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The Clyde Cruising Club’s Scottish Series has long been a happy hunting ground for Irish boats and crews writes W M Nixon. We remember with particular fondness the great days of the Royal Cork YC’s Corby 36 Antix, with which the O’Leary family seemed to be in constant motion from one victory to another in successive locations, and the early-season Scottish action in Loch Fyne was always in a key position on their agenda.

More recently we’ve seen Rob McConnell and his team from Dunmore East pull off the top trophy with his A35 Fool’s Gold, and then last year Pat Kelly and his mostly family crew, sailing for Howth and Rush, were Tops of the Top in Scotland with the J/109 Storm.

But this year has seen it all move onto a new plane for Ireland, with a high level of success which is both across the board, and in-depth for good measure. For although it provides racing from the characterful port of Tarbert for 11 classes, the prime selling point of the event is the Scottish IRC Championship, yet just four of those classes come within the prestigious IRC remit.

sunny sunday2Loch Fyne at its best – Sunday provided glorious racing in winds which touched 30 knots – El Gran Senor (Jonathan Anderson) chasing Stuart Ram’s Corby 37 Aurora in Class 1. Photo: Marc Turner

Yet when racing wrapped up on Monday, all four of those elite classes were won by boats from Ireland. Not only that, but in two of those classes, the runners-up were Irish, and in the case of the hottest IRC class of all, the RC35s (aka Class 2) sponsored by gourmet food specialist Makars Mash, Irish boats simply dominated the frame.

As already reported in Afloat.ie, the RC35 winner, and overall winner too, was Andrew Craig’s J/109 Chimaera (Royal Irish YC). The fact that they took it by a whopping eight points is why they got the big one as a bonus, and it’s another feather in the cap of the J/109 Class, of which Andrew Craig is Dublin Bay Captain.

Seasoned sailor Brian Mathews was in Chimaera’s crew-of-all-the-talents (including Maurice “The Prof”) for this contest, and he waxes lyrical about how the 2004-conceived J/109 continues to give excellent value, particularly for Dublin Bay sailors.

“She’s a very forgiving boat” he enthuses, “with an excellent all-round performance and no real vices. Unlike some rock star boats, she’s not utterly outstanding on any one particular point of sailing. Yet she’s right there all across the board, and will always turn in a good average speed when compared with boats of similar size. As for her virtues when she’s raced in a One-Design situation, they’re all accentuated – we’ll be getting value out of the J/109s on Dublin Bay for a long time, they’re the Dublin Bay 24s of our time”.

chimaera crew prize giving3Job well done. Andrew Craig (third left) with his jubilant crew in Tarbert on Monday, they are (front row left to right) Andrew Abbott, John White, Andrew Craig, Nevan Powell, Eddie O’Rahilly and Maurice “The Prof” O’Connell, back row Brian Mathews and Dave Cotter, missing is Andrew’s son Nick who’d had to catch a plane to London. Photo: Marc Turner

chimaera crew prize giving3aIt’s not quite Monaco Grand Prix weather, but Chimaera’s crew still give it a lash with the champagne-cracking in Tarbert

One of the earliest advocates of the J/109 in Dublin Bay was John Hall of the National Yacht Club, whose dark blue Something Else is one of the class’s most senior members. Her skipper has the zest for sport to match – John Hall is 82 this year, and for something like forty of those years he has been a strong supporter of the Scottish Series.

So when Something Else went north yet again in May 2019, it was with three generations of the Hall family on board – John, his son and co-owner Brian, and grandson Jack – together with a totally Corinthian crew, and on Monday evening they were acclaimed as fourth overall in this very hot RC35 Class, with a healthy scoreline of 4, 3, 2, 8, 5 and 3, and as popular regulars they got the Boat of the Day award too.

john jack brian hall4The three generations of the Hall family about to depart the National YC for Scotland with their J/109 Something Else to continue 40 years of involvement with the Scottish Series are (left to right) John Hall, his grandson Jack, and son Brian. Photo: Rebecca Johnson
Something else 2682The Hall family’s Something Else is one of the Dublin Bay J/109 fleet’s most senior members

animal somethingelse6RC35 Class 2018 Champion Animal (First 36.7, Debby Aitken) neck and neck with the Hall family’s J/109 Something Else (NYC) at the 2019 Scottish Series. Photo: Marc Turner

The winner Chimaera showed the sort of steady series consistency advocated by yacht racing coaches, with a score lineup of 2, 1, 4, 3, 2 and 2. But in second place the Ker 32 Hijacker – a sister-ship of Eamonn Crosbie’s Round Ireland winning Voodoo Chile – had a lineup of highs and lows which may have had something to do with her being at the lowest size limit of the RC35 class, yet despite her smaller size she had a punitive rating well above the J/109s.

Everything about Hijacker is interesting, as her owners Stuart Cranston and J Buchanan list Down Cruising Club as their home base. DCC is that wonderful former lightship club HQ hidden away in the heart of Strangford Lough - perfect for total cruising folk perhaps, but not generally associated with high end IRC racing.

hijacker spinnaker7Will she, won’t she…..? The Ker 32 Hijacker from Down Cruising Club in Strangford Lough always had to find some extra performance as she is one of the highest-rated boats in the RC35 Class. Photo: Marc Turner
To add to the mix, they had the formidable Mark Mansfield of Cork on board, and it started brilliantly with a win on the Friday morning, but then a 9th and a 7th in Friday’s two other races were a wake-up call.

So they went out and won in Saturday’s only race, and got a third and first in Sunday’s two races. But as racing simply petered out in calm on Monday in that Loch Fyne style we all love so well, Hijacker had to be content with a scoreline of 1,9,7,1,3,1 which looked spectacular, but simply couldn’t match Chimaera’s Steady Eddy showing.

That said, very few boats came away from Tarbert with three good race wins, and that for the smallest boat in the class. As it was, it was good enough to keep them ahead of defending champion Pat Kelly in Storm by 2 points, the final RC35 scorecard being 1st: Chimaera (Andrew Craig RIYC) 14 points, 2nd: Hijacker (S. Cranston & J Buchanan DCC) 22pts; 3rd Storm (P Kelly, HYC/RSC) 24pts; 4th Something Else (J & B Hall, NYC) 25pts.

fireworks over tarbert8The pace in Tarbert is as hectic ashore as afloat – Fireworks Night was just one of the entertainments, Photo: Marc Turner

The 2018 RC35 champion, Debbie Aitken’s First 36.7 Animal from the Clyde, may already have won the Kip Regatta RC35 contest earlier in May ahead of Storm, but in Tarbert the Animal had to be content with 7th overall. Up at the front of the class meanwhile, with a clear lead margin of eight points, Chimaera’s crew knew they were heading back into Tarbert for the final time in 2019 on Monday with every likelihood of being the Top of the Tops, so they’d Luke Kelly blasting out “Take Her Up to Monto” on the cockpit speakers at the upper limit of the dial as they came into port, and the trophies collected, they then zapped back over the 154 miles from Tarbert home to Dublin in businesslike style.

Inevitably we focus on the RC35 Class at the Scottish Series, as it’s a good idea whose time has definitely come, with a clearly-visioned Class Association that maximises sporting return for time afloat. The J/109s do the same in Dublin Bay, and with eight classic Half Tonners now in action in Ireland, they’re also working the same way. But as the hyper-successful Irish GP 14 Class Association shows year after year, it doesn’t happen by magic – you’ll only get as much out of it as you put into it in the first place.

Harmony lambay9Harmony at home – Jonny Swann’s successful classic Half Tonner Harmony shares the sea with some vintage Howth 17s during the annual Lambay Race. In Scotland this week, she won Class 3 in convincing style. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Thus there were just two Irish Half Tonners in Scotland, both from Howth in the form of Jonny Swann’s Harmony (runner-up to Dave Cullen’s Half Ton Classic World Champion Checkmate XV in Belgium last year) and Darren & Michael Wright’s new mount Mata (formerly Trastada).

Admittedly they did get first and second overall in Class 3 with Harmony on a scoreline of 1,4,2,1,1,2 to put her 6 points ahead of Mata on 2,1, Dsq, 3,2,1, but a few more of these attractive boats would have livened it up no end. However, there’s an expectation of eight Half Tonners in the three day Frank Keane BMW & Mini ICRA Nats at the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire starting next Friday, so for the moment we’ll leave it that although only two Half Tonners went to Scotland, they simply couldn’t have done better…..

Mata formerly Trastada10Darren & Michael Wright’s classic Andrieu-designed Half Tonner Mata (formerly Trastada) made it a double for the Howth Half Tonners in Class 3 in Scotland. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien
An extra cherry on top of the cream-covered Irish IRC success cake in Scotland came among the biggies in Class 1, where Jay Colville’s First 40 Forty Licks from East Down YC in Strangford Lough pulled of quite a coup by winning overall from the home favourite, Jonathan Anderson’s J122E El Gran Senor. There were just two points in it at the end, but the win was well earned by an owner-skipper who is not only one of the keenest in Ireland – there are very few major regattas where Forty Licks hasn’t been in the thick of it towards the front of the fleet – and her skipper gives as he takes, as he serves as Deputy Chair of Sport NI.

forty licks11Jay Colville’s Forty Licks, a First 40 from East Down YC in Strangford Lough, is one of Ireland’s most regular contenders, and won Class 1 in Scotland Photo: VDLR
Way down the size scale, Class 4 in Scotland was the smallest boats using IRC, and once again the winning trophy came back southwest across the North Channel, this time aboard Rory Fekkes’ impressively all-black super-tuned vintage Beneteau Quarter Tonner F’n Gr8 from Carrickfergus SC. They’d a bit of a sneeze in the first race to take third, but after that it was straight bullets all the way.

Yet all the Irish IRC successes were definitely not a flash in the pan, but were solidly based on proven performance to give 2019’s Irish IRC season a rocket-propelled start. Which is just as well, as the fulfilling of the programme for the next six weeks is going to require some people being in at least three places at the same time, and doing it all at the speed of light in order to emerge intact at the end of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta on July 14th.

fekkes boat12Black, black, black……Rory Fekkes souped-up vintage Beneteau Quarter Tonner F’n Gr8 from Carrickfergus is as distinctive as they come, but she’s mighty fast and well-sailed with it, and added the Class 4 win in Scotland to her many previous successes
It’s Cresta Run logistics, and in order to accommodate it, in the ISORA scene they’re taking a programme break to allow their boats time to do both the Frank Keane BMW & Mini ICRA Nats next weekend, and the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race on Wednesday, June 12th. But here too the first set of ISORA results just add to the J/109 mystique, as the Pwllheli flyer Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox) currently leads the points table, and now their hat is in the ring for the dash to Dingle as well.

So although we’re into a new set of parameters with the upcoming ICRA Nats and the D2D, at the heart of both fleets the J/109s will still be the boats to beat.

Published in Scottish Waters
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ICRA has announced a sponsor for its forthcoming national championships at the Royal St George Yacht Club running from June 6-9 on Dublin Bay.

Frank Keane BMW & Mini will be the title sponsor for the cruiser championships that is on course to field a fleet of 100 boats drawn from all four provinces.

Event Chairman Ian Simington and ICRA Commodore, Richard Colwell commented “we are honoured to partner with such a prestigious sponsor and brands. Frank Keane has supported sailing for many years and it is fitting that such huge brands team up with this major event. Whilst the focus is on racing, shoreside there will be much to entertain all participants, friends and family and the Royal St George Yacht Club has a highly inviting social programme lined up for all.

Frank Keane said "We feel very proud to be sponsoring the 2019 ICRA National Championships. It strengthens a well-established association between Frank Keane BMW and the Royal St. George Yacht Club since the opening of our Blackrock branch in 2010".

Published in ICRA
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As Afloat previously reported Irish boats are expected to perform well in this weekend's Scottish Series on Loch Fyne. Now armed with a decidedly mixed weather forecast, Afloat takes another a closer look at the runners and riders and predicts some winners

Class 0 - El Gran Señor to Nick it?

Spirit of Jacana from Northern Ireland took a good win last year from Courier Recommende with Royal Cork yacht Jump Juice Third. This year Courier or Jump are not there so Spirit of Jacana will have to battle against Aurora and El Gran Señor from Last year plus Forty Licks from County Down. Forty Licks will be consistent as will El Gran Señor. If the breeze is up, Spirit of Jacana will romp around the course and be very likely to win, but you can expect John Anderson on El Gran Señor to nick it if conditions are otherwise. He has shown some great pace in his J122e last year at Cork Week and he knows the Lough well. Numbers are down from 9 to 6 in this class, this year.

Animal Scottish seriesAnimal, the Beneteau 36.7 Photo: Marc Turner

RC 35 Class - Animal is the One to Watch

Likely the strongest fleet again this year. Pat Kelly's Storm took the Class and overall Scottish Series trophy last year for winning this class, but it went right down to the last race with Something else from DL, who pushed them very hard.

Something else is back, from Dun Laoghaire, along with Andrew Craig's Chimera (with pro-Maurice O'Connell from North Sails aboard), both J109s. Expect it not to be an all J109 affair though. Animal, the Beneteau 36.7 took the Honours a fortnight ago in the Kip Regatta from Storm and she is a potent performer, especially in light winds.

There are a number of other competitive entries in this 14 boat fleet, all very much around the same rating, including Stuart Cranston's Ker 32 Highjacker from Strangford Lough, with pro-Mark Mansfield from UK Sailmakers, calling tactics. This boat previously competed for Ireland in the 2006 Commodores Cup, under the name Checkmate, She is a sistership on the Ker 32 Voodoo Chile. She will favour the stronger conditions but is also expected to hang on in the lighter breeze. This will be a tightly contested fleet, with any one of the above boats likely taking the spoils, but Animal is likely the one to watch with her 2019 win at Kip regatta already under her belt.

IRC Class 3 - 'F'n Gr8', Mata or Harmony?

14 entries also in this one with likely 4 or 5 potential winners. Last year's Cork Week overall winner, Rory Fekkes highly modified First Class 8 From Carrickfergus, F'n Gr8, will be in the running, along with a similar sized Quarter Tonner, Phoenix, and if conditions are light, these two will be potent. However, in mixed conditions, the two half tonners, Mata from D and M Wright from Howth Yacht Club and Jonny Swan's Harmony will likely be the ones to beat. Mata is newly acquired by the Wrights and the core crew comes from top ex under–25 sailors from Howth. Expect them to give Harmony a good run for their money. Both the HYC Half tonners will sail with pros from North Sails Ireland, more here.

Racing starts tomorrow (Friday) and runs through to Monday. 

Results here

Published in ICRA
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Late entries will determine whether or not the ICRA National Championships below class one will break into three classes. 

"Class One picks itself as per the RC35 band, so the only real question is what to do below that", ICRA Technical delegate Ric Morris told Afloat.

Morris was responding to observations made by Afloat about class bands for the championships here.

He says "the split between 0 and 1 isn't really that much of a question as anyone in class one that wants to join class zero for the Coastal racing can do so."

"We're close on numbers to be able to break it into three classes [below Class One], it now just depends on the number of late entries, Morris says.

Royal St. George championship organiser Ian Simington says the fleet is building nicely but this weekend urged 'fence-sitters' to enter now for the June championships that have attracted almost 100 entries for the cruiser-racer title fight.

Published in ICRA
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As Championship Chairman Ian Simington of the Royal St. George Yacht Club bangs the drum for last entries for a burgeoning 2019 ICRA Nationals fleet on Dublin Bay, the cruiser racer body is preparing to make good on a promise made last year on class splits.

The ICRA National Championships will be staged from 7th – 9th June.

Last November an engaged ICRA conference heard that in order to give sailors more confidence in terms of who they will be racing against when entering an event, the association was to adopt a range of classes based on the design of cruiser/racer commonly sailed and narrow rating bands.

Divisions, the conference was told, will be formed for an event by combining these classes. They pledged ICRA would ensure all like type designs were in the same class. 

In addition to the IRC rating, ICRA is also introducing a trial ECHO Handicap System for the championships on the capitals waters.

Simington says the championship fleet is 'building nicely' but the ICRA provisional entry list here is currently updated to March 30 only. With another fortnight for late entries, any final assessment of class breaks is still too early to call. Typically, class breaks won't be published by organisers until approximately a week before the event, as was the case in 2018 before the ill-fated Galway Bay event.

Working with the information to hand, here is the situation facing the ICRA rating committee:

  • Class Zero if the break is at 1.050 it will just have four boats and two of them (Rockabill VI and Tsunami) will be just over that.  If they break Class 0 at 1.030—then class 0 goes to 9 boats.
  • Class One if they make the break at 1.000, it will have at least 17 boats, but maybe up to 22 if the class break for Zero is at 1.050
  • Class Two if the breaks are .999 to .921, this class that typically includes half tonners, will have 21 in that class
  • Class Three/Four4 if they break it at 920, this division will have about 29 boats.

Update May 12: Read ICRA's response here

Published in ICRA
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With just four weeks to go to the 2019 ICRA National Championships, the Royal St. George Yacht Club organising committee is busy putting the finishing touches to the preparation work which has been in motion through the winter and spring.

Speaking to Afloat, Event Chairman Ian Simington said, "our focus in the next two weeks leading up to close of entries on May 26th is to persuade the habitual late entries to get going. Many of them are from the Dun Laoghaire fleets so we are particularly grateful to DBSC who have cancelled their regular racing on Saturday 8th of June to allow boats sail the ICRAs and not lose on DBSC. We will have regular communications counting down to the close to get as many of the fence sitters as possible. We think it will be a great event on and off the water and want as many sailors as possible to enjoy it and whet their appetites for the other events of the summer".

"Our focus in the next two weeks is to persuade the habitual late entries to get going"

On the water, Simington says he expects the modified ECHO handicap system to give all sailors a chance of winning, and we are very excited to have 12 U-25 teams who will bring lots of energy to the event. Viking Marine is providing a perpetual trophy in recognition of the importance of this emerging class. We expect them to be keen participants in the post sailing novelty event programme including a Crew Class row off and the Harken Challenge.

The new catering team in the George led by Operations Manager Jamie Egan has put in place a super onshore programme including Mount Gay Rum (with the famous red hats) and Bombay Sapphire promotions; Guinness event tents; dining options of buffet, BBQ and Pizza truck, and top class music from Velvet DJs.

A provisional entry list is here

Published in RStGYC
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As part of the ongoing improvements being introduced by the national cruiser racer body, ICRA has announced a new basis for the award of the coveted “Boat Of The Year” trophy.

Previously, this trophy was awarded to the boat, who in the opinion of the ICRA committee, performed best.

ICRA technical delegate, Ric Morris commented "we have now introduced a new formula which gives a wider reach and geographically gives boats nationwide a better chance of winning whilst introducing a more transparent basis for this award. Results of various nationwide regattas will be utilised in an overall score for each yacht so the award will be made to the best scoring yacht from a series of regattas"

Full details of the scoring process and Notice of Race can be found here

Published in ICRA
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ICRA, the national cruiser-racer body, is attempting to widen the appeal of the Royal St. George–based National Championship entry next month on Dublin Bay with the introduction of a new trial handicap system writes Dave Cullen.

While the current ECHO system has been seen to work well in some longer-term events at local clubs, many are aware that the ECHO system historically has failed to adapt quickly enough at National events. This often leads to the same boats winning on both IRC and ECHO.

Members have made clear their desire for ICRA to look at how we can make ECHO work better at National events across the country, through surveys and forums. In response to this, ICRA and in particular Committee Member Liam Lynch has sought to begin to work on a means to address this issue in the longer term, and have started by instigating a trial at this year’s National Championships.

Currently, at National events, all boats start at their standard ECHO rating, which is usually within a few points of the IRC rating. In practice this means that the leading boats on IRC are nearly always the winners on ECHO as well, as the programme doesn’t have time to adjust sufficiently based on the results during a short event To address this, ICRA has decided to revise the standard ECHO handicaps used at the National Championships. The plan is to adjust standard ECHO opening handicaps, based on defined and published performance criteria, of boats over the last 1-2 years.

"The plan is to adjust standard ECHO opening handicaps, based on defined and published performance criteria, of boats over the last 1-2 years"

The result should be that the better a boat has performed on IRC boats over the last 1-2 years the greater a greater penalty will be placed on their standard ECHO handicap, ensuring other boats have a much greater chance to competing for ECHO prizes, based on their revised ECHO standards.

We hope that this trial adjustment to ECHO will even more boats to enter what is already a very successfully subscribed event and that the trials will lead to a rollout of a similar system all clubs running national events in the future.

Full details of the proposed trial approach are available here

Published in RStGYC
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With entries filling fast the ICRA Cruiser Racer National Championships at the Royal St George Yacht Club, look set up to be a huge success (81 entries as previously reported by Afloat.ie here). The championship which will be sailed from the 7th to 9th of June is open to all Cruiser Racers with an IRC or Echo handicap. As ‘lift-ins’ happen around the country this April, the ICRAs look like the extra event that many are set to add to their racing calendar.

Underpinning the excellent ‘on-the-water’ race management led by David Lovegrove PRO, the Royal St George have announced their social programme for the event. With variety in mind, the sailors will be treated to a wide spread of great food from dawn to dusk. Breakfast will be available each morning and every evening and you can choose from a quick bite to a casual dinner. All efforts are being made to have a core focus on keeping all the sailors in one place, enhancing the party atmosphere and creating great opportunities to swap stories and connect with fellow sailors.

New Royal St George, Operations Manager House, Jamie Egan will have the event under his watchful eye and brings huge experience with him having run all the events and catering at the St Stephens Green & Hibernian Club. The George has always had the reputation for the best parties and the ICRAs promises the same! Over 100 volunteers have been mobilised for this event which aims to make the experience for the racers seamless both afloat and ashore.

Social Programme for ICRA National Championships

Thursday 06th June
1900hrs BBQ on forecourt
2100hrs Skippers Briefing

Friday 07th June
0800hrs Breakfast on the forecourt
0800hrs Coffee & pastries in Club Room bar
1600hrs BBQ on forecourt
1800hrs Sailing Supper in Dining Room
1900hrs Daily Prize-Giving
2000hrs DJ til late

Saturday 08th June
0800hrs Breakfast on the forecourt
0800hrs Coffee & pastries in Club Room bar
1600hrs BBQ on forecourt
1800hrs Sailing Supper in Dining Room
1900hrs Daily Prize-Giving
2000hrs DJ til late

Sunday 09th June
0800hrs Breakfast on the forecourt
0800hrs Coffee & pastries in Club Room bar
1500hrs BBQ on forecourt
1600hrs ICRA Prize Giving

Published in RStGYC
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With ICRA organisers saying there are still at least 20 boats identified that are yet to enter, the buoyant entries for the Royal St. George Yacht Club Championships are up to 81 for the June event, kicking off a Summer of sailing events on Dublin Bay.

As David O'Brien points out in this morning's Irish Times Sailing Column here, Northern Ireland cruiser-racers, Under-25 Academies and a Half-Ton touring party are pushing numbers up in a buoyant fashion.

ICRA insiders tell Afloat.ie that Joker II, John Maybury's reigning Cruisers One champion, is expected to defend her title. There are eight U 25 teams now entered with Howth Yacht Club and Royal Irish Yacht Club yet to join this fleet, so over a dozen are expected in total.

For a further rundown of the ICRA Championship fleet to date check out Dave Cullen's update on Afloat.ie here

Published in ICRA
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