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Dun Laoghaire Regatta’s Top Award Winner 'Myfanwy' Departs for Future Stardom in the Mediterranean

4th October 2018
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Myfanwy shows her sweeping curves to best advantage as she races to success in Dublin Bay. Photo Myfanwy shows her sweeping curves to best advantage as she races to success in Dublin Bay. Photo Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

The memorable Dun Laoghaire Regatta of 2017 included celebrations for the Bicentenary of the great harbour, and the Kingstown 200 Trophy in its honour became something very special for racing among the Classics writes W M Nixon.

In a popular decision, the trophy was awarded to the beautifully-restored 1897-vintage 37ft cutter Myfanwy from Milford Haven in Wales. Thanks to a four-year re-building project by her veteran owner Rob Mason – a retired tugboat captain – Myfanwy had emerged from near-dereliction to become a vision of elegance that sails very well.

She is a classic yacht very much of the Irish Sea, originally built by Sam Bond at his renowned yard at Birkenhead on the River Mersey to the designs of Alexander Richardson (1845-1915) of Liverpool. For a couple of decades around the mid to late 1800s, Liverpool was one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and for a brief period it supported its own nationally-recognised yacht designer in Alexander Richardson, who is probably best known for his creation in 1884 of the all-conquering cutter Irex for Dublin whiskey magnate John Jameson.

Part of Myfanwy’s attraction is that Richardson seems to have been given a free hand in the project to create his own vision of what a perfect yacht should look like, for she is an almost-indulgent symphony of sweeping curves which are skillfully combined to provide a yacht of speed and style – arguably, she is his best-looking boat.

myfanwy crew afloat2Myfanwy’s crew in Dun Laoghaire Harbour are (left to right) Max Mason, Gus Stott, Andy Whitcher, and owner Rob Mason who restored the 1897 classic in a four year project. Photo: W M Nixon

In the days of her prime when based in the Menai Straits, she was unbeatable. Nevertheless when Rob Mason, his son Max, and shipmates Andy Whitcher and Gus Stott brought her over to Dun Laoghaire early in July last year to race in the Classics Division in VDLR 2017, she looked so interestingly beautiful that no-one would have minded too much if she’d only had an average performance by comparison with more modern classics. But she went like the wind, and at times was more than holding her own with the restored Dublin Bay 24 Periwinkle, a Bermudan-rigged design of 1938.

For Rob Mason, winning the Kingstown 200 trophy successfully rounded out his involvement with Myfanwy, for already he was thinking in terms of a more comfortable vintage motor-fishing yacht, and as mentioned in Afloat, he found exactly what he wanted with the 1938-built Blue Hills, which when new was originally based in Mulroy Bay in Donegal under the ownership of Frank Gilliland.

The acquisition of Blue Hills (now undergoing another of Rob Mason’s restorations) reinforced the decision to sell Myfanwy. But with such a unique boat, you need a new owner who will truly appreciates what he or she is getting. This has now happened, and any day now Myfanwy will be road-trailed to a specialist boatyard in Cornwall where she will be “purged” of standard modern fittings such as Tufnol blocks in order to comply with the requirements of CIM (Comite International de la Mediterranee).

Since 1926, CIM has been the final arbiter as to what constitutes an authentic classic yacht, and by the season of 2019, Myfanwy will be Mediterranean-based and racing to CIM rules. But for now, she leaves behind the fondest memories in Dublin Bay

periwinkle and myfanwy3Memories of a great regatta. Perwinkle and Myfanwy neck-and-neck at the entrance to Dun Laoghaire Harbour during VDLR 2017. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Published in Volvo Regatta
WM Nixon

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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.

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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