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Let us begin by simply setting out the pillar events of the 2024 season in Ireland, while including the major international happenings which will be of interest to our sailing community. And then we’ll provide a further take on it all after agreeing that Dun Laoghaire – and the Royal Irish Yacht Club in particular – is going to be one very busy place in late August and the first half of September.

  • December 26th 2023 Sydney-Hobart Race Cr. YC of Australia
  • February 19th 2024 RORC Caribbean 600 Antigua
  • April 4th-7th Irish Youth Sailing Nationals Royal Cork YC
  • April 23rd Opening Day for 2024 season Dublin Bay SC
  • May 6th First ISORA Races (coastals) National YC & Pwllheli SC
  • May 24th to 26th Wave Regatta Howth YC
  • June 12th -15th WIORA Championship Foynes YC
  • June 22nd SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race Wicklow SC
  • June 27th-30th Bangor Town Regatta, Belfast Lough
  • July 12th Kingstown to Queenstown Race Dun Laoghaire & Cork
  • July 15th to 19th Volvo Cork Week Royal Cork YC
  • July 16th MacDara’s Day in Connemara Galway Hooker Assoc.
  • July 27th – August 2nd Cowes Week Cowes Combined Clubs
  • July 28th –August 8th Paris Olympics Sailing Marseille
  • August 6th – 9th Calves Week Schull Harbour SC
  • August 9th - 11th 45th Cruinniu na mBad Kinvara
  • August 15th - 24 Optimist Nationals Howth YC
  • August 22nd – October 20th 37th America’s Cup Barcelona
  • August 30th – September 1st ICRA Nats Royal Irish YC
  • Sept 6th – 13th 80th Dragon Gold Cup Kinsale YC
  • Sept 7th-8th Key Yachting J-Cup Ireland Royal Irish YC
  • Sept 10th – 15th IRC European Champs. RORC/Royal Irish YC
  • Sept 21-22nd Jnr. Champ. of Champs. Fastnet Marine Ctr., Schull
  • Oct 5th – 6th Snr. Champ. Of Champs. Royal North of Ireland YC
  • Oct 24th Rolex Middle Sea Race Royal Malta YC
  • Dec 26th Sydney-Hobart Race Cr. YC of Australia

 The recently-introduced Melges 15 revelling in Dublin Bay conditions. With the class spreading to other centres, its group performance in 2024 will be closely monitored The recently-introduced Melges 15 revelling in Dublin Bay conditions. With the class spreading to other centres, its group performance in 2024 will be closely monitored

PREDICTION AND PLANNING

When we add in happenings like the annual ISORA and SCORA series for offshore racers, and the multiple national and regional championships for the inshore keelboats and dinghies, it can become a complexity of choices. But there has been a certain paring back of the pillar numbers as organisers acknowledge the reality of today’s tasting menu approach, and changing domestic and family priorities.

So inevitably in the Irish context, we find that if anything the need to acknowledge family expectations is greater than ever, with the almost sacred nature of the Bank Holiday in the first weekend of June being indicated by current MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year Howth YC moving their biennial Wave Regatta - by popular demand - to the last weekend of May 2024, while part of Calves Week’s success at Schull is down to the fact that it doesn’t intrude into August’s Bank Holiday Monday, and well before that, the Youth Nationals at Crosshaven will have come clear after Easter.

The Howth Wave dates clashes directly with the Scottish Series in the Clyde, for long a favourite with a small but select group of top-level Irish cruiser-racers, mostly from the north. But in Howth’s case, they’ve taken on board the sage sailing administrators’ advice that you simply have to look at the potential numbers, and thus it becomes no contest as regards making that move back into May.

UNKNOWN TERRITORY AND ‘THE PLAN’

In some ways this seemingly ruthless re-jigging takes us into unknown territory, but then there are so many factors involved in the vehicle sport of many levels sailing that sometimes it is anyone’s bet as to how it turns out.

The Royal Cork YC’s Gavin Deane (left) with Commandant Barry Byrne and Minister for Defence Simon Coveney TD at Volvo Cork Week, when Commandant Byrne skippered the Defence Forces’ entry in the inter-forces Beaufort Cup to victory with John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II, having earlier in the season taken first in the Corinthians and a very close second overall in the 2018 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow . Photo: RCYCThe Royal Cork YC’s Gavin Deane (left) with Commandant Barry Byrne and Minister for Defence Simon Coveney TD at Volvo Cork Week, when Commandant Byrne skippered the Defence Forces’ entry in the inter-forces Beaufort Cup to victory with John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II, having earlier in the season taken first in the Corinthians and a very close second overall in the 2018 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow . Photo: RCYC

For as very many have said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”, with perhaps the most distinguished being Denmark’s Niels Bohr, the Nobel physics laureate. Another twist comes with trying to implement The Plan, with the Defence Force’s high-achieving offshore sailing star Commandant Barry Byrne – originally of Wicklow, and now a recognised international leader in corporate knowledge management - affirming that distance race tactics – and arguably life in general - should follow the Eisenhower dictum.

The very effective General Eisenhower asserted that you may well have started your campaign with A Plan, but if you don’t immediately re-programme your approach when the show is on the road with a mind re-set to Continuous Planning, then you’re really not going to be at the races at all.

 Barry Byrne on the helm on Joker II, on the way to Defence Forces’ success in the 2018 Round Ireland Race from his boyhood home town of Wicklow. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien Barry Byrne on the helm on Joker II, on the way to Defence Forces’ success in the 2018 Round Ireland Race from his boyhood home town of Wicklow. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Thus we find something similar in the approach of crews to the 2024’s busy sailing programme. In this season of goodwill we’ll tend to assume that most owners and crews will have amiable discussions about what they’ll be doing next year, and reach a consensus after much friendly discussion.

APOLOGIES IN ADVANCE

But we know that the reality more often is that the VRO will have his or her own programme in mind, and will have a sufficiently large crew panel to draw on in order to stick to it, reflecting the fact that many boats are benevolent dictatorships rather than easygoing democracies. For in extreme situations at sea, inspirational, positive, rapid and clear leadership is often the only way out of a crisis – there’s no time for a cup of tea and a chat.

 No time for a cup of tea and a chat – Puppeteer 22s in a quick and definitive decision-making situation in racing at Howth. Photo: Annraoi Blaney No time for a cup of tea and a chat – Puppeteer 22s in a quick and definitive decision-making situation in racing at Howth. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Indeed, we know of one often successful skipper whose PA used to circulate the crew panel - ideally, it had at least twice as many people as the boat needed to race properly – with a planned fixtures list, prefacing the proposed programme with the statement: “Mr X would like to apologise in advance for anything unpleasant he might say in the most heated moments of these races, but he knows that his friends and shipmates will appreciate that this is all a by-product of the wish for shared success”.

THE JOY OF SILENT SUCCESS

That said, there is something utterly wonderful in having a crew so skilled that scarcely a word needs to be said in the course of a successful race. We once had a midship hauler and a point man who worked so well together with our oversize fore-triangle – with spinnaker boom like a telegraph pole - that the longterm cockpit crew were raised to new heights of co-operation and achievement, all with few, if any, words said.

With the over-size fore-triangle on the heavy-displacement Contessa 35 Witchcraft of Howth in ISORA Week 1991 at Howth, the deck crew ruled the roost. Photo: Patrick RoacheWith the over-size fore-triangle on the heavy-displacement Contessa 35 Witchcraft of Howth in ISORA Week 1991 at Howth, the deck crew ruled the roost. Photo: Patrick Roache

The only trouble was that the other side of our dynamic duo’s foredeck silence while successfully racing was a tendency towards verbose cockiness ashore during the après sailing as the party went into overdrive. This once manifested itself to such an extent that in one crowded clubhouse, the bellow from the hosting club’s top honcho to our point man was heard across the heaving crowd: “Z, you’re outta here! And take your father with you!”

Glandore Harbour YC’s Lawrie Smith (second left), also known in West Cork as The Squire of Tralong, with his winning crew after clinching the Dragon Gold Cup 2023 at TorbayGlandore Harbour YC’s Lawrie Smith (second left), also known in West Cork as The Squire of Tralong, with his winning crew after clinching the Dragon Gold Cup 2023 at Torbay

This sort of thing is of course is totally out of court in the more genteel classes. The fact that the 80th Dragon Gold Cup, sponsored by Astra Construction at Kinsale in September 2024 and the third time Kinsale YC has staged this mega-contest with Lawrie Smith of Glandore Harbour YC as defending champion, makes for such a highlight that it reminds us of a time when, although all the Belfast Lough Dragons were all road-trailed to Kinsale’s hospitable south coast glue pot for a major, some of the owners and crews travelled there in a vintage high-speed motor-yacht of classic American origins. This was a splendid vessel that spread a certain confusion in her wake, and aboard which they continued to live in style right at the heart of things at the venue, while achieving mixed success during the racing.

GENTEEL DRAGON CLASS

The championship concluded with the prize-giving dinner in the clubhouse on a true summer’s evening of such warmth that the menfolk were permitted to remove their reefer jackets. This meant that, when the owner-skipper of the large motor-yacht suddenly announced that it was time to head back north despite the party being at its height, there was some confusion as to whose jacket was where before they roared off seaward into the velvet night.

“Where summer evenings can be long, warm, and confusing…” The hospitable port of Kinsale embraces the sea“Where summer evenings can be long, warm, and confusing…” The hospitable port of Kinsale embraces the sea

Consequently when the dining room was finally clearing at dawn, one of the most senior and hugely respectable Kinsale skippers found that his only jacket option was an ancient Edwardian item of many buttons with every evidence of a well-lived life, but definitely not his own.

This meant that eventually, beside Belfast Lough, it was noted that one of Cork tailor Joe Fitzgerald’s very best and beautifully kept reefer jackets was now in the north, three hundred miles from its rightful home in Kinsale. But by this time, the senior Kinsale figure had become so concerned about the absence of his beloved jacket that he had gone through the many pockets of the abandoned antiquity to try to find who might own it.

He found many things, but none to indicate ownership. However, when the problem was finally solved, it was agreed that as I knew both parties to the clothing confusion, I’d have a role in ensuring that the jacket which had gone north would be delivered to a Dun Laoghaire club, where the antiquity left in Kinsale would be waiting.

ROMANTIC OPTIMISM

There was one final comment from the Kinsale skipper: “I can perfectly understand the romantic optimism of having intensely personal medical items in every pocket. But it’s a harsh pre-judgement on our club chef that this Dragon sailor should have felt it necessary to go to a Kinsale Yacht Club dinner with at least two tubes of Colman’s Full-Strength Mustard ready in his jacket.”

The great Don Street – now 93 – celebrated his 90th birthday in Glandore as only a Dragon man canThe great Don Street – now 93 – celebrated his 90th birthday in Glandore as only a Dragon man can

That was all a long time ago, when Dragons were more individualistic and often of different colours. The great Don Street of Glandore, Dragon skipper emeritus at the age of 93, is beating the drum for the vintage Dragons - in which Glandore is in a league of its own - with the classic Dragons becoming an increasing interest despite the fact that almost all modern Dragons are plastic fantastic, and very uniformly white.

TAKING OFF WITH THE WRONG BOAT

But this in turn has produced its own folklore, with one noted Dun Laoghaire crew taking off on their road trail in a hurry after a major event in Brittany, and only noticing when they had a pit stop halfway to Roscoff that they had the wrong boat in tow.

Anybody can make a boat ID mistake – as seen here in a huge fleet start off Cannes, the modern Dragons are like peas in a podAnybody can make a boat ID mistake – as seen here in a huge fleet start off Cannes, the modern Dragons are like peas in a pod

So in some cases an eement of anonymity doesn’t go amiss, and the quality of the sport may well be improved by maintaining a certain privacy about some special class’s doings. Thus although Afloat.ie publishes regular but short weekly briefings about the results in the 1887-founded Dublin Bay Water Wags, the inner doings of this exceptional class remain a matter of smoke and mirrors to the rest of us.

As to the activities of the Shannon One Designs with their centenary in 2022, and the Howth 17s with their equally successfully-celebrated 125th in 2023, both had skillfully managed blazes of national and international publicity during the special years, but now they retreat into their secret worlds, often apparently communicating by telepathy for the implementation of successfully busy annual programmes with highlight which are very much class-limited affairs.

CLASSES WITH A MIND TO EXPAND

In the other hand, there are classes with a mind to expand and proselytise, and the Flying Fifteens have found a happy hunting ground in Connemara, that magic area which proved sufficiently connected to the world as the rest of us know it to provide the 2023 F/F champion in the Nationals sailed at Whitehead on Belfast Lough.

The invigorating attraction of Flying Fifteen sailing – seen here in Dublin Bay – has been appreciated in Connemara with such success that the 2023 Irish Champion came from the west.The invigorating attraction of Flying Fifteen sailing – seen here in Dublin Bay – has been appreciated in Connemara with such success that the 2023 Irish Champion came from the west.

WARY EYE ON MELGES 15s

Belfast Lough also provided the champion and the championship for the Squibs at Cultra, but it is RS400 dinghies that will be used for the Championship of Champions at RNIYC in October 2024. In dinghies generally, there’ll be a close eye on the growth of the Melges 15s, with 12 being parachuted into Howth to take on the 15 already in Dun Laoghaire. As for the small keelboats, both Squibs and Flying Fifteens – and SB20s too, come to that – will be keeping a wary eye on how big a showing the RS 21s make with their Irish debut at Volvo Cork Week in July.

Squib numbers are growing again, and they’re expected to be the boats used in the Championship of Champions at Cultra with Royal North of Ireland YC in October 2024. Photo: Robert BatemanSquib numbers are growing again, and they’re expected to be the boats used in the Championship of Champions at Cultra with Royal North of Ireland YC in October 2024. Photo: Robert Bateman

CORK HARBOUR INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS REGATTA?

And on another tack, Crosshaven is now home to three completely restored gold standard classic yachts in the form of Anthony & Sally O’Leary’s Sandy Balfour/Berthon Boat Company superstar Northele, the Royal Cork YC’s own Fife-designed Cork Harbour OD Jap revived by Duncan Walker, and Darryl Hughes 1937 Tyrrell ketch Maybird, while Damien McGovern’s vintage Fife-designed Clyde 30 Brynoth from East Ferry was the object of Duncan Walker’s 17th major project, though just for hull restoration.

Northele looked classy pre-restoration as seen here, but now she is Crosshaven’s gold standard classic. Photo: Robert BatemanNorthele looked classy pre-restoration as seen here, but now she is Crosshaven’s gold standard classic. Photo: Robert Bateman

With such a quality selection, Crosshaven surely has the makings of a genuine Cork Coast International Classics Regatta to take over where Glandore appears to have left off. And in a final notion of what might be called trans-migration, may we repeat again that if the GAA really wants to show its credentials as the premier national sporting organization, then it should have its own entry in the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow in June.

A real mixum gatherum….the Round Ireland Race start at Wicklow is always an adrelin-fuelled eventA real mixum gatherum….the Round Ireland Race start at Wicklow is always an adrelin-fuelled event

GAA IN THE ROUND IRELAND YACHT RACE

Ideally, this GAA sailing challenge would come from Cork Harbour, even though there are some ferociously successful Gaelic clubs in the Dun Laoghaire Harbour hinterland. For as we reminded everyone recently, recreational sailing was first brought to Cork and Ireland early in the 1660s when frequent fighter Murrough O’Brien of Limerick regained a foothold in Munster as the first Earl of Inchiquin, with his base at Rostellan on the east shore of Cork Harbour. Yet, with the changes of history, Rostellan is now the home of Aghada GAA Club.

Who knows. But after seeing how well sailing in Ireland dealt with the obtuse weather of 2023, the prospect of 2024 with its turbo-powered programme is fascinating.

Well, why not? Why not a GAA entry in the Round Ireland race? Recreational sailing came to the south coast of Ireland in the 1660s with Limerick’s “sword for hire” Murrough O’Brien gaining a foothold as the 1st Earl of Inchiquin here, at Rostellan on the east shore of Cork Harbour. Rostellan now provides the playing fields of Aghada GAA ClubWell, why not? Why not a GAA entry in the Round Ireland race? Recreational sailing came to the south coast of Ireland in the 1660s with Limerick’s “sword for hire” Murrough O’Brien gaining a foothold as the 1st Earl of Inchiquin here, at Rostellan on the east shore of Cork Harbour. Rostellan now provides the playing fields of Aghada GAA Club

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The sailing scene in Ireland has lost three significant figures this past week with the deaths of Liam Shanahan of Dun Laoghaire, Mick Hunt of Howth, and Sean Flood of The Baily overlooking Dublin Bay. They were very much distinctive individuals, as they expressed themselves afloat mainly through different areas of sailing – sometimes very different. Yet all had a “can do, let’s get on with it” approach to life and to boats, with a level of commitment that is increasingly rare in these tasting menu times, in which those of us still on the planet find ourselves in a painfully new era.

For sure, the three men had plenty of other interests. But all three were increasingly out of sync with today’s casual approach of hopping from one thing to another in as short a space of time as possible. They were men for the long haul and total dedication, with Liam Shanahan a pillar of Irish cruiser-racing, Mick Hunt a pace setter and exemplar in the traditional boat revival movement, and Sean Flood actively dedicated in multiple areas afloat, with much of his maritime attention in later years given to sail training.

 Tall ships at sea. In his later years, Sean Flood gave sail training the same longterm undivided attention he’d given to dinghy racing and then cruiser-racers earlier in his extensive sailing career Tall ships at sea. In his later years, Sean Flood gave sail training the same longterm undivided attention he’d given to dinghy racing and then cruiser-racers earlier in his extensive sailing career

FOCUS ON BEST USE OF BOATS

Thus while family and friends were everything to them, somehow they also found the mental space and energy to run successful businesses while still being able to re-focus on boats and their best use. They did so in a way that may have been time-consuming, but not a moment of that time was wasted, and the result was three sailing careers of international standard.

FROM THE LONG HAUL TO THE BRIEF BUZZ

Yet today, the expectation is of instant fulfillment and the glitter of fame in a minimum of time. We have moved from the long haul to the brief buzz. And in sailing this becomes most painfully obvious when our sport - which is best experienced and observed as an active participant - twists itself into unnatural formats in order to comply with live television coverage requirements.

Thus the more interesting the televised sport becomes to the casual viewer, then almost inevitably the less interesting it is to those who really do go out sailing. The classic case in point - and one to which we’ve referred several times in this connection - is the America’s Cup series of 1987 at Perth. In it, a genuine deeply-involved sailor can be fascinated by footage of one 12 Metre gradually and ever-so-slowly inching ahead of another while racing to windward at the top end of the permissible wind strength.

 Breezy windward work for match-racing 12 Metres makes for fascinating viewing for a dedicated sailor, but the casual observer’s interest soon wanes Breezy windward work for match-racing 12 Metres makes for fascinating viewing for a dedicated sailor, but the casual observer’s interest soon wanes

BORING FOR CASUAL VIEWER

But the casual viewer almost immediately finds that boring, yet might be drawn to a modern America’s Cup race where the decidedly un-boatlike foiling machines race round a tame course at ludicrous speeds, and it’s all done and dusted within half an hour.

However, it’s only with limited success in viewing numbers. For if you’re trying to pitch sailing into the top-end viewable sports category, then why try to rival Formula 1 racing when people can quickly turn to the latest and very real incident-filled Formula 1 event?

Now this did make them sit up and pay attention. The MOD 70 Trimaran Spindrift capsizes while racing in Dublin Bay in September 2013. But it was publicity with a serious cost – a crewman spent a prolonged period in a Dublin hospital with a severely fractured pelvisNow this did make them sit up and pay attention. The MOD 70 Trimaran Spindrift capsizes while racing in Dublin Bay in September 2013. But it was publicity with a serious cost – a crewman spent a prolonged period in a Dublin hospital with a severely fractured pelvis

Equally, there’s the eternal fascination of human interest. In an intensely-covered, successfully-televised arena sports event, you’ll find that the key moments are when the cameras focus on the faces of those most actively involved, with some faces and people much more watchable than others. Thus in his glory days, many fans would have preferred to watch Tiger Woods playing golf badly rather than view some characterless nonentity playing it well. There was powerful interaction between spectators and the high-visible star. Yet modern America’s Cup helms and crews really have become the faceless men, and it’s difficult for their personalities to emerge after the event, when all you can see during the racing is a protective helmet.

Playing to the gallery – Volvo World Race skipper Ken Read hits the right note during the Galway stopover. Photo Tourism IrelandPlaying to the gallery – Volvo World Race skipper Ken Read hits the right note during the Galway stopover. Photo Tourism Ireland

THE UPWARD TREND TOWARDS SIGNATURE EVENTS

But difficult and all as it is for sailing to find a foothold in the crowded space of sport’s top levels, within the sport there is this clearly discernible upwards trend in event success in terms of boat numbers. As Peter Ryan of ISORA had dolefully pointed out in contemplating the very muted interest in last night’s concluding race of the offshore season, signature events like the Round Ireland, the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle, and ultimately the Fastnet Race are sucking the energy and oxygen out of ordinary offshore racing.

ISORA’s Peter Ryan of the National YC reckons that signature events suck the oxygen and energy out of “ordinary” racing.ISORA’s Peter Ryan of the National YC reckons that signature events suck the oxygen and energy out of “ordinary” racing

There are those who would point out that staging an overnight offshore race in the weekend of the Autumn Equinox is almost a guarantee of interest failure, particularly when the Championship is already decided with Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) the overall winner.

“We are the Champions”. Even with a final race scheduled for last night, Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins) of the Royal Irish YC were already the 2023 ISORA Champions. Photo Afloat.ie/David O’Brien“We are the Champions”. Even with a final race scheduled for last night, Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins) of the Royal Irish YC were already the 2023 ISORA Champions. Photo Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

But in this case, Peter Ryan is drawing attention to a rather extreme instance in order to highlight a season-long trend. Cruiser-racer crews are only human, and many share the widespread enjoyment of possibly seeing their name up in lights if they can work their way onto the podium in even one race in a major highly-publicised series such as the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

That’s highly-publicised by sailing standards, which inevitably is not very high at all unless there are serious accidents involved. But it’s the best that’s going. Yet meanwhile, as a longterm and very keen offshore racer, Ryan becomes the complete iconoclast by also lamenting the adverse effect that modern technology can have on his branch of the sport.

DRAWBACKS OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY

The detailed efficacy of weather forecasts means, he says, that crews may not make the final commitment to taking part until very near the event, as they have no wish to go to sea in order to be becalmed for a long time in zero wind, or battered – sometimes expensively – by too much of it.

Then in warming to his theme, Ryan takes a swipe at Race Trackers, claiming that in the old days you often hadn’t a clue at the finish as to how well you’d done in that over-crowded profession of doing the best you can. It was a fascinating situation which greatly added to the liveliness of the post-race party when the results were finally issued. But with YellowBrick and its rivals in general use, you have a fair idea by mid race.

 Back in the day, navigation with sextants was seen by some as part of the proper package for offshore racing Photo: Valery Vasilesvky  Back in the day, navigation with sextants was seen by some as part of the proper package for offshore racing Photo: Valery Vasilesvky 

Remembering the battles there used to be as to whether or not the now-quaint Decca navigation system was permissible on offshore racers, there’s no escaping the trend. Indeed, it could be argued that it is all leading to AI bots racing remotely-controlled boats while the rest of us savour the experience through various electronic ways.

Yet surely the ultimate artificiality is trying to stage events with a ban on the best of modern equipment? Even the setting of spending limits has a phoney air to it. And like it or not, there’s something sad about re-enactments, even if we’ve had them back the beginnings of civilisation with the theatrical dramas of ancient Greece.

At least those involved in acting and theatrical re-enactments will ultimately acknowledge they are actors. In fact, they make a profession out of pretending to be someone else. But Liam Shanahan snr, Mick Hunt and Sean Flood had no doubt that they were themselves, and lived their lives ashore and afloat accordingly.

LEADERSHIP NEEDED, RATHER THAN FICKLE FASHION

As we face into this weird new world of reality intertwined with artificiality in every aspect of our lives, we need the firmly-based example of such people simply to cope. And we need to be able to discern between populism and leadership. In sailing as in other sports, there are those who operate on the system of “I am their leader, which way do they want to go?”

An impressive force for the good in Irish sailing - the late Denis Doyle of CorkAn impressive force for the good in Irish sailing - the late Denis Doyle of Cork

But there are, and always have been, those who know when to step in and give clear unequivocal leadership. One of the best examples was the late Denis Doyle of Cork, who has been gone from among us for far too long. It was he who, when others dithered, stepped in and provided space in his boatyard for Tim Severin to built his St Brendan Currach in 1976. And when the Round Ireland Race was struggling to gain acceptance after its inauguration in 1980, Denis brought Moonduster round from Cork to Wicklow for the 1982 race, and his example then - and in subsequent races – set up the Round Ireland as a major fixture.

Admittedly, that meant that in the long run, he was encouraging a signature event which in due course, might weaken other races. But that’s the way it is. When choices have to be made, they have to be made thoughtfully and firmly, and then adhered to in a way which provides true leadership.

Putting the new Round Ireland show on the road to success – Denis Doyle’s Moonduster approaching Wicklow to take line honours in the second Round Ireland Race in 1982. Photo WSCPutting the new Round Ireland show on the road to success – Denis Doyle’s Moonduster approaching Wicklow to take line honours in the second Round Ireland Race in 1982. Photo WSC

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Yesterday (Friday), Afloat.ie listed eight of our “Sailor of the Month” awards for August 2023. As most involved either double-handed teams or helmsmen representing more numerous crews, in total, the achievements mentioned highlighted the successful sailing performance of 22 people from all over the country.

There are those who would say that as we have been running these listings since 1996, you’d think that by now, we would have learned how to make the ruthless surgical cuts necessary to reduce it down to just one award.

But as International Yachting Historians Association Chairman Hal Sisk has persuasively asserted, Ireland invented and introduced much of what is now the accepted practice in sailing worldwide, both in racing and cruising. So, in doing the “Sailor of the Month” awards in our own, perhaps quirky way, we’re following in a fine old Irish sailing tradition of innovation and making it up as we go along.

Enduring innovation. With a class history dating back to 1887, the Dublin Bay Water Wags know a thing or two about how regular sailing can be managed despite adverse Irish weather. However, they aren’t finished yet in 2023 – for September’s Equinoctial Weekend, they’ll be experimenting with a class expedition for racing on the northerly Shannon lake of Lough KeyEnduring innovation. With a class history dating back to 1887, the Dublin Bay Water Wags know a thing or two about how regular sailing can be managed despite adverse Irish weather. However, they aren’t finished yet in 2023 – for September’s Equinoctial Weekend, they’ll be experimenting with a class expedition for racing on the northerly Shannon lake of Lough Key

Thus in 27 years of assessing the “Sailor of the Month” title, we’ve learned that crude analysis to result in just one monthly title-holder simply doesn’t work for a country of such varied sailing, sailing that takes place in widely differing locations, in multiple boat types, and in an often challenging weather environment.

AUGUST 2023 “BEST IRISH SAILING MONTH EVER”

And this time round, special circumstances prevail. Despite some of the most disagreeable August weather seen in many decades, it’s not unreasonable to assert that August 2023 has been one of the best-ever months for Irish sailing achievement, both at home and abroad.

A highlight of August in any Irish sailing year is the annual Calves Week out of Schull, and it went cheerfully ahead in 2023 through a mixture of good sailing breezes between fog and gales. Photo: Robert BatemanA highlight of August in any Irish sailing year is the annual Calves Week out of Schull, and it went cheerfully ahead in 2023 through a mixture of good sailing breezes between fog and gales. Photo: Robert Bateman

At home, it could be argued that the real heroes of the Irish sailing scene have been the Race Officer teams who have endured often abominable conditions to put through viable championship programmes which have gone well beyond the meagre most basic claim of “We got a result”.

ORGANISING HEROES

Doubtless, those top organisers and race officers will be awarded with the “Sailors of the Month (Services to Sailing)” accolade before the year is out. But right now, as we face into a September which may briefly enjoy an Indian summer for a few days before reverting to type as the ultra-disturbed conditions currently plaguing the western Atlantic work their way east, though hopefully in a very diluted form, we can only look back in wonder at all that was seen and done in August.

Celebrating 120 years. Even if there’s a cloudscape which would not look out of place on a November day, the 18ft Belfast Lough Waverley Class OD Ivanhoe sails out at Whiterock on Strangford Lough in August to commemorate the class’s founding in 1903. Although now based with Strangford Lough YC, the Waverleys originated in Belfast Lough where Ivanhoe was owned for decades by the Henshaw brothers of Whitehead in County Antrim. They not only won many races with her, but somehow cruised this gallant little craft up the West Coast of Scotland as far as Skye. Photo: Brian DawsonCelebrating 120 years. Even if there’s a cloudscape which would not look out of place on a November day, the 18ft Belfast Lough Waverley Class OD Ivanhoe sails out at Whiterock on Strangford Lough in August to commemorate the class’s founding in 1903. Although now based with Strangford Lough YC, the Waverleys originated in Belfast Lough where Ivanhoe was owned for decades by the Henshaw brothers of Whitehead in County Antrim. They not only won many races with her, but somehow cruised this gallant little craft up the West Coast of Scotland as far as Skye. Photo: Brian Dawson

On all coastlines and on the lakes, sailors doggedly sailed on, and we have recorded their doings on Afloat.ie. It may well be that the numbers turning out for the more local and sociable events have not matched the crowds which suddenly appear in prolonged periods of good weather, but the fact is that the self-selecting groups toughing it out together create a special camaraderie which is something to be cherished.

GOOD WEATHER BRINGS OVER-CROWDED PRIZE-GIVINGS

Indeed, there are those who would argue that setting a quite conservative upper number for participation greatly improves the calibre of the racing and the quality of the après sailing. Certainly, there was a time when things were getting out of hand. A story which we know to be absolutely true concerns the peak number years of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

At the hyper-crowded prize-giving, two noted sailors of a classic boat had collected the handful of trophies they knew they had won together in the four days of intensive racing and socialising. So, having battled through the crowds going there-and-back to the podium, they’d retreated exhausted to their car and were about to head gratefully home for peace and quiet when they heard the decidedly powerful PA system come loud and clear over the clubhouse with the final announcement that they’d won the secretly-decided “Boat of the Regatta” trophy.

A civilized level of turnout. The IDRA 14s racing their annual National Championship on Lough Ree a week ago, under a sky very typical of August’s hyper-changeable weather. Leading this group are Jim Lambkin and Wendy Rudd of Sutton DC in Error (No 1), originally built in 1946-47 for Irish Dinghy Racing Association Founding President Douglas Heard. Photo: Rachel DoogueA civilized level of turnout. The IDRA 14s racing their annual National Championship on Lough Ree a week ago, under a sky very typical of August’s hyper-changeable weather. Leading this group are Jim Lambkin and Wendy Rudd of Sutton DC in Error (No 1), originally built in 1946-47 for Irish Dinghy Racing Association Founding President Douglas Heard. Photo: Rachel Doogue

Politeness dictated that they re-access the awards stage through a semi-secret rat-run known only to a few along the side of the clubhouse in order to accept this final honour. But really, you do begin to wonder when an event has become so crowded and demanding that the concluding ceremony becomes a chore rather than a celebration.

OUR SPREAD-OUT FLEETS

Nowadays, however, it could be argued the situation has changed to lower turnouts being the new normal, thanks to a significant number of Irish boats being based in other European centres, which we find congenial. Northwest Spain, the Balearics and Croatia could all stage an “Irish only” regatta if they so wished. But while cruising rallies are organised in these places from time to time, it is the peacefulness, the change of scene and climate, and the lack of social and sailing competitive imperatives that provide a significant part of the attraction.

The Mad Irish are in town, and in the Baltic too – the weather-defiant spirit of Irish sailing in August 2023 is well expressed by Ben O’Shaughnessy of Cork and Ethan Spain of Dun Laoghaire celebrating their winning of Gold in the 29er Europeans in Sweden at Stockholm Photo: Sailing PicsThe Mad Irish are in town, and in the Baltic too – the weather-defiant spirit of Irish sailing in August 2023 is well expressed by Ben O’Shaughnessy of Cork and Ethan Spain of Dun Laoghaire celebrating their winning of Gold in the 29er Europeans in Sweden at Stockholm Photo: Sailing Pics

PLACING IT IN CONTEXT BACK HOME

Yet at all times, however exotic the location and however glorious or otherwise the weather may be, it all ends up being locally referenced to the folks back in Ireland, ideally through the local paper. Thus, when Michael Boyd – originally of Dun Laoghaire but long since of Meath – won his first Round Ireland Race with the J/35 Big Ears in 1996, the full power of the Navan-based Meath Chronicle was turned on, and he acquired some useful standing with his neighbours as a result of the headline: Lobinstown Man Wins Round Ireland Boat Race.

And more recently, the Anglo-Celt of Cavan got in on the rising Tom Dolan bandwagon with the headline: Moynalty Man Wins French Sailing Race. Now, this was arguably a bit of readership imperialism by the Cavan paper, as Tom’s ancestral place of Moynalty – noted for its steam threshing festival - is actually in the far north of Meath.

That said, he and his late father started sailing on Lough Ramor in Cavan with a Miracle Class dinghy bought second-hand online. Thus, we expect that the latest Dolan achievement of first place in the Caen in Normandy to Kinsale first leg of the Figaro Solo Paprec 2023 will result in claims and counter-claims between printworks in Navan and Cavan. It’s all grist to the circulation mill.

“Moynalty Man Gets Podium Place In Boat Race From France To Ireland” - all papers please copy“Moynalty Man Gets Podium Place In Boat Race From France To Ireland” - all papers please copy

Published in W M Nixon

Down Kerry way where the weather is often for adults only, they say that when Noah came bobbing along in his crowded Ark across the boundless wastes of flood water, the first sign of any land-indicating feature with life that he saw was a tiny little steep island with someone on top of it. It was a Kerryman reclining on the peak of the otherwise immersed Carrauntoohill which - for the information of our friends outside Ireland – has the distinction of being our highest mountain, even if it would barely count as a foothill in the Himalayas.

Be that as it may, the skipper of the Ark felt obliged to pass a comment about the endless rain as he went by, and got the classic Kerry put-down for his troubles: “Och, ’tis only a shower”.

AUGUST’S CHANGE OF MOOD

Yet while changing perceptions may be affected by the weather of the moment or the fact of local pride over-riding reality, in sailing in Ireland, we still find it difficult to feel a sense of enthusiastic anticipation for many good things still to come once the first ten days of August are astern. Indeed, the great Tom Crosbie, philosopher-sailor of Cork, was wont to observe; “No gentleman would dream of having his yacht west of the Old Head of Kinsale after August 15th”.

“No gentleman would dream of having his yacht west of the Old Head of Kinsale after the 15th August”. Tom Doyle’s classic Int. 8 Metre If racing at Schull Regatta in early August 1960. First sailed in 1884, Schull Regatta has now expanded to become Calves Week.c“No gentleman would dream of having his yacht west of the Old Head of Kinsale after the 15th August”. Tom Doyle’s classic Int. 8 Metre If racing at Schull Regatta in early August 1960. First sailed in 1884, Schull Regatta has now expanded to become Calves Week.

Up north in my own nursery waters of Belfast Lough, back in the day there wasn’t really a totally-sheltered all-tides-accessible place to moor or berth a boat anywhere other than in the Port of Belfast itself. Thus there was a feeling of the shutters starting to come down after the end of July, as August was reputedly a no-go weatherwise for the regular cruising ground of the West Coast of Scotland, and some insurance companies eventually refused to provide cover for moorings in the Lough after August’s end.

The perils of a Belfast Lough “anchorage” in September 1936. The 20-ton ketch Morna was normally moored towards the head of the lough at Cultra, but as the only slipway capable of hauling her was at Bangor Shipyard on Ballyholme Bay, she’d been left down-lough the previous evening in anticipation of hauling in the morning. An unforecast northeast gale decided otherwise, and with it threatening to freshen again as the tide made, Bertie Slater of Bangor Shipyard made the courageous yet very right decision to strip Morna of everything removable, and then drill large holes in her garboards so that she’d fill with the rising tide, instead of re-floating and being bashed to bits. When the calm finally came after the storm, he sealed the holes, floated her off and into the slipway cradle, and restored her through the winter such that (below in Bangor Marina) she still thrives. Photo below by W M NixonThe perils of a Belfast Lough “anchorage” in September 1936. The 20-ton ketch Morna was normally moored towards the head of the lough at Cultra, but as the only slipway capable of hauling her was at Bangor Shipyard on Ballyholme Bay, she’d been left down-lough the previous evening in anticipation of hauling in the morning. An unforecast northeast gale decided otherwise, and with it threatening to freshen again as the tide made, Bertie Slater of Bangor Shipyard made the courageous yet very right decision to strip Morna of everything removable, and then drill large holes in her garboards so that she’d fill with the rising tide, instead of re-floating and being bashed to bits. When the calm finally came after the storm, he sealed the holes, floated her off and into the slipway cradle, and restored her through the winter such that (below in Bangor Marina) she still thrives. Photo below by W M Nixon

The perils of a Belfast Lough “anchorage” in September 1936. The 20-ton ketch Morna was normally moored towards the head of the lough at Cultra, but as the only slipway capable of hauling her was at Bangor Shipyard on Ballyholme Bay, she’d been left down-lough the previous evening in anticipation of hauling in the morning. An unforecast northeast gale decided otherwise, and with it threatening to freshen again as the tide made, Bertie Slater of Bangor Shipyard made the courageous yet very right decision to strip Morna of everything removable, and then drill large holes in her garboards so that she’d fill with the rising tide, instead of re-floating and being bashed to bits. When the calm finally came after the storm, he sealed the holes, floated her off and into the slipway cradle, and restored her through the winter such that (below in Bangor Marina) she still thrives. Photo below by W M Nixon

SOUTH TO SUMMER AND SUN

Yet although our own boats of the O’Brien Kennedy-designed 26ft National Swallow Class were long since laid up back home, from time to time at the end of September we’d send a squad southward to Itchenor on England’s south coast to team-race against the longer-season local Swallow Class on Chichester Harbour. And down there - by Belfast Lough standards - it would still be summer, with astonishingly bright sunlight.

Swallow Class racing at Itchenor on Chichester Harbour, where summer lingered long after it had become Autumn on Belfast Lough. These delightful 26-footers were designed by O’Brien Kennedy working for Thorneycroft’s, and became the two-man boat at the 1948 Olympics at Torquay, with Alf Delany and Hugh Allen racing the boat for Ireland within days of first setting sight on her. The class on Belfast Lough ended brutally when the Great Northeast Gale of August 1976 demolished more than half of the boats moored in Ballyholme Bay, including all the remaining Swallows.Swallow Class racing at Itchenor on Chichester Harbour, where summer lingered long after it had become Autumn on Belfast Lough. These delightful 26-footers were designed by O’Brien Kennedy working for Thorneycroft’s, and became the two-man boat at the 1948 Olympics at Torquay, with Alf Delany and Hugh Allen racing the boat for Ireland within days of first setting sight on her. The class on Belfast Lough ended brutally when the Great Northeast Gale of August 1976 demolished more than half of the boats moored in Ballyholme Bay, including all the remaining Swallows

Today, with the steady spread of marinas, we realise that while the Autumn may usually bring the sharper gales in the north and west, in between there’s plenty of good sailing still to be had on a sea which is at its warmest for the year. Thus you can tell exactly when a particular club first got its marina into action with the introduction date of its Autumn League.

ROYAL CORK’S MARINA GOLDEN JUBILEE

In Crosshaven with the Royal Cork, it was 1974, so there’s a Golden Jubilee coming down the line there next year. And in Howth, it was 1982, which saw the Marina and Autumn League’s 40th anniversary being quietly celebrated last year as the club emerged into full life post-pandemic.

The Royal Cork Yacht Club complex as it is today. Somewhere in there is the original Walcon marina of 1974, which will see its Golden Jubilee next year. Photo: Robert BatemanThe Royal Cork Yacht Club complex as it is today. Somewhere in there is the original Walcon marina of 1974, which will see its Golden Jubilee next year. Photo: Robert Bateman

But although more boats now have access to snug year-round shelter to change our perceptions of when the season begins and ends, and how late in the summer and into the early Autumn bases in far-flung places still make sense, the fact is that an exceptionally adverse period of weather like every least minute of July 2023 increasingly dominates our feelings. And this weekend won’t help, for although yesterday (Friday) saw a glimmer of summery weather, today (Saturday) is going to be utterly foul, with Ireland being crossed by a low pressure area so clearly defined that it looks like a page from a meteorology text-book.

SCORA RACE POSTPONEMENT IS RIGHT DECISION

Thus SCORA Commodore Daragh Connolly’s decision to postpone today’s Kinsale-Baltimore race for 24 hours makes good sense. But the problem is that when punctually-moving low pressure areas get over land, their time-keeping often goes to pot. And the continuing of correct behaviour by this particular low is of special interest, as there’s just a possibility that it – in concert with the next one – will be introducing the long-anticipated improvement in the weather which might begin to hint of itself tomorrow (Sunday).

APPROACHING FRONTS MAY HAVE BACKS

Don’t be expecting a heat-wave or deeply-settled conditions, but at least there may be the occasional ridge day or two struggling to assert its presence – in other words, the fronts may actually have backs. And the events which may most benefit from the more benign pattern will be Calves Week in Schull from Tuesday onwards for four days. Then, after a short but sharp re-opening of the taps, things may well be summery for much of Cruinnui na mBad on its 43rd anniversary of the traditional boat festival at Kinvara on Galway Bay next weekend from 11th to 13th August.

Calves Week in Schull can provide multiple sailing experiences in one day, as it moves from sheltered in-harbour starts……….Photo: Thomas NewmanCalves Week in Schull can provide multiple sailing experiences in one day, as it moves from sheltered in-harbour starts……….Photo: Thomas Newman

….to the inevitable racing round the Fastnet Rock. Photo: Robert Bateman….to the inevitable racing round the Fastnet Rock. Photo: Robert Bateman

ACTION IN CONNEMARA AND GALWAY BAY

All it will need is a better feeling to the weather to get the juices flowing, as the swing of the seasons and the traditional work patterns dictate that August is the time for ancient neighbourhood regattas along the West Coast. So although the Galway Hookers reckon the height of their season is being involved with the traditional July 16th pilgrimage and boat race programme to Mac Dara’s Island off south Connemara, in fact it’s probably more accurate to think of it as the grand opening ceremony with the peak of the racing still to come.

Utterly timeless – Galway Hookers racing to remind us of their role as symbols of the west.Utterly timeless – Galway Hookers racing to remind us of their role as symbols of the west

Either way, you take the weather as it comes, and simply hope for the best. In the year of Howth marina’s opening, we took our handy little 30-footer round Ireland anti-clockwise, and initially for the final fortnight of July, had weather so perfect along the north coast and down the western seaboard that we arrived at Skellig Michael under gentle spinnaker sailing. It was like regatta time out there, with cruising yachts taking it in turns in going alongside the little landing place (this was way back in the pre-visitor control era) to leave off crewmembers keen to scale the peaks of this extraordinary place.

Skellig Michael on a brisk day, with the seas breaking on the Washerwoman Rock in the foreground. Once upon a time on an exceptionally quiet day in 1982, cruising boats were able to take it in turns to land crewmen at the landing place on the main rock’s east sideSkellig Michael on a brisk day, with the seas breaking on the Washerwoman Rock in the foreground. Once upon a time on an exceptionally quiet day in 1982, cruising boats were able to take it in turns to land crewmen at the landing place on the main rock’s east side

BALTIMORE TRADITIONS

Yet when we got to Baltimore for the real regatta time two or three days later, the good weather was gone. It was raining steadily. Yet you can’t get ahead of them with weather or anything else down there. It had been exactly the same at my first time at Baltimore Regatta. But when I presumed to comment on it then, I got the brusque response: “You silly man. Don’t you know it always rains at Baltimore Regatta?”

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New Zealand Olympic medalist Rod Davis told Seahorse magazine readers to ask not what your club and sailing can do for you but what you can do for your club and sailing. 

Let’s admit it, our sport of yachting is not growing the way we would all like. I am not going to whine and moan about that. What I am, and now ‘we’ are going to do ('we' because you are reading this, so you are now part of this) is explore what we might do to help the situation. How do we cast the net further and wider to attract and keep more sailors? More passion for boats, the water, and a sense of belonging in our yachting environment.

I have just spent my four-day Easter weekend playing race committee for the New Zealand Optimist National Championships. To be specific, on the starting pin-end boat, calling OCS boats, resetting lines, and following instructions and protocols of race management. Most of the time, anyway!

New Zealand Olympic medalist Rod DavisNew Zealand Olympic medalist Rod Davis Photo: Max Ranchi

There were three of us on the pin-end boat – fellow OK sailor Gordon Sims, and Jake Salthouse. Gordon has three sons who all went through the Optimist racing thing, then Flying Ants... and now don’t sail much. Jake is 16 years old and from the famous Salthouse clan. In New Zealand, there are two families that have a long enough yachting history to be ‘clans’. The Salthouses and the Dodsons. Jake too went through Optis, then Bics, but now does not sail much.

All of this made for a perfect time to figure out: how and why did we lose them? And with the largest youth sailing regatta going on, 200 plus sailors, parents, coaches, and race management, I figured it was a good time to get the full picture.

Every sport in the world, be it rugby or cricket, complains about losing their players in the teenage years. The dropout rate at 16-plus is massive. That is just a fact that will not go away. But if we in the yachting world could just retain five or 10 per cent more, that would be a huge boost to the sport in five years' time.

In the last decade, with a few notable exceptions, boat sales are down worldwide, yacht clubs struggle for volunteers... and to make the books balance. Today the pathway for a 25-40-year-old to get into sailing for the first time is almost non-existent.

Don’t get me wrong; there are some very bright points in yachting – the Fastnet Race maxes out within hours of opening entries. There is the massive international fleet at the NZ Opti Nationals, plus the focus on 'women in sailing' has taken off around the world. So we need to keep those aspects rumbling along, while readdressing the aspects that are not up to scratch.

Sailing also has one very big card the other sports don’t. We can get our sailors back when they are 40. We can get sailors we lose as 18-19-year-olds back when they are 35 or 40. Cricket and rugby can’t do that. Sailors come back at a grassroots level, crewing or sailing in a low-key way.

"Yachting is so focused on racing and winning, it turns off many sailors who just love going afloat"

So here is what my research has come up with, along with some observations:

Yachting in general is so focused on racing and winning, it turns off many sailors who just love taking part and going afloat. The old 80/20 rule again. 80% of our attention, PR and recognition go to the top 20% of our sailors. That starts at the top and goes right down through the ranks. And that my friend is messed up if we are looking to expand.

Sailors bag their national authorities. Just like people bag their governments. But we need to appreciate that national yachting authorities are in a bind.

Their funding, as in the vast majority of their funds, come from winning medals at the Olympic Games. Be it private or public, the money is ear-marked toward winning Olympic medals. National authorities have long ago learned to push the Olympic expenditure boundaries to include junior sailors as future Olympic medal winners, or coaching development as future Olympic coaches. All the while, of course, funding potential and current Olympic sailors, race and support boats, and campaigns.

Thus the limelight is racing and all things related to racing and winning. There is shocking little money for all the other things you would like your national authority to do. RYA, US Sailing, Yachting New Zealand and Australia are all in the same boat.

The day you become competent in sailing your boat, you get pushed into racing. Yacht clubs, coaches, national authorities, all push racing, racing, racing. To the highest level you can possibly progress to.

Picture little Jonny or Sally, who have just learnt to sail and have become good little sailors; now they're being told they’re going to compete against their mates and learn to race. And we are going to teach them how to use the rules to gain advantage and intimidate others.

Oh, and you can’t pull your boat up on the beach any more, you have to use the dolly so you don’t dare get a scratch on the bottom. Otherwise, we will have to fix that before you go sailing again. Oh, you need to get a new sail and don’t let that flap too much. Wow, this will be fun… NOT!!! Not for 80% who won’t be even close to the top of the podium when the others get all the attention.

The club coach will set up drills for starting, rounding marks, with classroom sessions on the theory of racing. If you show promise, you might get on the national junior fast-track system. Then better coaching and bigger regattas and even overseas regattas.

We tend to hear about and ‘celebrate' the winners at the expense of all others.

No wonder Jake and Gordon’s (and my) kids said screw that, I loved sailing when it was fun messing around with my mates. Seeing if we could sail without a rudder, seeing how many people we could get on a boat and still tack, or tying a rope to the Laser mast to see if we could make a trapeze!!! (They could and did!!!) And sailing at night in the harbour around the moored yachts, with a torch taped up the mast!!! ‘Racing was fun when it was with our friends’.

Sailing can trip over its own success sometimes. The racing becomes popular to the point that the purpose changes from having fun to winning… or… losing.

Losing… who wants to hang around any length of time with that? Happiness comes from having meaning and fulfilment in our endeavour. That is what makes something ‘sticky’. Makes you want to hang around there. Or come back.

Begs the question: ‘why then does the Fastnet race sell out every year?' 350 boats out there, and maybe two dozen boats will win something. Answer: adventure, comradeship, and a challenge. A sense of accomplishment when you finish.
The same thing the Whitbread Race was all about when there were nearly 30 boats in the race...

Back now to making it all ‘sticky’. The world is changing fast… my grandfather could not believe I could not rig a gaff; my dad was frustrated that I could not get an accurate star shot with a sextant. I can’t believe that young sailors can’t rig a spinnaker pole correctly. We all have to let it go, and look forward not back.

What is forward? Boats that are fun to sail in an environment that is ‘sticky’. If that means we throw our net wider to include wing sailing, or kite boarding, we do that. Start with a clean sheet. Keep what is working; change the rest. We need a more relaxed attitude when it comes to sailing and racing. Less regulation, stress and tension.

You know, the most fun racing we have in the OK is when Bushy (OK and Finn sailor) says, ‘I will run races this weekend’. No notice of race, no sailing instructions nor a protest committee, just Bushy in a borrowed club RIB, a couple of marks and 20 OKs. Five quick races and in for a beer all together. Bushy does the best he can, not every line is perfect, but it does not matter. It’s sticky for everyone.

From the USA I often hear complaints about PHRF ratings – they're missing the point. It’s not going to be perfect; it is what it is. An easy way to get lots of boats and sailors out on the water enjoying each other’s camaraderie.

Rather spend your brain time on ratings, wind conditions or ‘fair’ racing? Then use that massive brain to make a yachting environment where people can interact with each other on a friendly basis. Before, during and after racing. Be creative and put the effort in. That will get them back again... and again.

For club sailing, tone it down by mixing it up with downwind starts, starting off the shore tower, race to a destination and spend the night rafted up, come in for lunch break, night sailing with flashlights to light up the sails, or anything that promotes fun and social interaction.

Yacht clubs: let’s actively embrace new sailors. Rules like you have to be a member of a club to race put barriers up, preventing the sport from growing. Make the minimum structure and rules we can get away with. Get the sailors hooked on meaning and fulfilment within our sport.

Build the right stadium and they will come. It’s about the warmth of friendship, not who wins. Resist the tail wagging the dog.

All this might seem strange coming from me, with my Olympic and America’s Cup background, but I have three adult children and none of them are active sailors right now. So I know there is work to do.

Across the board, from World Sailing to the tiniest yacht clubs, the focus needs to shift from medals and trophies to make the sport fun and sticky for the sailors. That way, sailing will grow once again. It will take years to reverse the trend, but if we don’t take some bold steps, sailing will keep shrinking…

Ask not what your club and sailing can do for you but what you can do for your club and sailing.

Reproduced with the kind permission of Seahorse Magazine.

We welcome all comments to [email protected]

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Sailing sport has previously been halted within personal memory, both by world wars and more locally-based hostilities. And we don’t have to go very far beyond living individual recollection to gauge how the lingering effects of Spanish Flu in 1919 hampered the revival of sailing at the time, which already had its key active crewing numbers severely depleted by the appalling losses of World War I from 1914 to 1918.

Yet in assessing how Irish sailing emerged in 2022 after more than two years under the severely restricting regulations of the COVID Pandemic, it may seem almost frivolous to be drawing comparisons with the longterm ill-effects of total war on the resumption of recreational activity of any kinds.

But in doing so, we remind ourselves that even the most limited sporting and recreational activity can play a vital role in any community’s general well-being and morale. This was particularly so in 2019 to 2022, for the Lockdowns came in the midst of what had been our Era of Plenty. We had become accustomed to total freedom of movement, with a widespread choice of active and often very sociable participant sports . Yet we found ourselves being restricted, in multiple and often tiresome ways, with the hidden but very real added risk of serious infection needing to be considered at every turn.

When Pandemic restrictions were eased from time to time, the well-organised setup under the Dublin Bay SC umbrella enabled racing to take place. Although parts of their programme were curtailed, the Water Wags were able to continue much of their traditional racing within Dun Laoghaire Harbour.When Pandemic restrictions were eased from time to time, the well-organised setup under the Dublin Bay SC umbrella enabled racing to take place. Although parts of their programme were curtailed, the Water Wags were able to continue much of their traditional racing within Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

TOKYO OLYMPICS 2020 BECAME A 2021 EVENT

Oh for sure, sailing – some of it international - went on in limited form. Sometimes indeed, there even seemed to be quite a lot of it. The Tokyo Olympics - postponed for a year – were held in 2021, albeit in rather joyless circumstances. 2021 also saw the Fastnet Race - with its new finish in Cherbourg - being run on schedule, even if the best thing about it was being at sea instead of at the start or finish, for at either end health certification was required and movements ashore were restricted.

The annual Sydney-Hobart Race, however, was cancelled, but the yearly Middle Sea Race from Malta simply blattered on without missing a beat, although at one of the heights of the pandemic, international travel restrictions saw participant numbers on the start line being halved despite the boats already being in Valetta.

Few events signalled a return towards normality more joyously in 2022 than the 78-strong Squib Championship at Kinsale in June. Photo: Robert BatemanFew events signalled a return towards normality more joyously in 2022 than the 78-strong Squib Championship at Kinsale in June. Photo: Robert Bateman

The international high performance programmes – with the next Olympics in Paris in 2024 their goal – continued in a confined form and brought Ireland successes. And at home as restrictions were eased – and then re-imposed, sometimes quite hurriedly – the clubs, classes and organisations proved adept at optimizing the amount of sport possible, with the pace being set by standard bearers like Dublin Bay Sailing Club and the Royal Cork Yacht Club. Nevertheless quite a significant cohort of sailing folk decided that, on balance, they’d rather just sit it out until the full all clear was clearly signalled.

ALL CLEAR SIGNALLED FROM MARCH 2022 ONWARDS

That full all-clear came with increasing rapidity from March 2022 onwards. Yet it soon became evident that a two years-plus gap is an eternity when you’re trying to keep on-water racing systems running smoothly, with their substantial demands on able and sometimes numerous support teams. Thus in Scotland, it was reluctantly decided that the early season Scottish Series – a very popular cobweb-clearer for many Irish crews – simply didn’t have the time to recruit, train and assess on-water support teams, and it was cancelled.

But as the progress into the new full-on season accelerated, so too did the available personnel with an administrative appetite for getting everything in place and up and running, such that at Afloat.ie we’ve had the feeling that things took off with rocket-boosted assistance around May 25th, and only returned to earth as the evenings really closed in at the beginning of September.

ROUND IRELAND RACE FROM WICKLOW PEAK OF THE PILLAR EVENTS

An unprecedented number of major pillar events gave Ireland’s 2022 sailing season its unique character. Top of the pyramid was Wicklow SC’s SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race on Sunday, June 18th, with an excellent international fleet. If anything had been needed to bring home to our sailing community the realization that the Pandemic was a very real and present danger, it was the fact that – after some postponements – the keenly-anticipated 2020 Round Ireland race simply hadn’t happened at all.

Thus the revival in 2022 gave us what was quite simply the most important Round Ireland race since it was founded in 1980. And it ended with an appropriate cracker of a finish.

 The J/99 Snapshot (Mike & Richie Evans, HYC) under the steep slopes of Wicklow Head at the start of her successful Round Ireland Race, her first major offshore challenge. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien The J/99 Snapshot (Mike & Richie Evans, HYC) under the steep slopes of Wicklow Head at the start of her successful Round Ireland Race, her first major offshore challenge. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

For much of the Friday afternoon, the pavilion leaders were the seasoned crew of Laurent Charmy’s J/111 SL Energies Groupe Fastwave from France. Well down the line was Mike & Richie Evans’ little J/99 Snapshot from Howth. Though a noted regatta success boat, this was her first offshore major, and though she’d shown ahead at various stages, by Friday afternoon, it looked as though she’d do well to get on the podium.

Yet somehow through the afternoon, Snapshot never put a foot wrong, despite it being a beat against the tide to the finish. She got clear of the group of mostly higher-rated boats she’d been dicing with, and wriggled close along the beach to such good effect that she began taking serious bites out of SL Energies’ clearance margin. So much so, in fact, that Charmy and his crew felt they were very lucky to still have five minutes in hand when Snapshot nipped through the finish, still pushing tide, to get a second overall and their class win, a solid building block in their eventual emergence this past week as the ICRA “Boat of the Year” 2022.

FOUR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

With Finbarr O’Regan’s J/109 Artful Dodjer from Kinsale taking third, this celebratory Round Ireland of 2022 had been a great race for dedicated club crews, an inspiring symbol of revival for everyone. And by the time this special happening in our sailing occurred, things were swinging as Ireland became fully embroiled in a hyper-active season. We hosted four Worlds – the International GP 14s with 106 boats at Skerries, the International Fireballs at Lough Derg, and the International SB20s at the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire. We hosted the J/24 Europeans at Howth. And at Kinsale in June the ever-hospitable KYC hosted a star happening, the Squib Championship with 78 boats from Ireland and Britain, and an atmosphere of sheer enjoyment in reasonable weather which raised the spirits of the entire sailing community nationwide.

The GP 14s at Skerries may have been won by England’s Ian Dobson & Andy Tunnicliffe for the fifth time, but Irish hopes were particularly well carried by Skerries’ Colman Grimes and Ross Gingles, who were tops of the home fleet at 5th - an achievement set in added perspective when we remember that Colman Grimes also headed the organising team for an event which came through to triumph despite two postponements since 2020.

 Local boy makes good…..Colman Grimes and Ross Gingles come tops of the Irish at the GP14 Worlds at Skerries. Colman Grimes was also the event’s lead organiser. Local boy makes good…..Colman Grimes and Ross Gingles come tops of the Irish at the GP14 Worlds at Skerries. Colman Grimes was also the event’s lead organiser

"The sort of weather that only the waters off Cork Harbour at their best seem able to provide" - America's Stuart McNay and Caleb Paine on their way to victory in the 505 Worlds 2022 at Royal Cork YC"The sort of weather that only the waters off Cork Harbour at their best seem able to provide" - America's Stuart McNay and Caleb Paine on their way to victory in the 505 Worlds 2022 at Royal Cork YC

505 WORLDS AT CROSSHAVEN

It may be sixty years and more since the International 505 Class were the kings of the Irish dinghy sailing scene. But these timeless classic super-perforance boats showed they'd lost none of their glamour and ability to attract the best sailors when they gathered at the Royal Cork in August for a global contest which was initially frustrated by sparseness of wind, but concluded with the sort of weather that only the waters off Cork Harbour at their best seem able to provide.

Stuart McNay and Caleb Paine of the US emerged stylishly triumphant from a truly international fleet, with Ewan Barry & Charles Dwyer the best of the home fleet in 12th overall.

LIVELY LOUGH DERG

The Fireball Worlds on Lough Derg produced some of the most attractive images of dinghy sailing in 2022’s decidedly mixed sailing weather (“volatile” was an adjective which got done to death) and Ireland had a look-in at the front of the fleet with Andy Thompson – originally of Larne and now international crewman to many stars - helping Tom Gillard to the overall win, with Barry McCartin & Conor Kinsella best of the Irish at fourth.

Perfect sailing for the Fireball Worlds on Lough Derg. Photo: Con Murphy Perfect sailing for the Fireball Worlds on Lough Derg. Photo: Con Murphy 

A podium place for the home squad was also narrowly missed in the SB20 Worlds on Dublin Bay with the Royal Irish YC, Michael O’Connor of the Royal St George YC (a notably active club in 2022) taking fourth in Ted with Davy Taylor and Edward Cook, the Gold going to Portugal’s Jose Paulo Ramada.

Wind pressure in abundance at the SB20 Worlds 2022 in Dublin BayWind pressure in abundance at the SB20 Worlds 2022 in Dublin Bay

SUCCESS FOR “KINSAILOR” J/24 PROGRAMME

As for the veteran J/24s with their very international Euros at Howth, it was something of a triumph for Kinsale YC’s U25 Kinsailor Team. For although the overall winner was Greece’s Stelios Sotitiou, Kinsailor helmed by Micheal O’Suilleabhan simply got better and better as the series went on, and ended within a point of the win.

 Fresh winds afloat, drought ashore – the J/24 Euros in action off the Fingal coast. Photo: Annraoi Blaney Fresh winds afloat, drought ashore – the J/24 Euros in action off the Fingal coast. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Back at Kinsailor’s home port in June meanwhile, the big Squib championship saw Wales’s Tom Jeffcoats and Mark Hogan take the title, with Ian Travers and Keith O’Riordan best of the home fleet.

Kinsale had led the way into the rapidly accelerating 2022 season with its inaugural Inish Tearaght Race from KInsale round the only Blasket island with a lighthouse, and back to Kinsale. It was a rugged proposition for May, yet the smallest boat – Cian McCarthy’s Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl, two-handed with Sam Hunt, won overall.

LIVELY NOR’EASTERLY WINDS ON EAST COAST

The mixed weather of 2022 saw two of the majors on the East Coast – the GP 14 Worlds at Skerries in August preceded by the Wave Regatta at the beginning of June at Howth – contending with decidedly lively onshore nor’easters, but Race Officers Bill O’Hara at Skerries and David Lovegrove at Howth got the programme – or most of it – put through in challenging conditions, with Wave in particular living up to its name in a multi-class series in which the overall winner was Dermot Skehan’s veteran MG 34 Toughnut.

 John Minnis’s A35 Final Call II (RUYC), seen here in action in Wave Regatta at Howth, was successful both in Wave and in Bangor Town Regatta, as well as winning the RC Championship. Photo: Annraoi Blaney John Minnis’s A35 Final Call II (RUYC), seen here in action in Wave Regatta at Howth, was successful both in Wave and in Bangor Town Regatta, as well as winning the RC Championship. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Before June was out, it saw some more mixed weather for Bangor Town Regatta, a four day event run by RUYC on Belfast Lough, with John Minnis’s potent Archambault 35 Final Call II managing to win overall, even if they finished the final race with the mast only just staying aloft. Despite that, they finished the season as over RC Champions as well, and meanwhile the Bangor Town Regatta organisers are faced with the fact that their coastal metropolis is now officially the City of Bangor, which mean as sure as Godd made little apples that their next staging of this popular event in two years time will enjoy the acronym of COBRA.

VOLVO CORK WEEK CATCHES UP ON ROYAL CORK TRICENTENARY

July was very much Volvo Cork Week, aka Royal Cork YC Tricentenary Plus Two. It included the ICRA Nationals with several class titles up for grabs, and it included the Inter-Services Beaufort Cup, won by the Crosshaven RNLI racing the Murphy family’s hot-shot Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo.

 Denis & Annemarie Fegan of Nieulago receiving the Beaufort Cup on behalf of the Crosshaven Lifeboat Team at Volvo Cork Week. Photo: Rick Tomlinson Denis & Annemarie Fegan of Nieulago receiving the Beaufort Cup on behalf of the Crosshaven Lifeboat Team at Volvo Cork Week. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Yet despite all those glamour championships and podium toppers, the real stars of the week were the 1994-founded Cork 1720 Sportsboats. They’ve been led in a new revival by many enthusiasts, with Class Chairman David Love in the hot seat for 2022 as 42 gleaming 1720s – there have been some gorgeous re-spray jobs - gathered for their 2022 Euros in the heart of Cork Week, with Ross McDonald, Aoife English & Rob English leading the charge in a combined Howth-Crosshaven campaign with Atara to take the title every which way, and the “Boat of the Week” trophy with it.

Supreme Champions – the Atara crew at Volvo Cork Week with the historic “Kinsale Kettle”. Photo: Rick TomlinsonSupreme Champions – the Atara crew at Volvo Cork Week with the historic “Kinsale Kettle”. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Meanwhile on the secret waters of the Shannon’s mighty lakes, the normally self-contained Shannon One Designs were celebrating their Centenary by going very stylishly public in July with major regatta weekends at Dromineer on Lough Derg and Lough Ree YC at Ballyglass, Frank Guy and his family emerging as overall SOD Centenary Champions after some pretty ferocious competition.

Centenary Regatta sunshine for the Shannon One Designs on Lough DergCentenary Regatta sunshine for the Shannon One Designs on Lough Derg

TOP INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS

While all this sort of thing was going on at home, every so often news would come of some truly remarkable international achievements by Ireland’s established and rising stars, and mid-July saw Howth’s Eve McMahon and Rocco Wright both win Gold at the Youth Sailing Worlds in The Netherlands. All of this will be a story in itself when we come to review the distinguished roster of Sailors of the Month nearer the end of the year, for restrictions on space mean we stick mainly to the home front as July morphs into August and everyone seems to look west, though the reality is that August sees hyper-activity on all fronts and all coastlines and sailing lakes, but it just seems to have a different flavour as the peak of the season passes.

Thus although Calves Week at Schull had not totally disappeared for the entire duration of the pandemic, there was something vividly re-born about its 2022 iteration, with the little Round Ireland star Snapshot adding further laurels to continue to propel her along the path to becoming the ICRA Boat of the Year 2022, while across the water in the Solent, Pat Boardman’s Classic Half Tonner King One from Rush SC was well on her way to winning the Half Ton Cup 2022.

SUCCESS FOR GALWAY IN WIORA AT KILRUSH

Northward along the west coast, the WIORA Championship was staged by RWIYC at Kilrush, and defending champion Tribal, Liam Burke’s Farr 31 from Galway Bay Sailing Club, showed that she and her youthful crew weren’t for shifting from the top slot, despite an array of conditions which ranged from the benign to the super-brisk.

Liam Burke’s Farr 31 Tribal from Galway won the WIORA Championship at Kilrush. Photo: Robert BatemanLiam Burke’s Farr 31 Tribal from Galway won the WIORA Championship at Kilrush. Photo: Robert Bateman

ISORA GOLDEN JUBILEE

That had also been the season-long experience with ISORA on the East Coast as they put through their Golden Jubilee Programme in 2022. It’s being celebrated this evening (Saturday, November 12th) with the ISORA 50th Anniversary Dinner and Prize-Giving in the National YC in Dun Laaoghaire, and though the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association is noted for going quietly about its business afloat, celebration is well-merited tonight as the J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC) becomes the ISORA Golden Jubilee Champion.

ISORA Golden Jubilee Champion: The J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC)ISORA Golden Jubilee Champion: The J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC)

BUSY TRALEE BAY

The biggest one-class national dinghy championship of the season – and indeed of any season – was of course the ILCA/Laser Nats, staged for 2022 by the hospitable Tralee Bay SC. And within it, the biggest division was the ILCA 6 section, won by Fiachra Geraghty-McDonnell in another of the RStGYC’s 2022 achievements.

JUNIOR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

He further added to them at the end of September by winning the Junior National Championship at Schull in the TRS 3.6s crewed by his sister Caoilinn. And then in October the RStGYC’s “finish with a flourish” conclusion to the 2022 season continued with Sean Craig taking Bronze in the ILCA Euro Masters in Spain, while Ger Owens retained the title in the 75th Anniversary Champions Cup, formerly the Helmsman’s Championship, raced in GP14s at Sutton DC with Mel Morris of Newtownards SC as his crew.

The David Harte-developed TR3.6s racing in the Junior Nationals in SchullThe David Harte-developed TR3.6s racing in the Junior Nationals in Schull

75 YEARS OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP OF CHAMPIONS

It was quite a moment as this popular north-south crew of Owens & Morris held the familiar trophy aloft, for although this supreme event may now have been given the catchier title of the Champions’ Cup, it was still the familiar vintage silver salver which symbolized it all in this major 2022 contest, which saw the GP14 Association’s Andy Johnston lead his team in providing a flotilla of top class race-ready boats.

 The thriving GP14 Association of Ireland provided ten top boats for the new-look 75th Anniversary Champions Cup 2022 at Sutton Dinghy Club. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien  The thriving GP14 Association of Ireland provided ten top boats for the new-look 75th Anniversary Champions Cup 2022 at Sutton Dinghy Club. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien 

MIDDLE SEA SUCCESS

Meanwhile, clubs on all coasts were staging well-supported Autumn Leagues, with some idyllic warm weather slipped under the radar at a time when the Atlantic was generally in a very restless mood. And before October was out, the Middle Sea Race brought further achievement with the only Irish entry, Conor Doyle’s Xp 50 Freya from Kinsale - crewed by all the Irish talents from Kinsale and Crosshaven and Malta - winning ORC 3.

Mid-November may seem slightly early to be taking a selective overview of the year, but with Turkey Shoots and Brass Monkeys and long-running Frostbite series already upon us, now is when the time is right.

A VERY GOOD YEAR

It was a good year – a very good year. And maybe now we better understand how it is that, much and all as the Spanish Flu Pandemic combined with the after-effects of World War I to have a very adverse effect on sailing in 1919-1920 and beyond, you very seldom saw it mentioned afterwards in sailing reports once a year or two had passed. For that’s the abiding impression that sailing life in 2022 has left us with. Given the slightest chance, it just goes on, as does life itself. And the many great events that happened in 2022 soon obliterated the unhappy memories of those numerous events in the two year Pandemic period that had failed to make it to the starting line.

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With a fleet of 20 boats and crews drawn from 15 different clubs, including Seattle to the far west and Poole to the nearer southeast, the Irish J/24 Easterns over the weekend at Howth set the ball rolling towards the J/24 Europeans at the same venue in a week's time, with the first championship race scheduled for August 30th.

The all-Ireland resourced Headcase, whose crew of Cillian Dickson, Sam O'Byrne, Louis Mulloy, Marcus Ryan and Ryan Glynn count Howth, Lough Ree, Mayo and Ballyholme among their home places, maintained the steady progress already seen through the summer at several international majors, and came out first on 1,1, (8), 2,1. Next in line were the Kinsale team led by Michael Carroll with Kinsailor with a scoreline which included a first and two seconds to leave them on 9 points to Headcase's 5. Tadgh O'Loingsigh from Tralee Bay was third in Janx Spirit with the first of the overseas challengers, Dave Hale from Poole, fourth with Cacoon.

Full results here

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(First published 11/12/2021) Four World Championships. Two Europeans. The super-staging of our defining offshore race. A major new offshore challenge. Regattas galore. A very significant Centenary. An important Golden Jubilee. At least one new One-Design class. Established OD classes finding a new lease of life. And there’s more proposed for sailing at all levels in Ireland in 2022. Much more…….

As it is, there’s something beyond the slightly surreal in contemplating the cornucopia of sailing events already listed in next year’s programme. After two seasons of keeping everything low profile – effectively under the radar, in fact – suddenly we’re now faced with numerous cheerfully-publicised happenings proposed afloat in 2022 to provide enough to fill a couple of normal seasons.

But as those who have gone sailing in 2020 and 2021 squeezed every ounce of sport they could get out of socially-distanced neighbourhood sailing in local classes, the thought that their cage doors might be thrown open with a great spreading of the wings is bound to let the imagination soar.

Vincent Delany racing the veteran Dublin Bay Water Wag Pansy – in his family for generations – in a brisk breeze in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Dublin Bay SC has played a leading role in keeping disciplined sailing very much alive through the pandemicVincent Delany racing the veteran Dublin Bay Water Wag Pansy – in his family for generations – in a brisk breeze in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Dublin Bay SC has played a leading role in keeping disciplined sailing very much alive through the pandemic

Distant horizons beckon, and in Ireland that horizon hints at such a panoply of mega-events approaching that we cock an ear for the call of the bugle and the beat of the drums, while keeping an eye out for the first glimpse of the flags flying.

All this despite the fact that we’re now moving from Delta Time to Omicron Time in the Pandemic Procession, while on the global front the pessimists would have us believe that if World War III doesn’t break out in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, then it will make its debut in the China Sea. That is, if it can find the time and space to do so before the climate change from global warming blows us away, burns us off, or floods us out.

BARRA THE TEXT-BOOK STORM

Certainly, it says something about our weird times that the only event which has recently gone exactly according to prediction was Storm Barra at mid-week. While his origins may have been somewhere distant in the tropics, Barra was only seriously in business for six days, busily developing between the Azores and Ireland, and then sweeping over us, in such a precise circle of lethally-deepening isobars, that you could have been persuaded he was made of vinyl before he simply faded into the North Sea.

Any properly-organised storm will ensure that the Fastnet Rock records the strongest winds, and Barra the Textbook Storm managed an 84 knot (155 kph) gust at West Cork’s sentinel outcrop.Any properly-organised storm will ensure that the Fastnet Rock records the strongest winds, and Barra the Textbook Storm managed an 84 knot (155 kph) gust at West Cork’s sentinel outcrop.

To complete Barra’s perfection as the Textbook Storm, the strongest gust in Ireland was 84 knots recorded on the Fastnet Rock, which is 96.66 mph, or an even more impressive 155.6 kilometres per hour according to taste, and all in exceptionally dense air which gave it that extra bit of oomph. Despite it, the temporarily-on-station maintenance team of four continued their work inside the lighthouse during the day - pausing only to record and post some vids - and then at night were entertained by Netflix. Cool.

INITIAL SAILING PROGRAMME FOR 2022

With online Club AGMs proliferating in the pre-Christmas period, we can be sure that extra events will be added to this basic structure within the coming days, but as it is the amount of sailing proposed is already mind-boggling, and the logistical challenges will be a complete study in themselves.

  • Feb 12th Kilkee Series Irish Universities SA
  • March 3rd – 6th IUSA Nats TBC
  • April Kinsale April League KYC
  • April 21-24 Youth Nats (All Classes) Ballyholme YC
  • April 23rd First ISORA Race
  • May 21-22 Dun Laoghaire Cup 2022 – 1720, Dragons, B21, J/80, SB20 RIYC
  • ?May 25th Kinsale-Blaskets-Kinsale Race KYC
  • June 3rd – 5th Wave Regatta (Howth YC)
  • June 3rd to 6th Scottish Series
  • JUNE 18th SSE RENEWABLES ROUND IRELAND RACE WICKLOW SC
  • JUNE 19th - 24th BRITISH & IRISH SQUIB NATS (EUROS) KINSALE YC
  • June 22nd Cobh to Dunmore East Race Cobh SC
  • June 23rd – 26th Bangor Town Regatta inc Sigma 33 Nats RUYC/BYC
  • June 24th - 26th WIORA Championship Kilrush RWYCI
  • July 1st “Kingstown to Queenstown Race” (Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour) NYC & RCYC
  • JULY 11th to 15th VOLVO CORK WEEK INC. ICRA NATS ROYAL CORK YC
  • AUGUST 1st to 8th 505 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP RCYC
  • August 2nd to 5th Calves Week Schull
  • Aug 6th to 7th Waszp Nats RStGYC
  • August 11th to 14th Optimist Nats RStGYC
  • AUGUST 14th TO 19th GP14 WORLDS SKERRIES SC
  • August 19th 29er Nats RStGYC
  • AUGUST 21-26 FIREBALL WORLDS LOUGH DERG YC
  • AUG 30-SEP 3 J/24 EUROS HOWTH YC
  • SEP 5th TO 9th SB20 WORLDS ROYAL IRISH YC
  • Sep 18th Kish Race DMYC
  • SEP 24th – 25th JUNIOR ALL-IRELAND SCHULL
  • OCTOBER 8t-9th SENIOR ALL-IRELAND SUTTON

The Irish Universities Sailing Association are contemplating Kilkee Bay in mid-FebruarySailing venue with a difference – the Irish Universities Sailing Association are contemplating Kilkee Bay in mid-February

KILKEE KICKS OFF

Before we get into considering the seriously heavy metal (they’re all set in capitals), a couple of points need clarifying. The Irish Universities Sailing Association have pencilled in a happening at Kilkee in County Clare in mid-February. IUSA in recent years has acquired quite the reputation for finding a serious team racing location where none had ever thought of it before, such as Lough Key in Roscommon. But the summertime bay at Kilkee in February is even more way out for whatever they’ve planned, though we note they’ve another date in March set for their Team Championship, venue to be confirmed.

Moving on to the more conventional seasonal openers in May, there’ll have been spluttering in the whiskey (or whisky) fortified porridge at breakfast tables on both sides of the North Channel at the news that the changing of dates of previously-sacred Bank Holiday Mondays in Scotland means that, after 44 years (some would say 48), the Scottish Series will be staged in early June instead of late May.

Andrew Craig of Dun Laoghaire, winner of the supreme trophy at the 2019 Scottish Series with his J/109 ChimaeraAndrew Craig of Dun Laoghaire, winner of the supreme trophy at the 2019 Scottish Series with his J/109 Chimaera

This will have a marked effect on the programmes for the itinerant offshore racing boats, as they have been accustomed to using the Scottish late-May rocket launcher (sailing past the still-snow-topped mountains of Arran is a memorable part of the package) to push themselves into early action for burgeoning events back in Ireland in June.

The Roll of Honour of Irish boats which have done this with great success goes back to the beginning, with names like the O’Learys with the Corby 36 Antix, the Kellys and the Craigs with their J/109s, and most recently John Minnis with his First 31.7 Final Call, springing to mind.

But now that very workable system has been abolished with no more than a tap of the delete button, and though it only applies to a few, they’re the creme de la crème who will have to decide whether they go to Scotland, or stay home for the up-graded Wave Regatta the same weekend in Howth.

Past winners in Wave Regatta at Howth, Ross McDonald’s X332 Equinox and Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’BrienPast winners in Wave Regatta at Howth, Ross McDonald’s X332 Equinox and Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Meanwhile, the major international events which are coming to Ireland are pretty well set in stone, with the four World championships – starting with the 505s at Royal Cork – from August 1st until the last biggie - the SB20 Worlds on Dublin Bay at the Royal Irish YC - concludes on September 9th.

Of the four classes involved, only the 505s had ceased to have an Irish presence, but that has already been remedied by Alex Barry of Cork with his successful international debut during 2021, a reminder that fifty years ago, Crosshaven 505 sailors like Clayton Love Jnr and Joe Woodward - to name but two - were national and international stars in a class which had real style and panache.

Alex Barry’s recently-acquired 505 on Cork Harbour is a reminder that the RCYC was once a stronghold of the class. Photo: Robert BatemanAlex Barry’s recently-acquired 505 on Cork Harbour is a reminder that the RCYC was once a stronghold of the class. Photo: Robert Bateman

As to the Fireballs, while it’s quite a while since John Lavery and David O’Brien of this parish won the Fireball Worlds in Dun Laoghaire in 1995, the class has been reviving lately, and as our vid here reveals, the winning boat from 1995 has been looking very well indeed on Lough Ree.

 

Both the GP14s and the SB20s in Ireland have shown themselves of international standard when they go abroad for Worlds and European Championships, so great things will be expected when the global contingent of the former hits Skerries in August, and the latter convene at Dun Laoghaire in September.

Close racing for the Irish GP 14 Class, which will feature in the Worlds at Skerries in August, and in the All-Ireland at Sutton in OctoberClose racing for the Irish GP 14 Class, which will feature in the Worlds at Skerries in August, and in the All-Ireland at Sutton in October

Coming slightly down the significance scale, the big Squib event at Kinsale in June is in effect the Euros, and if the travel situation has improved, it could be a mega-fleet happening. Certainly back in the mists of time, the Squibs managed an almost mythical giant regatta in Ireland, but that’s a topic for another day. Meanwhile the other Euros - and designated as such – are the J/24s at Howth, definitely a happening for dedicated DIY aficionados, whose enthusiasm keeps the old class going in great good heart these days.

As for the Golden Jubilee, it’s for ISORA. But as the first ISORA season of 1972 was a direct though much-expanded follow-on to the Northwest Offshore Association programme of 1971, maybe in acknowledging that the name change came about in Howth at the end of August 1971, perhaps they could build something around the Howth Wave Regatta from June 3rd to 5th. 

SHANNON OD CENTENARY

A hundred years young……the Shannon One Design’s unique style is timelessA hundred years young……the Shannon One Design’s unique style is timeless

The Centenary is of course the Shannon One Designs, the gloriously-unique determinedly-campaigned beauties which never look completely at home unless they’re racing on an Irish lake, which they do in abundant numbers. With other more politically-tinged Centenaries being marked these days, it will be rightly guessed that the SODs came blithely into being at a time of turmoil, and they’re going to be fighting fit for the big one hundred.

ROYAL CORK’S TRICENTENARY PLUS WILL HAVE SPECIAL ADDED INGREDIENTS

Alas, the Royal Cork’s hopes of celebrating its Tricentenary in 2020 were blown away by the COVID, but thanks to inspirational leadership by Admiral Colin Morehead, the club has come through in good heart, and the major Tricentenary Plus Two event at Crosshaven in 2022, the Volvo Cork Week incorporating the ICRA Nationals and a Classics Division from July 11th to 15th is going to be something very special indeed, and rightly so, preceded as it will be by a re-run of the Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour – the “Kingstown to Queenstown” – of 1860.

The Mark Mills-designed Cape 31 OD will come centre stage at Volvo Cork Week 2022.The Mark Mills-designed Cape 31 OD will come centre stage at Volvo Cork Week 2022.

ROUND IRELAND BACK IN STYLE

On the offshore front, there’s every sign that the iconic SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow – eventually cancelled after postponements in 2020 – is going to re-emerge in even more vibrant form on June 18th 2022, bang on the Midsummer Weekend as nature intended.

Down on the south coast meanwhile, there’s something new on the horizon – Kinsale YC’s proposed Blasket Islands circuit in mid to late May, with the finish back at Kinsale. In times past when major cruiser-racer events elsewhere only attract a small handful of Kinsale boats, realists have suggested it’s because their own home port has so many natural advantages and attractions that it’s always a disappointment to go anywhere else.

Kinsale’s “problem” is that it is too attractive…Kinsale’s “problem” is that it is too attractive……..

BLASKET BASHING…

Consequently, bashing your way down past the Fastnet and then the Bull Rock, and then the Skelligs, in order to round the Blaskets simply in order to sail straight home again to Kinsale, begins to make sense. But as Inishtearaght has the only lighthouse on that extremely rugged island group, we’re told that they’re going to try to time the race so that the fleet reaches the Blaskets in daylight, as there’s an unlit offlier to the west – the wonderfully named Great Foze Rock – which you wouldn’t want to be bumping into on a dark night.

“It’s there all right…..” Vendee Globe Racer Pip Hare with the unlit Great Foze Rock during a Round Britain and Ireland Race. Photo: Pippa Hare“It’s there all right…..” Vendee Globe Racer Pip Hare with the unlit Great Foze Rock during a Round Britain and Ireland Race. Photo: Pippa Hare

Quite how you time a sailing race from Kinsale to ensure the fleet is at the Blaskets in daylight may well be a matter of consulting the entrails of a chicken, but either way competitors will hope that the timing is such they’re all back in Kinsale by Saturday night. For as the success of the National YC’s Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race has shown, a midweek start and all finished by Saturday night is the recipe for success. There’s nothing at all sacred about traditional weekend starts for offshore races. In fact, at a major sailing centre, such timing is a nuisance, as it interferes with the local ongoing inshore racing programme.

As we get into the new year, just how possible some of the possibilities are will become clearer, and there are many looking forward to reviving cross-channel connections, while back home it will be interesting to see who comes out of the woodwork with the new Mark Mills-designed Cape 31 ODs, which will show here and there before making their major Irish debut at Cork Week.

And after two years of cancellation, it will be a sign above all others that normality of some sort is being established if the Cruinniu na mBad for traditional boats at Kinvara on Galway Bay can be restored in all its glorious sociability in August.

It could only be Kinvara in August – traditional sail at its very best in the southeast corner of Galway BayIt could only be Kinvara in August – traditional sail at its very best in the southeast corner of Galway Bay

This article was first published on Afloat on 11/12/2021

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October 2021 has been kind to Irish sailing in brightening our spirits, letting our crews be active with more sunshine than you'd expect, and helping to banish any thoughts of the dodgy pandemic situation ashore. Even though the Bank Holiday Weekend gave some localities a short sharp reminder that Autumn can be a time of vicious weather, determined race organisers still managed to slide their events in under the radar one way or another, with Carlingford Sailing Club and the Irish Universities setting the pace by putting through a big team racing series.

This was despite steep-sided Carlingford Lough occasionally being in the kind of mood where you can be sailing along even while there are "Carlingford Kettles" whirling around. A Carlingford Kettle is a sort of miniaturised tame typhoon, and while I've sailed the length of the lough on a dark and breezy day when there were some kettles in sight picking up spray close in under the southeast shore, they seemed to be shy creatures, for none came near us and they went as quickly as they'd appeared.

Grabbing the sun while we can – Universities' team racing at Carlingford last weekend.Grabbing the sun while we can – Universities' team racing at Carlingford last weekend

As the event's report on Afloat.ie indicated this was a perfect example of a club with a high proportion of members keen to volunteer, all ready and willing to host a boisterous crowd of young racing enthusiasts who have spent much of 2021 with an increasingly pent-up feeling dominating their lives, for all that sailing seemed to be a healthy sport ideally designed to provide an alternative to lockdown neurosis.

For one of the best things about sailing is that it provides your daily dose of Vitamin D as a bonus. The type of people who sail simply aren't the types who loll about on a beach working on their suntan, let alone dutifully sitting down the garden in sunshine (or
even going for a walk) for the prescribed length of time.

On the contrary, they want to be up and doing in all the action required with a complex wind-driven vehicle sport, so if sunshine can be introduced into the equation, so much the better. And it certainly makes the job of the nautical photographers easier, for capturing a completely eye-catching sailing image is a relative doddle in sunshine by comparison with snatching an inspiring snap on a very grey day, particularly now that so many boats have black sails.

Photographer Annraoi Blaney stylishly overcomes the problem of black sails and absent sunshine with this inspired composition of Viking (Kevin Darmody) and Soufriere (Stephen O'Flaherty) racing in the Beshoff Motors Autumn League at Howth. Photo: Annraoi Blaney.Photographer Annraoi Blaney stylishly overcomes the problem of black sails and absent sunshine with this inspired composition of Viking (Kevin Darmody) and Soufriere (Stephen O'Flaherty) racing in the Beshoff Motors Autumn League at Howth. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Yet whether your sails are black, white, purple, yellow or green, they've found lots of sunlight in Autumn events like the Beshoff Motors Autumn League in Howth, and while some other late season championships weren't quite so lucky, throughout October Afloat.ie has been recording a rich variety of regulation-compliant events on the water at many centres.

But has this late-season success gone to people's heads? As October morphs into November and the clocks go back, it behoves us to remember the thoughts of one Thomas Hood (1799-1845) - supposedly a humorist, but then they're a notably gloomy bunch:

NOVEMBER

No sun — no moon!
No morn — no noon —
No dawn — no dusk — no proper time of day.

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member —
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! —
November!

Set against that attitude, it seems that by contrast, sailing administrators throughout the country see sunshine in every shower and a silver lining in every cloud at this time of the year, for the proposed November weekend programme at several clubs has never been so un-seasonally active.

Not that late Autumn and Winter sailing is something new. There are those who persist in seeing it as a novelty, yet the Frostbite League staged for all-comers under PY by Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club in the sensible confines of Dun Laoghaire Harbour goes back at least half a century, while the opening of the first stage of the marina at Royal Cork in Crosshaven in 1974 immediately ushered in the country's first Autumn League for keelboats.

Bright as she goes – Autumn League racing at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert BatemanBright as she goes – Autumn League racing at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman

So before long, we'll be celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the RCYC Autumn League, while on the East Coast April 2024 will mark fifty years of a continuous sailing programme at Howth YC. They'd their usual Opening Day in April 1974, then as the traditional sailing season was closing down in the Autumn, the news Lasers turned up and a Sunday morning frostbite series got going – drawing in entries from as far away as Wexford to the south and Carlingford to the north – and it still does so, while after the marina was opened in 1982, the keelboat Autumn League and Brass Monkey winter-long series both became possible, and it has all been trundling along non-stop ever since.

With a membership around the 2,000 mark, it may well be that Howth YC needs various identifiably different programmes to keep everyone happy, and it is a fact that if you sail there all year round – whether in keelboats or dinghies – you'll meet a significantly different group as the seasons change, with the two-part winter-long Brass Monkey series a friendly contest in which people who wouldn't normally dream of going racing find themselves upping the heartbeat with a spot of unaccustomed competition.

DBSC Turkey Shoot in sunshine, Rockabill VI leading from Mermaid. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienDBSC Turkey Shoot in sunshine, Rockabill VI leading from Mermaid. Photo: Afloat.ie

And it gives you an insight into aspects of weather you'd otherwise miss, particularly the effect of air density on wind pressure. One November day we were racing to windward in a ketch-rigged Westerly Conway in a rising and very humid southerly, and a squall of more than 40 knots brought us to a halt for all that we sailing in sheltered water immediately east of Ireland's Eye. The wind briefly freshened a little more, and with all her top hamper of the big radar scanner and other broccoli on the mizzen mast, the boat simply slid gently sideways, for the pressure was the equivalent of 50 knots in a dry climate.

Therein lies Admiral Beaufort's genius, for his Beaufort Scale was based on the effect of the different wind speeds, with a Force 6 exerting something like 200 times the pressure of a Force 2. All of which may seem a long way from various club sailing secretaries and their committees devising busy programmes for their members in these peculiar times to keep club sailing busy through November and well into December.

But it adds insight into what happens when the glitzy Dublin Bay SC Turkey Shoot works towards the conclusion of its seven-weekend programme just as the days are about to start getting longer again. As organiser, Fintan Cairns observed: "It knocks the stuffing out of the winter and into the turkey……."

"Knocking the stuffing out of the winter and putting it into the turkey…." It takes a real effort to realize that this photo of George Sisk's WOW racing in the DBSC Turkey Shoot was taken in December. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien"Knocking the stuffing out of the winter and putting it into the turkey…." It takes a real effort to realize that this photo of George Sisk's WOW racing in the DBSC Turkey Shoot was taken in December. Photo: Afloat.ie

But at least those involved are mostly locally-based, and that is the essence of the various winter programmes. Thus we observe with a certain awed fascination the GP14 Association's determination to race next weekend a championship - postponed from April - with Cullaun Sailing Club in distant County Clare.

Cullaun SC in County Clare opted for lake sailing despite the presence of the Shannon Estuary nearby. Photo courtesy CSCCullaun SC in County Clare opted for lake sailing despite the presence of the Shannon Estuary nearby. Photo courtesy CSC

It's a club which is regarded with the warmest feelings, for I can remember the late Stuart Nairn and his friends - mostly from Shannon Town - bringing it into being way back when.

Nevertheless, November with a long journey for most competitors is quite a challenge. For sure, the GPs are up for it much better than most class associations. But the very fact that it is being contemplated at all shows how keen people are to make up their sailing deficit.

"Dream of the distant west" – Wayfarers racing at Cullaun. Photo courtesy CSC"Dream of the distant west" – Wayfarers racing at Cullaun. Photo courtesy CSC

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What was it with last weekend's weather? As the pandemic restrictions against activity afloat are ever-so-gradually eased, not only was there some sort of sailing going on almost everywhere, but the mood was that of late August. Yet it was the weekend nearest the Autumn Equinox, the very essence of September, when by tradition we should have been battling nasty gales coming out of decaying tropical storms. But instead, we were revelling in sunshine and balmy breezes while remarking that such clouds as were about – mostly soft and fluffy on the east coast – reminded us of a gentler Paul Henry skyscape.

But of course, the special radiant nature of the sunshine was totally seasonal, as has been noted in every year of the forty-seven that have elapsed since Autumn Leagues began with the opening of the first stage of the Royal Cork Marina in 1974, augmented by the arrival of the Laser Class and its regular autumn-winter programmes at a growing number of sailing centres. Thus last weekend in terms of time precision was pure late September, even if – in terms of attitude - we thought it was August and seemed to have lost an entire month somewhere along the way.

The cotton-wool clouds of a sunny morning on Dublin Bay as the fleet runs eastwards for the KishThe cotton-wool clouds of a sunny morning on Dublin Bay as the fleet runs eastwards for the Kish

But then quite substantial parts of August deserved to be lost, notwithstanding those folk who claimed to have been in remote parts of the country where they had nothing but blazing sunshine and drought conditions for six days in a row.

Maybe so. But the way that boats and crews leapt to life as it began to become evident that the weather last weekend was going to be better than expected was such that it was worthy of notice, and it certainly brought the DMYC's Kish Race centre stage in sailing people's perceptions of Dublin Bay.

Heaven knows but we've been suggesting for long enough that the Kish Race should have the same position in the Dublin Bay sailing fixtures hierarchy as the Cobh-Blackrock has in Cork, and the Lambay Race holds north of Howth Head. But the fact that the Kish Race has had to be held in late September because the Dublin Bay programme at season's height is already well filled with events going back at least a hundred years means that the Kish Race has acquired the image of being distinctly Autumnal, unlike last Sunday's iteration, which was pure joy with a healthy fleet of 41 boats.

Queen of the Bay – Kish Race winner Kaya of Greystones. Photo: Afloat.ieQueen of the Bay – Kish Race winner Kaya of Greystones. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

And the fact that it was won by the Queen of Greystones, Frank Whelan's J/122 Kaya sailed by Patrick Barnwell, gives it all an added significance. For until the new harbour and marina was built at the North Wicklow port, Greystones had a unique and visible link with the project to replace the Kish Lightvessel with a vast fixed lighthouse embedded in the Kish Bank.

It was all done on a foundation structure of an enormous reinforced concrete cylinder which was constructed in the Coal Harbour in Dun Laoghaire and then towed the eight miles out to the lighthouse site on a calm day. Except that it wasn't quite calm enough at the first attempt, some cracks appeared in the big concrete floating wheel, and the Irish Lights engineers demanded a replacement.

Few things go to waste in Ireland, and some bright sparks in Greystones reckoned that the rejected first base for the Kish LH would provide an excellent end-piece to lengthen their tiny pier. It did the job very well, and for years no visit to Greystones was complete without a walk to the end of the pier "to stand on the Kish Lighthouse….".

The old harbour at Greystones – the circular end to the main pier was salvaged from the failed first attempt at pre-fabricating the Kish Lighthouse.The old harbour at Greystones – the circular end to the main pier was salvaged from the failed first attempt at pre-fabricating the Kish Lighthouse.

And though at first glance the new harbour has changed the waterfront almost out of all recognition, it looks perfectly possible that some of the Kish LV Mark I is still in there somewhere, which means that every time Kaya and her marina neighbours put out to sea, they're going close past the Kish…….

All of which has taken us some way from the sheer delight of contemplating last weekend's experience of healthy Atlantic weather working its way gently across Ireland. We like to think that this is our standard weather, but in recent years there seem to have been increased though very different inputs from Siberia or Sahara, and if they're otherwise occupied the Arctic isn't above chucking some unpleasantness towards our green island, which is really at its emerald best when the wind is in the west.

RS Aeros off Dun Laoghaire on Sunday, revelling in the best kind of Irish weather. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienRS Aeros off Dun Laoghaire on Sunday, revelling in the best kind of Irish weather. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

There's no need to enumerate the horrors of the Beast from the East when the weather's coming from Siberia except to point out that Arctic air is cleaner. But when we've had a prolonged soporific airflow from the Sahara, you find all sort of peculiar little bugs around the house and garden which make you wonder if it's safe to breathe, and it may well be that only safe place to be is out on a sailing boat.

We'll dream of sailing like this all winter – SB20s showing the colours on Lough ReeWe'll dream of sailing like this all winter – SB20s showing the colours on Lough Ree

Thus it's time and more simply to celebrate sailing, and we do so with photos from Edel Kellegher, Joanne Leavy and Gilly Goodbody. Last weekend effortlessly produced sun-filled sailing images which it would take forever to set up if you were trying to organise it according to a fixed schedule. It's something which Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra have been trying to arrange in order to do justice to their superbly-restored Dublin 21s Naneen, Garavogue and Estelle, but to get it right you need at least eleven factors to come into alignment, so at this stage it's just the happy coincidence of Gilly Gooodbody being in the right place at the right time aboard her family's J/109 White Mischief in the Royal Irish YC end-of-season Pursuit Race which produced the first images which do justice to the challenge of the showing the DB 21s looking their best in their home waters.

The restored DB21 Naneen of 1905, the only boat of the class actually built in Dun Laoghaire, is flying the house flag of her first owner, Cosby Burrows (1856-1925) of County Cavan. Photo: Gilly GoodbodyThe restored DB21 Naneen of 1905, the only boat of the class actually built in Dun Laoghaire, is flying the house flag of her first owner, Cosby Burrows (1856-1925) of County Cavan. Photo: Gilly Goodbody

Dublin Bay twilight racing at its sweetest for the restored DB21 Garavogue. Photo: Gilly GoodbodyDublin Bay twilight racing at its sweetest for the restored DB21 Garavogue. Photo: Gilly Goodbody

All of which makes you realise what a genius was sailing photographer Frank Beken of Cowes. His famous 1911 photo of the big Fife schooner Suzanne is now so iconic it has more or less entered the public domain as it's the ultimate essence of Beken. The photo was ordered and Frank Beken looked at the weather, arranged the day, and the skipper and large professional crew sailed Suzanne away down the west Solent to Lymington to get all the sails up and drawing as they ran back at ever-increasing speed.

In those generally pre-radio days, it was up to Beken to be in station off Egypt Point at Cowes at the right time in his launch – Suzanne's target - ready with his huge glass plate camera in which the shutter was activated by a bulb in his mouth in order that both hands could hold the camera steady. There was only one nano-second in which everything was perfect, and he captured it. Afterwards, his most memorable comment was that as Suzanne was rolling slightly, he and his launch driver had to duck to avoid being carried off by the main boom as she swept past………

Is this the ultimate sailing portrait? The Fife schooner Suzanne in 1911 with all eight sails filled to perfection. Photo through Pinterest courtesy Beken of CowesIs this the ultimate sailing portrait? The Fife schooner Suzanne in 1911 with all eight sails filled to perfection. Photo through Pinterest courtesy Beken of Cowes

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Wave Regatta provides Howth Yacht Club and the community on the Howth peninsula in County Dublin with a biennial keelboat racing event that aims to be the most attractive sailing event in Ireland.

Maximising many of the local natural resources and involving allied Howth businesses and services, it attracted competitors, visitors and others on its first staging in 2018 with a weekend-long spectacle establishing Howth as a destination of choice for sailors, visitors and allied marine tourism.

Read Afloat's preview and review of the first staging of Wave Regatta.