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The 73rd Rolex Sydney Hobart promises much, with 107 yachts currently scheduled to cross the start line in Sydney Harbour at 13.00 (AEDT) on 26 December. Some 30 international entrants will participate, with a high-profile battle for line honours and fierce contest for the overall win expected. The 628-nautical mile race has never yet failed to deliver intense drama and great spectacle - the 2017 edition looks set to be no exception. First held in 1945, the Sydney Hobart is organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia with the cooperation of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. Rolex has been title sponsor since 2002. An unquestionably iconic sporting challenge, the race sits alongside the other offshore classics, such as the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race, that underpin the Swiss watchmaker’s association with the sport.

First held in 1945, the Rolex Sydney Hobart is organized by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia with the cooperation of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. Rolex has been title sponsor since 2002. An unquestionably iconic sporting challenge, the race sits alongside the other offshore classics, such as the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race, that underpin the Swiss watchmaker’s association with the sport.

LEADING LIGHTS

Last year, a four-way competition to finish first in Hobart resulted in a record-breaking performance by Perpetual LOYAL. Anthony Bell’s 100-foot Maxi rewarded her crew’s persistence and resolve, as man and machine combined to take nearly five hours off the previous fastest time.

Once again, four 100-foot powerhouses are in the running. Wild Oats XI will be seeking to re-establish her benchmark status by adding to her eight line honours successes and taking back the record, weather permitting. Against her, the American Maxi Comanche, first to finish in 2015, is competing under the stewardship of New Zealander Neville Crichton, a two-time line honours winner himself.

Peter Harburg’s Black Jack is the former Alfa Romeo – the fastest yacht in 2009 with Crichton. The Reichel/Pugh design has spent the past five years dominating the northern hemisphere big boat scene. Completing the quartet is Christian Beck’s InfoTrack (previously Perpetual LOYAL).

Racing these highly-tuned Maxis at full tilt over some of the most difficult seas in the world is a true test for both crew and yacht. Any weakness in organization, skill or determination will be ruthlessly exploited by the opposition and the conditions. Preparation is critical and one month out from the start, the race has already begun in earnest for the owners and crews of these pure thoroughbreds.

PEER PRIDE
Away from the rarefied atmosphere of the 100-footers, the majority of entrants are competing for a variety of reasons. Some are relatively simple: a passion for the sport, the camaraderie of teamwork or the opportunity to pit oneself against the challenge. There are prizes throughout the fleet, with classes separated into different bands under handicap. At the finish in Hobart, Tasmania though, one boat will stand head and shoulders above the rest. The crew that wins overall will receive the deserved recognition of their peers and take a place in event legend. Beyond these less tangible rewards, there are the coveted Tattersall’s Cup, with its many years of history, and the Rolex Oyster Perpetual timepiece, engraved with the race name, the year and the words “Overall Winner”.

Over the past fifteen years, the title and rewards have been shared across the fleet, with yachts in the 40 to 50-foot range winning five times and yachts between 50 and 60 feet also winning five times. There have been three wins from the 60 to 70 feet yachts and two wins from the 100 footers. The prevailing weather will be significant in determining the outcome of the race. Inevitably, the conditions favour different lengths of yacht at different times; the strength of the wind and the state of the sea play critical roles. Crews must manage their resources astutely and sail to their yacht’s full potential throughout the period at sea. Complacency and inattentiveness can be ruinous.

FORM BOOK
The 2016 overall winner is back, although in new hands and renamed Wizard. David and Peter Askew from the United States will have their work cut out to repeat the achievement of Jim Delegat and the crew of Giacomo. The last boat to secure back-to-back wins was Freya in 1965. Bob Steel, from New South Wales and owner of Quest, will be hoping the conditions suit the 50-footers. A winner in 2002 and 2008, his current boat also triumphed under the name Balance in 2015. Steel, too, is up against it. This segment of the fleet is full of pedigree. Italian yacht, Mascalzone Latino owned by Vincenzo Onorato, enters after back-to-back wins in her last two 600-mile outings: the 2017 Hong Kong to Vietnam Race and the 2016 Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Chris Opielok from Germany, owner of the TP52 Rockall, may be relatively unknown at this race but he is a proven offshore challenger winning the Admiral’s Cup twice. American Joseph Mele will continue his pursuit of bluewater racing’s greatest prizes. Fresh from participation at this year’s Rolex Fastnet and Rolex Middle Sea Race, Mele and his Triple Lindy team are entering their second successive Rolex Sydney Hobart.

A NOD TO HISTORY
The 52-foot Dorade will debut at the Rolex Sydney Hobart, some 80-plus years after making a name for herself winning some of the world’s classic races. Current owners, Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy, have undertaken an ambitious itinerary in recent years, believing Dorade was born to race in open water and should continue to do so despite her advancing age. The same philosophy could equally apply to Sean Langman, whose Maluka is another octogenarian yacht to take the course; although, in Langman’s case, this has become something of a tradition. Kialoa II will also raise a cheer; a line honours winner at the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 1971, she is on a journey to revisit the scenes of past glories in the hands of Patrick and Keith Broughton. Though the prospects for repeating former triumphs are slim, all three crews will surely win hearts and minds of spectators and crew for their spirit and endeavour.

Published in Sydney to Hobart
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British sailing team, Alex Thomson Racing, that visited Irish shores this Summer today announced that their long-term sponsor, HUGO BOSS, has extended its partnership with the team for a further four years, in a deal that will take them through to the end of 2021.

HUGO BOSS has sponsored offshore solo sailor Thomson and his team since 2003 in what is one of the longest and most coveted partnerships in sailing. They will retain their title sponsorship rights meaning that Thomson’s IMOCA 60 racing yacht will continue to take the name of the upper premium fashion brand.

The renewed backing strengthens the Alex Thomson Racing team’s position as an early favourite for the Vendée Globe in 2020. The race, which has been in existence since 1989 and occurs every four years, sees sailors spend over 70 days at sea, has only ever been won by a French skipper. Thomson, who finished third in 2013 and second in 2017, will make sporting history if he wins the solo, non-stop, round the world race.

The Vendée Globe starts and finishes on the west coast of France. It is a 26,000 mile lap of the planet, non-stop, solo, and unassisted. With less than 100 people having ever completed the race, and only 50% of boats that start the race making it to the finish line, it is renowned as one of the world’s toughest, competitive sporting challenges. The race pushes sailors to the limit, both physically and mentally. In the 2016/17 edition, Thomson and Frenchman Armel Le’Cleach were in a constant battle for first place, neck and neck all the way to the finish line. Thomson finished just hours behind eventual winner Le’Cleach after 74 days at sea, breaking a world speed record in the process.

Alex Thomson Racing’s Cork Harbour based CEO Stewart Hosford said “We have a fantastic partnership with HUGO BOSS, and we are delighted to announce the continuation for the next four years. As a team we have set the benchmark for delivering value as one of the world’s leading sailing teams; we work hard to ensure we win on the water and deliver value and return off the water. With our strategy and objectives clear, and the continued relationship with HUGO BOSS confirmed, we are in a good position to focus on 2020 and there remains an opportunity for additional partners to join the team. Our values are closely linked with those of our sponsors and many global brands.”

Looking forward to 2020, and with his sights set firmly on the bringing home the gold, Thomson said; “I am looking forward to another successful cycle, with the focus on building the best team, boat and campaign for the Vendée Globe in 2020. As our main sponsor, HUGO BOSS have supported the team and enabled us to push boundaries and innovate both in our approach to sailing and the ways in which we share our sport with our audience. I very much look forward to building on the successes we have achieved and working together over the next four years.”

Mark Langer, CEO HUGO BOSS AG, added: “Alex Thomson is an outstanding sportsman and for us a great brand ambassador. Together with him and his team we can look back on many incredible moments both on and off the water. We are delighted to continue our successful partnership.”

Published in Vendee Globe

The 2018 ICRA Cruiser National and WIORA West Coast Championships have been launched at the Port of Galway offices.

The national cruiser championships will be organised by Galway Bay Sailing Club and will combine both the Irish Cruiser Racing top event and the West Coast Championships between the 15th and 18th of August, a later date than normal for the annual event and the first time for Galway Bay.

Captain Brian Sheridan from Port of Galway has arranged free cranage and berthage for the duration of the event.

The organising committee for the championships have already launched several very keenly priced entry packages starting with a super early bird from now until the first of February 2018.

Announcing the launch of the super early bird packages, which start at €175, the event chairperson, Martin Breen said: “We are looking forwarding to welcoming boats from far and wide to Galway for ICRA Cruiser Nationals and WIORA West Coast Championships 2018."

"Galway is one of the country’s most vibrant spots during the summer and we are confident that the arrival of a large fleet to Galway for the event will add an exciting extra dimension to the city.” said Mr. Breen. With regard to entering the championships he also said, “We would strongly encourage skippers to avail of the extremely good value entry fees now available and also to book their accommodation early”.

ICRA/WIORA Commodore Simon McGibney said “We are very excited that the ICRA Nationals are coming to Galway for the first time. Galway has a reputation for organising great events and the organising committee is working hard to bring the Galway seal of greatness to our event."

He also added that: "the event also brings forward an opportunity for the Cruiser Racing fleet to contribute to the development of top level racing in areas of the country that are often in need of that extra kick to attract more people to top level racing competition. We expect that these championships will be supported by our fleet and this will contribute to the national effort to promote sailing in Ireland'.

The committee is already very well advanced in their planning and looking forward to sharing more details in the coming weeks.

The Notice of Race is now available for download below.

Published in ICRA
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240 ISORA competitors and guests attended the 2017 awards ceremony and dinner at the National Yacht Club in Dún Laoghaire last Saturday writes Mark Thompson.

ISORA chairman Peter Ryan kept the evening on track, with awards of both the perpetual trophies and crystal glassware to the top three placed boats in all three fleets, plus prizes the individual results for all competitors in the 14 races series which started in April, and culminated in the season defining “James Eadie” 75 mile race from Pwllheli to Dún Laoghaire which this year decided the ISORA overall champion.

It was a great pleasure to see Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox (J109 Mojito) receive the prestigious “Wolfs Head” Trophy from Peter and Anne-Marie Ryan crowning them 2017 champions

Sailors and guests were treated to a champagne reception, followed by an outstanding four course meal devised and cooked by head chef Cormac Healy, served with fine wines and Jack Ryan 'Beggars Bush' whiskey to finish.

ISORA 2Michael Boyd and Vicky Cox Photo: GP Foto

Michael Boyd RORC Commodore and ISORA guest delivered a humorous story of how the Lyver Race medallions managed to stay at his house, and generously bought Champagne for all the Lyver race competitors present.

Other notable awards during the evening were the 2017 Spirit of ISORA “Penmaen Plate” awarded to Charlene Howard who raced “AJ Wanderlust” very consistently all year, often two handed and being based in the Isle of Man faced the greatest number of deliveries. Indeed Charlene and her crew even sailed over for the awards Dinner! 

The Silver fleet and IRC class 2 was won by Joe Conway in Elandra, and the Victoria Cup team award, was presented to Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli Sailing Club for the highest aggregate club scores in the race series, by Mojito/Sgrech/Jackknife and Aquaplane

Full results are attached below in a PDF of the menu for the ISORA awards night. It was a memorable evening with the spirit of ISORA in full flow with great plans being made for a bigger and better 2018.

Prior to the dinner, ISORA held its AGM where the 2018 rules amendments and racing programme were discussed, and a draft schedule published for consideration.

Closing the AGM, Peter Ryan, ISORA Chairman, paid tribute to retiring Vice Chairman Gerry Williams for his tireless efforts in promoting ISORA both as a competitor and committee member spanning 27 years.

Published in ISORA

World Sailing will hold a short–handed Offshore Sailing World Championship following approval from the Council at its annual conference in Mexico last week.

The new Offshore Worlds will be held in One Design boats to help promote and raise the profile of short handed offshore sailing which represents a significant element of the sport.

Selection of equipment, dates and venue as well as arrangements of the Worlds will be decided by World Sailing's Board of Directors after consultation with the Oceanic and Offshore Committee. Ireland's Paddy Boyd, a former CEO of both Ireland and Canada sailing sits on this committee. Sources say the boat is likely to be the Beneteau Figaro 3, as previously reported by Afloat.ie here.

Boyd was part of an Irish delegation that attended the World Sailing Conference that concluded at the weekend.

In further offshore proposals from the conference, a 'combined' Offshore Sailing World Championship will include the best results from the joint ORC/IRC Offshore World Championship as well as a separate long distance offshore component selected from existing major events. The scoring system will be defined between RORC and ORC with prizes awarded to skippers and crews, not the boat, enabling chartering of boats.

Published in World Sailing
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ISORA has reviewed a buoyant 2017 offshore sailing season in a just published online yearbook. The Irish Sea yacht racing body has compiled its race reports into one handy publication – with plenty of Afloat.ie photos – that sets out the record season of activity on both sides of the Irish Sea.

The book has been published in time for Saturday's AGM at the National Yacht Club that will set the 2018 race schedule.

Among other prizes for presentation, the Wolf’s Head will be presented to overall ISORA winners Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox at the Annual Dinner this Saturday too. 

Mojito Crew photoThe Mojito crew will be saluted on Saturday night at the NYC as overall 2017 ISORA champions Photo: Peter Ryan

Check out ISORA's 2017 Yearbook here

Published in ISORA
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In an exceptional week for Irish international offshore sailors, the Michael Boyd-skippered Lisa has been confirmed as both the RORC Points Champion and the Boat of the Year, while the Damian Foxall-crewed Vestas 11th Hour Racing has emerged as the convincing winner of the first stage of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18. And at home, Nicholas “Nin” O’Leary has appeared with a newly-acquired IMOCA 60, his own first command in this extreme class for which the Vendee Globe Non-stop Solo Round the World Race is the ultimate objective. W M Nixon takes a look at a high-powered scene which has many facets, and outlines how one Mayo sailor hopes to progress her own career in it.

International offshore racing is a universe unto itself, a place where superhuman skills have to be allied with exceptional organisational ability. Needless to say, the presence of straightforward courage is taken as read. For many of us as we consider the year’s past achievements, which moved up a gear early in the season when Conor Fogerty won the prized Gipsy Moth Trophy in the Single-handed Transatlantic Race, it is at a level which we can barely grasp, let alone expect to emulate.

So how can you hope to get a foot on the ladder? Well, it depends on whether you want offshore racing to be your recreational sport, or perhaps even just one of several personal sports in a busy life with a day job, or whether you want it to be a fulltime career.

Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School

Here on Sailing on Saturday we have twice interviewed skippers who have won the Roger Justice Trophy (the sailing schools’ prize) for Ireland in the Fastnet Race, Ronan O Siochru of Irish Offshore Sailing with the Sunfast 37 Desert Star in 2015, and Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School with the J/109 Jedi this year. Both gave considerable insight into what is involved in learning and training towards an acceptable level of competence with genuine race-winning potential.

irish offshore justice2Ronan O Siochru (third from right) with his crew from Irish Offshore Sailing after their success in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race

jedi fastnet start3Another successful Irish challenge for the Roger Justice Trophy gets under way – the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi (left foreground) at the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

Another route was shown by Michael Boyd skippering Lisa in the complete RORC programme. As Commodore of the club, he gives priority to encouraging youth sailors with the RORC into Lisa’s crew, and with his inspirational leadership, they blossom into capable offshore seamen. He was developing this way of doing things in 2016, when Lisa enabled him to be the top-placed Irish skipper in the Round Ireland Race, and by 2017 it had become so much a part of the boat’s campaigning that they could arguably have entered for the Roger Justice Trophy in the Fastnet Race themselves.

Royal Ocean Racing Club

However, the Royal Ocean Racing Club is a substantial and long-established organisation, with a large international membership and professional headquarters staff, thus the structures to channel would-be offshore sailors into the sport can function smoothly. And in the end, the “graduates” will tend to see themselves as Corinthians rather than fulltime sailors.

theo and michael4Successful administrators. Theo Phelan (left) organizer of the Volvo Round Ireland Race, with RORC Commodore Michael Boyd after the latter had finished the race at Wicklow as top-placed Irish skipper in 2016

Damian Foxall

But for hopeful young Irish sailors seeking to get into the fulltime offshore racing professional world, the promised land is France. That certainly was the route taken by Damian Foxall, who worked his way through France’s Figaro solo and two-handed scene and on into the exalted heights of Volvo racing, the Barcelona World Race, and massive multi-hull global record challenges, until now at the age of 48, with much achieved and busier than ever, his advice as dispensed on this week's Afloat.ie podcast is pure gold.

To succeed, Foxall says that basically you’ve to be a one-person business corporation. It’s not remotely enough just to be an ace helm, and handy on the foredeck with it. You have to truly know yourself, and realize the depths of dedication and sacrifice required, but at the same time you have to know everything – but everything - about boats, their rigs, their sails and the suppliers – and that’s before you even think about meteorology and strategy and tactics and effective handling of the media plus a zillion other things. And don’t forget to be an extremely efficient accountant too……

It may all seem a very long way from the dream of speeding across the blue ocean on a sunny day without a care in the world, with the winning line in sight and the rest of the fleet tucked in comfortably astern. But that’s the harsh reality which has been the lot of an extraordinary range of Irish sailing characters.

In the offshore sailing jungle angled towards France, you’re tangling with big beasts afloat and ashore, and the politics of it all are fraught. When we mention key names, it is merely a list, for it’s such a fluid world that link-ups are changing and being taken in completely new directions all the time. If you don’t know who we’re talking about in mentioning Enda O’Coineen, Marcus Hutchinson, Tom Dolan, David Kenefick, Stewart Hosford, Damian Foxall and Nin O’Leary – to name only seven – then you’re blissfully unaware of the rarefied heights where only the bravest will tread.

conor and charlie5Conor Fogerty finally receives the Gipsy Moth Trophy at the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth last weekend from RWYC Commodore Charlie Thompson

Conor Fogerty

Somewhere in an outer orbit is the incredible Conor Fogerty, winner in June of the roughest Single-handed Transatlantic Race ever with his Sunfast 3600 Bam!. Fogerty is keeping his longterm cards very close to his chest, but for now he has recently sailed Bam! from the OSTAR finish port of Newport Rhode Island down to Antigua for the RORC Caribbean 600 in February. He’d a class win in it in 2016, and he has a dream crew pencilled in for next February’s race, a mixture of fulltime and top Corinthian with David Kenefick, Tom Dolan, Simon Knowles and Paddy Gregory going into the mix.

With the Gipsy Moth trophy collected at a convivial awards ceremony in the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth last weekend, the re-location of Bam! back to the Caribbean has everything set up for a last hurrah with the successful Sunfast 3600 in the Caribbean 600, as Fogerty is another sailor keen for the really serious stuff, and is definitely in orbit round the IMOCA 60s.

But meanwhile, with a young family, he likes to have a handy little “cruising” boat at home in Howth. So just recently he bought the ultimate Ron Holland-designed 30ft Shamrock, Silver Shamrock herself, with which Harold Cudmore won the World Championship in 1976. She has been beautifully up-graded by Stewart Greenfield at Cowes, and as Conor’s partner is Suzanne Ennis whose sister Steph Ennis with Windsor Laudan successfully campaign the classic Club Shamrock Demelza (once raced for several seasons in Cork by a very young Mark Mansfield), then clearly with the Ennis approval of Shamrocks, acquiring Silver Shamrock was a no-brainer for someone who wants to maintain domestic harmony at home while pursuing grand designs on the high seas.

silver shamrock6The Ron Holland-designed Silver Shamrock, Half Ton World Champion at Trieste in 1976 under Harold Cudmore’s command, has been brought to Howth “as a useful little family sailer” by Conor Fogerty. Photo W M Nixon

There are many starting points for getting started towards the serious offshore game. But at the moment all roads lead ultimately to France, even if those whose hearts are in Ireland hope to see this country providing more substantial shore bases where our our top sailors can be prepared to head forth for the big time events.

After all, if the Irish horse racing industry can provide tens of thousands of jobs for dedicated staff at every level, and ultimately produce the world’s greatest trainer in Aidan O’Brien with his record tally of major trophies won in every continent, then is it so unreasonable for these top offshore racing people we have listed to hope that Ireland – with immediate access to some of the best training water for offshore racing in the world – cannot do something similar for offshore sailing, albeit on a much more modest scale?

Joan Mulloy

Their dream would be to provide a structure whereby young sailors of exceptional promise can be fast-tracked to offshore racing achievement. The French system has produced the crop of young sailors in their 20s who are among the pace-setters in the Mini-Transat Class, most notably Erwan Le Draoulec who is only 21, while top woman star Clarisse Cremer was “only another competent solo sailor” until she underwent the intensive French training and coaching which turns good sailors into race winners, with the Fastnet Race 2017’s top results being dominated by French boats.

figaro racing7The 30ft Figaro Solo boats provide another introduction to top level offshore racing.

The larger boat used in the Figaro Solo fleet likewise provides French and international wannabees with another route to the top, and both classes and the organisations around them now draw in solo racing hopefuls from all over Europe. But the pace is hectic, the standards are rising every year, and this makes it all more of a challenge for a sailor from Mayo who interest in the offshore racing game has now become central to her way of life.

mulloy figaro boat8The logo location on the topsides of Joan Mulloy’s Figaro Solo will become available to any major sponsor

When you journey to Westport, you feel you’re headed for somewhere remote. But once you’re there in this handsome town at the head of majestic Clew Bay, it’s the rest of the world which seems remote, indeed almost irrelevant. Joan Mulloy is Westport and the Western Ocean through and through, from a marine-oriented seafood-harvesting background in which a history including Grace O’Malley may well make West Mayo the most naturally maritime part of Ireland.

She started her sailing with a Mirror Dinghy with Mayo Sailing Club at Rosmoney, and had her first Laser by the age of 14, though her first experience of dinghy sailing at national level was crewing a GP14 for Blair Stanaway, currently Commodore of MSC.

Yet at the same time she had acquired another interest which well matches sailing - at the age of 12, she started rock climbing. By her late teens this was her dominant interest, so much so that after getting her Leaving Cert, she took two gap years to base herself in Sheffield, working for an online outdoor equipment company, and availing of the wide opportunities provided in the north of England to be trained in rock climbing to the most demanding standards.

But having reached the ultimate heights in every sense, she realized just how much she missed the sea, and returned to the west of Ireland and NUI Galway, where she took an honours degree in Civil Engineering while becoming much involved in the sailing club. Even before going off for the rock climbing period, she’d realised her true sailing interest was in offshore racing, so she was a natural for the NUI Galway SC crew skippered by Cathal Clarke which raced the Reflex 38 Lynx in the 2012 Round Ireland Race, in which they were second for much of the time, and still were a good sixth at the finish.

lynx round ireland9The Galway students with Lynx put Wicklow Head astern shortly after the start of the 2012 Round Ireland Race

She worked for a while in civil engineering, but although the company was involved at the forefront of offshore engineering work, she found herself at a computer calculating the requirements for key structures. In some ways it was useful training for someone who would eventually be much involved with developing offshore racers, but more active involvement with the sea called, and she became a crewmember on the Volvo 70 Monster Project, logging thousands of offshore miles including Round Britain and Ireland, the Round Ireland of 2014, a Fastnet and a Middle Sea Race.

But in time, the draw was towards the Figaro Solo scene in France, and she became involved as a “preparateur”, one of the teams sorting the boats for the stars to race. The comparison with the horse racing industry is not inappropriate, and Joan Mulloy very much wanted to be a jockey rather than stable staff, so when a German owner offered her the loan of his well-used Figaro, No 77, she took it up. She based herself at Cowes, and she and her former skipper in the Round Ireland, Cathal Clarke, raced in the two-handed division in the Rolex Fastnet 2017, and came a respectable 17th in a class of sixty boats.

joan mulloy cathal clarke10Joan Mulloy and Cathal Clarke racing Figaro 77 in the Rolex Fastnet 2017

Enda O'Coineen

But before that, she’d met Enda O Coineen at the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands in July, and he encouraged her to think that the setup in Ireland for people on her chosen career path was improving all the time, while in Cowes there was a distinct winding-down of activity. Whether it was the prospect of Brexit is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt that there’s a new buzz in Ireland to strengthen links with France and the Continent generally, and by September, Joan Mulloy had re-located her Figaro to Lorient, and returned to Ireland under the umbrella of Enda O’Coineen’s Team Ireland, while continuing to establish her own identity as a solo campaigner with Joan Mulloy Racing

It’s a busy time, with presentations to potential sponsors and then last night (Friday) she and Enda flew out to New Zealand to re-position the IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager from Christchurch to Auckland as part of the preparation for the completion of his dismasting-interrupted solo Vendee Globe race, which will see him depart Auckland in January, complete a circuit of New Zealand to the point where he was dismasted at the very end of 2016, and then head on east for Cape Horn and the finish.

As for Joan Mulloy, her plan for January is to be right in the depths of solo sailing’s ultimate Boot Camp. She’s a very good sailor, she enjoys life, she’s great in boats, but as we pompously informed her at a meeting this week, she’s much too nice for her own good in top-level competitive sport.

She needs to be given a real racing edge. So the man to do that for her is the legendary coach/trainer/life-changer Tanguy Leglatin of Lorient. It’s said that a week at his Academy can transform a competent club racer into a potential world beater. Quite what it’s like providing a hothouse atmosphere in mid-January over a longer period we can only guess, but Joan Mulloy is determined to find out in the most thorough way possible. After all, it is Leglatin who brought forth the boy wonder Erwan Le Draoulec. Being under his tutelage is performance-transforming.

joan mulloy winter12Winter training. January will provide the training and testing for Joan Mulloy

So we wish Joan Mulloy the very best of luck. For there’s something about this high-powered offshore scene that appeals in a special way. We were chatting yesterday with our man in Lisbon, who had in turn been talking with the manager of the Turn the Tide on Plastics crew. Apparently they’re a wonderful bunch to work with, as they all realize they’re on a near-vertical learning curve. And that healthy shared attitude is fully embraced by our own Silver Medallist, Annalise Murphy. She may be the Queen of Rio, but there are none of the usual prima donnas in the crew of Turn the ide on Plastics. Yet they’re all entranced by the special world of ultimate offshore racing. As is Joan Mulloy.

Published in W M Nixon

Alex Pella, the world-record breaking sailor, said today (Wednesday) that the Transat Jacques Vabre offshore 2017 will mark the emergence of a new future for multihulls. With all eyes on just how fast the latest 30-metre Ultime to launch is – Maxi Edmond de Rothschild will be making its debut in Le Havre, Normandy on the start line on Sunday - Pella, co-skipper of the Multi 50 Arkema, believes the class will shine in this 13th edition of the "Route du Café".

“When we arrived last Friday and I saw the fleet, I said ‘wow’ because for me it’s the first time that there’s such a fleet in this class,” Pella said. “Normally, when I’ve been here in another class, I’ve seen only two or three good boats. But now I think this race can change the future of the class. Now, the future of the multihulls is the Ultime class and Multi 50 because there’s a really big difference between them.”

Pella knows a thing or two about multihulls - he was part of the incredible team on IDEC 3 that smashed the Jules Verne round-the-world record in January. He is not campaigning for the class either - this is his first race in a Multi 50 and he was a last minute replacement in August after Karine Fauconnier was injured in training. It is more the view of an experienced sailor – Pella, from Barcelona, turns 45 on Thursday – who can cast an eye across all four classes and 38 boats here. Another crowning glory was becoming the first Spaniard to win a transoceanic single-handed race when he won the Route du Rhum Class40 in 2014.

His co-skipper, the equally experienced, Lalou Roucayrol agreed. “There has been a big change within the Multi 50 class,” he said. “We wanted to get professional and the class introduced not just foils but rules on materials that mean all the boats have to be modern and competitive now.”

Skippers presentation by Serge Herbin, Multi 50 Arkema, skippers Lalou Roucayrol and Alex Pella, during pre-start of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2017, duo sailing race from Le Havre (FRA) to Salvador de Bahia (BRA) in Le Havre on October 28th, 2017 - Photo Jean-Marie Liot / ALeA / TJV17
There are six Multi 50s here, five competitive and four with foils all vying for victory. At just over 15 metres - half the length of Ultime - have a budget that is more accessible to those starting out in multihulls. Roucayrol revealed that Arkema spent €1.5 million to build the boat he launched in 2013, and spend €800,000 a year on the campaign, of which €200,000 has gone on their Mini 6.50 boat this year. The Ultime is a big step up, with budgets around six times that.

But those extra Euros may be felt in the first few days of racing, which are already promising to typically bracing North Atlantic weather in November. The weather and routing chatter on the pontoons began in earnest yesterday and 35-40 knots was being predicted after the start on Sunday.

“I think we’re going to have to cross a big front there’s going to be potentially 35-40 knots downwind the other side of that,” Britain's Phil Sharp (Imerys, Class40) said. “That’s what when we get really offshore west of Ireland - and it looks like we’re going to have to head west to look for this northerly wind, to avoid headwinds. When we hit that we can escape south - and we’ll be escaping very fast. We can surf at up to 25 knots and that’s fast enough when you’re on a boat like this.”

Pella at first affected to say that such pontoon chatter is “pollution” - “I haven’t been looking at the forecast all the time,” he said. “There are two people on the team checking. We haven’t done a real briefing. The other thing is that in these kind of races, North Atlantic (strong wind) starts are as usual, as these sounds of the pontoon, for me it’s pollution, people are nervous. This is the race where you have the Channel, the point of Brittany, the front, traffic and cold.” But he did concede that the Multi 50 are more vulnerable in these conditions, even with the foils – “by comparison IDEC 3 it passes over the waves very well,” he said.

Later he admitted that it might be better for them to push out of the starting blocks to get ahead of the front. “To win the race, you have to finish the race and to break things at the start is stupid,” he said. “But if you see the forecast it looks like it’s better to be in the top positions at the beginning because the front is coming from behind. You can makes plans, but you have to take the decision when you’re there.” It is hard to keep a sailor from his routing.

Published in Offshore

Over 500 boats took part in the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship, with teams flying the flags of 30 different nations from Canada to Russia and Chile to New Zealand. Well over 4,000 sailors took part, and whilst the majority of the races were in the English Channel, the Championship included the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Celtic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea. The 13-race series, which this year included the Fastnet Race, is truly international and it is the largest offshore series by participation, anywhere in the world. For the serious offshore sailor, winning the championship is a real challenge.

Lisa - Overall winner - 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship 
The overall winner of the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship is Nick & Suzi Jones' British First 44.7 Lisa, skippered by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd. The corinthian team retained the title from 2016; the only yacht to achieve the double since Piet Vroon's Dutch Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens (2011-12). Gilles Fournier & Corinne Migraine's J/133 Pintia was second overall and Thomas Kneen's JPK 1080 Sunrise was third.

Lisa - 2017 RORC Yacht of the Year 

Lisa has also been awarded the RORC Yacht of the Year, winning the Somerset Memorial Trophy for an outstanding racing achievement by a yacht owned or sailed by a RORC member, as voted for by the RORC Committee.

"This has been a tough season, winning the championship in a Fastnet year makes it even more of a challenge," commented Lisa's Nick Jones. "Our goal was to defend our win in 2016 and to be awarded RORC Yacht of the Year is beyond our dreams. Michael (Boyd) has been an inspiration, especially to the young crew, whose energy and tenacity has been fundamental to our success. The youth sailors at the RORC are the future of offshore sailing and we will be using our contacts and experience to help them. Lisa will not be racing next year so it is great to finish the adventure on such a high. Next season, Suzi and I will spend our time with our children; Charlie, Freddie and Toby, teaching them the joys of sailing in Chichester Harbour."

Lisa PW The future of RORC offshore sailing: Tom Needham wins the Duncan Munro Kerr Youth Challenge Trophy and both he and Neil Morton win the Keith Ludlow Trophy for best Navigator of the IRC Overall Yacht, Lisa Photo: Paul Wyeth

The impressive fleet for the RORC Season's Points Championship is separated into six classes racing under IRC, a Class40 Division and a Multihull Class. Two outstanding results from this year's Championship were in IRC Two Handed and IRC Four.

Bellino - IRC Two Handed & Mixed Two Handed

Rob Craigie's racing Sun Fast 3600 Bellino with Deb Fish, was the winner of the IRC Two Handed Class. Racing in a fleet of 78 teams, Bellino fended off a strong challenge from Ian Hoddle's Game On, and Ed Fishwick's Redshift Reloaded.

"Game On and Redshift were always at our heels; we couldn't relax at any moment, in any race," commented Craigie. "Whilst all three boats are Sun Fast 3600s, there are different keels and rigs, so we all have strengths and weaknesses in different conditions. Deb Fish has been my sailing partner all season. She is very good at the analysis, whilst I am the more experienced seaman, and in terms of boat speed, we are an equal match, so it is a great synergy."

BellinoRob Craigie and Deb Fish win the IRC Two Handed Class and the Boyd Trophy for Mixed Two Handed Division in their Sun Fast 3600 Bellino, seen here rounding the Fastnet Rock Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

 

Foggy Dew - IRC Four

Noel Racine's French JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew has been in scintillating form, securing the class win in IRC Four in a fleet of 116 boats, with two races to spare. Foggy Dew's winning streak in the Championship dates back to 2013.

"Every year we have to start as new; we have changes to the crew and the competitors are different," commented Racine. "Winning is not about doing one thing well, it is about attention to detail. Preparing the boat, the sails and the equipment, and reacting to changes on the race course. In IRC Four, we race against all different types of boat, but I believe that Foggy Dew is a good all-round performer."

The Annual Dinner and Prize Giving for the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship is a spectacular event where prize winners, competitors, crews, RORC members and guests will celebrate the achievements of 2017. 

The full list of 2017 winners can be found below or HERE 

Results can be found here

Published in RORC

Ireland Ocean Racing, the team behind Nicholas O'Leary's 2020 Vendee Globe Challenge, are back in Dun Laoghaire, this time with their own IMOCA 60 racing yacht.

The team tweeted this morning 'We are super excited to announce that we have our own Ireland Ocean Racing IMOCA 60! Come and visit us at Dun Laoghaire Marina'

O'Leary has just completed the Rolex Middle Sea Race where with Alex Thomson in the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss they have turned in a virtuoso offshore performance to be third home across the line, bested only by the significantly larger Rambler and the 100ft Leopard.

The new boat for O'Leary is the former Great American IV, an Owen Clarke designed boat from 2006 aboard which Dominique Wavre took part twice in the Vendée Globe (retired in 2008/2009, 7th in 2012/2013). This 60-footer has clocked up an impressive number of miles. She has taken part in two Barcelona World Races, the double-handed round the world race and one Route du Rhum.

Bought by the American solo sailor Rich Wilson in 2013, the boat underwent an important refit in late 2014-early 2015 after being struck by lightning.

For his debut Vendée Globe, the young Irish skipper has a boat which has shown herself to be reliable if he intends doing the race in her or just using her for a training boat. Aboard this very same boat, Dominique Wavre completed the race in 90 days in 2013.

Listen to ‘Nin’ O’Leary on the podcast here and to Stewart Hosford, CEO of ‘Ireland Ocean Racing,’ formally launched in Cork this summer to “increase the profile of competitive Irish ocean sailing and racing, inspire a new generation of competitors and deliver future Irish champions in the sport.”

Hosford managed the Hugo Boss Alex Thomson campaign of which he has been CEO, so brings to the Irish campaign significant experience and expertise. “This is the start of a journey,” . “It will need sponsors and investors. What can be achieved is huge.”, Hosford said during this Summer's launch.

Only 100 sailors have succeeded in sailing single-handed non-stop around the world and no Irish sailor has yet completed the Vendée Globe. 

Team statement:

Ireland Ocean Racing (IOR) has acquired their first IMOCA 60 racing yacht, confirming their intention and commitment to competing in the IMOCA circuit, the pinnacle of solo offshore sailing.

The yacht is due to arrive in Dublin this morning (Wednesday) skippered by Cork sailor Nin O’Leary. O’Leary, an Irish sailing champion and IOR skipper, is particularly excited about the 60-foot monohull, as it demonstrates the momentum within IOR and provides a great platform to showcase Ireland’s sailing prowess internationally. “Ireland Ocean Racing is a great new sailing initiative, and I am excited about the opportunity to represent Ireland and compete in the IMOCA circuit with this boat” said O’Leary, who will be sailing the yacht into the Royal Irish Yacht Club at Dun Laoghaire from Brittany, France, on Wednesday 1st November. O’Leary, who has ambitions to compete in the 2020 Vendee Globe, and become the first Irish sailor to complete the 26,000 mile race, has established himself as a competitive skipper within the IMOCA class.

This year O’Leary has completed both the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race onboard Alex Thomson’s IMOCA 60 HUGO BOSS.

The IOR IMOCA 60 was designed by leading naval architect Owen Clarke, and was originally constructed in New Zealand in 2006. The yacht has successfully competed in the last two editions of the Vendee Globe, most recently with American sailor Rich Wilson. IOR CEO Stewart Hosford said, “Following the launch of Ireland Ocean Racing, we have had fantastic support for the team and Nin’s offshore campaign.

The acquisition of IOR’s IMOCA 60 is a sign of our confidence in our team and our investors. We are fully confident we can produce great success both with Nin, and new up and coming Irish sailing talent, putting Ireland Ocean Racing at the forefront of offshore sailing.” The public are welcome to visit and view the new Ireland Ocean Racing IMOCA 60 at the Dun Laoghaire Marina from Wednesday 1st November.

Published in Vendee Globe
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