3 in the world.

World champion Clementine van Steenberge partnered up with world female runner-up Jessica Riordan (from the RstGYC) just a few weeks ago, and they are already making their skills known with a strong 7th-place finish and a comfortable gold in the girls.

William Walsh was also validating a new partnership with Eoin Byrne. They had difficulties early on but finished their event with stronger results, giving them confidence in the future.

A busy Halloween week

NYC coaches will be on deck for a busy week at the club and in Cork. The club Performance programmes are in full swing with clinics in all our supported classes (Topper, ILCA, Feva, 29er and Optimist).

The Topper class success story continues, with well over 25 sailors expected on the platform for the NYC club squad and the National squad clinic over the next few days.

After the final October session for our regular Optimist Autumn training, NYC coaches and sailors will travel to Crosshaven to train and compete at the annual National Training Week.

The week will conclude with the start of the DMYC Dinghy Frostbite Series at Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

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The annual lift out of cruisers at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour is usually a good sign that winter is not far, and last weekend inevitably saw the first single-digit temperatures and a sure sign winter Performance training, DMYC Frostbites and the final events of the year are around the corner.

The National YC Autumn programme started mid-September and will resume this weekend after a two-week break to facilitate the liftout.

Optimists, Toppers, Fevas, ILCA and 29ers have settled into a training phase with coaching delivered by strong lead coaches under the guidance of the club head coach.

The Topper class: a success story!

Just a year ago, the NYC Topper squad was heavily depleted, with sailors having graduated to bigger boats and "the COVID gap" directly affecting entry into the class. The club, however, maintained the programme despite the low numbers, allowing a few talents to emerge and a regular entry in the class from sailors graduating from the Optimist and our summer courses. From 3 sailors regularly training last Autumn, we now have over 20 sailors signed up for this year's programme.

Club charters have helped speed up entry into the class by starting training and sailing the boat whilst sourcing their own.

Lead coach Ellie Cunnane and NYC coach Hugh O'Connor have their hands full managing a range of ambitious young sailors.

The year's final events certainly showed that the club Topper class is back to full health, with no less than five sailors completing the four races series of the Malahide Traveller Series inside the top 10. The club also has four sailors selected in the Irish Sailing national squad, making it the ideal base for the squad training sessions when in Dun Laoghaire.

Optimist rankings are out!

The final Optimist ranking event was in September, and we are now waiting to meet nationally one last time in 2023 with the National Training Week and Halloween regatta.

In the meantime, the national rankings came out with a strong show by our younger sailors. We had three very successful progressions from regatta racing into the main fleet during the season with encouraging results. The more seasoned sailors who started in the main fleets had a strong season, as the club placed six out of nine sailors in the top 10. In Juniors, all four sailors who started the season in the main fleet secured the top 10 nationally. In seniors, Gemma Brady was the top lady in third overall. Louise Hanley, who just transferred into the Topper, was 10th.

Gemma has strong ambitions for the next few months before making her transition, and it started at the weekend, taking a strong 5th place at the UK end-of-season.

Malahide fun!

For the second year in a row, a few sailors used the Malahide Dinghy regatta to get a bit of sailing whilst Dun Laoghaire was tied up with the lift out.

Damien Dion took third place at the Kona Nationals in MalahideDamien Dion took third place at the Kona Nationals in Malahide

The sailors were welcomed by winter sunshine and light air. If the first race ended up being a drifter, the second one was lovely in 5-6 kts from the East.

Windsurfer Tryout fun for National Yacht Club sailors in Malahide Windsurfer Tryout fun for National Yacht Club sailors in Malahide 

The club entered sailors in the Optimist, RS Feva, Mirror and the Kona (windsurfing) classes and secured three podium finishes with Alex Butcher 2nd in the Optimist, Aurele Dion and Ben Chaix 2nd in the PY (sailing a Mirror) and Damien Dion 3rd in the Kona.

Junior podium places for the National Yacht Club's (from left to right) Ben Chaix, Alex Butcher and Aurele DionJunior podium places for the National Yacht Club's (from left to right) Ben Chaix, Alex Butcher and Aurele Dion

The day's highlight was probably all the kids messing and swapping boats between races one and two, with Felix Dion's Kona becoming the "must-do" tryout.

Flying 15 and SB20 in Lough Derg

Another way to use the lift-out weekend effectively was to travel to Dromineer to compete at the Freshwater One Design Keelboat Regatta. One NYC SB20 and five Flying Fifteens journeyed west to enjoy Lough Derg YC hospitality. Alan Green and Keith Poole were just a point shy of second and settled with third overall in the FF15 fleet.

All Ireland win!

As reported earlier by Afloat, NYC Finn Lynch completed a season rich in emotions by taking the All-Ireland Trophy 2023 in Foynes.

The club has three juniors ready to follow in his footsteps in Schull next weekend at the Junior All Ireland event. Gemma Brady (Optimist) crewed by Hannah Walsh, Ben O'Shaughnessy (29er) with his usual crew, Ethan Spain and Lucia Cullen (29er) with her usual crew, Alanna Twomey.

29er tryout: Oct 29th

The club has set up a 29er tryout day The NYC has set up a 29er tryout day

The club has set up a 29er tryout day (weather permitting) on Sunday, the 29th of October, alongside the club's regular training.

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The winter lift-out of sailing cruisers was completed in Dun Laoghaire Harbour on Saturday, October 14th.

About sixty yachts and cruisers were hauled out of the water in chilly but otherwise, near-perfect weather conditions as the 2023 summer season ended at Ireland's biggest boating centre.

The Royal St. George YC and neighbouring National Yacht Club at the East Pier, lifted approximately 30 cruisers apiece using a mobile crane on their decks.

The boats will overwinter on the hardstanding at the waterfront clubhouses, where space is at a premium with winter sailing series for dinghies and cruisers starting next month.

The winter DBSC Turkey Shoot Series, which attracts over 70 boats, mainly from the town marina, is scheduled to start on Sunday, Nov 5th, and the DMYC Dinghy Frostbite Series will run in-harbour racing until March. It already has buoyant entries for its November 6th first race.

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Liam Shanahan Senr was widely known in the sailing community as a determined offshore racing and cruising owner-skipper and a pillar of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, both as a longtime Club Trustee and a racing and sea-going achiever. He and his family regularly added to the club’s annual haul of significant trophies won locally, nationally and internationally. And he did this through sailing skills started while working abroad, and then honed in Dublin Bay racing, ISORA competition, and offshore majors such as the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle and Round Ireland races.

He was the personification of success achieved through shrewd career choices, a willingness to travel to further his work objectives, an ability to work very hard indeed, and a determination that - in time - he and his growing family’s remarkable life would be firmly Ireland-centric.

He was representative of the best of modern Ireland, as he was of that generation of specialised qualifications which had to accept that a period working internationally – and working with exceptional concentration wherever he found himself with a project in hand – would be required in order to fulfil his long-term ambition of living comfortably beside Dublin Bay in a permanent family home and running his own high-powered international business from a South Dublin office complex.

A SENSE OF SOMEONE SPECIAL

Consequently, for those of us who didn’t get to know him until he started to make his mark on the ISORA scene in the 1970s, there was inevitably a slight sense of the lone wolf about Liam. It was a very positive thing, but there was this inescapable awareness of a canny and determined eye on the distant horizon, and a willingness to take unorthodox action.

Liam Shanahan reflecting on a life well lived. His achievements were very typical of success in modern Ireland. Photo: Shanahan familyLiam Shanahan reflecting on a life well lived. His achievements were very typical of success in modern Ireland. Photo: Shanahan family

Thus, in one Round Ireland race, he memorably broke away from a closely competing group off the Antrim coast, and sailed what seemed to be a slower course to the southwest while the rest of us stayed in a sou’easter on the direct line for the next turning mark at Mew Island. And sure enough, a new brisker sou’wester came slowly, seemingly out of nowhere, and Liam was well in it and gone almost an hour before anyone else felt its benefits - we didn’t see him again until Wicklow Harbour.

Yet once the business of racing was done, he could emerge – perhaps from some global business telephone communication session – and be the life and soul of the party, leavened with a wicked sense of humour as we memorably discovered after the 1995 Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race, before the official celebrations had swung into action.

DEATH OF FATHER WHEN HE WAS AGED FOUR

This left us in no doubt that Liam Shanahan operated successfully at several levels, some of them unknown to most people. Fundamental to it all was his devotion to family. But it was equally clear that supporting every level of his complex character profile was a personal core of the toughest steel. We get an insight into one of the reasons for this with the knowledge that his own father died in 1934, when he was just four. Yet his widowed mother was able to put him through university thanks to his own willingness to work at any summer job that came along in the tough environment of Dublin docks.

Today, working to help support your way through college is a familiar rite of passage. But in the closed world of 1940s-1950s Dublin, it tended to set you apart. However, in Liam Shanahan’s special case, he had the personality and zest for life to enjoy university life with the same ease as those who were feather-bedding their way through college.

Family, friends, and sailing in Dublin Bay – all something to be achieved and cherished. Liam Shanahan in his 90s aboard the Oyster 625 Ruth II. Photo: Liam Shanahan JnrFamily, friends, and sailing in Dublin Bay – all something to be achieved and cherished. Liam Shanahan in his 90s aboard the Oyster 625 Ruth II. Photo: Liam Shanahan Jnr

When such an interesting man has reached the age of 93 at the time he goes from among us, there is so much to his very fulfilled life that we can only really begin to realise just how remarkable he was through insights from his family. Afloat.ie is grateful to his sons Liam Jnr and Jack for these memories about someone who made a local, national and international impact in every activity with which he became involved.

LIAM SHANAHAN JNR (SAILOR OF THE YEAR 2015) REMEMBERS HIS FATHER

“He was born In Dublin on 31 August 1930 and educated at O’Connell’s School (Christian Brothers), which he disliked intensely. But the climate of Third Level education suited him well, and he revelled in the degree course in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering at University College Dublin, which he loved completely.

However, it was more the fun bit of college rather than the academic side that attracted him, although there’s no doubt he was smart with his studies. His first contact with the sea probably came with his UCD holiday jobs, as he faced the special challenge of working as a summer dockhand in Dublin Port. In that notably tough environment, he stood his ground strongly enough to have the friendly nickname of “Silver”, as in Long John Silver of the novel Treasure Island, for he was conspicuously tall and skinny.

The family’s first sailing boat was a Penguin Dinghy in New Jersey in the late 1960s, when Liam was working with GE in New YorkThe family’s first sailing boat was a Penguin Dinghy in New Jersey in the late 1960s, when Liam was working with GE in New York

He was always interested in boating – and getting out on the sea. He told us that when younger and working as an electrical engineer in Peru, he used to dawn-fish, just beyond the Pacific breakers off Lima , and when living in Venezuela, night-fish with the locals on Lake Maracaibo .

START WITH ESB

Before these jobs abroad, my father had initially worked at the nation’s Electricity Supply Board after graduating from UCD with his degree in Mech/Elec Engineering. But while a secure semi-government ESB position would have been the height of many of his contemporaries’ dreams, my father was one of those who realised that the Ireland of the 1950s was a place of small horizons, low industrial innovation and activity, and even lower salaries when a salaried job could be secured at all.

He left Ireland to work for General Electric in the Unites States, with his first international assignment for the company being to the desert in Saudi Arabia, living in a tent among the Bedouins as a young commissioning engineer on a major power plant GE had been contracted to install.

PERIPATETIC EARLY MARRIED LIFE

He maintained the closest links with Ireland, and with the Saudi project successfully completed, on his way back to the US he arranged to meet my mother Emir in Amsterdam, where they got engaged. She was working as a trainee nurse at the time, in the Richmond Hospital in Dublin. After their marriage, when he was working with General Electric in the US, my parent’s first home was in Schenectady in New York State, and the next in New York City.

Their first posting overseas as a young couple (my mother was just 21) was to post-war Japan, where GE were deeply involved in rebuilding the power generation infrastructure. When my mother became pregnant, she flew to Ireland to have the first of their children, as at that time, medical care in Japan was still rudimentary. She holds a certificate from Air France for being one of the first women to fly the newly opened route over the North Pole from Japan to Europe.

JAPAN TO SOUTH AMERICA

Once their Japanese assignment was over, they went on to live in Venezuela, Colombia (where three further children were born), then in Peru and Trinidad before heading back to the US with my father working in Manhattan, and the family living in the suburbs at Ridgewood, New Jersey, where the last and final child Jack was born.

When we lived in New Jersey, my father was introduced to sailing by Dave Jones, his former boss in South America. My father crewed for Dave on his Olympic Star on Saturday club racing, and at the occasional local championship event. Dave was an old school lake-sailor, and a very authoritarian skipper…….my father learned well.

THE FIRST FAMILY BOAT

Our first Shanahan family boat in New Jersey was a dinghy - a una-rigged Penguin - sailed always with some combination of the family as crew. These sailing days in the Penguin quickly became only occasional outings, as my father was by now extremely busy at work, and for a while sailing fell into the background . He would have been 40 years old at the time, and my mother around 33.

In 1972, my father relocated from the US to Ireland with GE, which fitted precisely with his longterm plan of having his own Ireland-based international consultancy and engineering project management company. So though he continued to travel extensively around the world, it was now from an Irish base, and he intended to keep it that way.

MERMAID IN IRELAND WAS HECTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCE

His first boat in Ireland was a 17ft Mermaid, which he bought after a rapid and decisive half hour research chat in the bar of the National Yacht Club with the vendor, the late Ronnie Finlay Mulligan. She was Nicola – sail number 120. It was wild sailing with him in those days – this was in the time when the courses were frequently down through Dalkey Sound and back, with all which that entailed.

Back in Ireland, and starting to get to grips with sailing in the early 1970s with Nicola of the Mermaid Class in the foreground, and learning fast. Photo: Shanahan familyBack in Ireland, and starting to get to grips with sailing in the early 1970s with Nicola of the Mermaid Class in the foreground, and learning fast. Photo: Shanahan family

It was huge fun, but sometimes very terrifying for his young crew – we didn’t really know what we were doing. He entered our first regatta a few short weeks after he bought the boat - the Mermaid Nationals in Skerries. The wind howled as I remember, and no one else was flying spinnakers. But that didn’t matter, my father figured we had to find out what would happen, and there was only one way to do it. That was my first (but not last ) completely wild sea sleigh ride with him, and it seemed to take us forever to figure out how to get the thing down, but we lived to sail again and again.

OFFSHORE RACING TAKES CENTRE STAGE

After several years racing the Mermaid and attending most of the events around the country, he purchased a new Ron Holland-designed Shamrock Half Tonner he named Emircedes from South Coast Boatyard in Cork in 1979. This was an IOR-rated boat, and together with similarly-sized boats such as Brendan Briscoe’s Avanti, Peter Cullen’s Eliminator, Jim Poole’s Feanor, Tony Farrell's Crystal Clear and Paddy Kirwan’s Boomerang, our horizons rapidly broadened, and we raced Dublin Bay, ISORA, and campaigns such as the Round Ireland and the Fastnet.

Hectic Half Ton days, inshore and off. Brendan Briscoe’s Club Shamrock Avanti was a frequent contender with the Shanahan family’s sister-ship Emircedes. Photo: Shanahan familyHectic Half Ton days, inshore and off. Brendan Briscoe’s Club Shamrock Avanti was a frequent contender with the Shanahan family’s sister-ship Emircedes. Photo: Shanahan family

He always had a young family-oriented crew – my sister Sarah was the youngest participant in the completely wild 1982 Round Ireland race at the time – that year, it seemed to dominated by very cold near-gale nor’easters. Because my father was still travelling so much for work, he insisted that the boat be sailed with the young crew stepping up to the mark if needs be in his absence, and as a result we all learned the offshore game at an early age.

The Superstar – the all-conquering db2s Lightning. Photo: Shanahan familyThe Superstar – the all-conquering db2s Lightning. Photo: Shanahan family

LIGHTNING LIVES UP TO HER NAME

His appetite whetted for the hottest competition, he sold Emircedes to the Horgan family - with whom the young Peter Ryan was to find much of his offshore racing experience - and bought Lightning, the already success-laden DB2s, from Leslie Kertez. He made her even more successful in ISORA and the Round Ireland races especially, coming second overall to Michael Boyd’s J/35 Big Ears in the Ireland circuit in 1986, and then first in 1988.

“We did it!” – Liam and his Round Ireland crew in Wicklow immediately after winning the 1988 Round Ireland Race (left to right) Tom Carroll, John O'Connor, Liam Shanahan Snr, Adam Winkelmann, Michael Horgan Jnr and Johnny Treanor“We did it!” – Liam and his Round Ireland crew in Wicklow immediately after winning the 1988 Round Ireland Race (left to right) Tom Carroll, John O'Connor, Liam Shanahan Snr, Adam Winkelmann, Michael Horgan Jnr and Johnny Treanor

This was a true peak of achievement that was much celebrated, particularly in the National Yacht Club. So having achieved it, he began to think in terms of having a cruiser-racer which could really cruise as well as turning in an acceptable offshore racing performance, and reached this target with the acquisition of the Sigma 41 Sarah Mercedes in 1990.

With this comfortable bigger boat, he could be reasonably competitive in the Round Ireland race, and could also be an enthusiastic supporter of the National YC’s biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race after it was inaugurated in 1993. But by Dingle Race’s positioning of the boat in West Kerry, he could then renew his profound pleasure in cruising comfortably along the Irish coast in detail.

A more formal reception for the winning Round Ireland crew of 1988 back to the National YC, with Liam at centre and Malachy Muldoon, Aidan Tarbett, John O'Connor, Cormac Kelly, Simon Digby, Johnny Treanor, Aidan Tarbett, Adam Winkelmann and Brian BarryA more formal reception for the winning Round Ireland crew of 1988 back to the National YC, with Liam at centre and Malachy Muldoon, Aidan Tarbett, John O'Connor, Cormac Kelly, Simon Digby, Johnny Treanor, Aidan Tarbett, Adam Winkelmann and Brian Barry

TOTAL CRUISING ORIENTATION

Then, having achieved all his racing goals, he decided to take a more sedate approach to sailing, purchasing a Beneteau 34 that he sailed along the Intra Coastal waterway in the US and through the Bahamas for a few years. This was followed by a Dun Laoghaire-based Beneteau 47, which he cruised extensively around the coasts of Ireland and France. And in his later years, he down-sized with a Beneteau 38 in which he enjoyed getting out on the bay, even doing the odd race in DBSC White Sails division.

A little bit of white sail racing in his 80s with the DBSC fleet.A little bit of white sail racing in his 80s with the DBSC fleet.

The last few times we sailed together were on my own boat Ruth II, an Oyster 625. In 2018, and then again in 2021 and now with him into his 90s, he sailed with me from Dun Laoghaire to Kinsale and Greystones to Dunmore East and up to Waterford – these were the first legs of two Atlantic crossings in that boat, and he very much enjoyed being at the centre of it all.

FAMILY’S LEGACY OF A LOVE OF SAILING

My father has left us an enduring and hugely important sailing legacy. All of his adult children and grandchildren have taken his early beginnings in the Penguin dinghy in 1971 through to a deep and extensively active involvement in many aspects of the sport. His grandson Max, his daughter Sarah’s son, is a former British and Irish Optimist champion who lives and works in London, and as I write this weekend, he is sailing as tactician in the US for a boat out of the New York Yacht Club.

His other grandchildren have sailed extensively inshore and offshore on my own family’s J109 Ruth, all have worked as sailing instructors in Ireland and the US, and they have sailed across oceans on Ruth II.

His eldest son Paddy sails with his family in Dublin and cruises West Cork extensively, while his youngest son Jack has a boat in Dun Laoghaire, and is a member of the Dun Laoghaire RNLI. Finally, his eldest grandson Ben has recently bought a half share in venerable (1984 ) Sigma 31 which he keeps in the Beaulieu river in the Solent, and will enter in her first two-handed race next week.

Sailing was his greatest gift to us all”.

Liam Shanahan 8/10/23

JACK SHANAHAN’S RECOLLECTIONS

“Dad Loved Sailing,

He loved the science behind how the sails worked the mechanics of how a boat worked, but most of all, he loved the natural beauty of the sea, and the perspective it gave you of the land beside it.

Having spent most of his life travelling to distant corners of the world for work, there was nothing he loved more than coming home and going for a sail in Dublin Bay with his family and friends.

Seeking to develop a hobby that he could enjoy together with his family, Dad wandered into the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, looking to buy a boat. After friendly pints with someone who convinced him they had the perfect boat for sailing AND fishing, he bought “Nicola”, a Dublin Bay Mermaid. So began the obsession with the sea, and catching the guy in front.

 While Dublin Bay was Liam Shanahan’s very special place, it was West Cork (above) which mist strongly drew him in when he went cruising While Dublin Bay was Liam Shanahan’s very special place, it was West Cork (above) which most strongly drew him in when he went cruising

WEST CORK THE HAPPY PLACE

The most valuable aspect of sailing for Dad was the freedom, that disconnection from the land and its hustle and bustle. A favourite family holiday was to head down to West Cork and cruise along from village to village, often in the company of other boats from Dun Laoghaire, sailing from regatta to regatta. Dad loved the thrill of a race together with the fun of after parties and sing-songs on boats. Above all, he particularly liked cruising along the coast of West Cork, and had a vast knowledge of all the landmarks and history behind them.

INTRODUCING OTHERS TO SAILING

A constant element of sailing with Dad was having people new to sailing on board. He loved teaching people how and why the sails worked, how to read a chart, what the nautical terms were and why they are used. He took pleasure in demystifying sailing and enjoyed opening the horizons for the many people who took up sailing after a spell with Dad.

That all makes him sound Like the Mary Poppins of sailing. Though it is all true, he was also very much the Captain of the boat, particularly when racing. Many stories that people have retold about sailing with Dad are often laced with strong language, hilarity and panic! His overriding priority was safety at sea, and if he felt someone was putting themselves or the boat in danger, he would correct the situation quickly and firmly with words he probably picked up working on the docks in his youth.

In racing, Dad was super competitive, he raced to win every time he went out. He admired his competitors, preferably from in front of them. In particular, Dad favoured the amateur racer, in the Round Ireland races of ’86 and ’88, he was especially pleased that it was amateur boats and crews that had won ahead of high-end professional crews on sponsored boats. And the Dublin to Dingle race became a favourite of his, as it encapsulated everything he loved, amateur racers and a trip along the Irish coast to Kerry.

When it came to the promotion of the sport as a whole, Dad became very involved in his own club and area, the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Over his time there, he and his fellow members pushed for greater inclusion of Junior sailors with improved facilities and a more open, family-friendly direction in general.

PROMOTING AND PRESERVING DUBLIN BAY AND DUN LAOGHAIRE

Greater inclusion in sailing and boating as a whole was something he felt very strongly about, he believed that the sea, in particular Dublin Bay, should be open and accessible for anyone wishing to enjoy it and that the bay was something that needed to be protected from over-development and conserved as a natural resource for all to enjoy.

When he could no longer sail himself, Dad took immense pleasure in following the adventures of his children and grandchildren in their sailing exploits far and wide. Some were long cruising trips, some were hard-fought races, but either way, they all had one thing in common: his family enjoying a sport and a hobby that had something for everyone and brought them all together.”

Jack Shanahan 7/10/23

A FAMILY CENTRAL TO IRISH SAILING

Liam Shanahan Senr became the firm yet kindly and inspirational patriarch of a family which typifies all that is best in Irish sailing. Yet another peak of Shanahan achievement was reached in 2015 when his son Liam Jnr and the largely-family-sailed J/109 Ruth were overall winners in the very hotly-contested Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, an achievement which – when combined with his other success in that year, made him “Sailor of the Year” for 2015.

Liam Shanahan Jnr on helm with shipmate Kevin Daly aboard the J/109 Ruth in the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, with the finish and first place in sight, and “Sailor of the Year 2015” on the horizon.Liam Shanahan Jnr on helm with shipmate Kevin Daly aboard the J/109 Ruth in the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, with the finish and first place in sight, and “Sailor of the Year 2015” on the horizon.

At the same time, Liam Senr was ever more determined in his efforts on behalf of the preservation of Dublin Bay and Dun Laoghaire Harbour. His appreciation of this unique city resource was heightened by how much it had meant to him – on his returns from work abroad - to be able to go sailing with family and friends in an easily-accessed, very attractive and relatively unspoilt place within convenient distance of home.

 Ninety years of fascination with boats and sailing aboard the Oyster 625 Ruth in Dunmore East in 2021. Photo: Liam Shanahan Jnr Ninety years of fascination with boats and sailing aboard the Oyster 625 Ruth in Dunmore East in 2021. Photo: Liam Shanahan Jnr

REMEMBERING LIAM SHANAHAN WITH THE PRESERVATION OF DUBLIN BAY AND DUN LAOGHAIRE HARBOUR

While the legacy of his family’s involvement in sailing continues stronger than ever, we could also best remember this remarkable man by ensuring the proper conservation of the sailing waters and harbour environment, which meant so much to him. Meanwhile, our heartfelt condolences are with his extended family and his very many shipmates and friends at home and abroad.

WMN

“And all I ask is a Tall Ship……” Liam in recent years in his “very special place”, sailing in Dublin Bay with Dun Laoghaire harbour astern and a very appropriate scene-stealer in Ruth II’s wake. Photo: Liam Shanahan Jnr“And all I ask is a Tall Ship……” Liam in recent years in his “very special place”, sailing in Dublin Bay with Dun Laoghaire harbour astern and a very appropriate scene-stealer in Ruth II’s wake. Photo: Liam Shanahan Jnr

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Ireland & La Solitaire du Figaro

The Solitaire du Figaro, was originally called the course de l’Aurore until 1980, was created in 1970 by Jean-Louis Guillemard and Jean-Michel Barrault.

Half a decade later, the race has created some of France's top offshore sailors, and it celebrated its 50th anniversary with a new boat equipped with foils and almost 50 skippers Including novices, aficionados and six former winners.

The solo multi-stage offshore sailing race is one of the most cherished races in French sailing and one that has had Irish interest stretching back over 20 years due to the number of Irish stopovers, usually the only foreign leg of the French race.

What Irish ports have hosted The Solitaire du Figaro?

The race has previously called to Ireland to the following ports; Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

What Irish sailors have raced The Solitaire du Figaro?

So far there have been seven Irish skippers to participate in La Solitaire du Figaro. 

In 1997, County Kerry's Damian Foxall first tackled the Figaro from Ireland. His win in the Rookie division in DHL gave him the budget to compete again the following year with Barlo Plastics where he won the final leg of the race from Gijon to Concarneau. That same year a second Irish sailor Marcus Hutchinson sailing Bergamotte completed the course in 26th place and third Rookie.

In 2000, Hutchinson of Howth Yacht Club completed the course again with IMPACT, again finishing in the twenties.

In 2006, Paul O’Riain became the third Irish skipper to complete the course.

In 2013, Royal Cork's David Kenefick raised the bar by becoming a top rookie sailor in the race. 

In 2018, for the first time, Ireland had two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who joined the rookie ranks and kept the Irish tricolour flying high in France. Mulloy became the first Irish female to take on the race.

Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa competed for his third year in 2020 after a 25th place finish in 2019. Dolan sailed a remarkably consistent series in 2020 and took fifth overall, the best finish by a non-French skipper since 1997 when Switzerland’s Dominique Wavre finished runner up. Dolan wins the VIVI Trophy.

Dolan finished 10th on the first stage, 11th on the second and seventh into Saint Nazaire at the end of the third stage. Stage four was abandoned due to lack of wind. 

Also in 2020, Dun Laoghaire’s Kenneth Rumball became the eleventh Irish sailor to sail the Figaro.

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

2023 La Solitaire du Figaro Course

Stage #1 Caen – Kinsale : 610 nautical miles
Departure August 27 (expected arrival August 30)

Stage #2 Kinsale – Baie de Morlaix : 630 nautical miles
Departure September 3 (expected arrival September 6)

Stage #3 Baie de Morlaix – Piriac-sur-Mer : 620 nautical miles
Departure September 10 (expected arrival September 13)

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