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Conor O’Brien Ketch Ilen’s Deck to Be Completed By Mid-October

26th September 2016
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Dermot Kennedy with Liam Hegarty on the almost-completed new deck of the ketch Ilen at Oldcourt near Baltimore on Saturday Dermot Kennedy with Liam Hegarty on the almost-completed new deck of the ketch Ilen at Oldcourt near Baltimore on Saturday Photo: Gary MacMahon

The re-decking of the 57ft Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen (originally built Baltimore 1926) is the latest stage of this major restoration/re-build project to be nearing completion at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt on the Ilen River between Skibbereen and Baltimore writes W M Nixon. It is expected that the deck will be signed off by October 15th, and work will then proceed on more detailed work.

As part of the project, the new bowsprit – built by trainees in the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick – was delivered down to Oldcourt last Saturday, and Ilen School Director Gary MacMahon reports a magic moment when Baltimore sailing legend Dermot Kennedy, owner himself of a similar ketch the Richard, called by Oldcourt on Saturday to give the deck his blessing and welcome the bowsprit to West Cork.

ilen deck2One for the road…..the massive new bowsprit for Ilen about to depart for Baltimore from Limerick, where it was made by trainees in the Ilen Boat-building School. In the photo (from left) are Cyril the Driver, Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal, Robert Smalle, and Gary MacMahon

ilen deck3Combined effort. While the hull and deck of the Ilen have been re-constructed in the boatyard at Oldcourt in West Cork, all the deckhouses and hatches have been built in the trainee workshops of the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick. Photo: Gary MacMahon

All the deckhouses, hatchways and similar “cabinet” work in the Ilen project has been done in Limerick and then trucked to Oldcourt. There, the main part of the hull and deck re-building has been progressing steadily, sometimes drawing on the talents of international traditional boat-builders who have been enticed to the magnet of West Cork by the quality and scale of the workmanship being produced by Liam Hegarty and his team.

ilen deck4 While you wouldn’t expect to find a forehatch like this on a modern offshore racer, on the traditional ketch Ilen the new Limerick-built forehatch housing looks very much at home. Photo: Gary MacMahon

IIen was originally commissioned in 1925 by the Falkland Islanders to be their inter-island communications vessel after they had been properly impressed by her smaller sister, Conor O’Brien’s own-designed 42ft ketch Saoirse, which called to the Falklands in 1925 after rounding Cape Horn during his pioneering global circumnavigation.

O’Brien agreed to be involved with the Ilen project with Tom Moynihan the master shipwright of Baltimore, and then when the vessel was completed, her sailed her out to the Falklands. Because his only qualification was as a yachtmaster, for the delivery voyage the Ilen had to be registered as a yacht for insurance purposes, and she made the voyage under the burgee of the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

ilen deck5 The Ilen on her launching day at Baltimore, 1926. She had to be registered as a yacht for insurance purposes, as her skipper Conor O’Brien’s only qualification was as a yachtsmaster, so he made the delivery to Ilen’s new owners in the Falkland Islands sailing under the burgee of the Royal Irish YC. This also obliged him to carry the RIYC’s then-recognised British blue ensign. But a look at this photo soon reveals the Irish ensign under the bowsprit, celebrating the fact that in making his 1923-25 circumnavigation with Saoirse, Conor O’Brien became the first captain to sail on any major voyage under the Irish tricolour

Published in Ilen

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