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'Pure Folly' – Cruiser Champion John Maybury's Verdict on Galway Bay's Ill-Fated ICRA Nationals

20th August 2018
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Part of the 50–plus boat ICRA championship fleet in Galway Docks. The event was cancelled last Friday with no races having being held due to weather and port restrictions in Galway Docks Part of the 50–plus boat ICRA championship fleet in Galway Docks. The event was cancelled last Friday with no races having being held due to weather and port restrictions in Galway Docks Photo: Afloat.ie

Following the cancellation of the ICRA Nationals in Galway last Friday and the explanation on the event Facebook page here, the reigning Class One Champion John Maybury, of J109 Joker II, says it is the fact that the Port of Galway is lock–gated, and not the weather, that made a 'complete nonsense' of the Galway Bay event.

I’m angry about the cancellation of the Nationals, to say the least.

The fundamental issue was the venue and whatever politics were involved in bringing it to Galway in the first place. With the lock gates and priority to commercial shipping traffic, there was no way Galway was going to work for the National Championships.

The conditions we got would not have posed much of a problem at any other normal venue, and the championships would have been run.

My own objection to Galway in the first place was simply the distance involved in getting there from Dublin Bay. But I took the point about the West Coast boats wanting to 'bring it local', and I decided to make the effort and support the event.

ICRA Galway Docks 0047John Maybury's Joker II among other ICRA competitors at Galway Docks for the ill–fated championships Photo: Afloat.ie

I didn’t know about the lock gates until last week. But ICRA knew and went ahead regardless. At best, this was absolutely thoughtless. At worst, it was selfish and arrogant.

It is the fact that the Port of Galway is lock gated, and not the weather, which made a complete nonsense of the event.

Shipping Galway Docks 0061Ships alongside at Galway Docks Photo: Afloat.ie

When I called last week to ensure there would be a berth for Joker 2 on her arrival, I was dismayed to find the Port of Galway was gated, with access only for two hours before each HW. On querying that with a member of the Organising Committee, I was told that it would not be a problem for the event as arrangements had been made with the Port to ensure the gate would be open for 3 hours either side of HW during the event and the schedule of racing had been planned accordingly.

It turns out that the arrangement with the Port, wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, as the movement of shipping dictated everything. Surely this was a predictable risk for a commercial port, but it doesn’t seem to have been taken into consideration by ICRA in the selection of the venue?

Contrary to the spin being propagated, the weather was not the reason for the fiasco. With the same conditions in almost any other venue, the fleet would have been racing on Thursday and on Saturday and a proper Championship would have been completed. (Saturday turned out to have excellent sailing conditions, despite the podcast in circulation. See here)

The spin being put about is that it was the victim of a Perfect Storm of unlikely events. On the contrary, I think it would have needed all the planets to have aligned for it to have passed off smoothly. They were never going to get that. Knowing the Port as I do now, what happened was entirely predictable. I am sure ICRA were aware of the constraints of the venue. Any objective risk assessment would have ruled it unsuitable for a National Championships.

Joker TrailerWide load – John Maybury's triple ICRA Champion yacht Joker II is coming back to Dublin from Galway by road

To ignore the risks and carry on regardless was a massive display of arrogance, and shows a complete disregard for the time, expense and effort involved by owners and crew to compete from any distance with anything other than a trailerable boat.

I would expect ICRA to carry out an objective post-mortem on all of this. There are painful lessons to be learned and actions to be taken. The decision by ICRA to go to Galway has been demonstrated to have been pure folly.

Afloat.ie Team

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