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Return of the Bray 'Droleen' Dinghies to Royal St George Yacht Club for 'Irish Times Challenge Cup'

14th August 2021
A Lyme Regis Academy built Droleen from Donegal will be sailing in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for the Irish Times Challenge Cup
A Lyme Regis Academy built Droleen from Donegal will be sailing in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for the Irish Times Challenge Cup

At the end of 1896, Bray Sailing Club decided to hold a competition among its members to design a new one-design sailing dinghy suitable for the challenging marine conditions prevailing off Bray, Co. Wicklow. The winner of the competition was a twenty-six-year-old draper, William Ogilvy, an experienced sailor who proposed an open cat-boat, twelve feet long by six feet beam to be built with best quality spruce and elm. The boat was designed to carry a 100 sq. ft. mainsail and a traditional spinnaker of cotton flown from a long spinnaker pole.

A contract was entered with Mr Greg Foley of Ringsend to build seven boats, which were named 'Droleens' (or wrens), and deliver them to Bray by train, all for £9 each. The sails were made by Madders of Wivenhoe, Essex, England, for £1-8s. These little boats provide such sport that during 1897, that Foley was given two more orders to build Droleens to join the fleet at Bray. Being very sea-worthy, competed at regattas up and down the County Dublin coast, at Howth Sailing Club, Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club, at Kingstown Township Regatta (now Dun Laoghaire) and at Dalkey Regatta.

In 1897 The Irish Times presented a beautiful silver cup called the 'Irish Times Challenge Cup' to be competed for by the Droleens, which was won by Mr Joseph Edward Mills in Katie. Mr Mills was a caterer and confectioner who owned a shop in Merrion Row in Dublin with his son, Joseph Edward junior.

The beautiful silver cup called the 'Irish Times Challenge Cup' has been rediscovered and will be raced for again(Above and inscription close up below) The beautiful silver cup called the 'Irish Times Challenge Cup' has been rediscovered and will be raced for again

Irish Times Challenge Cup

Fortunately, the 'Irish Times Challenge Cup' was rediscovered, and it seemed appropriate that the Droleens should again compete for the silver cup.

On 29 August this year, the Droleens will again take to the water, this time in Dun Laoghaire, hosted by the Royal St George Yacht Club for the first time in one hundred and twenty-four years to compete again for the historic 'Irish Times Challenge Cup.' Are there any Droleens in existence? We have promises of four boats coming to Dun Laoghaire, a volunteer-built Droleen coming from Bray (of course), a Lyme Regis Academy built Droleen from Donegal, a Co. Cavan professionally built Droleen belonging to a Dublin owner and a school built Droleen from Barna, Co. Galway.

A Droleen sailing in Bray Harbour in County WicklowA Droleen sailing in Bray Harbour in County Wicklow

Never have any of these boats been previously raced or been seen together.

The Droleens, being twelve feet long, will compete against the 1913 International 12 Foot Dinghies and the 1969 Dublin Bay Sailing Club 12 Foot Dinghy, which shares the 1913 hull but with a more modern rig. Will the Droleens be quicker than the newer 12-foot designs? The Droleens do have sufficient beam to carry a larger sail area. However, we have to wait until 29 August to find out which performs best in Dun Laoghaire.

Vincent Delany

About The Author

Vincent Delany

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Sailing historian Vincent Delany is a member of the Association of Yachting Historians, and an active sailor in Water Wag, SOD and Squib classes. He has written a thesis on 'Yachting and yachtsmen on the River Shannon 1830-1930.' He has lectured on the history of The Water Wag Club, Royal St.George Yacht Club, and the Killinure Yacht Club, He has written two sailing books 'The Water Wags 1887-2012' and 'The International 12 foot class in Ireland' both of which are available from blurb.com

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