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Displaying items by tag: Sutton Dinghy Club

#sdc1940 – Sutton Dinghy Club celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and in the month of September the Sutton Creek club is showing no signs of slowing down. This weekend a total of 95 boats are entered in the 39th All Ireland Inter-Schools Sailing Event. The regatta is being staged the same weekend as the All Ireland Junior Helmsmans Championships in Kinsale.

75 boats are entered in the Suttom Mixed Fleet (PY) championship and and an additional 20 Optimist dinghies in the dedicated Optimist fleet.

There will be almost 150 sailors from schools throughout the country competing against each other in Dart 16, Laser II, 420, Laser Full/Radial/4.7, Mirror, Feva, Topper and Topaz, as well as the Optimist fleet. 

This most popular event has seen many schools compete for the coveted trophies over the past thirty-eight years. Each school nominates a Sailing Captain and may enter up to three teams, each team consisting of three (or two) boats, which for the Mixed Fleet may be of mixed class (except Optimists). The best two boat results over the event in each team will count. The members of each team MUST be nominated in advance.

Published in Youth Sailing

#royalcork – Today was a great day when the Sutton Book Junior Team arrived at the Royal Cork Yacht Club to compete for the Sutton Junior Book and received a warm welcome after their trip from Sutton Dinghy Club writes Claire Bateman.

The morning had started out misty but the fog cleared steadily to make way for a beautiful sunny day but with only about 3 knots of light breeze from the east. Having tossed a coin to select the boats both teams headed out to the Curlane Bank where they awaited breeze to start racing. The breeze failed to materialize so they moved further towards Spike where a course was laid. Race one commenced and the Royal Cork team were a little more sure of themselves being on home waters and following a penalty on one of the Sutton boats resulting in a penalty turn that race was won by the home team. Race two was a different kettle of fish. The Sutton team were growing stronger and there was a lot more panache about them and they went on to win that race.

Next on the race programme was the changing of the boats between the teams and with the sides level everybody was on tenterhooks.

And so it came all came down to the final race as all good events should do and despite the best efforts of Race Officer, Stephen O'Shaughnessy, several attempts to start resulted in general recalls. Finally, with the wind filling from the south west, two of the Royal Cork boats got away cleanly and led first and second with the third boat left to fend off the Sutton team and doing a pretty good job at this with the result Royal Cork were able to take the event.

The event today was a follow on to the sailing of the Senior Sutton Book in Sutton in August. Speaking after racing Rear Admiral Dinghies, RCYC, Celine McGrath, expressed her thanks to Sutton Dinghy Club for reviving this wonderful tradition in this the club's 75th anniversary year and to Andy Johnson, Sutton Commodore, whose perseverance led to the Senior leg taking place in August which was won by Sutton, and the Junior leg today that the Royal Cork won. She also expressed her thanks to Stephen O'Shaughnessy, Race Officer, Jim McGinley for mark laying, Tom Crosbie, Umpire, and to Wendy and Martin for helping and ferrying the Sutton team to Cork.

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Winners –L to R Rear Admiral Dinghies Celine Mc Grath,Grattan Roberts, Jamie Tingle, Thomas Mc Grath, Admiral Pat Lyons, Suzi Fitzpatrick, Jill Mc Ginley, Rebecca O'Shaughnessy

Published in Royal Cork YC

#marinetourism – Ireland's south coast provides an almost infinite variety of harbours, natural havens, and extensive areas of interesting sailing water. These cater for boat enthusiasts of all kinds, with craft of every type. So how does the welcome for visitors shape up? W M Nixon contrasts the different hospitality styles of four attractive ports.

The word on the grapevine that the Ballydehob Old Boat festival had taken place arrived with an intriguing photo from Anthony O'Leary. It had been noted in the interview with him immediately after he had led the team in Ireland's Commodore Cup Victory, that while he was trying to unwind for a while, it's not really in the O'Leary makeup to relax, and soon his mind was busy with new ideas of nautical interest.

Nevertheless he was cruising gently in early August down towards West Cork in the family's handsome big Nelson powercruiser Irish Mist, a fast and able vessel which his father Archie and mates like Mick Ahern once took right round Ireland in a settled springtime spell of weather, just to be in Dublin to watch Cork Con play rugby in some major championship at Lansdowne Road.

As it turned out, this year Irish Mist was getting down west ultimately to be in Baltimore for the 1720 Nationals in late August, which O'Leary duly won. But from time to time, he flashed back some photos of interesting boats met along the way, and one which really rang the bell was a little Ette Class clinker-built gunter-rigged sloop sailing in Castlehaven.

The Ette class originated way way back, when two keen dinghy cruising types sailed their little dinghy into Castlehaven, and the Castletownshend locals in the South Cork Sailing Club were so taken by the boat that they commissioned the waterfront boatbuilders, the O'Mahony brothers, to build some sister ships as the basis of a class.

All the new boats' names ended in "ette". And the class survived for many years, though at times the Ettes were hanging on by a thread. But recently it has had a fresh lease of life with new examples of what is now a classic dinghy being built by Lui Ferreira of Ballydehob, who last came through this parish when, in 2012, he put the first teak deck on a vintage Howth 17, the syndicate-owned Deilginis.

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Perfection of summer – an Ette class in her home waters of Castlehaven. Photo: Anthony O'Leary

ballydehob3_1.jpgRui Ferreira, builder in Ballydehob of the Ette Class, also put this teak deck on the 107-year-old Howth 17 Deilginis in 2012. Photo: W M Nixon

A Howth 17 looks well no matter how you photo her. But an Ette is a quirky little thing which can sometimes look odd from the wrong angle. Yet in a flash of inspiration, the Captain of the Commodore's Cup team took up his iPhone as an Ette came bustling down Castlehaven on fine sunny morning, and we got what I reckon to be one of the best photos of an Ette under way ever obtained – plus it gets the very essence of summer in Castlehaven.

The next O'Leary snap some days later was just briefly titled: "The Ballydehob Old Boat Festival, Irish Mist in archway second left". What was going on here? We'd heard vague stories about a very relaxed assembling of boat at high water at the drying quay at Ballydehob, but the O'Leary photo hinted at serious numbers and a high level of organization.

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The teaser photo – first intimations of this year's Ballydehob Gathering of the Boats, with the O'Leary family's motor-cruiser Irish Mist (framed in the second arch from left) joining an eclectic group of 74 boats for a couple of hours at top of the tide. Photo; Anthony O'Leary

ballydehob5_1.jpgThis is most people's image of Ballydehob, crowded and very rural, with Mount Gabriel beyond. Only the more observant will notice the tidal river in the foreground. Photo: W M Nixon

To begin with, most casual visitors would scarcely think of Ballydehob as a seaport at all. Rather, it's the very essence of rural West Cork, a crowded little village where "laid-back" is the default mode, and it has been so for some time. It reached something of an apotheosis when Annie Barry (she's one of the Fergusons of Gubbeen Cheese) was running her wonderful Annie's restaurant on one side of the winding main street, and the Levis sisters Julia and Nell, feisty little ladies of mature years, were running Levis's pub across the way.

Julia and Nan were splendid folk of considerable standing, and it's said the pair of them were once squired to the West Cork Hunt Ball in Skibbereen by Jeremy Irons of Kilcoe Castle a few miles along the coast. As for the setup in Ballydehob, space was so limited in the restaurant that, having checked out your booking, you simply took up station in leisurely style across the street in the pub with Annie's menus and an aperitif or two, then Annie would come across the road and discuss your order, and a delightful evening would continue late into the night.

Alas, for some year now Annie's has been closed, though everyone lives in hope of somebody re-opening it. And in the pub, the old ladies have passed on. But now it's run by a great-nephew, and very successfully too. We got ourselves in there late on a velvet July evening this year to find the place was heaving with youth and beauty and high fashion in casual style - achingly trendy it has become.

It could have been a traditional local in any of the world's fashionable holiday areas except for one thing. A ball of fur, a terrier of some kind, emerged from among people's legs and barked its head off at me. I assumed it was because I carried a whiff of our own little Jack Russell. But the blushing girl owner told me with a big smile that her little dog must have thought I was a priest. Only along Ireland's south coast, near some former or still surviving Protestant enclave, would you have heard that particular excuse.

ballydehob6_1.jpgThe old dock at Ballydehob is well able to receive a very varied fleet, seen here from the old railway viaduct Photo: Miriam Jones

Just along the river from these scenes of hospitality and minor mayhem, immediately below the mighty railway viaduct which seems to be so disproportionate for the long-gone needs of the little West Cork Railway, there's Ballydehob Harbour. Time was when it was key to the place's economy, and it was in the late 1930s, only a year or so before World War II, that the Brooklands, the last surviving sail-only coasting schooner to deliver cargoes to West Cork, made her way up the winding estuary at the head of Roaringwater Bay (it's named for the Roaringwater River, much of the bay behind Carbery's Hundred Isles is well sheltered), to anchor just off the quay, as she was too deep to berth alongside.

The Brooklands was owned and skippered by Tom Creenan of Ballinacurra in the inner northeast reaches of Cork Harbour, but it was from Birkenhead or Goole on the Mersey that she'd bring her welcome cargoes of coal, a challenging passage at the best of times. At Ballydehob, while smaller cargo-carriers could get alongside the old quay, the Brooklands discharged her cargo into the multi-functional barge-type vessel known the Sandboat.

She was used by her owners, the Levis family, for just about everything, but primarily for going out among the islands towards high water, running up on a clean beach, then laboriously shovelling sand into the hold until the tide returned and the Sandboat could be floated off and piloted back to the quay where her eventually very useful cargo would be shovelled ashore to become builders' supplies.

The Sandboat was Queen of the Fleet at Ballydehob, and she played such a central role in the Levis family's life that Old Boat Festival organiser Cormac Levis's brother calls his pub in Ballydehob the Sandboat.

As for how Cormac himelf first got the notion for the Ballydehob Gathering of the Boats, he has been a tower of strength in the Traditional Boat movement, particularly in West Cork but also throughout Ireland, for many years. And with others following his example in restoring or even building new sailing lobster boats to traditional design, he suggested that getting together at Ballydehob during the little town's time-honoured summer festival around August 15th might hit the spot. And for the first one in 2004 –making this year's the tenth anniversary - they assembled nine boats, which was considered pretty good going.

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Close-up on Cormac Levis's lobster boat, which led the way for the first gathering of traditional craft at Ballydehob in 2004. Photo: Brian Marten

From it, they learnt that, for the future, while the aspiration would of course be for quiet and easy-going organization under a light hand, underneath it all there'd have to be efficiency, always with an eye on the clock. Although the tidal window is more than two hours for most boats, they've successfully accommodated modern yachts up to two metres draft without anyone being left behind stuck on the mud. But with limited manoeuvring space in both the harbour area and the channel, once the witching hour of high water is upon the fleet, it's time to start thinking about an orderly departure after two solid hours and more of good crack, mighty barbecues, and much interest in an examination of other people's traditional and classic boats.

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Even among the sister-ships of the lobster fleet, many individual variants in hull lines and rig are apparent. Photo: Brian Marten

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Just to add to the variety and colour, the Ilen Trust from Limerick brought their much-travelled Shannon Gandelows (right) to Ballydehob. Their stylish pennants are a legacy of heir successful visit to Venice at the end of April this year. Photo: Gary MacMahon

So the crucial thing is to select the ideal Saturday nearest to August 15th with a good big tide in mid-afternoon. As the Boat Gathering is such a force in its own right, they can range quite extensively on either side of August 15th, and to date the earliest has been August 8th, while the latest was August 21st.

This year's was Saturday August 9th, and while there may have been rain later in the day despite West Cork having much more sunshine in August than almost any other part of the country, no-body now remembers the rain as they recall the sheer fun and sense of community of what has been described by Tiernan Roe, another of the quality boat-builders of Ballydehob, as the "shortest bestest Boat Festival in the World".

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Yet another creation of the active Ballydehob boat-building scene. This is an attractive little Cape Henry 21 cutter lunched in June by Tiernan Roe of Roe Boats. Photo: Tiernan Roe

For this year, it attracted 75 boats, though admittedly last year's record entry of 50 boats was greatly enhanced by this year's decision by the Drascome Lugger Association to combine Ballydehob in their 2014 cruise-in-company in West Cork, thereby adding 27 boats at a stroke.

But even with 27 boats of one class, the variety across the fleet as a whole was remarkable. So how do they assemble such a disparate fleet of boats with obviously highly-individual skippers, in such a quietly efficient way? For you'll never see or hear the Ballydehob Gathering of the Boats being publicly advertised all that much beforehand.

The method is perfectly simple. Everyone with an interest will know it is likely to be coming up on the agenda. So a month and more beforehand, Cormac will text them with the final date on a need-to-know basis. It works, and it sets the tone of quiet consideration for others and their boats in a very special festival in which some quiet sponsorship by CH Marine and West Cork-based German traditional boat fan Thomas Drewes sees that all participants get mementoes including cherished T-shirts (definitely not for general release), while barbecue facilities keep the good humour buzzing until everyone departs in style for their anchorage for the night, for although most boats hope to be berthed in Ballydehob on the big day more two hours hours before high water, once the ebb has started the channel has become much less forgiving about any pilotage errors.

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They're all here, as neatly berthed as you could please, but getting them away as the ebb starts requires good seamanship and boat-handling skills. Photo: Miriam Jones

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Ballydehob's central position in a hugely varied and welcoming crusing coast is emphasized by the number of other harbour chartlets indicated in this plan of the prime cruising area of West Cork. Plan Courtesy Irish Cruising Club

It's good to see a locally-focussed event like this now coming of age with a very healthy turnout. Eastward along the south coast, last weekend saw another event which will surely grow in stature and numbers, the second staging of Y2V Cruise-in-Company on the River Blackwater up the estuary from East Cork to West Waterford, as a flotilla of ten boats - eight GP14s, a Mermaid and a Feva – sailed up-river from Youghal to Villierstown.

It has been promoted by Youghal schoolboy GP 14 skipper Adrian Lee, and last year the inaugural tiny flotilla managed most of the sailable river by going to the bridge at Cappoquin before returning downriver to Villierstown. This year it achieved deserved support from the GP 14 class, with the furthest road-trailed from sea level being incoming Irish GP 14 Association President Stephen Boyle from Sutton DC, while the furthest-travelled in terms of elevation above sea level were the Blessington group, who came down from the Wicklow Hills with their Geeps and included Richard Street and kids (see again this blog on 26th July), and a brand new Duffin boat belonging to Simon Culley and Libby Tierney.

As for seniority, the classic of the class was a 60-year-old beautifully-restored Bell Woodworking GP 14 owned and skippered by 16-year-old Jack Nolan, another of that group of Youghal youngsters who are taking local dinghy sailing forward with gusto, while further variety was provided by Norman Lee of Greystones, his crew including the inevitable family pooches which are such a part of the GP 14 scene.

The sailing was mixed – as Norman said, in a river the wind will always be ahead some time, and though we think of the secret Blackwater Estuary as being fairly straight, in fact there are some quite significant curves. It took about four-and-a-half hours to sail up, and a brisker four hours to return on Sunday morning's ebb.

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The secret waterway – the Blackwater Estuary from Youghal up to Cappoquin and almost to Lismore is one of Ireland's least-sailed rivers

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Villierstown's new clubhouse, open only three weeks, was ready and willing to make welcome the crews who had sailed up from Youghal. Photo: Norman Lee

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The new facility, Villierstown's "floating pier"
(right), was originally the in-harbour pontoon at Dungarvan SC. Photo: Norman Lee

At Villierstown, the new clubhouse of the Villierstown Boating & Activites Cub had been open only three short weeks, but they've made good use of a sports council grant, and it well fulfills a multi-purpose role, including providing the hospitality needed by sailing campers, with Paul Virtue and his wife Caroline organising a fine feast in the clubhouse on the Saturday night, and an enormous breakfast on Sunday to send them on their way downriver to round out an event which has future annual success written all over it.

One of the reasons it all went so well was that the slightly cogglesome little plastic floating jetty, along which the sailors of Villierstown used to access their small boats, has been replaced by a proper pontoon which the club acquired when Dungarvan SC eastward along the coast up-graded their in-harbour pontoon. In fact, Dungarvan support for the development of Blackwater sailing didn't stop there, as one of the fleet in the Y2V was a vintage Dungarvan-based Mermaid in which owner Eugene Burke has cruised the entire south coast between Ballycotton and Kilmore Quay.

The boat is Akita, Mermaid No. 85, and she has certainly been around, as she was built in the Barkyard in Skerries in 1953 by Joe and Matt Boylan. The Barkyard was originally the place where the Skerries-based coasting schooners and fishing boats had their sails preserved against rot by tanning with bark, but in the 1950s the now redundant premises were used to build some of the eventually enormous fleet of Skerries Mermaids through a boat-building class run by the colourful Jem Kearney.

The Fingal region around Skerries and Rush continues to be the great heartland of the Mermaids, with some very racy boats built in the old mill at Rogerstown recently, but despite the modern challenge, this year's Mermaid Week at Rush saw the champion emerge in the form of Jonathan O'Rourke of the National YC with his vintage boat, one of the few Mermaid sailors still in Dun Laoghaire.

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The welcoming port. Despite its tidal limitations, Dungarvan lays on the welcome in a big way. This shows a visiting fleet at the original pontoon, which has now been moved to Villierstown. Photo Kevin Dwyer, courtesy Irish Cruising Club

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Dungarvan SC's new in-harbour pontoon has much improved the alongside berthing space, but unfortunately the local Council wouldn't permit dredging to improve access.......Photo: Donal Walsh

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....and thus the reality for most boats in the Inner Harbour is a drying berth.......... Photo: W M Nixon

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....but if you've access to local knowledge, there is a deep pool just below the bridge........Photo: Donal Walsh

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.....and here the Northwest Passage transiting 44ft steel gaff yawl Young Larry is visiting in comfort and style. Photo: Donal Walsh

Meanwhile in Dungarvan the club's hopes of doing a bit of dredging to improve access to their extended in-harbour pontoon was stymied when the council said they wouldn't permit any salt-contaminated sludge being brought up onto the quay. But despite its tidl limitations, it's a hugely hospitable place, and if you do take the ground at the pontoon, it's mostly soft and forgiving mud which enables you to sit in relative comfort. Certainly some very substantial cruising boat have overnighted here to enjoy the fine pubs both on the waterfront waterfront and in the town, while culinary standards are set by Paul Flynn's famous restaurant The Tannery just round the corner.

Nevertheless if you absolutely won't let your boat dry out, leading Dungarvan cruising man Donal Walsh (he has just returned from an epic round Ireland and Britain clockwise cruise with his Moody 31 Lady Kate) well knows the deep pool across the harbour close under the bridge, and he saw to it that his brother-in-law Andrew Wilkes and sister Maire Breathnaith found a secure berth there for their hefty 44ft steel-built gaff yawl Young Larry, a boat in which they transited the Northwest Passage, but she looks well at home in Dungarvan with its fine tradition of first class locally-based trading schooners.

In moving along the south coast, we find that when possible, they'll lay out the welcome mat big-time in Ballydehob, Youghal, Villierstown and Dungarvan, despite the fact that all four places are restricted in what they can do by the exigencies of tide.

So how are things working out in Dunmore East, the one port which has the potential to be one of the most welcoming and accessible all-tide sailing and fishing ports along the entire south coast?

Despite this potential, the under-development of its facilities, fuelled by a sometimes poisonous attitude between fishermen and other harbour users, has provided recreational visitors with often unpleasant memories. In trying to understand why this might be so, we have to understand how Dunmore East came to get its pretty little harbour. When it was built in the first half of the 19th Century, it was not – as is commonly supposed – built for the benefit of fishermen. The horrible fact is that fishermen came so far down the pecking order that they just had to make do for themselves as best they could.

The handsome new pier at Dunmore East, designed by Alexander Nimmo who is best known for developing Tobermory in Scotland and many places in Galway including Roundstone, was constructed exclusively for the use of the new fast sailing cross-channel packet boats serving the top people of Waterford in their trading and communication with Britain, while the unfortunate local fishermen were forced to keep their boats in the limited shelter of The Cove to the north of it, and haul them on the exposed beaches at The Strand and Councillors Strand.

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Dunmore East's substantial pier was new-built originally to provide a port for cross-channel sailing Packet Boats, serving Waterford ten miles up the road. When this was its primary function, any local fishermen were banished to the poorly-sheltered coves to the north, with their boats being hauled up on the exposed beaches beyond. Plan courtesy Irish Cruising Club

Soon, however, steam driven packet boats were able to go conveniently all the way up to Waterford, and Dunmore East was redundant as a packet-boat harbour. But it was only with reluctance that fishing boat were allowed to start using it, as the Royal Navy would have been keeping an eye on its possibilities for their own occasional use.

Yet down the years, the idea has developed that Dunmore East was always primarily a fishing harbour, and to a lesser extent the same attitude prevailed at Howth on the east coast, where the new harbour functioned as the Packet Boat station for Dublin only between 1817 and 1826, when the developing new asylum harbour at Dun Laoghaire became the selected port for the Royal Mail's new paddle steamers serving the cross-channel route. Yet the silted harbour at Howth was only allowed to become a "fishing station" in the 1850s.

The legacy of all this, in Dunmore East at any rate, is that there still seems to be a suspicion among the fishing community that their tenure is only temporary, that the powers-that-be would move them out if they see a better use for the place. How else can we explain the negative and almost paranoid attitude of the fishing spokesmen every time a suggestion for a much-needed marina at Dunmore East is put forward?

With all this in mind, I made a quick visit to Dunmore East in mid-August while on other business in the southeast, in the hope of seeing if a much-trumpeted €4 million dredging scheme was now in progress in the harbour, and also to see how an equally celebrated new Visitors Pontoon along the East Pier was working out.

The photos speak for themselves. There wasn't any sign of a dredger, though doubtless that will turn up in due course. Yet as for the 40 metre pontoon, it's not a leisure-boat-friendly neat little piece of work at all, but is quite a massive and brutal steel box structure more suited to rugged fishing boats, who were showing their approval by using it so totally that the only leisure visitor was a German motor-cruiser which had managed to squeeze in at one end.

But as this pontoon is on the wrong side of the harbour for ease of access to the Sailing Club on the west side, and the welcoming facilities in the village above it, any pedestrian boat visitor – the vast majority of incoming leisure boaters, in other words – has a long trek through the sometimes crowded and malodourous delights of a fishing port before they can access any amenities. So not surprisingly the German boat had its inflatable tender moored outside it for quick and easy movement across the harbour, and along to the beaches if wished, a situation which inevitably precluded any other newly-arrived boat from rafting up alongside

So for any cruising boat coming in from sea, often with the challenge of Hook Head just recently put astern, it wasn't a welcoming setup. In fact, it was downright hostile. While we were there, an ordinary sailing cruiser with happy folk aboard came motoring from the eastward to round the end of the pier after stowing their sails, but their hopes of a convenient and enjoyable visit to Dunmore East were soon dashed. No welcoming RIB came out from the sailing club to direct them to a vacant mooring, as there probably wasn't one. And as for the pontoon, "unwelcoming" is inadequate. It clearly didn't want anything to do with them. You could see their spirits wilting as they headed out, faced with the long haul up to the marina in Waterford City. The current visitor berthing situation in Dunmore East is at the very least a sad business, so where does it go from here?

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Dunmore East in mid-August. No sign of any dredging, and the "Visitors Pontoon" under the lighthouse on the East Pier is packed out with fishing boats.......Photo: W M Nixon

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........and just one visiting German motor cruiser which was protected against any rafting up by its tender on the outer side. Photo: W M Nixon

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The new pontoon is an industrial standard piece of kit......Photo: W M Nixon

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....and understandably very popular with active fishing boats. Photo: W M Nixon

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But for visiting sailing boats newly arrived in port.......Photo: W M Nixon

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....it's soon clear that there isn't really a welcoming berth for them.....Photo: W M Nixon

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....and they head out to sea again, visibly disappointed by their Dunmore East welcome. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

#mirror – The 2014 Mirror National Championships were held at a resplendent Sligo Yacht Club from August 7th to 10th. Twenty three Mirror Class Dinghies gathered for what proved to be an action packed four days of sailing on the enchanting waters of Sligo Bay.

The fleet faced very tricky sailing conditions over the four days in relatively light and shifty winds, not the norm for Sligo Bay. Conditions notwithstanding, the event was a major success with not a single general recall throughout the four days. A big thank you to all the competitors and families that made the trip to Sligo.
Shane Mcloughlin and his crew Oscar Langan from Sutton Dinghy Club mastered the conditions best, demonstrating some excellent sailing skills to take overall honours. Fast improving locals, Samuel and Imogen Wray took the honours in the silver fleet while Muiris Fitzgerald and Ellen O' Dwyer, also local, topped the bronze fleet.
Ten races were held over the four days. Forty six eager sailors set out on Thursday to do battle in hellishly tricky winds. One could not but have sympathy for OD Brendan Brogan as winds varied over 90 degrees, playing havoc with course laying. In the end, patience proved a virtue and Lough Ree's Tiernan Dickson took the first race with Shane Mc Loughlin and Jack Maye filling second and third spots. Lough Ree Yacht Club was again to the fore in the second race as the rapidly improving pair, Caolan Crossdell and Schull Harbour's very own Oisin MacAllister took line honours in a tight finish from Tiarnan Dickson and Alex Leech, in what was surely the performance of the weekend.
Day two was again frustrating for sailors as the shifting winds caused quite a few delays. Some sailors learned the hard way about the strong tides in Sligo Bay, while racing in the calm conditions. Shane McLoughlin from Sutton Dinghy Club turned the heat up, winning two races and finishing second in the last race to claim the overnight lead. Sligo's Beth Armstrong took the honours in the last race shooting right into contention behind Shane Mc Loughlin and the ever consistent Tiarnan Dickson. The two Jack's, Maye and Ryan kept their hopes up with a second place each.
Day three brought more shifty wind conditions to challenge the fleet. It was Tiarnan Dickson's turn to pile on the pressure with two wins and a third place finish. Ominously though, Shane Mcloughlin had two seconds and a win. The gap between the pair was just two points entering the final day. Beth Armstrong put in a very consistent shift and went into the last day right in contention should there be any slip ups.
Day four saw somewhat more consistent winds during which the final two races were sailed. Shane Mc Loughlin took the first from Beth Armstrong with Jack Maye in third. The final race turned into a local duel between cousins Beth Armstrong and Jack Maye, Jack taking an extended lead before Beth came through to take line honours and bring the shutters down on a thoroughly enjoyable 2014 National Championship.
And so it was, a splendid four days for the Mirror fleet soaked in the famous hospitality of Sligo Yacht Club. Those lucky enough to be present were reminded of the glory days of Irish sailing. Mingling with sailors, parents and club members, it was easy to understand how the Mirror Class has contributed so much to so many in Irish sailing down through the years.
Results:
Gold Fleet:-
1] Shane Mc Loughlin / Oscar Langan 12 points Sutton Dinghy Club [SDC]
2] Tiarnan Dickson / Alex Leech 18 points [LRYC]
3] Beth Armstrong / Dylan Shaw 20 points [SYC]
Silver Fleet:-
1] Samuel Wray / Imogen Wray [SYC]
2] Helen Smith / Noah Canham [SYC]
3] Rory Mc Allister / Lughaidh Croasdell [Schull Harbour & LRYC]
Bronze:-
I] Muiris Fitzgerald / Ellen O' Dwyer [SYC]
2] Sarah White / Matthew White [SYC]
3] Hannah Raftery / Ben Kelly [SYC]

Published in Mirror
If you've ever team-raced for "The Book" between Sutton Dinghy Club and a team from Cork Harbour, then you'll know that it is Irish sailing's Book of Kells, inaugurated seventy years ago with the winning team obliged to inscribe the outcome on vellum in illuminated style. W M Nixon found that this year's event last Sunday had the Corkmen celebrating a win, even if they lost the race.

Keeping the records of sporting events may seem the simplest thing in the world, but it's amazing how quickly the written reports can disappear completely. In this blog on 12th April, we were pointing out that ancient sailing trophies are doubly valuable, as they'll still be in existence and lovingly cared for because of their intrinsic worth as pieces of silverware, and with any luck they'll also carry the name of the boats and owners, the early winners of races back in those remote mists of time.

Yet even the world's oldest original sailing trophy, the Ladies Cup of Sligo Yacht Club which dates back to 1822, took a while to cop on to the need to inscribe the names. It didn't occur until 1831, when the winner was Owen Wynne of Hazelwood on Lough Gill, that lovely lake where the Sligomen sailed before they took to the sea at Rosses Point.

Because of this understandable omission – after all, everyone who was anyone in Sligo in the 1820s would have known know who was the current holder of the Ladies Cup – the oldest sailing trophy with a winner inscribed wasn't an annual challenge cup, it was a one off, the Cork Harbour Regatta Cup for 1829. The winner was J Caulfield Beamish with his cutter Little Paddy, which he designed himself. It's a thoughtful experience to contemplate this old trophy, and realize it was once handled by one of the greatest if largely unsung pioneers of Irish sailing.

But beyond the fact of who won, we know little enough of the event in 1829. And as sailing developed down the years, a plethora of events meant that the records became confused, or else there was so much data that nobody took any notice any more.

Enter the International 12ft dinghy, a simple little lugsail rigged clinker-built classic wooden boat. She was designed by George Cockshott of Southport in Lancashire in 1912, and seems to have been an instant success with the approval of the Boat Racing Association, a sort of precursor of ISAF. Fleets sprung up anywhere that sailing took place, though the class soon faded in England where newer designs appeared in the 1920s and '30s. But today, there are thriving groups of International 12s in The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Japan, while in Ireland they were quite the thing until 1950.

One good reason for this was that Ireland produced an International 12 superstar, Captain Jimmy Payne of Cork Harbour, who won the World Dinghy Championship racing International 12s in Belgium in 1924, the first time the new Irish Free State had competed in a sailing event in its own right. This meant that the return series for the crews from France, Holland, England, Belgium and Italy came to race against Ireland at the Royal Munster YC in Crosshaven in 1925. This time round it went down to the last race, which Jimmy Payne won by 29 seconds from Bokre of Holland, and his prize was a truly magnificent silver model of an International 12.

The International 12s were also popular around Dublin, particularly on the north side of the Bay where they either sailed from Howth or, when the tide suited, at Sutton Creek. There was only one club on the peninsula at the time, Howth SC, which sent forth an International 12 helmed by Harry McCracken to sail in the Tailteann Games in 1932, and he won the gold medal.

With International 12 sailors of this calibre in both Cork Harbour and around the Howth peninsula, there were links between the two class centres. But it wasn't until 1940 that Sutton Dinghy Club came into being beside the tidal creek. Then in 1944 an inter-club competition was inaugurated in International 12s between SDC and the Cork Harbour Sailing Club, whose young dinghy-oriented sailors with their International 12s included several people who were later to be big achievers in major clubs.

The innovative trophy for the new series was a large vellum book, the pages blank and awaiting inscription. There may well be other inter-club sailing club competitions whose perpetual trophy is an inscribed book containing the record of each annual race, but we don't know of them. Yet the continuing existence of The Book has been so central to a golden thread of sailing in Crosshaven and Sutton that those who have been involved tend to assume that everyone else knows all about it.

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The Book (senior version from 1944) and the junior (from 1980) on display at Sutton Dinghy Club for Sunday's 70th Anniversary series. Photo: W M Nixon

Perhaps they do, but this year being the 70th Anniversary, it went slightly more public anyway, with Commodore Andy Johnston and his members at Sutton DC moving mountains to make it happen in a busy season in which, every other year, the race for The Book has to be slotted into a crowded annual programme and the additional need to fit the tidal window for sailing in Sutton Creek.

Over the years, The Book has stayed the same, and it's still the same Sutton Dinghy Club, albeit in larger premises. But Cork Harbour Sailing Club – whose members had been helped in their sailing by Jimmy Payne himself, who also raced for The Book – was wound up in 1950, and its membership largely subsumed into the Royal Munster in Crosshaven, which in turn became the Royal Cork for the Quarter Millennium in 1970.

Over the years, Irish sailing classes which have seen people emerge from the testing and training ground which is the racing for 'The Book' include Olympic boats such as the Flying Dutchman and the Tempest, the famous 505s, many offshore racing fleets, Fireballs, 470s, Lasers, 1720s, SB20s, Etchells 22s, Puppeteer 22s and J/24s, to name only a few. In all, it's an extraordinary list, linked by their connection to sailors from this unique event.

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The historic International 12 restored by Aidan Henry of Sutton. Photo: W M Nixon

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For many years, The Book was raced for in IDRA 14s, and this restored gem shows off her elegant lines at Sutton. Photo: W M Nixon

As for the gallant little International 12s, they were shunted aside in favour of IDRA14s in 1950. But there was a sweet reminder of the little boats at the 70th anniversary event on Sunday with a beautifully restored version brought back to life by Aidan Henry of Sutton, while also there was a lovingly-maintained and historic IDRA 14. Over the years, classes used have further changed, and for a while all the Cork-based races for The Book were sailed in Enterprises, while a Junior Book inaugurated in 1980 tended to favour Mirrors.

Boats may change and people move on, but The Book has remained as an extraordinary record of personal history and sailing development. The first series in 1944 was well won by Sutton, but over the years the balance has tilted in Cork's favour with 26 wins to Sutton's 18, while there have been two draws and 23 no races resulting from some weekends of total gale and other more grisly reasons - in 1956, it was the polio epidemic.

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Grim reminder of times past – the terse entry in The Book for 1956 Photo: Ron Maher

Of that first Cork team of 1944, happily the great Joe Fitzgerald is still with us, and he subsequently sailed on winning teams. As you work your way through the handsome big pages, the names cascade down the years, so much so that just about every sailor of significance from Cork Harbour or Sutton (and sometimes Dublin Bay generally) has been racing for The Book.

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The teams and Race Officers at Sutton in 1944 – Joe Fitzgerald of Cork is third from the right in the front row.

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Royal Cork won in 1966 with a stellar team

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Sutton's Ian Sargent and Royal Cork captain Harold Cudmore with The Book and their teams in 1966

These days, the Sutton sailors favour GP 14s, while for many years now the National 18s have been the heart and soul of Crosshaven sailing. This is so much the case that last year the Crosshaven class produced a fine book by Brian Wolfe not just of its history in Cork Harbour since 1939, but about the story of the National 18 at all its class centres through England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Both the GP 14s at Sutton and the National 18s at Crosshaven are having a busy season throughout 2014. But it was noticed that while the cream of the Crosshaven class would be at the British & Irish National 18 Championship in Abersoch in North Wales from July 28th to August 1st, the top GP 14s at Sutton would not be heading away for their Worlds at East Down YC on Strangford Lough until Friday August 8th. There was a tiny window of opportunity on Bank Holiday Sunday, August 3rd, when the paths might be made to cross and the tide suited in late afternoon. So they grabbed it, and Sutton Dinghy Club readied up six evenly-matched GP 14s in a very focused frame of mind, as they hadn't won The Book in sixteen years.

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These National 18 sailors from Crosshaven certainly are keen. Despite having raced a gruelling week in Abersoch with the National 18s, Tom Crosbie, Barry O'Meara and Tom Dwyer were ready and willing to race GP 14s for The Book just a day later. Photo: W M Nixon

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The two teams for the 70th Anniversary of racing for The Book – Tom Crosbie (left) is Cork captain, while Hugh Gill (centre) captained Sutton. Photo: Ron Maher

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At first, conditions looked reasonably promising, but fast moving clouds south and north.............Photo: Andy Johnston

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....gave every indication of stronger winds to come. Photo: Andy Johnston

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Downsizing from an 18-footer to a 14-footer was gallantly accepted by Cork crew Tom Dwyer and Barry O'Meara. Photo: Andy Johnston

After a week of hard racing off Abersoch, the Corkmen could have been forgiven for wishing only to head on home for a rest, but they're great sportsmen, they were determined to give it their best shot. However, for people down-sizing from a three man 18 footer to a two man 14 footer just for one afternoon's team racing, the conditions were cruel, with a squally west to southwest wind, and a fast-changing sky which promised more to come.

It duly delivered. They managed the first race with the teams even at first, but then Hugh Gill of Sutton sailed Patrick Crosbie of Crosshaven away from his lead over the next Sutton boat, and that changed the table just enough to have Sutton ahead by one point after one race. And that was the end of it. The wind rose well up into the 30 knot zone, there were four capsizes and one dismasting, and The Book for its 70th Anniversary went to Sutton Dinghy Club after a gap of sixteen years.

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Tom Crosbie (left) returns The Book to Sutton's Hugh Gill after a 16-year run. But next year's racing will be in Cork in National 18s......Photo: Ron Maher

Yet everyone was delighted with the day. While the team racing tactics may have been cut-throat, the sport was great, and you could have run a string of bright lights off the camaraderie, with Dommo Long, the father of the National 18s, still much involved, although it's a report in The Book from very long ago which records how he kept all Sutton entranced with the post race party until six o'clock in the morning.

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The National 18s as they are today. Photo: Bob Bateman

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Testing the water. Father of the Class Dommo Long has an approving trial sail on the new National 18 last Autumn. Photo: Bob Bateman

Next year, of course, it will be an away match for the Sutton crews. And who knows, but they may be able to race in the brand new National 18s, a Cork-inspired concept which has been coming along very nicely, and is set to become Ireland's hottest "new" class in 2015, which goes some way to explain why the Cork men arrived in Sutton in such good form.

We ran a story in Afloat.ie about the Phil Morrison-designed prototype sailing at Crosshaven last Autumn, the boat having been cleverly developed through outside sponsorship so the €65,000 development cost didn't make a dent in the class funds. But a prototype is one thing, getting it accepted by the class association and into production is something else altogether, and everything would hinge on how the mood went at the championship in Abersoch, which would also see the crucial AGM.

Afloat, everything went fine for the Corkmen. Stuart Urquhart of the Scottish fleet may have had a good lead in the early stages, but by the finish the 2014 Champion was Ewen Barry of Cork crewed by Dion Barrett and Stan Browne. In runner up place was another Cork helm, Colin Chapman (who has played a leading role in the moves towards the new design), crewed by Bobby Bearla and Morgan O'Sullivan, while initial leader Urquhart was back in third.

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The new Odyssey National 18 looks the business for speed..... Photo: Bob Bateman

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......and she retains the basic seamanlike features of the established National 18s. Photo: Bob Bateman

The new boat Odyssey was out sailing and showing fabulous performance, so minds were concentrated mightily for the main formal business which came on Thursday July 31st, the 2014 AGM and the acceptance or otherwise of the new design. The National 18 is a restricted class, so in theory any new design which complies with the rules should be accepted. But the days are long gone when cheque-book sailing affected the class – if it ever did – so a significant majority would be needed to be in line with the spirit of the class, which has always favoured design development, but at a measured pace.

The vote was better than a significant majority – it was overwhelmingly in favour. Exciting times lie ahead, and no more so than in Cork. Twelve deposits have already been put down on new boats to the Odyssey design, and eight of those have come from the Cork Harbour fleet.

There's no doubt the new Morrison boat is a gorgeous bit of kit which is a delight to sail, and if you doubt this, I've been told to say that Dommo Long says so. Already, the class is rejuvenating around Cork Harbour, and though there are bound to be growing pains, you need to experience the sheer joy in sailing and the camaraderie of a handsome big three-man boat to understand the extraordinary sense of community which the National 18s engender in the special RCYC context.

In the final analysis, these people are sportsmen who sail for fun, and their dedication and enthusiasm is a joy to behold. They're respectful of the past, yet excited about the future. And the spirit of Jimmy Payne and the International 12s lives on, not least in the fact that the supreme overall prize for the National 18s in Cork Harbour is now the silver International 12 trophy which he won back in 1925.

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In 2011, Mrs Eithne Payne presented the International 12 trophy, won by her father-in-law Captain Jimmy Payne in 1925, to RCYC Admiral Peter Deasy to become the season-long overall winner prize for the National 18 Class on Cork Harbour. Photo: Bob Bateman

Published in W M Nixon

#YouthSailing - US sailor Morgan Reeser gave an inspiring talk to over 50 young sailors, their instructors and a few parents at Sutton Dinghy Club on Thursday 3 July, writes Andrew Johnston.

Reeser's son Nicolas has been a regular attendee at courses in Sutton the last two summers while on holiday in the locality, and this week has been sailing in Sutton Creek with his father and some of the other trainees.

Morgan Reeser, a 470 Olympic silver medallist in Barcelona 1992, is currently coaching both the US and Austrian Olympic 470 hopefuls and successfully coached the Greek 470 women's team to Olympic gold in Athens 2004 and the British 470 men to Olympic silver in Weymouth during London 2012.

He talked to the juniors about his first 'start sailing' course in Miami in an Optimist, as well as some of his sailing heroes and the coaches that inspired him.

Reeser also remembered his first visit to Dublin in 1981 for an inter-country team racing event sailed in Shamrock half-tonners in Dun Laoghaire, and obviously about his preparation for the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992.

His abiding memory of the final race of the regatta, after finishing in a tight bunch, was that he and his crew Kevin Burnham didn't find out till they reached the marina 40 mins later that they had won a medal.

He outlined the fine margins between medaling and missing out at events, explaining they would have been out of the medals altogether if they had dropped a single place in their best race at the regatta, which happened to be a race win.

Reeser was back at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and while he failed to take a medal, he met his future wife, none other than Irish Olympic 470 sailor Louise Cole.

The winning of an Olympic medal is obviously a fantastic memory for Reeser, but one of his best memories is of the opening ceremony in Barcelona and the opportunity to meet up with top-class athletes from around the world.

Since turning to coaching, Reeser has encouraged his Olympic hopefuls to attend the opening ceremony as this is one of the things that make it the 'Games' and not just another regatta.

Sutton Dinghy Club Commodore Andy Johnston presented Reeser with a club burgee and thanked him for taking the time drop in and talk with the club's young sailors and their instructors.

Before getting back on the water, many of the kids availed of the opportunity to get the autograph of a fully fledged Olympic medalist on what was a memorable morning for the young sailors and indeed for all in attendance.

Published in Youth Sailing

#mirror – The 2014 Mirror dinghy Eastern Championships were completed on Sunday in superb racing conditions at Sutton Dinghy Club with victory for local pairing Robert Dickson and Meisha Johnston.

With Junior and Leaving Cert exams coming shortly a smaller than expected fleet of 11 Mirrors arrived in Sutton for the second regional event of the season. While the field was small it included rising Sutton talent Shane McLoughlin and Conor Twohig, current National Champion Cian Hickey from Skerries as well as top Irish Mirror sailors Tiernan Dickson (L Ree) and Jack Maye (Sligo). With local sailor Sinead Dickson preparing for exams, brother Robert teamed up with her young crew Meisha Johnston.

The fleet launched in gusty 15-20kts conditions late Saturday morning and PRO Richard Kissane got 3 great races completed in the Dublin Bay in windy and lumpy conditions.

In Race 1, Mcloughlin/Langan took a very close race from Hickey/Hickey with T.Dickson/Leech in 3rd. Race 2 saw R.Dickson/Johnston get into their stride and eventually take the gun in a close finish from Club mate McLoughlin/Langan with Sligo's Maye/White in 3rd.

In the final race of the day locals Twohig/Gibney had a super start and led for 3 legs holding off R.Dickson/Johnston and Hickey/Hickey. A broken main-sheet block on the second last leg allowed Dickson/Johnston the chance to ease themselves in front. Twohig/Gibney did ever so well to hold off the Hickey brothers from Skerries and take a superb 2nd.

On Sunday with a later tide and 15kts mainly from the South, PRO Richard Kissane had to shift the courses a number of times over the day as the wind shifted left and right throughout the afternoon.

With the gybe mark right in under Red Rock, Howth the fleet had an ongoing audience up close on the cliff walk throughout the afternoon. With 4 boats within 3 points at the start of the day and only a quarter of a point between Dickson/Johnston in 1st and McLoughlin/Langan 2nd the first race was always going to be a marker for the rest of the day.

In Race 4, Mcloughlin/Langan got a super start and developed a substantial lead. But Robert Dickson, the recently crowned 420 National Champion was never going to let the lead boat have it all there own way. Leg after leg Dickson/Johnston gradually worked there way back up till they were no more than a boat length behind at the final leeward mark. On the line Mcloughlin/Langan held off the challenge only to discover they had been OCS. Despite the disappointment, this was a superb race from McLoughlin/Langan pairing. The minor places went to Maye/White (Sligo YC) and Hickey/Hickey (SkerriesSC).

Race 5 continued where the earlier races had left off with McLoughlin/Langan never far from Dickson/Johnston. These 2 boats kept ahead of a tight tussle between Sligos Jack Maye and Skerries Cian Hickey. In the end the Dickson/Johnston team put some distance between themselves and fellow Club mates McLoughlin/Langan to take a second victory on the day. Jack Maye took 3rd and fast finishing and former event winner Tiarnan Dickson from Lough Ree took 4th from Cian Hickey.

With 4 race wins from 5, any finish bar a disqualification in the 6th and last race and Dickson/Johnston would be assured of victory. The chase for runner up spot was still very much on between former event winner Cian Hickey and Shane McLoughlin from the host Club. The final race of the day saw the top 5 or 6 boats battle it out in by now a very steady 15kts. By the gybe mark it was Dickson/Johnston who held the lead closely followed by McLoughlin/Langan. The chasing pack could make no inroads into the leading pair on the concluding legs which meant victory for Robert Dickson and his young crew Meisha Johnston. Shane McLoughlin and his crew Oscar Langan held off the fast chasing National Champion Cian Hickey to take a well deserved 2nd place in this the second regional event of the season.

The leading Silver fleet boat in the series in only their second event were Samuel & Imogen Wray from Sligo YC. The next event is the Mirror Northern Championship in Royal North of Ireland YC, Cultra on June 21st.

Place Helm/Crew Club
1 R.Dickson/M.JohnstonSDC

2 S.McLoughlin/O.LanganSDC

3 C.Hickey/E.HickeySSC

4 J.Maye/M.WhiteSYC

5 T.Dickson/A.LeechLRYC

6 C.Twohig/J.GibneySDC

7 S.Wray/I.WraySYC

8 C.Croasdel/O.McAllisterLRYC

9 R.McAllister/L.CroasdelSchull Harbour

10 S.Kelly/A.HarperSDC

11 S.Nicholson/M.MartinSYC

Published in Mirror

#fingal – The Government's recent move to create a framework for the direct election of a new all-powerful Mayor for Dublin was expected to be a shoo-in. The new Super-Mayor's authority would incorporate the current four local councils of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin, Dublin City, and Fingal, each one of which had to vote in favour. But Fingal's councillors voted firmly against it, despite emphatic support of the proposal by the councillors in the other three areas. As a Fingallion by adoption, W M Nixon strongly supports this independent move by a largely rural and coastal region which has a longer shoreline than all the other Dublin areas put together, and is clearly not a naturally integral part of the city.

Fingal is the Ukraine of Leinster, and the glowering monster of Dublin is the Russia within Ireland, intent on the conquest of its smaller freedom-seeking neighbour. Vigorous, all-powerful, intensely urban, and distinctly impressed with itself, Dublin is certain that the further its bounds are spread, the better it will be for all its citizens. And the more citizens it can claim, then the better for Dublin.

But Fingal is different. For sure, it can seem a bit sleepy and rural by comparison with central Dublin, but that's the way we like it. It's a place of odd little ports and much fishing, a region of offshore islands, rocky coasts and many beaches on one side, and the profound heart of the fertile country on the other. A place where – as you move north within it - you might make a living in many ways at once, taking in growing vegetables, raising animals, running a dairy herd, and keeping a lobster boat down at the local quay, while perhaps having a horse or two as well. And if you feel like more shore sport, the golfing options are truly world class.

As for the sailing and all other forms of recreational boating, Fingal is not just a place of remarkable variety – it's a universe. With five islands – six if you count Rockabill – its 88 kilometre coastline is one for sport, relaxation and exploration. Sea angling is well up the agenda, and it's a kayakers' paradise, while Irish speed records in sailboarding and kite-surfing have been established in the natural sand-girt canal which forms for much of the tidal cycle in the outer Baldoyle estuary immediately west of Howth.

Apart from fishing boats – and inshore they're usually only the smaller ones – it has no commercial traffic. And though there are tidal streams, in southern Fingal's main racing area between Ireland's Eye and Lambay, they're not excessively strong, and run in a reasonably clear-defined way, while the flukey winds which so often bedevil Dublin Bay away to the south are much less of a problem in sailing off Fingal, where the winds blow free.

The range of boat and sailing clubs of Fingal matches the variety of its coast. The most southerly is Sutton Dinghy Club, rare among Ireland's yacht clubs in being south-facing. It may be focused on sailing in Dublin Bay, but scratch any SDC sailor, and you'll find a Fingallion. Round the corner of the Baily – not a headland to be trifled with - Howth has two clubs, the yacht club with its own marina, and Cumann na Bhad Binn Eadair (the Howth Sailing & Boat Club) in the northeast corner of the harbour, while Howth Sea Angling Club with its large premises on the West Pier is one of the tops in the country.

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The sunny south. Sutton Dinghy Club is Fingal's most southerly sailing club, and is also rare in Ireland through being south facing.

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Islands of Fingal seen across the eastern part of Howth marina, with Ireland's Eye in the foreground, and Lambay beyond. Photo: W M Nixon

As for the waters they share, their most immediate neighbour is the steep island of Ireland's Eye with its pleasant southwest-facing beach, the island itself a remarkable wild nesting site, particularly when you remember that it's close beside an intensely urban setting. When a discerning visitor described Ireland's Eye as "an astonishing and perfect miniature St Kilda", he wasn't exaggerating.

Across in Malahide, where we find Fingal's other marina, Malahide YC - which recently celebrated its Golden Jubilee and currently has Graham Smith as its first second-generation Commodore – is in the curious position of having two clubhouses. One is a charming and hospitable place among trees within easy stroll of the marina, while the other is west of the long railway embankment which retains the extensive inner waters of Broadmeadow. This makes the waters into a marvellous recreational amenity and boating and sailing nursery, so not surprisingly it is home to active sailing schools. And it is also the base of Malahide YC "west", a dinghy sailing club on the Broadmeadow shore at Yellow Walls, while further west of it again is yet another club, the more recently formed Swords Sailing & Boating Club.

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The map of modern Fingal shows how the southwest corner of the present region seems remote from the largely coastal and rural nature of much of the rest of the county. And it also confirms the surprise (to many) that the Phoenix Park is in Fingal.

North from Malahide, and you're into "Fingal profonde", its deeply rural nature occasionally emphasised by the sea nearby. The long Rogerstown Estuary, the next inlet after Malahide, sometimes found itself providing the northern boundary of The Pale, and as recently as the early 1800s the river at Rogerstown and the tiny port of Rush were a veritable nest of smugglers, privateers and occasionally pirates, with buccaneering captains of myth and legend such as Luke Ryan and James Mathews proving to have been real people who were pillars of society when back home in their secretive little communities after their lengthy business forays to God know where.

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Muddy situation. Low water in the Rogerstown Estuary. The hill in the distance on the left is new – for years, it was the largest dump in Ireland, the Balleally Landfill. But now it is well on its way to rehabilitation as an enhancement of the landscape. Photo: W M Nixon

The Rogerstown Estuary went through an unpleasant period when its inner waters were dominated by the nearby presence of the biggest waste dump in Dublin, Balleally Landfill. It rose and rose, but now it's closed, and is in process of being revived to some sort of natural state. The result is that the vista westward from Rogerstown is much improved by a pleasant and completely new hill which so enhances the view at sunset that shrewd locals have built themselves a row of fine new houses facing west, along the quirkily named Spout Lane which runs inland from the estuary.

Whatever about the legality-pushing privateer skippers who used Rogerstown Estuary as their base in days of yore, these days it's home to the quay and storehouse which serves the ferry to Lambay, which is Fingal's only inhabited island when there are no bird wardens resident on Rockabill, and it's also the setting for another south-facing club, Rush SC. It is spiritual home these days to the historic 17ft Mermaid Class (they still occasionally build new ones in an old mill nearby), but despite the very strong tidal streams where the estuary narrows as it meets the sea, RSC also has a large cruiser fleet whose moorings are so tide-rode that unless there's a boat on the buoy, it tends to disappear under water in the final urge of the flood. This can make things distinctly interesting for strangers arriving in and hoping to borrow a mooring while avoiding getting fouled in those moorings already submerged. Not surprisingly, with their boat sizes becoming larger like everywhere else, Rush SC find that their bigger cruisers use Malahide Marina.

To seaward of Rogerstown, with the little port of Rush just round the corner, the view is dominated by Lambay. A fine big island with is own little "miniature Dun Laoghaire" to provide a harbour on its west side, it has a notable Lutyens house set among the trees. But for many years now Lambay has been a major Nature Reserve, so landing is banned, though anchorage is available in its three or four bays provided you don't interfere with the wildlife along the shore. This makes it off bounds to kayakers who might hope for a leg stretch on land, though it's still well worth paddling round close inshore.

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Racing round Lambay. Close competition between the Howth 17s Aura (left) and Pauline, which have been racing annually round Lambay since 1904. Photo: John Deane

Along the Fingal mainland coast, the next inlet after Rush is Loughshinny, a lovely natural harbour with a quay to further improve the bay's shelter. There's a very active little fishing fleet, while the shoreside architecture is, how shall we say, decidedly eclectic and individualistic? Go there and you'll see what I mean.

Six miles offshore, Rockabill marks the northeast limits of Fingal. It's a fine big double-rock, with a substantial lighthouse and characterful keepers' houses attached. But as it's now automated, the only time Rockabill is inhabited is for the four summer months when a bird warden or two take up residence to monitor the rocky island's most distinguished summer residents, Europe's largest breeding colony of roseate terns.

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Rockabill, where the shy roseate terns feel at home. Photo: W M Nixon

In Fingal we tend to take these pretty but noisy summer visitors for granted, but the word is that south of Dublin Bay the tern buffs are so incensed by Rockabill having a clear run that they're tried to start a rival colony of roseate terns on the Muglins, and built a row of tern houses (one good tern deserves another) to facilitate their residence. The potential nest sites may not have survived the past severe winter. But in any case, one wonders if they had planning permission from Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown council for this development? Persons suggesting that such a development would almost certainly be terned down will not be given any attention whatsoever.

Skerries and Balbriggan are the two main sea towns of north Fingal, and they're as different as can be, the difference being emphasised by historic rivalry. It's said that back in the government harbour-building days of the late 19th Century a grant was made available to assist local landowners to make significant improvements to one of the harbours, and this meant war.

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Balbriggan may very definitely dry out, but it provides a secure home port for both trawlers and other boats prepared to settle on the mud and sand. Photo: W M Nixon

So eventually the grant was split with half going to improve Balbriggan, and the other half to Skerries, with neither being a total success. If you seek total shelter in either today, you have to be prepared to dry out, while the anchorage off Skerries is also subject to a large tidal whorl which means that when the ebb is running in a strong onshore wind, the moorings are doubly rough and diabolically uncomfortable. And every so often after an exceptional nor'easter, we have another litany of boats driven ashore and Skerries yacht insurance going even further through the roof.

It's a situation which needs proper attention from an administration which is genuinely interested in the port. And the proper development of the harbour at Skerries, while retaining the little old place's special character, is surely something which could be much better done by Fingal Council rather than some remote Mayor of Dublin for whom Skerries will be the outermost periphery, a place seldom visited, if at all.

We've seen it all before. Time was when Fingal was simply the North County, little noticed in the centres of power which were basically Dublin City and Dublin County, their head offices in the heart of the city. But then in 2001 the new four-council setup was created, and the old name of Fingal – never forgotten by those who cherished the area – was revived. A very fine new user-friendly County Hall – it has even been praised by Frank McDonald of The Irish Times – was built in the re-born county town of Swords. Out on the new boundaries meanwhile, the signs went up saying "Welcome to Fingal County". But we old Fingallion fogeys pointed out that as Fingal means "Territory of the Fair Strangers" (i.e the Norsemen rather than the Danes), it was superfluous to be describing it as "the county of the territory", so these days it's just Fingal, and we're happy with that.

Here in Howth, we sort of slipped into acceptance of the new setup. Once upon a time, from 1917 to 1943, Howth had its own Urban District Council. It says much for the place's remoteness from the world that the HUDC was established in the midst of one global war, and quietly wound up in the midst of another. In 1943, Commissioners had to be imposed on the tiny fiefdom to offset the fact that some local interests thought the HUDC existed entirely for their own personal benefit. So at various times since, Howth was run either by Dublin County Council, or even by Dublin City Corporation. We were assured that this latter setup was all to our benefit, as the powers-that-be in City Hall had a soft spot for Howth, sure wasn't it the place where the mammy went every Thursday evening to buy the family's fish, and wouldn't she want to see it looking well?

Maybe so, but when it came to doing something more useful with the harbour, Howth Yacht Club – having re-constituted itself in 1968 from an amalgamation of Howth Sailing Club (founded 1895) and Howth Motor Yacht Club (founded 1934) - found itself dealing with a bewildering variety of government departments as the lowly interests of fishing and its ports seemed to be shifted whenever possible by civil servants who reckoned that banging the drum on behalf of fisheries in particular, and maritime interests in general, was not a shrewd career move for anyone planning a steady progress up the very landbound Irish public service ladder to the sunlit uplands of a long and prosperous retirement.

So if at times absolutely nothing seemed to be happening in a harbour which was painfully inadequate for expanding boating and fishing needs, it was partly because the club officers and fishermen's leaders could find it difficult to discern just who in authority could or would make the decisive call. In those days it turned out to be somewhere in the hidden recesses of the Office of Public Works. Suddenly, in 1979, a plan for the major re-development of the harbour was promulgated at official level, with a radical rationalisation planned for its future use. The western part, it was proposed, would become totally fisheries, while the eastern part was to be given over to recreational boating, all of it involving major civil engineering and harbour works projects.

Looking at the successful harbour today, it all seems perfectly reasonable and sensible. But back in 1979 when HYC were presented with a time-limited take-it-or-leave-it choice, the way ahead was not at all clear. Friendships were sundered and family feuds emerged from the heated progress towards accepting the offer that the club agree to vacate its premises on the West Pier - a clubhouse which it had renovated and extended only ten years earlier – and commit itself to the installation, at members' cost, of a marina in the eastern harbour with the obligation to build a completely new clubhouse there.

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Today's Howth Harbour didn't happen overnight. This is how it was from 1982 until the new clubhouse was completed in 1987. Photo: W M Nixon

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Multiple activities under way at Howth YC this week. The club's setup may seem only natural now, but it was quite a struggle to get there. Photo: W M Nixon

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Howth's vibrant mix of a working fishing port and busy sailing centre has provided the ideal setting for the development of a successful visitor and seafood destination. Photo: W M Nixon

It's all history now, but it was done. And done so well by those involved that today it's simply taken for granted. Arguably, it's a compliment to those who created the Howth YC setup, that newer members should seldom wonder how it all came to happen, it just seems so right and natural. And as for those running the club, they in turn have to build on past achievements in dealing with an ever-changing administrative environment in which the changeover to being part of Fingal was only one of several evolutions.

Yet the recent attempt to abolish Fingal was a wake-up call. In Howth we may have wandered into it, but in just a dozen years, a dormant Fingal identity has come quietly but strongly awake. In Howth village it's natural enough, as our backs are turned to Dublin and we look to the rest of Fingal. But even on the south side of the hill, where fine houses face across Dublin Bay and you'd expect a sense of identity with households in similarly choice locations for all that they look north out of Dun Laoghaire, you find that the attraction of visiting the southside has the exotic appeal of going foreign, while those of us more humbly placed in the village, if visiting remote places like Rathmines or Terenure, find it positively unnerving to think of all the houses between us and the sea.

Then too, while Fingal Council has been establishing itself in our hearts and minds, it has been a good time for Howth Harbour. Good fences have been making good neighbours, and though marine administration in government has been kicked from pillar to post, an underlying Department of Fisheries recognition that their harbours cannot be only about fishing has led to a re-think on the use of buildings about the harbour, with Howth becoming an extraordinary nexus of good seafood restaurants, such that on a summer evening, despite the presence of a traditional fish and chip shop, the seafood aroma is of a proper fishing port in Brittany or Galicia. In fact, rents from the hospitality and sailing and marine industries in Howth have now reached such a level that fish landing fees – formerly the bedrock of the harbour economy – only contribute about 10% of the overall income.

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The man from County Hall. Fingal Mayor Kieran Dennison is comfortable with his county's busy sailing activities, and the sailors are comfortable with him. He is seen here officially opening the J/24 Worlds at Howth in August 2013. Photo: W M Nixon

As for how we've been getting on with our new masters in County Hall up in Swords, the news is good. Most recently, we've been having direct contact with the current Mayor of Fingal, Kieran Dennison, who hit just the right note when he officially opened the J/24 Worlds in Howth in August 2013. Following that, he was back at the annual Commodore's Lunch in HYC in the dark days of November when a review of the past season lightens the onset of winter, and he was able to tell us that thanks to contacts made at the Worlds, his invitation to visit the America's Cup in San Francisco in September was made even more enjoyable. Those of us who reckoned the only way to visit the 34th America's Cup was on the television screen were reassured by the thought that if somebody was going to represent us in the San Francisco bear-pit, then our Mayor, our very own Mayor of Fingal, was just the man for the job.

So we very much want to keep Fingal in existence and in robust good health, but we appreciate that its current boundaries might be creating a bit of a Ukraine-versus-Russia situation. In particular, the southwest of the county could well be Fingal's Crimea and Donetsk regions. There, relatively new settlements of ethnic Dubs in places like Clonsilla, Castleknock, Blanchardstown could become such a source of trouble that it might be better to transfer them peacefully to administration by either Dublin city or South Dublin before there is unnecessary bloodshed.

The situation arises because, when the boundaries were being drawn, southwest Fingal was set out all the way down to the Liffey. The Fingallion instinct would be to see the border drawn along the Tolka, in other words the M3. But there could be trouble because of the discovery – always something of a surprise – that the Phoenix Park is in Fingal. I could see that when some people find our Fingal includes the Park, they'll want to fight for it, particularly as, in the southeast of the county, the excellent St Anne's Park in Raheny was somehow allowed to slip into Dublin City.

One thing which is definitely not for transfer is the Airport. It is naturally, utterly and totally part of Fingal. For sure, it contributes a fifth of the county's annual income from business rates, making Fingal the economically healthiest Irish county. But we in Fingal have to live with the airport very much in our midst. If Dublin really wants to take over the airport, then a first condition before negotiations even begin would be that all flight paths are to be re-routed directly over Dun Laoghaire and Dalkey. A few weeks of that would soon soften their cough.

Whatever, the recent kerfuffle about Fingal rejecting involvement in administration by an all-powerful Mayor of Dublin has been a powerful stimulant to thinking about how our own county might best be run. Everyone will have their own pet local projects, and most of us will reckon that decision-making in Swords, rather than in some vast and impenetrable office in the middle of Dublin, will be the best way to bring it about. For those of us who go afloat, the fact that Fingal Council shows that it cherishes its long and varied sea coast, rather than preferring to ignore it, is very encouraging. And the fact that this prospering county has some financial muscle all of its own gives us hope that we can build on what the past has taught us, and spread improved facilities to every port. Should that happen, it will in turn benefit Irish sailing and boating generally to a greater extent than would restricted development under one closely-controlled central administration headed by some southside megalomaniac.

Published in W M Nixon

#GP14 - A fundraising effort at the recent Craftinsure GP14 Championship of Ireland has helped raise more than €4,000 for Make-A-Wish Ireland.

Last Thursday 14 November a cheque for €4,218 was presented to the charity's representative Martina Madden by Sutton Dinghy Club Commodore Andy Johnston at a special evening to thank the club's sponsors and partners.

The donation represents the efforts of competing sailors, their families, visitors and club members alike at the three-day GP14 class competition hosted by Sutton at the end of August, which attracted 50 boats and crews from across Ireland and the UK.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, three-time Irish Olympic sailor Ger Owens and crew Melanie Morris took the event in style amid some exceptionally close competition.

Presenting the cheque, Cmdr Johnston thanked event organiser Hugh Gill and his team for the huge effort in not only staging a successful sailing event but also supporting such a deserving cause as Make-A-Wish Ireland.

Madden, meanwhile, thanked the club and the GP14 Class Association for their decision to select Make-A-Wish Ireland as the events charity of choice and applauded the efforts of sailors, volunteers, members and sponsors in helping raise such a fantastic amount for a worthy cause.

The evening was also attended by Stephen Boyle, representing the GP14 Class Association, and Ciaran Murphy of the ISA, along with representatives of some of the club's sponsors.

Published in GP14
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#gp14 – The final day of 2013 Craftinsure GP14 Championship of Ireland and the forecast was not good for racing. 3 knots gusting 4 is not conducive to getting in 2 races. With the day looking like it would be warm with plenty of sun, the hope was a sea breeze would kick in.

Event leader Ger Owens and Melanie Morris really needed only a top 10 finish in one race to confirm the title but it was all to play for the minor placings and the Silver, Bronze and Classic fleets.

The race management team on committee boat Saoirse headed out to the bay and wasn't long before they called for fleet to launch. The 2pm start was AP'd but it wasn't long before breeze shifted more easterly and PRO Scorie Walls had the fleet in sequence. Windward leeward course and Black flags. The fleet get away all clear.

On first beat, fleet splits equally left and right. Wind was now steady about 110 and 8 knots. At the weather mark it wasclose with McCarthy (14061), Owens (14076), Morris (14077) and Corcoran (14047) all to the fore. Fleet splits again with Morris (14077) ahead of Owens (14076) pink spinnaker staying right on Red Rock side of the course. Corcoran (14047) and Gill (13915) come left and out into the bay.

At halfway down the leg, O'Connell (13801) is now also in the mix along with McCarthy (14961), Elmes (13982) and O'Tiarnaigh (14116X). By the leeward mark Owens O'Connell and Morris are leading 3 and have a few boat lengths on the chasing fleet. Most of the fleet stay out right for a bit before tacking back across to the Sutton shore.

At this point Owens just needs to maintain his position and the title is his but its turning into a repeat of yesterdays last race battle between O'Connell and Owens. Both boats were neck and neck, tack for tack down to weather mark with Owens just creeping inside O'Connell at the mark. A great rounding and then super hoist sees Owens come out that little bit quicker and the momentum was now with the event leader.

Corcoran has now connected with Owens and O'Connell and these 3 are ahead of the fleet. The battle behind was equally close with Elmes, McCarthy, Morris all very tight but the race was between Owens out right and Corcoran and O'Connell as they headed down to leeward mark for the last time.

Around the mark and Owens has the advantage and comes home first and 5 races on the bounce and the new GP14 Champion. Its very close but Corcoran pips O'Connell for 2nd with Morris 4th ahead of Elmes and McCarthy 7th.

In Classic fleet veteran Pat Murphy/Ronan Hand had a race win from local junior Callum Maher/Saoirse Kelly. In Silver fleet, David Lappin (Skerries) and Bill Johnson (Lough Foyle) were still battling it out and the BronE fleet would also go to the last race with a point separating local junior David Johnston and Tim Davies (Chelmarsh).

Owens takes his place on the start line for 7th and final race and with the wind steady from 120 and 6-8knots race gets underway with black flag.

At the weather mark its John McGuinness (14056) and O'Connell (13801) to the fore, with Owens about sixth. However very shortly after rounding its obvious Owens is heading home and the race is on for the minor placings.

O'Connells showing over last 4 races has put him right in contention for 2nd and with Corcoran not top 10 on final downwind leg O' Connell was now favourite. O'Tiarnaigh (14116x) was now up in contention with Niall Henry (Sligo), Louden (Skerries), O'Connor (Sligo) and Instone (Blithefield SC).

In Classic fleet SDC junior Callum Maher/Saoirse White takes the 7th race from Duncan Greenhalgh/Ryan Sinnott.

Around bottom mark for last time and O'Connell lead from SDC's O'Tiarnaigh with Henry (Sligo) 4th, Instone (Blithefield SC) 5th.

That 2nd place in race 7 confirm O'Connell as Championship runner up from Corcoran in 3rd.

An 18th in final race is enough to give Bill Johnson (Lough Foyle) Silver fleet from David Lappin (Skerries) with Sheppard (Skerries) taking 3rd.

Bronze fleet went to SDC Junior David Johnston/ Darragh White from Tim Davies (Chelmarsh) and James Ogg (Donaghadee). An overall finish of 22nd place also gave Johnston/White (SDC) top Junior and Championship newcomer prize.

Classic fleet was won by Stephen Loton Parry (York RI) from GP14 International President Duncan Greenhalgh (Derwent Resevoir).

The prize giving ceremony introduced by Hugh Gill from Sutton Dinghy Club was attended by Make a Wish Ireland representative Martina Madden who thanked Sutton Dinghy Club and the GP14 Class association for selecting them as charity of choice. With over €3000 raised already by the 50 GP14 crews who entered the event, the initiative was a huge success. Gold, Silver and Bronze ISA medals were presented to Owens/Morris, O'Connell/O'Connell and Corcoran/Brogan respectively.

And finally Sutton Dinghy Club Commodore Andy Johnston presented the Championship trophies to Ger Owens and Melanie Morris, very worthy Craftinsure GP14 Championship of Ireland winners for 2013.

The next event is GP14 Open and Youth Nationals in Sligo on 14/15 September.

Published in GP14
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