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How Howth Yacht Club's 'Flashback' Won Dun Laoghaire Regatta's Offshore Class

20th July 2017
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Howth Yacht Club's Flashback – attention to detail helped them win offshore at Dun Laoghaire Regatta Howth Yacht Club's Flashback – attention to detail helped them win offshore at Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Afloat.ie

Taking on the dominance of the Dun Laoghaire J109 offshore fleet on its home waters and winning is no mean feat. Winning skipper Paddy Gregory of the Beneteau First 34.7 Flashback (owned by Don Breen and David Hogg) recalls last week's victory in Dun Laoghaire Regatta's biggest class, the 31–boat offshore division and believes 'attention to detail' and a strong desire to win got the Howth Yacht Club crew over the line first.

We’ve all heard the term, “That’s Yacht Racing”. It’s a sport where the factors out of your control such as the weather, shifts, Gods, planets, rabbit-feet etc must all align to yield a result. All we can ever do is try and do the best with what we can control and go for it.

If I was to sum up this year’s event in a word I would say, ”tough”.

Flashback ISORA Beneteau 34.7 1896Yards from the harbour finish line and overall 2017 VDLR offshore class victory – Flashback's crew give it all they've got. Flashback were also crowned Offshore Champions in the RDYC Jack Ryan Championship as part of VDLR Photo: Afloat.ie

The usual vagaries of Dublin Bay did not disappoint and dished up the expected amount of tidal and wind challenges; in fairness we did get a little more wind than was forecast.
Although extremely frustrating at times the light airs benefited us against the bigger boats. In the last Dunlaoghaire week it was averaging 20knts and we worked extremely hard to place fourth overall in the Coastal fleet.

Flashback began racing in the ISORA Coastal series a few years ago and we haven’t looked back. The growth in the Coastal Class is a credit to Peter Ryan and his team at ISORA, as it goes from strength to strength, evidenced by it now being the biggest fleet at the VDLR 2017.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 FlashbackFlashback coming into finish during the first offshore race of Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Photo: Afloat.ie

Flashback’s a standard Bruce Farr designed Beneteau First 34.7’ (overall length 32.7’!) that we commissioned in 2006 and we were lucky enough to win our first regatta in Dunlaoghaire that season. In the intervening years we’ve changed her very little, so we’re still using a 100m2 asymmetric spinnaker. We resisted the temptation to buy a larger rudder, which many of our sister-ships have done to help with control, choosing instead to learn how to cope with her eccentricities off the wind in a blow…….plus we saved some money!

About four seasons ago, having seen the trend on winning IRC boats, we decided to try non-overlapping headsails, instead of the 142% overlapping genoas that she was designed with, and it’s fair to say that our sailmaker Philip Watson (who we’ve worked very closely with over the twelve years ) really “nailed” it on his second attempt, and we now feel that she’s a faster boat for her rating than she’s ever been (moving from old rating 1003 to 986).

flashback crewFlashback's winning crew – Photo: Gareth Craig

We’ve been fortunate to have continuity of crew (panel of 15) and we now sail both of the Howth Yacht Club Winter series’ which keeps us relatively sharp when the Spring/Summer returns.

We’re very particular about having her underwater surfaces very clean because we don’t want to have that as an “ excuses to lose”. And we’re also picky about excess weight, so we strip off our cruising gear, such as sprayhood and TV, and keep her water & diesel tanks light before racing in events.

As a testament we moved from fourth in the 2015 event to first in 2017. 2015 was a heavy weather event and we all know what 2017 weather was like!

Flashback's crew were:
Paddy Gregory (Helm)
Don Breen Main (Trim)
Saraha Watson (Box)
Eamonn Burke (Kite trim and back up Bow/Mast)
Dave McGinn (Bow/Mast)
Des Flood (Head sail Trim)
Garath May (Head sail Trim)
Tactics (normally by general consensus!)

Published in Volvo Regatta
Afloat.ie Team

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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.

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