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Dun Laoghaire Classics Contender Has Unique Rockall Link

4th July 2017
The classic yawl Verve in sweet silhouette on Dublin Bay The classic yawl Verve in sweet silhouette on Dublin Bay

With Frank Kowalski’s Safehaven team in Thunder Child in the midst of their challenge for the Round Rockall & Ireland Record, it’s timely to remember that one of the entries in the Classics Division racing for the Kingstown 200 Trophy in this week’s Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta has a very special link with Rockall writes W M Nixon.

Brian Comerford and his family sail their lovely Arthur Robb-designed 37ft yawl Verve from Dun Laoghaire, and compete regularly in classics events, so naturally they’re entered for the Kingstown 200. But Verve – built by Tyrrell’s of Arklow in 1963 for leading Irish Cruising Club sailor Paul Campbell – was much better known in he early days as a voyager which often took in distant places.

Verve also frequently cruised round Ireland, as her owner was for years the Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions. But in 1975 with noted cruising man Mickey d’Alton and sailor/mountaineer Willie Dick in his ship’s complement, Paul Campbell undertook an unusual venture which started from Donegal.

verve rockall2Made it! Out at Rockall in the summer of 1975, Willie Dick has made it safely onto the cliff face after a very judiciously-timed leap from the little Avon inflatable rowed by Mickey d’Alton

At the time, Britain had laid claim to the 70ft–high Rockall as being an outlier of Scotland, and to reinforce the territorial claim with its many potential economic benefits, had built a small lighthouse on top. But with all access had been made by helicopter. Although there had been attempts before to land by boat on the isolated rock, all had failed.

But Willie Dick had studied the challenge closely, and reckoned he could see a way up if only the sea was calm enough on the day. It was indeed calm on the summer’s day in 1975 when Verve arrived at Rockall, yet even so the restless ocean seemed to tug endlessly at the battered rock face. But with some masterful boat-handling by Mickey d’Alton (he had, after all, commanded a Tank Landing Craft on D Day), Willie Dick managed to leap cleanly from the little Avon inflatable, and the actual climb to the top was soon completed.

verve rockall2Monarch of all he surveys…. Willie Dick on top of Rockall. He was the first person to succeed in landing from a boat, as the lighthouse had been built with the use of helicopters

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