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ICRA Conference Hears of Plans & Challenges for 2021 Sailing Regatta Organisers

7th March 2021
Regatta organisers are poised for the Government's April 5th announcement including July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta
Regatta organisers are poised for the Government's April 5th announcement including July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta (above) Credit: Afloat

Key Irish sailing regattas depend on a Government Level Two status being in place this summer in order to proceed, the Irish Cruiser Racer (ICRA) conference heard yesterday.

Over 100 sailors and regatta representatives gathered online to hear the latest regatta news from the East, South and Southwest coasts.

It was a heartening gathering that revealed how much clubs had achieved despite all the obstacles thrown up by COVID-19.

ICRA's Dave Cullen struck an optimistic note when he noted this weekend's reduction in pandemic numbers and advances in the vaccine roll-out, while each of the regatta organisers who joined the conference via Zoom were bullish about plans yet also spoke of the current 'challenging' situation.

The fate of the competitive sailing season hinges on whether Level Two will be implemented in time or if sailing can be seen by Sport Ireland's Expert Group as a 'low risk, outdoor non-contact activity' deserving of a special case, especially given the view there is no difference in risk in sailing between training and competition mode.

Cruiser racing off Cork in the Elan 333, Artful DodgerCruiser racing off the Cork coast in the Elan 333, Artful Dodger Photo: Bob Bateman

For the moment, the assumption is that 'it's all going ahead'  but there appears to be quite a lot of contingency or 'Plan B' work behind the scenes as Covid-19 impacts the 2021 season too.

It's worth remembering it was only this time last year that few of us had even heard the phrase 'social distancing'. Much of the regatta planning for 2020 was completed before we knew anything about what it was like living with our new best friend. We are more informed going into 2021 and rightly or wrongly, in Northern Ireland, Bangor Town Regatta has already chosen to cancel its June races.

Howth yacht Equinox is a regular Sovereign's Cup competitor at Kinsale Photo: AfloatHowth yacht Equinox is a regular Sovereign's Cup competitor at Kinsale Photo: Bob Bateman

June's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and Kinsale's Sovereign's Cup Regatta (where 14 entrants are common to both events) are perfectly timed to feed Dublin boats to the south coast but each event is now awaiting the Government's April 5th advisory in order to firm up arrangements.

Both events have achieved their 50-boat entry limits and are operating waiting lists.

Sovereign's Cup

O'Leary Insurance Sovereign's Cup Chairman Anthony O'Neill from Kinsale Yacht Club told the conference that he remained 'hopeful' and was continuing to plan for the 23rd June but in the event that restrictions were not lifted then, the event would, unfortunately, have to cancel and look to other plans if restrictions permit. The event hit its 52-boat target within three weeks and has eight boats on a waiting list.

Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race

Likewise, Race Chairman Adam Winkelmann, said that the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race from the National Yacht Club would not be moved to another date this season and if it could not go ahead on June 9th the decision had already been taken to scrub the biennial event and aim for the 2023 edition instead. The 280-miler has achieved its 50-boat limit, 90 days before it starts as Afloat reports here.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta

July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Race Officer Con Murphy outlined contingency plans for his Dublin Bay event that has already been split over two weekends to reduce fleet sizes. Murphy said the fleet could take extra steps to have staggered early start and finish times if needed to further avoid the mixing of boats and crews ashore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour.


Autumn events such as ICRA's own national championships at the National Yacht Club that has moved out to September 3rd to 5th look the best prospects of being uninterrupted. ICRA's Ric Morris is confident of the Nationals proceeding at this point after the loss of the 2020 event. Likewise, WIORA week that is scheduled for August 25 to 28th at Tralee Bay Sailing Club is also 'cautiously optimistic', but the County Kerry club will initially taking entries without any payment, according to the organiser Liam Lynch.


ISORA's Peter Ryan laid out a full season of races for his offshore crews under new sponsor Musto and is planning a 16-race Irish Sea series that, as Afloat previously reported, includes cross-channel races from May 15. Ryan says the series will again be deploying technology to give it the biggest amount of flexibility both in terms of its onboard trackers and its crew manager app. ISORA's approach, Ryan says, is to 'start racing and keep going till we're told to stop'.

Organising clubs, the conference heard, are 'planning for the best and preparing for the worst' as they await next month's Government announcement. As Peter Ryan observed, 'there's a great interconnection of events this season but one trip will upset the whole apple cart'.

Published in ICRA Team

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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)


ICRA Nationals 2021

The date for the 2021 edition of the ICRA National Championships is 3-5 September at the National Yacht Club on Dublin Bay.

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