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Dinghies & Dunmore East with Flica in the Rare Old Times

7th April 2021
Dinghy Week 1950 at Dunmore East, with the rapidly-expanding IDRA 14 Class present in strength and lying to a line of moorings afloat, while the harbour is dominated by the sky-scraping mast of Aylmer Hall's 12 Metre Flica from Cork, and the picture is made complete with a Naval Service guardship
Dinghy Week at Dunmore East in 1950, with the rapidly-expanding IDRA 14 Class present in strength and lying to a line of moorings afloat, while the harbour is dominated by the sky-scraping mast of Aylmer Hall's 12 Metre Flica from Cork, and the picture is made complete with a Naval Service guardship

Every so often a photo flashes across the screen, its origins unknown and its destination a mystery, yet its reality is abundantly clear. This header pic is one such. I've no idea how it came to pop up, or who sent it, or indeed who took it something like seventy years ago.

But everything points to it being an early IDRA Dinghy Week at Dunmore East, which would make it 1950 or 1955, and the guess is it was 1950 when Teddy Crosbie won the Helmsmans Championship, racing in the hot new boats of the IDRA 14 class which in 2021 will be celebrating their 75th Anniversary.

They spent that week in 1950 afloat on temporary moorings, something for which designer O'Brien Kennedy had been asked to make them well able, for when the design was commissioned in 1946, clubs such as Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East had little enough in the way of dinghy parks with their own launching slips.

That said, WHSC were well up to speed with IDRA 14s and their own class of National 18s built to the Yachting World-sponsored Uffa Ace design of 1938 – in the photo, there's a handful of them berthed at the quayside to the right.

Flica's barometer, set in a section of her broken mast salvaged after it came down on August 15th 1957 at the Cobh People's Regatta.Flica's barometer, set in a section of her broken mast salvaged after it came down on August 15th 1957 at the Cobh People's Regatta.

But of course the eye-catching focus of the entire picture is Aylmer Hall's 1929-vintage Charles E Nicholson-designed – and C & N built – 12 Metre Flica, the Queen of Cork Harbour, where they still talk in hushed tones of the time she was dismasted during the Cobh People's Regatta. It certainly was an awful lot of mast to come tumbling down, and equally it seemed un-climbable without assistance.

That made it a useful challenge. In Dunmore East in those days, the three McBride brothers from Waterford – Oweny, Davy and Denny – were inescapable features of the summer sailing scene, and Davy got himself aboard Flica, where he was soon delivering contentious opinions in the classic Davy style. So to get themselves some peace, Flica's ship's company challenged him to climb the mast.

He did better than that. Instead of shimmying up the spar itself, he went up the forestay hand-over-hand, and scrambled up the last bit of the mast to the masthead itself. Then he came down the backstay hand-over-hand, and barely paused for breath before he resumed telling the Corkmen why Dunmore East and its sailors were infinitely superior to anything that Cork Harbour could hope to offer.

The downward spiral. A stalled restoration project on Flica, seen at Birdham in Sussex in 2013. Photo: W M NixonThe downward spiral. A stalled restoration project on Flica, seen at Birdham in Sussex in 2013. Photo: W M Nixon

Alas, Davy McBride is no longer with us, and Flica is barely hanging in by a thread. It was around 2013 that we found her in the shed at Birdham Pool on Chichester Harbour, paralysed in a very stalled restoration project. Since then, she has been more or less evicted from Sussex, and was last heard about a year ago looking very sorry indeed in a field in Essex.

Barely alive: The International 12 Metre Flica of 1929 vintage and several times the Solent championship, as seen in Essex in 2020Barely alive: The International 12 Metre Flica of 1929 vintage and several times the Solent championship, as seen in Essex in 2020

The stern is the part of Flica most other 12 Metre sailors saw in the Solent in the 1930s, but mercifully few have seen it like this.The stern is the part of Flica most other 12 Metre sailors saw in the Solent in the 1930s, but mercifully few have seen it like this.F

It would be a miracle if some philanthropist with bottomless pockets could take her on for one of those zillion euro 12 Metre restorations in which classic boatbuilders Robbe & Berking on the Danish-German border specialize. For our header photo reminds us of a simpler time when Irish sailing was more cohesive, all the boats were beautiful, Dinghy Week would see the cruiser fleets going along to provide accommodation for the small boat racers, and everyone knew everyone else.

Published in Historic Boats
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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