Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Vintage Dublin Yawl Ainmara Celebrates Centenary+Ten With Return To Ringsend Birthplace

6th July 2022
Normally when you see a Swiss ensign, you expect to see a new and very shiny boat under it. But when the Ringsend-built 110-year-old John B Kearney yawl Ainmara came into Howth YC Marina with her new Swiss owners on Friday, she was the oldest boat on the pontoons
Normally when you see a Swiss ensign, you expect to see a new and very shiny boat under it. But when the Ringsend-built 110-year-old John B Kearney yawl Ainmara came into Howth YC Marina with her new Swiss owners on Friday, she was the oldest boat on the pontoons Credit: W M Nixon

The 36ft yawl Ainmara, designed and built in 1912 by the talented self-taught naval architect John B Kearney in Murphy’s Boatyard beside his family’s home in Ringsend, played a key role in Irish sailing north and south until 2018. She celebrated her Centenary in 2012-2013 with a special cruise to the Outer Hebrides followed by overall victory in the first race for the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association Leinster Plate in Dublin Bay, and then in 2016 she was awarded the “Boat of the Regatta” trophy in the Royal Ulster YC 150th Anniversary Regatta on Belfast Lough.

Her final owner in Ireland, - from 1966 until 2018 - was multi-talented skipper Dickie Gomes of Strangford Lough. But when he put her up for sale after more than fifty years of ownership, he found there was even more interest internationally than there was at home, and she was sold to a Swiss couple, Nicco Macchi and Marie Vuilleumier, who made Ainmara’s new home port in Dunkerque.

Happy live-aboards – Niccho Macchi and Marie Vuilleumier in Ainmara’s decidedly compact saloon. The photo on the bulkhead is of Ainmara racing from Inverness to Bergen fifty years ago in 1972 under Dickie Gomes’ command. Photo: W M NixonHappy live-aboards – Niccho Macchi and Marie Vuilleumier in Ainmara’s decidedly compact saloon. The photo on the bulkhead is of Ainmara racing from Inverness to Bergen fifty years ago in 1972 under Dickie Gomes’ command. Photo: W M Nixon

This provided a handy base to cruise to classic and traditional events in The Netherlands, Belgium, France and southern England while continuing to work in Switzerland. But they enjoyed the cruising so much that after a major refit including a new deck in Ostende in Belgium, they cut their shore ties for the time being, and moved aboard to make Ainmara their floating home.

The new deck is a very neat piece of work. John B Kearney disliked heavily-cambered decks, and Ainmara and other boats to his design - such as the famous Mavis of 1925 - were renowned for decks with the right amount of camber for constructional strength, while providing easy on-deck movement. Photo: W M NixonThe new deck is a very neat piece of work. John B Kearney disliked heavily-cambered decks, and Ainmara and other boats to his design - such as the famous Mavis of 1925 - were renowned for decks with the right amount of camber for constructional strength, while providing easy on-deck movement. Photo: W M Nixon

The plan for 2022 was to sail north into the Baltic and then along the west coast of Norway to Bergen, where Ainmara had been in 1972 at the conclusion of the stormy Clyde Cruising Club’s Inverness-Bergen Race. From Norway it was across to Scotland and through the North Channel to the Down Cruising Club’s converted lightship HQ in Strangford Lough and a reunion with Dickie Gomes, and then it was on to Howth – where she won the Lambay Race in 1921 – before making her call to Ringsend. 

Niccho and Marie with the “non-folding sprayhood”. Long before folding sprayhoods were thought of, a 1950s owner fitted Ainmara with this useful item of comfort. Inevitably during the course of cruises, the handy space under it tended to become the stowage repository for all sorts of essential little items, but with Swiss ownership it’s now a notably neat and tidy area. Photo: W M NixonNiccho and Marie with the “non-folding sprayhood”. Long before folding sprayhoods were thought of, a 1950s owner fitted Ainmara with this useful item of comfort. Inevitably during the course of cruises, the handy space under it tended to become the stowage repository for all sorts of essential little items, but with Swiss ownership it’s now a notably neat and tidy area. Photo: W M Nixon

When people become liveaboards, they usually become subtly different – or sometimes very different - to the rest of us. But even though Nicco and Marie have to go with the tides and the weather independently of land-bound routines, when you meet them you wouldn’t think for a moment that their home is aboard a small and ancient sailing boat. It must be because they’re Swiss, yet that’s something they wear lightly. But whatever the reason, they and Ainmara are as neat and organised as can be.

And while their life is largely freeform, as a result of a successful visit to the Dartmouth Classics in south Devon they were very committed to being there again on July 12th this year – next Tuesday – and a recent position check showed Ainmara was already in Cornish waters, on time with quiet efficiency. She’s an ever-young Irish boat which happens to be 110 years old. And clearly this latest chapter in her remarkable story is as interesting as everything that has gone before.

“Where next?” Ainmara’s proud bowsprit always seemed like an encouraging invitation to go cruising to interesting places, and under Swiss ownership with a home port in Basel, she is regularly heading “for other places beyond the seas”. Photo: W M Nixon“Where next?” Ainmara’s proud bowsprit always seemed like an encouraging invitation to go cruising to interesting places, and under Swiss ownership with a home port in Basel, she is regularly heading “for other places beyond the seas”. Photo: W M Nixon

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

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.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating