With just twelve days to go to the start of the 25th Anniversary Glandore Classic Boat Regatta 2017 from July 23rd to July 28th, Glandore Harbour Yacht Club are swinging all systems into action with the extra muscle provided by sponsorship writes W M Nixon. As ever, the theme will be variety, with the pace in sheer style being set by elegant craft such as the 1970-vintage all-varnish 55ft McGruer ketch Cuilaun (Brian Smullen & Michael O’Flaherty).
She’s a fine ship which, in her day, has won her class in a Transatlantic Race to Cork. But then at the other end of the spectrum in terms of size and detail, there will be a host of boats representing the strong Traditional Boat theme which is central to West Cork sailing and rowing.
And this time round, there’ll be an unprecedented level of input from the Shannon Estuary, including the Theo Rye-designed CityOne dinghies from Limerick.
Internationally, the late naval architect and maritime historian Theo Rye was noted as the ultimate authority in everything to do with real classics right up to such giants as the Fife 23 Metre Cambria. But he was a man of many and inventive talents, and when his friend Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick requested some ideas for an easy-to-build sailing dinghy whose construction would fit neatly into the school’s curriculum, Theo came up with the CityOne concept.
With vivid sail colour design schemes which resulted from a global internet competition run from Limerick, the CityOnes are a visually-striking and functionally successful concept. Yet they’re probably not what many would have expected from Theo’s drawing board. But as it was typically generous of him to provide the very innovative design, and now the very existence of the CityOnes is a Theo memorial following his untimely death last year. Thus their racing at Glandore will be part of a celebration of the life and contribution of Theo Rye, both in the world of classics, and in his generous and often unusual ideas in all the areas with which he became involved.
Also coming to Glandore from the Ilen School in Limerick will be the flotilla of trainee-built 23ft gandelows, which have revived the Shannon Estuary’s fleet of these uniquely-local mud-sliding boats. But although their flat-bottomed mud-sliding capacity is key to their design, they’re attractive boats in their own right. As a result, Patrick Beautement from England was so inspired by the Ilen School’s ethos after working there as a volunteer that he has built a 15ft version of the gandelow in deepest Gloucestershire, and she’ll be making her debut at Glandore.
But the influence of the Shannon Estuary doesn’t stop there, as another Glandore debutante will be the characterful 25ft cutter Sally O’Keeffe from Kilrush. She was built as a community project in Querrin on the south shore of the Loop Head Peninsula in a successful attempt to re-create the sailing hookers of the Shannon Estuary which served the many little local ports such as Querrin in times past. Naval architect Myles Stapleton gave the Querrin folk a wonderful design which draws its inspiration from the old vessels, but adds a little bit of its own magic stardust for a fine little ship which will be sailing from Kilrush to Glandore.
While it was a shed in Querrin that produced the Sally O’Keeffe, another distant shed away to the eastward at Skenakilla Crossroads in north Cork near Mitchelstown saw the irrepressible Bill Trafford working away on what started as a standard Etchells 22 of a certain age, but has emerged a year later as the unique and very elegant Guapa, an astonishing transformation which will certainly find people in Glandore who will appreciate the time and talents that have gone into her creation.
But in addition to modern twists on classic themes, Glandore Harbour will be well populated by what we might call classic classics, with the pace being set by the locally-based fleet of Classic International Dragons, which set so many records in terms of racing longevity and major international trophies won far back in the previous Millenium that it’s arguable that they should be a listed species.
Another even more vintage racing class of 100% Irish origins that has already been strutting its stuff big time in 2017 at both the Semaine de Morbihan in Brittany at the end of May, and the recent Dun Laoghaire Regatta in Dublin Bay, is the Water Wags from Dun Laoghaire. They expect to muster nine boats at Glandore. And in addition to including many noted women sailors with the Murphy/MacAleavey family in particular making a big input, it should never be forgotten that when the original 13ft Water Wags of 1887 vintage decided to trade up to a larger 14ft-plus dinghy in 1900, the new design was by a woman.
The order for their construction may have gone to noted Kingstown boatbuilder James Doyle, yet it was his talented daughter Maimie who actually designed the boats. But then, the Water Wags were always ahead of their time, and the word is that in Glandore they’ll be demonstrating their special skill at Synchronised Sailing. This may tempt the Ette Class visiting Glandore from Castletownshend next door to try something similar, but we’re told it’s not as easy as it looks.
The great name of William Fife as a designer will also be present with the 1905 Clyde Thirty Brynoth, and the Cork Harbour One Design Elsie (Patrick Dorgan), of a time-honoured design which first appeared in 1895-96.
From time to time, these golden oldies benefit from the attention of sympathetic and highly-skilled boatbuilders who understand their special needs, and West Cork is well-filled with such talent, with Rui Ferreira near Ballydehob emerging at Glandore to show his skills with his restored 1936-vintage Flying Fish, which he somehow finds time to work on between skilled jobs for other people.
A sailing vessel which has punched way above her weight on Ireland’s behalf for many years now is the 76ft training schooner Spirit of Oysterhaven, and she’ll be at Glandore, an eloquent reminder of the fact that while we await government decisions on a new sail training ship, the Spirit of Oysterhaven has been gallant in filling the role in an unofficial capacity.
And in a year in which there seem to be more whales off the Irish coast than ever before, it’s more than appropriate that the fleet at Glandore will include the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group’s Research Vessel, the ketch Celtic Mist. In Glandore of all places, the sense of sea and land intertwining in a dynamic interaction is at its strongest, and Celtic Mist’s presence is reminder that our boats don’t just share the sea with other boats, we share it with an entire maritime world.