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National Award for Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA)

14th January 2011
National Award for Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA)

In the three decades and more of the Mitsubishi Motors/Irish Independent "Sailing Club of the Year" assessments, there has never been an organization only seven years old winning the title.

In fact, seniority has often won the day, though in a country in which the oldest sailing clubs date from 1720 (Royal Cork) and 1770 (Lough Derg), it's difficult to find clubs and associations which are anything less than centenarians, let alone not yet in double figures.

But it was only as recently as June 2003 that the Irish Cruiser Racing Association came into being. It was at the biennial Sovereign's Cup series in Kinsale that Fintan Cairns of Dun Laoghaire, enthusiastically supported by the late Jim Donegan of Cork and other key personnel, successfully launched the idea of a nationwide organisation to co-ordinate the racing sport of "boats with lids".

At the time, it was a leap of vision. Having successfully headed Dublin Bay Sailing Club at a time of rapid growth, he was able to see the picture more clearly than those who reckoned that offshore racing organisations should be related to bodies of water rather than a land mass, for all that we're on an island.

Then too, the new association was envisaged as using established clubs and their facilities to stage its championship. In other words, the ICRA organising team would be the travelling people of the Irish sailing scene. On top of that, handicap competition with cruiser-racers was derided as "truck racing" by the white hot one design and dinghy sailors.

Yet the idea took hold, and the annual championship was successfully staged at venues as various as Crosshaven, Tralee, Howth, Kinsale and Dun Laoghaire, with Denis Kiely the essential ace number-cruncher in the back office. And in May 2010, with the mighty machine of the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire providing the administrative centre, the Liebherr Irish Cruiser Nationals in Dublin Bay attracted a fleet of 117 boats, with great sailing.

On that event alone, ICRA would have been among the front runners for Club of the Year. But the best was yet to come. In recessionary times, getting a three boat team together to make a worthwhile challenge for the biennial Rolex International Commodore's Cup was a matter of making the best of limited resources. But ICRA – currently under the leadership of Barry Rose of Cork - was up to the job.

The team of Anthony O'Leary's Antix, Dave Dwyer's marinerscove.ie, and Rob Davis and Andrew Creighton's Roxy 6, had a convincing win. Thus ICRA in one season had catered very well for general run of boats and crews at home, and had come out tops at the top level internationally. It doesn't get better than that, and we salute them as Sailing Club of the Year 2011.

Published in ICRA
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The Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) Information

The creation of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) began in a very low key way in the autumn of 2002 with an exploratory meeting between Denis Kiely, Jim Donegan and Fintan Cairns in the Granville Hotel in Waterford, and the first conference was held in February 2003 in Kilkenny.

While numbers of cruiser-racers were large, their specific locations were widespread, but there was simply no denying the numerical strength and majority power of the Cork-Dublin axis. To get what was then a very novel concept up and running, this strength of numbers had to be acknowledged, and the first National Championship in 2003 reflected this, as it was staged in Howth.

ICRA was run by a dedicated group of volunteers each of whom brought their special talents to the organisation. Jim Donegan, the elder statesman, was so much more interested in the wellbeing of the new organisation than in personal advancement that he insisted on Fintan Cairns being the first Commodore, while the distinguished Cork sailor was more than content to be Vice Commodore.

ICRA National Championships

Initially, the highlight of the ICRA season was the National Championship, which is essentially self-limiting, as it is restricted to boats which have or would be eligible for an IRC Rating. Boats not actually rated but eligible were catered for by ICRA’s ace number-cruncher Denis Kiely, who took Ireland’s long-established native rating system ECHO to new heights, thereby providing for extra entries which brought fleet numbers at most annual national championships to comfortably above the hundred mark, particularly at the height of the boom years. 

ICRA Boat of the Year (Winners 2004-2019)