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Kinsale Can Do It! Successful Sovereigns Classic Moves Irish Sailing Along the Road to Post-Pandemic Recovery  

27th June 2021
Mike and Ritchie Evans’s ‘Snapshot’ from Howth is the winner of the Sovereigns Cup 2021 at the Kinsale Yacht Club, sponsored by O’Leary Insurance Group. Pictured are the crew with Anthony O’Leary, O’Leary Insurance Group; Mike Walsh, Commodore Kinsale Yacht Club and Regatta director Anthony O’Neill.
Mike and Ritchie Evans’s ‘Snapshot’ from Howth is the winner of the Sovereigns Cup 2021 at the Kinsale Yacht Club, sponsored by O’Leary Insurance Group. Pictured are the crew with Anthony O’Leary, O’Leary Insurance Group; Mike Walsh, Commodore Kinsale Yacht Club and Regatta director Anthony O’Neill Credit: John Allen

It took steady nerves among the Kinsale Yacht Club officer board and Anthony O'Neill and his Sovereigns Cup Organising Committee to keep to their carefully planned staging of the biennial Sovereigns Cup 2021, continuing a 1995-founded pillar event of Irish sailing. They were successful in running an intense pattern of racing within current health regulations for a fleet which may have been kept down to 62 boats, but it was encouraging for all Irish sailing in that – while participants were drawn mainly from the Cork and Dublin areas – they included a Galway Bay SC crew, and the East Coast contenders numbered northern Fingal sailors in their ranks.

A Coastal Race start of the 2021 Sovereign's Cup Photo: Bob BatemanA Coastal Race start of the 62-boat 2021 Sovereign's Cup Photo: Bob Bateman

As to the fleet, while generally representative of a contemporary regatta anywhere in Western Europe, it was encouraging to note that there were several new boats barely out of their wrappings. And for those who seek some classics to leaven the mix, we'd a trio of vintage Quarter Tonners and a couple of Half Tonners too, while former Race Director Tony Kingston was setting the Kinsale tone with his immaculately-restored Swan 40 Shindig.

Tony Kingston's immaculately-restored Swan 40 ShindigTony Kingston's immaculately-restored Swan 40 Shindig

The Swan 40 was Olin Stephens' special design of 1970 to demonstrate the ideal of what the then-new International Offshore Rule boats should look like. While a new wave of hyper-competitive designers may have limited the IOR's period of usefulness, at the time it was a major breakthrough in creating a universally accepted international rule which produced boats that have stood the rest of time as handsome vessels of enduring elegance.

In a different style, another golden oldie which showed she can still pitch in there with the new boats was Kieran Collins' Coracle VI from Crosshaven. She may be an Olson 30 which first saw the light of day on the West Coast of the US way back in 1978, but she's still hot to trot, and the regatta finished with her winning IRC2 overall, which will have them dancing - socially-distanced of course - in the streets of her birthplace of Santa Cruz in California.

Kieran Collins' Coracle VI from CrosshavenKieran Collins' Coracle VI from Crosshaven Photo: Bob Bateman

However, generally the headline winners were startlingly new in terms of build year, even if some of the designs have been around for a little while. In theory, the new J/99 should narrowly outperform the vintage J/109, even if the 99 rates slightly higher. But Ireland has developed a fleet of highly-tuned J/109s, and with nine of them in Kinsale and all the talent present, Mike and Richie Evans from Howth with their ultra-new J/99 Snapshot were up against it.

Mike and Richie Evans ultra-new J/99 Snapshot Photo: Bob BatemanMike and Richie Evans ultra-new J/99 Snapshot Photo: Bob Bateman

However, they'd a secret weapon in the form of clubmate Laura Dillon on the strength, all-Ireland Champion Helm in 1996 (the only female winner so far), and sharper than ever as one of Ireland's most accomplished sailors, with Snapshot turning in a neat scoreline in the final races to clinch it in convincing style ahead of the baying pack of J/109 hounds.

Out on the coastal course, it was another newbie from Howth, Bob Rendell's impressive Grand Soleil 44 Samatom, which emerged ahead in the end, her on-board talent lineup including Mark Mansfield, and 2017 Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Year" Conor Fogerty. Getting second in that division added yet another laurel to Denis & Annamarie Murphy's Nieulargo from Crosshaven, an earlier smaller sister of Samatom as she's a Grand Soleil 40.

Bob Rendell's impressive Grand Soleil 44 SamatomBob Rendell's impressive Grand Soleil 44 Samatom Photo: Bob Bateman

Nieulargo arrived in Kinsale fresh from the traditional Royal Cork YC five gun salute for the overall victory in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, in which she'd Samatom astern on corrected time. So maybe there's unfinished business here – there's always the Fastnet Race, and failing that, how about Calves Week in Schull in August?

The sometimes rugged conditions experienced by the large coastal course division tended to favour the bigger boats, and so the odds were stacked against the sole West Coast entry, Liam Burke's recently-acquired Farr 31 Tribal from Galway Bay SC, but they battled on regardless and were accorded VIP treatment as the only boat from Connacht.

Liam Burke's recently-acquired Farr 31 Tribal from Galway Bay SCLiam Burke's recently-acquired Farr 31 Tribal from Galway Bay SC Photo: Bob BatemanThe Men from the West in Kinsale – the Farr 31 Tribal (Liam Burke, Galway Bay SC) was the only Connacht boat racing at Kinsale, and the furthest-travelled of all entries.The Men from the West in Kinsale – the Farr 31 Tribal (Liam Burke, Galway Bay SC) was the only Connacht boat racing at Kinsale, and the furthest-travelled of all entries. From left Mark Wilson, Liam Burke, Justin Mitchel, David Carberry, Jack Nolan and Brian Forde

On the home front, Kinsale itself is the quintessential family sailing centre, and this was most positively represented by the Matthews family with their White Sails Class 1-winning Sun Odyssey 49 Fiscala with three generations of Matthews on board, helmed by Harvey (aged 12) with his crew including grandfather Bruce (age not disclosed, but it's a very long time since he got the Free Bus Pass).

Fiscala - James Matthews Jeanneau was first in the White Sails  Echo division Photo: Bob BatemanFiscala - James Matthews Jeanneau was first in the White Sails Echo division Photo: Bob Bateman

After four intensive days of racing, the complete ramifications of the Sovereigns Cup 2021 will merit weeks of analysis, particularly when set in the context of the continuing emergence from the pandemic of sailing in particular, and Ireland in general. In the circumstances, it was a very precise and difficult target to aim for. Kinsale Yacht Club have done us all a very great service in succeeding in their one chance of hitting the bulls-eye.

Read all Afloat's Sovereign's Cup 2021 coverage in one handy link here

Published in Sovereign's Cup
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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Sovereign's Cup 2021

The dates for the 2021 edition of Kinsale Yacht Club's Sovereign's Cup is: 24–27 June 2021

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