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Class Band Split Confirms 'Super Class One' for Dun Laoghaire Regatta

4th July 2017
Regatta Chairman Tim Goodbody's White Mischief will be one of 14 J109 designs competing in a 29–boat cruisers one class at this Thursday's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Regatta Chairman Tim Goodbody's White Mischief will be one of 14 J109 designs competing in a 29–boat cruisers one class at this Thursday's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Bob Bateman

No matter what Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta organisers did it was never going to be easy to get a quart into a pint pot. Tomorrow's first race will now see 33% of all competing IRC boats in class one. It's the creation of a 'super class' for the biennial regatta, a sign of the popularity of this size of boat.

It will be the test of the season as class one boats gather from across Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales for the VDLR 'Cruisers One' crown. Ironically, the only boats missing – in a who's who line-up of talent – are the winners of May's Scottish Series (J109, Storm, Pat Kelly) and last month's Sovereign's Cup (A35, Fools Gold, Rob McConnell). Read the full IRC one entry list below.

Just how to manage the class breaks in such an impressive but diverse IRC fleet has been occupying the minds of the VDLR committee and its Director of Racing, Con Murphy, an Olympic Games Race Officer from Rio, for some time.

Last week Afloat.ie stuck its neck out on the thorny subject and gave some predictions on class splits and prospective winners. You can read those predictions here.

Afloat.ie pointed to the possibility of moving boats from the very big class one line-up into class zero as a means of dealing with a class double the size of the other IRC classes.

An amendment to the Notice of Race (NOR) published on Monday, however, shows the regatta has instead introduced a sixth IRC class.

'We've ended up with six distinct groups that are of similar speed, rather than six evenly sized fleets', Murphy told Afloat.ie who admits that it has been a vexed question.

It's a move that at first glance seems unnecessary because 88 IRC boats should fit into five classes but it has come about largely as a consequence of the popularity of boats in and around 33–36 feet length and a desire on the part of the J109 fleet to race under IRC rather than as a one design class.

rockabill icraDublin Bay's own Rockabill VI, the JPK10.80 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race winner will race in class one Photo: Bob Bateman

The net result is VDLR 2017 will set sail with a 'super class' by combining 15 mainly race orientated, well sailed and crewed various designs (JPK 10.80, Corby 33's, Archambault 35's, XP33s, Ker and Mills custom yachts) and then adding to it an uber–competitive 14 x J109 fleet.

VDLR had bowed to the agm–wishes of a 14-strong Dublin Bay J109 fleet as far back as January to allow them race in IRC class one as opposed to a separate class as they had done previously in 2015.

It's been no easy job striking the balance and Murphy has consulted far and wide in trying to reach an equitable solution.

RC35 Scottish seriesIrish boats racing in the RC35 fleet at the Scottish Series in May. The Scottish class says that having a restricted handicap of 1.015 to 1.040 has encourage tight, competitive racing. Scottish boats will be racing in Dun Laoghaire Photo: Marc Turner

Among the lobbyists, Scottish entries argued against some of their boats being moved into class zero. At May's Scottish Series this 'RC35' group had its own class with four boats from Ireland (including an Irish J109 winner) and the racing was tight and competitive. Having a restricted handicap of 1.015 to 1.040 has encouraged tight, competitive racing and has seen four new owners buy boats to fit into this banding.

If there is a split at VDLR, the new Scottish class argued, it will 'dilute our class and our campaign to encourage its development.'

In correspondence seen by Afloat.ie, other skippers argued, however, that class one's higher rated yachts (of 1.045) will make racing 'grossly unfair' as such boats will get 'clear air off the start line while the balance of the relatively level rated fleet will fight for clear air throughout the race and arrive at marks in unison. Meanwhile, the faster boats 'get richer', one Dublin Bay skipper pointed out.

The problem for Murphy is that the bottom of class one fleet is all J109s so there is 'nobody left to move down to class two'. There is a big gap between 1.045 and class zero so moving such boats into class zero would give them 'poor racing'.

If VDLR did move to split class one, it would leave the J109s racing with just one other class one type yacht.

To say the least, the question has put the organisers between a rock and a hard place.

In one sense, of course, it's a good problem to have because so many other regattas these days have been scratching around looking for entries.

As an additional consideration for organisers, this year's VDLR programme will also feature more racing, up to three races per day, so there is a big onus on VDLR to keep fleets together in order to turn races around quickly.

The net result is VDLR 2017 will now have 29 of the 88 boats in class one, that's 33% of all competing IRC boats.

Start lines

It's an imbalance that admittedly could have unintended consequences for class zero, one and two racing that are racing on the same courses.

For example, how do you set proper lines when class zero will start with five boats and, on the same line, class one will start with 29?

Do they make the line too small for the big class? Or if they make it the right length for the larger class, it will be huge (estimated at 400 metres) for the small class, thus allowing boats that don't start well, the chance to get great starts. It's something Murphy acknowledges and as a means of dealing with the issue he will be using pin end committee boats instead of a buoy to facilitate the setting of the suitably long line for the big class one.

'We plan to set appropriately long start lines and 1.5 mile or longer first beats for the fleet to help reduce bunching at marks' 

Equally, Murphy is also investigating the possibility of tying to put in a shorter line for the smaller zero fleet but that will be a tricky thing to achieve within the starting sequence timeframe.

Boat of the Regatta

Another consequence might be its affect on one of the great VDLR traditions and that is its popular 'overall yacht of the week' prize. It's a prestigious award, especially this year when drawn from a total fleet of a near record entry of 473 entries.

How can someone be expected to dominate such a competitive class as class one when it is likely another eight or nine boat classes may produce a dominating boat? It's a factor for organisers to consider because the status of the regatta is diminished if IRC classes are not in the running for this top prize.

Class two and three

Moving down the bands, there are now 17 boats in class two yet only nine in class three. It is, perhaps, a reasonable question to ask why these two classes cannot be combined to make it a 26–boat fleet? If VDLR did this, the spread between the fastest boat and slowest boat would be 57 points. In class one, as they have it now, the spread between fastest and slowest is 50 points.

The answer, says Murphy, after extensive consultation, is that class three is largely made up of vintage –yet modified – Half–Tonners and it is 'unfair to put them with modern class two yachts' because of potential speed differentials.

Racing gets under way tomorrow afternoon.

Cruiser Class One – The Entries

Animal Royal Northern and Clyde YC GBR3627L First 36.7 1.021 Kevin Aitken

Banshee Clyde Cruising Club GBR9470R Corby 33 1.040 Charlie Frize

Bon Exemple Royal Irish Yacht Club GBR8933R X-Yachts 1.017 Colin Byrne

Carmen II Helensburgh Sailing Club IRL1666 First 36.7 1.019 Alan Jeffrey

Ruth National Yacht Club IRL1383 J109 1.015 Shanahan Family

Something Else National Yacht Club IRL29213 J109 1.011 John Hall

Chimaera Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL2160 J109 1.015 Andrew Craig

Jalapeno National Yacht Club IRL5109 J109 1.014 Paul Barrington

Jigamaree Royal Irish Yacht Club IR7991 J109 1.011 Ronan Harris

Joker 2 Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL1206 J109 1.013 John Maybury

Juggerknot Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL3660 J109 1.017 Andrew Algeo

Jump The Gun Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL1129 J109 1.012 John Kelly

Indecision Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL9898 J109 TBA Declan Hayes

Powder Monkey 2 National Yacht Club IRL28898 J109 1.009 Christopher Moore

D-Tox Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL13500 X 35 1.043 Patrick McSwiney

Gringo National Yacht Club Irl 7778 A 35 1.023 Anthony Fox

Impostor South Caernarvonshire YC GBR7377 Corby 33 1.035 Richard Fildes

Jacob VII Port Edgar IRL3307 Corby 33 1.039 John Stamp

Now or Never 3 Fairlie Yacht Club GBR7667R MAT 1010 1.032 Neill Sandford

Prima Luce Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL3504 First 35 1.017 Patrick Burke

Raptor Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL811 Mills 30CR 1.013 Denis Hewitt

Rockabill VI Royal Irish Yacht Club IRL10800 JPK 10.80 1.048 Paul O’Higgins

Thalia National Yacht Club IRL733 Sigma 400 1.035 Aubrey Leggett

Triple Elf Clyde Cruising Club FRA37296 Beneteau First 35 1.020 Christine Murray

Valkerie Liverpool Yacht Club GBR7031T Ker 31 1.027 Austin Harbison

White Mischief Royal Irish YC/National YC GBR1242R J109 1.010 Richard Goodbody

Wavetrain Greystones Sailing Club IRL 1477 Channel 32 1.014 Frank Whelan

Published in Volvo Regatta

 

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Dun Laoghaire Regatta –  From the Baily lighthouse to Dalkey island, the bay accommodates eight separate courses for 25 different classes racing every two years for the Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

In assembling its record-breaking armada, Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta (VDLR) became, at its second staging, not only the country's biggest sailing event, with 3,500 sailors competing, but also one of its largest participant sporting events.

One of the reasons for this, ironically, is that competitors across Europe have become jaded by well-worn venue claims attempting to replicate Cowes and Cork Week.

'Never mind the quality, feel the width' has been a criticism of modern-day regattas where organisers mistakenly focus on being the biggest to be the best.

Dun Laoghaire, with its local fleet of 300 boats, never set out to be the biggest. Its priority focussed instead on quality racing even after it got off to a spectacularly wrong start when the event was becalmed for four days at its first attempt.

The idea to rekindle a combined Dublin bay event resurfaced after an absence of almost 40 years, mostly because of the persistence of a passionate race officer Brian Craig who believed that Dun Laoghaire could become the Cowes of the Irish Sea if the town and the local clubs worked together.

Although fickle winds conspired against him in 2005, the support of all four Dun Laoghaire waterfront yacht clubs since then (made up of Dun Laoghaire Motor YC, National YC, Royal Irish YC and Royal St GYC), in association with the two racing clubs of Dublin Bay SC and Royal Alfred YC, gave him the momentum to carry on.

There is no doubt that sailors have also responded with their support from all four coasts. Entries closed last Friday with 520 boats in 25 classes, roughly doubling the size of any previous regatta held on the Bay.

Running for four days, the regatta is (after the large mini-marathons) the single most significant participant sports event in the country, requiring the services of 280 volunteers on and off the water, as well as top international race officers and an international jury, to resolve racing disputes representing five countries.

Craig went to some lengths to achieve his aims including the appointment of a Cork man, Alan Crosbie, to run the racing team; a decision that has raised more than an eyebrow along the waterfront.

A flotilla of 25 boats has raced from the Royal Dee near Liverpool to Dublin for the Lyver Trophy to coincide with the event. The race also doubles as a RORC qualifying race for the Fastnet.

Sailors from the Ribble, Mersey, the Menai Straits, Anglesey, Cardigan Bay and the Isle of Man have to travel three times the distance to the Solent as they do to Dublin Bay. This, claims Craig, is one of the major selling points of the Irish event and explains the range of entries from marinas as far away as Yorkshire's Whitby YC and the Isle of Wight.

Until now, no other regatta in the Irish Sea area could claim to have such a reach. Dublin Bay weeks such as this petered out in the 1960s, and it has taken almost four decades for the waterfront clubs to come together to produce a spectacle on and off the water to rival Cowes.

"The fact that we are getting such numbers means it is inevitable that it is compared with Cowes," said Craig. However, there the comparison ends.

"We're doing our own thing here. Dun Laoghaire is unique, and we are making an extraordinary effort to welcome visitors from abroad," he added.

The busiest shipping lane in the country – across the bay to Dublin port – is to close temporarily to facilitate the regatta and the placing of eight separate courses each day.

A fleet total of this size represents something of an unknown quantity on the bay as it is more than double the size of any other regatta ever held there.

The decision to alter the path of ships into the port was taken in 2005 when a Dublin Port control radar image showed an estimated fleet of over 400 yachts sailing across the closed southern shipping channel.

Ships coming into the bay, including the high-speed service to the port, will use the northern lane instead.

With 3,500 people afloat at any one time, a mandatory safety tally system for all skippers to sign in and out will also operate.

The main attraction is undoubtedly the appearance of four Super Zero class yachts, with Dun Laoghaire's Colm Barrington's TP52 'Flash Glove' expected to head the 'big boat' fleet. At the other end of the technology scale, the traditional clinker-built Water Wags will compete just as they did at a similar regatta over 100 years ago.

The arrival of three TP 52s and a Rogers 46 to Dun Laoghaire regatta is a feather in the cap of organisers because it brings Grand Prix racing to Dublin bay and the prospect of future prominent boat fixtures on the East Coast.

With 38 entries, the new Laser SB3s are set to make a significant impact although the White Sail Class five almost rivals them numerically. The Fireball is the biggest dinghy class, with 27 entries, while there are 25 entries for the Ecover Half Ton Classics Cup which began on Monday.

Class 0 is expected to be the most hotly contested, if the recent Saab IRC Nationals, Scottish Series and Sovereign's Cup are any indication. Three Cork boats ­- Jump Juice (Conor and Denise Phelan), Antix Dubh (Anthony O'Leary) and Blondie (Eamonn Rohan) - are expected to lead the fleet.

(First published in 2009)

Who: All four Dun Laoghaire Waterfront Yacht clubs

What: Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Why: A combined regatta to make Dun Laoghaire the Cowes of the Irish Sea.

Where: Ashore at Dun Laoghaire and afloat at eight separate race courses on Dublin Bay. Excellent views from both Dun Laoghaire piers, Sandycove and Seapoint.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2021

The 2021 Regatta runs from 8-11 July

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