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Small is Beautiful for IRC Classes in Dun Laoghaire Regatta Day One

11th July 2019
Good breeze for the start of the Coastal Race of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Good breeze for the start of the Coastal Race of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Afloat

It was ultra-high summer, and it was difficult sailing in Dublin Bay for the hugely varied fleet starting their racing in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2019 writes W M Nixon. Today’s opening racing started with so much promise – a sparkling sunlit westerly and the race area enlivened by the flood tide. But as the afternoon settled in, the breeze went to sleep, and when a new easterly finally decided to come creeping in under a soft grey sky, it did so in a very uneven way, as was shown in the results for the IRC Classes.

For although the glamour boats of Classes 0, 1 and 2 were in the Race Area nearest the smooth opulence of Dublin Bay’s southeast coast, it was the smaller craft exiled to the middle of the bay – virtually the Northside as some true blue Dun Laoghaire types saw it – who had the best of the day’s sailing, as the new wind nipped in round the Baily with some determination, whereas it was decidedly languid as it wandered in past the Muglins and Dalkey Island.

Outrajeous kite beat 0602The J109 Outrajeous is the first to set her kite on the opening 'beat' when the wind shifts just minutes into race one. The race was abandoned. Photo: Afloat

In other words, the biggies completed just one race, but the little ‘uns got in two. In Class 0, Jamie McWilliam’s Ker 40 Signal 8 from Hong Kong looked like she could fly given a wind, but for some time there weren’t no wind at all at all to ruffle the hair-styles of Dalkey, and it was Frank Whelan’s achingly consistent Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera from Greystones which started from where she’d left off at Kinsale by taking the bullet, while second went to Conor Phelan’s Ker 36 Jump Juice from Crosser, but Signal 8 still made the podium with the third.

Signal 8 0647Jamie McWilliam's Ker 40, Signal 8 Photo: Afloat

Zero Bullock 0724A tightly grouped Class Zero off Bulloch Harbour just before the wind died in aborted race one Photo: Afloat

IRC 1 was a truly awesome turnout in terms of number, but as far as wind speeds were concerned, the numbers suited the J/109s very well indeed, thank you, and they took eight of the first ten places, with the John Maybury’s Joker 2 (RIYC) getting the best of it from clubmates Tim & Richard Goodbody in White Mischief, third place going to Pat Kelly’s Storm from Howth and Rush while longtime J/109 advocates Brian & John Hall (NYC) were fourth with Something Else.

Class One Start 0572A Class One Start Photo: Afloat

The RC 35 Division was within IRC 1, and here the winner was Storm with Something Else second and Robin Young’s Jings from Scotland – yet another J/109 – taking third.

Coastal Division

Mermaid Beneteau 50 0289Seamus Fitzpatrick’s big Beneteau First 50 Mermaid IV clears the harbour mouth at the start of the race Photo: Afloat

Coastal Class 0302The start of the coastal class race with Fintan Cairns's Raptor closest to camera Photo: Afloat

Meanwhile the 30 boats which had gone offshore in the coastal race finally managed to find their way to a finish, and it was Seamus Fitzpatrick’s handsome big Beneteau First 50 Mermaid IV (RIYC) – with former All-Ireland Sailing Champion Ben Duncan as tactician - which managed to stave off the challenge of Andrew Hall’s slippery J/125 Jackknife from Pwllheli in second, third place going to George Sisk (RIYC) with his Xp44 WOW.

JackKnife Wow 0342JackKnife follows Wow out of Dublin Bay at the start of an 18-mile coastal race Photo: Afloat

By comparison with the frustrated big fellows, IRC 3 out in mid-bay had themselves a heady time of it with two races completed, and it was Charlie McAllister’s Starflash Quarter Tonner Fait Accompli from Antrim Boat Club on Lough Neagh which took to the salty sea with relish, and emerged top of the day’s racing with a 1st and a 3rd, Ger O’Sullivan’s Formula 28 Animal from Howth being next best with a 5th and a 1st, while third overall was taken by Ken Lawless’s Quarter Tonner Cartoon (RIYC) with a 4th and 2nd.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the IRC racing is the sheer size of the class numbers involved. If the fates decide to give us enough breeze tomorrow to provide racing, we’ll look in more detail at some other sides to this varied and complex story. But for now, the miracle is that with the awkward wind pattern, the Race Officers still managed to get in a programme, we have results, and tomorrow is another day.

Division 2a details are here

Checkmate XVDave Cullen's Checkmate XV is competing in class Two Photo: Afloat

Published in Volvo Regatta, ICRA
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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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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Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2021

The 2021 Regatta runs from 8-11 July

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